Zero is a boy. A 40-year old grey boy. He's tall but not that tall. Short but not that short. He's regular. Ordinary. He lives in a world where everything is regular and ordinary.
It is morning. It says that on the sky screen, in bold angular letters. Zero watches as a pale grey sun freezes on the sky. Error 31. That's when the sun fails to appear.
"You will be working at the station today." Said Thirty-Five. His guardian. "There are some potatoes in the refrigerator. It's a special occasion, so you can have a solid today."
"A solid," said Zero, while wiping his eyes.
"Yes. A solid. You will lose your job if you don't show up on time. Eat the potatoes and go."
His stomach is full of potatoes while he stands on the front porch. He holds a rectangular prism in his hand, a briefcase. Thirty-Five used this briefcase when she first went to the Brain Station.
He raises his head a little higher than usual and starts walking on the long tarmac road that leads there. The air is heavy like he is breathing in chemicals. The trees are a little lighter today. Flint grey. He starts to play the audiotape that sits in his briefcase.
Today you will do your job. Make everyone equal. The same. The world will be a less reckless place. Without difference, we can be equal. Isn't that what we humans always wanted. Safe. Controlled. Equal.
The Brain Station is an odd place. The tower spirals into a turret-like flight of circular steps shaped like piano tiles. The chimney is made of obtuse triangles that stick out awkwardly. The marble front steps are ovular and flanked with two bold equal signs. The building looks like a conglomeration of shapes from a hard geometry problem.
The parking lot is vast like an undulating sea. Stucco cars jam the place and humans stand outside their cars, honking. Waiting for a child with their arms outstretched. Zero watches blankly as the humans are given bundles of slate-grey.
Inside the air is sour like lemon breath mints and the wallpaper is bright blue and ironed. Everyone holds a stiff smile like a dry flower, minutes from crumbling into powder. A woman is sitting on a waiting chair. Her grey hair is combed and sleek like an eel's. A newspaper rests in her hands. She is not looking at it. Her eyes are hollow and staring into space. Waiting. The man at the receptionist rests his elbows on the counter, but he is not doing anything but staring at the flowerpot of dry orchids. On the walls, are frames of three 2 thick bold lines. He had learned this concept in the Educator Building. Equality. He follows boys like him. Boys who aren't dressed in uniforms. They all walk steadily like the tide of the ocean, monotonous but simple. They all stop at the a stainless steel door, like a dam has been put in front of them. It opens slowly.
Inside there are boxes and boxes of metal gears. A big metal structure snakes around the building.
They all border a cobalt grey conveyor belt that buzzes like a swarm of bees. The conveyor belt goes on through the whole building. He scans it. On the conveyor belt are little things. Little peach, hazelnut, moon, chocolate, tan coloured things with wisps of hair poking out of their scalps. Their faces are shiny like thick kerosene.
He keeps his eye on one of the little humans. It has a cherubic face and large animated coffee-coloured eyes. It goes through the first tunnel on the conveyor belt. Its glowing skin turns to a dull grey. Then the next tunnel, its eyes turned pitch black like marbles. Then the next, its face moulded into a perfect circle.
Zero's math teacher told him once that humans could never make perfect circles. Humans are so inadequate at drawing circles, it would be impossible. Only robots can do that. Machinery.
The baby goes through the next one, and the curve that its lips made flattened into a straight line. Its eyes lose their liveliness. The little grey human looks like a statue, like a museum artifact.
Then the little grey human started to roll to him. He watched what everyone else did. They took a machine pushed it into the center of the thing and a stringy, pulsating, beet-red organ would fall out.
His science teacher told him about the myocardium, the prefix denoting muscle. The core of the circulatory system.
Then the boy beside him pulled out a grey myocardium with the same immaculate details as the red one and stuffed it into a little grey human. Zero stares perplexedly.
Fifty-three had once told him something one day when the air was very humid and hot. He had told him that there had been a myth. A myth that the myocardium. Was also called the heart and it could carry emotions. What a strange word. Emotions.
The little grey human was right in front of Zero now. All he had to do was take out the heart. He put his thumb right on the little human's heart and left it there. Zero's thumb goes up and down and up and down. Like a drum was beating inside them. The little human resumes to go down the conveyor belt and out of the Brain Station and he hadn't taken out the heart.
He watches. And watches until it was out of his sight.
"New order from the general. Do. Not. Take. Out. The Myocardium." He'd never said a sentence so long in its life. But he knew that this sentence could change something. Change history. The next generations of little grey people would have hearts.