Escape into Society Part 1

I started this last Wednesday, but I didn’t have enough time to finish it that evening. I wanted to finish it all last week, but just couldn’t get the drive to continue. It is Wednesday again though, and results require discipline, so I am finishing off the first part of my story now, which is taking me longer to write than usual. I also didn’t even cover the whole story, so part 2, and maybe a 3rd part, will come later.

Escape into Society

Sarah sat back in her chair as the leather cushion squeaked, closing her exhausted eyes hard enough that they started to water. After opening her eyes and wiping away the tears of exhaustion, she glanced at the clock on her computer to discover it was already well past midnight. Her last coffee was already several hours ago and her energy had finally ran out. She wanted to review her report that she had been working on one last time before sending it.

On the Development of Language among Cloister 16B
Dr. Sarah McMurdo, Head of Language Research for Project Embryo

Cloister 16B has shown the most advancement over the past 30 years in regards to the development of its language. While other cloisters have exhibited greater growth in technology or non-verbal communication, among other metrics we are observing, 16B’s language has evolved into the most complex of all of the cloisters’ languages at this time. It is hard to say what is the cause of their language’s success in comparison to other cloisters. It is worth noting that 16B also has one of the more intricate and pervasive religious-like belief structures. While there is a correlation, there is not currently enough data or a big enough sample size to determine if the religion is due to their advanced language or vice-versa. It is more likely the case that their religion is due to 16B’s form of containment, a large wall encircling their designated area, as their religion’s focal point is the wall.

The report then went on about how the humans in Cloister 16B had been slow at developing initially, much like the hundreds of other humans that were split into other cloisters. Most groups did manage to start using basic tools like wooden clubs and spears with stone tips quick enough, but not much happened after that for a while. There were enough deer that they could all lead successful hunter/forager lifestyles, and most stayed that way. Every cloister was given the resources to also develop agriculture, as plants that were farmable were also in every cloister, but only a few cloisters had become agrarian at this point.

This point being 240 years after the creation of Project Embryo, a mega-research project funded in cooperation with the American and Canadian governments in the year 2032. After many attempts, a researcher achieved the large grants necessary to create a facility where they would test human development from the beginning. The only way to accurately test that was to put humans at the beginning: back to before the stone age. The project entailed getting hundreds of humans from early childhood and putting them into different groups to see how they fend for themselves, and how they develop over time. Children from unwanted pregnancies, as well as some donors, gave their children to the program. The children were randomly separated into different groups and put into different areas, called cloisters. The children were never spoken too, so as to not give them any precognition about language, and they were simply nurtured as necessary before being shown how to forage for basic foods before they were abandoned in the cloisters. These cloisters were several dozen square kilometers in order to attempt to provide enough space for the humans to move around and adapt to their environments if necessary, as well as for the wild deer and other animals to move around, even if they couldn’t migrate very well. Different cloisters were isolated in different ways. Some cloisters were isolated just because there were on large islands or tracts of islands (with walls surrounding the far shores, just in case the water was crossed). Other cloisters were surround by walls or others had sets of speakers that would emanate loud and horrific sounds if anyone got too close, scaring them back.

All these groups of people in each cloister had been monitored by scientists for the past 240 years to see how they would develop with regards to their language, technology, culture, religion, science, and basically any facet of humanity as to get a better understanding on how humanity developed the way it did.

Due to the fact that there were no fully grown humans protecting them or teaching them, many cloisters perished at the beginning because the toddlers didn’t manage to find enough food and water on their own. The cloisters where all the humans perished were then rendered empty, necessitating that they be filled with some people who were drugged and moved from another more successful cloister, to further see how the 2 separate groups which originated from the same cloister would develop. Some cloisters did become agrarian, most stuck to hunting deer and foraging for berries and roots. Some groups had no language whatsoever and acted out of primal instinct. Other groups developed rituals and sometimes what was interpreted as religion. Some didn’t even discover fire, but most of the ones that did use fire were subtly shown how to do it by researches via secret service entrances.

Cloister 16B was one of the more exemplary cases.

The report continued:

Cloister 16B can be described as the most similar to ancient humanity. Their language has developed the furthest, far enough that I and other linguists can almost fully understand their primitive language. They have not discovered written language yet, but the verbal aspects are impressive to say the least, and it follows a grammar structure that we can piece together. Cloister 16B had also discovered farming, which led to them being able to live in one area, focusing on improving their homes and crop yield. 16B had also developed a fascination for the wall that surrounded their cloister. Cloister 16B had been one of the more successful cloisters ever since the beginning, and about half of their population had been moved to an empty cloister about 200 years ago, and while they didn’t have language to convey what happened to subsequent generations, it seems that the populace believed the wall was responsible, and a general cautious respect for the wall had been passed down ever since then. This is believed to be the reason the inhabitants of cloister 16B give offerings to the wall, but never dare get within arm’s reach of the wall. The Northern Lights, which are also sometimes visible here in the Northwest Territories, also seem to play a role in their religion, with offerings to the wall increasing after a Northern Lights sighting.

Since Project Embryo was ethically questionable at best, the location is would be conducted in was initially a secret. It didn’t take too long before the public discovered that the facility was being built in the Northwest Territories in Canada since it had gotten warm enough after the climate had gotten warmer, and the land was still cheap and desolate enough. As knowledge of the facility became public, there was lots of backlash and protests against the facility as it was seen as inhumane to just throw toddlers into the wild. Since the land was privately purchased through the grants, the land the facility was on became private property, and a security firm was hired to keep trespassers off the premise who were either protesting or sometimes trying to break in to free the human test subjects. As time wore on though, public opinion became apathetic as public opinion usually does, and interest in Project Embryo and the protests died down, and the project continued unabated until this day. Even so, it was hard for the researchers and scientists who were watching humans die easily preventable deaths, and they often felt guilty. They had to had to learn to separate their emotions from their work, but Sarah still felt twangs of sadness whenever any ill circumstances fell upon any of the members of any cloister, but particularly for those in 16B, as they were her star cloister since she writing a research paper on the development of their language.

One particular member of cloister 16B has caught my and other researchers’ attention. The others in 16B seem to address him by a name that sounded like “Woolta”, and he is a particularly curious member. His language skills, as primitive as their language is compared to modern languages, is still better than average for his cloister. He works in the fields sowing and harvesting corn and other vegetables, but his curiosity has led him to explore almost his entire cloister. He seems to have less fear for the wall, which is a problem since the wall didn’t have that much security. At one point, Woolta attempted to stack some dead trees in a fashion that would allow him to get up the wall. We reacted by increasing the height of the wall overnight to dissuade him and others. Not only did this dissuade Woolta himself, it also brought on the ire of the other members who believed that he had caused the walls to get higher, which also meant he was effectively ostracized by the others for attempting to scale the wall, which resulted in no further attempts at getting over the wall. This also led to the development of a few new words that cloister 16B invented. These new words seem to revolve around acts that make the wall higher, and they use these new words to sometimes express fear, and they are also used to describe someone who does a stupid or silly act. At the time of writing this, it appears that Woolta has been continuously ostracized for the most part, and excluded from group dinners, forcing him to steal and forage for food. His previous and current transgressions also seem to be used as an excuse for further ostracization. Some members of the group are discussing “Lokto”, which is another word they have recently developed. We are not sure what Lokto means at this point, as they haven’t expressed it in a way which gives enough context to ascertain its meaning yet, although it seems like it is some punishment that they intend to carry out based on other bodily and social cues exhibited when discussing this topic.

Sarah would have liked to see how things progress before submitting the report on the development of languages, as these new words were exciting, but she had a deadlines, and the paper needed to be submitted the following day. As such, Sarah was still working in the only illuminated office room in the small observation building. Everyone else had already gone back to their homes in the small town that had popped up for the research center in the Northwest Territories which was unimaginatively called Project Town. Sarah felt a shiver go down her spine as she contemplated how she was completely alone in the building before trying to focus on her work again.

After skimming through her entire report one last time, Sarah was satisfied enough, and exhausted enough, to decide that the paper was finished. She sleepily clicked the send button and watched as the email was sent off to her superiors. The monitor light reflected off of her glazed eyes as she shut down the computer and started lazily pushing her things into her bag. With her bag over her shoulder, she shut off the office light and started walking down the hallway towards the parking lot.

Curiosity got the best of Sarah as she decided to quickly pop her head in the observation room and look at the video feeds for the cloister surveillance systems. It was past midnight, so she didn’t expect to see much, but one monitor caught her eye as it was fairly well illuminated. Tiny cameras had been planted in all sorts of rocks, allowing for continued surveillance of the cloisters, and the monitor feed for cloister 16B curiously had some activity. She sat down on the desk and started flipping through the different feeds for 16B, trying to make sense of what was happening.

It seemed that most of the residents of 16B were looking for something as they were walking around in groups with torches. Sarah kept flipping through the feeds, trying to find a camera that was close enough to a group to hopefully eavesdrop and make some sense of the situation. The screen flashed with a bright light as the lens adjusted to take in less light for the next feed Sarah switched to. Sarah had switched to a feed for a camera that was directly next to a group of people as they were slowly and methodically walking and shouting. As she had feared, “Lokto” did mean a punishment, and based on the context, it seemed that the rest of the inhabitants had decided that killing Woolta was necessary, in hopes of making the wall go down again to its original size.

Sarah changed the settings to infrared mode in hopes of finding Woolta, as he was undoubtedly hiding in the darkness. Not all the cameras were equipped with infrared, but they gave enough of overview that she hoped she would find him. It didn’t take long because the infrared made it easy to spot human bodies, and she find him sneaking along the wall, away from the others.

Sometimes you make bad decisions when you aren’t in your normal mental state. Sarah was tired enough that this was one of those times. Woolta was one of the most interesting inhabitants of the entire program, and she would have been deeply saddened if he was unnecessarily killed. There was also the opportunity of talking with one of the test subjects directly. While against their entire credo, she just couldn’t resist.

Sarah quickly made her way out to the parking lot, forgetting to lock the door behind her in her haste. She got into her red Jeep and throw her bag in the back. She clicked the button to start the car and the electric engine silently activated. There was a brief squealing of tires as she zipped across the parking lot towards the exit, but instead of going towards Project Town, she made a left, further into the complex. Due to the size of the cloisters, the entire complex was huge, stretching across hundreds of kilometers, but cloister 16B was luckily relatively close, and if she drove fast, she could get there within 20 minutes.

The roads were relatively straight which allowed time for Sarah to bring up the video feeds on her phone. This also helped her concentrate because even though the adrenaline coursing through her was assisting in keeping her awake, it was still dreadfully late and she was tired. She managed to find a feed showing where Woota was just as she was getting close to cloister 16B. She brought up another window on her phone, showing the general schematics for the complex, and she managed to find a service entrance that led to a secret entry in a rock nearby Woota’s current location.

Sarah quickly stopped the car and put it in park, grabbing a flashlight and leaping out the door while the Jeep was still rocking back from her rapid parking of the vehicle. She leaped to the access door and entered the access code. Her flashlight illuminated the long and descending tunnel that disappeared into the earth. Her running left small clouds of dust as her feet stomped on the ground towards her destination. After a few dozen meters, the tunnel ended and the faint gleam of a metal ladder that went up into the ceiling was the only thing that broke the darkness. She ascended the ladder as the beam of light kept illuminating the area to her side as she simultaneously held the flashlight and used her hand to climb the ladder. After 5 or so meters, the tunnel ended as she neared the exit above her. Again, she entered the necessary security code, and the door opened. In the cloister, a solid rock opened up on the top like a submarine hatch, revealing the tunnel in the rock.

Sarah quickly turned off the flashlight and waited for her eyes to adjust as she scanned her surroundings, looking for Woota. As her eyesight started to adjust to the darkness without her flashlight, she started to make out the torchlights of search parties in the distance, and they seemed to be moving in her general direction.

Sarah loudly hissed his name as best as she could manage without being overly loud. “Woota!” Her ears prickled as she tried to make out any movement from him. “Woota!” She exclaimed again, this time as a quiet shout. She started to sweat with fear of being discovered by the search parties while looking for him.

Right before she attempted at quietly shouting his name again, a light rustling occurred as a shadow separated itself from a bush about 12 meters from Sarah. She could barely make out his silhouette in the darkness, but his trained and darkness-accustomed eyes could see her much more clearly. He could see that she was not one of the others from the cloister, and he was filled with an uncertain and morbid curiosity. He had never seen or heard of anyone else other than the few dozen people he was familiar with. Who could she be?

Woota slowly approached her in a stealthy crouch, still brandishing the club-like stick that he had been carrying around for the past couple hours in case it became necessary to defend himself. Sarah was head of the linguistics team, and it was now time to see if she and the rest of the team had understood their primitive language as well as she hoped they had.

“I, friend” Sarah struggled to convey her meaning in a language they had only briefly practiced with each other.

Woota seemed to understand her well enough though. “Who, you?” he asked as he inspected her. She had straight hair that was cut in an even line, unlike the others he knew. She wore a shirt and pants unlike any he had ever seen, although they were the norm in the outside world. Her clothes fit so perfectly, and the cloth material was unlike the leather they exclusively used. Her skin was unusually white and fair. Sarah was the strangest person he had ever seen in his life.

“I, friend. Outside, wall. Home.” She struggled to convey that she came from outside the wall where it was safe and that he should come with her.

Woota approached to within 3 meters of Sarah, and she could more clearly make him out in person for the first time with the aid of the moonlight. His leather dress, which was what everyone in his cloister wore, covered his torso and went down to his knees. His weathered face and skins were of a much darker tone than hers owing to a lifetime spent outdoors. He was shorter than average, but very lean and muscular, and his should length ratty hair reflected moonlight off of his greasy locks.

They stood there for a couple minutes inspecting each other until the silence was abruptly broken. “Woota!” A distant shout from a search party was heard, but it was much closer than before. A sense of urgency returned to the two, and Sarah quickly tried to convince him to come with her.

“Here, death. Outside, home!” She tried her best to pleadingly convince him to come with her. The surreality of encountering her, and his fear and doubts about being apprehended by the others convinced him to follow, but he wasn’t sure what to do, so he just awkwardly stood there, nervously looking over his shoulder at the impending search parties. “Home” Sarah tried to indicate into the hole in the rock that she was standing on. She started crawling down the ladder, indicating for him to follow. She started to descend, and Sarah turned on the flashlight about halfway down. Woota nervously peered into the hole, afraid of the flashlight, but his fear of being captured overrode his apprehension towards following her, and he also slowly descended into the hole, carefully using a ladder for the first time. Sarah impatiently waited at the bottom until Woota stepped down. “Rest” she told him, trying to convey that he should wait while she closed the hatch above them, which she moved to do by climbing the ladder again.

Woota’s fear crept up on him, and the thought of her abandoning him in the dark tunnel as she ascended the ladder again with the flashlight spooked him. He let out a crying whimper which got Sarah’s attention. “Home, rest!” she sternly told him, desperately trying to abate his fears as she hurriedly closed the hatch. She continued going up the ladder only to have Woota also start climbing the ladder behind her.

Sarah paused her ascent and considered saying something more to him before deciding to simply continue and just close the hatch. “Woota!” she heard a search party, and they sounded closer than ever. She hurriedly went up the last few rungs of the ladder and quietly closed the hatch and locked it. She started to descend only to find Woota halfway up the ladder underneath her. “Home!” Sarah exclaimed while pointing down, becoming quite exasperated at this point in her failed attempts to convey that they need to go out the other way. Woota remained motionless on the ladder, staring up at her with a confused look on his face. Frustrated, Sarah started climbing down the ladder, forcing him to go down as well until they were both on the ground again.

They stood there in silence for a moment, looking at each other in the flashlight-illuminated tunnel. It was obvious that Woota had seen hard work as his arms had scars on them. His legs were peppered with bug bites, and he would subconsciously stand on foot while he itched one leg with the other foot. He continued to hold the club that he previously wielded, still unsure of what was really happening and afraid he might have to use it.

“Home” Sarah said again, trying to show that it was safe with her. She beckoned for him to follow, and they started walking through the darkness towards the end of the tunnel. It took them a few minutes before reaching the end of the tunnel, where they pushed open the access door that she had previously left ajar.

Sarah’s Jeep stood in the clearing outside the door, and this immediately caused Woota to raise up his club in defense. Woota’s club was making her nervous, and she wanted to get rid of it. “Home, family” she softly said to him, trying to express that there was no danger of her car. She went over to the jeep and touched it, showing that it didn’t move. Woota cautiously lowered his club and followed her to the car. Sarah needed to start the car, and she could already tell that it would surprise him when it moved. She climbed into the jeep and tried to show how you could easily and comfortably sit inside of it. “Home” she beckoned for him to sit in the passenger seat. After a couple minutes of coaxing, he finally, yet cautiously entered the jeep. Sarah calmly took the club from him after some mild protests, but some comforting words of “family” managed to calm his senses enough to release it to her. She took the club and dropped it out the passenger side door, and then closed the passenger side door from the inside for him. In light of all the new experiences Woota was having, she opted to not attempting to buckle him in.

She was thankful that her electric engine was quiet, unlike automobiles of the past, as she started the engine. She turned on the lights and cautiously started rolling the car forward, hoping to show Woota that the car moved and that it was OK to be inside of as it moved.

Despite her efforts, Woota started panicking, grabbing the sides, distressingly moving around in his seat with an extremely alarmed look on his face. Sarah immediately stopped the car, cooing him with words of “Home” and “family” again, trying to calm him. Woota was not only unfamiliar with a large “beast” like this Jeep, made out of a metallic material that he didn’t recognize, but they didn’t even have horses or other beasts of burden in his cloister, and the entire concept of travel on something other than his 2 feet was lost on him. After repeating the procedure of starting and stopping a half dozen times, Woota seemed to finally come to terms with the car moving and him not being in danger while inside it, and he was calm enough for her to continue driving. The radio and music confused him, and Sarah quickly turned it off, opting to drive in silence with him as they drove back to the main exit.

The clock showed the bleak hour of 3:27 as they approached the security checkpoint. There was security 24/7, so she had to hide him long enough to get past the guard. After much struggling with conveying her intentions, Sarah eventually managed to get Woota to huddle up behind the driver seat with a blanket over him, in hopes that the guard wouldn’t look in the back.

With Woota hiding in the back, Sarah nervously resumed the last kilometer towards to gate where she was relieved to be stopped by Steve, a guard she was familiar, and luckily friendly, with.

“Sarah!” he surprisingly addressed her as he saw who was driving. “Bit of a late night tonight, eh?”

“Yea, I had a report due tomorrow, and I was up all night finishing it off. I hate to sound rude Steve, but it took everything out of me, and I need to get going before I fall asleep at the wheel.” She felt dirty lying to him since they had always been on good terms, but she justified her claims to herself in that they were half truths; she really did stay up late finishing the report, and she really was exhausted. She just failed to mention the person that she was smuggling in the back of her Jeep.

“Fair enough Sarah, you are used to a different schedule than I am” he chuckled as he clicked the button for the gate to open. “Have a good night and drive safe now!”

“Thanks Steve, have a good night yourself.” Feeling guilty for tricking him, she drove away from the check point and onto the highway.

Thrilled, exhausted, and anxious, Sarah continued driving down the road. She reached her right hand around the seat and pulled the jacket off of Woota. “Safety” she tried to convey that it was safe again, recalling some more words that they used. Sarah patted on the passenger seat, beckoning for him to come back up front. Woota clambered into the front seat and sat down. His face mirrored her exhaustion, but there was a deeper tone of confusion and apprehension in his expression. Not one, but 2 new people unlike any he had ever seen. A language that sounded much more fluid and unlike anything he had ever heard. An automobile. Flashlights, music on a radio, hard, black roads. These were all new things for Woota and he was awestruck, just trying to comprehend everything that he was experiencing for the first time.

They continued driving into the night away from the cloisters, research center and Project Embryo, heading towards a place that she deemed safe to sleep for the night before continuing their flight into this new world for Woota.

Part 2 of this story can be found here.

Posted on September 7, 2016, in Short stories. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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