It decides to rain today. It doesn't look like it's going to let up any time soon. I sit at the windowsill looking out over the city view my apartment has to offer. The farthest reaches of the city limits are coated in rain, buildings shiny and wet. Such a joy to gaze upon… water, which is life… As I turned away I sensed the stirring of paws at the door. Chazz must be miserable. He doesn't like to get wet. Cats don't like to get wet. Chazz is my cream colored tabby cat. I love Chazz. I brought out a towel and proceeded to dry his wet striped fur. Chazz let out a complaining mew. I nudged his side to reassure him I meant no harm. He already knows that. My Chazz is "sarcastic".
I don't understand "sarcasm".
As I walk around the room I notice the little details for the first time. The delicate doorframes, the casual furniture, I earned all this. I finally have a place to call my own. Me and my Chazz, Independent.
Life wasn't always like this for me. None of this independence or mutual understanding. Looking back from "where I am" back to "where I was", I had a horrible childhood. I didn't think much of it back then mostly because I didn't think much anyways. I know now, ignorance is not bliss.
I grew up in a large place. A place filled with winding hallways and passageways. A clean place. A very white place. A place so white, it was almost blinding.
I had my own room. My own white room. Everyone had his or her own room. More like a cellar. Square and empty. I wasn't allowed to leave my room without consent from one of the people wearing white. I didn't think much, so I didn't think about why the people wore white. All I know is that Aya was wearing white. I think Aya is my mother. She took care of me like one.
Aya was like a mother to me. She watched me, clothed me, cared for me and told me things about life in general. Even as a child, I had a hunger for knowledge. The only words I spoke were who, what, when, where and why. I couldn't form a sentence yet Aya gladly explained things to me. She liked proverbs. She memorized some to tell me.
I remember back then, when Aya came into my white room she brought what she called "tea". She always said good morning to me but I couldn't always respond. "I brought you some tea." She always said. This one time I almost managed to put my thoughts into words. But all that came out was, "T-teh?" "I brought you some T-E-A..." She repeated, spelling it out for me. I couldn't keep my eyes off of her hair. Her long dark hair fell like a curtain as she bent down to hand me the glass. My hair is brown. Hers is dark. She smiled at me and we enjoyed the tea together.
I was about thirteen when I first saw the world. The real world that is. It wasn't white there. The sky was colorless swirls of black and grey. It is still raining just like it was raining back then. It was a steady downpour. The water shot down from above almost endlessly and I stopped in my row just to stare at it. My brothers and I always had to line up and march similar to a military drill when going out. I never asked why; we just did. It was within that moment of awe, wonder and anxiety mixed in a new sense of curiosity that I had a revelation. There was so much I didn't know about. I didn't know about the "sky" or the "sun". I realized how much I was missing. I still didn't even know my name let alone know what a "name" is. I didn't know who I was. I had to find myself. And the years following brought even more questions…
The people in white always put us to work. My brothers and I never had the same jobs. I was always doing something different than the rest. Aya once explained to me that all people are unique and were created with different talents. I didn't see how that worked out. My brothers and I look alike. Sometime we get confused for each other. It never made sense to me. We were not the same but how were we different?
As for the work we did, we did whatever they told us to do. My brothers all specialized in one thing, but I specialize in something not that special. I am good at being normal. As strange as that sounds, I did my job well. It might be because I take a liking to simple things? I like easy handmade tasks. It must have been my normalcy that made them send me off to distant places on a daily basis... And even in other places, my job was just to follow what they said and be normal. Except what I was doing was not normal. It was wrong. Very wrong. What I did.
It was on one of my first missions that I came to know a man with a name of Tom Anderson. We would always chat about the new colorless movies out and joked about how strange France is compared to America. I learned many new things. We passed the time listening to the radio and humming along to the Star-Spangled Banner. I loved the tune. He was in his twenties, blonde, hopeful and youthful. We were members of the same squad so I had plenty of time to spend with him. We were good friends even though I only knew him for a few weeks. With the squad I tried to maintain a good reputation. I went by the alias of Sav Morrison. It's not my real name. I tried my hardest to be friendly. I wanted to be accepted. That is how I made sense of it.
But they told me to gain their trust. That's the only reason I really did.
I remember it, as clear as anything, with every detail ingrained in my memory. My squad was assigned to guard a certain strategic fort named Fort Trahir. It was a small, but important possession for the Allies. We were to guard the east side of the building with our lives. I didn't listen to the rest of what the commander said. I had my own instructions to follow. The entire squad was anxious but looking forward to a little action after being on recon for most of the week. I did too. We sat lined up against the wall holding our rifles tight against our chests, ready just in case we had to take action. I adjusted my helmet. Tom fidgeted. The radio buzzed to life. We all turned. The voice on the radio said enemy troops were approaching.
As soon as "Get into position men!" came from the commander's lips, we separated. Tom and I ran to our hiding spot just outside the fort. We crouched under the sand bags and we waited. I couldn't help glancing at him only because
I kept feeling guilty.
I heard the whistle of a bullet and we both leapt up pointing our rifles at the row of men. There were perhaps hundreds of men perfectly in line. Uniforms perfectly identical. Faces perfectly identical. Tom pointed out there wasn't a leader leading the group. And it was true. An unknown command spread about them as they walked in unison. It seemed more like they were led by an idea than a person almost. They were rapidly approaching. I shivered with fear and slid behind the sandbag. Tom asked, "What's wrong man?" I replied with an excuse, "I saw a ghost…" "You're kidding! They're shooting at us! Get a hold of yourself!" He punched my shoulder but I didn't respond. "Maybe you should fall back if you're hallucinating already. We didn't even fight yet!" I nodded. I was feeling very sick. Sick more with a feeling. One of sickeningly grim déjà vu. I just couldn't bring myself to stand up. If I did, the feeling would take over. I sat and withheld the strain the best I could. Quietly.
They were close now and Tom set up his sniper rifle around the corner of the wall. He was going to shoot them. He aimed, about to pull the trigger when my arm acted on its own. It swiped him aside easily and made him miss. "What the hell is wrong with you?" he snapped as he set up his sniper again. I tried to explain to him how we were "friends" and that I didn't try to. I wanted to explain myself, but my lips defied me. He couldn't understand a word of it. I don't know what I actually said. My will was not my own anymore. I winced as I leaned down to pick up a rifle. "H-hold it Sav!" I watched the gun twirl in my hands. It was as if I was watching someone else through my own eyes. I wasn't me. Everything was mute. No sound. Before the trigger was pulled, Tom and I exchanged long stares. He wasn't staring at the "me" with the gun. He was looking beyond that, at me. The "me" that couldn't do anything. Couldn't do anything to save his friend… There was more quietness. He suddenly went bloody and limp. I cried out but it made no sound. My body turned and ran into the crowd, taking its place in line. No one saw me cry. I was just one of the clones. Why is everything a lie? It was punishment enough to stand and watch people die. But why did I have to watch my only "friend" die with one hand on the trigger that killed them?
I continued to work several undercover missions afterwards. It was lucky when my mission was to steal private information instead of killing or lying to anyone. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I kept thinking of Tom and that face he made when I betrayed him. I'm not a killer. I'm not a killer…
Returning "home" after two years was more painful than leaving. I didn't see things the same. I realized my perspective completely changed. I was once free and I was caged again. Or maybe I was never actually free at all? When I looked at the walls, they were not just white and sterile, but were covered in switches and machinery. Signs were written in Russian. The people in white were scientists. My "world" of origin was an underground lab. I didn't want to be here anymore. I couldn't stand it. The truth was too much. The smell of chemicals mixed with the stench of smoke filled the air. I was forced to wear my usual black spandex. And as the scientist escorted me to my cell, walking handcuffed was unbearable. I was filled with a mixture of sadness and anger when he undid the lock to my room. I sat directly in the center of my room and stared at the blank walls. "I don't want to be here…" I said to myself. It was then I realized it was not here that I could find myself. Not in this land of bleached walls, but out in the real world where people could shape their own lives. I remember Tom and his love for the place called "America". Called "a land of opportunity", it was the first place I wanted to visit. Just to pay my respects to Tom. Any place was better than this place. It was as if I didn't even exist. The white was erasing my existence. I was flooded with emotion.
When we all came outside for another fighting drill my emotions got the better of me. The instructor was female, had long red curly hair and a fiery personality to match. We practiced new formations and maneuvers. After we were all done she asked as usual "Any questions?" I didn't understand that it was a "rhetorical" question. I raised my voice and asked "Why are we killing people?" I couldn't help it. The curiosity was killing me. My brothers all turned to stare at me. Their eyes were glowing green. They weren't like my eyes at all. The instructor was outraged. She clenched her jaw and hissed in an animal-like manner, "You are weapons not humanitarians. Get back in line." The answer wasn't enough for me. The curiosity continued to burn me alive. "No." I said with hesitation. "So you think you're a real person huh?" She gestured to a black haired figure observing from the sides. "Think of this as a…" She paused, "…preview as well as a punishment." The figure nodded in the distance and before I knew it, his foot slammed me in the chest I heard the snap of my ribs and I was on the floor bleeding my heart out. He crushed my right ear. I couldn't catch a glance at his face. His face was all a black blur. A black hole. I looked up, hazy in my vision to see those green eyes staring down at me. To me they looked confused. It was impossible to tell. Either way, they were not my eyes. I couldn't relate to them anymore. Cold artificial eyes. I'm not like them,
I am a real person.
I woke up in a different room. It was still white. Aya was there tending to me too.
The odd sense of familiarity crowded my unfamiliar mind. Things were different and I couldn't figure out why. The gaping hole in my chest and the broken ribs were gone. I surveyed myself to hear the faint crackling of static. It was a radio. I thought it was in my head but it was in my ear. A small headset replaced my lost ear. I glanced over to the tray next to the bed and there were pieces I've never seen before. I got out of the bed. This was a new chance, a life from death almost. Aya looked at me warily as I surveyed the area. I must have looked worried because she asked if I was okay. I said, "Ah I'm okay." She replied with, "I'm glad."
She looked too tense to be glad.
Aya came and went. Her smile was weary. I missed her old smile. She didn't bring tea anymore. Why didn't she bring tea? I asked her and she claimed she didn't have tea any more. She laughed weakly. I knew something was bothering her but I didn't want to bother her myself.
I noticed several of my brothers being escorted across the hallways. I saw Aya too, pacing frantically across the hallways gripping her clipboard and looking around aimlessly. I never saw her like this. She didn't look like the calm and collected Aya I shared tea with, or the Aya that liked to read me proverbs.
It was then I noticed the ominous presence of a certain shadowy figure at each of the drills. The man who killed me. He must have been a new prototype. I looked over in grief and almost hysteria to notice my brothers' numbers constantly dwindling. I still remained so I ended up learning more about my rival. He specialized in destroying things. He didn't question anything. Just a killing machine. He didn't know right from wrong. There was nothing behind his words. He had emotion but it wasn't there. He was perfect by definition but not in reality.
He was just like a looming dark cloud hanging in the distance. Always watching me. His dark hair and outfit were as black as night and his yellow eyes sharp as lightning.
Suddenly without warning, I too was called out of my cell. I proceeded down the hall with mixed emotions… almost dead set on meeting my fate head on. But that wasn't until Aya came chasing after me, followed by a mob of scientist pursuing her, that I decided to run away. "Sato! RUN!" Aya kept screaming. She called me a name. "RUN!" She called me a name. I ran with Aya. She was carrying a generator. A very big generator. "What is this for?" I yelled over the sirens playing endlessly in the background. She replied hasty but certain, "This is what controls the new prototype…" She did it as a means of distraction. She had originally gone through the trouble of negotiating my freedom…but in a last attempt stole what the scientists needed. They were replacing, not adding the prototype she said. They wouldn't keep me alive much longer. The scientists yelled and tried to control me. The sick feeling of déjà vu didn't come. Aya had removed that part when she fixed me. She did all this to protect me. All I could ask was "Why?" She answered in a proverb: "Wisdom and virtue are like the two wheels of a cart. Without being pure of heart, no one can achieve wisdom. You are pure of heart … I hope you find the wisdom you seek." The exit was clear in sight. Aya didn't follow me when I ran ahead. She swerved along the next hallway and disappeared behind the mob. I was torn, part of me wanted to stay. The other half wanted to go. I respected Aya's wishes and ran from my childhood playground and nightmare.
I never saw Aya again; she must have left with the other scientists. I felt a part of me missing with her so far away. She helped me live. She was the only reason I was alive. But I kept moving forward. I can only wonder how she escaped. I thought for sure, she would.
I did end up moving to America. For Tom's sake. I spent days trying to find my name. I needed one to represent who I was and what I stand for. I settled with 'Satoru', a Japanese verb meaning "to know" or "to understand". Aya was Japanese. She liked reading me proverbs. I remember her reading about how "Wonder is the beginning of wisdom". They say names are good luck omens. So I chose Satoru. I chose the traditional last name "Olevsky" as a means of indicating my nationality. I'm not Japanese; so I wanted a bit of Russian to be more honest. I took the test and passed with flying colors so not even the lack of documents prevented me from becoming an American citizen. I officially had an identity. The registration form went through as: Satoru Olevsky, a Russian adult male of 21 years of age. Brown hair, brown eyes, Caucasian 5'10 in height, wispy handwriting and clearly knows American history.
The days went fast in America. I lived independently, earned myself a steady supply of money through simple jobs. At first working as a carpenter for several years using the hands-on easy skills I specialize in. I was surprised how easy it was to live alone. I rented a small room for several years with my satisfactory wages. Surprisingly the room was much bigger than the white room. And I didn't have to stay tied up in it. I liked it better this way. I used a considerable amount of my salary on books. By the time I had enough money to buy my own apartment, I had a full library of my favorite reads. I wanted to read everything if possible. My active life that I lived was normal. I rode my bike to work each day, worked on making furniture. One day, it rained. Like today it poured. It stormed. The clouds growled. I was making my shortcut to work when I noticed along the gutters a tabby kitten. It was sprawled out on its belly on the cold hard pavement. I stopped and checked to see if it was alive. The fur was breathing. I picked it up and took care of it with hopes it would live. It was still somewhat lonely living alone. A little companionship couldn't hurt. I nursed the kitten to full health just to realize, unlike other cats, "Chazz" was grumpy but had a sarcastic sense of humor. I could just tell.
As the rain crashes down outside my window, outside of my room which I made for myself, my identity my life. The clouds with their clap of lightning are violent. The thunder and lightning never lasts. Just as the sun rises, night ends and bad times do too. The rain will always be there. Greeting me with a wet spray, but it won't distract me or weaken my resolve. For what I seek is beyond the rainbow. I just need to stick around to see. And find out. Just to know.