by Ayn Rand
It is a sin to write this. It is a sin to think words no others think and
to put them down upon a paper no others are to see. It is base and evil.
It is as if we were speaking alone to no ears but our own. And we know
well that there is no transgression blacker than to do or think alone. We
have broken the laws. The laws say that men may not write unless the
Council of Vocations bid them so. May we be forgiven!
But this is not the only sin upon us. We have committed a greater crime,
and for this crime there is no name. What punishment awaits us if it be
discovered we know not, for no such crime has come in the memory of men
and there are no laws to provide for it.
It is dark here. The flame of the candle stands still in the air. Nothing
moves in this tunnel save our hand on the paper. We are alone here under
the earth. It is a fearful word, alone. The laws say that none among men
may be alone, ever and at any time, for this is the great transgression
and the root of all evil. But we have broken many laws. And now there is
nothing here save our one body, and it is strange to see only two legs
stretched on the ground, and on the wall before us the shadow of our one
The walls are cracked and water runs upon them in thin threads without
sound, black and glistening as blood. We stole the candle from the larder
of the Home of the Street Sweepers. We shall be sentenced to ten years in
the Palace of Corrective Detention if it be discovered. But this matters
not. It matters only that the light is precious and we should not waste it
to write when we need it for that work which is our crime. Nothing matters
save the work, our secret, our evil, our precious work. Still, we must
also write, for—may the Council have mercy upon us!—we wish to
speak for once to no ears but our own.
Our name is Equality 7-2521, as it is written on the iron bracelet which
all men wear on their left wrists with their names upon it. We are
twenty-one years old. We are six feet tall, and this is a burden, for
there are not many men who are six feet tall. Ever have the Teachers and
the Leaders pointed to us and frowned and said:
"There is evil in your bones, Equality 7-2521, for your body has grown
beyond the bodies of your brothers." But we cannot change our bones nor
We were born with a curse. It has always driven us to thoughts which are
forbidden. It has always given us wishes which men may not wish. We know
that we are evil, but there is no will in us and no power to resist it.
This is our wonder and our secret fear, that we know and do not resist.
We strive to be like all our brother men, for all men must be alike. Over
the portals of the Palace of the World Council, there are words cut in the
marble, which we repeat to ourselves whenever we are tempted:
"WE ARE ONE IN ALL AND ALL IN ONE.
THERE ARE NO MEN BUT ONLY THE GREAT WE,
ONE, INDIVISIBLE AND FOREVER."
We repeat this to ourselves, but it helps us not.
These words were cut long ago. There is green mould in the grooves of the
letters and yellow streaks on the marble, which come from more years than
men could count. And these words are the truth, for they are written on
the Palace of the World Council, and the World Council is the body of all
truth. Thus has it been ever since the Great Rebirth, and farther back
than that no memory can reach.
But we must never speak of the times before the Great Rebirth, else we are
sentenced to three years in the Palace of Corrective Detention. It is only
the Old Ones who whisper about it in the evenings, in the Home of the
Useless. They whisper many strange things, of the towers which rose to the
sky, in those Unmentionable Times, and of the wagons which moved without
horses, and of the lights which burned without flame. But those times were
evil. And those times passed away, when men saw the Great Truth which is
this: that all men are one and that there is no will save the will of all
All men are good and wise. It is only we, Equality 7-2521, we alone who
were born with a curse. For we are not like our brothers. And as we look
back upon our life, we see that it has ever been thus and that it has
brought us step by step to our last, supreme transgression, our crime of
crimes hidden here under the ground.
We remember the Home of the Infants where we lived till we were five years
old, together with all the children of the City who had been born in the
same year. The sleeping halls there were white and clean and bare of all
things save one hundred beds. We were just like all our brothers then,
save for the one transgression: we fought with our brothers. There are few
offenses blacker than to fight with our brothers, at any age and for any
cause whatsoever. The Council of the Home told us so, and of all the
children of that year, we were locked in the cellar most often.
When we were five years old, we were sent to the Home of the Students,
where there are ten wards, for our ten years of learning. Men must learn
till they reach their fifteenth year. Then they go to work. In the Home of
the Students we arose when the big bell rang in the tower and we went to
our beds when it rang again. Before we removed our garments, we stood in
the great sleeping hall, and we raised our right arms, and we said all
together with the three Teachers at the head:
"We are nothing. Mankind is all. By the grace of our brothers are we
allowed our lives. We exist through, by and for our brothers who are the
Then we slept. The sleeping halls were white and clean and bare of all
things save one hundred beds.
We, Equality 7-2521, were not happy in those years in the Home of the
Students. It was not that the learning was too hard for us. It was that
the learning was too easy. This is a great sin, to be born with a head
which is too quick. It is not good to be different from our brothers, but
it is evil to be superior to them. The Teachers told us so, and they
frowned when they looked upon us.
So we fought against this curse. We tried to forget our lessons, but we
always remembered. We tried not to understand what the Teachers taught,
but we always understood it before the Teachers had spoken. We looked upon
Union 5-3992, who were a pale boy with only half a brain, and we tried to
say and do as they did, that we might be like them, like Union 5-3992, but
somehow the Teachers knew that we were not. And we were lashed more often
than all the other children.
The Teachers were just, for they had been appointed by the Councils, and
the Councils are the voice of all justice, for they are the voice of all
men. And if sometimes, in the secret darkness of our heart, we regret that
which befell us on our fifteenth birthday, we know that it was through our
own guilt. We had broken a law, for we had not paid heed to the words of
our Teachers. The Teachers had said to us all:
"Dare not choose in your minds the work you would like to do when you
leave the Home of the Students. You shall do that which the Council of
Vocations shall prescribe for you. For the Council of Vocations knows in
its great wisdom where you are needed by your brother men, better than you
can know it in your unworthy little minds. And if you are not needed by
your brother man, there is no reason for you to burden the earth with your
We knew this well, in the years of our childhood, but our curse broke our
will. We were guilty and we confess it here: we were guilty of the great
Transgression of Preference. We preferred some work and some lessons to
the others. We did not listen well to the history of all the Councils
elected since the Great Rebirth. But we loved the Science of Things. We
wished to know. We wished to know about all the things which make the
earth around us. We asked so many questions that the Teachers forbade it.
We think that there are mysteries in the sky and under the water and in
the plants which grow. But the Council of Scholars has said that there are
no mysteries, and the Council of Scholars knows all things. And we learned
much from our Teachers. We learned that the earth is flat and that the sun
revolves around it, which causes the day and the night. We learned the
names of all the winds which blow over the seas and push the sails of our
great ships. We learned how to bleed men to cure them of all ailments.
We loved the Science of Things. And in the darkness, in the secret hour,
when we awoke in the night and there were no brothers around us, but only
their shapes in the beds and their snores, we closed our eyes, and we held
our lips shut, and we stopped our breath, that no shudder might let our
brothers see or hear or guess, and we thought that we wished to be sent to
the Home of the Scholars when our time would come.
All the great modern inventions come from the Home of the Scholars, such
as the newest one, which was found only a hundred years ago, of how to
make candles from wax and string; also, how to make glass, which is put in
our windows to protect us from the rain. To find these things, the
Scholars must study the earth and learn from the rivers, from the sands,
from the winds and the rocks. And if we went to the Home of the Scholars,
we could learn from these also. We could ask questions of these, for they
do not forbid questions.
And questions give us no rest. We know not why our curse makes us seek we
know not what, ever and ever. But we cannot resist it. It whispers to us
that there are great things on this earth of ours, and that we can know
them if we try, and that we must know them. We ask, why must we know, but
it has no answer to give us. We must know that we may know.
So we wished to be sent to the Home of the Scholars. We wished it so much
that our hands trembled under the blankets in the night, and we bit our
arm to stop that other pain which we could not endure. It was evil and we
dared not face our brothers in the morning. For men may wish nothing for
themselves. And we were punished when the Council of Vocations came to
give us our life Mandates which tell those who reach their fifteenth year
what their work is to be for the rest of their days.
The Council of Vocations came on the first day of spring, and they sat in
the great hall. And we who were fifteen and all the Teachers came into the
great hall. And the Council of Vocations sat on a high dais, and they had
but two words to speak to each of the Students. They called the Students'
names, and when the Students stepped before them, one after another, the
Council said: "Carpenter" or "Doctor" or "Cook" or "Leader." Then each
Student raised their right arm and said: "The will of our brothers be
Now if the Council has said "Carpenter" or "Cook," the Students so
assigned go to work and they do not study any further. But if the Council
has said "Leader," then those Students go into the Home of the Leaders,
which is the greatest house in the City, for it has three stories. And
there they study for many years, so that they may become candidates and be
elected to the City Council and the State Council and the World Council—by
a free and general vote of all men. But we wished not to be a Leader, even
though it is a great honor. We wished to be a Scholar.
So we awaited our turn in the great hall and then we heard the Council of
Vocations call our name: "Equality 7-2521." We walked to the dais, and our
legs did not tremble, and we looked up at the Council. There were five
members of the Council, three of the male gender and two of the female.
Their hair was white and their faces were cracked as the clay of a dry
river bed. They were old. They seemed older than the marble of the Temple
of the World Council. They sat before us and they did not move. And we saw
no breath to stir the folds of their white togas. But we knew that they
were alive, for a finger of the hand of the oldest rose, pointed to us,
and fell down again. This was the only thing which moved, for the lips of
the oldest did not move as they said: "Street Sweeper."
We felt the cords of our neck grow tight as our head rose higher to look
upon the faces of the Council, and we were happy. We knew we had been
guilty, but now we had a way to atone for it. We would accept our Life
Mandate, and we would work for our brothers, gladly and willingly, and we
would erase our sin against them, which they did not know, but we knew. So
we were happy, and proud of ourselves and of our victory over ourselves.
We raised our right arm and we spoke, and our voice was the clearest, the
steadiest voice in the hall that day, and we said:
"The will of our brothers be done."
And we looked straight into the eyes of the Council, but their eyes were
as cold blue glass buttons.
So we went into the Home of the Street Sweepers. It is a grey house on a
narrow street. There is a sundial in its courtyard, by which the Council
of the Home can tell the hours of the day and when to ring the bell. When
the bell rings, we all arise from our beds. The sky is green and cold in
our windows to the east. The shadow on the sundial marks off a half-hour
while we dress and eat our breakfast in the dining hall, where there are
five long tables with twenty clay plates and twenty clay cups on each
table. Then we go to work in the streets of the City, with our brooms and
our rakes. In five hours, when the sun is high, we return to the Home and
we eat our midday meal, for which one-half hour is allowed. Then we go to
work again. In five hours, the shadows are blue on the pavements, and the
sky is blue with a deep brightness which is not bright. We come back to
have our dinner, which lasts one hour. Then the bell rings and we walk in
a straight column to one of the City Halls, for the Social Meeting. Other
columns of men arrive from the Homes of the different Trades. The candles
are lit, and the Councils of the different Homes stand in a pulpit, and
they speak to us of our duties and of our brother men. Then visiting
Leaders mount the pulpit and they read to us the speeches which were made
in the City Council that day, for the City Council represents all men and
all men must know. Then we sing hymns, the Hymn of Brotherhood, and the
Hymn of Equality, and the Hymn of the Collective Spirit. The sky is a
soggy purple when we return to the Home. Then the bell rings and we walk
in a straight column to the City Theatre for three hours of Social
Recreation. There a play is shown upon the stage, with two great choruses
from the Home of the Actors, which speak and answer all together, in two
great voices. The plays are about toil and how good it is. Then we walk
back to the Home in a straight column. The sky is like a black sieve
pierced by silver drops that tremble, ready to burst through. The moths
beat against the street lanterns. We go to our beds and we sleep, till the
bell rings again. The sleeping halls are white and clean and bare of all
things save one hundred beds.
Thus have we lived each day of four years, until two springs ago when our
crime happened. Thus must all men live until they are forty. At forty,
they are worn out. At forty, they are sent to the Home of the Useless,
where the Old Ones live. The Old Ones do not work, for the State takes
care of them. They sit in the sun in summer and they sit by the fire in
winter. They do not speak often, for they are weary. The Old Ones know
that they are soon to die. When a miracle happens and some live to be
forty-five, they are the Ancient Ones, and the children stare at them when
passing by the Home of the Useless. Such is to be our life, as that of all
our brothers and of the brothers who came before us.
Such would have been our life, had we not committed our crime which
changed all things for us. And it was our curse which drove us to our
crime. We had been a good Street Sweeper and like all our brother Street
Sweepers, save for our cursed wish to know. We looked too long at the
stars at night, and at the trees and the earth. And when we cleaned the
yard of the Home of the Scholars, we gathered the glass vials, the pieces
of metal, the dried bones which they had discarded. We wished to keep
these things and to study them, but we had no place to hide them. So we
carried them to the City Cesspool. And then we made the discovery.
It was on a day of the spring before last. We Street Sweepers work in
brigades of three, and we were with Union 5-3992, they of the half-brain,
and with International 4-8818. Now Union 5-3992 are a sickly lad and
sometimes they are stricken with convulsions, when their mouth froths and
their eyes turn white. But International 4-8818 are different. They are a
tall, strong youth and their eyes are like fireflies, for there is
laughter in their eyes. We cannot look upon International 4-8818 and not
smile in answer. For this they were not liked in the Home of the Students,
as it is not proper to smile without reason. And also they were not liked
because they took pieces of coal and they drew pictures upon the walls,
and they were pictures which made men laugh. But it is only our brothers
in the Home of the Artists who are permitted to draw pictures, so
International 4-8818 were sent to the Home of the Street Sweepers, like
International 4-8818 and we are friends. This is an evil thing to say, for
it is a transgression, the great Transgression of Preference, to love any
among men better than the others, since we must love all men and all men
are our friends. So International 4-8818 and we have never spoken of it.
But we know. We know, when we look into each other's eyes. And when we
look thus without words, we both know other things also, strange things
for which there are no words, and these things frighten us.
So on that day of the spring before last, Union 5-3992 were stricken with
convulsions on the edge of the City, near the City Theatre. We left them
to lie in the shade of the Theatre tent and we went with International
4-8818 to finish our work. We came together to the great ravine behind the
Theatre. It is empty save for trees and weeds. Beyond the ravine there is
a plain, and beyond the plain there lies the Uncharted Forest, about which
men must not think.
We were gathering the papers and the rags which the wind had blown from
the Theatre, when we saw an iron bar among the weeds. It was old and
rusted by many rains. We pulled with all our strength, but we could not
move it. So we called International 4-8818, and together we scraped the
earth around the bar. Of a sudden the earth fell in before us, and we saw
an old iron grill over a black hole.
International 4-8818 stepped back. But we pulled at the grill and it gave
way. And then we saw iron rings as steps leading down a shaft into a
darkness without bottom.
"We shall go down," we said to International 4-8818.
"It is forbidden," they answered.
We said: "The Council does not know of this hole, so it cannot be
And they answered: "Since the Council does not know of this hole, there
can be no law permitting to enter it. And everything which is not
permitted by law is forbidden."
But we said: "We shall go, none the less."
They were frightened, but they stood by and watched us go.
We hung on the iron rings with our hands and our feet. We could see
nothing below us. And above us the hole open upon the sky grew smaller and
smaller, till it came to be the size of a button. But still we went down.
Then our foot touched the ground. We rubbed our eyes, for we could not
see. Then our eyes became used to the darkness, but we could not believe
what we saw.
No men known to us could have built this place, nor the men known to our
brothers who lived before us, and yet it was built by men. It was a great
tunnel. Its walls were hard and smooth to the touch; it felt like stone,
but it was not stone. On the ground there were long thin tracks of iron,
but it was not iron; it felt smooth and cold as glass. We knelt, and we
crawled forward, our hand groping along the iron line to see where it
would lead. But there was an unbroken night ahead. Only the iron tracks
glowed through it, straight and white, calling us to follow. But we could
not follow, for we were losing the puddle of light behind us. So we turned
and we crawled back, our hand on the iron line. And our heart beat in our
fingertips, without reason. And then we knew.
We knew suddenly that this place was left from the Unmentionable Times. So
it was true, and those Times had been, and all the wonders of those Times.
Hundreds upon hundreds of years ago men knew secrets which we have lost.
And we thought: "This is a foul place. They are damned who touch the
things of the Unmentionable Times." But our hand which followed the track,
as we crawled, clung to the iron as if it would not leave it, as if the
skin of our hand were thirsty and begging of the metal some secret fluid
beating in its coldness.
We returned to the earth. International 4-8818 looked upon us and stepped
"Equality 7-2521," they said, "your face is white."
But we could not speak and we stood looking upon them.
They backed away, as if they dared not touch us. Then they smiled, but it
was not a gay smile; it was lost and pleading. But still we could not
speak. Then they said:
"We shall report our find to the City Council and both of us will be
And then we spoke. Our voice was hard and there was no mercy in our voice.
"We shall not report our find to the City Council. We shall not report it
to any men."
They raised their hands to their ears, for never had they heard such words
"International 4-8818," we asked, "will you report us to the Council and
see us lashed to death before your eyes?"
They stood straight all of a sudden and they answered: "Rather would we
"Then," we said, "keep silent. This place is ours. This place belongs to
us, Equality 7-2521, and to no other men on earth. And if ever we
surrender it, we shall surrender our life with it also."
Then we saw that the eyes of International 4-8818 were full to the lids
with tears they dared not drop. They whispered, and their voice trembled,
so that their words lost all shape:
"The will of the Council is above all things, for it is the will of our
brothers, which is holy. But if you wish it so, we shall obey you. Rather
shall we be evil with you than good with all our brothers. May the Council
have mercy upon both our hearts!"
Then we walked away together and back to the Home of the Street Sweepers.
And we walked in silence.
Thus did it come to pass that each night, when the stars are high and the
Street Sweepers sit in the City Theatre, we, Equality 7-2521, steal out
and run through the darkness to our place. It is easy to leave the
Theatre; when the candles are blown out and the Actors come onto the
stage, no eyes can see us as we crawl under our seat and under the cloth
of the tent. Later, it is easy to steal through the shadows and fall in
line next to International 4-8818, as the column leaves the Theatre. It is
dark in the streets and there are no men about, for no men may walk
through the City when they have no mission to walk there. Each night, we
run to the ravine, and we remove the stones which we have piled upon the
iron grill to hide it from the men. Each night, for three hours, we are
under the earth, alone.
We have stolen candles from the Home of the Street Sweepers, we have
stolen flints and knives and paper, and we have brought them to this
place. We have stolen glass vials and powders and acids from the Home of
the Scholars. Now we sit in the tunnel for three hours each night and we
study. We melt strange metals, and we mix acids, and we cut open the
bodies of the animals which we find in the City Cesspool. We have built an
oven of the bricks we gathered in the streets. We burn the wood we find in
the ravine. The fire flickers in the oven and blue shadows dance upon the
walls, and there is no sound of men to disturb us.
We have stolen manuscripts. This is a great offense. Manuscripts are
precious, for our brothers in the Home of the Clerks spend one year to
copy one single script in their clear handwriting. Manuscripts are rare
and they are kept in the Home of the Scholars. So we sit under the earth
and we read the stolen scripts. Two years have passed since we found this
place. And in these two years we have learned more than we had learned in
the ten years of the Home of the Students.
We have learned things which are not in the scripts. We have solved
secrets of which the Scholars have no knowledge. We have come to see how
great is the unexplored, and many lifetimes will not bring us to the end
of our quest. But we wish no end to our quest. We wish nothing, save to be
alone and to learn, and to feel as if with each day our sight were growing
sharper than the hawk's and clearer than rock crystal.
Strange are the ways of evil. We are false in the faces of our brothers.
We are defying the will of our Councils. We alone, of the thousands who
walk this earth, we alone in this hour are doing a work which has no
purpose save that we wish to do it. The evil of our crime is not for the
human mind to probe. The nature of our punishment, if it be discovered, is
not for the human heart to ponder. Never, not in the memory of the Ancient
Ones' Ancients, never have men done that which we are doing.
And yet there is no shame in us and no regret. We say to ourselves that we
are a wretch and a traitor. But we feel no burden upon our spirit and no
fear in our heart. And it seems to us that our spirit is clear as a lake
troubled by no eyes save those of the sun. And in our heart—strange
are the ways of evil!—in our heart there is the first peace we have
known in twenty years.
Liberty 5-3000... Liberty five-three thousand ... Liberty 5-3000....
We wish to write this name. We wish to speak it, but we dare not speak it
above a whisper. For men are forbidden to take notice of women, and women
are forbidden to take notice of men. But we think of one among women, they
whose name is Liberty 5-3000, and we think of no others. The women who
have been assigned to work the soil live in the Homes of the Peasants
beyond the City. Where the City ends there is a great road winding off to
the north, and we Street Sweepers must keep this road clean to the first
milepost. There is a hedge along the road, and beyond the hedge lie the
fields. The fields are black and ploughed, and they lie like a great fan
before us, with their furrows gathered in some hand beyond the sky,
spreading forth from that hand, opening wide apart as they come toward us,
like black pleats that sparkle with thin, green spangles. Women work in
the fields, and their white tunics in the wind are like the wings of
sea-gulls beating over the black soil.
And there it was that we saw Liberty 5-3000 walking along the furrows.
Their body was straight and thin as a blade of iron. Their eyes were dark
and hard and glowing, with no fear in them, no kindness and no guilt.
Their hair was golden as the sun; their hair flew in the wind, shining and
wild, as if it defied men to restrain it. They threw seeds from their hand
as if they deigned to fling a scornful gift, and the earth was a beggar
under their feet.
We stood still; for the first time did we know fear, and then pain. And we
stood still that we might not spill this pain more precious than pleasure.
Then we heard a voice from the others call their name: "Liberty 5-3000,"
and they turned and walked back. Thus we learned their name, and we stood
watching them go, till their white tunic was lost in the blue mist.
And the following day, as we came to the northern road, we kept our eyes
upon Liberty 5-3000 in the field. And each day thereafter we knew the
illness of waiting for our hour on the northern road. And there we looked
at Liberty 5-3000 each day. We know not whether they looked at us also,
but we think they did. Then one day they came close to the hedge, and
suddenly they turned to us. They turned in a whirl and the movement of
their body stopped, as if slashed off, as suddenly as it had started. They
stood still as a stone, and they looked straight upon us, straight into
our eyes. There was no smile on their face, and no welcome. But their face
was taut, and their eyes were dark. Then they turned as swiftly, and they
walked away from us.
But the following day, when we came to the road, they smiled. They smiled
to us and for us. And we smiled in answer. Their head fell back, and their
arms fell, as if their arms and their thin white neck were stricken
suddenly with a great lassitude. They were not looking upon us, but upon
the sky. Then they glanced at us over their shoulder, as we felt as if a
hand had touched our body, slipping softly from our lips to our feet.
Every morning thereafter, we greeted each other with our eyes. We dared
not speak. It is a transgression to speak to men of other Trades, save in
groups at the Social Meetings. But once, standing at the hedge, we raised
our hand to our forehead and then moved it slowly, palm down, toward
Liberty 5-3000. Had the others seen it, they could have guessed nothing,
for it looked only as if we were shading our eyes from the sun. But
Liberty 5-3000 saw it and understood. They raised their hand to their
forehead and moved it as we had. Thus, each day, we greet Liberty 5-3000,
and they answer, and no men can suspect.
We do not wonder at this new sin of ours. It is our second Transgression
of Preference, for we do not think of all our brothers, as we must, but
only of one, and their name is Liberty 5-3000. We do not know why we think
of them. We do not know why, when we think of them, we feel all of a
sudden that the earth is good and that it is not a burden to live. We do
not think of them as Liberty 5-3000 any longer. We have given them a name
in our thoughts. We call them the Golden One. But it is a sin to give men
names which distinguish them from other men. Yet we call them the Golden
One, for they are not like the others. The Golden One are not like the
And we take no heed of the law which says that men may not think of women,
save at the Time of Mating. This is the time each spring when all the men
older than twenty and all the women older than eighteen are sent for one
night to the City Palace of Mating. And each of the men have one of the
women assigned to them by the Council of Eugenics. Children are born each
winter, but women never see their children and children never know their
parents. Twice have we been sent to the Palace of Mating, but it is an
ugly and shameful matter, of which we do not like to think.
We had broken so many laws, and today we have broken one more. Today, we
spoke to the Golden One.
The other women were far off in the field, when we stopped at the hedge by
the side of the road. The Golden One were kneeling alone at the moat which
runs through the field. And the drops of water falling from their hands,
as they raised the water to their lips, were like sparks of fire in the
sun. Then the Golden One saw us, and they did not move, kneeling there,
looking at us, and circles of light played upon their white tunic, from
the sun on the water of the moat, and one sparkling drop fell from a
finger of their hand held as frozen in the air.
Then the Golden One rose and walked to the hedge, as if they had heard a
command in our eyes. The two other Street Sweepers of our brigade were a
hundred paces away down the road. And we thought that International 4-8818
would not betray us, and Union 5-3992 would not understand. So we looked
straight upon the Golden One, and we saw the shadows of their lashes on
their white cheeks and the sparks of sun on their lips. And we said:
"You are beautiful, Liberty 5-3000."
Their face did not move and they did not avert their eyes. Only their eyes
grew wider, and there was triumph in their eyes, and it was not triumph
over us, but over things we could not guess.
Then they asked:
"What is your name?"
"Equality 7-2521," we answered.
"You are not one of our brothers, Equality 7-2521, for we do not wish you
We cannot say what they meant, for there are no words for their meaning,
but we know it without words and we knew it then.
"No," we answered, "nor are you one of our sisters."
"If you see us among scores of women, will you look upon us?"
"We shall look upon you, Liberty 5-3000, if we see you among all the women
of the earth."
Then they asked:
"Are Street Sweepers sent to different parts of the City or do they always
work in the same places?"
"They always work in the same places," we answered, "and no one will take
this road away from us."
"Your eyes," they said, "are not like the eyes of any among men."
And suddenly, without cause for the thought which came to us, we felt
cold, cold to our stomach.
"How old are you?" we asked.
They understood our thought, for they lowered their eyes for the first
"Seventeen," they whispered.
And we sighed, as if a burden had been taken from us, for we had been
thinking without reason of the Palace of Mating. And we thought that we
would not let the Golden One be sent to the Palace. How to prevent it, how
to bar the will of the Councils, we knew not, but we knew suddenly that we
would. Only we do not know why such thought came to us, for these ugly
matters bear no relation to us and the Golden One. What relation can they
Still, without reason, as we stood there by the hedge, we felt our lips
drawn tight with hatred, a sudden hatred for all our brother men. And the
Golden One saw it and smiled slowly, and there was in their smile the
first sadness we had seen in them. We think that in the wisdom of women
the Golden One had understood more than we can understand.
Then three of the sisters in the field appeared, coming toward the road,
so the Golden One walked away from us. They took the bag of seeds, and
they threw the seeds into the furrows of earth as they walked away. But
the seeds flew wildly, for the hand of the Golden One was trembling.
Yet as we walked back to the Home of the Street Sweepers, we felt that we
wanted to sing, without reason. So we were reprimanded tonight, in the
dining hall, for without knowing it we had begun to sing aloud some tune
we had never heard. But it is not proper to sing without reason, save at
the Social Meetings.
"We are singing because we are happy," we answered the one of the Home
Council who reprimanded us.
"Indeed you are happy," they answered. "How else can men be when they live
for their brothers?"
And now, sitting here in our tunnel, we wonder about these words. It is
forbidden, not to be happy. For, as it has been explained to us, men are
free and the earth belongs to them; and all things on earth belong to all
men; and the will of all men together is good for all; and so all men must
Yet as we stand at night in the great hall, removing our garments for
sleep, we look upon our brothers and we wonder. The heads of our brothers
are bowed. The eyes of our brothers are dull, and never do they look one
another in the eyes. The shoulders of our brothers are hunched, and their
muscles are drawn, as if their bodies were shrinking and wished to shrink
out of sight. And a word steals into our mind, as we look upon our
brothers, and that word is fear.
There is fear hanging in the air of the sleeping halls, and in the air of
the streets. Fear walks through the City, fear without name, without
shape. All men feel it and none dare to speak.
We feel it also, when we are in the Home of the Street Sweepers. But here,
in our tunnel, we feel it no longer. The air is pure under the ground.
There is no odor of men. And these three hours give us strength for our
hours above the ground.
Our body is betraying us, for the Council of the Home looks with suspicion
upon us. It is not good to feel too much joy nor to be glad that our body
lives. For we matter not and it must not matter to us whether we live or
die, which is to be as our brothers will it. But we, Equality 7-2521, are
glad to be living. If this is a vice, then we wish no virtue.
Yet our brothers are not like us. All is not well with our brothers. There
are Fraternity 2-5503, a quiet boy with wise, kind eyes, who cry suddenly,
without reason, in the midst of day or night, and their body shakes with
sobs they cannot explain. There are Solidarity 9-6347, who are a bright
youth, without fear in the day; but they scream in their sleep, and they
scream: "Help us! Help us! Help us!" into the night, in a voice which
chills our bones, but the Doctors cannot cure Solidarity 9-6347.
And as we all undress at night, in the dim light of the candles, our
brothers are silent, for they dare not speak the thoughts of their minds.
For all must agree with all, and they cannot know if their thoughts are
the thoughts of all, and so they fear to speak. And they are glad when the
candles are blown for the night. But we, Equality 7-2521, look through the
window upon the sky, and there is peace in the sky, and cleanliness, and
dignity. And beyond the City there lies the plain, and beyond the plain,
black upon the black sky, there lies the Uncharted Forest.
We do not wish to look upon the Uncharted Forest. We do not wish to think
of it. But ever do our eyes return to that black patch upon the sky. Men
never enter the Uncharted Forest, for there is no power to explore it and
no path to lead among its ancient trees which stand as guards of fearful
secrets. It is whispered that once or twice in a hundred years, one among
the men of the City escape alone and run to the Uncharted Forest, without
call or reason. These men do not return. They perish from hunger and from
the claws of the wild beasts which roam the Forest. But our Councils say
that this is only a legend. We have heard that there are many Uncharted
Forests over the land, among the Cities. And it is whispered that they
have grown over the ruins of many cities of the Unmentionable Times. The
trees have swallowed the ruins, and the bones under the ruins, and all the
things which perished. And as we look upon the Uncharted Forest far in the
night, we think of the secrets of the Unmentionable Times. And we wonder
how it came to pass that these secrets were lost to the world. We have
heard the legends of the great fighting, in which many men fought on one
side and only a few on the other. These few were the Evil Ones and they
were conquered. Then great fires raged over the land. And in these fires
the Evil Ones and all the things made by the Evil Ones were burned. And
the fire which is called the Dawn of the Great Rebirth, was the Script
Fire where all the scripts of the Evil Ones were burned, and with them all
the words of the Evil Ones. Great mountains of flame stood in the squares
of the Cities for three months. Then came the Great Rebirth.
The words of the Evil Ones... The words of the Unmentionable Times... What
are the words which we have lost?
May the Council have mercy upon us! We had no wish to write such a
question, and we knew not what we were doing till we had written it. We
shall not ask this question and we shall not think it. We shall not call
death upon our head.
And yet... And yet... There is some word, one single word which is not in
the language of men, but which had been. And this is the Unspeakable Word,
which no men may speak nor hear. But sometimes, and it is rare, sometimes,
somewhere, one among men find that word. They find it upon scraps of old
manuscripts or cut into the fragments of ancient stones. But when they
speak it they are put to death. There is no crime punished by death in
this world, save this one crime of speaking the Unspeakable Word.
We have seen one of such men burned alive in the square of the City. And
it was a sight which has stayed with us through the years, and it haunts
us, and follows us, and it gives us no rest. We were a child then, ten
years old. And we stood in the great square with all the children and all
the men of the City, sent to behold the burning. They brought the
Transgressor out into the square and they led them to the pyre. They had
torn out the tongue of the Transgressor, so that they could speak no
longer. The Transgressor were young and tall. They had hair of gold and
eyes blue as morning. They walked to the pyre, and their step did not
falter. And of all the faces on that square, of all the faces which
shrieked and screamed and spat curses upon them, theirs was the calmest
and the happiest face.
As the chains were wound over their body at the stake, and a flame set to
the pyre, the Transgressor looked upon the City. There was a thin thread
of blood running from the corner of their mouth, but their lips were
smiling. And a monstrous thought came to us then, which has never left us.
We had heard of Saints. There are the Saints of Labor, and the Saints of
the Councils, and the Saints of the Great Rebirth. But we had never seen a
Saint nor what the likeness of a Saint should be. And we thought then,
standing in the square, that the likeness of a Saint was the face we saw
before us in the flames, the face of the Transgressor of the Unspeakable
As the flames rose, a thing happened which no eyes saw but ours, else we
would not be living today. Perhaps it had only seemed to us. But it seemed
to us that the eyes of the Transgressor had chosen us from the crowd and
were looking straight upon us. There was no pain in their eyes and no
knowledge of the agony of their body. There was only joy in them, and
pride, a pride holier than is fit for human pride to be. And it seemed as
if these eyes were trying to tell us something through the flames, to send
into our eyes some word without sound. And it seemed as if these eyes were
begging us to gather that word and not to let it go from us and from the
earth. But the flames rose and we could not guess the word....
What—even if we have to burn for it like the Saint of the Pyre—what
is the Unspeakable Word?
We, Equality 7-2521, have discovered a new power of nature. And we have
discovered it alone, and we alone are to know it.
It is said. Now let us be lashed for it, if we must. The Council of
Scholars has said that we all know the things which exist and therefore
the things which are not known by all do not exist. But we think that the
Council of Scholars is blind. The secrets of this earth are not for all
men to see, but only for those who will seek them. We know, for we have
found a secret unknown to all our brothers.
We know not what this power is nor whence it comes. But we know its
nature, we have watched it and worked with it. We saw it first two years
ago. One night, we were cutting open the body of a dead frog when we saw
its leg jerking. It was dead, yet it moved. Some power unknown to men was
making it move. We could not understand it. Then, after many tests, we
found the answer. The frog had been hanging on a wire of copper; and it
had been the metal of our knife which had sent the strange power to the
copper through the brine of the frog's body. We put a piece of copper and
a piece of zinc into a jar of brine, we touched a wire to them, and there,
under our fingers, was a miracle which had never occurred before, a new
miracle and a new power.
This discovery haunted us. We followed it in preference to all our
studies. We worked with it, we tested it in more ways than we can
describe, and each step was as another miracle unveiling before us. We
came to know that we had found the greatest power on earth. For it defies
all the laws known to men. It makes the needle move and turn on the
compass which we stole from the Home of the Scholars; but we had been
taught, when still a child, that the loadstone points to the north and
that this is a law which nothing can change; yet our new power defies all
laws. We found that it causes lightning, and never have men known what
causes lightning. In thunderstorms, we raised a tall rod of iron by the
side of our hole, and we watched it from below. We have seen the lightning
strike it again and again. And now we know that metal draws the power of
the sky, and that metal can be made to give it forth.
We have built strange things with this discovery of ours. We used for it
the copper wires which we found here under the ground. We have walked the
length of our tunnel, with a candle lighting the way. We could go no
farther than half a mile, for earth and rock had fallen at both ends. But
we gathered all the things we found and we brought them to our work place.
We found strange boxes with bars of metal inside, with many cords and
strands and coils of metal. We found wires that led to strange little
globes of glass on the walls; they contained threads of metal thinner than
a spider's web.
These things help us in our work. We do not understand them, but we think
that the men of the Unmentionable Times had known our power of the sky,
and these things had some relation to it. We do not know, but we shall
learn. We cannot stop now, even though it frightens us that we are alone
in our knowledge.
No single one can possess greater wisdom than the many Scholars who are
elected by all men for their wisdom. Yet we can. We do. We have fought
against saying it, but now it is said. We do not care. We forget all men,
all laws and all things save our metals and our wires. So much is still to
be learned! So long a road lies before us, and what care we if we must
travel it alone!
Many days passed before we could speak to the Golden One again. But then
came the day when the sky turned white, as if the sun had burst and spread
its flame in the air, and the fields lay still without breath, and the
dust of the road was white in the glow. So the women of the field were
weary, and they tarried over their work, and they were far from the road
when we came. But the Golden One stood alone at the hedge, waiting. We
stopped and we saw that their eyes, so hard and scornful to the world,
were looking at us as if they would obey any word we might speak.
And we said:
"We have given you a name in our thoughts, Liberty 5-3000."
"What is our name?" they asked.
"The Golden One."
"Nor do we call you Equality 7-2521 when we think of you."
"What name have you given us?" They looked straight into our eyes and they
held their head high and they answered:
For a long time we could not speak. Then we said:
"Such thoughts as these are forbidden, Golden One."
"But you think such thoughts as these and you wish us to think them."
We looked into their eyes and we could not lie.
"Yes," we whispered, and they smiled, and then we said: "Our dearest one,
do not obey us."
They stepped back, and their eyes were wide and still.
"Speak these words again," they whispered.
"Which words?" we asked. But they did not answer, and we knew it.
"Our dearest one," we whispered.
Never have men said this to women.
The head of the Golden One bowed slowly, and they stood still before us,
their arms at their sides, the palms of their hands turned to us, as if
their body were delivered in submission to our eyes. And we could not
Then they raised their head, and they spoke simply and gently, as if they
wished us to forget some anxiety of their own.
"The day is hot," they said, "and you have worked for many hours and you
must be weary."
"No," we answered.
"It is cooler in the fields," they said, "and there is water to drink. Are
"Yes," we answered, "but we cannot cross the hedge."
"We shall bring the water to you," they said.
Then they knelt by the moat, they gathered water in their two hands, they
rose and they held the water out to our lips.
We do not know if we drank that water. We only knew suddenly that their
hands were empty, but we were still holding our lips to their hands, and
that they knew it, but did not move.
We raised our head and stepped back. For we did not understand what had
made us do this, and we were afraid to understand it.
And the Golden One stepped back, and stood looking upon their hands in
wonder. Then the Golden One moved away, even though no others were coming,
and they moved, stepping back, as if they could not turn from us, their
arms bent before them, as if they could not lower their hands.
We made it. We created it. We brought it forth from the night of the ages.
We alone. Our hands. Our mind. Ours alone and only.
We know not what we are saying. Our head is reeling. We look upon the
light which we have made. We shall be forgiven for anything we say
Tonight, after more days and trials than we can count, we finished
building a strange thing, from the remains of the Unmentionable Times, a
box of glass, devised to give forth the power of the sky of greater
strength than we had ever achieved before. And when we put our wires to
this box, when we closed the current—the wire glowed! It came to
life, it turned red, and a circle of light lay on the stone before us.
We stood, and we held our head in our hands. We could not conceive of that
which we had created. We had touched no flint, made no fire. Yet here was
light, light that came from nowhere, light from the heart of metal.
We blew out the candle. Darkness swallowed us. There was nothing left
around us, nothing save night and a thin thread of flame in it, as a crack
in the wall of a prison. We stretched our hands to the wire, and we saw
our fingers in the red glow. We could not see our body nor feel it, and in
that moment nothing existed save our two hands over a wire glowing in a
Then we thought of the meaning of that which lay before us. We can light
our tunnel, and the City, and all the Cities of the world with nothing
save metal and wires. We can give our brothers a new light, cleaner and
brighter than any they have ever known. The power of the sky can be made
to do men's bidding. There are no limits to its secrets and its might, and
it can be made to grant us anything if we but choose to ask.
Then we knew what we must do. Our discovery is too great for us to waste
our time in sweeping the streets. We must not keep our secret to
ourselves, nor buried under the ground. We must bring it into the sight of
all men. We need all our time, we need the work rooms of the Home of the
Scholars, we want the help of our brother Scholars and their wisdom joined
to ours. There is so much work ahead for all of us, for all the Scholars
of the world.
In a month, the World Council of Scholars is to meet in our City. It is a
great Council, to which the wisest of all lands are elected, and it meets
once a year in the different Cities of the earth. We shall go to this
Council and we shall lay before them, as our gift, this glass box with the
power of the sky. We shall confess everything to them. They will see,
understand and forgive. For our gift is greater than our transgression.
They will explain it to the Council of Vocations, and we shall be assigned
to the Home of the Scholars. This has never been done before, but neither
has a gift such as ours ever been offered to men.
We must wait. We must guard our tunnel as we had never guarded it before.
For should any men save the Scholars learn of our secret, they would not
understand it, nor would they believe us. They would see nothing, save our
crime of working alone, and they would destroy us and our light. We care
not about our body, but our light is...
Yes, we do care. For the first time do we care about our body. For this
wire is as a part of our body, as a vein torn from us, glowing with our
blood. Are we proud of this thread of metal, or of our hands which made
it, or is there a line to divide these two?
We stretch out our arms. For the first time do we know how strong our arms
are. And a strange thought comes to us: we wonder, for the first time in
our life, what we look like. Men never see their own faces and never ask
their brothers about it, for it is evil to have concern for their own
faces or bodies. But tonight, for a reason we cannot fathom, we wish it
were possible to us to know the likeness of our own person.
We have not written for thirty days. For thirty days we have not been
here, in our tunnel. We had been caught. It happened on that night when we
wrote last. We forgot, that night, to watch the sand in the glass which
tells us when three hours have passed and it is time to return to the City
Theatre. When we remembered it, the sand had run out.
We hastened to the Theatre. But the big tent stood grey and silent against
the sky. The streets of the City lay before us, dark and empty. If we went
back to hide in our tunnel, we would be found and our light found with us.
So we walked to the Home of the Street Sweepers.
When the Council of the Home questioned us, we looked upon the faces of
the Council, but there was no curiosity in those faces, and no anger, and
no mercy. So when the oldest of them asked us: "Where have you been?" we
thought of our glass box and of our light, and we forgot all else. And we
"We will not tell you."
The oldest did not question us further. They turned to the two youngest,
and said, and their voice was bored:
"Take our brother Equality 7-2521 to the Palace of Corrective Detention.
Lash them until they tell."
So we were taken to the Stone Room under the Palace of Corrective
Detention. This room has no windows and it is empty save for an iron post.
Two men stood by the post, naked but for leather aprons and leather hoods
over their faces. Those who had brought us departed, leaving us to the two
Judges who stood in a corner of the room. The Judges were small, thin men,
grey and bent. They gave the signal to the two strong hooded ones.
They tore the clothes from our body, they threw us down upon our knees and
they tied our hands to the iron post. The first blow of the lash felt as
if our spine had been cut in two. The second blow stopped the first, and
for a second we felt nothing, then the pain struck us in our throat and
fire ran in our lungs without air. But we did not cry out.
The lash whistled like a singing wind. We tried to count the blows, but we
lost count. We knew that the blows were falling upon our back. Only we
felt nothing upon our back any longer. A flaming grill kept dancing before
our eyes, and we thought of nothing save that grill, a grill, a grill of
red squares, and then we knew that we were looking at the squares of the
iron grill in the door, and there were also the squares of stone on the
walls, and the squares which the lash was cutting upon our back, crossing
and re-crossing itself in our flesh.
Then we saw a fist before us. It knocked our chin up, and we saw the red
froth of our mouth on the withered fingers, and the Judge asked:
"Where have you been?"
But we jerked our head away, hid our face upon our tied hands, and bit our
The lash whistled again. We wondered who was sprinkling burning coal dust
upon the floor, for we saw drops of red twinkling on the stones around us.
Then we knew nothing, save two voices snarling steadily, one after the
other, even though we knew they were speaking many minutes apart:
"Where have you been where have you been where have you been where have
And our lips moved, but the sound trickled back into our throat, and the
sound was only:
"The light... The light... The light...."
Then we knew nothing.
We opened our eyes, lying on our stomach on the brick floor of a cell. We
looked upon two hands lying far before us on the bricks, and we moved
them, and we knew that they were our hands. But we could not move our
body. Then we smiled, for we thought of the light and that we had not
We lay in our cell for many days. The door opened twice each day, once for
the men who brought us bread and water, and once for the Judges. Many
Judges came to our cell, first the humblest and then the most honored
Judges of the City. They stood before us in their white togas, and they
"Are you ready to speak?"
But we shook our head, lying before them on the floor. And they departed.
We counted each day and each night as it passed. Then, tonight, we knew
that we must escape. For tomorrow the World Council of Scholars is to meet
in our City.
It was easy to escape from the Palace of Corrective Detention. The locks
are old on the doors and there are no guards about. There is no reason to
have guards, for men have never defied the Councils so far as to escape
from whatever place they were ordered to be. Our body is healthy and
strength returns to it speedily. We lunged against the door and it gave
way. We stole through the dark passages, and through the dark streets, and
down into our tunnel.
We lit the candle and we saw that our place had not been found and nothing
had been touched. And our glass box stood before us on the cold oven, as
we had left it. What matter they now, the scars upon our back!
Tomorrow, in the full light of day, we shall take our box, and leave our
tunnel open, and walk through the streets to the Home of the Scholars. We
shall put before them the greatest gift ever offered to men. We shall tell
them the truth. We shall hand to them, as our confession, these pages we
have written. We shall join our hands to theirs, and we shall work
together, with the power of the sky, for the glory of mankind. Our
blessing upon you, our brothers! Tomorrow, you will take us back into your
fold and we shall be an outcast no longer. Tomorrow we shall be one of you
It is dark here in the forest. The leaves rustle over our head, black
against the last gold of the sky. The moss is soft and warm. We shall
sleep on this moss for many nights, till the beasts of the forest come to
tear our body. We have no bed now, save the moss, and no future, save the
We are old now, yet we were young this morning, when we carried our glass
box through the streets of the City to the Home of the Scholars. No men
stopped us, for there were none about from the Palace of Corrective
Detention, and the others knew nothing. No men stopped us at the gate. We
walked through empty passages and into the great hall where the World
Council of Scholars sat in solemn meeting.
We saw nothing as we entered, save the sky in the great windows, blue and
glowing. Then we saw the Scholars who sat around a long table; they were
as shapeless clouds huddled at the rise of the great sky. There were men
whose famous names we knew, and others from distant lands whose names we
had not heard. We saw a great painting on the wall over their heads, of
the twenty illustrious men who had invented the candle.
All the heads of the Council turned to us as we entered. These great and
wise of the earth did not know what to think of us, and they looked upon
us with wonder and curiosity, as if we were a miracle. It is true that our
tunic was torn and stained with brown stains which had been blood. We
raised our right arm and we said:
"Our greeting to you, our honored brothers of the World Council of
Then Collective 0-0009, the oldest and wisest of the Council, spoke and
"Who are you, our brother? For you do not look like a Scholar."
"Our name is Equality 7-2521," we answered, "and we are a Street Sweeper
of this City."
Then it was as if a great wind had stricken the hall, for all the Scholars
spoke at once, and they were angry and frightened.
"A Street Sweeper! A Street Sweeper walking in upon the World Council of
Scholars! It is not to be believed! It is against all the rules and all
But we knew how to stop them.
"Our brothers!" we said. "We matter not, nor our transgression. It is only
our brother men who matter. Give no thought to us, for we are nothing, but
listen to our words, for we bring you a gift such as had never been
brought to men. Listen to us, for we hold the future of mankind in our
Then they listened.
We placed our glass box upon the table before them. We spoke of it, and of
our long quest, and of our tunnel, and of our escape from the Palace of
Corrective Detention. Not a hand moved in that hall, as we spoke, nor an
eye. Then we put the wires to the box, and they all bent forward and sat
still, watching. And we stood still, our eyes upon the wire. And slowly,
slowly as a flush of blood, a red flame trembled in the wire. Then the
But terror struck the men of the Council. They leapt to their feet, they
ran from the table, and they stood pressed against the wall, huddled
together, seeking the warmth of one another's bodies to give them courage.
We looked upon them and we laughed and said:
"Fear nothing, our brothers. There is a great power in these wires, but
this power is tamed. It is yours. We give it to you."
Still they would not move.
"We give you the power of the sky!" we cried. "We give you the key to the
earth! Take it, and let us be one of you, the humblest among you. Let us
all work together, and harness this power, and make it ease the toil of
men. Let us throw away our candles and our torches. Let us flood our
cities with light. Let us bring a new light to men!"
But they looked upon us, and suddenly we were afraid. For their eyes were
still, and small, and evil.
"Our brothers!" we cried. "Have you nothing to say to us?"
Then Collective 0-0009 moved forward. They moved to the table and the
"Yes," spoke Collective 0-0009, "we have much to say to you."
The sound of their voices brought silence to the hall and to beat of our
"Yes," said Collective 0-0009, "we have much to say to a wretch who have
broken all the laws and who boast of their infamy!
"How dared you think that your mind held greater wisdom than the minds of
your brothers? And if the Councils had decreed that you should be a Street
Sweeper, how dared you think that you could be of greater use to men than
in sweeping the streets?"
"How dared you, gutter cleaner," spoke Fraternity 9-3452, "to hold
yourself as one alone and with the thoughts of the one and not of the
"You shall be burned at the stake," said Democracy 4-6998.
"No, they shall be lashed," said Unanimity 7-3304, "till there is nothing
left under the lashes."
"No," said Collective 0-0009, "we cannot decide upon this, our brothers.
No such crime has ever been committed, and it is not for us to judge. Nor
for any small Council. We shall deliver this creature to the World Council
itself and let their will be done."
We looked upon them and we pleaded:
"Our brothers! You are right. Let the will of the Council be done upon our
body. We do not care. But the light? What will you do with the light?"
Collective 0-0009 looked upon us, and they smiled.
"So you think that you have found a new power," said Collective 0-0009.
"Do all your brothers think that?"
"No," we answered.
"What is not thought by all men cannot be true," said Collective 0-0009.
"You have worked on this alone?" asked International 1-5537.
"Many men in the Homes of the Scholars have had strange new ideas in the
past," said Solidarity 8-1164, "but when the majority of their brother
Scholars voted against them, they abandoned their ideas, as all men must."
"This box is useless," said Alliance 6-7349.
"Should it be what they claim of it," said Harmony 9-2642, "then it would
bring ruin to the Department of Candles. The Candle is a great boon to
mankind, as approved by all men. Therefore it cannot be destroyed by the
whim of one."
"This would wreck the Plans of the World Council," said Unanimity 2-9913,
"and without the Plans of the World Council the sun cannot rise. It took
fifty years to secure the approval of all the Councils for the Candle, and
to decide upon the number needed, and to re-fit the Plans so as to make
candles instead of torches. This touched upon thousands and thousands of
men working in scores of States. We cannot alter the Plans again so soon."
"And if this should lighten the toil of men," said Similarity 5-0306,
"then it is a great evil, for men have no cause to exist save in toiling
for other men."
Then Collective 0-0009 rose and pointed at our box.
"This thing," they said, "must be destroyed."
And all the others cried as one:
"It must be destroyed!"
Then we leapt to the table.
We seized our box, we shoved them aside, and we ran to the window. We
turned and we looked at them for the last time, and a rage, such as it is
not fit for humans to know, choked our voice in our throat.
"You fools!" we cried. "You fools! You thrice-damned fools!"
We swung our fist through the windowpane, and we leapt out in a ringing
rain of glass.
We fell, but we never let the box fall from our hands. Then we ran. We ran
blindly, and men and houses streaked past us in a torrent without shape.
And the road seemed not to be flat before us, but as if it were leaping up
to meet us, and we waited for the earth to rise and strike us in the face.
But we ran. We knew not where we were going. We knew only that we must
run, run to the end of the world, to the end of our days.
Then we knew suddenly that we were lying on a soft earth and that we had
stopped. Trees taller than we had ever seen before stood over us in great
silence. Then we knew. We were in the Uncharted Forest. We had not thought
of coming here, but our legs had carried our wisdom, and our legs had
brought us to the Uncharted Forest against our will.
Our glass box lay beside us. We crawled to it, we fell upon it, our face
in our arms, and we lay still.
We lay thus for a long time. Then we rose, we took our box and walked on
into the forest.
It mattered not where we went. We knew that men would not follow us, for
they never enter the Uncharted Forest. We had nothing to fear from them.
The forest disposes of its own victims. This gave us no fear either. Only
we wished to be away, away from the City and from the air that touches
upon the air of the City. So we walked on, our box in our arms, our heart
We are doomed. Whatever days are left to us, we shall spend them alone.
And we have heard of the corruption to be found in solitude. We have torn
ourselves from the truth which is our brother men, and there is no road
back for us, and no redemption.
We know these things, but we do not care. We care for nothing on earth. We
Only the glass box in our arms is like a living heart that gives us
strength. We have lied to ourselves. We have not built this box for the
good of our brothers. We built it for its own sake. It is above all our
brothers to us, and its truth above their truth. Why wonder about this? We
have not many days to live. We are walking to the fangs awaiting us
somewhere among the great, silent trees. There is not a thing behind us to
Then a blow of pain struck us, our first and our only. We thought of the
Golden One. We thought of the Golden One whom we shall never see again.
Then the pain passed. It is best. We are one of the Damned. It is best if
the Golden One forget our name and the body which bore that name.
It has been a day of wonder, this, our first day in the forest.
We awoke when a ray of sunlight fell across our face. We wanted to leap to
our feet, as we have had to leap every morning of our life, but we
remembered suddenly that no bell had rung and that there was no bell to
ring anywhere. We lay on our back, we threw our arms out, and we looked up
at the sky. The leaves had edges of silver that trembled and rippled like
a river of green and fire flowing high above us.
We did not wish to move. We thought suddenly that we could lie thus as
long as we wished, and we laughed aloud at the thought. We could also
rise, or run, or leap, or fall down again. We were thinking that these
were thoughts without sense, but before we knew it our body had risen in
one leap. Our arms stretched out of their own will, and our body whirled
and whirled, till it raised a wind to rustle through the leaves of the
bushes. Then our hands seized a branch and swung us high into a tree, with
no aim save the wonder of learning the strength of our body. The branch
snapped under us and we fell upon the moss that was soft as a cushion.
Then our body, losing all sense, rolled over and over on the moss, dry
leaves in our tunic, in our hair, in our face. And we heard suddenly that
we were laughing, laughing aloud, laughing as if there were no power left
in us save laughter.
Then we took our glass box, and we went on into the forest. We went on,
cutting through the branches, and it was as if we were swimming through a
sea of leaves, with the bushes as waves rising and falling and rising
around us, and flinging their green sprays high to the treetops. The trees
parted before us, calling us forward. The forest seemed to welcome us. We
went on, without thought, without care, with nothing to feel save the song
of our body.
We stopped when we felt hunger. We saw birds in the tree branches, and
flying from under our footsteps. We picked a stone and we sent it as an
arrow at a bird. It fell before us. We made a fire, we cooked the bird,
and we ate it, and no meal had ever tasted better to us. And we thought
suddenly that there was a great satisfaction to be found in the food which
we need and obtain by our own hand. And we wished to be hungry again and
soon, that we might know again this strange new pride in eating.
Then we walked on. And we came to a stream which lay as a streak of glass
among the trees. It lay so still that we saw no water but only a cut in
the earth, in which the trees grew down, upturned, and the sky lay at the
bottom. We knelt by the stream and we bent down to drink. And then we
stopped. For, upon the blue of the sky below us, we saw our own face for
the first time.
We sat still and we held our breath. For our face and our body were
beautiful. Our face was not like the faces of our brothers, for we felt
not pity when looking upon it. Our body was not like the bodies of our
brothers, for our limbs were straight and thin and hard and strong. And we
thought that we could trust this being who looked upon us from the stream,
and that we had nothing to fear with this being.
We walked on till the sun had set. When the shadows gathered among the
trees, we stopped in a hollow between the roots, where we shall sleep
tonight. And suddenly, for the first time this day, we remembered that we
are the Damned. We remembered it, and we laughed.
We are writing this on the paper we had hidden in our tunic together with
the written pages we had brought for the World Council of Scholars, but
never given to them. We have much to speak of to ourselves, and we hope we
shall find the words for it in the days to come. Now, we cannot speak, for
we cannot understand.
We have not written for many days. We did not wish to speak. For we needed
no words to remember that which has happened to us.
It was on our second day in the forest that we heard steps behind us. We
hid in the bushes, and we waited. The steps came closer. And then we saw
the fold of a white tunic among the trees, and a gleam of gold.
We leapt forward, we ran to them, and we stood looking upon the Golden
They saw us, and their hands closed into fists, and the fists pulled their
arms down, as if they wished their arms to hold them, while their body
swayed. And they could not speak.
We dared not come too close to them. We asked, and our voice trembled:
"How did you come to be here, Golden One?"
But they whispered only:
"We have found you...."
"How did you come to be in the forest?" we asked.
They raised their head, and there was a great pride in their voice; they
"We have followed you."
Then we could not speak, and they said:
"We heard that you had gone to the Uncharted Forest, for the whole City is
speaking of it. So on the night of the day when we heard it, we ran away
from the Home of the Peasants. We found the marks of your feet across the
plain where no men walk. So we followed them, and we went into the forest,
and we followed the path where the branches were broken by your body."
Their white tunic was torn, and the branches had cut the skin of their
arms, but they spoke as if they had never taken notice of it, nor of
weariness, nor of fear.
"We have followed you," they said, "and we shall follow you wherever you
go. If danger threatens you, we shall face it also. If it be death, we
shall die with you. You are damned, and we wish to share your damnation."
They looked upon us, and their voice was low, but there was bitterness and
triumph in their voice.
"Your eyes are as a flame, but our brothers have neither hope nor fire.
Your mouth is cut of granite, but our brothers are soft and humble. Your
head is high, but our brothers cringe. You walk, but our brothers crawl.
We wish to be damned with you, rather than blessed with all our brothers.
Do as you please with us, but do not send us away from you."
Then they knelt, and bowed their golden head before us.
We had never thought of that which we did. We bent to raise the Golden One
to their feet, but when we touched them, it was as if madness had stricken
us. We seized their body and we pressed our lips to theirs. The Golden One
breathed once, and their breath was a moan, and then their arms closed
We stood together for a long time. And we were frightened that we had
lived for twenty-one years and had never known what joy is possible to
Then we said:
"Our dearest one. Fear nothing of the forest. There is no danger in
solitude. We have no need of our brothers. Let us forget their good and
our evil, let us forget all things save that we are together and that
there is joy as a bond between us. Give us your hand. Look ahead. It is
our own world, Golden One, a strange, unknown world, but our own."
Then we walked on into the forest, their hand in ours.
And that night we knew that to hold the body of women in our arms is
neither ugly nor shameful, but the one ecstasy granted to the race of men.
We have walked for many days. The forest has no end, and we seek no end.
But each day added to the chain of days between us and the City is like an
We have made a bow and many arrows. We can kill more birds than we need
for our food; we find water and fruit in the forest. At night, we choose a
clearing, and we build a ring of fires around it. We sleep in the midst of
that ring, and the beasts dare not attack us. We can see their eyes, green
and yellow as coals, watching us from the tree branches beyond. The fires
smoulder as a crown of jewels around us, and smoke stands still in the
air, in columns made blue by the moonlight. We sleep together in the midst
of the ring, the arms of the Golden One around us, their head upon our
Some day, we shall stop and build a house, when we shall have gone far
enough. But we do not have to hasten. The days before us are without end,
like the forest.
We cannot understand this new life which we have found, yet it seems so
clear and so simple. When questions come to puzzle us, we walk faster,
then turn and forget all things as we watch the Golden One following. The
shadows of leaves fall upon their arms, as they spread the branches apart,
but their shoulders are in the sun. The skin of their arms is like a blue
mist, but their shoulders are white and glowing, as if the light fell not
from above, but rose from under their skin. We watch the leaf which has
fallen upon their shoulder, and it lies at the curve of their neck, and a
drop of dew glistens upon it like a jewel. They approach us, and they
stop, laughing, knowing what we think, and they wait obediently, without
questions, till it pleases us to turn and go on.
We go on and we bless the earth under our feet. But questions come to us
again, as we walk in silence. If that which we have found is the
corruption of solitude, then what can men wish for save corruption? If
this is the great evil of being alone, then what is good and what is evil?
Everything which comes from the many is good. Everything which comes from
one is evil. This have we been taught with our first breath. We have
broken the law, but we have never doubted it. Yet now, as we walk through
the forest, we are learning to doubt.
There is no life for men, save in useful toil for the good of all their
brothers. But we lived not, when we toiled for our brothers, we were only
weary. There is no joy for men, save the joy shared with all their
brothers. But the only things which taught us joy were the power we
created in our wires, and the Golden One. And both these joys belong to us
alone, they come from us alone, they bear no relation to all our brothers,
and they do not concern our brothers in any way. Thus do we wonder.
There is some error, one frightful error, in the thinking of men. What is
that error? We do not know, but the knowledge struggles within us,
struggles to be born. Today, the Golden One stopped suddenly and said:
"We love you."
But they frowned and shook their head and looked at us helplessly.
"No," they whispered, "that is not what we wished to say."
They were silent, then they spoke slowly, and their words were halting,
like the words of a child learning to speak for the first time:
"We are one... alone... and only... and we love you who are one...
alone... and only."
We looked into each other's eyes and we knew that the breath of a miracle
had touched us, and fled, and left us groping vainly.
And we felt torn, torn for some word we could not find.
We are sitting at a table and we are writing this upon paper made
thousands of years ago. The light is dim, and we cannot see the Golden
One, only one lock of gold on the pillow of an ancient bed. This is our
We came upon it today, at sunrise. For many days we had been crossing a
chain of mountains. The forest rose among cliffs, and whenever we walked
out upon a barren stretch of rock we saw great peaks before us in the
west, and to the north of us, and to the south, as far as our eyes could
see. The peaks were red and brown, with the green streaks of forests as
veins upon them, with blue mists as veils over their heads. We had never
heard of these mountains, nor seen them marked on any map. The Uncharted
Forest has protected them from the Cities and from the men of the Cities.
We climbed paths where the wild goat dared not follow. Stones rolled from
under our feet, and we heard them striking the rocks below, farther and
farther down, and the mountains rang with each stroke, and long after the
strokes had died. But we went on, for we knew that no men would ever
follow our track nor reach us here.
Then today, at sunrise, we saw a white flame among the trees, high on a
sheer peak before us. We thought that it was a fire and stopped. But the
flame was unmoving, yet blinding as liquid metal. So we climbed toward it
through the rocks. And there, before us, on a broad summit, with the
mountains rising behind it, stood a house such as we had never seen, and
the white fire came from the sun on the glass of its windows.
The house had two stories and a strange roof flat as a floor. There was
more window than wall upon its walls, and the windows went on straight
around the corners, though how this kept the house standing we could not
guess. The walls were hard and smooth, of that stone unlike stone which we
had seen in our tunnel.
We both knew it without words: this house was left from the Unmentionable
Times. The trees had protected it from time and weather, and from men who
have less pity than time and weather. We turned to the Golden One and we
"Are you afraid?"
But they shook their head. So we walked to the door, and we threw it open,
and we stepped together into the house of the Unmentionable Times.
We shall need the days and the years ahead, to look, to learn, and to
understand the things of this house. Today, we could only look and try to
believe the sight of our eyes. We pulled the heavy curtains from the
windows and we saw that the rooms were small, and we thought that not more
than twelve men could have lived here. We thought it strange that men had
been permitted to build a house for only twelve.
Never had we seen rooms so full of light. The sunrays danced upon colors,
colors, more colors than we thought possible, we who had seen no houses
save the white ones, the brown ones and the grey. There were great pieces
of glass on the walls, but it was not glass, for when we looked upon it we
saw our own bodies and all the things behind us, as on the face of a lake.
There were strange things which we had never seen and the use of which we
do not know. And there were globes of glass everywhere, in each room, the
globes with the metal cobwebs inside, such as we had seen in our tunnel.
We found the sleeping hall and we stood in awe upon its threshold. For it
was a small room and there were only two beds in it. We found no other
beds in the house, and then we knew that only two had lived here, and this
passes understanding. What kind of world did they have, the men of the
We found garments, and the Golden One gasped at the sight of them. For
they were not white tunics, nor white togas; they were of all colors, no
two of them alike. Some crumbled to dust as we touched them. But others
were of heavier cloth, and they felt soft and new in our fingers.
We found a room with walls made of shelves, which held rows of
manuscripts, from the floor to the ceiling. Never had we seen such a
number of them, nor of such strange shape. They were not soft and rolled,
they had hard shells of cloth and leather; and the letters on their pages
were so small and so even that we wondered at the men who had such
handwriting. We glanced through the pages, and we saw that they were
written in our language, but we found many words which we could not
understand. Tomorrow, we shall begin to read these scripts.
When we had seen all the rooms of the house, we looked at the Golden One
and we both knew the thought in our minds.
"We shall never leave this house," we said, "nor let it be taken from us.
This is our home and the end of our journey. This is your house, Golden
One, and ours, and it belongs to no other men whatever as far as the earth
may stretch. We shall not share it with others, as we share not our joy
with them, nor our love, nor our hunger. So be it to the end of our days."
"Your will be done," they said.
Then we went out to gather wood for the great hearth of our home. We
brought water from the stream which runs among the trees under our
windows. We killed a mountain goat, and we brought its flesh to be cooked
in a strange copper pot we found in a place of wonders, which must have
been the cooking room of the house.
We did this work alone, for no words of ours could take the Golden One
away from the big glass which is not glass. They stood before it and they
looked and looked upon their own body.
When the sun sank beyond the mountains, the Golden One fell asleep on the
floor, amidst jewels, and bottles of crystal, and flowers of silk. We
lifted the Golden One in our arms and we carried them to a bed, their head
falling softly upon our shoulder. Then we lit a candle, and we brought
paper from the room of the manuscripts, and we sat by the window, for we
knew that we could not sleep tonight.
And now we look upon the earth and sky. This spread of naked rock and
peaks and moonlight is like a world ready to be born, a world that waits.
It seems to us it asks a sign from us, a spark, a first commandment. We
cannot know what word we are to give, nor what great deed this earth
expects to witness. We know it waits. It seems to say it has great gifts
to lay before us, but it wishes a greater gift for us. We are to speak. We
are to give its goal, its highest meaning to all this glowing space of
rock and sky.
We look ahead, we beg our heart for guidance in answering this call no
voice has spoken, yet we have heard. We look upon our hands. We see the
dust of centuries, the dust which hid the great secrets and perhaps great
evils. And yet it stirs no fear within our heart, but only silent
reverence and pity.
May knowledge come to us! What is the secret our heart has understood and
yet will not reveal to us, although it seems to beat as if it were
endeavoring to tell it?
I am. I think. I will.
My hands... My spirit... My sky... My forest... This earth of mine....
What must I say besides? These are the words. This is the answer.
I stand here on the summit of the mountain. I lift my head and I spread my
arms. This, my body and spirit, this is the end of the quest. I wished to
know the meaning of things. I am the meaning. I wished to find a warrant
for being. I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my
being. I am the warrant and the sanction.
It is my eyes which see, and the sight of my eyes grants beauty to the
earth. It is my ears which hear, and the hearing of my ears gives its song
to the world. It is my mind which thinks, and the judgement of my mind is
the only searchlight that can find the truth. It is my will which chooses,
and the choice of my will is the only edict I must respect.
Many words have been granted me, and some are wise, and some are false,
but only three are holy: "I will it!"
Whatever road I take, the guiding star is within me; the guiding star and
the loadstone which point the way. They point in but one direction. They
point to me.
I know not if this earth on which I stand is the core of the universe or
if it is but a speck of dust lost in eternity. I know not and I care not.
For I know what happiness is possible to me on earth. And my happiness
needs no higher aim to vindicate it. My happiness is not the means to any
end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose.
Neither am I the means to any end others may wish to accomplish. I am not
a tool for their use. I am not a servant of their needs. I am not a
bandage for their wounds. I am not a sacrifice on their altars.
I am a man. This miracle of me is mine to own and keep, and mine to guard,
and mine to use, and mine to kneel before!
I do not surrender my treasures, nor do I share them. The fortune of my
spirit is not to be blown into coins of brass and flung to the winds as
alms for the poor of the spirit. I guard my treasures: my thought, my
will, my freedom. And the greatest of these is freedom.
I owe nothing to my brothers, nor do I gather debts from them. I ask none
to live for me, nor do I live for any others. I covet no man's soul, nor
is my soul theirs to covet.
I am neither foe nor friend to my brothers, but such as each of them shall
deserve of me. And to earn my love, my brothers must do more than to have
been born. I do not grant my love without reason, nor to any chance
passer-by who may wish to claim it. I honor men with my love. But honor is
a thing to be earned.
I shall choose friends among men, but neither slaves nor masters. And I
shall choose only such as please me, and them I shall love and respect,
but neither command nor obey. And we shall join our hands when we wish, or
walk alone when we so desire. For in the temple of his spirit, each man is
alone. Let each man keep his temple untouched and undefiled. Then let him
join hands with others if he wishes, but only beyond his holy threshold.
For the word "We" must never be spoken, save by one's choice and as a
second thought. This word must never be placed first within man's soul,
else it becomes a monster, the root of all the evils on earth, the root of
man's torture by men, and of an unspeakable lie.
The word "We" is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone,
and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is
black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the
depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might
of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages.
What is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it? What is
my wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to me? What is my freedom, if all
creatures, even the botched and the impotent, are my masters? What is my
life, if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey?
But I am done with this creed of corruption.
I am done with the monster of "We," the word of serfdom, of plunder, of
misery, falsehood and shame.
And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this
god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will
grant them joy and peace and pride.
This god, this one word:
It was when I read the first of the books I found in my house that I saw
the word "I." And when I understood this word, the book fell from my
hands, and I wept, I who had never known tears. I wept in deliverance and
in pity for all mankind.
I understood the blessed thing which I had called my curse. I understood
why the best in me had been my sins and my transgressions; and why I had
never felt guilt in my sins. I understood that centuries of chains and
lashes will not kill the spirit of man nor the sense of truth within him.
I read many books for many days. Then I called the Golden One, and I told
her what I had read and what I had learned. She looked at me and the first
words she spoke were:
"I love you."
Then I said:
"My dearest one, it is not proper for men to be without names. There was a
time when each man had a name of his own to distinguish him from all other
men. So let us choose our names. I have read of a man who lived many
thousands of years ago, and of all the names in these books, his is the
one I wish to bear. He took the light of the gods and he brought it to
men, and he taught men to be gods. And he suffered for his deed as all
bearers of light must suffer. His name was Prometheus."
"It shall be your name," said the Golden One.
"And I have read of a goddess," I said, "who was the mother of the earth
and of all the gods. Her name was Gaea. Let this be your name, my Golden
One, for you are to be the mother of a new kind of gods."
"It shall be my name," said the Golden One.
Now I look ahead. My future is clear before me. The Saint of the pyre had
seen the future when he chose me as his heir, as the heir of all the
saints and all the martyrs who came before him and who died for the same
cause, for the same word, no matter what name they gave to their cause and
I shall live here, in my own house. I shall take my food from the earth by
the toil of my own hands. I shall learn many secrets from my books.
Through the years ahead, I shall rebuild the achievements of the past, and
open the way to carry them further, the achievements which are open to me,
but closed forever to my brothers, for their minds are shackled to the
weakest and dullest ones among them.
I have learned that my power of the sky was known to men long ago; they
called it Electricity. It was the power that moved their greatest
inventions. It lit this house with light which came from those globes of
glass on the walls. I have found the engine which produced this light. I
shall learn how to repair it and how to make it work again. I shall learn
how to use the wires which carry this power. Then I shall build a barrier
of wires around my home, and across the paths which lead to my home; a
barrier light as a cobweb, more impassable than a wall of granite; a
barrier my brothers will never be able to cross. For they have nothing to
fight me with, save the brute force of their numbers. I have my mind.
Then here, on this mountaintop, with the world below me and nothing above
me but the sun, I shall live my own truth. Gaea is pregnant with my child.
Our son will be raised as a man. He will be taught to say "I" and to bear
the pride of it. He will be taught to walk straight and on his own feet.
He will be taught reverence for his own spirit.
When I shall have read all the books and learned my new way, when my home
will be ready and my earth tilled, I shall steal one day, for the last
time, into the cursed City of my birth. I shall call to me my friend who
has no name save International 4-8818, and all those like him, Fraternity
2-5503, who cries without reason, and Solidarity 9-6347 who calls for help
in the night, and a few others. I shall call to me all the men and the
women whose spirit has not been killed within them and who suffer under
the yoke of their brothers. They will follow me and I shall lead them to
my fortress. And here, in this uncharted wilderness, I and they, my chosen
friends, my fellow-builders, shall write the first chapter in the new
history of man.
These are the things before me. And as I stand here at the door of glory,
I look behind me for the last time. I look upon the history of men, which
I have learned from the books, and I wonder. It was a long story, and the
spirit which moved it was the spirit of man's freedom. But what is
freedom? Freedom from what? There is nothing to take a man's freedom away
from him, save other men. To be free, a man must be free of his brothers.
That is freedom. That and nothing else.
At first, man was enslaved by the gods. But he broke their chains. Then he
was enslaved by the kings. But he broke their chains. He was enslaved by
his birth, by his kin, by his race. But he broke their chains. He declared
to all his brothers that a man has rights which neither god nor king nor
other men can take away from him, no matter what their number, for his is
the right of man, and there is no right on earth above this right. And he
stood on the threshold of the freedom for which the blood of the centuries
behind him had been spilled.
But then he gave up all he had won, and fell lower than his savage
What brought it to pass? What disaster took their reason away from men?
What whip lashed them to their knees in shame and submission? The worship
of the word "We."
When men accepted that worship, the structure of centuries collapsed about
them, the structure whose every beam had come from the thought of some one
man, each in his day down the ages, from the depth of some one spirit,
such spirit as existed but for its own sake. Those men who survived those
eager to obey, eager to live for one another, since they had nothing else
to vindicate them—those men could neither carry on, nor preserve
what they had received. Thus did all thought, all science, all wisdom
perish on earth. Thus did men—men with nothing to offer save their
great number—lost the steel towers, the flying ships, the power
wires, all the things they had not created and could never keep. Perhaps,
later, some men had been born with the mind and the courage to recover
these things which were lost; perhaps these men came before the Councils
of Scholars. They were answered as I have been answered—and for the
But I still wonder how it was possible, in those graceless years of
transition, long ago, that men did not see whither they were going, and
went on, in blindness and cowardice, to their fate. I wonder, for it is
hard for me to conceive how men who knew the word "I" could give it up and
not know what they lost. But such has been the story, for I have lived in
the City of the damned, and I know what horror men permitted to be brought
Perhaps, in those days, there were a few among men, a few of clear sight
and clean soul, who refused to surrender that word. What agony must have
been theirs before that which they saw coming and could not stop! Perhaps
they cried out in protest and in warning. But men paid no heed to their
warning. And they, these few, fought a hopeless battle, and they perished
with their banners smeared by their own blood. And they chose to perish,
for they knew. To them, I send my salute across the centuries, and my
Theirs is the banner in my hand. And I wish I had the power to tell them
that the despair of their hearts was not to be final, and their night was
not without hope. For the battle they lost can never be lost. For that
which they died to save can never perish. Through all the darkness,
through all the shame of which men are capable, the spirit of man will
remain alive on this earth. It may sleep, but it will awaken. It may wear
chains, but it will break through. And man will go on. Man, not men.
Here on this mountain, I and my sons and my chosen friends shall build our
new land and our fort. And it will become as the heart of the earth, lost
and hidden at first, but beating, beating louder each day. And word of it
will reach every corner of the earth. And the roads of the world will
become as veins which will carry the best of the world's blood to my
threshold. And all my brothers, and the Councils of my brothers, will hear
of it, but they will be impotent against me. And the day will come when I
shall break all the chains of the earth, and raze the cities of the
enslaved, and my home will become the capital of a world where each man
will be free to exist for his own sake.
For the coming of that day shall I fight, I and my sons and my chosen
friends. For the freedom of Man. For his rights. For his life. For his
And here, over the portals of my fort, I shall cut in the stone the word
which is to be my beacon and my banner. The word which will not die,
should we all perish in battle. The word which can never die on this
earth, for it is the heart of it and the meaning and the glory.
The sacred word: