Working Title : The Egg
He assumed that this was a “desert”. Cicero had never seen one before or anything like it. The iodized sand blew in the direction that he decided would now be west. The “sun” rested in the sky; it did not set for it did not need to. Cicero sat on the porch he built and stared north. He leaned back in his chair until it creaked. The deck was uneven no matter how many times he tore it apart and rebuilt it. He grabbed a hammer from his canvas tool belt and started to work at the rotting wood. His wrist pulled right and the nail, bent with age and frustration released. He rolled it over in his hands; splinters fought to latch into his nail beds but his calloused hands were not willings hosts. He looked up to check the time. This was something he did out of habit not necessity. Cicero carved notches in a beam of unpolished mahogany. There were 24 notches, ranging from millimeters apart to about 30 centimeters. Due to the sun’s stubbornness, Cicero based his count on frequency and occurrence of thought. Whenever he thought about how long it had been he made a mark. The distance between the marks was about how much time had passed since his last remembrance. Cicero hadn’t done much thinking during the past 24 notches.
Cicero twirled his mustache in between his fingers. The peppered brown hairs curled upwards at his lips creating a pseudo-smile, he felt those thoughts beginning to lift as the creaks became frequent and his lips let loose of tension. it doesn’t matter if it’s uneven. It’s not like you have house guests. I don’t even have room for company. What if somebody comes? No ones coming. They would have come by now. Now? What is now? When is now? What time is now. 25. His fingers reached into a small pocket tucked into the canvas and pulled out a two inch blade. Cicero had fastened a handle but it slipped and often fell and had to be found. He took the blade in between his fingers and pressed into the mahogany. The wood gave without struggle and the new notch sat 10 centimeters away from the last one. The mahogany hadn’t aged. It was still strawberry blonde and smelled of cologne and chocolate dipped strawberries. The first notch still felt soft against his finger tips. A few specks of pink sawdust clung to the divot. It could have just been made but Cicero knew it hadn’t been.
The first notch was made before he got his second piece of wood. It was the first thought his body formed after the muscles stopped contracting and tightening. He had ran until the Egg was no longer in view, until their beliefs were drug out of his head by the same wind that blew the tips of his hair into his mouth as he ran. When his ligaments had reached their limits he looked at the sky, the “sun” was unmoving and was hardly a sun at all. Cicero found that he could stare at the orb without his retinas curling inward. There was no heat There was always a slight breeze never harsh enough to make him cold. He didn’t understand. He sat there for seconds maybe hours possibly even days all terms that were inaccurate. He paced the red sand absorbing the harsh blows of his white workman’s shoes. The shoes were well worn before they had became coated with the desert’s rust.
Cicero had been a relator. He was highly respected by his peers for his prestige in the shelter division. He was given the honor of utilizing the limited space that existed within the Egg. He also built the homes. No one ever said that hand labor was lower class but it was known, never spoken, never escaping from a true citizen’s mouth but the thought existed and that was the trouble. Cicero didn’t mind. The patent leather Dealer’s shoes sat neatly next to the welcome mat where they were left when he attained his title. To some this was offensive, not anything that would ever be said but again the thought existed. Cicero didn’t see it this way. He worked along side his workers, answering questions and laying foundations. The white worker shoes were practical and were being used, it would be wasteful to put wear on a shoe that he would never stay in more than hour at most. Cicero had given that excuse to his wife. She accepted it as true.
This argument was ongoing. Everyday when Holly would return from the Church Sector she would see the shoes rotting from the morning moistures. Holly smiled often, her skin was soft with an olive hue providing a noticeable contrast against the blonde course braids given to her by the Church. Her dark eyes narrowed every time she stepped across the threshold of her home and had to look her husband’s defiance and than greet her husband with a marital hello. It was defiance. She knew it was. She had never been close with Cicero but she knew how he worked, she saw the wariness in his eyes on the first day they were paired.
Each blink that covered his pale eyes was another aggravated tick closer to the day he would he revolt. She knew the contempt was seething in his blood long before he knew. Holly hoped that it would lay dormant until he was too old to work and would just wait for the Holy Reckoning like the rest of the union. She never yelled,spoke, or whispered the defiance in fear that she would awaken a thought that should be left dormant in the bowels of the subconscious. Holly told him he was wasteful and thats where she left it. Cicero didn’t understand how anything could be underused or overused. The supply had yet to have an end. Nothing was ever bought in the Egg, it was provided. When the sole would begin to peel away from his lace up work shoes a new set would be waiting the next morning. It was usually Corinne who found them.
Corrine was Cicero and Holly’s first child. The Shell deemed them good candidates for lineage continuation and delivered the infant along with her diapers,crib, and name to the doorstep that was already occupied by his patent leather shoes. The little girl looked like her father but had Holly’s temperament, she was grateful and joyous two things Cicero had yet to learn. Every morning Corrine would climb out of bed and run to the painted red door. She would push it open and check the doorstep to see what the Shell had left her. Usually it was nothing but if the timing was right her Mother would be at the door with a warm greeting,
“Hello Little One! What has the Shell left you today?”
Corinne’s blonde curls bobbed as she giggled, “You! They gave me you!”
Holly scooped up her daughter and held her close, “And you are my favorite gift yet!”
This became routine. Each time Cicero’s masked smile would slip.
It wasn’t given. It had a cost. Why can’t you see that?
These scenarios played out in his mind for they were the only thing he had. He was alone. No Bells to wake him up or alerts to tell him where to go. There were no ominous knocks in the shadow hours of the morning.
The time before the notches were the times of fear. Pacing through the red sand waiting to retrieve answers to questions he couldn’t figure out how to ask. A small dust cloud emerged from underneath his step as he whipped back and forth like a sidewinder evading the heat of the sediment floor. He ran his calloused hands through his hair that was no longer gelled back in the Dealer fashion but had fallen in kinked waves to the nape of his neck. He was sweating, not from the heat but from his increased heart rate. His realizations beating on the front door of his hippocampus demanding not only entry but acknowledgment. The anxieties bursting through not only doors but walls he had put up to keep the sane in and the insane out.
They were right those bastards were right. There’s nothing. There’s always been nothing. But they are wrong the way they do things. They don’t matter. I don’t matter. I had know right to leave. Because I had no rights. I can’t go back. I don’t even want to. Corrine needs me. Why would she need me? She never needed me. Holly never needed me. Too late. They were never mine. It doesn’t matter. Why should it matter? NOTHING matters. At least nothing matters out here. The sun doesn’t even matter. What time is it anyway?
“What time is it anyway?” Was the first question that Cicero felt he could deal with. The others have plagued him without relief or any notion of curability. But time? He could at least keep time. He accepted that he would never know exactly. That was a small feat .He could trust himself, no one could make up an answer to appease him. Only his time mattered. Cicero never had to keep time there was no reason too. The Bells wrung different melodies telling him where to report too. They bells chimed several times without providing any free time. During less critical assignments he would look up at the sky to see how long till dark but that was it. No one wore watches or had a clock above their mantel. Exact time had always been irrelevant. They had schedules that had to be adhered too. All that’s necessary is performing a pattern in accordance to the rhythm of the bells. He looked around and laughed to himself. He looked over his shoulder expecting three base metal bells to be stringed to a rubber coated cord. Of course there were none, he knew there wouldn’t be. He hadn’t been allowed to read much literature back in the Egg. There wasn’t much and very little that had anything to do with is profession. So Cicero had to resort to pass experience.
Back in the egg he had a crew of 18 men. The crew consisted of young men ranging from 14 to 25. He was respected by his men even though there was only a single frown line between their faces. It is accepted for an invisible line to rest in between the boss and his employees. In order to be followed there needs to be an air of supremacy. In the working sector it had to be a merely a whiff of fine fabrics and legal document masked by the smell of sweat and sawdust. This line was thin and only noticed by the youngest of men. Cicero was Cicero. He wasn’t Sir or Mister. Being called Sir was the only thing that genuinely made him laugh. The thought of being above someone was humorous.
Everyone was equal in the Egg. This was made clear to the population when they had received their occupations. The occupations are necessary for survival so no one is more important. He knew this wasn’t true it was a lie. The Egg was about pretending. Pretending that the dark side of the moon didn’t exist. It’s easy to pretend when the truth is out of reach. When he was called Sir it was hard for him not to laugh. He didn’t do anything to deserve his status. He did what was asked of him and now he was a Dealer, a Leader. His men saw that he was a step above and acted as so, they were never taught to do so but something with inside of them caused them to look upwards waiting for direction, and that was Cicero. At first the men felt sever discomfort when they called him Cicero it was like calling a professor by their first name. They came around and soon made a game out of it.
Every time the new worker, Joe, would call Cicero “Sir” they would put a notch in a piece of scrap wood that they had found after a demolition. Joe was blue eyed and round faced. His face in a permanent pout like the cherubs painted on the walls of the chapels. It never made sense why he was out with the men dirtying his silk hands but Cicero saw it as a form of entertainment. Despite the laughter of himself and all the other men he never stopped calling him Sir. The notches became frequent except on the days that Joe was absent from the site sometimes for days at a time. The men wondered where the ethereal apprentice had gone but never said anything. They simply consulted the abondanded piece to see how long they thought it had been since he floated away.
Now Cicero had his scrap. A scrap that he had tripped over amidst his determined yet aimless pacing. He picked up the beautiful piece of mahogany. There were never extra planks of the exotic woods. Extra wasn’t a word that was acknowledged by the citizens but it was known. The knowledge of a such a concept resulted in a convicted denial similar to the way a child refuses to admit that he has learned dirty words on a playground. It was a common practice though it didn’t quite have a name. Some had called it stealing. Stealing was not a fear in the Egg. There weren’t locks on the doors of homes, they were not only an unnecessary but seen as a divider between the citizens. The Church Sector claimed that lock mechanisms disrupted the flow of The Holies . Cicero never asked Holly what this meant, he never could get himself to care.
Do they think I’ve forgotten? I wasn’t even the only one who saw. I installed the damn thing. He had seen a lock. It was five years before he had ran.
He was working with his team on a chapel for the Church Sector. Despite his silent wariness for The Holies his heart rate increased and a smile would creep unto his face when he would forget to clench his rectangle jaw. Not only were the more beautiful species of wood used only for Church Sector projects but this work had permanence. It was common practice for old housing units or processing centers to be torn down and rebuilt to accommodate the steady growth of the population. The Chapels were not part of this practice they were never torn down due to size or age nor any other reason. The more citizens there were the more Chapels loomed over the housing tracks. These buildings stood tall in their extravagance. The smooth arches hugged stain glassed windows that depicted deep gem tones that were foreign to any other surface in the Egg. The walnut doors opened outwards and ascended towards the steeple causing the admirer to bend his neck in awe. They gave Cicero something to be proud of, something to call his own, his own creation.
Building the Chapel of Cassia was another opportunity for creation. He had submitted his plans and ideas to the Church and his list of materials to the providers. There were always some minor changes or requests from the Church and some revised estimates from the Providers. The best materials were delivered but there was no surplus therefore no room for error. The finer things were not to be wasted and perfection was the only sacrifice deemed acceptable by The Holies. Cicero didn’t mind the additions nor the limitations, they were expected and minor enough that he was willing to comply.
When he got the plans back for the Chapel of Cassia there was an addition he hadn’t expected or recognized. The outside was unchanged and the inside untouched except for a door that meshed with cherry wood panelling of the alter. The door was a perfect square behind the podium on the floor. It was a hatch. He pulled the remainder of the papers from the canvas packet that was left on his doorstep his morning. After flipping through the quantity sheets he found the dimensions for the underground unit. It mirrored the perimeter and the building concepts were sound but the plans required no aesthetic elements. It called for concrete. He flipped back to the hatch there were further instructions labeled LATCH INSTALLMENT. Latch? By looking at the instructions he reasoned that it was used to ensure the door remained shut. After examining the door he came to the conclusion that it was necessary to keep the door from falling inward. He continued to study the instruction and stopped when he another unfamiliar word presented itself. “Lock”. The first time Lock appeared was in the to scale diagram of the latch. There were two holes stacked vertically labeled RESERVED FOR LOCK ATTACHMENTS: See page 18. The 18 was hand written. He fingered through the pamphlet reaching its end at page 17. He turned it over to find sprawled spastic pen marks.
The writing was ambiguous and somewhat obvious. There was a picture of a lock It was a small rectangle made of a worn base metal with a U bar that attaches back into rectangle. He reached into the canvas envelope and pulled out a two small stained sacks. The first contained the latch. After a brief examination Cicero deemed it to be made of nickel. It was smooth and recently crafted. His worker’s fingers began to pull at the knots around the second bag. The twine was thing and tangled with every twist. The string began to loosen and the weight of the lock pushed itself through the singed opening and onto his hand. It fit in his palm. The inked instructions stated that he must not fasten it until the underground unit was complete for he did not possess the power to open it after it had been shut. It seemed more like a warning than a mode of instruction. A soft threat with the weight of incomprehensible punishment. Page 18 was for his eyes only. He came to that conclusion by observation rather than written contract. When his men arrived at the cite they each opened their packets. He watched the faces of his men contort in confusion when they came across the concrete cellar. They didn’t look around in disbelief looking for explanation. They furrowed their brow until their brains fought back the suspicions that broke loose from their basic understanding. The men turned the page to find the end of book and slid it back into the envelope in which it had arrived. Cicero turned his back to his men and slid the lock and latch into work belt that hung around his waist. He turned around to his expectant crew,
“Let’s get to work”