He looked into her eyes, desperate to know how things would end. He tried to read her eyes, which refused to give away the climax of the story of his life. He wondered if he should defend himself. What was the point though, his voice of reason said. Her name was tied to his fate, and his name to hers. There was nothing he could do to change things.
Her arms were bare. He could see his initial on her right bicep. ‘A’, the Alpha. He knew that the rest of his name was tattooed on the arm, followed by his social security number. It was proper protocol to let the enemy know that this was beyond the petty decisions of a human mind. He wondered if she would kill him slowly, or make it quick.
Her dusty clothes indicated that she had travelled a long way to find him. It was possible that his mother’s trick could have kept him alive for a lot longer, except he couldn’t do it anymore. The urge to find her was too great.
Sorry Matri, he thought to himself. I can’t live for you when I’m meant to die for her. This is someone I was meant to be with.
As he met her gaze, he knew it was no use defending himself. He dropped the sword and stood up straight. His mind was made up. He tore off his shirt, as she started her chainsaw. Her eyes widened as he twisted to each side, to let her see the secret he had kept all these years. She began walking towards him, the whirring blade before her. He closed his eyes, exhaled and said goodbye to the world.
10 years ago
History was a universally disliked subject that only the most powerful minds in the class could tolerate. Not because it was utterly ruthless when it came to testing human endurance for rote, but because every history teacher he had encountered in his life had made it his or her mission to make the subject as intolerable as possible. The 7th year teacher was no different.
Alpha sighed as he looked at the book before him. Romeo and Juliet: An Analysis of Fate and Ideological Flaws. This was probably what people in the 21th century called ‘preaching’. Not a word they used any more, but his mother would use it in private sometimes. ‘Alpha’ wasn’t his name, but since keeping one’s real name secret was the law, Alpha was the name he had stumbled upon.
The teacher walked in and took his seat. Every book except his had already been opened. He hurriedly flipped the pages, as his benchmates gave him terse frowns.
“This Century has seen a remarkable growth in science, technology, and most importantly, reason. The Romans, some of the wisest people of the past, held Stoicism in high regard. Their vision for a world run by the passion for knowledge, rather than the passion for ‘being a half of a whole’, as some of these so called ‘romantic souls’ called it, gave the New Century plenty of extraordinary philosophy, that we have learnt a lot from. However, their literature inspired a completely different line of thought. . .”
A hand was raised calmly, to request an opportunity to speak. One of the Enlightened Ones, as he called them, with a touch of irony and plenty of derision. He wondered if they knew what ‘irony’ was.
“The poetry of many of the minds, held in high regard, discussed a union between two people that their society would never allow. They wrote about sadness, reverence for those whom they could never unite with and about how all this was inevitable. Love”. She ended the little speech with a disapproving ‘tsk’.
Thank you. There were those, who were called ‘Stoics’. These great minds wrote of shedding the passion, and living a life that was lead with Reason at the helm. Many minds, across the world, tried to make their fellow Earthians realize the importance of disengaging with the physical. You all read about Buddha. Even religious leaders, mislead and blind though they were, devoted their lives to the pursuit of answers rather than gratification. But Human refused to listen. That is, until. . .”
Five hands were silently raised this time. Four went down as they reached a consensus. The one chosen to speak began—“Evolutionary biologists realized that Darwin’s Theories of inter-species competition could be used to create a super species in an environment that kept the population in control and allowed only the best humans to mate. This new system could use the genetic information that was collected from every single human to determine their strengths and to find a partner best suited to complement them. Instead of fate, the partners would be chosen by the world’s greatest and most advanced Supercomputer”.
“Well said. This system had already been used by humans and pre-humans in the field of animal husbandry. The system had also been used by their imbecile leaders to systematically kill certain communities they deemed ‘unfit’, with no scientific basis what so ever. But the difference in our New World was that people were no longer allowed to make the decision and ridiculous things like skin and hair colour were not defining factors. Since every human was born with an instinct to survive and with abilities that everyone could benefit from, every human would be given the chance to compete on an equal footing. Also, since randomness is essential to our survival as a species, the Great System would feature it too”. The teacher paused.
Ten hands went up this time. The boy in front turned slightly and stared at him with a puzzled expression. Alpha hurriedly straightened up and fixed my eyes on the chosen speaker. The boy gave an approving nod and turned away.
“The Supercomputer Kalki would create pairs of humans based on their inheritance. Each Human would have, at birth, two names tattooed upon his or her upper arm. One, the name of his or her partner, the one who would help him or her create offspring with the best attributes their genes could offer. The second tattoo would be the name of a competitor, who had the same attributes and was competing with this Human. If they found each other, they competed in a death match that ensured that only best survived. Having survived, the Human would then search for their gene partner, mate and create a new generation of humans to protect and serve the earth. However, no Human would know which name was the enemy’s, and which one was the gene-partner’s. Having ended the lines of all homosexuals and other abnormals, the System ensured that the 2 social security numbers of the two people would be visible at the age of 21, so that the humans were emotionally, physically and mentally mature. At this age, the Death Match begins and every pair of competitors is allowed to eliminate the other”.
Alpha sighed. His mother always told him that Kalki, named after an imaginary being that was to destroy the earth would never save their species. She was never stoic. Her competitor had never come for her, and she had stumbled upon her gene-partner by accident. Their eyes had met briefly and she had felt a jolt of electricity. Not like the ones in Ancient Romances, she had laughed. Just the chip inside her indicating that this was her partner. The absence of a Death Match in her life was something they never discussed. But he knew this was something that made her different from all those around. She didn’t die, she used her strengths to elude death. And he was born with it too.
On each arm was the same name, etched in black. Unknown, unfathomable. A flaw in the system, or a machine, retelling an ancient classic love-story. Star crossed.
She continued walking towards him,chainsaw in hand. He sensed a presence behind him and turned. Another man, an Enlightened One, like the many who were the pillars of their world. The Enlightened One gazed at her with a strange look in his eyes, a look of reverence, mixed with equal parts of confusion and surety. He was unarmed, waiting for her to complete her task. He eyed her weapon with fascination. The look on his face made Alpha wonder why the machine had chosen an animal like him to continue the human race.
She met the gaze of the man behind him. Her unreadable eyes showed no change. No pupillary response to his presence, no racing heart, no lust, no confusion. None of the things he had felt when he had seen her in his town for the first time, in black leather. She had stood on the other side of the road. She hadn’t killed him then, even though it would have met with approval. He wondered if she wanted to hunt him.
“My name is Aparajit, the undefeated”, Alpha called out to her. “You should know that. As you can see, I’m in no position to do my duty, because the supercomputer behaved like a human. You must have read the cautionary tale of Romeo and Juliet?”
He continued, “Well, I think this coincidence has given me the chance to make a choice, a real choice. And I choose to let you have the life you want. I don’t know what a responsible Earthian would do. I will be undefeated. I won’t fight. I give my life to you”.
He felt a strange tingling sensation, like the moment his chip had activated, but stronger and less localised. It grew stronger as he saw her eyes widen. He could feel the scathing look the Enlightened One was giving him, even though he couldn’t see it.
The last thing he remembered was the sound of his pulsating heart, begging him to save it and the voice of his mother, begging him to hide.
The next instant, he was covered in blood.
He opened his eyes slowly. There was a corpse next to him. It’s look of surprise and disapproval was frozen on its face. He stared at her in disbelief.
He realized that her eyes were a soft brown. She still had the chainsaw in her hand, but it no longer growled at him.
“You do know how Romeo and Juliet ends?”, he asked her.
Her lips twitched, and she met my gaze.
“Perhaps we should consider finding a less Stoic heaven for ourselves? I’m told that the new race of humans that this millennium created can live in the forests. Never had the chance to see gene-selection in action”.
She still hadn’t said a word, but he saw a ghost of a smile.
He began walking towards the entrance of the tunnel. A few moments later, she was beside him, matching each stride. As he felt their actions synchronise, he knew that something in the Great Design and set aside a corner for anomalies, something that human reason was incapable of understanding.
It was something no history lesson could ever teach.
– Meghavarshini Krishnaswamy
Read more of her works in our book – ‘Of Blood and Ink’