“N” – A Short Story (Part 1)

The following is based on a dream I have had a few times recently. It is a rough draft and it has been a LONG time since I wrote anything fiction. I’d love for thoughts, feedback on clarity, grammar, or content. I think there will be three parts.

What. The. Fuck.

That was all Ortus could think while looking around There was nothing but snow in all directions, snow and dark grey skies. No memory of arriving here. No noticeable wounds. Just snow and clouds, with a slight chill breaking the clothing layers.

“Oh well, I’ve always been rational. Staying here gets me nothing, I might as well get moving,” Ortus said out loud. Though for a moment Ortus wondered about the accuracy of that statement because there was no memory of a past personality or traits. Rational? Irrational? Quick to angry? Always calm? It was all unknown.

So Ortus picked a direction and just started walking and after a few minutes (hours? days? months? years?) a hole in the snow appeared on the horizon. It came more quickly than it should have but the sounds of laughter and flickers of firelight coming from the hole were too inviting to pass up. Ortus jumped in and slid down the hole into the cavern below.

The slide was quick and easy and Ortus was soon looking around a bright ice cavern. There was no obvious source of light but the ice itself seemed to pulse and flow with a faded blue light. Moments passed as Ortus looked around the room and took count of the hallways that seemed to branch off en every direction. 13 tunnels in total, and out of the center one the sound of footsteps echoed in approach.

A young girl appeared, no more than 10 years old. She had a bright smile on her face and seemed to be skipping more than running. There was joy and the lights eminating from the walls seemed to get brighter as she approached. Her clothing was simple and appeared homemade, bland but loved. The only exception was a gold pendent chained around her neck that simply said “GREETER”.

“Hello new friend! Welcome to Cer, my name is Geni. I will be your guide for a bit, but first we must hurry. The Titling is about to start.” the girl said. Without waiting for a response she grabbed Ortus’ hand and began pulling through the central hallway from where she arrived.

Ortus complied, for what else could be done?

After many twists and turns through hallways Ortus and Geni arrived in a large cavern. The dome overhead seemed to reach far above the surface of the earth but all around was ice with no sign of the outside world. At the peak of the dome the light under the ice was brighter and seemed to spread it’s glow through veins around the dome. Within the room were hundreds (thousands?) of people, all dressed differently with a variety of tools in packs and on belts. They each had pendent on a chain around their neck, some were gold, stone, silver, wooden, and even one that seemed diamond.

Ortus tried to read them all but there were just too many, but a few could be read: Baker, Blacksmith, Warrior, Nurse, Shaman. No person had the same pendent as another and the clothing and tools each person seemed to match the profession on the pendent.

After a few moments the crowd seemed to hush on their own and a voice echoed above the rest. A man dressed in bright robes stepped onto a platform in the center of the dome. His pendent seemed to glow a deep red that contrasted painfully with the blue glow of the dome.

“Welcome family! Today is the Titling!” the man said in a deep voice. The crowd erupted in applause and hugs. Once the crowd calmed a moment the man smiled a half-smile and pointed straight at Ortus. “And please welcome our newest family member, Ortus!”

The crowd erupted and cheered again.

There was little time for shock or confusion. Soon Ortus was pulled up the the platform by two large people, Soldier and Builder. The man on stage smiled again and began to speak. His pendent said Leader.

“Today is the day where we share responsbility and see the world in all shoes. This ceremony is sacred. As you all know, I will call you each up here for a new Title. Remember not to choose a Title that you have had already. We will start with those who have been here the longest, except for the person who has become the Terminal, we will honor them last.” Then, looking at Ortus, “You, my new friend, will not have a Title this time. Instead after the ceremony use the time to wander, rest, and familiarize yourself with the duties so that you can choose wisely in the future…. So, let’s get started!”

The crowd cheered.

One by one the man called up people and they choose a new job, but there were no repeats. One baker. One butcher. One accountant. One nurse. One laborer. One Doctor. Even a new Leader as a middle-aged woman took the red pendent from the man and he left the stage.

And on and on it went until every person had a new Title. Once complete the new Leader calmed the crowd and waved for a elderly woman from the crowd to come up. She complied, but had no heart in it. There was no joy in her eyes.

“And now we honor the Terminal” Leader said. “She has performed all the duties she can. She is a hero!”

The crowd cheered.

“And so it is time for you to move on”

As the words left his lips the woman let out a scream and started thrashing around. The newly appointed Nurse and Doctor grabbed her and pinned her to the ground. She struggled until the Guard got control of her. They put a straight jacket on her but she continued to struggle. It was no use though and she resigned herself to banging her head against the ice floor until her blood sprayed into the crowd, adding color to the pale world.

“WE ARE ONE! WE ARE NONE!” She screamed as they carried her down a tunnel, her voice echoed until she was out of range.

“Well, time to go about our duties… see you next Titling!” The new Leader said. The crowd dispersed and soon Ortus was alone.

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