Episode 1: Seeking Truth
I stared up at the sky, leaning way back as the swing did it’s backward descent and grinned at the brief feeling of weightlessness that caused my stomach to drop, wondering how anyone could find the motion anything less than amazing. To me it was a glimpse of flying, of true freedom, a taste of the ecstasy that sex might someday bring, without the complications or loss of innocence. I pumped my legs hard as I came back up, going higher than before, and once more threw my head back and watched the clouds with a gleeful sense of abandonment.
He was upside down when I spotted him standing twenty feet behind me, or spotted his scuffed up loafers I should say, and I righted myself abruptly, jerking the swing and nearly bouncing out of the rubber seat. I squeezed the metal chain links as the blood rushed to my head, closing my eyes against the dizzy spell it caused, and let my feet touch the ground and slide. When I came to a stop and the scenery quit spinning I turned my head slowly and peered over my shoulder. He was still standing there, leaning against the slide-one arm clasping his elbow, one knee bent, with a smirk on his face that made my face flush. I wondered how long he had been watching me and my embarrassment shifted to irritation. Who cares if he saw me swinging with a big grin on my face, he’d ruined my moments of perfect pleasure and peace. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath and as I let it out I decided I would ignore his presence and try and recapture….
“I’ve never gotten that much enjoyment out of anything in my life. It was beautiful to watch.”
The moment he started speaking, my heart jumped in my chest, particularly since his voice was so close he must’ve been standing right in front of me. I opened my eyes and found that he was. It took me a moment to register what he’d said, but when I did, my face heated once more, though this time from pleasure. I started to smile but it faded when I thought about the first part of his statement.
“Never?” I asked.
He smiled faintly and shook his head, his dark hair falling over his forehead with the motion. He swept it out of his face and I noticed the color of his eyes matched his hair perfectly, so dark they almost blended with his pupils.
He cocked his head to the side and looked at me quizzically. “What were you thinking? While you were swinging I mean.”
I laughed a little, “I wasn’t thinking. Not really, anyway, I was just feeling. Or imagining I guess, that I knew what it was like to fly…” I could literally feel the heat climbing my neck and spreading across my face this time, feeling childish and silly, but his answering smile was wistful, not mocking.
“Perhaps you do know.” He nodded his head to me in what was almost a courtly gesture and turned and started walking away.
“Wait, where are you going?” The words were out of my mouth before I’d realized I would ask them.
He stopped and glanced over his shoulder. “Nowhere in particular.”
I hopped off the swing and hurried up to him, “Do you mind if I join you? I’m good at going nowhere in particular.”
He studied me for a moment before lifting one shoulder slightly. He began walking again and I kept pace, stealing glances at him as we strolled. I estimated him to be about a year older than me, making him fourteen. His t-shirt was clean but worn, as were the jeans he was wearing. I wondered what his name was, but for some reason found that I didn’t want to ask just yet. The day had taken on a surreal quality and for an instant I thought that maybe I was dreaming, that I’d fallen asleep on that swing.
He broke the silence first as we stepped onto a path into the woods. “Do you ever wonder if the things they teach us in school are a load of bull?”
I raised a brow, “What things?”
His lip curled slightly, “Any of it, or maybe all of it.”
I frowned, “You’ll have to be more specific.”
He smiled, “Okay, how about history. Has it ever occurred to you that the history books are written by the winners?”
I frowned again, it hadn’t occurred to me. But now that he said it… “Huh. That’s true. So you’re saying that we’re being taught what the elect want us to believe about what happened?”
He slowed his pace and looked at me in surprise. “That’s exactly what I’m saying…but what made you use the word elect?”’
The way he looked at me suggested he was impressed and I felt a surge of pride. “Well, I guess because they’re the people in power now, therefore the current winners.”
He took an abrupt left off the path and into the woods and I followed.
“That’s right,” he said as he pushed some branches out of the way and held them for me, “which means we’re not getting an education, we’re being indoctrinated.”
I walked past him and waited while he let the branches go, wondering where he was taking us. There was no path but he seemed to know where he was going so I followed close behind, ducking under branches and stepping over fallen limbs. I’d heard the word indoctrination before and I searched my memory for the definition.
“You mean brainwashing?” I asked.
He stopped moving and smiled at me, his eyes crinkling. “Yes, brainwashing,”
I felt a bit flustered by that smile and found myself biting my bottom lip, something I tended to do when I was nervous.
His gaze dropped to my mouth and for a split second something swam in his eyes that made my heart stutter. He blinked and turned away, resuming his trek through the trees. We were both silent for a bit as we walked and the quiet allowed me to notice when the foliage changed. Instead of twigs and leaves we were now stepping on pine needles and there were beams of light touching the ground here and there from where the sun filtered through the trees high above. Once again I was struck by that feeling of unreality as the woods transformed into something of an enchanted forest.
He stopped again, and bent down next to a tree, fiddling with what looked like an over-sized metal tool box and I watched him open it up and pull a blanket out. He shook the flannel and spread it, then stretched out on his side, bending his elbow and leaning his head on his hand. He indicated for me to do the same and I stood there uncertainly for a moment. The blanket wasn’t very big so I’d be lying really close to him.
“Don’t worry, I’ll leave the biting to you,” he said, looking pointedly at my lip which I was once again chewing.
I laughed a little and walked over, settling down across from him. “So brainwashing,” I prompted.
“Have you ever heard of John Dewey?” He asked.
My brows drew in, “Um, he sounds familiar.”
“He founded the department of education, and apparently he said the system was devised not to create critical thinkers, but instead to make non-critically thinking taxpayers. Essentially he was talking about turning generations of children into slaves. And it’s interesting that you would have immediately made the connection to the elect, because they would be the slave masters.”
I stared at him, turning this over in my brain, feeling something deep inside of me growing excited. I had never met anyone who talked to me in this way, challenging my mind. It was as if there was a door inside my head that had become rusty from lack of use and he was prying it open. And I wanted to help him do it.
“So…why?” I asked finally, “What’s the purpose?”
“I’m working on that,” he said softly, “chasing the rabbit down the hole.” He seemed to turn inward for a few moments before smiling wryly. “I guess for the time being it’s enough that I recognize it. It’s hard to brainwash someone who questions everything.” He cocked his head to the side and regarded me, “How about you, do you question everything?”
I met his challenging stare. “I do now.”