01 | OPPUGNAUT
The Collective was a society where everyone was required to be the same, wear the same, act the same and love the same.
It was elusive trying to be an exact replica of everyone else when deep down Jeongguk knew that he was so diverse. It was even harder when he did not know what it was that made him so different from the rest, only feeling a prick abyss the pit of his stomach screaming, clawing and burning to let everyone know.
Jeon Jeongguk did the same things every day. It was a routine. He woke up every morning around five and dressed into the same white set of attire. Jeongguk gave and apprehensive gait towards his full-body mirror, his chocolate glazed irises raked his reflective figure in the luminous glass. He shook his head, the milky skin between his brows scrunched together. I should be in black'. He felt wrong in this tedious ivory. His ebony locks were coiffed accordingly, gracefully falling just below his brows.
'I am different'.
Jeongguk's tawny irises glimmered with guilt and his rosy lips were poised in an impartial scowl as his gaze lazily followed the outline of his effeminate physique. 'Normals' are not supposed to embark in such emotion — it is wrong, inappropriate and different, guilt.
Strolling around the courtyard each day always lead to a new experience, which is strange for this society that is remotely the same.
Everyday Jeongguk sees new people, some in black while others in white. Occasionally he will see someone in brown — someone that had broken society's laws and are on probation. If anyone that is not wearing silver talks to them, they are sent to a probation center where they will be experimented on, diagnosed as a 'Different', and set to wear a brown jumpsuit.
You see, 'Silvers' are the society's 'safe keepers'. They keep people out of trouble and back into the same agenda that goes along every single day.
Jeongguk tilts his head to the side facing the only person he can share his feelings and troubles with — sharing feelings and thoughts with others before the age of twenty can be interpreted as 'sexual harassment' which is why it is a major risk of being diagnosed as a 'Different'. Her name was Kim Jennie; nicknames were not allowed and rather seen as irregular, although Jeongguk calls her 'Jen' when in an environment that is anodyne to do so.
"I've heard of this place," Jeongguk begins, gaining Jennie's attention. She looks up from previously examining her healthy nails and looks in Jeongguk's direction — long nails were not allowed as it was seen as 'unhygienic and satanic'. "It sounds amazing."
"What place?" She asks quirking a perfectly sculpted brow, brushing a strand of her long chocolate locks from her eyes.
"I don't know what it's called, but from what I've heard, everyone isn't the same. You can wear whatever you want and colors don't mean anything. You can fall in love with anyone at any age. It doesn't matter if it's a girl or a boy. You can even be the same gender as them! I think it's called a 'Gay'. You don't have to follow the same instructions every day. It sounds so ... freeing,"
Jennie scowls, you see, she likes to stick to the rules a little more. She is afraid to be diagnosed as a 'Different', but who would not be?
"Gguk, you know very well that we can't talk about these kinds of things, I've told you this thousands of times," she sighs, vowels swirled in dismay, "If people find out, you'll be sent away and marked as a 'Different'," she warned the brunette-haired boy. Jeongguk averted his gaze pressing his tongue to the walls of his cheek. 'I hate it here'.
"What if I am a Different?" queries Jeongguk warily, eyes downcast.
"You are not a Different, you're just a confused teenaged boy," Jennie says sternly, "I'm sure many other people have these kinds of thoughts, but that's the thing, they're thoughts that are met to be kept in that pretty head of yours and not to be voiced," she explains, eyes airbrushed with some sort of sympathy.
"I bet that place lets you say whatever you want," Jeongguk mutters, "If you were thinking something, you'd be allowed to say it and no one would care. I hate it here. Everything is too strict," Jeongguk rambles. Jennie nods in agreement.
"We should get going," Jennie whispers handing Jeongguk his name tag. The latter huffs and attaches the tag to his white jumpsuit and follows Jennie out the door and through the Courtyard. This was the only thing Jeongguk somewhat enjoyed, seeing different people. He knew Jennie was upset with him, he knew it quite well. She loathed when Jeongguk spoke against the societies edicts, even if she agreed with him. She just does not want Jeongguk to be taken away and marked as a 'Different'.
Once you were a 'Different', no one came near you, you became the outcast. It was as though you had a highly contagious disease that bared abrupt malice and caused death to those infected. If a Different was present in a room with others, Normals would walk — scurry away from them as far as the eye can see.
Except for Jeongguk, he would walk where he wanted and no stupid society was going to change that. He was not going to walk away from someone who has done absolutely nothing wrong; they are people just like everybody else. Jennie was usually the one to pull Jeongguk away without anyone seeing since physical contact was forbidden among minors. You need to be an adult.
Jeongguk's parents believe that he and Jennie will both be wedded and so does her parents, however, Jeongguk and Jennie believe otherwise — even if it would be easier for them to marry when older. They each have a mutual respect for each other; they have been best friends since childhood.
"Jeongguk," Jennie berates in a syncopated whisper, awakening Jeongguk from his daze. "Get over here!" She averts her hazel irises towards something. Jeongguk furrows his brows and follows her gaze.
His eyes sprawl wide, a Different.
His black hood was up and a mob of charcoal locks cascaded his visage, his head hung low as he gaited awkwardly pass everyone as though it where a neglected ghost town.
Jeongguk walked over to Jennie trying to 'avoid' him like everyone else. Jeongguk did not want to, but he knew he had to. He fought his inquisitive urge. Although Jeongguk could not make out his facial features, the man was quite tall.
"Don't stare at him," Jennie snaps, continuing to walk through the Courtyard as though she never took any notice to him at all. "I feel bad for him, Jen," Jeongguk whispers, Jennie immediately shot her stunned gaze towards the innocent, brunette boy, her lip curling in frustration, "Jeongguk, you can't call me by my nickname, you know this!" She admonished in a syncopated whisper.
"I'm sorry, I just feel so bad for him, and what did he ever do to deserve this? We're all equal, the same, we're human beings!" Jeongguk harangues in a hushed tone. "Yes, I understand, Jeongguk. I feel bad for them too, but this is how society works, we have to do what they say. You're a 'Normal', he's a 'Different', two different categories, now stick to yours," she clarifies, hazel irises drizzled in empathy. Jeongguk nods tolerantly and continues to follow Jennie to class passively.
In this particular school, the classes are divided into specific age groups. It was all one giant class. If you were eight, your class would be filled with every eight-year-old that was not diagnosed as a 'Different'. It was simply ambiguous.
Jeongguk and Jennie were both currently sixteen — four more years before they could marry someone and have physical contact with peers or anyone older. Everyone somewhat kept to themselves in this society, never really communicating, unless being spoken to by a Silver. If you had a friend, you would possibly only have that one or two, perhaps three maximum.
No one is too fond of becoming attached to each other, mainly because they are afraid that their new friend may become a 'Different', or too afraid that they themselves will be diagnosed.
However, Jennie and Jeongguk were not afraid of it; perhaps because Jeongguk feels as though he is a 'Different', he is quite positive that Jennie knows too. However, she loves her best friend too much to rant him out to any authorities.
Without her, Jeongguk would have been diagnosed as a 'Different' a long time ago.