An epitaph carved upon the grave of individuality
An epitaph carved upon the grave of individuality
He lay with his head against the chill of a marble head stone. The markings on the stone were worn. Though the words were difficult to read they marked the grave of a woman named Alma Rodriguez. Her life and death had both come during the twenty fourth century.
No one knows more about the woman than the man whose head rests comfortably against her gravestone. His knowledge of her could be incorrectly assumed to be of an intimate nature.
With his eyes closed the man does not see the growing look of confusion in the posture of the only people there with him in the graveyard.
The looks of impatience seem to be due to the people standing there with recording equipment. They each look to the other with blank stares. A single red light blinks on a small monocle shaped device strapped over the eye of a man wearing a jacket that reads CAMERA CREW.
Though his eyes remained closed the man speaks at last. There is a wave of relief seen as shoulders cease to slouch which quickly spreads through the crew as they regain their professional curiosity.
To hear him speak would lead one to believe that he was somehow a part of the stone. His voice was soft, deep, and sounded like gravel slowly colliding into itself as it swept down a rushing stream.
All else is quiet as he speaks, “She was a teacher. Her passion was poetry.”
A man steps forward, he is dressed well, in a nice suit. He seems to be there to progress the story with inquiry as well as to keep the attention of an audience that will be viewing this recorded interaction.
He nods to the man with optical recording devise and he pushes something on the strap that runs along the side of his face and over his ear to somewhere along the back of his head.
The man in the suit stepped closer once again, “I am here with Dmitri Botogov. For our viewers who have been paying attention to his story you know why it is that we have come to this small moon sized orbiting cemetery. For those of you who have been unable to follow the story, this is what has happened so far,”
He makes a sweeping gesture as the camera follows the movement of his hand, panning out to get a shot of the massive, layered cemetery with its various themed areas.
The camera rises towards a large cliff that stands just behind the area they were filming in. There is a wall that is mostly invisible which serves to separate one area from the next. In the enclosure with the cliff there are a few scenic beaches, complete with crashing waves, and even the sound of seagulls.
Another area lying far west of them contained meadows, with unobstructed views of a skyline that could be seen for miles. To the east lay an area that very much resembled the Paris France of the twenty first century.
As the camera man slowly took everything in, two fingers pressing something on the side of his camera implant, he records a plot in the distance that resembles the sixteenth century period of Japanese history when Samurai roamed freely and the Bushido code was the way of life.
Everywhere his camera went there was a new area with a different theme. After a few moments the camera man returns to his original focus, the reporter standing next to the gravestone with the man resting his head against it.
The cameraman nods and the reporter continues, “This lonely place has become the home of Mr. Botogov. After his position as the professor of ancient history was petitioned by citizens who felt that history was best forgotten, and not celebrated, as they felt Mr. Botogov did. For the first time since this incident nine months ago, Mr. Botogov has agreed to do an interview with someone.”
He turns his attention to the man, “Can you tell us why maintaining records of our past was such an important issue for you that you lost your job attempting to keep it alive?”
He does not open his eyes but they flutter a bit, “Do you know what poetry is?”
The man turns to his crew, and then back to the gravestone, “No, I can’t say that I do. What does that have to do with your attempt to breathe life into a dead subject?”
He opens his eyes, his gaze fixed on the man in the suit, “Everything,” he whispers
The interviewer looks at his cameraman, he seems unsure of how to respond. He doesn’t have the chance to consider this however as Dmitri Botogov gets to his feet. After he stands he pauses to stretch. His attention is given completely to the man with the camera.
The cameraman looks quickly at the interviewer, “Mr. Langston, sir, do you want me to keep rolling?”
Mr. Langston grips his microphone as he nods. He turns the microphone back towards the disheveled looking man standing before him, “Professor, would you mind elaborating? What do you mean that poetry has everything to do with your decision?”
Though his face remains devoid of emotion, there is a small twinkle in Professor Botogov’s eyes that hints at something else, “As the world is aware emotions have been outlawed since the last world war ended in the year 2382. Without the ability to feel, and more importantly without the ability to expression our emotions, anything that was driven by emotion died. The woman whose grave I stand over was the last person to successfully attempt to create beauty through expression of emotion.”
The man called Langston nods, “Yes, that is correct. The first surgery to place a self sustaining organism to be inserted as a cochlear plant in a human being took place in 2400. So, logically, if this woman died in 2394 she would have been one of the last people to exist without our modern conveniences. She would have still suffered the burden of emotion.”
Professor Botogov’s lip curls slightly, the movement goes unnoticed, “What you consider a burden, I consider a gift. It is understandable to wish to be rid of anger, jealousy, fear, hate…but love, joy, contentment, the apprehension that precedes ones first kiss, the exhilarating feeling that follows it, these things I often contemplate.
It is without complexity that we as human beings now exist. It is without suspense that we go about our daily lives. Our world is predictable because that guarantees that war can be prevented, but so does it not guarantee that romance is prevented.”
The microphone slowly moves back to the interviewer’s mouth, “I will disagree with you, as I am sure most of our viewers will as well. The system works. I must reiterate my original question though. How do the dead arts figure into all of those opinions?”
“Are you really unable to see the connection? In our history it was always poets, bards, artists that best captured a feeling. Be it love, heart break, anxiety, hope, emptiness or any other of a plethora of emotion.
The reporter stares for a long while into nothingness; there is a contemplative expression on his face. His attention shifts towards the gravestone.
His next question is asked in a tone that indicates how much his attention is actually divided, “So, you were exiled earlier this year from Earth colony 602, Demeter. Tell the audience why it was that this decision was made?”
“It is quite simple really. I was a professor of ancient history at one of the premiere university’s in the galaxy. In 2476 it was determined that our society had a number of occupations that had lost there purpose and usefulness.
This happened much the same way that childbirth became a calculated procedure that opened opportunities for geneticists. Procreation ceased to be necessary. So, just as conception was no longer required to create new life so weren’t other things scraped altogether.”
The reporter nods, “Then what you are saying is that your “contribution” to society as a professor of ancient histories was believed to be a waste of funding? Is it not true that the real reason for this was that you were believed to be corrupting the impressionable, easily influenced, minds of our youth?
From what I understand your students began to ask questions. Was it or was it not this blossoming curiosity that posed enough of a threat that you were not only relieved of your position but exiled here to this antiquated burial ground?”
“There was no threat, there was no corruption whatsoever. It has always been my goal to---“
“Answer the question. Your opinion is irrelevant. Was the reason for your firing due to the belief that clinging to our species history was romanticizing war, intolerance, ignorance and cowardice?”
“Cowardice?” The professor asks with a strange inflection of
emotion barely audible
He looks up at the stars resting just above the domed ceiling of the graveyard, “No, that might be a part of what our history was, but there was also compassion, celebration of beauty, there was meaning and joy in childbirth, once there was a thing called family, there was kinship shared. Once. people truly appreciated and understood one another. It is impossible to look at our history in black and white,
There were terrible people who did embrace the negative sides of humanity, but so weren’t there better people to inspire, to motivate, to give hope to those who suffered at the hands of those who succumbed to the dark impulses.”
The reporter stares at him for a few moments. The cameraman shifts a bit as the silence lingers. The professor continues to stare out into the skyline beyond the clear ceiling.
When the reporter finally breaks the eerie quiet the professor is stirred from his thoughts, “Then you find no fault in your actions? You do not see how much damage your opinions have caused?”
“Do I believe that my actions hurt anyone? No, I do not.”
“Your students began to ask their parents questions that could not be answered. I am sure that you are aware that curiosity is illegal. When the chemical inhibitors were first implanted in human beings laws were passed that ensured no inquires would ever be made about the function of the chemicals that had once been naturally released in the brain,
Among these laws was one that prohibited discussion of emotion using examples from ancient Medias, including but not limited to literature, film, music, art, and visual stimulation such as photography.”
“I am well aware of the laws. The manner in which these laws are enforced makes this a Totalitarian society. I do not regret planting the seed of knowledge in the minds of my students, nor do I regret the consequence for it. “
“I have one last question, this woman, this poet whose grave you stand upon, who is she to you?”
“She is an example of what our species could have been. Her empathy was a representation of what the best of humanity meant in a world filled with corruption and greed and hate. I read her work and it made me wonder, what it must have been like to be filled with love and kindness. To know both doubt and hope, anguish and triumph, to know what it truly meant to be human. This, being here, will be the closest that I will ever come to being able to feel such things.”
The video cuts to various young adults walking hallways, outside classrooms, sitting in cafeterias. The voice of the reporter is heard during the brief montage, “I understand that you were a student of professor Botogov’s, could you tell us what you thought of his teachings and whether you agree with his punishment.”
“He sparked an interest in many of us, one that led to a quest for knowledge. I’ve thought about things with new perspective. Some things I thought about for the first time. It’s a shame how he was treated.”
“I say he got off pretty easy. He attempted to corrupt his students. I know I certainly didn’t gain anything from his teachings. His was a venomous presence in our society. He will soon be a part of his precious history. Lost, forgotten, and nothing more.”
“I think the world was a better place with him in it.”
“I honestly don’t care. I only went to his class a few times and even then I used it for a place to nap.”
“Though I might get in trouble for saying this, I think he made a lot of good points. These implants are forced on us; we have no choice in whether or not we get them. We are barely people any more. There is no good or bad, there is no right or wrong, but there is barely anything there at all now.”
The video returns to Dmitri Botogov once more. He looks as though he is in deep thought. He makes a motion with his hand towards the grave, “Every night I have the same dream. I am being carried by a river. I understand this to be the flow of time.
I am eager to return to a time when roses still had meaning and a touch still conjured feelings of love. I awake always in the same moment. I see land and I am sure, that I will finally know what it is to feel lov…”
There is a click as the video is interrupted, “You no longer have to deal with that nonsense at school, and I’m not going to have you bring it into our home. Dinner anyways, we are waiting on you.”
A boy is sitting in a chair in a living room. He knows his mother means well but to him the professor’s teaching were not nonsense, not at all. The room is dimly lit but even in the soft glow of a single light it would be impossible to miss the look on his face as he stands.
Though no one is there to see it, it is unmistakable. It is perhaps fortunate for him that he is alone. As he stands there a smile slowly spreads across his face.
"You have your way and I'll have my way.
As for the right way, the correct way,
and the only way, that does not exist"