Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kalos Kosmos

[This was a 3,00 word short story for a competition,
but I decided not to use it, I felt it would do
better as a longer story, see what you think.
Steve ]

Kalos Kosmos

Miranda sat under a tree scribbling with a quill, her thoughts on the world. Around her the children were reading and writing their class work. Beyond her Academy, in the distance, a silver shine rose off a vast set of domes that lay heavy on the landscape down toward the infinite sea.

Forty years earlier

“The door between Us and Them is closed.” The Matriarch spoke in her grandest tone, annunciating every syllable so it could be picked out from its partners with a fine pair of tweezers. “They were once our slaves, our servants and our objects to command, but they were a corruption of Man, a corruption of Woman, without the True-Way they could never rise above the level of the Savage.”
She raised her hand hastily before she realised it, the questions in her head almost bursting out of her lips, it was a bad habit that had gotten her in trouble before. Her hand still high in the air above the heads of the rest of the class she made a tentative effort to lower it again, but it was too late, the Matriarch had seen it. Even behind the expressionless polished white mask she felt the Matriarch let out a sigh of discontent at yet another question from her most inquisitive student.
“What is it Miranda!” an undertone of annoyance.
‘But annoyance ruins complexion,’ Miranda could hear her skincare teacher say in her mind, ‘frowns equal wrinkles.’
“This is history,” continued the Matriarch, the polished white face of a beautiful woman titling as she spoke, “history is unquestionable my dear girl, it is written, it can not be unwritten, how can even You with your incessant curiosity find a question in history?”

Miranda slowly lowered her hand, all of her classmates were scrutinising her; some brushed back their long hair, other massaged their temples in order to negate stress from affecting their skin tone or inner harmony. The class of thirty students were all aged between fourteen and sixteen, in the final years of their education, after this they would graduate into various roles in society. Some would become Beauty Aids, other Designers, but most would be funnelled into the Lobbyists. Lobbyists spent their days socialising the various members and ranks of the Senate Court, which was anyone between the ages of twenty and thirty-nine, as they tried to outdo and overtake one another in the vastly complicated leagues of Court business. When they were old enough Lobbyists and Aids would have a second Graduation into the Court, from there try to claw their way into a more influential position, all the time watching over their shoulders for some younger, or more beautiful, opponent coming up behind them in the league ranks.

‘A beautiful mind cannot exist without an outer vessel of equal beauty.’ – The Grand Template.

“What is it now Miranda?” whispered the teacher in a soothing tone as she floated over to stand in front of Miranda’s desk. Her velvety white gloved hands resting fingertips on the wooden top. Miranda could smell the heavy perfumed scent, familiar from any Elder she had encountered, it stung the nostrils and settled around her like an envelope of authority.

The Matriarch’s piercing blue eyes were vaguely visible through the gorse of the eye slits in her mask and a faint and unknown scent wafted toward Miranda’s face from the mouth slit when she spoke, it wasn’t at all pleasant but was mostly veiled by the musky perfume.
“I just want to ask…” began Miranda.
The boy beside her sighed and began to file his nails into a gleaming half moon.
“ … They are a corruption of Us?”
“Yes, child.”
“And if we have risen above the level of the savage, then we must once have been like them?” To Miranda it seemed a fair question, if they were savages now and we were once savage too, then surely we are from the same birthing stock.

Not for the first time the Matriarch allowed her anger to manifest through her voice, and as always it upset the rest of the class; they would ask for a recess, a beauty sleep or sex release pills to relax them from all this unnecessary anxiety. This time was no different, although the Matriarch seemed more agitated than normal, she hadn’t even taken the time to refute Miranda’s stupidity with her wisdom, she just berated her for her incessant probing of The Truth and The Grand Template.
And after all, as Miranda knew, Truth is Beauty and Beauty is Truth, they are one and the same, a Form that is endless and unchangeable.
The class filed out of the teaching chamber to go their separate ways. The Matriarch didn’t disappear through her doorway at once, as she normally did, she stood with her back to the class as they chatted and paraded their way into the main arteries of the Polis, her fingers pressed hard now against the silvery marble of her own desk.
Matriarchs and Patriarchs never mixed among the children or the populace; they had their own secret world of corridors and chambers, windowlessly locked away behind the walls of Polis.

Miranda gathered her affects slowly and moved to follow her classmates out, but the Matriarch called to her with a tender voice.
“Miranda, stay a moment will you.”
“Yes Mother,” said Miranda, the sinking feeling of another talking down running through her entire body.
There was long silent moment; The Matriarch stood with her back to Miranda, still as a statue, her all white satin gown of Elderhood flowing down to the ground where it brushed the granite floor with an inch of material. Miranda often wondered why the Elders dressed so. But to ask would be a faux pas of great disrespect and such childish questioning had, over her senior years, isolated her from her peers. In accordance with the Grand Template ‘Friends’ were a discarded concept from the age of ten, children who would one day thrust and parry in the Court would not need nor want friends. Miranda felt she didn’t have a choice in the matter; she was deeply unpopular with everyone around her.
Friend were to be replaced with allies, dependents and guardians. The more allies you had the more connections you had when the real jostling for position began. Guardians were more powerful, more beautiful people than others; by making yourself dependent to them you were protecting yourself from other powerful children and eventually Senators. Dependents were those who lacked the skill, elegance and desire to be high up in the leagues, as their age grew and their beauty waned from having to fetch and carry for their Guardians they became little more than puppets. Dependents forgo their right to procreate.
Miranda could see her future before her. No one depended on her, no one wished to be allied with a questioner of Truth.

“Miranda, since you arrived here at the age of ten, you have done nothing but ask questions of me,” said the Matriarch, her back still turned to the girl.
“Sorry Mother-elder.”
“It appears to be your nature.” The Matriarch turned and leaned against her desk. When she spoke next her voice had softened to its most gentle teaching tone.
“Do you know what happens to little boys and girls who aren’t popular in class?” she asked.
“Yes,” answered Miranda, despondent.
“Tell me,” said the Matriarch.
“They become lower Dependents.”
“Yes. And you like this future?”
“No, Mother-elder.”
“I thought not. According to the Template, ‘to find true beauty you must find true power.’ We strive for power because we want to be beautiful inside …. and out.” Miranda had never heard the Matriarch speak so melancholy.
“And yet the questions in your head continue to influence your behaviour.” The Matriarch continued.
“Yes.” Even now, in front of her Elder, Miranda could feel such questions pitching inside her mind.
The Matriarch went on, “Are there other questions, ones you dare not ask?”
There were unimaginable questions which manifested in her brain, she tired to repress them as much as possible, but they chipped away at her resolve and good sense.
“You can answer freely, Miranda, I’m not angry with you, I understand, I’ve seen this all before.” Again the soft voice.
Seen what before? Miranda thought, someone fail, become … unbalanced... not beautiful?
“Yes,” whispered Miranda, “I just want to understand why things are the way they are.”
“I know, you’re not the first little girl to question our way or even the Grand Template.”
“I didn’t question the Grand Template.” Miranda spoke quickly in a sudden panic as to do so would be to break the ultimate social taboo.
“Don’t worry, dear girl, I will tell no-one of this conversation.” The Matriarch reached out a gloved hand and pushed Miranda’s fringe back from her face. “Go for some beauty therapy and some relaxants, I’m sure they will help ease your mind.”
“Thank you Mother-elder,” said Miranda, almost tearful.
The Matriarch stood up and drifted toward her door, it opened automatically in silence, she paused at the ornate doorway and said as soft as ever, “I wish I could help more, Miranda, I wish I could,” and vanished into the darkness, the door mutely closing behind her.

Miranda walked the wide boulevards of the Polis, avoiding the many forums which would be filled with evening bustle. The scheming and plotting and posing of the forums always felt alien to her, so often she would pace the near empty corridors which linked various chambers of Court and Academy, only meeting Dependents on some errand for their Guardians.


‘Instinctive actions are the actions of the ugly, preparative thought is the thought of beauty.’ The Grand Template.

She didn’t know why she had done it, but it was too late now, she was here, in the darkness, behind the door.


It was early morning and Polis was buzzing with activity, Miranda, like all her classmates, walked around the forums and studios before lessons. Others in the class stopped to listen to influential Senators, meet with Lobbyists or peruse the various therapies and treatments available after schooling. Miranda just walked, no-one spoke to her, she was like a ghost moving through the chambers of the Polis. She passed the fertility clinic, where Guardians and other successful people would go to have sperm and eggs removed from their bodies. On their passing from the first chambers to the second of middle age their offspring would be created so as numbers in each set of chambers reminded constant.
Passing the Fertility clinic and away from the main forums where the birthing rooms, the newborn young lay in cots facing the glass wall. Miranda liked to stand here and look at the tiny humans, their sparkling eyes and innocent smiling faces give her a warmth she felt nowhere else. There was always an Elder-mother, bustling around the chamber, caring for the young as Elders always had. Miranda had once asked could she assist the Elder in her duties, but answer had been a firm ‘no’, with a warning that she should know her place.

She followed the great semi-circular corridor which ringed the centre of the Polis; here the hundreds of treatment clinic were busy too. Toward the end of the corridor, where it began to loop toward the Middle-chambers, plastic and laser surgeries stood side by side. They were mostly frequented by those approaching thirty-nine, but younger people would go there too, unhappy with a facial or body feature. Miranda had noticed the Elders’ doorways at the back of these surgeries were left open for unusually long periods. It was difficult to tell one Elder from another, apart from sex, from a distance, but she was sure that some of the surgeons were moving from clinic to clinic through the open doors. She sometimes drifted mindlessly into a clinic and glanced at the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs posted on the wall. But today, as she stood close to the Elders doorway, she looked around to see no-one watching her, the surgeon and his assistant busy with a client and no passers-by at the window.
No thought, just instinct, she was inside.


The corridor was dim and narrow, like nothing she’d seen in the Polis before. She stood just inside the door for several minutes. Her eyes slowly adjusted and she could make out a three-way split just a few feet in front of her. A movement in one corner made her heart pound even harder than it was already; she bolted blindly down the centre corridor away from the line of doors leading into the clinics.
By the time she’d calmed herself and slowed to a walk she was in a wider triangular shaped hallway, dim green floodlighting stretched out before and behind her, but the main illumination was coming through a set of high narrow wall window to one side. Miranda paced slowly up to the first window. The light was strange; it flickered and had an odd yellowish tint to it. When she reached the glass the view beyond astounded her, she felt light headed, almost faint, as she looked out over a vast green space which seemed to have no walls, no roof… no chambers at all.

“Stunning, yes?” The familiar voice of her Matriarch didn’t give her a start; she was too stupefied at the sight before her to react. “The first time I saw it I had to lie down, your fortitude surprises me, but I suppose it is in keeping with your tenacious character my dear girl.” The Matriarch stood beside her at the window.
“Beautiful … in a sort of chaotic way, isn’t it!” she added.
“What is it?” asked Miranda.
“Why my dear, it’s the world, vast, perhaps endless, a living wild world, which does not obey our Polis laws.”
Miranda saw movement, objects were swaying to and fro. “Are they alive?”
“They’re trees, moving in the wind, its part of the weather, we don’t have weather in here, locked away as we are.”
“Locked away?” said Miranda.
“More questions?” The Matriarch’s face titled, it was almost as if the mask were smiling.
“Is this where the Savages live?” asked Miranda.
“Come with me girl.”

They walked in silence passing more windows to the endless green world beyond, Miranda tripping over her own feet as she moved behind her gliding Matriarch. They arrived at an elbow in the hallway, a double window looked out here over a vast courtyard which disappeared underneath them into the silvery skin of the Polis.
There were people below, moving goods on large wheeled carts, full carts into the Polis and empty ones out. Miranda looked down on them, they were children, young ones, middle ones and … some thing else, a person, yes, but withered like a fruit, yet still moving. All of them were dressed in bizarre garb, with no uniformity or design. Their faces had blemishes and were unattended, their bodies ranged from sleek to fat. Miranda had never seen a fat person, except in manuals, it was like a horror story told to young ones.

“They don’t look savage.” she said finally.
“They’re no more savage than we are, as we strive for position and influence, as we push others down to raise ourselves, some become strong and others become weak, such is our nature ... and theirs.”
“What are they doing?” Miranda looked at the carts, they were loaded with boxed and bags.
“We long ago lost the ability to feed ourselves. Areas of the Polis have broken down and become useless and the skill to repair them is lost, so the Elders some time ago began trading with the outsiders. We gave them trinkets and medicine in exchange for food. But we do not always have something they want.”
“So why would they continue to feed us? Because we are Gods to them?” Miranda remembered the Grand Template, ‘The Truth elevated us to Gods and fear of the Truth made the Savage worship us so.’
“Perhaps we were once like Gods to them, with our technologies and learning, but now they see us as children.” She turned to Miranda and laid her hand gently on her shoulder, “It is sympathy which they show, pity for us.”
A child sitting on a cart swinging his legs waved up at them, Miranda timidly waved her hand back.

“Then the Template is a lie,” said Miranda, standing now on ground level, watching up close the carts being brought through a series of sliding doors. The Outsiders passed the carts not to Elders but to younger and middle Polis members, dressed oddly, their cloth clearly once designed now cut to suit their work. Their faces too unmade and their bodies plumped.
“They are like you, questioners and wonderers. They chose to live in a half-way world between the Polis and outside, but they are free to leave should they wish.” Miranda looked at their faces, they were worn but seemed unstressed, content.
“As for the Template,” continued the Matriarch, “It has become a lie, only through time and ignorance. It once had some meaning for the ancients who built the Polis, but now, sadly, it is just a way to keep order.”
“I can’t go back, can I?” Miranda asked rhetorically.
“You have the choice that we all faced when we found the Truth of our world. You may stay here with us and serve the Polis as best we can or you can go out and explore what is there.”
“Have any come back?”
“In the form of the children, yes, they are always here with us.”

Miranda looked out onto the green world beyond the thin glass partition; so many questions … so very many questions to find answers to.

* * *