Sunday, August 18, 2013

Semmant by Vadim Babenko

Chapter 3

At that time, unusual children were the subject of much talk. Their eyes, overly intense and vivid, were mentioned quite often – as was their skill in sensing each other from a distance, and their own language, made up of interjections, which they did not shed until early adolescence. Myths circulated, and one of them was so promising that some governments decided to invest quite a bit of money in us. Of course, this was no act of charity: these people were pure pragmatists. The idea was to create a special breed, a regiment of obedient geniuses who would later be able to pay society back in full. The millions being spent were supposed to reap benefits a hundred-fold. Someone, I guess, genuinely believed that.

They brought us from everywhere, and, to their credit, put a lot of effort into us. The project was massive and not intended to be done half way. The director of the facility met each child personally at the main entrance. I can still recall his narrow face and his troubled, ailing look. And I remember something else: everyone always called him simply the Director. Proper names were just not fitting, for him or for the School.

“Hello,” he said to me quietly. “We will try to make you happy.”

For some reason, it was hard to put much faith in his words.

I didn’t believe him, but I was wrong; they all tried as best as they could. We were treated with cautious dread, as if we were overly complicated playthings. They crammed a mass of knowledge into our brains, and we were eager to learn. But playing in each youngster’s head was his own music, the beating of his own pulse, which was, in fact, encouraged. On the wall of the dining common there was even a sign that read: Do not be like everybody else! And there was another one in the assembly hall, confronting us with the question: Do you have a mission? In slightly smaller script, as if in clarification, was one more: What do you do best?

These were the rules that defined our lives at the School. Clearly, they drilled their way into us forever. I really don’t know what clever tactics were supposed to turn us into team players. Any way you slice it, that idea sounds impractical and just plain stupid. However, top brass saw it differently. They had their own plan, and they conducted training exercises and special games with us. The shrinks worked in turns and called us in for short sessions every few days. We regarded this as a necessary evil.

Sometimes, the Director spoke before us, in person. At those meetings, he was a different man – the morose, self-consumed functionary would be transfigured into a veritable prophet. He would talk in impassioned detail about our extraordinary future. About how they were going to form us into an organized force, something like a Foreign Legion, to induce bloodless intellectual blitzkriegs. He drew diagrams and schematics linked with arcs and arrows to show how they were all connected. He inscribed small squares to indicate the headquarters, reservists, support center, and mobilized groups. United and structured, we would be capable of anything. Even the most complex problems would bend to our will in the shortest time!

He truly burned with the thought of it; it was obvious this project meant a lot to him. We could see he knew how to dream, and that worked in his favor. Of course, his goal was unobtainable. But one should never demand too much from a goal.

They probably should have hung something else in the dining hall, but even that would not have made much difference. When we grew up it became clear: every one of us was insubordinate beyond measure. The Foreign Legion of Indigo would issue forth as a band of loners who could not take orders. On top of that, some of us – children with overly vivid eyes – fell into a depression that was anything but childish, despite our young, happy-go-lucky years. And we weren’t the least bit grateful – not to society or anybody else.

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Genre – Literary Fiction

Rating – NC17

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