I’m Different. And in the Union, being Different is bad.
All the females had straight, brown, shoulder length hair that had a difference margin of less than 0.01 millimeters, brown eyes, and olive skin. The males also had the same features, except their hair was shorter.
But the thing that really kept everyone the same was a small, metallic device, called the Chip, that was implanted inside every person’s mind at birth, controlling their thoughts.
But it doesn’t have an affect on me.
Even before I learned to talk, to walk, to crawl, even, I was pretending. Pretending that I was just another normal baby that stopped crying when their parents told them to, and ate whatever vegetables they were fed. I always knew that it wasn’t natural, that I shouldn't be able to control my thoughts at such a young age, and I know that it has something to do with why the Chip has no effect on me.
Our government, the Equals, made sure that nobody would ever be laughed at, looked down at, or treated worse than others, so they made everyone the exact same. This was originally to prevent wars from happening because of inequality, and everyone was extremely grateful for this.
Or maybe the Chip told them to be. I wasn’t sure about anything anymore.
“Daughter, your friend is here!” My Mother called, her voice the perfect balance: loud enough to be heard clearly, but soft enough that it didn’t scream and disrupt whatever I might have been doing.
“Okay, Mother!” I called back, carefully mimicking her voice, which took me years of practice to finally master.
I walked downstairs, making enough sound to alert the people in the house that I was heading downstairs, but not causing a racket.
“Hello, Number 1027!” My friend, Number 1098, smiled.
I remember reading about a time where there were people who had names with words, instead of numbers. I had thought it was weird at the time, and I still do. What if some names repeated? What would they do then?
“Number 1027, are you alright?” Number 1098 asked, concern lining his face.
“Yes, I am perfectly fine, Number 1098.” I repeated in the same flawless manner.
“Number 1098,” My Mother addressed my friend. “Would you like to stay for dinner?.”
“Yes, I would love to.” He smiled at me, and went to sit down on one of the perfectly polished chairs.
“Daughter, would you be so kind and go upstairs to call down your Father, please? Tell him dinner is ready.”
“Yes, Mother.” I walked upstairs, using the same technique as before.
“My child, is there something you would like to tell me?” My Father asked.
“Yes, Father. Dinner is ready.” I replied.
“Of course, tell your Mother I will be down soon.”
I nodded and walked back downstairs to tell Mother the news.
“Thank you, Daughter. Now, come sit!”
I thanked her and sat down next to 1098, who looked at me, silently sending me a message. I dipped my head the tiniest bit in response.
As soon as Father joined us, we started to eat. Dinner was the same as always, but I never got tired of it. Maybe the Chip does have some sort of effect on me after all.
However, even with the delicious spread of food before me, dinner passed rather quickly. Mother and Father smiled as they attempted small talk.
Then all the food had been finished. Mother glanced my way and I held my breath, hoping that she wouldn’t ask me to help with the dishes. If she did that, then I couldn’t say no, and I needed to talk with 1098.
My Mother smiled, as if reading my mind. “Daughter, you are free to go. Your Father and I can take care of the dishes.”
I let out a small sigh of relief. “Thank you, Mother, Father.” I nodded to both of them and headed upstairs, 1098 right behind me.
I carefully closed my bedroom door, not wanting my parents’ to hear.
And then I let my polite facade drop.
“We need to do something,” I said, flopping onto my bed.
“Yeah, that much is obvious. But what can we do? For all we know we’re the only two people in the Union that isn’t affected by the Chip.” Ever since 1098 and I have met, we became best friends. We both knew that there was something wrong with us. Ever since that time, I have felt the weight on my shoulders decrease, knowing that I wasn’t the only one who was Different.
I nodded, thinking.
“You know what? I’m tired of living like this! We deserve to not live in fear!” 1098 exclaimed in frustration.
“Well, what do you suggest we do?” I asked.
“We run away.” I looked at him, surprised.
“We’re kids! We never have been anywhere without our parents! How are we supposed to run away?” I questioned.
“Well, to be honest I’m not exactly sure either. But I do know one thing.” He lifted his head. “I am not going to live under constant fear that we are going to be discovered just for being different.” And then his confidence abruptly left him.
“Oh, who am I kidding? You’re right. We are just kids! And even if we run away, where would we go?” He cried.
“1098, stop doubting yourself. We might be kids, but that doesn’t mean our abilities are limited.” I rested his hand on my shoulder, comforting him.
He smiled at me. “You’re right. Well, what if we go to the Equal Tower? I mean, if we’re running away we might as well make it productive.” He joked.
“Haha, very funny.” But it was a good idea. The Equal Tower was where the Equals experimented and made their rules. It was the most important building in the Union.
“Maybe we could learn a few things there.” I said, looking over at 1098.
“Yeah. So, are we actually doing this?” He asked.
“If you don’t want to, I could go by myself-” 1098 cut me off.
“Are you kidding? And leave me all alone in this boring world?”
I playfully hit him. “Well then, let’s start preparing.”
I had convinced my parents’ to let 1098 stay for the night, and as soon as I heard their soft snores in the next bedroom, we snuck out.
“I’ll grab some water and you go get some food.”
1098 saluted me and left towards the kitchen.
We met back at my room after we collected all the items that we would be needing on the trip.
“Are you ready?” I whispered to 1098.
“Ready.” He smiled back.
We tiptoed to the front door, careful to not make a sound. But someone was already there, waiting for us.
“Hello, sweetie.” My Father whispered to me. I stood there in shock. Beside me, 1098 wore the same expression.
“Father? Th-this is not what it looks like! I swear!” I frantically said, before realizing my mistake.
My tone was too informal.
1098 and I looked at each other in fear, but there was no need.
“Adira, listen to me. I don’t have much time before your Mother notices that I am gone.”
“Adira? Who’s that?” I asked, completely confused.
“That… was the name I secretly gave you.”
“Wh-what?” My head pounded.
“I am so sorry, my child. But there’s no time to explain. All you need to know is when you reach the Equal Tower, pretend you belong. Go up two flights and then use the first door to the left. As soon as you’re inside, hide in the closet.” My Father looked around. “I have to go now. I wish you both the best of luck.” And then he turned around and disappeared.
1098 gently led me by the arm. “Come on… Adira. We need to get going.”
I nodded, I can worry about this later, once we get to the Equal Tower. And with that thought, I pushed all of my confusion out of my mind, burying it at the back of my head.
I opened the door, and together, we fled into the dark night.
We have been walking for hours, occasionally stopping to rest, but never for long.
“Adira, such a pretty name,” 1098 toyed around with the name as we walked. Soon, the sun disappeared, leaving the moon in its place.
“Thanks, but it still seems a little weird to me, as I was called 1027 my whole life.”
“True, but we are already Different, so might as well rebel even more and come up with names that have letters in them.”
I smiled. “Are you saying that you would like a name with letters as well?”
“Maybe. I mean, it is a bit unfair that you're the only one with such a pretty, unique name. We are a team, after all.” He joked.
“I guess that’s only fair.”
“Well, do you know any names for boys?”
“Yes, I do actually! I was reading this book a few months ago and it had letter names on them. Hm, I don’t remember much of it but I think one of the names was… Jax?”
“Jax.” 1098 tested the name out. “Yes, I like this name very much!” He exclaimed. I laughed.
After walking for a few more minutes, I yawned, unable to help myself.
“Sorry, I’m just a little tired.”
“Don’t be. Do you want to find a place to rest? I mean, we can’t be yawning all over the Equals when we meet them.” Jax said.
I considered his suggestion, giving in to my tiredness.
“Yeah, sure.” We found a big willow tree that had leaves draping over the sides, covering us. “This would be a good place to rest…” I trailed off as Jax was already asleep.
I smiled, and then closed my own eyes as darkness claimed me.
Sunlight streamed in through the leaves, startling me awake.
“Jax!” I hissed. He didn’t stir. “JAX!” This time I yelled it.
“Wh-what? What’s wrong?” He blinked around in confusion.
“We need to get going! I’m sure my Mother has already found out that we’re gone!”
“Right, of course.” We got up, peering outside to make sure there were no people passing by, and continued our journey.
“Pretend we’re just normal friends having an early stroll.” I whispered. He nodded in response.
After 30 minutes of walking, the Equal Tower came into view.
It was a massive building, about 30 floors tall. It had one way windows covering it, blocking outsiders from looking inside.
There were male guards patrolling the outside. We hid behind a bush, not wanting to be seen.
“How are we going to get in?” I asked Jax.
“I have an idea. Follow my lead.” He stepped out, leaving me no choice but to follow.
“Good morning, Guards.” He said, hiding his feelings behind a flawless facade.
“Good morning, Guards.” I repeated, doing the same thing as Jax.
“Greetings to you, Children. May I ask what you are doing at the Equal Tower?” One of the guards asked.
“We would like to report someone who is acting abnormally. My name is Number 1098 and this is my friend, Number 1027.” Jax said, his eyes meeting mine for a split second, communicating to me what he was planning.
“A person acting abnormally? Are you sure, Children?”
“Yes. I think something was wrong with their Chip.”
“That cannot be! Please, follow me Children and tell the Equals what you have seen.”
And we were in.
The inside was even more spectacular than the outside. There was a huge, modern chandelier that looked somewhat like droplets suspended in midair. The ceiling was lined with bright, white lights and the walls were marble.
“Wow,” I breathed quietly, so only Jax heard.
“Yeah.” He whispered back.
“Guard, may I use the restroom?” I asked, immediately putting our plan in action.
“Yes, of course, Child. The restroom is two halls down.”
“Thank you, Guard.”
“Guard, may I go with Number 1027? Just so she can get back without a problem.” Jax asked.
The Guard nodded.
We both walked towards the restrooms, and turned the corner, so that we were out of sight.
“Okay, I think I saw the staircase this way. Let’s go.” I looked around, making sure there were no people around.
“Right, but let’s hurry. He’ll start searching for us soon.” Jax replied, following me.
“Okay. Remember, pretend that we belong.” I reminded him of what my Father had told us.
He nodded, and we stepped out, walking with a purpose towards the sleek, marble staircase.
The Guard glanced at us but paid us no attention, no doubt waiting for the children he thought were still in the restroom.
Just as my Father said, we climbed up two flights of stairs as people scurried around us.
“That must be the room,” Jax said and I nodded. Just as my Father described, it was the first door on the left. I reached out to open the doorknob, stopping with my hand on the knob for a few seconds, listening. Luckily, there wasn’t any sound in the room, and we quickly dashed inside.
There was a big, wooden closet at the back of the room. Looking at Jax, we both ran towards it. We climbed inside and closed the door just as we heard the door to the office open, and the sound of people filing in.
I could hear my heart pound in my chest as I took steady breaths, trying to calm it. I peered out from a little crack in the closet.
In the room were 10 people, all wearing the Equal badge, which indicated that they ran the government. How did Father know what room they would be in? I wondered, each time they meet they choose a different one.
“Adira!” Jax hissed, “they’re starting!” I nodded.
“How is it going, Number 837?” An Equal asked.
“Perfectly, Number 786.” 786 smiled at this.
“Nobody will suspect a thing.”
“Are you hearing this?” Jax whispered.
“Yeah, their tone is too informal. Almost like… the Chip doesn’t work on them.”
“Or they don’t have the Chip inside them at all.” I gasped at the suggestion, but Jax covered my mouth just in time.
“How long until they’re ready?” Number 786 asked.
“Maybe around two weeks?” A male Equal responded, Jax took out a piece of paper and started to write on it. I glanced at him curiously but he just shook his head in response.
“Good.” 786 smiled again, “soon, everyone will have to listen to our commands. This will be the turning point of history. We will have an unstoppable army at our hands, who would do anything we wish.”
I frantically gestured to Jax with my eyes. He looked at me with the same expression.
“An army?” He breathed, barely making a sound.
“It must be the Chip! Because they have it implanted in everyone’s brains, they have no choice but to follow them!” I gasped again, but this time it was loud enough to be heard.
“What was that?” 786 looked around the room, her gaze landing on the closet we were hiding in.
She stood up and walked towards us. Jax pulled me as back as the closet would allow.
She grinned, showing her pearly white teeth right before she opened the closet, dragging us out by the arm and throwing us on the ground.
“These children, how is it possible that they are here? The Chip wouldn’t have allowed this.” She scowled around the room.
I lifted my eyes, and spotted a familiar face even though they all looked the same.
“Father?” I squeaked.
786 swirled around towards him. “Father? You’re a Father? You took an oath! An oath to make sure you never marry or have a child!”
My Father stood up. “Yes. I did. But that was when I was still naïve, and thought what you are doing was right.”
“This is the only way we can make sure nobody is hurt! Having an army at our command is just a bonus!”
Father stopped in his tracks, frozen. “And I completely supported that! But what I don’t want to do is make an army of people who are controlled by a Chip!”
“Father! What are you talking about?” I cried.
“You see, your ‘Father’ is an Equal. He broke his promise and had you. Which is probably why you can resist the Chip, and I suspect the same for your friend.” She glared at us.
“Anyways, guards, seize them!” She commanded. Guards burst into the room and grabbed us, but not before Jax slipped a piece of paper into my pocket.
“Let us go!” I yelled, struggling. But when I glanced over at Jax, he was quiet, his eyes silently telling me we will be okay.
The guards ignored us, and grabbed a long needle filled with some kind of substance.
Then they stabbed it into our arms and everything went black.
I woke up with my arm attached to a machine. I tried screaming but all that came out was a strangled whisper. Where am I? What happened? I couldn’t remember anything, except that my name was Number 1027. I looked around frantically, and a small piece of white paper in my pocket caught my eye. I picked it up, and read it.
If you are reading this, it means that we have been caught. You won’t remember anything, but your name is Adira. My name is Jax, your best friend. Don’t listen to anything the Equals say. Be brave, we will find each other again.
I gasped as the door to my room opened. I quickly shoved the letter back in my pocket.
“Oh, so you’re awake.” A woman walked into the room.
“Where am I? Who are you?” I asked in confusion.
“Don’t worry, darling. Everything will be alright.” The Equal smiled, holding up a small, metallic chip.
Note: This story was inspired by the short story "Harrison Bergeron"