Chapter 7 - Eve
Overseer or architect. Overseer or architect. Those were the only two positions I thought—we all thought—that Luc could possibly be harvested for. And yet, here we are at the final harvest, and Luc isn’t standing on the stage.
I sit perfectly still, trying hard not to let the surprise show on my monitor. I tell myself that it doesn’t matter, really, because regardless of the position he is harvested for, our lives are still both about to change. Even in a lesser occupation, Luc will move out of our unit and into his own residence. Block A is designated for children and their guardians because of its proximity to the institute, but after the harvest Luc will be an adult, contributing to the future of Eridu in his assigned way. He won’t live in Block D, after all, but in Block C with those harvested for the lesser positions. He won’t receive the bonus oxy-creds either, so I guess we aren’t going to be moving into a larger apartment.
Beside me, Lil turns with an eyebrow raised, but I don’t meet her gaze. So, Luc wasn’t assigned a premium position. The overseers must have a different role in society for him.
“Well that was unexpected,” she says, under her breath.
I just nod, too distracted to hear what the overseer on the stage is saying.
“What do you think he’ll be harvested as?”
I think back to our recent conversation where I had jokingly suggested that Luc might become a cleaner or a preschool teacher, but it had all been in jest. It never seemed possible for Luc to be harvested as anything less; after all, he was at the top of the leaderboard.
What did he do wrong during his final tests? Was it the academic or physical assessments that he mucked up? Or did he go amber during an emotional test?
There are other positions of course, not as prestigious as a premium position, but just as satisfying nonetheless. I give Lil a non-committal shrug, but I have some ideas. A head scientist, perhaps. Luc always did enjoy the sciences. I clap politely for the new overseer and wonder how my guardians feel right now. How Luc feels.
Don’t be silly, I scold myself, Luc doesn’t feel anything—that’s what makes him such a good student.
Then why wasn’t he harvested for a premium position?
I push the question away. I’m sure Luc is too well trained to have felt any strong sense of disappointment at not being harvested for a premium occupation. But perhaps he did feel one of those weaker emotions; slight surprise, perhaps, before returning to the desired state of contentment. I know from the way the blue on my monitor glowed with a little more intensity that I certainly did feel something, and I remind myself to have more control. Unlike Luc, I still have a whole year of tests and ranks ahead of me.
“I would now like to introduce you to the rest of the harvested students,” says Nova, and I sit forward in my seat. A line of people enters from the right side of the stage, most in a formal, stiff way, but a couple hide little smiles or wave faintly at someone in the audience. They are all wearing their new blue uniforms, and I scan their faces looking for my brother. If he hasn’t been harvested as a head researcher, then perhaps he will be a medic. He was assigned duties at the hospital fairly regularly over the past couple of cycles. Or will he be a transfer agent? My skin prickles.
Luc is a virtuous citizen of Eridu, so even if he was harvested for a lowly position like a cleaner, I know that he would conduct his duties with grace. The last of the harvested students enters the stage and they form three regimented lines. My gaze jumps from one face to the next, looking for that strong jawline, the furrowed brow. I want to wave at him, to let him know it doesn’t matter to me that he didn’t become an overseer, that I’m still proud of him. I look for those kind, dark eyes that see the real me beneath my outer shell.
“And now,” says Nova, as I continue scanning their faces, “can we have a minute of silence for those who are not with us today. Those who have been culled—transferred into the Grid—will serve Eridu in their own way.”
There is not a rustle of clothing to be heard as the names of the culled are projected onto the screen hanging above the stage. I read through the list of names, once, twice, and find the one I am looking for.
Then I rip my gaze away from the screen, staring at a spot on the front of the stage where a chip of paint has been removed. Most of the stage has been painted a dark grey colour, but there, right in front of me, a small chip, perhaps the size of a fingernail, has fallen off and the pale undercoat is showing through. I stare at it all through the minute of silence, and as the harvested students file off the stage. I continue to gaze at it while the new overseer, Ida, speaks her closing address.
“To be content is to be free,” she says.
I pull my gaze away from the slight imperfection in the paint and look up at Ida. “To be content is to be free.”
And then it feels like the walls of the auditorium are closing in on me, and the oxygen pumps aren’t working correctly. I breathe in deeply, in for six, hold for six, out for six, as I have been taught at the institute, but it’s no use. All I can see is Luc’s name on the list of the culled. I need to get out of here.
I rise to my feet, and Lil tries to pull me back down into my seat.
“I’m fine,” I whisper, shrugging her off. “I just need some air.”
But Lil is looking at my wrist and I don’t want to know what she sees.
“She’s redlining,” I hear someone whisper from the second row, but they can’t be talking about me. Not Eve. Eve wouldn’t redline.
I walk calmly towards the door, determined to get outside and away from the staring crowd.