By Claire Burianek
Today in history class we learned about the past society, TheSubjugated, that used to occupy the area we now live on. Primitive and insecure, they clung to their smartphones and designer handbags as one would cling to a lifeboat. Perhaps the most puzzling thing about them was what our instructor said at the end of class: their society was formed around the concept that heterosexual relationships were “normal”.
I know that someday I will be expected to find a nice woman and settle down to start a family with her. The idea appeals to me, but it also feels as though something is missing. I can’t quite figure out what. That’s how everything is done among us FreePeople- we avoid unclean mixing of the genders as much as possible. I want a wife and kids only because it is what is expected of me, and I want to fulfill my duty in society.
After my daily classes, I return to my house to drop off my school bag, and then I leave for work. Something we also learned about TheSubjugated is their YoungPeople used to be forced to do “homework” after school. We FreePeople are much more efficient- everything YoungPeople need to learn is taken care of in the schools. That way, once classes end for the day, we can begin training to select a job that we may continue in after graduation. I was old enough to have a job three years ago, and I started working in the library, but now I’ve switched to working in the local animal shelter. It’s much livelier than the library ever was. I work there for four hours every day after classes are done.
We also have classes seven days and week and only two breaks per year: on NewXmas and LiberationDay. We don’t have religion like TheSubjugated did, so NewXmas is a celebration of family ties and generosity. LiberationDay is the remembrance of the uprising hundreds of years ago that led to the new FreePeople society. Without breaks from classes, we become experts in our fields of study at a much younger age. Next year will be my graduation year and I’ll finally get to choose a career. I’ve been studying animal sciences for five years, so I’ll have to choose a career within that field.
Since both of my fathers are still at work when I arrive home, I walk to the animal shelter. It’s not a long walk, and today is sunny- a rare occurrence in my province. Our FreePeople society is split up into provinces, and I live in GlacierTerritory, the northernmost province. Our weather typically consists of rain, snow, cloudy skies, or some combination of all three. During my walk, I see many other FreePeople that I’ve known for my whole life. We live in small, closely bonded communities, designed to keep us safe from outside influences. I’ve learned about other places in the world during classes, but we don’t travel, so what we know about other places is largely limited.
I reach the animal shelter just in time for my work shift and begin my various jobs- scooping the cats’ litter boxes, taking the dogs on walks, and replacing food and water for the bunnies. It’s tiresome but therapeutic work. After our society transitioned to FreePeople so long ago, there were debates over whether animals should still be included in living situations with humans.
The officials finally concluded that although animals are unhygienic, they had been dependent on humans for so long that it would be unethical to leave them in wild areas. The solution they came up with is having animal shelters in every province to house the former “pets” and letting people come visit them for emotional support. However, nobody owns animals anymore. Our houses are places of the most cleanliness, and any mess would be a sign of personal failure.
When my four-hour work shift finishes, I begin my walk back to my house. I lose myself in the splashes of color stretched before me on the horizon and become so thoroughly engrossed that I trip and sprawl on the ground. As I look around to see what I tripped on, I notice Him looming over me for the first time. I haven’t seen that face in such a long time, but even seeing it now gives me a strange feeling in my stomach that I can’t quite place.
I told my father Daniel about it once when I was still a YoungerPerson, and he admonished me immediately. Such emotional expressions between genders are wrong, and I should know better, but I can’t get that feeling to fade no matter what I try. He peers down at me, His brow furrowed in concern, and offers His hand to me, but I ignore it, stand up on my own, and stride quickly away, face flushed with embarrassment.
Upon my arrival at my house, both my fathers greet me cheerfully and lead me to the wonderful smelling dinner they prepared. I instantly forget all about Him and listen as they tell me about work. Father Daniel works at a laboratory, where he works on technological innovations. Currently they are working on a new project where they could modify the bodies of unborn NewPeople even before they come into the world and take away their reproductive systems.
We FreePeople have no use for them- all babies are created artificially and given to parents who apply for NewPeople. This way, all babies are given to families in households that could properly care for them. Father Daniel’s new project would simplify society with no wayward opposite sex attraction. My other father, Ethan, works at a supply store. He enjoys interacting with customers as they stock up on household supplies. After talking about their day, both fathers turn to me and ask about mine. I tell them most of the details, of course leaving out the short interaction with Him on my way home from work.
They express appropriate interest, and then dinner is over, and we clean up- I clear dishes, Father Daniel washes them, and Father Ethan dries them. After recreational activities, its bedtime, but rather than going to sleep like I’m supposed to, I lay awake. I can’t shake the encounter from earlier that day, as well as all the other encounters I have ever had with Him. It seems different than other males; it feels almost like I’m taught my future partnership with a female will feel like. The thought terrifies me, but I can’t get it to budge from my mind no matter what I try, so I give up and stare at the ceiling until the sun’s rays poke through my window.