“It’s ridiculous! But we’re not allowed to say that aloud! They program us, before birth, with that ‘soulsong’. Then they tell us over and over and over that it shows us our soulmate. They tell us until we forget that it’s they who programmed it in the first place. They who chose for us. Their breeding programmes create us, and their scientists decide who we will be with, and then they drop us into the world at adulthood with a pretense of free will! Well not here! Not in this place! This community rejects their programming!”
Zeke spoke powerfully. He always did. Swaying those who questioned, making those who still believed into questioners. Sanaya clung to his words, daily reciting them as she learned his lectures by heart from her recordings, overlaying the programming that she no longer believed in.
He was right to ridicule the soulsong system. How could they know, before birth, what personalities people would forge? They didn’t, that was the problem, according to Zeke. It wasn’t about who made a good fit, it was about their eugenics system, always breeding towards their ideal of a ‘better’ human. Instead of letting people choose, they created the myth of the soulsong to control who woul be with whom, then controlled who could get pregnant and when, then submitted everyone to programming in the womb, to insert the song of their chosen mate. And the job of each adult was to find that mate, and wait for their turns to breed.
A few years ago, rebel historians unearthed the truth – how humans used to choose their own mate, usually getting it wrong a few times, but wanting only to be happy and in love, breeding how and when they chose, with no soulsong to guide them. Some humans didn’t mate at all. Others mated but didn’t have children. All things that were implicitly forbidden, in the brainwashing.
Of course, those rebels were hunted and most killed. But not before ensuring their message would continue. Zeke was one of their preachers, and by far the most popular. Sanaya didn’t know what the long term plan was, or if there even was one, but she would not be restrained by the brainwashing anymore.
Zeke had promised her a better life at the secret commune, set up by a growing number of rebels. Revolution was still far in the future, but for now, freedom could come to those who were brave enough to reach for it. Sanaya was ready. Tomorrow she would pack a bag and leave her home forever, taken to a secret location, and on from there to her new life.
She made her way home, walking along streets cleaned until they sparkled under LED lights, dreamily playing back Zeke’s words. She thoughtfully hummed a few notes of her soulsong. It was a nice song. It just wasn’t what they said it was.
Keeping to the shadows, a figure followed her home, dropping back as she entered her apartment, a one bedroom flat in a townhouse long ago divided into separate living spaces. They watched, standing perfectly still, as her light went on, then off. A while afterwards, they moved to the front door, picking the old lock easily and sliding inside.
Inside, the figure slipped quietly up the unlit staircase and paused at Sanaya’s door, listening carefully for movement inside. Hearing nothing, they produced their lockpicks again.
The deadlock on the door of the apartment was no more difficult to open, but the risk of a creaking door in such an old building was high, and the figure paused with the door open a mere crack to oil the hinges. Waiting a few moments for the oil to work, the figure then entered, closing the door quietly behind them.
Walking carefully, they made their way to the bedroom, stopping in the doorway to study the sleeper. Satisfied, the figure moved quickly, removing a syringe from a black pouch and injecting it into Sanaya’s neck.
She gasped once, and then subsided as the sedative worked.
When she came around, she was tied firmly to one of her two dining chairs, the other occupied by a man she didn’t recognise.
He smiled and offered her water from a glass.
Realising how dry her mouth was, Sanaya drank, swooshing the liquid around until her tongue felt less thick.
“Alright. Now you can talk, so let’s talk. You’re Sanaya, and you’re about to go join Zeke’s little band of followers because you think that means freedom. I’m here to disabuse you of that notion, and ask you to help me find out where that place is.”
Sanaya stared at him defiantly.
He shrugged, “You will talk soon, it’s just about how much you’ll endure first. The pain will end when you’ve told me everything you know. If you’re cooperative, you might even get to live beyond this moment. Please, take a few minutes to consider this, I understand it’s a difficult decision.”
Sanaya thought hard. She didn’t know where the location was, only where to meet an unknown person who, after she gave the right call and response signals, would take her, whilst blindfolded, to a second location, where they would exchange a call and response she didn’t know, and there she would be passed on to make the rest of the journey – this time without a blindfold. As far as she could gather, from questioning Zeke, nobody knew who anybody was, only the call and response. She could send this guy there with the wrong signals, and hope they had a process for that, then throw herself at Zeke’s mercy and hope he understood, and could get her there safely before anyone else came to hurt her. Or she could say nothing and probably die here and now.”
As Sanaya thought, she looked over at the man. He was wandering slowly around her apartment, looking at her decorations, her bookshelf, humming to himself. She frowned.
He was humming her soulsong.
“Hey. How do you know that song?”
He turned and smiled, “It’s my soulsong. I haven’t met my other half yet, but I’m hoping to soon. My work doesn’t let me get out much, socially.”
Sanaya shakily began humming the same song, her voice steadying as the man’s face went slack with surprise.
“You? You’re my soulmate? How? What the…” he groaned and dropped into the chair opposite her. “Well that puts a new spin on things.”
“You do know it’s all bullshit, right? They decide who they want us to breed with, convince us its fate, then leave us to do the rest of the work for them.”
The man sighed, “Yeah I know that, I just figured…like…they know best, right? Big scientist brains and all that.”
“Well they don’t. They don’t care if people are compatible, or if they even like each other. They just want the right babies for their genetic experiments. People are miserable in the couples they force together, surely you’ve seen that. How many are truly happy with each other and not just getting along as best they can. That’s not how people are supposed to live!”
“I know. My parents were miserable. They hated each other, and they hated me and my sister for being the reason they were forced together.”
“So why do this?”
“You know they don’t take kindly to refusal. This is the skillset I was bred for, and I was taught I could never say no.”
“Well say no now. We don’t need to pretend to fall in love, get married, have kids, live out our lives under their lies. We can go to this place, and never speak again if we don’t want to. Or you could just let me go, tell them you killed me and I gave you nothing. Not everyone finds their soulmate, right? A job like yours, I bet you have a way lower success rate. Just please, let me go, let me be free.”
The man sighed, then reached out and quickly sliced through the ties holding Sanaya to the chair, “Pack whatever you’re taking. I’ll get you safely to the rendezvous. And then I’ll…decide what I want to do.”
Sanaya threw clothes and essentials into her travelling bag, and they waited in tense silence until it was time to leave.
Sanaya drove them out of town, left the car in a layby, and they walked the next few miles.
Eventually they reached a crossroads, where an SUV sat to one side of the road, by an abandoned, boarded up, old bar.
“That’s it. You know I can’t let you hear the signals if you’re not coming. So. What do you want to do?”
The man gave her a grim smile and shook his head, “You’re braver than I am. I can’t.”
Sanaya nodded, “If you change your mind, go to Zeke.”
The man held out his hand, and they shook. He clapped her on the shoulder as she turned, then watched the brief conversation, waving as the truck drove away.
Once it was out of sight, he reached into a pocket and took out his phone, hitting a speed dial and waiting for an answer.
“Sir, Sanaya took the bait. The tracker is on and she should lead us right to them. I’m in the middle of nowhere, so an extraction at my phone coordinates would be appreciated. Thank you, sir. Oh, and sir? Giving me her song to sing was a stroke of genius, she didn’t ask any questions after that.”
The man ended the call and smiled to himself as he strolled over to the abandoned building and used the wall to slide down to the ground, awaiting a pick up. He hoped he would be allowed to join the team going to take down the rebel commune, if only to see Sanaya’s face as she realised what she’d done. Right before she joined the queue for the firing squad.
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