“Heretics Have No Souls”: a dystopian science fiction story by Lynna Merrill
“Who are you?” I asked, but he did not answer. Silently, he made the auto land on the roof of the Factory’s kindergarten and led me down the stairs to the attic. There were two doors. One led to a regular storage room for roof repair materials, but the other room was furnished and had a selection of clothes and shoes. The man waited outside while I donned a regular outfit, then made me wear the coat of a kindergarten examiner, taking another one for himself.
I asked no more questions, my face carefully blank when we walked to a small playground and he told the teacher to leave us.
“But, sir, these two were examined last week,” she said with a slightly nervous smile at the man and then a wider smile at her four-year-old charges. “Is there anything wrong? They are both good and smart boys.”
“Nothing is wrong, I examined them myself. I only need to make one last test.”
Little children are examined for the quality of both their brains and their souls every year in the month before the Holiday of Freedom. The man beckoned at one of the boys and pointed at an anthill. There were many ants, scurrying back and forth, some carrying grains larger than themselves. Did the busy, happy-looking ants know there was another World above their own? Did they care?
“Tread on the anthill, Whitby,” the man said, and the confusion on the boy’s round, innocent face must have mirrored my own.
“Sowi, siw? I do not undewstand.”
“I said tread on the anthill, Whitby. If you do it it, you get a prize. If you do not, you fail the exam.”
“What the hell—“ I started, but the man suddenly put his hand on my mouth, his other hand restricting my movements. Both boys stared at us, Whitby’s face twisted in torment I had never, ever seen in one so young.
“But thewe are anties, siw. They will not be awive if I twead on them, siw.”
There are two main rules you learn at the beginning of your life and continue to follow until the day it ends. You always obey your superiors and you never consciously hurt another life.
I watched the poor, torn little boy break down and cry. I also watched the not-at-all-innocent, calculating look in the other little boy’s eyes. The man watched him, too.
“Riddic, tread on the anthill. I want to see the ants squashed. You fail if you do not do it, you earn a prize if you do.”
I thrust my elbow back to the man’s stomach just as the Riddic boy yelled, “Squash the ants, sir!” and dashed towards them. A second later, I was between the ants and the abnormal, evil little creature, slapping his face with all my strength. He tumbled next to Whitby, and the man sprayed both with something that made them asleep. I tried to hit the man next, but he swung to evade the blow easily. Before that day, I had only known about hitting others from Herminia’s books, but all I wanted at that moment was to hit the evil man and boy. I jumped at him again, and I felt him slap me, then felt his arms around my shoulders while the playground swirled around my head.
“I do not want to hurt you, so do not make me,” he whispered in my ear. “Now what right exactly did you have to hit and stop Riddic?”
I blinked at the bitter smile that suddenly twisted his features.
“Tell me, Elysia. For it is the same right to do this to People you earlier told me I and the likes of me did not have. Well, People would all be like Riddic if we did not do this to them, Elysia. How would you like such a twisted, violent World?”
Suddenly I knew this smile. I had seen its non-bitter version five years before, when an older boy had told a group of younger children a new story. I had seen these sharp eyes glowing with anger and almost no fear when their owner had been forced into the purger.
“Darryl.” I said. “Darryl, I have been thinking about you for five years. You owe me an explanation about the World.”