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The Silver Cry

 

The Silver Cry

Shaanzaè Shahid

 

 

Published by Vohh Books

Shakespir Edition

 

***~~~***

 

Copyright 2017 Shaanzaè Shahid

 

Discover other titles by Shaanzaè Shahid at Shakespir.com:

 

1- The Magic Building

 

2- Refraction of Beauty

 

3- Interference

 

Shakespir Edition, License Notes

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Shakespir.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

Table of Contents

 

Introduction

Hierarchy

I Am What I Am

The Greatest

Caught Up In A Fantasy

A Slave To The Weak

1, 2, 3

Izhar Academy

Left Arrow

Carnival, Carnivore

The Four Seasons

Robotic

A Rut

Unveiling

Meaning

Interlude

Rude Awakening

Jambo!

One Step, Many Steps

Peripeteia

Response

Synthesis

Never Perfect, Always Striving

INTRODUCTION

 

The main intention behind writing this novel was to simply discuss all the discriminatory instances in history and the various situations of our present in a melting pot. The role of the artist is crucial; we use our voice to articulate the unsung songs and voices of despair that are crushed by the vicious presence of bigotry and inequity.

 

Harry Belafonte said, “Artists are the gatekeepers of truth, we are civilization’s anchor. We are the compass for humanity’s conscience.”

 

As an artist, it thus becomes a duty, to illuminate certain oppressing aspects of our life that we are aware of yet always end up ignoring. As a South Asian, born and bred in my beloved Pakistan, the story becomes more poignant because it takes into account everyone’s narrative about “making it” in life. And there are certain prerequisites that must be followed if we are to become successful and the apple of our parents’ eyes. So, in this story, parents can be society, and the aforementioned prerequisites can be an exaggerated matter of biology. This will be entwined with race and gender, and you will see how and why this is so relevant.

 

In another context, the divide between whites and coloured people has always been a great blotch on humanity. There have been many attempts at reducing discrimination in the past few years and foster a ground of equality, such as with the new (and only) Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture that opened in the US in 2016. The novel is a fictionalised rendering of this belief of existence. Therefore, is racial discrimination now a myth or a persistent reality in other walks of life? You decide.

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER ONE --

Hierarchy

 

 

‘Murderess! Murderess!

Del Clara! Del Clara!’

 

The boy who said this was twelve years old and was probably the leader of the group. At least, that is what I guessed at the time.

 

‘Huh? What does Del Clara mean?’ I asked the pretty girl who was helping me escape.

 

‘Absolutely nothing!’ Nin Joyce exclaimed excitedly. We were all panting. ‘It’s just something that we say to confuse the guards.’

 

All of us jumped over bushes. It was night time and the sky glittered away – sort of like how a glow in the dark keyboard looks like. We, a group of four, were out, and were making our way to the cave. Understandably, you might be thinking is it or is it not a group of convicts, or prisoners, or wrongly accused yet innocent people making a run for it? And not to mention, escaping prison like territory to their freedom? If you were, then you are fifty per cent correct. (If there is another possible conclusion, it may still be valid, just not in this book). The group of people, one girl and two boys, was not escaping charges or a prison. In fact, they were the children of the most elitist, successful and rich couples in all of Silverns Town, and they were simply escaping their estates. It is a sport of fun and games. However, the activities in the cave depict a reality tinged with something more…a disagreement with the system they have been born into.

 

The estates are all so beautiful: diamond doors, emerald grass and ruby floors – not to mention gold furniture. These people are rich! I’m new to the town and people often question my questions (I ask too many), as the style of my surrounding is very novel – more so than it being merely because of my lack of acquaintance with the norms and procedures. There is truly something different about it.

 

Take my new friends for example. I will simply explain what they look like and that in itself is going to paint this town’s life. Jeter Kit, the oldest and not to mention, most precocious boy of the entire group has black arms and black two halves on his chest save for a strip of white that comes down like a cascading waterfall. His neck has a white collar and his legs are black too. His body looks like he is wearing a suit. Jeter Kit looks like a businessman. There is a tiny shiny clip inside his perfectly coiffed chocolate hair that says “banker” – but only if you look at it very closely. But remember, I said it only ‘looks’ like he is wearing a suit; his body’s design is such that it resembles clothes. It is merely his skin that is the way I have described it.

 

Nin Joyce, the eleven and a half, and second oldest of the group has a beautiful splat of permanent purple eye shadow around one eye and various words scribbled over her arms. They are like calligraphic sentences tattooed all over. Her hair is like red wine and free flowing, till about her shoulders. She looks like an artist, a writer, a creative evangelist.

 

The third boy, whose name was Harris Rafi, had skin like a long white coat and had a stethoscope hanging around his neck. Indeed, you guessed it. This one was a doctor.

 

Sure enough, we ran past the big guards. What was it with those empty words that left them so confused, anyway? Maybe it was the strict deviance from their code of conduct that this group discovered. See, when you are born a guard, there is a very specific education that you receive – as with all the occupations. And of course, if your adult brain is exposed to new bits of knowledge you were not told to identify with during the time of your cognitive development, it is only natural that you stumble and fumble. Stand by the gate, watch and observe, make sure no intruders get into the premises of the mansions. This set of instructions seems just about right, except, nobody mentioned the nuances of this particular job – that maybe you needed to stop someone trying to get out too. Flexibility under all circumstances was a key proponent horrendously missing from all schools, excluding the elitists or the eliteratti as their schools were most literally called.

 

The eliteratti is this group of privileged individuals who were born into high class professions: lawyer, engineer, banker, doctor, scientist, artist, and who looked the part – very, very literally. The most significant characteristic about Silverns Town is the biological ability of the foetus to morph into the required style and identifying features of the career they have their genes decide for them. Naturally if an elitist marries an elitist, then their combined genes will produce an elitist baby. These people then get their high end education that paves the way for their rich careers. Of course, variations occur within the aesthetic sense of how they look – some colour differences may be adopted, like a doctor might want to wear a lime coloured coat, in which case the extra flab of skin that protrudes out of the legs, by the knees in its natural doctor-lab-coat colour, can be artificially tainted lime.

 

Every predator needs a prey, right? Or every alpha has a beta, or every jock has a nerd or burnout. In this town, the eliteratti has the miscellaneous. It is a group consisting of the so called ‘not so important careers’ like social worker, constructor, fire fighter, police officer, teacher, or even a clown. Provocative, is it not? Well, Silverns society has no choice – nobody can choose what they want or as a matter of fact define how great they can be or how indispensable they are to the community at large because the forefathers of the town were the eliteratti. One of them was a miscellaneous however – a teacher, but because of differing viewpoints and arguments over discriminations, that teacher was excluded from the golden quartet that gave birth to the place I am describing to you. And so there it is, bias that rules the land. Also to think nature makes that more potent through both the physical and metaphysical aspects of life.

 

The golden quartet came from four regions, which got together to create a place where one would be more abstract and expressive in the way they governed life; in short, they would be artistically orderly, imperfectly perfect. The stoic businessman emerged from the US, the lawyer from Great Britain, the doctor from Pakistan and the teacher from Africa. They sought to combine all their cultures and have a region of absolute freedom govern their lifestyle. But more than these politically correct statements, the land they discovered was enchanted. Any human form born there took on the appearance of a career – the career of their fathers: an immensely misogynistic and racial world. So there you have it, with the circumstances explained it becomes a little understandable why my new friends looked the way they did.

 

Perhaps, I should introduce myself too, only that there is no name to call me by. I am the son of a father who loves me dearly and a mother who always supported me in every manner possible. Also, my father is a clown who wishes more than anything to be a lawyer – it is his dream. My mother, the extraordinary woman that she was, possessed a resistance gene, which is what I inherited and came about into this world looking the way she did – a normal human being with a peaches and cream complexion – a normal human being that has become virtually extinct in this label leaden world.

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER TWO --

I Am What I Am

 

 

‘Gezzer in! Gezzer in!’ Harris announced ceremoniously, once we had all entered the cave.

 

‘What is he saying?’ I asked Nin, again.

 

‘He’s saying “get yourselves in” really quickly,’ she calmly replied back; I could see the clear look of entertainment on her face, which is still a better substitute for impatience considering my fusillade of questions.

 

Jeter Kit took out a thick fat book from his backpack and pressed it on top of the wooden stump he was previously sitting on, releasing a perfume of claustrophobic dust into the dark air.

 

‘Read your great, great uncle’s book, it’s…great,’ he said to Nin with a crescent like, perfectly symmetrical smile.

 

I peered over the cover to get a glimpse of what he was talking about after motioning my flashlight towards it, ‘Ulysses by James Joyce… you’re his niece?’

 

‘Indeed, so,’ she flirtatiously affirmed.

 

‘James Joyce will undoubtedly be smiling from beyond the grave right now,’ Harris joined in with his rather husky voice – seems to be hit with puberty the earliest – ‘and to think we’d soon be there if our parents found out.’

 

I must have twitched my nose and opened my mouth for a fraction of a second, because Nin propped up in front of me and said in a tone of enflamed optimism, ‘I’ll explain to you what we’re talking about!’

 

Moving a little backwards, my raised eyebrows were the perfect ‘proceed on’ indication, and proceed on she did.

 

‘There’s a certain order that we must adhere to at all times, or else there will be chaos in the perfect system the eliteratti created,’ she went towards the wooden stump and picked up the book, ‘for instance, Jeter can’t go around wasting his time reading literature because that is not his domain – it’s mine. So it makes no sense for him to leave his perfectly good economical investment books or whatever his line of work has him read and do something other than that.’

 

‘It’s practically blasphemy,’ Harris interjected again. ‘Abu hates it when I talk of how dreary all medicine lessons are. See here, he says, we weren’t born to look like this without good reason – and with that being said, no, we do not have any right to step out of this biological status quo.’

 

‘That leaves me stressed out since I genuinely love poetry and fictitious philosophy in literature or anything remotely abstract. But my brother?’ Jeter pulled his tree stump in the middle of Nin, Harris and myself. The rest of us were sitting on rocks and the cave was suddenly lit up with glowing jubilees in lanterns.

 

‘My brother took over our father’s surveillance business – the only surveillance business of its kind in Silverns,’ he continued, ‘it keeps tabs on everyone’s activities and their adherence to the rules. Bitterly ironic, how they both couldn’t keep me adhering to their pathetic system.’

 

‘I mean you can’t change what’s inside…no matter what you look like,’ Nin added softly.

 

Indeed you can’t. Don’t I know it! My father was born looking like a clown. He had fluffy orange hair, bleached skin with upside down triangles under his eyes, a circular tomato for a nose and oversized red lips. His skin consisted of turquoise flannel and white frills with yellow buttons trailing all the way down from neck to bottom. But the thing is, the man didn’t know a single joke to save his gosh darned cute look or failing career. The man aspired to be and become more than anything in the world: a lawyer. He campaigned relentlessly among the weaker factions of the miscellaneous. He took paroles by the law judiciary just so he could learn and understand the basic rules of Silverns. Sadly, instead of making people laugh, he was laughed at for failing to crack a decent punch line and straying into a more socially ambiguous position, instead. And society is ruthless. A clown near high profile eliteratti headquarters was akin to an unsightly beggar that was a constant reminder of all that ugly, the rich tried so hard to conceal, or rather, ignore and forget.

 

My father knew more than anything that this sort of discrimination could not possibly be it. How could one feel so wrong in one’s own skin? Luckily, he found some respite when he met mother. She looked quite strange to him with normal olive coloured arms and a face that had shades of pomegranate in the cheeks, eyes that sparkled intelligence and clothes that were different; a polka dotted long skirt with a purple top. He wasn’t sure which profession it alluded to, so he assumed she was a method actor – definitely one of the miscellaneous, one of ‘his’ people.

 

They fell in love. It was the first time someone had helped him laugh and see the funny side in all the imperfections of life. Physiologically he had no idea she carried an aversion or deviance from the genesis that engulfed Silverns of looking like the way you are meant to spend the rest of your life earning a livelihood in or even a name. My mother used to call my father Spud instead of being known as simply “Clown T” (he was assigned an alphabet to show he was the twentieth person born looking like a clown in the town). I don’t exactly know what Spud means, maybe she just found it endearing.

 

Unfortunately, my mother died when I was very young. Sometimes, in moments of solitude I do tend to reflect on life and how my circumstances would have been, had she been alive. She and I, two of a kind. Surely, there might have been some kind of ease in all the difficulties we had to overcome. Because of what I remember, she was definitely the stronger spirit in the household, who helped father find happiness in a world that consistently saw him as an unnecessary, useless and ungrateful misfit. ‘Nonconformity the disease’ is a slogan that has never quite lost any of its severity along the transition of centuries in our existence.

 

Ironically, Darwin was wrong – the fittest and possibly most fearless of us – my mother, left the earliest. I always hope mother bequeathed her fire and zesty spirit to me, so that there may be more binding our unique bond than just the special our ‘types’ received at birth; an odd red circle with several ringlets inside, it was a symbol that heightened our individualism and our kind because only those born without a profession were branded with it. My mother and I.

 

Life wanted to bring father and myself to the forefront… inculcate within us that the struggle to live and not just survive, must never be lost, even if our greatest strengths and comforts get snatched away from us.

 

I promised myself that I would help my father achieve his dream. Since no career particularly influenced me or had any degree of interest, there was no other goal. If through all the madness that surrounded us I could achieve even a remotely significant identity for myself, then life would be meaningful. In this town, which is really another type of world, you only truly thrive when you come first in your profession, but let’s face it, only if you were born an alpha. And alphas are only born looking like the core eliteratti professions. That is why they are also born with the licence to make the secondary creatures’ lives horrific because it is the entire chain of being ideal once again.

 

A simple technique of implementing this is to do well in what you’re born with and sticking to that. It would simply be your misfortune if you got stuck in the wrong ‘body’ as my unfortunate father did and my new friend Jeter seemed to be. There was no room for silver in Silverns Town. Since the eliteratti generated the most revenue they were naturally deemed golden. The miscellaneous, whilst still possessing purpose were always the second best. Every child born was told they had to aspire to be like the eliteratti – golden. The very fact that you were not born to look like the eliteratti meant your entire life would be spent aspiring and admiring…from afar.

 

The whole deal with this fictional world is the quintessential example of man’s ideal utopia turning to dung. As the golden quartet brought along with them different pieces of their culture that they thought could be fused into a mutant colony, it certainly went bizarre but in ways man knows best.

 

So are we really what we look like?

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER THREE --

The Greatest

 

 

We had all been sitting inside the cave for an hour or so. We talked about each of our ideas and about what we want life to be like individually. Jeter, the poet. Nin, the writer and the artist. Harris, the doctor. And myself.

 

‘The funny part is, I thought I wouldn’t like medicine. Tried real hard to obfuscate my understanding but just couldn’t exhaust my mental stamina,’ Harris said while playing with his stethoscope, ‘I am actually happy doing what I was born with – for me it’s important to be the half the great doctor abu is’.

 

‘So you’re a true eliteratti’, I observed, ‘you’re happy the way you’ve been born.’

 

‘Look, it’s supremacy through birth that I don’t agree with. To be in love with what you do, or feel a sense of purpose through your craft is what I advocate. Feel free to be the greatest in it,’ he replied coolly.

 

‘Harris is a fine example of a hard working brown,’ Nin added cheekily. She chucked her hand on his back and gave him her finest Harley Quinn smirk ever.

 

‘Well, along with being supremely charismatic, Pakistanis are devoted, hard working people. Our reputation shines throughout the subcontinent, and now in Silverns,’ he remarked casually, with his nose up in the air for dramatic effect.

 

‘Oh yeah, completely,’ Jeter propped his arm around Harris, ‘so totally true.’

 

Harris gave his friend ‘the look’ with narrow eyes and a one sided smile.

 

‘Why can’t your parents be pleased with the way you are?’ I persisted.

 

Of course I wouldn’t let it go because there were so many unanswered questions.

 

‘Why is it so hard to let them know that biology can’t stop you,’ I continued, ‘and to think you are from the eliteratti and yet so powerless… what of the poor miscellaneous who you have ostracised for no reason at all?’

 

It felt like I had really struck some chord because immediately that light mood transformed into something dark.

 

‘It will create an open war,’ Jeter spoke finally with furrowed brows, ‘you can’t go against the system. It’s in isolation.’

 

‘Yeah, how do I expect change in the system when the eliteratti themselves are in a hideaway.’

 

It was really hard not to be cynical what with all the notions of fighting for change, or the strong using their influence to campaign for the greater good that everyone knows as a generality. But of its application? Well, that’s as sketchy as hope itself.

 

‘You know, I understand your concerns about change because we ourselves can’t stand our parents’ regime. We founded this cave club two years ago – and tomorrow marks its anniversary – in revolt. That in itself is a movement – when the next generation is unwilling to see the ways of its forefathers, the ways of the past,’ Nin answered back in perhaps the most sombre I had ever seen her.

 

‘We come here,’ she continued, ‘to find our strengths, expand and increase our refusal to be coloured grey. Once we’ve done that, our next step is to demolish the barrier separating the eliteratti from the miscellaneous. So don’t think we aren’t thinking about revolution.’

 

It was certainly enlivening watching some sense of purpose emerge from all this. It was cool watching them leave their comfortable lifestyles with disrespect towards what the eliteratti stand for, but not ingratitude for what hard work brought them.

 

‘So…why a cave?’ I asked next, trying to inculcate a lighter tone as Nin really shut it down. ‘Is it because no one in their right minds would ever picture the eliteratti here?’

 

‘Well, kinda,’ Harris spoke while adjusting his long lab coat, which was really just his stretched skin. ‘Jeter thought it would be poetic since we have such radical progressive thoughts and yet ironically we discuss them in a prehistoric shroud because it’s like a cocoon for our butterfly effect to happen and catalyse our evolution or some really advanced philosophical shizz like that.’

‘Man, you really do suit literature,’ I added to some relaxed laughter.

 

Suddenly Jeter’s watch started beeping and flickering a blue light.

 

‘C’mon guys, time to move. Our parents are back.’

 

‘Right then,’ Nin got up from her stump and started rummaging through her things in her backpack, until she finally took out a flashlight, ‘let’s get back to the real middle ages.’

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER FOUR --

Caught Up In A Fantasy

 

 

We entered Jeter’s mansion the same way we had left it: through the bushes. But there was this beautiful fusion of pink, purple and blue lights that was emanating from inside unlike when we left and all that could be seen were giant golden chandeliers through the bay windows. This thought was instantly confirmed when trance like music started to blare from their equally large backyard with lyrics like, ‘Born, born, born a certain waaaaay, Feels good to have a natural orderrrr, Thank you, we were born this waaaay, oh baby!’

 

‘Oh you’re kidding me, the carnival thing was tonight?’ Nin confusedly asked her equally perplexed friends.

‘That is strange! Both ami and abu did not mention anything about this,’ Harris said while taking off his backpack. ‘But it doesn’t matter, let’s just go and find them.’

 

We made our way to the backyard and beheld large pinstriped tents with several clowns doing some kind of auditions. The judges were Jeter, Nin and Harris’s parents. Of course they were older versions of their children. Jeter’s father was a man of medium height and pecan coloured hair that was gelled back. He had the same skin as his son except the colour was silver grey and the tie that had its slick neck circle the suit collar and make its way into the meticulously buttoned intersection was midnight blue. The shoes Mr. Hiseff Kit wore had tinges of crocodile and his cufflinks glistened more loudly than all the blaring lights that surrounded him. A man of great fashion sense, I can honestly wonder just how well he conducted his security business – not so well, as his own son would slip right under his nose.

 

Mrs. Arantza Kit, a woman of excellent height and firm build – the kind of physical stature she bequeathed to her son – looked like an Amazon dressed in the garb of formal business pants, white ruffled blouse adorned under a black blazer. Once more, all this was exquisitely purchased at the biology store, and I hear the genes are quite expensive. Her tiger hair flowed wildly.

 

Dr. Rafi Mahmood and Dr. Gulrose Rafi, Harris’s parents stood majestically together, a handsome couple, both of them had white coat skins and matching stethoscopes and tortilla coloured faces. They were both close in height. The couple was picture perfect. Dr. Rafi had peppered hair and a white beard on a face that looked wise, with eyes that were stern and assertive yet prone to occasional glints of kindness. His wife had an oblong face with shoulder length raven hair and possibly the most gorgeous almond shaped eyes I have ever seen.

 

Last but not least, Nin’s parents. Mr. William Joyce and Mrs. Purita Joyce. Her father looked exactly like their great ancestor James Joyce – round spectacles, with hair that was all the rage in the jazz age. He had a moustache that had been cut from both ends giving it a semi lunar look. His body skin comprised of a suit, bow tie, a hat – which had been shaved multiple times to stop the hair from growing out as it was again just an extension of his head, and a long cane – the only prop of his biological costume that did not emanate naturally from his body. Personally speaking, perhaps their affiliation with the eliteratti comes through carrying sir Joyce’s lineage and not just the career. Nin’s mother was a petite short woman with a cinnamon bob and Cleopatra inspired eyes. She had words that were naturally scribbled all over her legs and arms like tattoos.

 

As we drew closer, and my friends went over to their respective parents, I saw that one of the clowns present there, was my father, so I rushed over to my own parent.

 

‘Dad? What are you doing here?’ I asked the obvious question that just seemed necessary.

 

‘Trying to make some money,’ he spoke in the most composed un-clown like manner as opposed to his highly dramatic co-clowns. ‘Do you know what an honour it is to be able to perform at the eliteratti house?’

 

‘They’re not gods, dad.’

 

‘Son, please. You know what I mean. All my life I’ve wanted to be like them and this is probably the closest I get.’ He spoke so sadly.

 

Surprisingly, despite the loud music blaring I could hear the muffled voices of Jeter, Nin and Harris along with their parents. That ceased altogether and then spoke Mr. Kit.

 

‘All right, I think we’ve chosen,’ he said while pressing his hands together. I could see my father’s face glossed with hope and yearning. And go figure, it was not him.

 

The clown with the squeak in his step, high pitched raspy voice, more elaborate buttons than you’ve ever seen before, and mad apple coloured hair was ‘the clear choice’. And the clown next to me, whose gene was not in my body, sighed a great sigh.

 

‘Thank you for coming, we’ll make sure one of our miscellaneous drivers drops you off at the nearest station. And you, Clown Y Fluffemjokestein, is that correct?’ Mr. Kit turned and asked the clown he selected.

 

‘Fluffemjokestein, at it! Hyuhyuhyu,’ he ended by jumping and laughing in the most absurd manner. He really threw in everything he got, every moment he got.

 

‘Be here by six tomorrow!’ And with that he and the whole tribe of eliterattis just turned and walked away.

 

It was purely impulsive, but I turned around and declared, ‘Not choosing Spud the Clown? Spud the clown who has got the entire joke dictionary memorised? The one who can juggle while doing somersaults through rings of fire? Not choosing that Spud the clown?’

 

What I said made me a clown in my father’s eyes; he could do none of those things.

 

‘I certainly saw none of it in the audition. If anything, he was the most boring and most dry out of the lot.’ Mr. Kit replied in a very matter of fact manner.

 

‘Ah, you see that’s this man’s surprise! He is full of surprises. He would like to show you something through discourse if that be so possible for a clown to do, in your office perhaps?’

 

‘I can’t allow that. I haven’t the time.’

 

‘You see Mr. Kit, my father has a fiery passion for…’ I hesitated. This was one moment where I had his attention, and thought I would just say it.

 

‘…for law,’ I finally added. ‘He’s really good – could he perhaps get a special letter written on his behalf from you so he could go to the library without being discriminated against?’

 

Mr. Kit’s eyes opened. ‘You’re joking, aren’t you? Sad he looks like something he’s not and pity he looks like that so no one can take him seriously in anything else. Boy, it’s the way you look. It’s all set in stone.’

 

Holding back my anger, I tried my best to speak in a calm and steady voice. ‘Sir, one’s merit is what should determine one’s career, a person’s commitment. Surely, with your education and evolved thinking skills, you can’t -’

 

‘You lecturing me on “should be’s” now? Just who do you think you are?’ his voice slithered like lightning. It was silent, deadly, provoking, but most of all, threatening.

 

‘I am a fellow human being,’ making sure we made eye contact, ‘just like yourself.’

 

Mr. Kit gave a nasty little snort, ‘Hmph. For someone who was born without an identity or a career, you do know how to make haughty remarks. Mark my words boy: you are not like me. I am an elitist. You are even lower than the miscellaneous.’

 

And with that he turned to leave for the inside of his mansion. Though everyone else stood a little shocked at the outward display of animosity towards my father and I, they did of course follow him back. As for the children, Mr. Kit quite menacingly warned his son to ‘mark (his) distance from my kind and the miscellaneous’, and with a look of hurt and helplessness, he too, along with Nin and Harris went back inside the great big bubble of delusion, otherwise known as the eliteratti mansion.

 

‘Son, nothing quite shakes you up, does it?’ my father said to me as the other clowns were being escorted by the driver, ‘you really can’t win against them. It’s not how life was made.’

 

‘Father, this is unbearable,’ as we spoke, he too, was being led out. ‘In keeping with the promise I made to mother, and now I make to you, you will become a lawyer. The first clown-lawyer in all of Silverns Town.’

 

He was touched. There was a moment of silence between us when only our eyes spoke to one another. But, he was also concerned.

 

‘Your firm faith in me is enough for an old clown to die happy! Ain’t no joke necessary!’ he said, finally, holding back tears that stubbornly trickled down his coloured cheeks anyway, ‘your ma and I love you. They’re strong people, but one day our kind will rise as well.’

 

‘Safe journey father,’ I said as he got in the van, ‘but we are all the same kind. There is no distinction. Somebody needs to just wake the eliteratti up, is all.’

 

That was the first time I had seen my father, in a long time. And to think, it was such an abrupt meeting as that with a goodbye at my lips, with a rude awakening to a rude nightmare. Heavy heart but with a steely will, I made my way back into the Kit mansion.

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER FIVE --

A Slave To The Weak

 

 

I suppose it is wise that I state my purpose here after all. Nin was using me as a study case for a new book she was writing. Mr. Kit said to Mr. Joyce, ‘You know you’re an old family friend, it’s the reason I can bear seeing him, but God help me, if it wasn’t for our brotherhood I’d have that,’ pointing derogatorily at me, ‘out of here.’

 

It seems as though you can’t be present in society here without a proper cohesive purpose. Quite the cardinal sin, it is, to exist without a name, nationality, religious or most importantly, career tag. Nin believed with all her heart that our time together would instigate within me the urge to discover who I was. You see, I actually did possess the greatest advantage of all: to be free. To learn and grow on my own, and possibly put my flâneurism to good use, by achieving what had now become truly archaic: choosing what I wanted to be myself, for myself. And that also made me a serious threat, which the eliteratti tried to kill by making me afraid. It is as Toni Morrison said in Jazz, “hurt was better than fear”. To be afraid was to be weak and unable to take action. Bruises and wounds were a testament to the trials endured in that journey.

 

Jeter had been waiting for me by his mansion’s main door. He stood there with his crossed arms and one leg triangulated against the wall, face down. Evidently, he was contemplating something. Since, I was living in the back shed of Jeter’s mansion, it was important to get the voice confirmation of one of the residents to open up. So I asked him:

 

‘Hey, I think I’ll retire to my shed-room. Nin is busy, not around, don’t think I’m wanted at the -’

 

‘The way father treats you is not fair,’ he spoke quietly whilst still looking down.

 

‘Aw, c’mon now Jeter…’ I said, ‘you and me both know there is nothing new about that.’

 

‘Yeah, but it isn’t any excuse for what’s right. I get so frustrated thinkin’ bout all this ya know?’ he undid his crossed arms and looked me straight in the face, ‘he’d do that to his own son. He’d turn me out if he found out about my non-biological love.’

 

‘But he didn’t turn me out. I’m still here.’ My raised eyebrows, unaffected eyes and crooked lips indicated how unnecessary all these fears were. At least fears that were not going to produce something positive.

 

‘Word to the wise, Jeter,’ I continued, ‘it’s time you stop oppressing yourself so much. I know reasoning with the eliteratti isn’t going to solve anything. But if we can just go and possibly get a miscellaneous into your world – consider yourself part of this generation’s greatest revolution.’

 

And with that, I patted him softly on the shoulder and walked into the mansion.

 

 

There is another part of Silverns town, which not surprisingly, caters to the strata of society that was unfortunately born looking ‘inferior’. Their career-bodies were not included in the big fat book of ‘Ruling’ that was crafted by the eliteratti, of the eliteratti, for the eliteratti. It was the great big bible of the town and lawmakers utilised each and every word within it to thoroughly ensure that the rules were fair and nonbiased. But of course in a place where looks are directly proportional to the sentiment that you are an extension of divinity and by some right, a proprietor of the natural order that even the time periods succeeding the renaissance discontinued, all those laws and rules only adhere to the further glorification of the self proclaimed, absolutely nothing to do with biological means, eliteratti. When will man understand that supremacy is simply a man made construct – to not play the hand of God.

 

It would be a while before Silverns, came to terms, albeit a small portion of it, with this overly “radical” idea. But then again racial bigotry and partisanship could never be eradicated so quickly, it is as they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” or something like that. Either way, if you are successful in changing the mind set of even a single person, you have accomplished a feat that is greater than you will ever know. And look at me, first day on the job as a nonqualified circus master, and I take on the task of training the lion. I’ll be convincing Mr. Kit.

 

There has to be some way to show the eliteratti the flaw in the entire system…that there is never any victor based on genetics or the way one is perceived to look like. It is a construct of society. We are all essentially weak, until we use our strengths to benefit the world or provide meaning, which exists everywhere. And there are people like myself who look like nothing, who is to say there will never be a place for a reject such as myself? My purpose is to ensure that my father has what he wishes for. He will get a chance to prove himself and it will not be denied to him based on what he looks like. No. No. No.

 

What method can I adopt to make it? Would it be better if I went to the supreme justice, of course it won’t be just myself, I could get a giant petition from the entire neglected half of Silverns. I’m going to run this by Jeter, Nin and Harris. They could accompany me to get as many signatures as we can possibly amalgamate and show it to the supreme, and it will be dedicated to the one and only Mr. Kit. Easily, I say easily, we could get away with it, considering not only my friends’ (I am in a position to call them that, right) contacts and skills, and if for instance this was to come to any eliteratti’s notice, Nin could say it was all for her new book.

 

Without wasting any time, I went directly to Harris’ bedroom where Jeter and Nin would often go and just binge drink on lassi – this massively refreshing yoghurt, salt water and ice combination. And…I was right. Hey friends.

 

‘Well, kamas kam it’s an adventure for all of us,’ Harris spoke after a good, long, hard tenure of two minutes was over post my narrated ideas, and Jeter’s widened eyes settled down a bit.

 

‘Kamas kam…’ I was dragging the last word into a question.

 

‘It means at least in Urdu,’ Nin, my guide for this multilingual Silverns town translated for me.

 

‘So guys, why don’t you kick your escaping skills up a notch?’ I added.

‘It’s just that the entire possibility of entering the town of the miscellaneous…is quite riveting,’ Jeter said finally, ‘but it’s scary. We’ll be raising a lot of eyebrows and who is to say we’d be welcome there? Wouldn’t they have some kind of prejudice against us even though we mean them no harm?’

 

Since Jeter was naturally inclined towards imagination and the arts, he fantasized about all their possible encounters and that made him nervous. So he began pacing up and down the room, wringing his hands together. But, also being the oldest, he had a certain kind of grounding, constantly thinking about ways to consolidate their safety – he was a sky full of stars in a little pen he slated with his own consciousness.

 

‘Oh Jeter, it will be lovely! I’ll say it’s all part of the feature I’m working on,’ Nin replied enthusiastically, ‘but we will tell all the miscellaneous folk what it really is that we’re there for. Let them all be a part of this great big move.’ Honestly, her smile and genuine optimism for my plan gives me immense happiness.

 

‘Haan tou, when are we going to start?’ Harris leaned back on his stretchable chair while fingering his great big Shakespearian (or rather, biological) skull figure.

 

‘I say, first thing tomorrow morning. Pack some cash, will ya?’ I added cheekily, ‘them transport’s gonna cost some dough.’

 

Harris got up and began rearranging some of his books, then he added, ‘Abu expects me to top in the upcoming MCAT exam, so I’m not going to skip on any study hours, haina?’

‘Oh gosh, no, you will not,’ Nin exclaimed with a quick flip of her hand, ‘we all need to get back for school! It’ll be something we do in our afterhours, right?’ she looked at me for an affirmative.

 

‘Right,’ I said.

 

It was a pretty standard plan. Though this was the first time for the eliteratti to venture beyond their known spheres of life, it was the biggest adventure they could ever dream of…and if there is one thing that is certain about this group, it is that they have an inclination towards all things adventure.

 

‘Oooh, I just hope convincing mother and father won’t be a hard task!’ Nin cooed whilst crossing her legs on Harris’ leopard skin furry rug.

 

‘They are going to flip,’ Harris spoke robotically, ‘suppose you all already know that but I’ll also pretend I’m new to this optimistic game,’ he added in a total take no rubbish sort of manner.

 

‘At best, we’ll get a chaperone,’ Jeter said in his low, husky voice.

 

I raised my hand, but the three friends’ combined, and surprisingly synchronised raised eyebrow look, hushed all thoughts of going ahead with the idea of ME as their chaperone. Silly. Silly.

 

‘We’ll check it out in the morning,’ Jeter ended the night’s conversation on a note of finality as he then did a little salute, yawned while picking up his cell phone, and left the room.

 

Harris yelled at him, ‘When are we going to ask them?’

 

Jeter’s sleepy ‘Morning’ echoed back.

 

So after that, we got up and left. Harris in a total nonchalant manner picked up one of his books and began to read.

 

‘Har, it’s about to be three, sleep!’ Nin exclaimed in a shocked manner – though even I can tell how completely normal that is for him by now.

 

His ‘mm-hmm-ing’ was also perfectly normal.

 

Normal.

 

Nin and I walked out of his room together, while she silently shut Harris’ door behind us.

 

‘So see you tomorrow then,’ she whispered almost, drowsily, as sleepiness kicked in, ‘no more being slaves to the weak.’ She smiled and then trailed off.

 

‘Good night, Nin,’ I said back, ‘no more being slaves to the weak, indeed.’

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER SIX --

1, 2, 3

 

 

 

In the morning as I woke up much earlier than I usually did, about forty minutes to seven, and looked outside the window, the sky was sheathed in a brilliant blue, with streaks of Savannah sunset scattered about in an abstract montage. The majestic wooden gazebo atop the fresh, dewy shamrock grass, with the stony fountains circling the gold of kinabalu Orchid and Juliet roses, emitting a nostalgic and cool breeze all around, looked and felt even more fantastical than ever. The ordinary (according to eliteratti standards) really came alive – and why wouldn’t it? ‘Tis a beautiful life, when one comes into contact with purpose. And if that purpose leads you to wake up early, then take it. Everything is more beautiful and magical in the morning.

 

It was as if the springs of my body were charged with instant electric voltage, as I bounced out of my bed and towards my little supplies desk in the corner of my tiny room. I began sifting through my things and took some time determining their practicalities. For instance, questions like whether a great, big chart paper would be a more suitable choice for the petition or a small notebook dedicated especially to the cause being more sufficient occupied my mind. After all, we intended on getting as many signatures as was humanly possible. Then of course, the realisation that it had to be executed in a coherent legal manner, therefore the exact number of signatures required to cross the first threshold was something we needed to find out. Jeter could ask his Aunt Judge Firdous, the chief justice of Silverns Town. The family would definitely be gathering for the great big carnival that was to happen.

 

I also turned to my map of the town and started working out which routes we were to take and which subareas within the district of the miscellaneous we could explore. There was so much! Having lived away from Silverns, I had so much to understand and expand upon. Theatres, multiple schools, libraries, restaurants, galore! Naturally, people born looking like actors, teachers, librarians, waiters, and so on would be shoehorned into the part known as the Left Arrow. Whatever the case, it certainly looked a lot more enticing and thriving than the eliteratti – it looked more of a place where all residents felt the conundrum of life celebrated all kinds of diversity. A town within a town, of sorts! What made the situation sodded was the futile labelling of inferiority.

 

Thinking about how great an adventure it was going to be, the need and absolute necessity of capturing everything on film struck me. I needed photographs of the entire journey. Sadly, I didn’t own a camera. Even if I did, it’s not like I could work it professionally or anything. So it became essential to find a photographer in Left Arrow and request him. Unfortunately that never came to pass. Funny how those born looking like photographers – there isn’t much of a clear distinction physically, except they are born with very specific eyeballs that can magnify at will, giving them a natural acumen and edge regarding the dynamic of the profession, and a camera strap around their necks – are deemed as miscellaneous when really, the eliteratti couldn’t go one day without getting their pictures taken. The eliteratti need the miscellaneous but will not concede towards equality – confusing.

 

Speaking of the ‘need’ factor, my supply checks and wandering thoughts made me pay no heed towards the time – it was nearly nine o clock! I decided to walk into the mansion and meet with Jeter, and quite possibly wake up the laziest in the group.

There’s a separate entrance that I use in order to get to Jeter’s room and avoid his family members because each time I run into them, there is an inevitable envelope effect of icy stares and disdainful indifference. Better to avoid it all. So, I always show myself in from an obscure door between the powder room and the kitchen that Jeter had concealed with the mask of a giant bookshelf. Of course, he told me the trick to sliding past it, without getting noticed.

 

I am happy with the level of trust we have. It would be impossible to do anything if Jeter, Harris and Nin were sceptical of me – at a point like this, there is great relief in knowing how uniquely individualistic these three eliteratti children are. And it is an immensely comforting feeling knowing that we are working together on a mutually important cause.

 

Pushing past these overly sentimental raging thoughts, and employing full use of my stealth, I began to steal my way up the second less used, and admittedly, more beautiful staircase. But just my luck! Mrs. Kit, on a never before done occasion, was coming downstairs; her heels clinked musically against the wooden steps. I immediately hurried down, as I must have been on my fourth stair, and hid behind the dark hallway behind. The staircase was also dimly lit, and none of the brilliantly gargantuan pentagon shaped windows faced this part of the mansion, so all the sunlight sheathed the alternate halls and plummeted this region into a shadowy abyss – just the way my adventurer friend prefers it.

 

Why would Mrs. Kit take a crazy detour from her and her husband’s personal, and the mansion’s main grander staircase? Waiting patiently for her to leave, I adjusted myself in the narrow hallway. It was an almost abandoned, forbidden part of the mansion due to its unkempt style. There were thick layers of dust everywhere. Even in all the darkness, I could vaguely discern an old bookshelf with loads of ornamentally placed books; judging by their condition, they had not been read, yet alone opened for a decade. There was a planked up window to the side that radiated a little sunlight, magnifying the billions of dust particles circulating in the air.

 

As I peered closer, a book that really grasped my attention was a thin, shattered one with the cover of a symbol – the one my kind is stamped with at birth – the same red circular honeycomb shape. Burning with curiosity, I opened it and could discern it was a general book on the biology of our types, when I found an empty plastic bag inside. I held it up against the faint sunlight and could read ‘gene suppressor’ – looked like it had been used too, but a long time ago, judging by the condition.

 

Moving away from the bookcase that was the literal definition of unused, I opened the drawers of the little table beside it. Strangely the table did not have the same layers of dust and age that its neighbour embodied. It was relatively clean – or as clean as the usual tables in the ‘working’ and non-abandoned parts of the home. It felt as if someone had been accessing the drawers.

I opened one of them and discovered the most bizarre things. They were like the props of some actor. Chest pads, leg wears, make up, special “skin” sprays, and all sorts of synonymous things. It was quite the eccentric find.

 

But before I could explore any further, I heard Mrs. Kit’s voice penetrate the still air, with a husky ‘Where are you!’ raising the hair on my arms. I tiptoed back to my original position by the staircase, closing the tiny door behind me as I left it slightly ajar and was just about to escape up, when I was once more arrested by her loud tone, ‘Catarina!’ and the subsequently louder, ‘CATARINAAA, where ARE you?’

 

A stout, plump woman in the skin of a house maid scurried in from one of the East ward kitchens. Her skin was like a black knee length dress, with a white coloured apron on top; she also had an additional flap where the apron ended, like the pouch of a kangaroo. Her hair was messily tied in a rough bun, and had a matching white piece to complement her apron-skin in her hair – though the former was not skin.

 

Giving a little bob like courtesy, she went, ‘Yaaas Ledy Missus Kit Madam?’

 

That was the first time I heard language quite like that. Edging a bit closer to the wall, to whose back this communication unfolded, I began to listen more heedfully.

 

‘You realise the family portrait has caught dust? A thin microscopic film of dust. I have business associates coming in the evening. You realise that?’ she spoke in a biting manner, exuding all her airs of supremacy.

 

‘Pardon to beg for th’ uncare!’ she reproachfully sighed.

 

‘You left your dusting cloth over there, too! By heaven I was so perturbed by the dust shenanigans on your part, I was almost compelled to pick it up myself and wipe those particles clean,’ she spoke while facing the ceiling.

 

Then why didn’t you? I thought, whilst supressing the need to sneeze. I wonder why all that talk of dust tickled my nose so much.

 

‘Naturally, I did not do something so blasphemous. I thought to myself, no Arantza. Get it together. This is not what you were born to do. It isn’t your domain,’ she replied suddenly almost as if she had heard me.

 

You have got to be kidding me – this is basic housekeeping, of you OWN house!

 

‘So Catarina, what does this tell you. What were we born to do? I am a business woman,’ she pointed to her bosom.

 

‘N I wes born to cleanin’ yer home ‘n dustin’ portrits,’ she replied, with a tinge of pride, like she was happy to recite the abc of life so correctly, to an unappreciative teacher.

 

‘Hmm, yesss,’ her madam replied, elongating her s’s a bit more.

 

She then took out her tablet where she had a hologram like board appear in the air. It was big and green, and quite perceptible as I could tell from the distance it was an organiser that had everyone’s tasks laid out. And of course, the current subject for the organiser was Catarina. She had 100 tasks laid out for her that ranged from ridiculous to very ridiculous, like cleaning the dust off of the tips of Mrs. Kit’s nail polishes to rearranging the decoration pieces on one of the four tables in the main lounge’s sofa area only, about 45 times to see which one looked the best. And it was only ten o clock in the morning!

 

With this kind of rigorous schedule, it was really NOT a big deal if Mrs. Kit wiped off that tiny smudge off of her portrait. If she thought it was justified not to execute such a tiny action because she was not born to do it is needless to say, mightily ridiculous. I suggest a full course on job fluidity is in order. And if Mrs. Kit thought she was too busy to participate in such an action because she was born for much greater and much more important tasks that occupy her to no end then Catarina was born with a job that occupied her to no end too. The eliteratti really needed a crash course on respect, too.

 

After this little lapse of concentration in Catarina’s otherwise untainted career, pun intended, and after Mrs. Kit added 16 more tasks to be completed by 11:46 to her personal organiser, both of them disappeared in a flash. I could hear the clinking of Mrs. Kit’s heels going towards the far end of the mansion, till my ears could fathom no more, and after the broken humming of the suppressed Catarina could also no longer be discernible, I rocketed upwards. Jeter had been asleep for far too long.

 

Entering his room, my eyes were met by this brilliant mountain tree green light that paradoxically cast an intergalactic vibe across his bed. He had no windows, and the three walls that guarded the space between them were full of posters. Rock n’ roll posters of some of the biggest names in the music industry, all born with musical instrument tattoos on their arms that instantly meant they were destined for this fame, then there were glow in the dark star stickers on his ceiling accompanied by pictures of his uncle Kenny who was the most fiercest astronauts in all of Silverns town…well, at least in all of Silverns eliteratti town.

 

Trying to avoid stepping on the many books he had scattered all over his floor, along with his backpack, torch and his scattered card game – really, to think this chap has his own private sitting room the size of an average miscellaneous cottage and he still can’t organise his belongings – I stood beside his snoring, drool dribbling down his cheek, arm dangling, completely lost, clueless self. And then I proceeded to tap his head as repeatedly and as annoyingly as possible, chanting, ‘WAAAKEEE UPPPP’ as musically as possible.

 

Jeter snorted. He was given quite the jolt from heaven knows what dreams he was having. But they seemed important, because he gave the most two dimensional confused look I had ever seen; he was so disconnected from reality.

 

‘Did we get the sixty ninth signature from Henry the baker then?’ he half spoke, half yawned.

 

‘Sweety, you worked hard for those signatures didn’t you?’ I cooed, my hands tingling to shake up his pillow.

 

‘Mm..hmm,’ he mumbled with a smile on his face and eyes that were glued shut.

 

‘That is great!’ I said patting his head, and while he smiled again and gave out a little stretch, the rest of the sentence followed, ‘is what I would have said if you actually got up first!’ and yanked the pillow from under him.

 

That is when he woke up and sat upright on his bed. ‘Hey!’

 

‘Come on! Get ready. I have so much to show you about our trip to Left Arrow,’ there was a lot to be done, and it was clear how persistence and excitement were entwined together.

 

‘What time is it?’ Jeter drowsily inquired, ‘have class at twelve.’

 

‘You honestly think your mother, queen of organisation, would allow you to miss your class?’ I definitely spoke with an air of indignation at the absurdity of his question, and my overreaction helped hide the sarcasm in my voice. But I was probably provoked unnecessarily over a rather innocent inquiry.

 

‘OK yeah great,’ he said while fishing for his slippers.

 

His hand brushed against his bedside table as he tried to pull out one of the slippers from under the bed.

 

‘Eww, Catarina really needs to dust this, or better yet I’ll just do it,’ he added consciously at the end.

 

‘Yeah but what amazes me more is how Catarina missed dusting in that little abandoned room behind your staircase!’ I added.

 

‘Which one?’ Jeter asked while yawning, ‘oh you mean the one behind the staircase?’

 

I raised my eyebrows.

 

‘Yes Jeter that is the one.’

 

‘Nobody can enter that. Not even Catarina because that’s father’s business room and it is always locked.’

 

‘Well, it wasn’t locked just now, I was there!’

 

‘That is weird,’ he said while sluggishly making his way to the bathroom.

 

‘Anyway, what’s the 4-1-1 on our trip?’ he asked interestedly, ‘I tell you, I’ve thought of nothing else but this trip.’

 

‘Yeah, won’t it be something if we can prove something to our fathers. You could finally openly pursue literature, this town would see another deviant in the form of my father…first clown lawyer, it’ll be something!’ I said in a hyper activated, highly optimistic and hopeful manner.

 

‘…and I’ll finally choose what I wanna be,’ I added, rather quietly, seriously, reflectively.

Jeter began to sluggishly make his way beyond the tornado ridden, scattered lost and found collection on his floor and towards the lounge. Once there, he pulled out his back pack from under the couch and exhibited it in front of me. It contained all his essentials from the cave escapade, with a few more fresher additions.

 

‘I downloaded and printed the map for Left Arrow,’ he said in a toned down version of his drone voice, ‘made copies for Nin and Harris. I know you have one already but there’s an extra for you, too.’

 

‘I’m glad there’s a map for everyone. Nin’ll probably have the lanes and check points memorised…cuz she said so,’ I added after Jeter gave me that it-is-a-bit-too-organised-to-be-true kind of look.

 

‘Anyway, we should check on her and Harr so we can tally up and go! The ‘rents will be busy with the carnival thing anyway, I suppose we won’t be bumping into one another, the thing’s a huge deal for the family,’ he kept speaking while taking out his skin ‘equipment’ which acted as clothes in the world of Silverns. This was like one would normally wash or dry clean clothes and subject the body to a shower or bath…because here the situation got a lot trickier when it came to the two entities fusing into a single force.

 

He had a shiner, a toner, a paint box, a moisturiser and an assortment of brushes to help him polish up his look. Jeter was feeling sporty so he decided to have his, normally black suit skin, turned bright red, like a Ferrari shade. But to manually paint his entire body that intense colour would require way too much effort, and this is the eliteratti we’re talking about, so of course he would have a giant body hugging mould that would do his bidding. Bleeping button sounds, a cloud of non-toxic smoke, and a large-freezer-being-closed like transaction later, a sporty red suit, or rather skin clad Jeter emerged before my very eyes.

 

‘Nice tan, brother,’ I said with an undeniable look of wonderment. This town was just insane.

 

Jeter closed his eyes, pursed his lips and nodded. Then he went into his bathroom and began to use the equipment from earlier on himself. I could not resist watching him because really, when did I ever see this? I had never even met my father until recently, and that too, for only a few moments as my purpose was to serve as subject matter for Nin’s novel.

 

After washing his face and brushing his teeth, I saw him slick back his hair with clay, and polish the shiny golden pin that was somewhere inside that coffee coiffeur with an ear bud. Then, taking a medium sized brush, Jeter gave that white shirt like skin a light sweep, leaving it looking perfectly ironed. He then took another brush, dipped it inside one of the colours from his paint palette and delicately glazed his red suit and gave it a suede finish. He took out another box that had tiny accompaniments for his suit pocket and laid them out on the glass table that was quite randomly set in front of his Jacuzzi – or perhaps fittingly so since there were lots of dog eared vintage comic books along with half empty soda cans everywhere. He set out a napkin, a brooch and a tiny daffodil.

 

‘Which one? I feel like they’re all formal but mother likes it when I put on one of these,’ he asked me, ‘says I look fresh.’

‘They seem formal but since your entire existence is formal, I’d say go for the daffodil. It’s fresh like the day,’ I returned my sentiments after picking it up and looking it over.

 

‘Daff it is,’ Jeter casually took it from my hand and placed it snugly inside his pocket, or rather skin flap. Honestly, it becomes hard sometimes to remember these are people with skin for clothes. Like aliens. Silverns is just one big, alien filled racist town. Just like life everywhere.

 

‘OK, so I’m gonna go down and configure my plans in the daily organiser in the kitchen. I’ll make something up for Nin and Harris too – meanwhile, let’s just give them a xuxx,’ and after uttering that entirely unheard of name, he went over to his closet door and opened it. I thought he may have wanted to change his shoes or something, but behind his skin equipment there was a pipe.

 

‘We’ll go through this and it’ll take us to Nin’s room,’ he said casually, ‘though I’m ninety nine point eight per cent sure she’ll be ready by now.’

 

He got inside the pipe that immediately glowed the number one.

 

‘You get in right after me and repeat what I say,’ he said before adding, ‘Xuxx awaaaaay!’ and got sucked into the pipe and disappeared completely. Presumably being swished to Nin’s room.

 

I did the same and uttered that nonsensical word, ‘xuxx’ with an ‘away’. In almost an instant I was inside Nin’s bedroom. It was the strangest feeling ever…it was like I only had to blink and step into another room, and the entire scenario was changed. There was no physical tiredness, just my own feelings of discomfort that produced stomach somersaults.

 

Nin’s bedroom was everything I was expecting. There was one brightly painted tangerine wall, with leather curtains falling in a fringe like manner over a lunar shaped window. She had huge bookshelf that harboured more decoration pieces than books; she had her hand written manuscripts scattered all over the place: one was on her bedside table, one was on her bed, the other was on the couch and another was on her dressing table. Yet, within the discord and chaos, she knew exactly where her things were and what was needed. I later realised she played along the settings of her room and belongings purposefully because monotony made her ‘creativity rust’.

 

‘I’ve got all the equipment I need,’ she stated, ‘for school and most importantly our excursion.’ She cheekily grinned at me.

 

‘Right on,’ I added.

 

‘Well then,’ Jeter said after looking around, ‘knew you’d be ready, so now off we go to Harris Sahab’s.’

He went to Nin’s bookshelf and moved it a little, and revealed fully what I thought was one of the many decoration pieces: that dastardly pipe.

 

Sure enough, when Nin placed herself into it, the number two glowed, and with another ‘xuxx away!’ she was transported. Jeter did the same. And now it was my turn. But the thought that plagued me more than the connection between all their pipes, was why it was so smooth, and why did it not occur with any physical feeling? The only difference between the 1 and 2 pipes was that Nin’s came with a perfume scent. The kind of scent that comes from your favourite fragrance that you splash all over yourself, but simmers down and nearly disappears with time except for those traces that you simply cannot detect and let drive you completely insane. I was indeed being driven insane.

 

Harris, meanwhile, was all ready, in his immaculately tidy bedroom, but instead of meeting us at Jeter’s or Nin’s, he was sitting quietly at his study table and was reading his biology out loud.

 

‘Knock it off Harr, it’s so early in the morning!’ Jeter exclaimed lazily.

 

‘Early? It’s 11:45! In fact, I’m twenty minutes behind schedule,’ he replied agitatedly. ‘I think everyone forgets I have my MCAT to prepare for too!’ he spoke with a highly intonated voice.

 

‘It’s that late already? Oh we better hurry back to my kitchen! Or else mom’ll send me ANOTHER note to the principal’s office and we all know how the vigilant owls will react to that.’ Jeter moved towards Harris’s tapestry by his organ player. Naturally, I assumed pipe number three was going to be hidden there somewhere. Probably inside the piano, for all I know.

 

‘Yeah, yeah, I got it,’ Harris picked up his satchel and moved some books from beneath his study table and revealed, sound the drum please, a key.

 

He took the key and unlocked a tiny drawer from where he took out a sensory looking plant like thing that glowed a tiny three. But before I could get further into deciphering and understanding what he was about to do, he said ‘Xuxx away’ and we were ‘xuxx-ed’ away.

 

We landed in Jeter’s kitchen, where he ran to fill in the necessary details for the day, but I had not noticed that right away. I was either too frozen or paralysed with anxiety over this teleportation business that Harris decided to kick up a notch.

 

‘How could we have just come here without any pipes?’ I asked with my hands suspended in mid air, like I was being held at gun point by own consciousness.

 

‘It’s this physical realm thing Harris designed with Aamer uncle, Silverns’ best scientist,’ Nin answered putting my hands to normalcy, ‘but of course, only Harr can bore you with the details.’

 

‘Yeah, yeah, it’s just something we had to invent to make communicating with each other better within the mansions, ‘cuz you know there’s so much distance and just too much walking,’ Harris hurriedly explained while munching on some granola, ‘also our parents think we’re just playing around with these when we actually…uh, play,’ he added suddenly.

Then it hit me. This was the inside of the Kits’ home after all – they would definitely have some video cameras recording their every move and every word.

 

‘All right guys, let’s xuxx our way to school,’ Jeter said after completing his little check in.

 

‘You ready to see an eliteratti school?’ he asked me.

 

‘Of course, let’s go,’ I replied.

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER SEVEN --

Izhar Academy

 

 

Like it was previously stated, man in Silverns was born for a particular task. Therefore, as may be expected, schools for the eliteratti were designed in a very specific way. Each birth ‘right’ – in this case, the job they were naturally selected for – had their own compartments and an inclusive party. The building was like a towering metal beanstalk without any seemingly visible doors or windows. Jeter, Nin and Harris had their own separate areas within the building where they were taught only the subject they were born to carry out. Monotonous to the third degree! However, it was not just these three in their exclusive classrooms all alone, but rather every elitist child who was born looking the same way was placed with the rest of them.

 

The name of the school was “Izhar”. What were the children going to express here? It is so ironic. There was no real freedom to express yourself unless it was in sync with your looks. Instead of expressing, it felt more like repeating and constantly reinforcing your genetic design. What you are you cannot change, so dictates the academy, and thus you are to keep performing as that. You must forcefully construct yourself to fir the mould you were designed to look like at birth, by a natural order, so dictates the academy, so dictates the eliteratti.

 

Jeter was on the business floor. Here, there were columns and rows of fine chestnut wood computer tables leaden with big, fat files, costly ink pens, and several documents placed like a silky stack of cards, ripe and ready for the game to commence. There was a large white board on one end of the room, and a massive computer screen on the other tail of the rectangular proportioned setting.

 

The white board had a business plan scribbled all over it, with several marketing strategies briefly laid out. Similarly, the computer screen had more intense intricacies of the plan chalked out. I saw all the children settle down in their seats. It looked like a giant office room full of underage employees. Jeter also took his seat and began to fill up his shiny gilt ink pen. All the children around him had similar skin uniforms on. Most of them came in their standard black suits except for a few girls who had variations in vermillion, yellow, pink and lime green. And of course Jeter stood out in his flaming glory.

 

About five minutes after the flustering of the students had died down, the teacher of the class finally entered. This I was the most curious to see since the common perception at Silverns was that the profession of teaching became included in the miscellaneous after that legendary showdown between the former golden quartet. To my absolute shock and amazement, the teacher turned out to be none other than…Mr. Kit!

 

‘Welcome class 049, we will begin where our proposal was last left off. Sameen? I hope your power point presentation is intact,’ he spoke in a grandiose manner.

 

Immediately the temporary silence of the classroom was replaced by the shuffling of books, crinkling of papers, sketching of pens and tip tapping of computer keyboards. But the strangely rhythmic sounds of the class could not deter me from thinking about how it was possible for a businessman like Mr. Kit to take on a side profession of teaching? After all that happened in the past between the founders? Also, it was supposed to be blasphemous, wasn’t it?

 

‘Ah, yes, Raisa?’ he asked one of the students, who shot up her pink arm.

 

‘Um, sir, I had a question about my report on analytics, while Sameen sets up her slide show, may I ask you if taxi transport is logistically sound?’ was her summary of a rather long winded inquiry that I do not exactly remember.

‘Of course, come to my desk,’ said Mr. Kit in an uncharacteristically collaborative tone.

 

This was all so confusing. How could he branch into something like teaching? Wasn’t it against their whole divine code or something? I tried getting Jeter to make eye contact with me so I could signal to him asking what was up. But he just did not look in my direction. However, since I was standing right next to the door, there was a desk right beside me. It was a girl in a mustard suit. I distinctly remember she and her group of friends staring at me the most like I was some blasphemous abomination without a tag. The peril of having an ‘undetermined’ identity in this town, I tell you.

 

‘Psst,’ I tried getting her to look at me without arousing Mr. Kit’s attention – who did not see me in the class as I kept mostly to the side, ‘heyyy!’

 

‘Oh gosh,’ she gave a start, then breathed a heavy sigh of relief, ‘oh it’s you! Oh, I thought you were Mr. Kit. Oh wait, what ARE you?’ it’s like she finally remembered the great question of the day.

 

And of course, I completely ignored that. ‘Why is Mr. Kit your teacher?’

 

‘What do you mean teacher?’ she whispered back, ‘he’s our expert for this week and we’re his apprentices.’

 

So, Mr. Kit wasn’t a teacher because having an apprentice meant you didn’t teach them anything, but casually instructed and guided them through the basics of the area of specialisation and then tested them. This, by all standards, is not the definition of a teacher in any dictionary.

 

It was exactly at that point of inner and outer reflection that Mr. Kit turned his head towards me.

 

He eyed me nastily, and while getting up from his desk and walking towards the whiteboard, he announced rather ceremoniously, ‘I will commence the lecture after Sameen’s presentation, all those in suits mark your presence,’ ending on a stern note.

 

While I never understood that phrase, it was a signal for me to leave. Honestly, how did I end up in Jeter’s class anyway, I was supposed to stick with Nin. So I took off on a search for her class, or rather apprenticeship den or something as completely masked.

 

The walls of the building were so interesting. It was like an ice cave that was spray painted metallic silver. Each career had a separate room allotted to them with a specially configured environment that fit the theme. I had just seen Jeter’s and knew that Nin’s and Harr’s would be artistic and scientific respectively. Jet had a kind of clean working space, nothing theatrical, but very formal and matter of fact, like. Kind of boring, but then that’s professional teaching, err, expert advising session in the eliteratti school.

 

As I took the lift, I was more interested in seeing the astronauts’ space, with zero gravity dimensions, large colourful planets and brightly lit up stars that would shine competitively against the buttery sunlight. I thought I would even see some of them flying about, learning about physics in an aerodynamic way, since they were young, there would be some music about flying, some serene space like music.

 

But boy, was I wrong. They were in misery.

 

I did pass by the astronauts, as the sign indicated by the door since there was no ounce of intergalactic activity that should have been intertwined with this. I guessed at the time that it was only my understanding that led me assume as such. They were the elitist children in there, on completely bare desks with a standard sheet in front of them that they seemed to be memorising. None of them even played around with the colours of their astronaut skins. White ghost like entities in hundreds all mundanely answering the head astronaut’s questions after intervals of five seconds, was all I saw. Peering closer into the door glass, I saw the head astronaut, come closer and scratch off a heart sticker that was on one of the female student’s helmets, which surprisingly, was a separate entity she could put on.

 

‘There will be no artificiality in Bano Bibi’s class,’ she asserted sternly, ‘now pay attention to your blueprint of contingencies in case of a deadly spacewalk!’

 

The girl looked absolutely frightened – it was not hard to imagine how loud Bano Bibi must have been, considering I could hear her behind a closed door. The name was also so familiar. I seemed to have a vague recollection of having heard it somewhere before and then it hit me. She was Jeter’s aunt. Were all the fierce eliterattis lecturers here, or something? Also, how on Earth did Jeter, from such a staunch family as his was, emerge to be so different? My suspicions would always lean towards the only possible conclusion to this madness: that Jeter really was an alien.

 

The scared astronaut girl was Shakeela Khanum and she quite literally detested any and everything related to astronaut-ism. But she was stuck with this profession whether she liked it or not. And was going to have to exist in its wholesomeness. She was not like Jeter, who went to secret cave hideaways and explored ‘other’ loves and interests, because she was not crazy. Or sane. Or justified. Or with a fundamental right as a matter of fact. Because, in any case, this type of frolicking was very much against the law of all births in Silverns Town.

 

I carried on with my own self appointed tour of the school. Next stop was for law, and all the lawyers chosen by birth were in no better condition than the astronauts. There was dreariness and monotony and tedium of a different level all entirely. But since this profession had my father singing a separate tune from his natural calling, I stopped a moment, just to observe.

 

There was not much for me to see. Once more, all the children were just sitting in their seats, this time with no papers or pens, and just listening to the lecture of former Judge Firdous – who was the sister of current Judge Ghazala, and with two significations. She was a member of Jeter’s family tree also, as well as someone we would be showing our signed petition to, in hopes of allowing my father the chance to participate in the profession, regardless of the rank he was born into.

 

I suppose at that time I came under the illusion that the law class would include simulations of real court room scenes, or perhaps debating sessions on the defendant and accused podiums. The scene that I saw could also have meant that Judge Firdous wanted to sharpen up her students’ or listeners’ minds with real life legal anecdotes. But that just was not the case, as I got to know later on. It was simply a mundane lecture on how she was the best judge Silverns had ever seen and what an easy privilege it was for them to look like her, and be associated with law simply through birth.

 

If father ever saw this scene, I know he would not have liked it. To him, law was a glorious profession, with every romantic attribute of its integrity kept intact. What I saw before me was like someone punishing the other for thinking about the utilitarian benefits of the venture and reaping its foul repercussions by having to listen through to a dreary lecture on the individual advantages instead.

 

If Jeter were here, he would have pointed out the poetic irony in the situation, how law, and partly why my father was so entranced by it, provided a chance to fight for someone, and here, the judge was literally fighting for herself.

 

Moving on, as the elevator went up, I could see through one of the stained windows some people working on a giant computer. They were probably engineers. I then entered a completely deserted floor. Silence engulfed the space, except for swift squishy stroking against a canvas that penetrated the air. It seemed as if I was nearing Nin’s sphere of mentorship, as ‘teaching’ is something that clearly has no name here.

 

But that was not so. It turned out to be a miscellaneous janitor, doing his own kind of painting with translucent ink, erasing every blotch and blot off of the silver sheathed ground. He was a short man, with navy blue skin that had ruffled layers accumulated at the bottom, like fat towards the end of his legs. It was like crumpled pants. There was a triangular white on his chest, surrounded by the darkness of his skin. He had a bushy little moustache and was wearing a baseball cap, busily at his job.

 

I was going past him, and thought of giving a little greeting, ‘Asalam mualai kum!’

 

He looked up at me, very startled. Then he eyed me from head to toe, clearly a little worriedly.

 

‘Who is you being?’ he asked me after a minute had elapsed, ‘I is not seeing your kind in time.’

 

I think what he meant was that he knew about my ‘kind’ but was sceptical since it was a long time since he last saw one or personally got acquainted with one. Also the fact that I was roaming around so freely in the school without having bumped into any authority was a little shocking for him. After all, post the miscellaneous, there is no one more germ like to the eliteratti than me.

 

‘I’m here looking for my friend Nin, or perhaps even Harris? One is an artist and the other is a doctor. There is nothing in this area, it seems.’

 

The janitor just continued to stare at me.

 

‘What’s your name?’ I asked, trying to elicit some kind of response from him.

 

‘Naming is Bashir Thakka,’ he replied, ‘and you! I knowing you, nameless, hmm.’

 

‘Why do you speak like that?’ I asked him, ‘there was a maid from where I came, and she had a different style of speaking too. What do you think? Is it because of differences in education among the miscellaneous?’ But it could not be as father spoke just like the rest of the eliteratti.

 

‘Na eju-kew-shun,’ he replied, enunciating education very elaborately in a sort of mockery of the word, ‘them elitez makkit compulsion on us workers to speak different in dere world sa we stand out ‘n not sit among dem!’

 

That height of ridiculous was before me: poetically ironic again, if Jeter’s voyeuristic voice within me ever ceased, because it was not the language that was so preposterous and absurd but rather the principle. The purple principle. Devoid of any blood, any compassion.

 

‘Speak normally with me. Even if you do not like me, we are equals. There is no division based on how we appear to be,’ I urged him earnestly.

 

‘Kid, wish ah could, but forget,’ he answered back sadly.

 

This was bound to happen at some point. The fact that the eliteratti forced the miscellaneous to damage their faculty of the tongue was perhaps the most gruesome method of snatching away someone’s rights. They treated language like a malleable toy for their play and amusement. These constant demarcations! The eliteratti, so insecure in their dealings, so threatened by the miscellaneous, never failed to surprise me with their shallowness.

 

‘You are an honourable person, who is working hard in an environment that does not deserve you,’ I began, because one way to gauge his honesty is seen clearly in how fastidiously he carried on with his purpose despite the derogatory comments in a space where there was no one watching him. Yet he carried on.

 

‘I bet your family is back in Left Arrow?’ I asked.

 

His face seemed to light up a little as he narrated with pride, ‘got the missus ‘n my three tots beck in Lef-arro indeed! Sendin ‘em money tonight if postman friend come through.’

 

Somehow, it felt as if I had a connection with him. Both of us were so concerned for our families. What I really wanted was to offer him my free services of delivery, since we were going to Left Arrow after everyone’s classes got done. But deep down, I knew he would not trust a stranger so soon, thus forth, I instead offered:

 

‘Is the postman in Left Arrow too? I will make sure I send him to you so that your family gets the money. I will be going there myself.’

 

He looked at me with eyes that glinted gratitude, along with a little disbelief at this random display of camaraderie from a strange excluded being such as myself, from a system that defined his world.

 

With the impetus of time behind me, I patted Bashir on the back and moved forward. There was a resurgence of hope within me, though it never died out. But I was equipped with its rebirth, and rejuvenation of purpose and resolve to make sure that the bridge dividing these factions of life was torn down, with a vengeance.

 

These thoughts were my companion as I wandered off further into the academy and finally came across familiar ground, well, only because of one person I knew. It was the science block. I stood by the door and beheld several skeletal figures next to each desk. The students seemed to be writing something on the bones, probably labelling them. I tried very hard to spot Harris but somehow my eyes could not distinguish between what looked like clones of multiple Harris-es and the multitude of similar laboratory dummies next to their desks.

 

‘Class, you have fifteen minutes remaining,’ spoke a recognizable voice, and what are the odds! The speaker was none other than Harris’ father, Dr. Rafi.

 

Did all these adults actually realise that they were more teachers than their actual professions? Or did I just come on a bad day? Furthermore, it seemed like they were super interested in drilling and reiterating the students’ identities more than consolidating them with new information.

 

But then I am neither judge nor teacher to make these statements.

 

But I will, anyway.

 

I decided to take the lift for one more floor, before going back to the entrance, as the hour was almost up, and if we were going to Left Arrow, we had to be back before the carnival that night. Not only was it important for my friends since their parents would surely miss their presence before the other elite families, but I felt like my father would also come. Maybe he would be there as a back up performer since the other clown with the difficult name was chosen. Whatever the case, I had to be there cheering father on, always.

 

The area I entered was pretty bare. This was not fit for an artist like Nin, I felt. Then I thought about how all the classes looked boring and uninteresting, save for Jeter’s, which was a little better than the rest.

 

Suddenly, I could see some glow in the dark lines. They were scribbled all over a door, behind which was revealed Nin’s class. Finally! But before I could step a little closer and observe, I got an unexpected jolt. Someone, rather ruthlessly turned my arm and to face them. It was a security guard.

 

‘What are you?’ he asked me in a needless to say, derogatory manner.

 

‘Which identity do you conform to?’ was his next demand. This was quite an intellectually charged guard, unlike those at Jeter’s mansion. But perhaps this one had been trained to know exactly which professions were being taught and to keep an eye on them. The students, after all, could not under any circumstances bunk their lectures or God forbid, attend a lecture that was not assigned to them by birth.

 

‘I do not belong to any,’ I answered steadily.

 

‘Oh? Being wise, eh? Though you look like those taints as we call ‘em, those dry bones, ones that were born naked, without a tag,’ he added. Clearly he wanted to flout his superiority.

‘Well clearly, I am not naked,’ I said pointing to my body, which was covered.

 

‘You come with me,’ he said sternly and took me by the arm again.

 

Impulsively I just shouted, ‘NIN!’ and sure enough she heard me, rushing out of her class to my assistance.

 

‘What is going on?’ she asked confusedly, also looking at me wondering where I had been all this time.

 

‘M’am Joyce, this one will not be bothering you, we will be making a visit to the elite jail for illegal trespassing. But of course, we all know who will stay there longer than is required as visit time,’ he added after sneering menacingly.

 

‘Oh no! Let me explain to you the circumstances,’ Nin began. Then she narrated the entire situation of my unlikely companionship with her, and by extension, her friends.

 

Of course, the security guard could do no more damage, since Nin carried a whole lineage on her shoulders. It was her word against his. He had no choice but to relent. And that he did with every inch of animosity as was possible to emanate.

 

Then Nin turned to me.

 

‘I thought you were right behind me!’ she said, ‘when you did not enter the lift with me I assumed you would follow! I could not have been late to class, it would have been my third tardy appearance, which means bad news.’

 

At that very moment, there was a loud ring that piqued my ears. It was the bell that signalled the end of all lessons.

 

‘Oh! Well, I guess we are together now! So let’s go!’ She rushed into classroom to retrieve her belongings. Since the door was open and several artist and writer children came out, I could see they were all similar in appearance to Nin, except the splash of colour on their eye was different. Also I could see that there was no head inside, which was moderating the entire affair. Instead, there was a computer screen that was recording their every move. Nin was simply in the middle of an imitative painting. It did not turn out to be the abstract painting class, I have no idea why, I pictured rather definitively in my mind. As far as the writers were concerned, I could not really discern what their line of activity was like so I left with the thought of them working on some grand adventure pieces.

 

We went down to the entrance cum exit of the academy, and waited for Harris and Jeter. Once they came, I asked them the most important question of the day:

 

‘Are we ready to go to Left Arrow?’

 

Jeter unzipped his bag and took out his personal organising device, the POD. From there he took out some routes, marked them yellow, and gave a call to a taxi driver, setting up a time to be picked up in the next five minutes.

 

‘We’ve got two hours! I put this in mother’s organiser back in the kitchen saying we had some research fieldtrip for Nin’s novel, so let’s make sure we don’t overdo the timings on the first day! Not that it will be of much consequence, considering tonight is the carnival.’ he said.

 

‘Yeah. But, what about your father?’ I asked, ‘and yours Harris? They were both the teachers here. They might see us and ask us, no?’

 

Harris gave out a little laugh.

 

‘We do not use the term teacher here, you probably learned that by now,’ he said shortly after, ‘they are our experts.’

 

‘So when do they do their real jobs?’ I asked with a raised eyebrow.

 

‘The rest of the time,’ he answered in a casual tone.

 

‘I would like to see them during their work sometime,’ I could not help but say, ‘you know as part of my understanding of the eliteratti world.’

 

‘Of course,’ Harris answered, ‘I have never actually seen them do their work. It should be fun. I mean, it is not like they just sit around and simply impose their identity or anything.’

 

Well, as a matter of fact, that is exactly what I suspected. At the time, I thought it would be best to let the matter go for a while, and make sure I checked the scenario out with my friends after we made a little progress in the land of the miscellaneous.

 

‘Sure, buddy,’ I amicably concluded.

 

‘Well Careem, our taxi service, is here,’ Jeter said upon seeing the green taxi park itself in front of us, ‘let’s go.’

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER EIGHT --

Left Arrow

 

 

We got into the taxi, driven by a miscellaneous, Loloik Ven, who had a chartreus coloured chest, which looked like a plain T-shirt, and russet legs. The word ‘taxi’ was embroidered on the side of his chest like a birthmark. He was quite astounded to hear our destination was in fact, his own neighbourhood.

 

‘Yah allowed tuh go there?’ he asked in a musical fashion, ‘cuz it would matter tuh yah parents who kill me a lot then!’

 

‘Oh yes,’ Nin replied very sweetly, ‘you see, we have permission to go there because it is part of our special project, uh Jeter?’ she quickly nudged him after seeing Ven’s face that was frozen with scepticism, ‘show him your mother’s approval.’

 

Jeter did not seem to understand at first and her a fixed stare of his own.

 

‘On your PAD,’ she reminded him while laughing, and secretly giving him the widened eyes look. ‘You are so forgetful!’ she really knew how to sheathe herself in saccharine.

 

This was an ingenious move on Nin’s part because Jeter’s PAD was linked to the kitchen organiser, something that Mrs. Kit had approved due to her son’s clever play on words. Thus, it all kind of came into place.

 

‘Right, right,’ he said while clicking away and turning the screen to place Ven, ‘here it is.’

 

Her signature appeared on the PAD, but even so he appeared to be a little unconvinced. After all, a travel to the miscellaneous side was quite unconventional for the eliteratti children. If he got caught, it was the end of his career.

 

‘You sure it is allowed?’ he asked doubtingly.

 

Jeter quickly pressed the side button of the PAD, making it look like a casual mistake, when the subsequent message, rendered the action quite erased due to its own magnitude:

 

‘Of course it is ALLOWED! Stop asking me that!’ shrieked the unexpected voice of Mrs. Kit from the PAD.

 

Jeter quickly took his device from Ven’s hand, and held it to his ear.

 

‘What’s that mom? I never even realised you were listening to our conversation. Yes, yes, I know you always listen. Oh no, the nice taxi car man will not be bothering you again. What’s that? Give him a generous tip for his good job? Of course, mom. I am not the son of Hiseff Kit for nothing,’ he went on with what was absolutely brilliant rhetoric, ‘right. Love you too. Bye.’

 

Jeter looked up at the taxi driver with both his eyebrows raised, and Ven without any more questions, revved up his car, and made for where Left Arrow was.

 

‘It will be a forty five minute drive with the Ferozin route on the east side here as opposed to the one hour and twenty minute drive on Ravi road,’ he said as part of traditional driver lingo. They were masters of the road after all.

 

As for Jeter’s little trick, he tapped a message on his PAD for us to see, which explained how he had asked his mother before leaving for school in the morning, if it was allowed for the children to attend the carnival at night. At first, Mrs. Kit thought her son was being playful with his ‘light’ question, but as he asked her one too many times, she lost her cool, and provided Jeter with the perfect dialogue to record for misquoting purposes later as demonstrated.

 

Of the drive itself, all of us agreed with one another that it was very short. Or perhaps the phrase “time flies when you’re having fun” applied too appropriately to the situation.

 

After crossing a barren and empty desert like terrain that marked the distance between the two areas, we finally made it into the land of the miscellaneous. The one word that came to all our minds, unanimously describing the new area was: crowded. Or perhaps we felt that way because there were a lot of compact spaces as opposed to the enormity of Right Arrow, the lesser used name describing the land of the eliteratti.

 

‘I can’t believe we’re actually here,’ Jeter said.

 

There were lots of tiny houses, and very ground level type buildings, contrasting once again with the eliteratti, in that there were no skyscrapers. However, the miscellaneous side of Silverns needed no outer appearance to depict its grandeur, because what it lacked in showmanship, it made up in the tremendousness of spirit that the little structures housed.

 

As we got off, I told Ven to stand by; we were going to go back in his taxi. He agreed after he got a load of half of the gracious amount he had earned for his service.

 

Taking out the petition from my bag, all of us agreed it best to just start going in to random places and asking for signatures.

 

‘This will either be done without any hindrance or this will be the most tiresome endeavour ever,’ Harris said. Certainly what he said was true, as probabilities are always an active part of existence. But grey areas were also gaining fashion, of which I stood as a prime example.

 

We decided to enter the bakery first. All of the services of the miscellaneous were taken up by the eliteratti but in giving them their due respect, is where the latter would falter badly. Without the assistance of the miscellaneous they would crumble. Because they would not cook for themselves, drive themselves, clean their environment, or other basic natural things intrinsic to life since they did not look the part. This stubbornness of purpose and belief that the miscellaneous only harboured menial job births, were two age old myths that had to be confronted. And dissolved.

 

The bakery was a quaint little mushroom shaped cottage with the most ubiquitous heavenly aroma I had ever smelt. The baker was a short, stout man with a belching stomach, and a thick, bushy moustache that curled on both ends, complementing his luxuriantly fluffy eyebrows. He had a white chest and similarly snowy arms, with a red apron like skin flap skirting around below his abdomen. He had a silvery buttons trail from his collarbone to his navel, and a blue ribbon that said “baker” tied around his neck, with the bow right below his chin. The quintessential baker look was completed with his toque blanche that was pleated and starched, just the way every chef’s hat always is.

 

‘Asalam mualai kum,’ greeted Harris, ‘we want to speak to you about something very important.’

 

The baker stopped kneading the dough before him and looked up at us in the most befuddled way.

 

‘Do you need to order something urgently?’ he asked in a perfectly poised and eloquent way. The miscellaneous spoke just as the eliteratti did, after all!

 

‘No, no, nothing to order this time around, good friend,’ Harris replied in a reassuring manner.

 

‘I have not had any of the eliterattis visit my shop in a while,’ the baker added, ‘my delivery boy Arjit Yoongi takes my items to your part of life, and he is out on one of his errands right now.’

 

‘That is great,’ Jeter interceded, ‘and may I just add what a fantastic job you are doing. And also how we really appreciate you. I mean, I know for a fact that our dinner table is incomplete without BaBa Goushi’s baked bread.’

 

BaBa Goushi, as I learnt the baker’s name, was in complete shock. He found it really difficult to comprehend how a couple of eliterattis were being so kind to him. It was a lot to take in. It became even more overwhelming, when I spoke next.

 

‘We are here to ask for your signature on this petition,’ while saying so I took out the form and put it in front of him, ‘with this form there will be no more demarcations between the miscellaneous and the eliteratti.’

 

His disbelieving eyes grew more and more wide. This was a taboo topic. Nobody dared to question the natural order of life. And here was a group of eliteratti children before him and one unidentified individual. How could the miscellaneous mingle with the elites?

 

Gauging the situation, I had to press him a little more.

 

‘Do not be frightened. Remember your history. Someone now known as different, inferior, was part of the golden quartet that founded this town. Nobody decided this distinction except the eliteratti. They claimed to be more cultured and with a general right to the better in life,’ I pressed the paper closer to him, ‘sign this and become part of the revolution that will change something.’

 

I leave that what that something will be for him to choose and decide.

 

He was still so unsure and scared.

 

‘But, the eliteratti are still naturally superior. They possess all that is better.’

 

At this point, I was reminded of the famous experiment carried out by Jane Elliot, several years ago that Nin and I had been discussing. She had found this forbidden miscellaneous book, detailing the experiment, from the restricted section of her school library. It catalogued the miscellaneous way of life and was never of any interest to the other elitist children, who were way too busy perfecting the ways of their birth at their so called institute of higher learning. An aspect that made this even more taboo-ish was its affiliation with the African teacher who was one of the original founding members.

 

The lady who conducted this experiment was also a teacher; in today’s terms she would be a miscellaneous, but back in those days being a miscellaneous was no concept. People used to make a big deal out of skin colours. That is rather strange for a resident of Silverns, since here, bodies have a much different genetic set up. Silverns residents’ skin colour comes in all different styles and patterns. These styles and patterns indicate the profession you are entitled to performing and that subsequently indicates whether you are an elite or a miss.

 

Back in Jane Elliot’s days, the individual who was in between or without any proper label was the wheat complexioned one or in cruder terms, the “yellow” one as opposed to being black or white. Similar to how I am viewed in this town.

 

But, coming back to Elliot’s experiment, she was a preschool teacher who wanted to teach her students a little bit about racial discrimination through the colour of their eyes as they were all white. She first declared all her students with blue eyes to be superior in every way: more good looking, more intelligent, and more special. They received privileges and treated all the other students with brown eyes as inferior and had a negative reaction towards them. However, the next time in class, she reversed the exercise and made the brown eyed children superior. A repetition of all the acts took place, except that there was on discrepancy. The brown eyed students treated their blue eyed peers with a lot less vehemence than when the tables were turned.

 

This seems like a variation of life at Silverns. But like the mind game Elliot played on those students, so the mind game is played now. A mind game. A mind set.

 

‘Baba Goushi, that is what you are made to believe,’ I tried reasoning once more, but in a more softer and flocculent way, and gave him the pen, ‘this will not change until you believe in yourself.’

 

Sure enough, he signed. And that was our first signature.

 

And our target was a thousand.

He told us he would ask his friends to sign as well. So we left one sheet of the petition with him. On our next trip we would see the progress, which we hoped would be at equilibrium with our expectations.

 

After saying goodbye, and Jeter purchasing a freshly baked loaf of bread, that he would nibble on as we walked, with the sonority of the crunchy texture breaking apart producing a concert of sensory wonderfulness, we made our way towards the beauty parlour, “Haseena, Haseena”.

 

‘Beautiful, beautiful! Bellissima, bellissima!’ Harris declared theatrically. And speaking of theatre…

 

When we were just a few inches away from entering the parlour, this girl who was voicing her own thoughts ferociously bumped into Harris, disrupting our rhythm and disorienting us.

 

‘Pardon me?’ Harris exclaimed. He was trying to be the gentleman but clearly it was the girl’s fault.

 

‘There IS no such thing as pardon! I could NEVER pardon them for what they did to me!’ she manically spoke, spewing anger everywhere.

 

When she had stopped shuffling about, we got to have a closer look at this miscellaneous. She was haseen, indeed. She had peach skin that extended into frills towards her ankles, with white flowers peppered all around. It looked like a long summer dress. Her hair was golden in muffled thick curls that were tied in a loose ponytail with a ribbon that read “actress”. It looked as if she was born to play an Austen character.

 

‘What do you mean?’ Nin asked. I could see her view the girl with a curious admiration.

 

‘And what is your name?’ she added.

 

‘My name is Badriya Sonih,’ the actress replied with great drama, hot flashes of pink sprayed all over her face; whatever happened to her really left her blood boiling.

 

‘And…and…oooooff!’ she started getting stormy again.

 

We thought the best course of action would be to just let her cool off first, before we pressed her with any more questions. Since she really piqued our interest, we were willing to wait a little.

 

Finally, she looked at us, a little longer at me, and then spoke in a slightly less melodramatic style.

 

‘I had been working so hard on a play! It was already such a HUGE bit of luck that Gregory Wilde – THE Oscar Wilde’s great, great grandson’s – play came into our side of the town! And I had been practicing for my role for a week since they had promised me the lead and now, the director’s niece wants it, so there I go! Kicked out!’ she kicked her leg in the air and clenched her fist, ‘he just wants to keep adding all the Fowie children!’

 

‘Gregory’s play?’ Nin repeated in an elated manner, ‘what is it called?’

 

‘Poppy,’ Badriya replied, ‘and in keeping with his ancestral roots it details his grandfather’s time period, all that Victorian fin de siècle glamour.’

 

‘Right, right,’ Nin said, her smile widening, ‘he’s my cousin.’

 

‘YOUR cousin?’ Badriya was astonished, ‘wait you lot aren’t from around here? You are not actors? You are an eliteratti?’ Now it was her eyes that widened instead.

 

‘Even if we are not from around here, it should not make any really big difference to you,’ Jeter answered, trying to appease the rift that would potentially be created at the realisation that ensued, ‘because we come with an agenda of our own, you see.’

 

‘And what exactly is that?’ Badriya demanded, a little agitatedly.

 

‘We wanna break down the walls that divide our two sides,’ he responded composedly, ‘there should be a left and right for all of us together, as equals.’

 

‘I see,’ she went on, a little restrained from before, ‘well, since we all have problems of our own, I guess we ought to be off on our way then!’

 

She made a little courtesy and started to trot off on the other side.

 

‘Wait,’ I spoke at last, ‘maybe we could help each other out.’

 

Badriya stopped and gave her head a little toss, exaggeratedly turned and gave a long prolonged sigh, with eyes that glistened hope. She was good.

 

‘You want to act in this play, and we need signatures for our petition,’ I began and noticed her step a little closer to me, ‘I am sure with the contacts that we have, it would be easy to get a word from Gregory Wilde himself to have nobody but you play the part of his leading character.’

 

Her eyebrows elevated a bit.

 

‘And with that, the director will have to let you do it,’ it was probably impulsive, because in the presence of an actress, my hand movement increased rather significantly and I gesticulated most of my proposal, ‘but for that to happen, you need to do something for us. Together, we can make changes.’

 

‘I am listening. What would you like me to do?’ she inquired, cautiously.

 

I took out a piece of parchment from my bag and handed it to her.

 

‘We want you to get as many signatures as you possibly can on this petition. From your fellow actors, prop dealers, sound technicians, producers, director, basically the entire dramaturgical family until we meet again, which will be tomorrow.’

 

‘I see,’ she acknowledged while turning the piece of paper around, ‘but tell me in precise terms, WHY. Everyone will want to know the reason behind their signatures.’

 

‘This is a petition,’ I spoke with an instructive mien, ‘that will be presented in the eliteratti court that will specify that the residents of Silverns town do not want to be restricted to doing what they were born to do only, and that there be no more tags of eliteratti and miscellaneous.’

 

Badriya gave me a reflective look, and then spoke, ‘do you honestly not think that the eliteratti, no matter how many signatures you manage to get from Left Arrow, could even be a thousand, will hush each and every one of them? They have the power.’

 

I was dumbstruck by this observation.

 

‘Look, the residents of Left Arrow do not even have a legal system, because here a miscellaneous has never been born into law, how can they? When law is strictly an elitist point? So we have nobody to properly represent us. What you have is a dream, and dream it will remain, so go back to sleep, at least you will be happier there,’ she soberly acquiesced.

 

‘No! Those are not dreams! Those are nightmares! And we are in the middle of a crisis, where those nightmares have become daymares,’ I spoke with a surge of passion running through my veins, ‘if we do not stand up now, have any voice that breathes discord, the eliteratti will never be shaken from this complicit self appointed reign.’

 

‘Think it over,’ she told me, ‘you are just going to be wasting your time.’

 

Badriya then started to walk away, and I followed her.

 

‘Without the miscellaneous, the entire life of opulence and fancy that the eliteratti have been leading will crumble, because none of that is possible without the domestic help they receive from here!’ I spoke breathlessly. Not only did I have to talk louder, but also at a quickened pace since she was a fast walker, and the risk of losing her was looming above my head. She seemed valuable, as she had a way of command through her speech.

 

But there was no use. I lost her. In between the crowd of clothes washers, construction workers, and sweepers, the girl with the enchanting hair had disappeared.

 

After struggling to find the way back to my solicitous friends, we all realised it was getting dangerously late and close to the time of departure. We had to leave Left Arrow immediately before any of them really did receive a phone call from their parents!

 

We went back to Ven and were on the road once more. There was a lot that was discussed, particularly how compact the isle of the miscellaneous was and how we met two polar oppositional views in one day alone. BaBa Goushi was so sentimentally charged and adamant on helping bring some form of revolutionary change, whereas Badriya just did not see things the way we did. And to top it all of, we lost her without engaging further.

 

One aspect was certain, I was going to find and talk to Badriya one more time on our return. Since she was integrated firmly within the miscellaneous sphere, we had to make sure we were on the same page. And if we could not convince one of the miscellaneous then how could we persuade the eliteratti?

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER NINE --

Carnival, Carnivore

 

 

By the time we were nearing Right Arrow again, it was around 5:15 in the evening. The sky turned from a steady white to a mixture of cerulean and dark cobalt. Twilight, was too plain a description of the canopy above us for the heavens appeared much more complex than imagined.

 

We got dropped off, at the entrance of Jeter, Nin and Harris’ neighbourhood and set an appointment with Ven to be picked and dropped in the same circumstances the next day.

 

Approaching nearer, there was a lot of hustle and bustle in Jeter’s house; preparation was underway for the carnival that night.

 

In his gigantic backyard, there were several pin striped tents with little flags at the top, food bars, game stalls, an eclectically lit Ferris wheel and a large stage towards the end of the yard for the clown performances, that overlooked the entire event. Little fairy lights were placed in the great plant life of the Kits’ backyard. They looked like suspended stars in the green kingdom.

 

As we walked in, arrangements were still underway. Mrs. Kit was frantically clicking away on her personal PAD, instructing the miscellaneous workers to carry certain gimmicks that were required of certain stalls. Food trucks were unloading their supplies. It was tasty snacks galore!

Suddenly, Mr. Kit hurriedly walked towards his wife and asked if they had ordered the carousel too.

 

‘No, we did not,’ she answered rather nervously, ‘remember we decided to let the Ferris wheel provide the entertainment for the children because we wanted more space for our expensive flower arrangements?’

 

Mr. Kit looked angry. ‘What? I do not want our guests thinking we had a limited budget. Order it now!’

 

‘Now?’ Mrs. Kit was clearly mortified. She was the last person who would be comfortable with random changes to her meticulously organised plan from days before.

 

‘Yes, now!’ he roared, ‘and also see if there can be a band here. I want live music playing all around instead of pre-recorded jives.’

 

‘Darling, it is too late to make these changes with the event right upon us,’ she replied in a strangely composed voice, ‘but I will see what alternatives are available to us, if any at all.’

 

And with that, the equally dominating Mrs. Kit walked off with the flower arrangement employees to the stage area.

 

‘I would much rather have stayed in Left Arrow,’ Jeter said sulkily, ‘at least there was some sort of interaction present. Here, it’s like mother and father don’t really care about your presence unless it is there to complement their presence before their guests.’

 

‘Oh calm down, Jet!’ Nin replied calmingly, ‘most parents are like that. There’s a reason why we were given friends as compensation.’

 

There was a chorus of “yeah’s” that followed this statement.

 

‘Anyway, since Auntie Arantza is busy right now,’ Nin turned to face Jeter, ‘do you want to quickly run to the kitchen and put in the plan for tomorrow on the organiser?’

 

‘Good idea,’ he replied, ‘let’s go right now.’

 

‘You guys check that out,’ Harris said, ‘I think I would much rather go to my room and practice an MCAT past paper in the meanwhile.’

 

As he said that, he made his way to his own mansion, and I followed Nin and Jeter inside the kitchen. But before that, just to see, I went back to the strange room behind the staircase I had taken refuge in earlier. This time it really was locked. And what was fascinating about the location was the darkness surrounding it. Holding up a torch to it, I realised there was no camera anywhere to be seen. Whoever operated here wanted it to be nothing but discreet. Thinking we needed to come back and check it out some other time I went back to my friends, little did I know the series of events that were soon to follow would be so frenzied.

 

‘Nin,’ I began, ‘is your cousin Gregory going to be here tonight?’

‘Yes, he is…thinking about talking to him about Badriya?’

 

‘Exactly. I was thinking about her play performance. If we could get her the role she wants and actively campaign for a packed house, it might just give us the audience we need to talk about our petition. It will spread the word faster, and the faster, the better, really.’

 

‘Yeah,’ Jeter added, ‘the faster, the better. I am really interested in reading Sophocles’ Antigone, now, and want to base my final school commentary on that. And not the same old business model I submit each and every year.’

 

‘All right cool,’ I said, ‘it is super that we all have our incentives intact!’

 

‘Right,’ he agreed while putting in the plan for our next day into his mother’s organiser, ‘so class ends tomorrow at eleven for all of us, I will just call Ven and tell him to be there before.’

 

Nin and I both agreed it was fine.

 

We went out again to view how the final touches were being carried out. All that hustle and bustle with the flower arrangements was still underway. There was a fallen tulip on the ground, which I picked up and examined. It had a shimmer and allure like I had never seen before. The Kits were very particular about their flowers. At that very moment, Nin went towards the gate as she saw her parents enter and Jeter accompanied her in greeting his family friends cum relatives.

 

The clown caravan had arrived about ten minutes after we had gone into Jeter’s kitchen and I ran out to see if my father had come too, but there was no sign of him. The one the Kits had chosen was busy getting out his props and all his tricks while the other “back-up” clowns chatted away on how the eliteratti discarded the magic act for being too passé and so on.

 

‘Hey, where is Spud the clown?’ I asked them.

 

‘Spuddy ain’t comin,’ the clown with a blue nose and red ballooned lips said.

‘Why? It was a big deal to him to come out here and perform in front of them!’ there was an unexplainable kind of fear that swelled up inside me…I had tears welling up in my eyes. ‘Where is he?’

 

‘Dun say where he be,’ he replied and went on with picking up polka dotted boxes and taking them to the stage away from the parking lot.

 

‘Wait!’ but he would not wait, because, unlike me, he had a job to do.

 

‘Ma’am!’ I turned to one of the she-clowns with indigo gossamer fleecy hair.

 

She looked at me with penetrating eyes, the upside down triangles crayoned under them naturally; it felt as if she heard my pain, felt it, and let me see a fragment of it through the windows to her soul.

 

‘Do you have any idea where Spud the clown went?’ I asked helplessly and hopelessly. This was not the first time my father pulled off a disappearing act. And for how long this would be, bothered me in a strange way. It was like a familiar ghost haunting me even though I had condemned it years ago.

 

‘Nut much I am know,’ the minute she uttered those words that seemed to pinch my ears, I knew I would have to forget and suppress any optimism in knowing where he was, and would have to leave the matter unresolved yet again, when she added, ‘but, what he do I should be produce-able.’

 

‘Yes? Anything!’ my disbelieving voice blared from my mouth.

 

‘He work it like them,’ she motioned towards the Kits’ backyard with her eyes, ‘said I learn as I know son will pave route and let me clap hand.’

 

It felt surreal for a second. My father actually had hope in me? And he had gone on a learning voyager. He was really delving into the books, really getting into law, hard. I felt more determined than ever to make sure he walked that courtroom. It is amazing what an inch of belief from your loved one can make you feel.

 

‘Thank you!’ I exclaimed in plain happiness.

 

‘Here,’ I added, handing her the tulip I picked up earlier, ‘good luck with your show.’

 

Now it was my turn to leave her feeling the way she left me: appreciated. And how my gesture made her glow.

 

By the time I got back to the middle of the backyard, Nin’s parents had dispersed and banded together with the growing amount of eliteratti adults. She and Jeter were standing with a third individual and it was not Harris.

 

As I approached them, the third individual, a slightly older looking version of Nin stood tall and proud before me. She winced a little after seeing me, but I am quite accustomed to that by now.

 

Nin introduced me to her as the ‘subject of a great and historic piece of socio-literature!’

 

She, in turn did not introduce herself, but relaxed once it became clear to her that I was only present at the function freely walking unrestrained among them because Nin was using me for her project – how ironic.

 

‘This,’ Nin said motioning towards the individual, ‘is my older sister, Mina, who is known as Min.’

 

I had no idea she had a sister.

 

‘Thanks, Nina,’ replied Min.

 

So Nin’s real name was also revealed.

 

‘Min specialises in the art of dance,’ Nin elaborated, ‘she captures that in response to different mediums of abstract mediums against a back drop of near, disco or trance.’

 

‘How very interesting,’ I said much to Min’s dismayed shock at my equality in opinion, and what further added to this flabbergasted state, ‘if I went on stage and did my own take in the medium of physical artistic presence, would you say I have an inner artist within me?’

 

She gave me a quick view from head to toe and added very cynically, ‘honey, forget within, you have no without to begin with.’

 

‘Hey, Min,’ Nin said coldly, ‘this is my friend you are speaking to.’

 

She gave Nin a light touch on her shoulder and casually said, ‘tell me where you found one of these, will ya? I might just get one to help me carry my dance gear,’ while walking away.

Nin turned to look at me with a worried look.

 

‘Don’t sweat it,’ I reassured her, ‘she seems like a very nice person.’

 

Jeter let out a little snicker, ‘Yeah, glad you can see life for what it truly is.’

 

‘Oh yes, brother,’ I added, putting my arm around him, ‘too bad brother Harris is trapped in the tower, guarded by the giant dragon of MCAT.’

 

I am glad nobody pointed out how terrible my joke was. Comedy was definitely ruled out for both my father and myself.

 

‘Yeah, let us go rescue the dainty princess!’ Jeter responded spiritedly.

 

Or maybe not. Never rule out any profession!

 

Before we could proceed with our master plan of entering the Mahmood mansion, Nin spotted her cousin. ‘Gregory!’

 

Gregory Wilde had his great, great grandfather’s signature droopy, romantic eyes and wore his hair long too. He was draped in flamboyant furry skin that was black; the rest of his skin towards his lung area was suede in texture. His legs were a little flappy, making it seem like he was wearing black and white piano style pants. He also carried with him a cane.

 

‘Cousin Nin!’ he cried in a demure, low, manly voice, though he seemed to be only a few years older to her, yet exuded much maturity in form and feature.

 

Nin grabbed me by the arm and took me to meet him right in front. She made with him a little small talk before diving right into what I was desperately waiting to hear about.

 

‘Did you know, one of your plays is being performed in the land of the miscellaneous, Left Arrow?’ she spoke excitedly.

 

‘Oh reallllly?’ he said, deliberately hanging on to his l’s for more musicality, ‘fame is the only virus they urge you to catch!’

 

‘Ah, still peppering your speeches with those inversions and epigrams, I see!’ Nin said rather proudly.

 

‘Of course, cousin. I have pepper in my breakfast, lunch and dinner,’ he remarked coolly.

 

‘I am sorry to interrupt but where else are your plays performed if not by the miscellaneous?’ it felt as if all the curiosity in the world had been stored up within me to burst on this one fine day.

 

‘Why, my jolly good friend, are you from the Wilde, Marlowe, or Shakespeare crew of actors? By George, I have never seen a character quite like you, which makes me very much like you,’ Gregory spoke while pushing back his satin like locks.

 

‘Actually, my friend is special, and will make history someday,’ Nin remarked on my behalf.

 

‘Good, good,’ Gregory replied, ‘history is always boring, unless you’re in it.’

We all let out a little hearty laugh.

 

‘Well, to answer your initial question,’ he added, ‘my plays can be performed anywhere. There is a grand theatre hall towards the west hall of Right Arrow, where only the most qualified miscellaneous actors come and perform. And those actors form a crew that elevates them a little in rank to the other miscellaneous. But in Left Arrow, there are several theatre houses where plays like mine are a regular.’

 

‘Why can’t those actors earn an elite rank?’ I asked further. I felt this person was a little open minded like my friends.

 

‘I suppose their talent in the field they’re born into ought to put them in the same league, but the profession is considered inferior so they could never be as great as the eliteratti.’

 

‘But what if,’ I persisted, ‘someone from the eliteratti, say Min, were to perform among the actors. Would she still be lauded as superior to the actors who did much better than her theatrically?’

 

‘Yes, she would still be revered, because it is unheard of to have a miscellaneous be considered more than an eliteratti, especially when Min is not an actor, she’s a dancer, and there is a lot of difference.’

 

At that point, it felt like this was going to turn into a long debate, especially when what Gregory was saying did not make much sense towards the end. And it was not because he had some animosity towards the miscellaneous, it was just that he was narrating the eliteratti alphabet. Their inherent belief at being more cultured and superior at any and everything was problematic. Especially, the universally prevalent view in Silverns that one could only perform the task they looked like they could do. Who even cares about talent? That comes later.

 

Nin, interjected the conversation then. I suppose she too realised the futility of discussing or re-hearing concepts she herself was tired of. So she diverted everyone’s attention towards our most pressing concern at the time.

 

‘Gregory,’ she asked, ‘there is a young actress in Left Arrow who had put her heart and soul into the character of Poppy for your play and -’

‘Poppy? They are performing Poppy? How completely splendiferous! It was actually one of grandfather Wilde’s incomplete scripts that I sort of tweaked a bit. Fantastic!’ He had that I-really-am-an-old-chip-off-the-old-block kind of look.

 

‘Yes, and her part was taken from her by the director who put his niece in it instead and -’

 

‘I must admit cousin Nin, art really is no art without its fair share of politics therefore -’

 

Now it was Nin’s turn to interrupt her enthusiastic cousin.

 

‘Yes, you are totally right. But you will do it as a favour to me, signing on this slip that you want no one but Badriya Sohni to play the part of Poppy!’

 

‘Poppy is the boy’s name in the play,’ Gregory corrected, ‘she must be talking about the part of Ally!’

 

‘Yes, yes, whichever one is the main female lead…oh thanks, cousin!’ she took the paper from him as he finished signing it.

 

As a writer and creative evangelist, Nin always carried with her pen and paper. Good show.

 

‘And now, you should go and try out the punch! I made it with mother yesterday!’ she said, reverting back to her gleeful self.

 

Gregory made a little bow, and excused himself away politely. He possessed that old school quintessential Wildean vibe indeed.

 

Now, it was I who turned towards Nin, ‘you are such a fighter! That sort of persistence is just what we need to make the eliteratti change their minds, of which I keep getting more and more confident!’

 

Nin’s face began to glow like a little strawberry.

 

Right at that point, Jeter and Harris approached us, and precisely then the stage started changing into vibrant colours, and the drumbeat started picking up pace. It looked like the show was also about to begin.

 

‘You know this was one princess that did not want to be rescued,’ Jeter said of Harris, who clung closely to his MCAT book.

 

Nin pointed towards the book and said, ‘really? Out here too?’

 

Harris just robotically replied, ‘my work is never over,’ without making eye contact with his friends who were just itching to snatch it away from him.

 

Before we could get involved with what he was saying an intense solo of guitar playing filled the air. I turned my head around the backyard and saw just how quickly the carnival filled up with eliterattis. Younger eliteratti children, around the ages of six and seven, started to air guitar with the music, getting on their knees and losing themselves quite completely. The smile that spread across my face flickered away when I saw their matching mothers give them the classic finger shake of “stop it” and made them come away with them.

 

What was the point of having a carnival in the first place then if you weren’t allowed to rock it out, to just forget and have fun? Oh no. The eliteratti made sure to act like carnivores through and through. Tearing apart the miscellaneous professions. Why? Because it was a miscellaneous profession. The prey’s profession. The weak, domestic, non-predator’s profession.

 

That very moment, the clowns took centre stage and performed their tricks. There was some fabulous juggling synchronised with the happy go lucky yet intense, pumping music. Then there was a body balancing act on top of a rotating ball, that really had every single eliteratti on the edge of their seats. All these actions elicited such a positive response from the little ones. But the adults? Completely forgetting that the acrobatic skills were feats they could never even dream of doing, their snarky remarks could be heard from a mile radius, ‘Oh what a circus!’ and even some literally ridiculous statements such as ‘so glad we’re too civilized for this kind of birth’ echoed. The opinions were self centred but not quite as centred within their selfish spheres because some of the performers furrowed their brows at the unnecessarily derogatory commentary.

 

They just acted as complete carnivores that gnawed away at the spirit of their own carnival.

 

The clowns ended their act with some fancy fire play that left even Mr. Kit’s face open.

 

Around ten, the carnival ended. I heard many of his business associates, or rather business lookalikes express their amusement. Their little mini me’s or tiny clones who had been oozing electric energy, now sleepily tugged at their mother’s skin flaps, indicating they wanted to be in bed now.

 

Harris had already retired to his house with his parents after gobbling down five samosas and eight jalebis. Nin, too left with her family, her favourite ladoo in her plate, while Jeter and I quickly had beetle leaf together and went to our rooms.

 

Morning could not come any sooner as I had a different kind of appetite to satiate. I was craving a trip back to Left Arrow.

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER TEN --

The Four Seasons

 

 

With Jeter, Nin and Harris’s lecture ending an hour earlier than the day before, it felt as if we had the whole day set out for us…just waiting to be explored. While they attended their lectures, I thought about going to meet Bashir and asking him if he was able to send money to his family after all or not. Considering how rushed our trip to Left Arrow was, we did not run into the postman like I had hoped, and planned on, in doing my new friend a solid. But, just like the postman, there was no Bashir to be seen anywhere.

 

So I began to stroll around. The notice board mentioned the new class timings for the scientists and politicians. That got me interested in seeing how they operated and what they looked like. But once more, before that was realised into reality too, something rather unexpected took place instead.

 

As I was about to get into the lift, my shoulder was tapped three times. It was Former Judge Firdous.

 

‘So, your daddy wants to be a part of our world, eh?’ she said in the most patronizing manner humanly possible.

 

‘I think we all live in the same world because we breathe the same air,’ was my nonchalant reply, ‘and we experience the same seasons, summer, autumn, winter, spring…’ I depicted with each finger going up.

 

‘You think you possess wisdom, but really, you possess stupidity,’ she resumed speaking in that scathing tone, ‘you run the risk of displeasing all our ancestors with your….antics.’

 

Now this was rather odd. A judge who ought to resort to nothing but empirical facts and figures, talked to me about displeasing ancestors? That was purely mythological and superstitious. But, I had another point to grill her on.

 

‘So you acknowledge that we have the same ancestors,’ I began.

 

‘Precisely what I just said, you plebeian,’ she asserted back, ‘I would not expect you to know the intricacies behind our history.’

 

‘When you use “our” do you mean your and the eliteratti’s combined history, or “our” as in a double whammy against me to not know about the similar origin of our species?’ I knew what I meant and was aware it got the message across. She just admitted we had no separate history. Only one combined genesis. Although by the look on Judge Firdous’s face it seemed I spoke in obfuscated metaphors.

 

Her lack of intimidation in person accounted for the candid conversation we were inadvertently having.

 

‘Be as over smart as you possibly can…but with the new law I will pass, there will be nothing stopping me from putting you behind bars,’ she complemented her bizarre statement with a menacing twitch of the eyebrow.

‘Under the criminal constitution of Silverns Town, you are not permitted to take up any such action against me unless I commit one of the three felonies, a) murder, b) theft or c) unwarranted physical abuse. Unless, of course, I am framed,’ I remarked, to her surprise at my specific knowledge regarding the town’s legal system.

 

‘Well, you never know with your kind. Truthfully, we would all feel much safer if your entire lot was locked away. But then mutations are rare, with you being no exception, lower than the miscellaneous, if it be so possible. A blotch on a near perfect system, is what it is,’ she spoke in her sustained icy demeanour, ‘a constant threat. You terrorist.’

 

Such neutrality, justice and righteousness of purpose this lady imbibes! It is no mistake she was chosen to look the part. An outward façade. I am glad I heard Jeter say this as I will hold on to it, because truly, Richard Golding was right when he said man is both “heroic and sick.”

 

Man is and always will be an oxymoron. A moron.

 

‘You know in fact, I would like you to get a better image of history,’ she said, breaking my mode of reflection, ‘consider yourself very lucky to be receiving free education from me.’

 

‘I am giddy with joy,’ was my monotone, sarcastic reply.

 

‘As you should be. And they say the eliteratti do not indulge in charity work, tabloids!’ she said while stroking her long red robe skin.

She motioned towards her personal bodyguard to accompany her as she was travelling with me and that was dangerous. After all she was not as vacuous as her brother to let me roam around freely like some unchecked dengue mosquito. I ought to be put in observation.

We got into her car and were driven to the grand eliteratti museum. The sense of grandeur that engulfed it was reminiscent of old British infrastructure in Anarkali within the heart of the city of Lahore. Chalky white, with intricate patterned designs, I could not help but think of richly elaborate meringue pies that all of us had heartily devoured during the carnival. Perhaps, being randomly escorted to museums by an elitist judge helped work up a random appetite.

 

As we ascended the steps, I could see several miscellaneous security guards sporadically placed to maximise protection. It just seemed like a formality, but with crazy rebels on the loose you could never be too careful, like the rebel by birth being lead up the stairs to be “reminded” of inadequacy.

 

The inside of the museum was daunting. It was huge, hollow and empty. Though rich in its attire, it had a dead spirit. Immediately, Judge Firdous told me to follow her into a rather stifling narrow hallway. The hallway had a deep plum carpet trail that was sandwiched between two walls full of pictures and portraits. It was dimly lit, and had a very depressing stink in the barely there air.

 

‘See here,’ she said, ‘every single image on the left wall is full of the pioneers of law, all the creative personas who were born to carry on this great legacy forward. It is a monarchy, we are the blue bloods.’

 

She paused thinking her statements would incur some sort of reaction in me, but I stayed quiet.

 

‘And as you can see on the right side, we have the eliteratti, responsible for founding this great town.’

 

There was an uneven space towards the end of the wall after the three pictures, like a portrait had been taken down. I knew exactly which one it was.

 

‘So you can see both these very important walls have one element in common, no miscellaneous. Of course, I am not even counting where you fall,’ Judge Firdous said triumphantly, ‘I feel like a wonderful service has been provided today. Reality is a marvellous gift of nature.’

 

Once more, I just stayed silent, while the judge gave an appraising little snicker. Though I was intrigued by how she could not really understand. The museum was actually called Zindagi ke Mausam, in an ode to the conundrum of flavours and vicissitudes life presented through its hard working and talented people. But there was unnaturalness about the affair because there are never only three seasons. The failure to recognise a fourth was a grave psychological error. That empty slot on the wall represented so much more than mere elitist lauding. And like a sixth sense, there is a fifth season: the monsoon. Kind of like the unsaid. So to discard my “type” completely, also did not keep in line with the divisions of existence.

 

‘Come in here,’ she said, opening a little door.

 

The real reason behind Judge Firdous’s act of ‘kindness’ in ‘educating’ me about history was revealed. It all made sense.

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER ELEVEN --

Robotic

 

 

The opened door revealed some kind of round table conference being conducted in a relatively intimate room. There were politicians present, presumably from the Silverns government (which I had never even heard of or seen before this matter), and a few representatives of the key professions, including someone who looked remarkably like Jeter…

 

The minute Judge Firdous walked in, everyone gave her an instinctive nod, and me a glare. That being said, I was ushered in anyway. I realised the absence of Jeter’s father and Harris’s father was because they were busy conducting their ‘expert’ class back at Izhar Academy. Before, I could start thinking of further possible explanations and questions, the Jeter lookalike spoke.

 

‘Aunty, so glad you could come,’ he cooed in the most superficial manner, ‘and to have brought this one,’ his eyes flashed at me.

 

‘Yes, yes darling, certainly,’ she remarked in an equally sugary tone, ‘let us commence with the meeting, then.’

 

‘Madam, we need your signatures here, here, and here,’ spoke one of the men in formal suits; he looked like the president or prime minister at best, ‘and I believe the matter will be ready for broadcasting.’

 

‘We will just wait for Hiseff to come. He will be done with his lecture in another few minutes,’ she then proceeded to take her seat and engage in the signings.

 

Meanwhile, I just stood by the door. There were two engineers with a patch on their skins that looked like a blueprint, who were busy typing away on their MacBook Pro’s. There were three empty seats, presumably for the missing members, including Jeter’s father. The sound of shuffling documents, fingers pressing away the keys of the laptop and the scribbling of fountain pens in shiny ink formed a chorus in the otherwise unfeeling room.

 

After some moments had passed, heavy footsteps could be heard getting closer, when finally the filtered crescendo resulted in a loud thud, as Mr. Kit barged through the door, in what he hoped would have been a sparkling, intimidating entrance, but really, seemed quite clumsy and unprofessional.

 

‘Oh, I see the party has not started without me!’ he these words in a high pitch, that were painfully out of order.

 

‘Finally, Hiseff! Take a seat,’ Judge Firdous announced ceremoniously, ‘let us begin.’

 

‘I am glad the unveiling of this project will be tomorrow. We are quite literally not going to waste any time on this,’ the man who had asked for Judge Firdous’s signatures earlier spoke. He did in fact, turn out to be someone from the government and was the prime minister of Silverns, Yahya Ataullah.

 

As he said those words a presentation was played on a holographic medium, similar to the mechanism I had seen in Jeter’s class the day before. The female engineer initiated some colour sequences that highlighted the design of some box in red. The male engineer then started to rapidly type out something on his laptop that initiated a dark green sequence of the words “It will carry on for us”, and released various labelling, ending on various images of robotic figures, while the entire room erupted into voracious clapping.

 

The eliteratti had conceived a plan to replace all jobs by the miscellaneous with electronic operating systems. That meant all the ‘measly’ jobs of cleaning or driving or anything that did not fall into their elite categories would become automated, effectively putting all the miscellaneous out of jobs. And since no one was allowed to follow any other path, openly at least (not that they had a proper education on their rights), their livelihood was going to be badly disrupted. If only Left Arrow was self sufficient, economically stable and the miscellaneous were allowed the space to expand themselves, the entire miscellaneous race would not perish, as it seemed now would be inevitable. The eliteratti were going to have the miscellaneous totally dependent on them. And this vicious cycle was going to get more and more vicious.

 

Now it seemed like I had another cause to fight for. It had become more than personal.

 

My furrowed brows and silence that seemed to cut my own body was all the reaction this abrupt little exhibition elicited from me. But it was not enough.

 

‘So what do you have to say?’ Mr Kit turned to me, with a mocking, ghastly smile.

 

‘About?’ Though I had understood what was about to happen.

 

‘Get this,’ he continued, ‘the person wagging his tongue the most for his clown father to step into Judge Firdous’s sphere, has not the tongue now.’

 

There was fake laughter in the room following a poor statement.

 

‘Certain individuals who question authority need to be corrected, is it not?’ Judge Firdous uttered in her lofty attitude, like we were in some kind of refracted parent child relationship, ‘so when you traversed that thin line between what is right and what is wrong, well, we had to step in and save you from destroying yourself.’

 

‘But obviously this entire endeavour was not simply for your benefit, it provides a great deal of satisfaction to us. We thought the minute Joyce’s daughter is done with her novel we will have no further problems,’ Mr. Kit said turning to the table, then back to me, ‘but then something profound struck us. Also, as you are aware till the novel is completed, given your present occupation, you serve no purpose from birth, and it would not really be of any consequence if you died.’

 

Death? It was like that was their biggest threat.

 

My deadpan, cold bloodied face offered him nothing he wanted to see. What could this worthless fear really do in a broken world? And frankly, it made him very uncomfortable.

 

Mr. Kit realised what he said was not only unnecessary, but completely off topic. He slowly recoiled back into his seat, and was compelled to yield the floor to Judge Firdous. It was a matter of intimidation and not to be intimidated.

 

‘Our brilliant brains have conceived a use for you, after all,’ Judge Firdous declared, ‘and we have great happiness in telling you, it is owed entirely to your blank slate.’

 

Once more, I stayed quiet. There was an influx of thoughts ranging as to whether they had seen me in one of the libraries at the school, going over books on biology, literature and psychology, because considering I am a plain canvas, there is room for so much to be achieved. Were they going to assign me something based on that? But it was stupid of me to exhibit such premature optimism towards them.

 

‘You will be the perfect guinea pig for Silverns’s esteemed, and most well respected scientist, Pervez Zahoor,’ she said whilst waiting for what she believed would be an awestruck or star gazed expression on my face, but what an awkward assumption. I had no idea about anyone, let alone these eliterattis.

 

‘What do you mean by guinea pig?’ finally my frozen tongue thawed a bit, and I was able to voice out my thoughts. I was going to be no man’s guinea pig.

 

‘You will be taken to his laboratory, and he will put you through a series of experiments and see if you can become the world’s first robot infused humanoid species,’ Mr. Kit added, after regaining his self righteous composure.

 

‘What makes you think I would allow that?’ I asked, a little dismayed. If they thought they were going to make me serve them by turning me into a robot since my current self would not yield, they had another thing coming.

 

‘You have no particular say in that,’ Mr. Kit replied, unperturbed by the monstrosity that is biological experimentation, ‘you have no purpose or any field to fall back on. And we are constantly thinking of ways to make the eliteratti experience more advanced. We need to see if the chip, Pervez Sahab will attach to your spinal chord will be useful or not.’

 

‘I do not consent to this. And if you force me, the Silverns Law dictates you will be thrown into jail for unlawful coercion.’

 

The room erupted into spasms of laughter.

 

‘The law can do nothing to father,’ the now understood Jeter look alike said, ‘it may be the same law, but it has very different consequences for all of us.’

 

‘Then your entire profession is a sham!’ I cried out to Judge Firdous, who ceased her laughing, ‘why were you born looking like the pillar and advocate of justice when illegitimacy under your very nose stirs not the fabric of your entire being!’

 

‘Calm down, you little melodramatic blow horn,’ she patronisingly uttered, ‘should have been born a politician this one, bloody rhetoric is all that is spewed out.’ She then gave a fake reassuring smile to the actual politicians present in the room – as if she was truly a sincere person.

 

‘I am smart enough to know the applicability of law, and have the authority as to where its consequences should truly lie,’ she continued in her injudiciousness and detrimentally misguided pomposity, ‘so therefore your dramaturgical words only obfuscate what is seen in plain view, the natural order,’ her arms did a circle of the tiny room in an attempt to showcase her inclusive personality.

 

I was really just communicating with a wooden block at this point. The level of lunacy left me astounded.

 

At that point, two big security guards walked into the room and stood against me menacingly.

 

‘We have no problem convincing people in our illustrious past,’ Mr. Kit voiced the guards’ inclusion to a rather mute audience of the politicians and engineers. They just seemed part of the room for showmanship.

 

‘You don’t need to use force to get me to do this, Mr. Kit,’ I said in a very monotone sort of way. I kind of realised, though it was a long shot whether this speculation would pay off or not, that Nin was writing on me as a person, and if I were to become a robot, it would undeniably ruin the authenticity of her piece. Considering how her father held double affluence in the town given his lineage, Mr. Kit would not want to start a feud or any condescending behaviour within his own social circles. Therefore, the idea would be to give in, and place the illusion of my willing compliance to the eliteratti. Hopefully, that would keep the revolution we were planning wrapped up, too.

 

‘I guess I really don’t have any choice. It really is gracious of you to show me my place. Just let me know what I am to do,’ was my continued reply.

 

‘Ah! Yes,’ Mr. Kit added, ‘we will all go to the laboratory right now and Pervez Sahab will direct what is to be done next. Meanwhile, boys,’ he said motioning towards the engineers, ‘you should go to your den and finalise everything for tomorrow’s big inauguration. The public will go wild.’

 

The politicians, judge, engineers and businessmen all exchanged handshakes among each other and left the room one by one. Once everyone had left, I was ordered out.

 

We got into big cars and were driven to another building. It was a medium sized orange rectangular block, with no windows and no visibly discernable doors. It quite literally looked like one magnified Lego piece. Later, I found out the door had been painted orange too, and instead of being present in the middle of the building, it was right at the age of the structure. We entered and were enveloped in a big gloop of orange – there was no furniture anywhere, save for one white coloured reception table and a really extensive, never ending ceiling. Once, we got to the table, immediately the miscellaneous receptionist, who had her own fair share of attitude working for the town’s scientist, pressed a button that had an elevator emerge from the floor. We were subsequently carried down to the basement.

 

There, I was finally introduced to Pervez Sahab – a short, old little man, with snow white frizzy hair and a body that looked like a laboratory coat once again, except, instead of a stethoscope around his neck, he wore a pair of very specific gloves on his hands, which also turned out to be pigmented skin with a very different texture, designed for an experiment conducive environment.

 

I expected to be treated with the same airs that had surrounded me for the past hours, but there was a surprisingly delicacy in the old man’s treatment of me, particularly through what he called me, too.

 

‘OK, butterfly,’ he said in a hoarse, sometimes muffled voice, ‘come up on this podium so I may examine you.’

 

As I got on top of the podium, the scientist got into a little elevation box that took, very long in getting to where I was standing. Needless to say, there was a prolonged awkward silence. After about eight lengthy minutes, the politicians announced they were going to leave due to some “meeting”, while Mr. Kit and Judge Firdous decided to join the engineers and check for their progress, and I was left to be chaperoned by the obnoxious brother of my good friend, Jeter, whose name was also disclosed: Zeter Kit.

 

After looking at my neck for some time, the scientist remarked about the uniqueness of having monotone skin.

 

‘How long do you reckon this will take to work, Pervez Sahab? When do you think the chip will enable control?’ Zeter asked in an overzealous, high pitched tone.

 

‘Patience, sonny my boy!’ was the old man’s reply, ‘I need some time in configuring the matrix, especially, since your father gave me such short notice.’

 

‘Yes, but,’

 

Zeter was cut off from saying anything when the scientist lifted his finger in the universal sign of “hold it”, while he descended down the podium, once more, with a long, and admittedly, hilarious time extension. Once he was down, he prodded Zeter to stand up straight and not slouch like a Wagga Magga plant. That I learned was the commonest plant at Silverns and was always curled up.

 

The scientist then told us we could leave, but had to be back here at the same time, so he could run some tests.

 

‘Will you be coming to the inauguration tomorrow, Pervez Sahab?’ Zeter asked.

 

‘No thank you, my boy,’ he replied, ‘I have a very distinct fear of computers taking over everything.’

 

 

-- CHAPTER TWELVE --

A Rut

 

 

Zeter did not speak a word to me the whole way back to the Kit mansion, but once we got there, all he said was,

 

‘Get off.’

 

And with that, he told the driver to take him to the engineer headquarters.

 

I rushed to Jeter’s room. We had a lot to talk about!

 

There I saw Jeter, Nin and Harris sitting on the floor playing a game called ‘Ludo’ and told them everything that had happened. They were shocked and like me, quite determined to change the current course of action into something more concrete. I also told them how I had made a deal with Mr Kit regarding experimentation on me. In exchange for my consent and wilful submission, I wanted my father to be given access to the Silverns grand library so that he could start reading up on law. Given the fact that my father is nowhere to be seen and has held no contact with me, reaching out to him will also be a task of its own, and one that is not guaranteed success.

 

They felt sure at the impossibility of a clown working towards becoming a lawyer because nature can never be wrong. And of course, since they were convinced of being God’s messiah on Earth, their theory could not be wrong. But self appointed theories are always wrong. That is what makes us all human.

 

Harris remarked how this would create a greater divide between the two races. Before, the miscellaneous were definitely dependent upon the eliteratti but at least they were working for their livelihood and never begged. The great demand and supply system helped keep Left Arrow afloat since they supplied great basic necessities. Now with the impending complete cut of demand, the future seemed very uncertain.

 

‘Now, none of the miscellaneous will be allowed into Right Arrow. They will not be allowed in any of the restaurants or anything,’ Nin observed.

 

That is when Harris remarked, ‘this hearkens back to Pakistan’s pre-partition days. When Muslims and dogs were not allowed in to restaurants either. When bloody violence was everywhere as a result of discord between a system of belief.’

 

‘We can’t let that happen here,’ Jeter voiced out concernedly, ‘cuz if it does, then father and everyone else will never think beyond themselves! And I am thoroughly sick of business. We need change now.’

 

‘Yes, Jeter, we do need change. But not just for us, also for those people who live in oblivion of what is to be a most grim fate. The inauguration ceremony is tomorrow before noon,’ I informed.

 

‘That explains why our classes have been cancelled,’ Harris observed, ‘now we just need to focus on when we will be able to make our trip to Left Arrow. With the automated cars, as the unveiling tomorrow suggests, Jeter and Nin, expect tighter surveillance and difficult trips!’

 

‘Yes, absolutely, we need to think about all these contingencies,’ I acknowledged, and then suddenly burst forth, ‘also, guys! What became of the trip you took to Left Arrow today?’

 

‘Well,’ Nin narrated, ‘apart from getting several signatures from BaBa Goushi’s bakery, and making progress in that front, we met up with Badriya.’

 

I was definitely interested in that.

 

‘She could not believe her luck when I told her Gregory vouched for her to be the leading actress in his play, but more than that, she was absolutely elated at the fact that you stuck to your word and actually delivered what you promised, and so, in exchange, she’s going to be getting all her colleagues and dramaturgical family to sign the petition.’

 

‘Nin! That’s great. But you should know, it was mostly you who got her that vote from Gregory,’ I felt so shy and moved by her graciousness of heart in giving me the credit for an action that would not have happened without her. It may be because I had a very rough day with the several twisted reality checks the eliteratti graciously gave me.

 

‘No, you pushed and reminded me,’ she maintained, ‘honestly, I require a push. Anyway, she told us to come to the show and watch her perform. But we have to be there under all circumstances if we want to reach a large crowd of the miscellaneous in one go!’

 

And that is where we were stuck. I would not be able to accompany them to the miscellaneous village because of my date with the scientist. At that point, I planned a strategy with my friends: they would continue going to left arrow in my absences, collecting the signatures. Nin would stay involved with Badriya and her show since that would be our biggest audience, Harris would help in tracing the location of my father from the “person detection facility”, and Jeter would organise these trips by keeping tabs on the computerised system owing to his family business.

 

I would try my best to keep gathering intelligence at Right Arrow.

 

‘We don’t have much time, therefore, you must tell Badriya about what is happening here and what it means for her miscellaneous brethren. Tell her, because so she knows the gravity of the situation,’ I said solemnly.

 

We all knew my absence from their trip to Left Arrow would not be a valid option for long. Something had to be done.

 

It had been a long day, and we all decided to go to sleep. Tomorrow would be another day, but not an ordinary one in the least.

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER THIRTEEN --

Unveiling

 

 

The next morning, I saw no brilliant sun like I did in the previous days. Instead, there was a depressing sheet of fog that eclipsed the entire Kit mansion, with a damp kind of chill. The entire garden was white. The sky was white. The mansion was white. But I was not white. I had the colour of hope.

 

The opening ceremony was at 10 a.m. Of course, nobody knew about it in both Left and Right Arrow. They were gathering for some grand announcement on the betterment of their future, including all the poor miscellaneous workers who would also have felt they were part of this future. Unfortunately, this was not going to be like that grand announcement in Cinderella, where the royal personnel stated every eligible bachelorette was invited to the ball.

 

This time around, instead of me going to wake up Jeter, it was he who showed up at my door. Right after, Nin followed and so did Harris. Nin had in her hand a blueberry muffin, while Harris munched on a paratha roll. It seemed like Jeter had already had some breakfast in his house.

 

‘So, we have a long, ambitious day ahead of us,’ Jeter said as we repeated all the activities we had in store for us.

 

He gave me a small device that looked like his PAD, and told me to communicate with him throughout our separation.

 

‘We’ll keep each other informed about the status of things,’ he said, to which I nodded in agreement.

‘I hope Pervez Sahab doesn’t actually change you,’ Nin spoke worriedly, ‘I could hardly sleep all night! It is perhaps the most depressing risk we are all taking.’

 

‘We should speak to your father, Jet,’ Harris uttered in an equally fretful tone, ‘I will also speak to abu, but,’

 

‘That will do no good! Zeter and father are both so unshakable!’ Jeter bemoaned, ‘Nin ought to speak to her father! She should tell him that this “experimentation” nonsense is disrupting her novel time.’

 

‘Yeah, yeah,’ Nin added nodding her head fervently, ‘I will have a talk with father about this. Tonight!’

 

‘Let us all hope it is a normal day after what is about to happen,’ I said while combing my hair, ‘but whatever happens, we stick to our efforts. And we do not get disheartened.’

 

My friends and I walked towards the car that was going to take us to the main town hall. I looked at the driver and his enthusiasm to serve, which made my stomach perform somersaults. To think this was the day of the grand miscellaneous expunge-athon.

 

Before we got in, Mr. Kit, his wife and their older son walked up to us.

 

‘Jeter, get in the car with us. It is a beautiful day, son!’ Mr. Kit said while looking around at the most eerie looking day I ever saw – literally.

‘Nin and Harry your cars are right there,’ he continued, as both of them left without a word to their parents. ‘Jeter?’

 

‘No thanks, father, I will be travelling with my friend here,’ Jeter replied while eyeing the pavement.

 

‘I believe I did not make myself clear. Get in the car. Arantza, what has gotten into him? Doesn’t he know this is an important day for me? For us?’

 

Zeter had a trembling smirk on his face, if such an expression exists at all. And the whole family got into their jet black limousine. Mr. Kit told me I had an appointment with Silverns’ psychiatrist the next day, which was very baffling to me. He said the psychiatrist, Dr. Drez, wanted to see me for his research. Suddenly, it seemed as if I had become this exotic commodity, the eliteratti wanted to study and examine. Jeter gave me a quizzical look that matched mine; this meant we had to adjust our plans for Left Arrow once more.

 

I was motioned to wait a little with the Kits’ domestic staff. While standing by, I decided to make small talk with them.

 

‘What do you think is going to happen?’ I asked Catarina, the maid I recognised from earlier on.

 

‘It coo’ be theh wannin ta give us more betterin’ equipment fer their betterin’ servicin!’ she said chirpily.

 

‘Or even like be some, some, buildin’ they wantin’ to unveil,’ their other personal chauffeur said.

 

‘Right, so I have another question. Has anybody ever thought of life away from the eliteratti? Is that even possible?’ the question ended with me trying to laugh it out. If the informal Q and A session became too serious, I did not want them getting mad at me. There were a lot of conflicting emotions.

 

They looked at me as if I had gone crazy.

 

‘City life make bettered earnin’ ya?’ the driver replied, ‘ain’t no nother way of gettin’ by!’

 

It was a typical dynamic of city and village life – but with just a little more swerve.

 

At that point, the guards motioned to me to get into the car that had just come. I had a whole car to myself. Of course, the intention might have been a little different than the importance I made look like it emanated. It would definitely have been so that the Kit, Joyce and Rafi families had their own separate grand entrance, with me coming along obscurely in a separate transportation.

 

Upon reaching the town hall, there were several posters that said, “It will continue for us”.

 

It had become like the eliteratti’s slogan. There was a large stage, with the president and prime minister seated on the right hand corner and the two engineer boys on the left side with their laptops set up on the table in front of them. There was a blank holographic screen that served as the stage’s backdrop. A green coloured microphone was situated in the middle, with Mr. Kit standing next to it. I could see my friends and their families seated right in front, with other elitist families forming what looked like a honeycomb pattern. The entire hall was brightly lit up. Of course, that was a superficial mechanism given the absence of the brilliant sun, even if the affair was indoors.

 

Without wasting much time, the chattering audience simmered down immediately after the ritualistic microphone screech and the subsequent sound check tapping that echoed throughout the hall. Mr. Kit took the opportunity to introduce himself and then invited the president to give a little speech, which contained the usual glorifying national anthem for all eliterattis. Then Judge Firdous was invited on stage, who in turn mirrored the president’s speech in words that had been changed here and there. But the essence of it all was on repeat throughout.

 

The engineer boys played out the presentation from the previous day, with amplified fanfare to suit the platform and occasion, to roaring applause. However, I could see a few eliterattis who were confused and clapped their hands in a forceful manner. But they were heavily outnumbered. Perhaps what was most surprising for me, as I was sitting on the side, next to one of the emergency doors, was the look of surprise on Dr. Rafi’s face. I could see his expression clearly since there was a large screen opposite me, which depicted the faces of all the people that the automated camera was zooming into. However, this look subsided rather quickly.

 

After the presentation, the prime minister came to say a few words – and few they were! All he said was that in a matter of one week the computerised systems would be operational and that the miscellaneous would be sent back to Left Arrow. The systems had to be fixed into the homes and various buildings and cars.

 

‘The seeds have already been planted,’ he said finally, ‘now all that is required are the nurturing elements.’

 

I could see Jeter lift up his eyebrow in complete disapproval of the prime minister’s rather lurid attempt at philosophy. By ‘seeds’, it also struck me how I saw a large computer being installed at Izhar Academy that day. They had been setting them up all over the place.

 

The ceremony concluded right after. I waited for my friends to come towards the exit but they left from the alternate side of the hall to avoid the slow dispersal of the other eliteratti families. I went to search for them but it was like they disappeared. Taking out my PAD, I messaged Jeter asking their location. Just as I pressed “send”, I got a familiar, unfriendly tap on my shoulder.

It was Judge Firdous, telling me about how Pervez Sahab was waiting for me. Unfortunately, this time, I had no car to take me there this time.

 

‘You better get used to it! Do you think a highly sophisticated automated car will drive you around? Ha!’ she ejaculated in her usual callous manner, ‘and you better not miss it, or your daddy clown can kiss all his law dreams goodbye!’

 

Instead of answering back or sticking around any longer, I immediately went to the entrance of the hall and checked the PAD for any possible news from Jeter. Fortunately, and to my great relief, he did in fact reply saying:

 

‘Sneaking 2 Left Arrow – the sitch is crazier than ever. Keep us posted when ur done.’

 

After telling him I was on my way to the scientist’s, I began my long tread. To top that off, the weather changed from cold, wet and misty to a hot, burning and blistering sun. There was no shade anywhere on the street, and about five times I felt I was going to just faint and fall. The only plus side of the fog disappearing was the ease in recognising buildings, or I might have been walking myself to death in a directionless circle of nothingness.

 

Finally after what seemed like an infinitely lengthy time, I finally entered that same orange building. Collapsing onto the floor, but being stable enough to see that the receptionist from yesterday was not there, I became incessantly fearful at how quickly the evacuation was taking place. However, almost crawling towards the desk, I could see no computer. Since I could see nothing operating the building, I wondered how the underground portal would open, and take me to the laboratory. As I waited there and began panting like a dog, there could be heard a very indistinct whooshing kind of sound. Turning my head, I saw the scientist making his way towards me.

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER FOURTEEN --

Meaning

 

 

I had passed out because of a heat stroke and woke up in Pervez Sahab’s laboratory.

 

‘Ah, butterfly. I am so glad to see that you have woken up all right,’ he said while pouring a neon green chemical down a beaker of pink chemical that reacted into a glowing yellow concoction.

 

After regaining full consciousness, I realised my body was immobile. No matter how much I willed it to move, it stayed anchored. As I started to articulate my feelings in muffled screams, Pervez Sahab poured the yellow chemical from earlier onto my body. It made my skin glow a bright golden colour.

 

‘What is happening? Why can’t I move my body?’ I asked in a panic.

 

‘You have been given a numbing juice. Because if you moved when you were not supposed to, this golden glow that you have, would become permanent,’ the scientist replied calmly, and began humming a little tune.

 

I could move my limbs after an exact ten minutes, since there was a timer that had been set for this duration. From there, I was pricked with a tiny pin that turned my arm into jelly, and shot my body with an unbearable amount of pain. Needless to say, I went ballistic.

 

‘What is the purpose behind all of this?’ I asked desperately.

 

‘I have to carry out a few more of these tests before attaching the chip to your back, butterfly, so I can know the full extent of all the side effects. Do not worry, two tests out of fifty have been completed so quickly!’ he said while sauntering off to his equipment table and picking up a giant wedge hammer.

 

I was smacked on the leg at least four times.

 

‘PLEASE, stop!’ I cried, ‘this hurts!’

 

‘Now, now, you are strong!’ he went on saying, ‘this will save you from harm after the chip has been configured.’

 

The horrendous activities carried on for hours, although they were admittedly less painful than the first ones. Later, the scientist revealed to me something most unexpected. He was deliberately causing me pain because the president had been watching him from his secret camera. This he discovered last night while cleaning through his old stack of inventions. Immediately he realised the intention of this camera with the logo ‘EP’: Eliteratti President. Previously Mr. Kit, Judge Firdous and the others had told him about funding his next big invention if he agreed to turn me into a controlled robot, following a set of specific environments, with pain being a prominent ingredient.

Flinging it with acid that he pretended was meant for me ‘accidentally’ destroyed the camera. That was when he revealed the circumstances. What was more shocking was how his secretary also emerged. It turned out she was hiding – the miscellaneous evacuation programme was indeed in execution. Despite all that was divulged, the scientist still refused to tell me what his great big invention was. But sensing something that could potentially unite our aims, I looked forward to coming to his laboratory the next day. But only after making sure I knew his intentions, would I trust him with what Jeter, Nin, Harris and I really hoped to achieve.

 

After my ‘time was up’, I stood outside the building, waiting for Jeter to pick me up as I had requested him. Heavily bruised, it was a big price to pay for a mere game of pretend. There was certainly a lot to tell my friends.

 

I told Jeter as much as I could on the way back, since he had initiated a sound barrier in the car, creating a force field between driver and customers.

 

‘Where did you get this from?’ I asked.

 

‘Custom made. Got delivered this morning from the orange building you just survived.’

 

I shuddered.

 

As he told me about all the events that took place during their visit to Left Arrow, Badriya performed a rehearsal of her play to great applause, and profusely thanked me for such a career changing opportunity. The big show would be tomorrow, but Jeter and the gang told her I had some meeting with the psychiatrist and so would not be able to attend, no matter how badly I wanted to. She apparently sent something for me, which Nin had back at the mansion.

 

‘Unfortunately, we ran out of time to ask about the whereabouts of your father. It will be the first thing we do tomorrow. But Harris made the announcement of Silverns’s situation at the rehearsal after telling Badriya,’ Jeter uttered, ‘everyone was taken aback, with some even saying they received letters from their loved ones in Right Arrow about weird computers being set up with commands that were specifically theirs,’ he added while opening the car door as we had arrived at the mansion, ‘word has really gotten out. I would say one more trip with you and we can all be ready to take a stand. Anarchy against what my father so horribly misunderstands.’

 

We went to my room where I just fell to pieces on my bed. Jeter came in for a brief moment.

 

‘I have to run and finish my report on the importance of double checking in insurance deals for tomorrow’s class, or else father will do a double check on my double life. Good night!’ he said.

 

‘Good night, friend. And Harris?’ I asked.

 

‘Already in his bedroom, preparing for his MCAT. It’s in three days,’ he replied while making a beeline towards his abode.

 

As I slumped back on my bed, Nin came into the room and handed me a bundle of papers wrapped in a pink ribbon.

 

‘It’s from Badriya,’ she said, ‘since you will not be coming with us tomorrow once more.’

 

I opened the ribbon and saw that it was the play’s script with a note at the end saying, “Thank you! Enjoy! Badriya x”. That ought to have been dedicated to Gregory than me. But it was touching.

 

‘She wanted you to envision her on stage performing it and felt you needed to relax a little,’ Nin added before looking at my bruises.

 

‘Oh my goodness! What is all this?’ she asked in a state of high agitation, ‘who did this? How?’

 

Before I could answer, she promptly tore off a bit of my bed sheet and tied it around my leg.

 

‘Wait here,’ she said, going back to her mansion to retrieve a safety kit, with a deaf ear to my protestations.

 

Even though I know I put her through a lot of trouble, I could not be more grateful to her as I was that night. She left some bandages and an antiseptic serum by my bedside so that I could reapply it in the morning. It was because of this swift treatment that I felt my body was not aching or numb anymore. In a state of rejuvenation, I tilted the bedside table light towards me, and opened up the script to unwind a little indeed, before completely burning out the midnight lamp.

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER FIFTEEN --

Interlude

 

 

The hours I spent reading Wilde’s script were nothing short of good, sweet, comical bliss. The light heartedness and zany zingers of the play kept me enthralled a good deal, but perhaps what really aided my enjoyment was Badriya’s scribbling on the side. She had made it very easy for me to visualise the play as her obstinate habits shined through the various “adjustments” she had made; for starters, I knew she would never wear a long cloak with a beaded bodice because it reminded her of a play she absolutely detested, and her aversion to the colour brown, which she had written on the sides of the descriptions – even though I did not get to spend a lot of time with her I could tell only she would be daring enough to go against the playwright’s instructions and foist her own modified directions on the characters, because whatever moments we did spend together, I had gotten to know Badriya sufficiently well enough to conclude her real life character in one word: opinionated! Perhaps that is why we got along so famously.

 

There were a few pictures within the script from the performance that better aided my illustrative imaginings of the production, and they were delightful. Everyone had such cheerful faces, and it went to show how activities that brought everyone together were always successful in not only uplifting their spirits but also in generating a bond that fostered tolerance and appreciation.

 

It was definitely the lucidity of the play and its crazy storyline that sparked my own profoundness of thought so deep in the night – it was comforting not having to be weighed down by the pressing demands of reality and just escape for a little while. The reason why I liked the play so much was because it talked about all our discriminatory issues masquerading as an elaborate plot for marriage. Rich guy Popplewellington or Poppy for short wants to marry the naïve, innocent, sweet and rich though broke Ally, but he cannot because her family has a specific taste in men they would like to wed their daughter off to. The man needs to be “second best” at everything because the family fortune teller told them it would be bad luck for their newly formed humble life if a haughty, golden boy hero type continues their lineage, which proves to be a really big problem for the overachieving Poppy.

 

What follows next is a series of unfortunate events style courtship between Poppy and Ally, because he just can’t seem to sell himself short for what he truly is, and the fact that he is madly in love with the play’s leading lady only furthers his Homeric trials to please and gain the approval of his prospective father in law.

 

It was hilarious watching, or in my case reading all about Poppy’s misadventures, and Ally’s pure yet teasing persona only heightening his senses even more since it was also certainly a breath of fresh albeit strange air observing the hero try to be a number two, instead of a number one in winning the affections of his lady love. Subversive Wilde at his best!

 

Of course the play had a happy ending – Poppy finally got to marry Ally, Ally’s father finally agreed it was absurd of him to demand so little of a clearly talented son in law when all that really matters at the end is happiness and Ally’s family’s financial luck also finally turned around with the inclusion of the golden Poppy. But despite the reign of the golden at the end, it was everyone’s respect and admiration for second place that really counted, and the dedication, which was showed in trying to be the best you one could be – by employment of strength and smarts, not pedigree and social standing. However, if this was part of the package, it should never become a societal justification for being the best in hollow circumstances.

 

Since humility was the main factor Wilde had advocated through his silver and golden, second and first dynamic, I realised it was one of the main ingredients that left the flavour of Silverns feeling imbalanced – like a savoury dish that contained every component, from organic vegetables, meat, expensive cardamoms and aromatic spices, to rich cream and ginger garlic paste, but lacked salt, which sent the entire experience tumbling down. In the case of desserts too, the one magical ingredient that lifts the piquancy, is salt.

 

How was Silverns going to get its salt? In the play there was an intense, though equally comically intense scene where Poppy got to expose the father in law for his so called second rate lifestyle as nothing short of a sham. Now, if only such exposures were as easy and well timed as Poppy’s! Casually walking by an abandoned warehouse on one of those ‘deep romantic ruminating’ strolls and seeing your prospective relation win so effortlessly at a game of chess is definitely the best way to learn the alarming truth of superior skills deceptively concealed as subordinate. In other words, it was the perfect way to turn the tables.

 

If I could only find such a perfect moment with Mr. Kit… then maybe, just maybe, the ordeal of the eliteratti would lessen, if only just a little…

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER SIXTEEN --

Rude Awakening

 

 

Quite like the play, I was hoping for a resolution to all of life’s woes at the end. I wanted it right then. After all that laughing and distraction, the re-emergence back into the world that could not be broken free from, seemed more painful. But, a new dawn as it was, carpe diem! We would march forward and cope with the stagnation of the eliteratti’s rancidity once again with heads held high.

 

My friends were getting ready for their classes at about 9:30 in the morning. Jeter, Nin and myself had xuxx-ed ourselves to Harris’s home. We had breakfast together, sitting on a beautiful cloth that had been laid out in his grand lounge. Despite all their riches and prestige, the Rafi family enjoyed staying close to their ethnic Pakistani roots. The crispy makai ki roti with the spicy, silky saag contrasted supremely with the cool elixir that is lassi. It was a sensational experience.

 

‘Yesterday night, it got so late I had to miss my Fajr prayers cuz I slept through the alarm,’ Harris said while scooping a hearty dollop of saag with his nawala – also known as bite.

It was all thanks to Nin and her patient translation skills that I was learning and understanding Urdu at the speed of light. Well, sound. It had really become easier for me to put two and two together so sometimes when I did not necessarily remember the meaning of the individual word, the context helped me reach the right conclusion.

 

‘It did get late last night for me too,’ I said, ‘but not because I was stressing myself out with MCAT, rather I de-stressed by escaping into another world with Poppy.’

 

‘If only life was that simple, but it was certainly cute,’ Nin added.

 

Jeter got up rather abruptly, picked up his plates and put them in the kitchen sink. After coming up he said in a stressed tone, ‘I could not finish my report and now I am a million percent certain father will give me detention today.’

 

‘Hey Jeter, I bet you can’t wait for the expert lecturer to change at your school, right?’ I asked him.

‘Heh, the next one is my brother. Bad news Brody strikes again!’ he said while shrugging his shoulders, ‘anyway, we should get a move on now. My mother is already beeping me about leaving.’

 

‘I hope everything is all right, you look very tired,’ I asked concernedly, even though my wounds were still healing from the physical torture of the previous day.

 

He got his books from Harris’s study table and nodded, ‘yeah, just a little sleep deprived like everyone. Listen, you take care of yourself at the psychiatrist and do not let all that psychological mumbo jumbo penetrate your mind.’

 

‘Got it,’ I said, getting up also.

 

‘We will make sure we contact your father today for you,’ Harris said, ‘though I may not be able to go since my exam is right on top of my head, and my parents will throw a fit if I don’t score higher than Dr. Gupta’s son.’

 

‘Oh, listen,’ Nin said suddenly to me, ‘speaking of deadlines, I have to turn in my novel soon for publishing so we need to spend some time together tonight. I know with everything that is happening, this seems absolutely irrelevant, but I have got to try and execute it or else my parents will also go berserk.’

 

‘You do not need to worry about that Nin,’ I replied reassuringly, ‘we need to save the world before bedtime, is all!’

 

With that, all of us dispersed our own separate ways. I had no idea where the psychologist was who had requested, or pretty much demanded to see me, was. And I could not casually just ask Mr. Kit what I was supposed to do. There was no choice but to go to the scientist’s den and let the course of the day unfold from there.

 

This time, I was able to go there in Nin’s car. Her parents had taken an early trip to the mountains to paint a sunrise. But, again considering there was no sun, only a sheet of white flog, I wondered if they captured all the different shades of white then.

 

On the way, I got a message from Jeter (since I still had his extra PAD for our long distance communication) telling me to go to the psychiatrist. It definitely looked like something his father made him churn out, because the last sentence was a bit absurd and very uncharacteristic, as it said, “the trip is vital for your head examination and fanciful thoughts in general.” Upon reaching Pervez Sahab’s little lair, his secretary was not present once more. But going towards the reception desk, there was a rather untidy note with scrambled words for handwriting. However, making out the pieces, I understood that the scientist was not “seeing” anybody today because of personal reasons and random invention building.

 

Since he was not there, I decided to head back to Nin’s car and ask the driver if he knew where Silverns’s psychiatrist was. He told me there was only one in the entire town because there were scarce elitist patients and more miscellaneous who wanted guidance and mental sorting out, which she, the psychiatrist, did not have time for, and subsequently set the bar for future doctors not to venture into the field of psychology. The miscellaneous would want to come for counselling on the difficult economic crunch they were in, while the eliteratti had no such issue, and talking about being unhappy with your caste was an unholy subject anyway. She was basically then an excessively high paid relationships manager.

 

Getting to the vicinity, the building seemed bland from the outside, and quite monotone as brown was the prominent shade. There was a wooden door, and that was the only segment of the structure with a light hue. Entering it, the vibes inside the place really shook me. An intense psychedelic affair, with purple neon lights on the ceiling and strings of red and black neon lights on the floor – it seemed like it was night time outside, as inside there was not a remnant of natural daylight. It was pitch dark save for the trail of synthetic lights. There was a dressing table with a thin strip of neon purple lights forming a disgruntled kind of wreath atop the head of the mirror, and a dark blue chord that seemed to cut through the ornaments on the table like an electric bolt. As I was picking up one of the items and trying to discern why there were so many lipsticks, an ominous figure crept up behind me and said in a low, incredibly raspy voice, ‘You must be what the doctor ordered.’

 

I suppose it was owing to the environment and the general darkness all around, but the unexpected comment and unconventional greeting startled me profusely. I turned and beheld a witch like persona with disgruntled hair, protruding eyes and very, black lips.

 

The entire area went against any traditional notions of what a psychiatrist’s office would look like, especially one that exclusively catered to her fellow eliterattis. A clean, sunshine filled space, with a long couch for the patient to lie down on and unwind, with a fluffy chair or grandfather couch for the psychiatrist to sit and evaluate you is what I would have imagined ordinarily. Not a drag queen in an underground hippie sort of setting, as I witnessed.

 

‘Just follow me,’ said her rather manly voice, ‘I see you were looking at all those lipsticks, well honey, you would be surprised what more I have to recommend for a spicy relationship,’ adding in a kind of hiccup repertoire which was probably a deliberate effect at melodrama, ‘personally, the dark, mysterious plum is my favourite for all the women out there to truly look like babes,’ before letting out a snicker.

 

The next instant, she opened a door that made me really question the sanity of the place, and then my own. Her counselling room was exactly abiding by the stereotype for psychiatric doctors as aforementioned, and she turned from something else into a lady looking, no grunge make up wearing, long maroon skirt type skin, with a chest replicating a white blazer adorning, psychiatrist. Oh, and her raspy voice had disappeared.

 

‘Was that you, who told me to come here?’ I asked agitatedly.

 

‘Yes I did,’ she said in sweetness that I knew was deadlier than any other persona she could assume, given its biting nature and insincerity, ‘sit down,’ with a widely affective smile plastered all over her face.

 

‘No, no, it was another person, who also told me about the lipsticks!’ I protested, trying to double check if I was hallucinating or if I missed the rather obvious switch of people.

 

‘It was I who directed you to come here,’ she adamantly persisted, ‘also did you not see the plum lipstick I was wearing?’

 

‘Yes, you definitely had some dark stuff on, but you recommended the plum lipstick.’

 

‘No, no, I never recommend such dark lipsticks to anyone, dearie,’ she spoke in a saccharine dipped tone.

 

She had a split personality, contradicting not only me but also herself.

 

‘Sit, sit here,’ she said abstractly while fanning the air.

 

Not knowing where she meant exactly, I sat down on the long patient couch, only for her to shriek, ‘Nooooo, nooooo! Do NOT sit there. It is meant for my erm, exclusive patients. Sit on the floor, more organic,’ and positioned herself on the couch, tilting her head so she could look down at me, as I sat cross legged.

 

‘Now, why did you want to come here?’ she said with a wide grin that extended from ear to ear.

 

‘You called me, I believe,’ I replied.

 

‘Tsk tsk, what lies!’ she retorted, ‘that is the first sign of a damaged personality, they tell lies.’

 

‘But the first way you greeted me was in fact an acknowledgement that I was what you ordered,’ I reminded her, but in vain.

 

‘Oh my heart, my heart!’ she said while laying her hand on her chest in a woebegone manner, ‘I never said that! You are so delusional!’

 

‘You were the one who brought me to this room, right? From the neon dressing table?’

 

‘Oh you think you can ask me questions, oh dear, oh dear! But people of your kind have always been truly delusional! Hiseff was right. You know I counselled his marriage with Arantza? Yesss,’ she said before breaking out into laughter that seemed to upgrade and enhance her being.

 

I thought it best to stay silent once more, since the one lesson I tried very conscientiously to perfect in the eliteratti world was silence in moments of pure absurdity such as this, which increased by leaps and bounds recently.

 

‘No, but you see,’ she began right after, ‘I have never fully examined your type before. Of course this is a first of its kind venture since I never gave a flying hooter about problems of the miscellaneous,’ the psychiatrist turned her nose in an expression of total disgust, ‘always the same “I don’t think I’m good enough” jargon! Well, of course you are not! Get used to it already!’

 

After her monologue was over, she switched back to her concentrated artificial sweetness, ‘Tea?’ she asked.

 

‘No, thank you.’

 

‘Hmmmm,’ she said with that same fixated smile that did not flicker, and continued being a little nerve wracking.

 

‘Now let us get into your little constipated head, shall we?’ she took out her notepad and clicked the pen, ‘you are so lucky and wonderfully fortunate.’

 

‘How so?’ I asked, curiously yet cautiously.

 

‘Oh all that with Pervez Sahab! The fact that you were given a life purpose greater than what you really are, is astounding. You must be dying of gratitude! And yet here you are, sill alive.’

 

‘Well, I do my best,’ I replied sarcastically. If there was anything that would help me maintain any semblance of sanity within her presence, it was going to be wit.

 

‘How can you try your best?’ she said through her ugly smile and serpentine eyes, ‘you can’t emulate the best, since you are not adequate enough. A second class citizen, poor, poorly, trying to be like the best, is a fool’s game.’

 

I just stared at her with dead eyes. Once more, I felt I had heard all these things before and like before, I was prepared to just listen with one ear, and throw them out the second.

 

‘So what are you doing sitting so smugly on my floor for? It is because you really have no place of your own. No family. No place. No purpose. You are the most pathetic and sad piece of wasted biological existence,’ she spoke like a sweet knife – the kind that cut your skin in a courser, slower and infinitely more painful way than a slick cold metallic slash. The honey of the linguistic razor had become intertwined with my blood, and now I felt myself get a little vulnerable.

 

‘At the mercy of mere CHILDREN? The whole town knows whom you hang out with. Oh it is simply play time for them to spend time with you. What are THEY going to help you with? Talking big like letting your joke of a father entering our world. You are alone. Your father is a mess. He abandoned you.’

 

‘That is not true!’ I said while choking back tears. I was NOT going to cry. This was not WORTH it. She was playing with my mind ONLY.

 

‘Your mother is dead. Your father is such a loser. He could never stand up for you, provide for his child, whose birth also really stabbed him in the back, didn’t it?’ she began laughing again, ‘so useless and unproductive. It is a consumerist world – how does it feel to be so useless, and at the beck and call of the eliteratti, yes, your so called “friends” who would drop you sooner than you could get your own tongue back into your mouth. When will you stop pretending? Secretly, if I were you, I would keep praying Pervez Sahab succeeds in planting the chip in me, so at least we can control you more openly! And not like the hypocritical existence you lead. I also heard Joyce’s daughter finished her novel after all, looks like you became history faster than you even realised.’

 

I was on the verge. I had never felt someone’s words scathe me so severely as that moment. Jeter’s tone did change – I felt everything she said was really real.

 

‘Go on. Take more time in the world that does not care about you. But take time where? Like I said, you have no one. It feels terrible to be you. I have a loving husband I am going to tell all about our session, while you will have not one person to talk to.’

 

Her clock started beeping. ‘Ah, ah, my next client will be coming. He is such a fabulous astrophysicist. Quite the wonderfully lovely session, this was. Good bye,’ she said while her eyes widened and her smile got skinnier.

 

I got up and was shown out of the same passage I entered through. The same neon lights blinded me – but everything was a daze, the environment was on steroids, and I was unaware of all that was around me.

 

As I got out, I could not see Nin’s car anywhere. Then suddenly rain started to peck at my head. The entire street became blurry. I opened my PAD and saw no messages. It was true. I was abandoned after all.

 

After walking for what felt like forever, and drenched to the point where my ears began to electrocute my brain with pain, Jeter’s shed was visible to me. I entered and instead of falling on my bed, hit the floor instead. Lightening silently illuminated the background, while thunder followed suit and roared.

 

After ten minutes elapsed, Jeter, Nin and Harris walked into the shed. Nin informed the others that I had returned. Jeter came in and asked me for his PAD. A little annoyed at the selfish assertion, I told him blankly it was in the bag on the bed. Feeling the urge to know, I asked them how their trip to Left Arrow was and if they had any progress in tracing my father.

 

‘Oh we could not go today,’ Nin replied, ‘maybe tomorrow.’

 

‘Yeah I’m sure one day’s absence will not do much harm,’ Jeter said in a causal tone that irked me.

 

‘Of course, because it does not matter to you. You are an eliteratti at the end of the day,’ I said dryly.

 

‘What is that supposed to mean?’ Jeter asked, a little angrily.

‘You heard me. Since when did all of this really matter to you? To any of you? I may have an entire future riding on this, but none of you do! You get to enjoy life comfortably and out of making a slave of me and banishing all of the miscellaneous from your pristine, perfect, first class existence!’

 

‘Now, wait a minute,’ Harris intercepted, ‘this is some uncalled for behaviour! What is up with your outburst?’

 

‘Please, just go and give your exam. The only really important thing to you,’ I said sourly.

 

‘What is going on?’ Nin said shocked.

‘I hope I did not damage your car by sitting in it, or leave my foul smell in there. If I did, I am sure you will have some miscellaneous on stand by who will wash it for you.’

 

‘Come on guys. We are leaving. No need to waste time like this,’ Jeter said firmly, grabbing both Nin and Harris by the arms and taking off.

 

I could hear Nin’s ‘but’, but that too, was drowned by the concert of thunder doing encores outside.

 

I felt terrible. What had I done? Regret burned my intestines, and there was no relief.

 

I regretted my decision so much. That was the first time I really broke down.

 

I cried feverishly and prayed to our God, hoping He was listening. I cried silver tears. Were they good enough? Would God only hear the splatter and trickle of golden tears? The tears cried by those who were born number one? What about the everyman? Who is deemed as inferior, secondary, lesser, subordinate, untalented? Was God listening to that person? Would God help someone outside the eliteratti and miscellaneous? Would God help?

 

I don’t know when I slept that night. I was too displaced.

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER SEVENTEEN --

Jambo!

 

 

I had no idea how I would face them after what had happened. I kept trying to justify the scenario with how I was provoked and it was important to stand my ground, and demonstrate my independence. But little did I know, I made a huge fool of myself in front of my only friends. The psychiatrist did a great job in penetrating my psyche. She showed me how ugly I really was.

 

Not only did my actions jeopardise all the progress we had made together, and all the great things we achieved, but also made me feel actually alone, and completely on my own. It was a different kind of lashing out and one that was detrimental – the most consequential to myself.

 

I came to several realisations. So what if Jeter texted differently. So what if Nin called back her car. These were small, and definitely misunderstood acts against the myriad of wonderful care, sympathy and empathy that had been exchanged in our group from the very start. It was stupid and insensitive of me to jump to conclusions the way I did. My self evaluation rejuvenated me with the spirit to apologise for my mistake and the will to make matters right.

The next morning, with a heavy heart, I made my way to Jeter’s room, in the same stealthy fashion as before. Unfortunately, I did not see him there. It looked as if he had gotten up early and left for the academy, since there was no one in the kitchen either. As a matter of fact, there was really no one anywhere. I then remembered, today was the day the miscellaneous staff would be evicted from their positions. The automated computer sets would be installed, and all those dismissed would return to their village jobless and helpless. Jeter’s entire mansion seemed empty – or maybe that was just a coincidence. I thought I would xuxx myself to Nin’s room and check if she was there.

 

Upon reaching there, the situation repeated itself. Nin was not in her room. I snuck out of it and tried to check if I could detect her presence anywhere else in the mansion but it was futile – she was not in her usual places, and a pattern had become to emerge. To corroborate my theory, I xuxx-ed myself to Harris’s bedroom and saw a confirmation of the scene, as he was not there either.

 

Maybe they had come into my shed last night to tell me of a certain plan, and my arrogance prevented that. I thought about checking out Izhar Academy and waiting for them there, so that the first chance I got in talking to them about my misdemeanour and making friends again, would allow me the space in my road to redemption. But I decided against it since I was in no mood coming into contact with Judge Firdous if she happened to be there, which she would, provided I never heard her ever spend time in an actual courtroom. I also decided against going to Pervez Sahab lest some eliteratti would bring me into contact with Mr. Kit. Still reeling from the disgust of yesterday’s encounter with the psychiatrist, I wanted to keep my mind clear of all that rotten and unnecessary negativity in order to set my record straight.

 

What I needed to do, under all costs was get to Left Arrow. But given the unnatural quietude of the elitist neighbourhood and the possibility of all the miscellaneous staff’s prompt evacuation, there was no way I could get there in time on foot. There had to be another way. I went down into the Mahmoods’ garage and saw all their three cars set together in perfect alignment. They were also vacant. Since there was no time to be lost, I thought about executing a rather complex plan instead of dilly dallying any further. I recalled Nin once telling me about a driver’s class that was given in one of the sheds in her gargantuan backyard for her family’s six personal chauffeurs. And since I was convinced of the absence of all eliteratti from the three main mansions, I boldly treaded the grass I had never previously traversed. Inside the shed, my outrageous idea proved fruitful, and I discovered a driving manual – it was probably one of the driver “students” and had several notes and explanations scribbled on the corners and sides.

 

Putting all that information into good use, I got into one of the cars. Instead of keys, it was password automated, and I had to say the driver’s name, which to my good fortune was written in front of the manual. “Oppar Neru”. The car’s buttons lit up and the engine was revved up. Due to the one sidedness of all professions in the town, there were never any issues with the security of car management or the fear of having a stranger’s car hotwired and stolen. This worked in my favour, as I began operating the automobile as per the directions of the super comprehensive manual. To my surprise, I got the car to start and operate, and owing to my good memory of the route we took to Left Arrow, I hit my foot on the pedal and zoomed away. I would be more than happy to look up Oppar Neru in Left Arrow and thank the chap profusely for his great comprehension skills.

 

All in all, it was a fairly good ride. The car gave me no trouble and I proved to be a great driver on my first go! But this was probably because there was ZERO traffic on the motorway and I had nothing but a strip of absolutely clear road to drive on. It saved me a great deal of time as well since I reached Left Arrow in the astonishing period of twenty five minutes.

 

Parking the car by the familiar grounds of BaBa Goushi’s bakery, I went to him and asked if workers had begun pouring in from the city. He told me there was an almost preternatural amount of miscellaneous workers who returned to their home with the strange news that all their jobs had been replaced by computers, and how the eliteratti did not require their services any longer. There was a lot of crisis in Left Arrow – back, front, right, left and centre there were confused workers who were frantically discussing the random firing by their employers and the ramifications it would have on them since they would not be paid for the only service they knew they were born to perform.

 

I asked the baker about the petition and he told me Badriya had one.

 

‘Do you know where I can find her?’ I asked.

 

‘You will probably find her by the theatre,’ he replied, ‘now, now break it up you lot!’ he said to a group of miscellaneous workers who looked like plumbers, fighting over a loaf of bread.

 

There was going to be complete anarchy everywhere. In fact it had already happened. The village was a lot dirtier than before, and the designated garbage collectors could not keep up, and gave up since they were not getting paid for their professions anyway.

 

I had to go find Badriya. Maybe the two of us together could make some sense of reality. However, the simple act of passing through narrow passageways became incredibly cumbersome, owing to the influx of what felt like thousands of new miscellaneous workers. I was going to get squished to death. Holding on to a piece of cloth that dyers had hung out to dry against the wall from the roof, I climbed onto the ceiling of the mud houses. But as I was trying to make a jump to the neighbouring ceiling, my foot slipped and I instead fell into a small hut that was sandwiched between the houses. Straw had been used as its ceiling and was scattered everywhere on the floor since I broke through the framework. Without letting the comfort of the soft, cold muddy floor lull me, I got up frantically, and saw before me an extraordinary looking woman. Chocolate brown face, beautiful dreadlocks, flappy skin that looked like a long skirt made out of several patches of different symbols and images and an orange chest – I was standing in front of the descendant of the great African teacher who had been a part of the original eliteratti quartet – the founders of Silverns Town.

 

‘Excuse me?’ she asked, ‘are you all right?’

 

I started coughing because of the dust. ‘I’m so sorry, I did not mean to break through your ceiling,’ I said awkwardly, taking the straw out of my hair.

 

‘That is no problem, take a seat,’ she said bringing a small stool next to me.

 

‘My name is Ekene,’ she said, adjusting her necklace beads, ‘what brings you here?’

 

‘I am trying to be the agent of change in this egocentric universe and lend an equal voice to all,’ was my unintentionally poetic answer.

 

I then told her my entire narrative and also the unfortunate space I was in at the moment.

 

‘That is extreme what they have done now,’ she acknowledged after letting out a laugh, ‘my grandfather always used to say man has a terribly bad habit of repeating the past. No matter how strong the initial intention of finding refuge in a place free of skin colour prejudice may be, there will always be the birth of new ways of discrimination.’

 

‘I agree, and not to mention how corrupt the very basis of justice is. Justice is supposed to be that one equalizing factor in life, but not in Silverns.’

 

‘Oh, justice!’ she said with another chuckle, ‘if you think justice will unite the miscellaneous and eliteratti under one roof, that is a gross understatement. The sentences for both are very different. In a fair system, miscellaneous and eliteratti defendants who score the same number of points under this formula would spend the same time beyond bars. But the grand Silverns annual statistics board found that judges disregard the guidelines, sentencing miscellaneous defendants to longer prison terms in 70 percent of felony cases, 88 percent of serious, first-degree crimes and 55 percent of burglaries. In third-degree felony cases — the least serious and broadest class of felonies — eliteratti Silverns judges sentenced miscellaneous defendants to 30 percent more prison time than the elitist defendants.’

 

‘Woah, you really know your stats,’ I said impressively.

 

‘I do a lot of reading around matters like these,’ she said while pouring herself some green tea, ‘would you like some?’

 

‘No, thank you,’ I said, ‘but you know this kind of scenario that the eliteratti are perpetrating now is worse than the simple separation of the two races before. Now it is like Left Arrow will cease to exist because they have been cut out of the picture completely thanks to their computer toys.’

 

‘This takes me back to 1900 when the American South was what we call Jim Crowed. Segregated. The African Americans had to face an almost insurmountable number of obstacles. There were restrictions on voting, there was violence, along with segregation, poor sanitation, zero to none education… the miscellaneous are not told what their profession entails like the so called expert classes the eliteratti receive and those classes are not carried out here because they believe the miscellaneous professions are not worth being explored or properly taught,’ Ekene said.

 

I looked down. She was right.

 

‘There are many issues and concerns,’ I said quietly.

 

‘Absolutely,’ Ekene agreed, ‘Another issue is in order to make sure that the miscellaneous do not attempt to assert themselves in any way, whether it is through voting or whether it is through trying to buy land, the Silverns eliteratti resort to terrorism to keep it all in check. This terrorism is a legacy that never stopped from the time of the Silverns Civil War, when some miscellaneous who spoke out were brutally put into their place by the eliteratti, all the way up through this period, reaching an intensity in the early 2000’s and then cooling off again in the middle, when you came into the picture, and now it will become intense again.

 

‘In the beginning,’ she continued, ‘in order to make them adhere to the status quo, it consisted of lynching the miscellaneous, it consisted of burning the miscellaneous and it consisted of whipping the miscellaneous. It consisted of all kinds of violence against the miscellaneous for asserting themselves in any way. And that is what terrorism is about. It is about keeping people from doing something that you think they may want to do. And so it was not just enough to close these avenues to the miscellaneous, it was designed to show them that you can’t do it and so don’t even try. But terrorism is very much a part of the legacy of the eliteratti and it is something the miscellaneous have lived with. They had periods in which it was not as bad as others, but,’ she raised her eyebrows and did a hand motion, gesturing towards the times.

 

That was a very deep insight into the situation. It was much more understandable given the kind of terrorism I was subjected to at the hands of the psychiatrist – a seemingly Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde scenario on the outset… but Hyde the monster all the way.

 

‘I need to go and find Badriya. She has the petition and if we are going to move forward with anything, we need something concrete first. Initially, though simplistically, we thought we could have the miscellaneous boycott the eliteratti, and not provide their services, and hoped that would be substantial enough to set the ball rolling on our plan to revolutionise Silverns. But they kind of turned the tables on us,’ I ruminated sadly.

 

‘Yes, of course, the vultures will always circle rotting meat…they will starve if it is healthy and living. No, what you really need is another agenda. Pursue your plan of getting the petition, but get it for something greater, like, education,’ Ekene said excitedly, putting down her mug, ‘you must show that educating the miscellaneous is the only way they will become self sufficient, and not care about how the eliteratti have their windows cleaned. You are so privileged to not have been born looking like an employment… giving you the freedom to go after anything and keeping your horizons open.’

 

I smiled. It was hard to resist breaking into dawn at getting to hear some semblance of positivity when all I had been plummeted with in the previous hours was nothing but racial bigotry and unnecessary hatred spewing from all four corners. This was a much needed optimistic comment that reinforced my stance. And quite true, too. The miscellaneous should be given that kind of freedom in any sense and not simply because they are born looking like they should. To know the extents of their skills if they choose to stick by what they were born looking like, or to go after something that intrigues them other than their biology, like what my father was trying to achieve, is precisely the point of all our endeavours to shape humanity.

 

‘I must try and contact my father. I started doing all of this for him but now it is like that course just went into oblivion. I have no idea where he is. And the worst part is even if I wanted to find him, I don’t have a clue where I’d begin from.’

 

‘Write him a letter,’ Ekene suggested, ‘and give it to the “Connections Beyond” shed. They will post your letter for you. It is designed to help connect you with your loved ones – particularly, those you cannot find.’

 

‘That is fascinating. Who came up with this idea?’ I asked.

 

‘I did,’ she replied with a little smile, ‘I was out of touch with my family too. After the divide of the golden quartet, things got bloody, and a lot of family was lost. It was like the 1947 partition of Pakistan. There was no miscellaneous to be found on equal footing with the eliteratti without heads being torn apart and so separate villages had to be established for the well being of people’s lives. I lost a lot of my family, and my grandfather was always travelling, always accommodating the hundreds of displaced miscellaneous bodies. So I came up with this a few years ago to help people build a community here.’

 

‘I see…a strong community’s our best chance at survival anyway. There is also something that I want to know. Tell me Ekene, why did the golden quartet break up in the first place?’

 

Ekene closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair, smiling. She took another sip of her green tea and took a deep breath.

 

‘My grandfather wanted everyone to have access to education. But the others believed what they specialised in was difficult, more complex and therefore superior. So they wanted to create a kind of monopoly… and owing to the special genetics of Silverns, it was a demarcation in the most literal of senses. Obviously the teacher disagreed, and so started a long feud.

 

‘Just now before you “dropped in”, I was reading a book that articulates the essence of what you seek to revolutionise,’ she continued.

 

‘And what book is that?’ I asked.

 

Critical Race Theory…it is about the whole social construction of race, exactly what seems to be the focal identifier in Silverns. See here?’ she motioned towards the paragraph she was reading, ‘Ian F. Haney López casts doubt on the idea that race is a biological reality. The distinction he presents is between a slave and the free white man. And here? A person born to a miscellaneous woman is a miscellaneous, one born to an elitist woman is an elitist. I find it hilarious, how López documents that three generations of enslaved women sued for freedom in Virginia on the premise that they descended from a free maternal ancestor, and so would automatically be assumed as free all those years ago. Can one not make one’s own identity? Can there be no respect accorded to one based on their own self? Society will forever be obsessed with their human fate dictated by ancestry and appearance.’

 

‘Ah, Ekene. We keep asking those questions but don’t ever answer them.’

 

Ekene put down her mug, and grabbed her satchel. I clutched my bag pack as an affirmation of what was really to be done, since philosophical talk had a way of suspending time and drugging the brain into a temporary laxative state.

 

‘What subject do you teach?’ I asked as we got out of the hut and walked towards the special shed through Ekene’s secret underground passageway given the huge crowds.

 

‘Before I answer this question, there is something I would like to make clear. The ability to teach someone something lives in everyone. We do it everyday. That means we are all teachers of something or the other. Therefore I believe a teacher is never restricted to one subject alone. I teach history, geology, literature, a little arithmetic, geometry, algebra, science, and perhaps even some art.’

 

‘That sounds exciting! Who do you teach it to?’

 

‘Anyone who listens. I teach to people specialising in their areas but the eliteratti would never take up my assistance. To bring back a teacher into their elitist sphere would be blasphemous.’

 

‘So you basically specialise in almost all the professional areas,’ I realised.

 

‘And that is another, maybe even truer reason behind the feud,’ she said, ‘my grandfather knew a lot about everything and that was a threat to the “expertism” of the others. Their tragedy is that they never did anything about it because it clashed with their main professions, and so ostracised the one who did. Of the teacher’s role in society, Toni Morrison said,

 

“…the work they do takes second place to nothing, nothing at all, and that theirs is a first order profession.”

 

It was quite a complex web, indeed. And the fact that the entire concept of Silverns was based on an even more ridiculous idea than previously understood, made the entire notion of discrimination more and more unreasonable. That the idea of not letting anyone be an all rounder because it would make everyone equal was one way of letting the world know only you could be the best. Being “golden” was a sham!

 

We reached the shed – it had an eclectic vibe to it; the walls were dark purple and there were dark red lights embedded in the table that contained the distinct papers used as letterheads that bore the “Connections Beyond” emblem on the side. Taking one of them, I seated myself in one of the booths on the right, and under the reading lamp penned down the letter to my father.

 

Instead of wasting time on how I ought to structure the letter and make it articulate, I just began immediately and spilled my feelings all over the place in a fragmented sense – whether that was because of the urgency of time or because there was no coherence in anything, remained unclear, among other things.

 

Dear Dad,

I am well and I really, really hope you are too. Silverns is not a good place to be in right now. Not for people that aren’t the eliteratti. They’ve built computers, dad. These things have already started taking over all of the miscellaneous jobs and will completely destroy their lives. And in all of this, you seem to be completely missing. Where are you? Why did you break contact with me? I hope you do not think that I am ashamed of you??? Father, I am very proud of you – of how you were the one who dared to dream to become something other than what was expected of you – you dared to follow your dreams – knowing that they were not easy – knowing that there may not be success waiting for you at the end of the tunnel – and knowing all the rejections you would have to face – yet you soldiered on. You are a source of inspiration to me, and were to mother as well. There is no denying that. She had so much faith in you… I have so much faith in you. And because of that I am on a mission to transform society for you, because of you. But please know, even if I fail, I love and owe you for giving me a sense of purpose. The purpose of striving for a positive change – a feeling I did not have before coming into contact with your passion. Please write to me. Please meet me. Please! There are so many dark moments. Moments of loneliness and doubt and anxiety, although your strength gets me through! Father, I have met some amazing people and together we have a petition that demands equality in education. We’re going to go to Judge Firdous and see which door we can open next. But in all this, I want to know we can walk into a new era, together.

 

I love you.

 

 

I posted it and felt like a huge load had been lifted off my back. I thanked Ekene for helping me start piecing back my situation, which I felt was not under my control previously. With that we took off in the secret underground passageway again in search of Badriya.

 

‘I know that actress,’ Ekene said, ‘she is so passionate and fiery, yet she often performs the most polite and passive characters. It is an interesting dynamic especially once you have made her acquaintance.’

 

‘Where can we find her?’ I asked, ‘it may take us forever… or not.’

 

Right as I had uttered “forever”, Ekene and I took a turn, entering a tiny space, where we climbed a ladder to get to higher ground. As soon as we set foot above root level, we beheld Badriya, scribbling something on a long piece of paper.

 

She immediately looked up at Ekene and both of them greeted one another, ‘Jambo!’ Badriya and I embraced as well; it had been a while, and now, several roller coaster rides later, we were embarking on one more.

 

Thankfully, what seemed obvious to me was in fact true, Badriya had been signing her name on the petition, and due to the influx of miscellaneous that entered Left Arrow, the amount of signatures reached one thousand – as we had wanted.

 

‘Once Harris told me about what was happening, I thought about setting up a booth right towards the opening gate of our village, and get people’s signatures, since I was able to have this (motioning towards the petition) circulated around and get the miscellaneous to put down their voice. But of course, not a lot of them knew why they had to sign this, they just did it because of my connection with them, you know, free entries to some of our earlier plays and everything since our community is very close knit, and we know each other here,’ she said rather breathlessly.

 

‘Badriya, I am so ecstatic to hear that… all of us will go together to Right Arrow, where nothing is right,’ I cringed a little at my unimpressive platitude but at the moment, it did not matter to me provided we just went and executed what had been long overdue.

 

‘Also you are right about this side of Silverns being close knit and well connected,’ I added just at the end, ‘before everyone is brought to their final wits, we have to act out now.’

 

‘We agree,’ Ekene said, while Badriya nodded her head.

 

‘I have a car that will take us to Right Arrow, follow me.’

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER EIGHTEEN --

One Step, Many Steps

 

 

We drove back and reached in about twenty five minutes because of the empty roads. In fact, I hardly drove, simply rocketed the car; it practically flew. Before we could do anything at all, I had one very important stop to make.

 

My entire journey in unifying the community was useless if it meant execution without the reconciliation of my friends. The first real people who were with me throughout everything I went through. And though our fight was not as long lived as most disputes, or as melodramatic as a grand Shakespearian brawl, we were in the midst of a greater war that could not be fought in isolation. Sometimes it really only takes a few moments apart to realise the strength of what you hold with someone and understand how necessary it becomes to condition that split-end, before the possibility of never seeing eye to eye with your own self over what may be a regret, becomes a pressing concern.

 

First, I stopped by at Nin’s mansion. She is the reason I came to Silverns, in the first place, and before anything, I had the responsibility to make sure that she was able to finish her work.

 

My heart was pounding – I felt she would not be there again. There was silence everywhere. I was the only one who was allowed to enter the mansion because the guards recognised me, so Ekene and Badriya waited in the car. Going up the steps, the large, spacious and cold mansion felt even more alien to me, since there was no hustling and bustling noise from the miscellaneous staff as they were absent. In my mind I had prepared an answer for Nin’s sister Min, a short but not so sweet, ‘No thank you’ and to keep walking on, in case she tried to stop me since there was no way I was going to waste time in pointless banter anymore.

 

But I had no such interruption, since there really was no one and it dawned on me that Nin would also be absent. But to my surprise, I saw her sitting in her room at her desk, writing something. She did not even look up since her bedroom door was slightly ajar. Even though sunshine permeated her room through her crescent shaped window, she had a little table light on.

 

‘Nin?’

 

She immediately stopped writing, and remained still. After a few moments elapsed, I added,

 

‘I’m sorry.’

 

She looked up with a pained expression, and raised eyebrows. However, Nin, our most talkative friend, remained silent. Words would have added nothing more to the picture, since her eyes conveyed everything. They seemed to press at me to go on, and allow me to say all that was left unsaid and to clarify all that was better left unsaid…

 

‘To put the blame on the psychiatrist, who was ten million times worse than Jeter’s father… would not be right. I agree she was able to break through my so called shield and defence system and was able to erase that enamel of false bravado that I had, of not being affected by the eliteratti’s words of hatred. But it was only after I faced my own demons of insecurity because of that was I able to really confront them. I finally took that step in making contact with father myself…’

 

Nin was quiet, yet her eyes told me to not stop… if I had begun to tell her the course of my inner and outer turmoil reaching some form of resolution, there was no need to break that flow and cause interruption.

 

‘I had to go to Left Arrow and resolve some matters. It was selfish of me to pin everything on you, Jeter and Harris. I still agree, with what I said to you before, of how you guys are privileged and how you would probably not be able to understand the immediate pain of being displaced, which I now understand I do not feel either. Yes, you are privileged, but you have a personal battle that you are fighting too. We are all fighting personal battles, and it is not fair to assume we must fight one single battle in order to be together. I ask you to forgive me for scathing words that were out of context. If it was not because of Jeter, Harris, or most importantly, you, Nin, the amount of change we have been able to achieve would never have been possible. You gave me the opportunity to actually put my profession less, identity less and purpose less self to good use, in going after a cause much greater than all of us, and in a space where I was constantly shunned, still am. But most importantly Nin, you guys gave me the greatest gift of all: your friendship. Why would you befriend someone like me? Or open up to me? I was after all only there for your research… but the humanity you showed me, puts all my words to shame. I am very sorry. I hope I did not jeopardise your novel because of my absence.’

 

Nin’s eyes began to shine. Maybe because they got a little watery. My last statement made her smile, and give out a little laugh.

 

‘No, I am working on it. You are not so late after all,’ she said with a beam.

 

I smiled back. We both embraced.

 

She was briefed a little bit more about what happened in Left Arrow and what had become of the village due to the large amounts of crowd that could not be controlled. Nin acknowledged how the situation was indeed more pressing than previously imagined.

 

After I had told her my side of the story, she said to me,

 

‘Mind if I clarify a few of your misunderstandings from the previous, ahem, time we met, that I do think we should not bring up again, by the way.’

 

‘Yes, yes of course, what? But first tell me where are Jeter and Harris? None of you were here in the morning either.’

 

‘Harr is at the examination centre as he had his MCAT today. I reckon that he would be done with it by now. Jeter is at school, he has not come back home yet because of the great fight he had with his father.’

 

‘What, why?’

 

‘Which brings me to what I was going to tell you,’ she said smiling still, ‘the reason you received those some what off messages from Jeter yesterday, was because one of the engineers working on the grand computer scheme had hacked into his PAD, on orders of Uncle Kit, to give you subtle hints at what the adults wanted to project in us: a hierarchical relationship. Jeter wanted the PAD he gave you back, so he could show the un-hacked version to his cousin, also a computer engineer, to form some sort of a virus blocking software, so that we could communicate without such interceptions form outside.’

 

I was dumbstruck.

 

‘And, you remember how my car was not there? Min had created a massive fuss and took that specific one for her own trip to the Silverns mountains because father had blocked her credit cards. We had come to tell you all this last night when you know, the uhm, unexpected volcano eruption happened,’ she said.

 

‘I see,’ I said clearly embarrassed by what my mind led me to perceive, ‘where were you and Jeter in the morning if Harris had gone for his MCAT?’

 

‘We were in school. Naturally we were angry at you. And thought it would be best to spend some time away before we got heated up and said some things we did not really mean either.’

 

I was moved by her maturity and their sensibility in knowing that the situation was just a heated hot mess, and nothing more, even though it was burning. I took a seat by her and told her I wanted to go and clarify the situation with Jeter too.

 

‘In a moment, let me just add one sentence to this paragraph, I think it will make this really perfect,’ she said, writing away like a lightening bolt.

 

I stretched out my arm on the sofa, as it was not used to so much driving and touched what looked like Nin’s older books called ‘You Don’t Have To Speak’. I turned the back of the hardcover book and read the blurb. It was about a dystopian society where the entire world is digitally altered and instantly writes what you’re thinking, similar to telekinetic mind reading. This action eliminated the faculty of the tongue completely. No one talked anymore.

 

‘Oh gosh, Nin!’ I said, ‘I am so glad we were able to talk to one another! Although it seemed like you were enacting your book as your eyes did most of the talking to me during what I had to say!’

 

‘I… know…’ she said, while concentrating on what she was articulating in her book, ‘done… for now!’

 

‘I have guests with me from Left Arrow waiting for us in the car. Badriya is here along with the descendant of the banished member of Silvern’s golden quartet.’

 

Nin widened her eyes. ‘The teacher?’

 

‘Yes, her name is Ekene,’ I said, ‘and she is here to help us present the petition to Judge Firdous.’

 

‘Well then, let’s xuxx ourselves to Jeter’s room,’ Nin said.

 

Apologising to Jeter was relatively less emotional and more rushed. It was kind of hilarious since Nin was saying most of my words for me.

‘Hurry up now, Jeter!’ she excitedly exclaimed, ‘Badriya and Ekene are waiting for us downstairs.’

 

As the three of us walked towards Nin’s gate, Harris arrived right at that moment, and we banded together going where I had parked his car. He was so dazed after his examination that it took him a while to properly process that we had gotten together after a while.

 

‘It is not that I didn’t know the questions, it is just that the day was too long! I am so tired! And I’ll do anything but go back to my room right now! There is no way I can stand looking at all those diagrams right now,’ he explained.

 

After a little while, Harris exploded. ‘What is going on here!’ he asked, ‘Why is Badriya here?’

 

‘Well you could say the miscellaneous are fast running out of breath in Left Arrow!’ I said, ‘Harr, the place is mad crowded. There are no empty spaces anywhere!’

 

‘What are we going to do with the one thousand signatures then? You think Judge Firdous will care about how many people wrote down their names here?’ he asked concernedly.

 

‘Harr, yes! This is supposed to be a peaceful negotiation, or else the miscellaneous will be driven to madness! There will be mutiny everywhere. If the eliteratti want to avoid that, then Judge Firdous better pay attention to this!’

 

Jeter’s PAD started to ring. It was his father.

 

‘Where is your friend, son?’ he said without any greeting whatsoever, ‘Pervez Sahab is waiting! He has readied the chip!’

 

‘We can’t come right now,’ Jeter replied, ‘we are on our way to Aunty Firdous.’

 

‘Why on Earth are you going to her? Look, since I know all of you are together, go straight to Pervez Sahab’s. He knows where she is!’ and with that Mr. Kit hung up the phone.

 

‘Well, father sure knows how to play us right. We are not going to go inside until Pervez Sahab tells us where she is!’ he said.

 

‘Jeter, you and me both know it will not work,’ I said while steering the car, ‘they could lie to us, heck, this entire aspect of Pervez Sahab knowing where Judge Firdous is could be a giant lie. But, something tells me we should still make a small stop at his laboratory.’

 

‘That could imperil everything!’ Nin cried out, ‘at least to really make sure, we should stop by at her courtroom. If she is there then we can show her we mean something and if she is not, then we go straight to the lab, no questions asked!’

 

‘I don’t know why, but I have my doubts that she’ll even listen to us,’ Harris repeated, ‘she has a long history of being unreasonable and now she sure as heck is not going to change!’

 

Harris had a point and got me thinking. That is when I said:

 

‘You know, Pervez Sahab told me he was working on a special invention back when I visited him last.’

 

‘Well, what about it?’ Jeter inquired. Even though my statement was rather incomplete, it piqued everyone’s interest.

 

‘He never told me what it was, but it felt like he did not tell his eliteratti circle what it was, either. That day when he carried out those horrendous experiments on me…’

 

‘You want to trust a man who carried out horrendous experiments on you?’ Badriya spoke out, ‘look, I know our situation is bad but can we really believe such a guy would be working for our cause?’

 

‘It does not look like it, but that is precisely what the scientist wants to project. He does not want the eliteratti to think that he has a soft spot for us, which is why he went through that elaborate scheme. If they find out, then his new invention will not get funding. But that is not what will sound convincing at all. On my last visit, the miscellaneous evacuation programme had already begun but he had hidden his miscellaneous secretary in his lab. Why would he want to save her?’

 

‘Unless, he’s in love with her,’ Badriya speculated.

 

‘That… that can’t happen,’ I said.

 

‘And why not?’ Ekene spoke finally, ‘you are here talking about changing the world, and you think an inter race love connection cannot exist?’

 

‘Ekene, that is absolutely OK,’ I said reassuringly and as calmly as possible, ‘it is just that, you know from a common point of view, Pervez Sahab is very old. He would probably have great, great grandchildren by now.’

 

Nin let out a laugh.

 

‘So the fact that his secretary was hiding in the laboratory definitely hints at the bigger picture… and at the possibility of him disagreeing with the way the miscellaneous are treated… like disposable tissue papers, and not as real people.’

 

Our discussion of possibilities ended right as we reached the laboratory. The entire gang walked into the tangerine building and stood by the desk. From my last visits, it was understood that there was an underground pipe that took us to the laboratory, as there was nothing on the current floor except for that vacant secretary desk right in the centre of the floor.

 

‘We need the pipe to take us down to Pervez Sahab’s lab,’ I said.

As soon as I said that, the voice automated computer that had replaced the real live workers addressed that pipe query for me.

 

‘I will inform the scientist that you are here,’ it said, ‘and then if the scientist confirms your appointment, the pipe will appear shortly,’ ending with a beep signalling that the computer had said what it needed to.

 

There was a pressing concern in our heads, was the computer advanced enough to understand almost everything that we said? Did that mean we had to be very careful about what we said. Before we could think these thoughts a lot more, the pipe protruded out of the ground for us.

 

‘Go on,’ the computer said, ‘the scientist is expecting you.’

 

Since the pipe was not big enough to carry all of us inside, we really squeezed tightly next to each other and were quite literally packed like sardines. As we went down and saw Pervez Sahab sitting on his tool, cutting some sort of agar block, he looked at me and ejaculated, ‘Butterfly! At last you have come.’

 

We exchanged greetings and he was stunned to see the entire group present.

 

‘Well, well if it isn’t Mahmood, Joyce and Kit’s kids,’ he said, ‘what brings you all here? And visitors from the left?’

 

He was stunned.

 

‘I will explain to you why I am here,’ I said, ‘and it is not because of the chip. I am afraid none of us have any time. This here is Badriya and Ekene from the left, sharing the same concerns such as us all, the well being of the miscellaneous.’

 

‘Good to meet you all,’ he said, but edging closer to Ekene he said, ‘you… you are Rutendo’s great, great grand daughter…’

 

‘You knew my grandfather, personally?’ Ekene asked.

 

‘Yes, I did,’ Pervez Sahab replied as he was overcome with the fondest, bittersweet nostalgia we are gripped with on so many occasions in life, ‘he was a great man. The only one with the sensibilities, I cherish now in our colossally dark world.’

 

It turned out that Ekene’s grandfather was a close friend of Pervez Sahab’s father, and the two of them had shared their scheme for great and equal education for all. His son was now going to carry on the legacy, even if he was so many decades late.

 

‘Come, I’ll show you my invention,’ he said while adding, ‘uh young lady,’ to Badriya, ‘kindly do not touch my other inventions.’

 

Badriya had been going through a table full of tiny oddball creations and seemed to really like one as she picked it up and asked, ‘what does this lovely pink liquid do?’

 

What she held up was a tiny glass with a fluorescent pink colour and the labelling, ‘Disclosure’.

 

‘Oh that! It is a special liquid that helps remove stubborn layers of make up or concealer. I made it at one time for a drama production that happened in the South wing of Right Arrow,’ Pervez Sahab informed us.

 

‘Ooooo,’ Badriya squealed excitedly, ‘mind it I take this? It will come in handy for me during upcoming productions.’

 

‘Sure, I don’t see why not,’ the scientist added.

 

He then showed us what he had been working on. The invention was a device application that enabled people to put in their skills and work out which profession suited their capacity the most along with catering to the way they looked. The person would start by putting in their gender and the vocation they were born looking like, and then the app just cancels it out as irrelevant. It then asks the careful question: if the person is a dreamer who wants more or if the person is content with following what his or her family have been doing. And that is when the doors of possible skills and helps the person outline a plan to make the educational journey a little more enlightening and a little more organised. The application that could help project two spheres of learning: one, the profession that the person wanted to have and two, the other spheres of knowledge that should be open to all – a revolutionary tool in the orthodox Silverns, indeed.

 

We felt mystified – simple as it was; there was something beautiful in the endeavour. It was going to help unshackle the imprisonment in a realm of distortion in an uplifting way.

 

‘If it cancels out the gender and vocation,’ I couldn’t help but ask, ‘why put it in?’

 

‘Because man needs a conscientious indoctrination of how to be de-indoctrinated if that be a thing… they need to be told it really does not matter. Nothing does. Except your will… and how much you’re willing to risk,’ Pervez Sahab replied.

 

‘There are some people who really excel at what they look like,’ he added tenderly, eyeing all my friends.

 

Jeter and I looked at one another. We smiled.

 

‘What of me Pervez Sahab?’ I asked after a while. ‘How do I identify which vocation I am since you know clearly,’ the hand gesture across my body finished the sentence for me.

 

‘Well, you get to tap a special option and that is,’ Pervez Sahab showed me the demo version on his screen, ‘open visionary’ beside that circular symbol with the ringlets inside it; my birth stamp.

 

‘Thank you for giving our kind such a pleasant term,’ I added, feeling pleased.

 

Pervez Sahab had struggled with this application for a while because of the times around him. He tried several times but could not muster up the courage to go ahead with such a dynamic plan until seeing our resistance in an absolutely pressing world, when he felt that the invention became all the more necessary and relevant. But having exhausted his resources on other experiments, he really required funding for this one and so he agreed to make that ‘chip’ – clearing its context for us once and for all. The chip was nothing but a ruse to appease the growing tensions over his allegiance to the eliteratti and the insecurities that they felt, while ironically gaining funding for the very thing they opposed through this very agreement.

 

We told him to carry on with it as we had a petition that was a testament to how many people wanted change and the opportunity for a better life. He then showed us how he had made that chip after all and enabled a person to do absolutely anything and be under the control of the one who would command it. So we took it from him, and decided to threaten putting it on Judge Firdous to kind of expedite our petition for change, should the need arise, which it obviously would. We then asked him where she was, and like our guess played out, what Mr. Kit said was mere bluff. He did not know where she was.

 

‘How do you know she will not arrest you all?’ Pervez Sahab asked suddenly in a concerned tone, ‘it is just a matter of, approximately two to three days when their computer system will be attached to all key areas of Right Arrow. Till their procedure is complete, they could easily shut down the disruption you will cause by putting you away.’

 

‘Father won’t jail his own son, or Harris, or Nin…’ Jeter replied weakly, as though he were unsure of it himself.

 

‘Your father is a ruthless man,’ the old scientist asserted, ‘and he stops at nothing to showcase his power and authority. Such men don’t know the meaning of sympathy,’ he began to walk around the laboratory, ‘I just hope you all are aware of the possible consequences of this blatant barge in you’re orchestrating. Have a blueprint of contingencies ready, why don’t you.’

 

‘You’re right sir,’ I acknowledged, ‘with them you never really know what might happen. But I think the idea of a potential uprising from Left Arrow, you know, if the petition is ignored and all, might result in a little improvement for the miscellaneous.’

 

‘Yes. Let them jail us,’ Ekene chimed in boldly, much to Badriya’s chagrin, ‘now that we have a motive and are trying to do the right thing, we must collectively understand hurdles will not stop but only increase.’

 

‘We will get through this together,’ Nin added calmly, squeezing Harris’ arm as he too expressed a totally rational, though decidedly unattractive sense of apprehension.

Everyone’s feelings were justified. I, however, felt since we were now armed and dangerous with a steely will, we could make our way to Judge Firdous’ courtroom wearing confidence as our shield of honour, and put up a great battle. We would require Zeus’ thunderbolt to tip the scale of war to our side, but even without it, we were like Achilles. The infamous weak heel’s concealment would be the matter of fate.

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER NINETEEN --

Peripeteia

 

 

 

Judge Firdous was definitely in her little unused den, which had literal and metaphorical cobwebs everywhere in the cold and chilly dome of everything antonymous with what she represented based on her looks. It was the shrine of spiders because of not only her inaptitude for executing and enforcing the law but also due to the expulsion of the miscellaneous cleaners who would have kept the place tidy. The miscalculations and urgency of evacuation showed how ludicrous their plan was and once more depicted a misguided and incoherent pattern of thinking.

 

There was a small table with a few snacks and drinks laid out. They had been there a while.

 

We entered and carried with us a poignant presence. Mr. Kit was standing right beside Judge Firdous’ table, and immediately recoiled from his tilted position and faced us; his eyes were drawing daggers.

 

His look of pure animosity changed into that of confusion when Ekene came and stood before them. Fierce. Poised. The opposition party was shocked to see her. It was as if they were both simultaneously guilty and afraid of the knowledge that she possessed, or perhaps she was the ghost of the past they so vehemently strived to get rid of. But then you can never escape from history, or the fact that there were four horsemen that founded Silverns, not three. She was a symbol for the education that was imperative for breathing life into the decayed realm of enlightenment that Right and Left Arrow began to foster their legacies on. And we meant to clearly change the scheme of activities and dimension of ideas, as best we could.

 

Thus, without wasting much time we showed her the petition.

 

‘This is the ticket for our better tomorrow, Judge Firdous,’ I said, ‘we have purchased it with a lot of blood, tears and sweat. We ask for our rights, as human beings, to be treated based on who we are, and not based on how we look.’

 

‘What mockery is this,’ the lady replied while sniggering away, ‘this ridiculous piece of paper is going to change what WE think is best?

 

And what on Earth are you three doing? Being a part of this charade,’ she added, motioning towards Nin, Jeter and Harris.

 

‘While working on my novel, and really seeing the condition of our town, you know, it is all just very preposterous,’ Nin replied in a fragmented way, but her angst was conveyed.

 

‘I stand with my friends, too,’ Harris replied in a solemn voice, radiating the composure that made a stark contrast to Nin’s passion, ‘it is not fair to put the miscellaneous out of jobs for no good reason, or allow anyone the choice to be who they want to be. As a doctor in training, and all around human, I understand that empathy is the most distinct feature lacking in our lives, yet needed the most.’

 

I could see a smile flicker across Jeter’s face. It was cool to see Harris really augment his feelings at the crucial time when we needed the most back up.

 

‘And I know,’ Jeter spoke finally, ‘that business is not what I want to work towards in my life. What really makes me feel alive is literature. The fine arts. I adore them. That is what I want to specialise in.’

 

‘How dare you!’ Mr. Kit thundered, ‘uttering blasphemy in the presence of your own father! What kind of double disrespect is this, Jeter?’

 

‘There is no disrespect, father,’ he answered back in a voice that felt broken, ‘but I want to know and revel in the comfort that I can speak to you about anything.’

 

‘You blotch,’ his father fired away, ‘I always knew you were second to your brother, but even then I had hopes, no, wild dreams, that maybe one day you could be number one too, and glorify the Kit family name. Both of Hiseff Kit’s sons, number one. But of course not! You had to turn out unnatural!’

 

Mr Kit was fuming more than usual and made a dart towards his son, furiously grabbing him by the arm.

 

‘We are going home!’ he roared and began dragging his son, who was listless with defeat again.

 

But in a moment of defence, Badriya, who had stayed quiet for too long, spoke out, ‘we have the mind control chip with us and we will put it on you unless you release him!’ she defiantly declared.

 

Mr. Kit stopped short, and glared at the interrupter with maddening fixation.

 

‘What did you say girl? Oh I’m sorry, actress. This is not one of your performances, is it? You better cut it out, before the curtain really falls on your production,’ he threatened sorely.

 

Badriya had never been exposed to such intense eliteratti hatred. She had heard about it, but since this was her first time in the belly of the beast, there was a certain kind of shock and fright that seemed to sheathe her.

 

‘Bloody miscellaneous.’

 

That triggered it. Almost instinctively and in a moment of pure impulse, she dashed the special liquid from Pervez Sahab’s stash of inventions on Mr Kit’s face, disgruntling him.

 

‘What insubordination and defiance to the law!’ Judge Firdous vociferated whilst still seated in her chair like some grand queen only passing comments at her own dignity that seemed to be compromised by this act.

 

Mr. Kit may as well have strangled Badriya. ‘I’ll have you arrested!’ he uttered, while taking a tissue from the snacks table and roughly rubbing his face instead of dabbing it to get rid of the fluid’s stickiness.

 

As a way out of the confusion, I held out the chip that shimmered in its entire digital prowess under the blaring lights of the courtroom. To us it screamed control over the very proprietors of the whole notion of robotic persons.

 

Judge Firdous squinted her eyes. She was trying to get a better look at it and assess the situation that kept getting more and more eccentric for them.

 

‘Has Pervez gone mad…’ she seemed to be mumbling. She then took off her glasses.

 

‘My dear,’ she said, ‘frankly, I think you’re a little too way over your head. Do you honestly think that is the real chip?’

 

I walked towards her desk very slowly, my fingers clutched to the chip as tightly as they possibly could be, ‘it is very real Judge Firdous. Think you could only manipulate it for your gains? We are all aware of the power that it possesses and what it can make you do,’ there appeared a lump in my throat, ‘but…’

There was a pause. In a hard to explain moment, I felt overcome with some strange feelings. While there is no denying the fact that we wanted change and that too quite desperately because of the pressing times, the unfair treatment multiplying by the second and the black hole that seemed ready to suck us all into oblivion, there was something within me that resisted the urge to follow through with what was best for us vis-à-vis the same route we sought to block. We could not employ that same dirty computerized mechanism. We were better than that. Someone had to be.

 

In a change of heart I stomped on the computer chip, destroying it completely.

 

My friends gasped. Judge Firdous furrowed her brows. I took a deep breath.

‘This needs to be condoned entirely. Even though it would have been poetic justice seeing you controlled by this chip, it just goes against what we stand for. We argue out mindless slavery and therefore cannot carry this out.’

There was silence in the room. I shut my eyes. Perhaps this battle was lost but our ideals surely won the war.

 

‘You are the most ludicrous fool we have ever come across,’ Judge Firdous said before breaking into a little nervous laugh.

 

‘I bet it satisfies you, doesn’t it?’ I asked dryly, ‘because that is the only way you could ever look clever.’

 

She stopped laughing and widened her eyes at me.

 

‘This is what I think of the entire thing,’ the ruthless judge said and proceeded to tear the petition in half before our very eyes.

 

My heart almost stopped beating.

 

Jeter ripped himself away from his father and came to stand next to me.

 

After a few moments of inactivity elapsed, Mr. Kit spoke out in frustration, ‘bloody time waste! Jeter! Come here at once! And you,’ in the scathing tone meant only for me, ‘may your kind always stay away from my family!’

 

But Jeter did not move. Nor I.

 

‘Jeter!’ he repeated.

 

My friend then turned to go back to his life in silence, in sadness.

 

‘And have these people put away, will ya?’ Mr. Kit added cynically, alluding to Ekene and Badriya.

 

‘You will not touch my friends, Mr. Kit,’ I said without looking at him.

 

‘What will you do?’ he retorted, ‘why should you care?’

 

That is when I faced him and replied, our eyes meeting, ‘because this entire thing is between you and me.’

 

All the hostility was always more grounded towards me than the miscellaneous. It was time to state the obvious.

 

Mr. Kit gave me a little smirk. He walked towards Judge Firdous’ table, took the torn halves of the petition and put them in my hand. He leaned in forward and said in my ear, very low and menacingly, ‘take this and disappear and may Silverns be rid of your kind for good.’

 

Before I could respond, something behind Mr. Kit’s ear caught my attention. I had to blink twice to really confirm it.

I said to him in an equally low tone, ‘You know Mr Kit your tattoo over there looks very familiar.’

 

His face went red. ‘What are you talking about?’ and consciously began touching his face involuntarily as if he would be able to feel the answers, and subconsciously affirming my suspicion.

 

‘The red honeycomb creeping behind your ear,’ I replied, ‘looks like a stamp.’

 

Immediately Mr Kit began dragging me outside the room.

 

‘Hiseff! Where are you going?’ Judge Firdous asked with both her hands raised.

 

‘N-nothing Firdous. Both of us need to have a talk is all.’

 

When we had come outside, I ceased the moment and turned Mr. Kit’s ear and realised it was the same symbol, mother and I had been stamped with at the time of our birth. Which only means one thing…

 

‘Don’t touch me!’ he replied irritably flinging away my arm.

 

Thanks to Badriya’s little vent of anger on Mr. Kit, and him cleaning away what had been concealing the mark all this time, we were able to have the greatest “what the deuce” moment in history!

 

‘So you’re one of…me,’ I said.

 

Mr. Kit was silent.

 

‘But… how?’ I asked.

 

He averted his eyes.

 

‘You’re a fraud, Mr. Kit. A fraud. All this talk on race and birth… and of being born number one. How the eliteratti is God’s chosen race. When you were never a part of it.’

 

Mr. Kit’s eyes were getting foggy and before I knew it, this great, pompous man, who had done nothing but evoke misery for the miscellaneous and consolidate his position in the elitist world as one of the most formidable forces of power and authority, broke down in tears. It was the most unexpected and unexplainable feeling to witness the private meltdown of my second biggest enemy after society and its cruel distinctions.

 

‘You have had nothing but hatred for my kind when all this time YOU have been the same! Instead of helping or understanding our shared plight, why did you work so hard to destroy our… your kind!?’

 

‘Do you think it was easy?’ Mr. Kit replied, suppressing his sobs, ‘I never wanted to be born like this!’

 

He took his fingers and pointed them to his chest, ‘I wanted to be a businessman and so I transformed my body.’

 

‘Is this,’ I said motioning towards his silvery suit, ‘real skin or paint or -’

 

‘Let’s just say I have to make myself look this way every day of my existence.’

 

‘So you’re the real performer here, Mr. Kit. You’ve been performing your identity most literally! You were not born looking like a businessman. Yet, yet, this façade of being an elitist?’

 

‘I should have been born an elitist from the start. If you are of the eliteratti that is the only way to live a successful life! You cannot be anything in this world if you are not born looking like them!’

‘Yet, you see us trying to break this stereotype but you took it upon yourself to shoot it down.’

 

‘I wanted to be the only cross over success. Your ideas are inspiring mutiny! My idea inspired conformation to what has already been laid down as the norm. My sacrifices and daily struggle to fulfil all the requirements of my role will not be for nothing.’

 

‘You think they’re loyal to you inside?’ I cried out pointing towards the door, ‘your life will be ruined once they find out that their so called leader is himself just an ordinary, identity-less man, and has been living a lie; is a sham!’

 

Mr. Kit was quiet. I could see more tears rolling down his cheeks.

 

‘It is the end of my life,’ he sighed, ‘what do you need to keep this a secret? Money? A house? A car? Tell me and I can buy anything!’

 

‘I want none of these things. I want the truth.’

 

Mr. Kit stared at my face with a look of pure horror. He knew there was nothing really that would hold me back from exposing him.

 

‘But I won’t speak of this,’ I replied to his frazzled face.

 

‘What? Y-you will keep quiet about this? N-not even a word to Jeter?’ he was almost breathless.

 

‘No.’

 

He let out a huge sigh of relief and started to laugh.

 

‘On some conditions,’ I added.

 

And then his laugh ceased.

 

‘Inculcate the education scheme into Silverns and give back the miscellaneous livelihood to some of the older members of Left Arrow, who can’t afford to do much else at this point.’

 

‘That is the embodiment of everything I hated about you in the first place.’

 

‘And that is?’

 

‘How you didn’t go through the pains I did to hide my true identity, and instead you went ahead to own yourself, to make something for yourself in the world that I saw as unforgiving.’

 

‘I can’t conform to this town’s mindlessness,’ I replied a little sternly, ‘it has to be changed. So, endorse this, and I will never speak a word about your alter or rather, true ego. We each get to go and live our lives to its full promise.’

 

‘That is bloody gibberish. The natural order cannot be deceived.’

 

‘To which you do not belong,’ I added curtly, ‘now will you agree to endorsing the plan for education or are you more than content having your secret exposed – I mean the natural order cannot be deceived right? So yes, or no?’

 

‘All right! All right!’ Mr. Kit acquiesced in frustration.

 

Just then Judge Firdous walked out.

 

‘What is going on? What is taking so long, Hiseff?’

 

But before she could get a look at the face that had been going through a range of hysterical moments, Mr. Kit made a beeline for the door and exclaimed, ‘Get inside fool! Firdous come on, let’s not waste any time!’

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER TWENTY --

Response

 

 

‘Hiseff? Have you lost it? We have spent billions, no, trillions of Silvernos on this project, and we do not plan on letting it all go to waste now,’ Judge Firdous said dramatically – as that really was a lot of currency they splashed on their computer espousal of the town.

‘I’m not saying we should get rid of it,’ Mr. Kit replied in a calmer tone that had been stripped, albeit to a certain extent, of its former haughtiness.

 

‘Well, this so called “education scheme” of theirs is going to jeopardise this! Do you really want to have more questions asked? Give them a hand, and they will ask for the whole arm…’

 

‘These people will not shut up unless we agree, out of our elitist graciousness, to help a little the unfortunate miscellaneous and those even more unfortunate to be born without an identity,’ he answered almost robotically.

 

I could not help but roll my eyes.

 

‘No, n-’ Judge Firdous began before being interrupted once again.

 

‘Look, Judge,’ I began, ‘Right Arrow has been rewritten. Completely rewritten with the introduction of the electronic systems. But that has literally left so many miscellaneous homeless and jobless with no means to provide for their families since they’re not allowed to pursue anything else given the way they look.’

 

‘What we have been trying to explain to you is that allowing these people the freedom to acquire the skills of other professions will help them to gain back a livelihood that was taken away from them,’ Ekene added eloquently and confidently.

 

‘The fact that they cannot get any more jobs is simply because they were born to perform the tasks that we were born to do. And the eliteratti owes no race any favours if they choose to enhance the quality of their lives, which the inferior biology can’t keep up with.’

 

I gave Mr. Kit a reproachful stare.

 

‘They will be allowed, Firdous,’ he said in a troubled, nervous, but defiantly decisive way, ‘my company will fund it.’

 

‘What?’ she blurted out once more. It was really a matter of great shock to her since her most vicious partner in crime had so suddenly turned the tables on her and she was left without any shade.

 

‘It is going to be a great charity I perform,’ Mr. Kit responded before clearing his throat of something, ‘it won’t be a problem, you’ll see,’ he lied.

 

‘It will be an extension of Izhar Academy,’ I tucked in to Mr. Kit’s glaring face and Judge Firdous’ look of sheer puzzlement.

 

Just then the courtroom doors opened, and in walked someone I had not imagined seeing, my father.

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER TWENTY ONE --

Synthesis

 

 

He walked with a stride I had never seen before. It was assertive. It was strong. It seemed like this transformed persona was the outcome of some ace undertaking. I could see my father rising above the Cimmerian shade.

 

We embraced. What timing! It was as if his arrival was truly through the work of some divine intervention, to reinforce fortitude.

 

‘Dad, how? What? I didn’t think you would come so soon! This is great!’ I exclaimed while hugging him, my eyes teary.

 

‘Ekene,’ he said turning to my new friend, ‘you provide a wonderful service. And your workers are swift and very diligent. Thank you for helping us reunite.’

 

‘We were always going to reunite, dad!’ I said, my hands holding on to his shoulders.

 

‘Yes, but in the middle of my travels, I kind of began to lose hope of ever seeing you again. Your letter, however, gave me the pep I needed. I rushed the moment I read the last word.’

 

‘What were you doing on your travels?’ Nin asked excitedly while Mr. Kit and Judge Firdous looked on. Dumbstruck.

 

‘Well, I started off with just retreating a little farther off to Left Arrow, in the nowhere regions of Silverns, trying to figure out what I had to do and how I could achieve it, when I met some incredible people along the way.’

 

‘Why should anyone in this room care about these incredible people?’ Judge Firdous asked impatiently.

 

‘Because these are the people you banished from here! And now they will be brought back!’

 

He went over to the doors, and said, ‘Come on in, friends.’

 

Mr. Kit inclined his neck to a pre-look at father’s surprise arrivals while Judge Firdous, quite obviously, leaned over her table, her eyebrows raised as if that would enhance her peripheral vision.

 

My friends, too, huddled around me, curious, waiting.

 

In walked a group of people who redefined the word unique. They appeared to be mergers of different professions. One man was half doctor, half clown. His right side was all yellow with pink polka dots, orange frizzy hair covering fifty percent of his head, while his left side was the flappy white coloured coat like skin, and brown hair on top of that section. These same features played a distinctive role on his face too. His nose was half bloated, and a green coloured semicircle, while the other was a regular nose, the kind majority of the professions had. There were only a few exceptions for more animated careers like that of clowning. His right shoe looked like a giant white banana that squeaked at a sort of low pitch, while the other was a standard black covering.

 

Two of the girls that entered had the top portion of their bodies in the typical uniform of the domestic help, like Catarina. A frilly white cap on their heads and black chests with a white apron, except the apron part never came around, since the abdominal succession resulted in two legs with dull blue flappy skins – the pants worn by nurses at hospitals.

 

There were four more of this exceptionally different group of people.

 

They were the “freaks”, the “outcasts”, the “deformed”.

 

‘Remember them, Judge?’ my dad asked.

 

Judge Firdous frowned.

 

‘You passed a law, the Silverns Code of Synthesis 7.3, that dictated every person born with a “deformity” or a mutation be dispelled from Silverns. But if only you realised how flawed your understanding of the profession you were born into really is. Guess not all the people born looking like something are that good at it.’

 

‘What are you on about!’ the enraged Judge demanded.

 

‘Because everyone is so scared around here to really look around and ask questions and figure matters out for themselves out of fear of being bludgeoned that they will blindly accept and get fed all that the so called professionals say since they feel they are the only body of authority, and hence completely right!’

 

Everyone in the room was caught in suspense. Father’s oratory skills had also skyrocketed.

 

‘When in reality, Judge,’ he continued, ‘the Silverns Code of Synthesis 7.3 actually dictates the amiable inclusion of those born with mixed professions. It is a celebration of their diversity!’

 

Ekene smiled.

 

The look of disbelief on Judge Firdous and Mr. Kit’s faces prompted my father to add casually, ‘Of course, I’d tell you to look it up but you’re the law expert not me. I’m the clown, remember?’

 

‘How dare you! Where did you get your insolence from?’ Judge Firdous asked in an unimpressive state.

 

‘From reading. You do like to code your law books don’t you? It is a good thing I figured my way around it. You see, I decided to pursue my dream after all and began to go through the basic law principles. It also helps when the librarian is a miscellaneous and agrees to not call the police on you when her entire faction is in mutiny. On my journey I discovered some great and wonderful things. And in that journey, nothing is more heartening when you receive a letter from your child telling you of all the great things being accomplished on the flip side of the coin. My child, I am really proud of you.’

 

I gave my parent a slight nod of thank you. In that moment we were unbounded, eternal.

 

‘This is ridiculous. I am being threatened in my own courtroom. I think it’s time to call security,’ Judge Firdous said to Mr. Kit.

 

‘No it is all right,’ he replied a little shakily, ‘whatever happened will remain here. We just need to agree to their, to their, uh, petition, and they will be gone. Right now it will be best to just let them go.’

 

Judge Firdous had nothing more to say except a repetition, ‘but why not imprison them?’ she asked meekly.

 

‘It is a big group and their friends know of all this in Left Arrow. We do not want them to rise in mutiny and destroy the computers now do we?’ Mr. Kit pleaded, ‘seriously just let them out. We, we’ll manage them, don’t worry.’

 

More than anything, the thought of having me, the only person apart from him to know what he really was, frightened him to no means, and he just wanted to escape so that a counteractive plan might be conceived.

 

And with that, Judge Firdous acceded to our demands. We left the courtroom. On our way now to implementing the education scheme and with Pervez Sahab’s help, we had the chance to do something truly historic.

 

My father had utilised whatever he was able to research on in the short amount of time, who knows now with the proper resources given to him, what he will be able to achieve. He had delivered the mutants like some great messiah! And this disenfranchising transcended any ordinary transcript that would otherwise have stated, with proof, his potential and his skills as a great lawyer.

 

Of course, the freedom that we all had at the moment will be short lived. The eliteratti will strike back. This time, with much sharper daggers. But we need to be ready for them. And ready, we will be.

 

 

 

-- CHAPTER TWENTY TWO --

Never Perfect, Always Striving

 

 

Indubitably, I was asked what in the world had passed between Mr. Kit and I outside the doors of the courtroom.

 

‘Whatever you said, changed him totally! Like some spell,’ Harris said.

 

‘Also I know my dad. Everyone knows my dad. He never listens!’ Jeter added.

 

‘He looked almost… afraid,’ Nin observed, ‘what happened?’

 

And each time I just stayed quiet. Whether this incident will remain hidden forever is not an assured fact, but no matter what the case, I gave my word in preserving it, so long as the eliteratti’s clutches will not interfere with what we intended to carry out to better the quality of our lives. Each moment was precious and there was no space for complacency. The battle for survival had only begun.

 

‘We… just came to an agreement. He saw how unrelenting we were and so gave us some time to prove ourselves,’ was the only answer I began using when the pestering would not stop.

 

It satisfied them for a while at least.

 

Part of the great improvements at Silverns was the introduction of Pervez Sahab’s education application. It was like an Izhar Academy part two. This branch was located in the cross road of Right Arrow and Left Arrow, allowing several students to join us from both factions.

 

We had some brilliant teachers. Of course Ekene, was given the coveted position as head of the institution and always prepared a sterling curriculum with specialised activities that assisted the easy acquisition of the subjects students wished to master, while getting a thorough understanding of other mediums as well.

 

Father also engaged more openly with law, and found it easier to revise and research given the many resources that were previously not available to him.

 

Badriya learned more about the performing arts and began to partake in several expressionistic enterprises as part of enhancing her craft.

 

Pervez Sahab often gave demonstrations of his many eccentric inventions and gained several apprentices who also wished to aid the old man in his quest to transform the world, one unique invention at a time.

 

My best friends Jeter, Nin and Harris also shifted to the institution. Harris would occasionally sit for some classes and examinations at the academy in Right Arrow, but mostly as a brand of support for his father who was teaching there. He is now known as Silverns’ medical prodigy – his performances in the field of science are absolutely impeccable! As a result of this, he provides brilliant services to many of the displaced people of Silverns who slowly but surely keep finding their way back into society and are accepted rather than shunned as before.

Nin published her novel and it proved to be a dynamic study on the idiosyncrasies of Silverns society. It was received sceptically by the eliteratti but was heralded by the miscellaneous. However, as a creative artist, she too is always prepared for the nuances of reception. And she had begun work on another piece of art.

 

Jeter, on the other hand, also began to be more expressive about himself and started writing poetry – some mighty soulful pieces indeed! They captured all the unsung emotions we had during our crazy adventure.

 

As for me, I decided to become a teacher. There was no greater profession that was more necessary for Silverns as the enlightenment received through knowledge, which was what carried us out of the caliginosity that had engulfed Silverns before.

 

But the road to teaching is not easy. It is challenging yet strengthening. And as for all the students who always keep learning, so do the teachers, because we cannot deny that as human beings we are always being schooled by life itself.

 

We are first, second, third, and everything in between.

 

There is never any perfection. Our struggles make us the best. And so long as we strive, we are already on the path to excellence.

 

Our story is always being written. There is no conclusion. And so, this narrative continues too.

 

 

 

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About the author:

 

Shaanzaè Shahid, a 21 year old budding Pakistani author has ventured into the writing sphere for the fourth time with her new novel. Her previous books Refraction of Beauty and Interference are published both online and in print edition. She was the youngest student on her English Literature course Brontës from Oxford University and has successfully completed two courses from Harvard University, namely Justice and The Ancient Greek Hero. She has been a panellist at the Lahore Khayaal Creative Network Literary Festival twice and has spoken on the power of writing at the Lahore American School and the Lahore Grammar School, along with being a guest judge for a reading competition held at Learning Alliance.

 

 

Also read her other ebook publications:

1- The Magic Building

 

2- Refraction of Beauty

 

3- Interference

 

 

[Connect with the Author:
**]

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: twitter.com/shaanzaeshahid

 

 


The Silver Cry

In the town of Silverns, you are born looking like the profession you are meant to have in life. If you are born looking like the type A professions of medicine, engineering or for instance, law, you are automatically a part of the “eliteratti” and are certified golden from birth. However, if you are born looking like something else, the other remaining “miscellaneous” professions, then that is just bad luck because you are forever stuck looking like a number two and must stick to being a number two. In a novel that pecks away at society’s obsession with binaries and perfection, embark on a journey that celebrates the fluidity of life and how there is always more to a person than what meets the eye.

  • ISBN: 9781370634064
  • Author: Vohh
  • Published: 2017-04-10 18:50:16
  • Words: 47268
The Silver Cry The Silver Cry