June 5th, 2007
The Blonde was in the tent, tall and lean, in the soft dark tent with the rest of us. We sat on cushions and blankets in a circle.
I felt strong & eager. My name was chosen for me: Garantan. Our names were created by the Blonde, based on nothing we were allowed to know.
Outside the snow was everywhere, fine & powdery & always falling. It felt like Maine, but no one knew for sure where we were.
Details emerged: we had been flown up to this wooded place: $1000 apiece to be a part of the colony. One by one we were to be eliminated until only the winner was left. We didn’t know what was to be won. We just knew there had been no other option but to accept this and come.
And so this name-choosing in this tent, this was part of the introductory ceremonies. The Blonde presided over them all. We feared her and wanted her, all of us, regardless of age or sex.
The days passed and I felt so radiant, so connected with everyone in the colony, even as I knew we’d soon be trying to outdo and eliminate each other with whatever viciousness was required of us. This harmony was in my skin and fingers. I wanted everyone’s eyes and laughter, even their hidden feelings, their secret hates. I wanted more and more of it. I wasn’t afraid of anything.
And yet I knew what my flaws had been. I knew in the beginning I had been almost pompous where everyone else had been humble. When I’d chosen my sacred words to represent me, I had picked colorful, audacious words, uncaring. And it had been noticed.
Still, I was often shy & scared, and I didn’t mind showing it. I got closer to people through this, and I knew it helped me advance further in the competition. I didn’t want to bury anyone, just paint as loudly as possible while exulting in everyone else’s colors too.
Time passed and I realized how many people from my daily life were there: coworkers, neighbors. So many faces I recognized. And as the contest drew closer to its end, our ideas of our importance swelled.
We felt more and more proud with the passing days. We felt rich, we felt privileged. And as we felt these things, we attained these things. Furs, cars, trophies, opulence of all kinds: the clothes we wore, the food we ate, jewelry, artifacts, it all materialized around us magically & casually, without any garish fanfare, so that it all felt completely justified and unburdened by guilt.
One night the Blonde appeared and took us to the tent. “Who controls the world?” she asked simply.
“We do,” we said. And why not? we thought to ourselves. With benevolence and prudence we distribute means and bring about ends. Who else makes the world happen? We are the stewards, we are the officers, the tenders, executors. We were at peace with this idea of ourselves. None of us doubted our roles for a second.
The Blonde smiled, a hint of violence in her eyes.
“You’re wrong,” she said. “It’s one person you’ve never met, with skin unlike yours, with hair unlike yours, eyes you can’t meet for long, speaking in a language you’ll never understand, who is alone and wants to be alone and will always be alone in a way you can’t ever fathom.”
We didn’t really understand, but we felt the hard twist of fear in our chests. It was as if the entire experience we’d been through had always been crystallizing toward this impossibly sharp point, this gleaming knife tip, this revelation in the tent. We were scared but felt pure, our vision clean and sharp, clarified.
In the weeks leading up to the end we were transported to a beautiful temple in the midst of a thick and uninhabited forest. We were given no explanation. We were all given white cards we were told not to turn over. We never turned them over.
We spent soft days wandering the temple, on edge but buoyant. We were alert and our senses were powerfully amplified. Everything was clear and more alive than we could bear. Life was so tremblingly vivid that I swooned into it each morning as if into the body of a lover. I spent as much time as I could with the ten or twelve of us remaining, touching, telling stories of our childhoods, revealing fears we never knew we had.
One morning the plane came, crashing through the trees and temple. The huge white fuselage bearing down on us like a white whale catching up to the ship.
Erasing us all. A God’s fist.
The pilot had known all along who was going to be at the temple. It had always been arranged. We had always been marked.