No, not quite darkness.
A dizzying, infinite vacuum, scattered with the energy of distant stars. Luminescent grids danced over the field, crackling with heathen, unfathomable symbols and numbers. They beckoned, seeming to promise a clarity of understanding that would hold the key to untold worlds, if only they could be reached. The revelation was just a fraction of a second away…
Levi snapped back into consciousness, gasping. Another nightmare. And given its content, this one will have to be reported to the Elders.
Gingerly, he lowered his feet to the floor, waiting for the horror of the nightmare to pass, praying for the purity to return to his heart. To help restore the inner balance that he knew should be innate to all Amesh, Levi looked around the simple furnishings of his apartment, giving thanks to the Creator for the rustic, utilitarian objects among which he passed his life.
“By the grace of the Creator, I am one with the Earth,” he whispered fervently.
As often happened, Levi couldn’t resist peering out from beneath his half-closed eyelids, reassuring himself that the seductive symbols from his dreams have not followed him into reality. It’s a sin to doubt the ability of the Creator to protect him from Evil, but Levi can’t help it. The symbols have followed him through his daily Purifications often enough that he has started to wonder if he’s one of the Cursed. Flashes of impossibility during Worship, a distracting sequence of numbers at the zenith of labour, these were unsettling intrusions into an otherwise placid life. An idyllic life, some might call it.
Levi was acutely aware that he belonged to the chosen race. As was only natural, the Amesh rejected the decadence of the technological age, and eschewed the flaccid, yet robotic state currently favoured by most humans. How could one possibly be happy when reality existed only in fleeting pixels? It was insubstantial. Unnatural.
The Amesh knew that simplicity was the key to existence. Working with the earth, coaxing the precious gifts of the Creator from seeds and roots, demonstrating complete devotion to a single purpose. Those were the true elements of joy. Of fulfillment.
Savouring the feeling of permanence from the rough wool of his tunic and familiar embrace of his work boots, Levi dressed slowly. A sense of warm contentment, originating in his chest, soon radiated outward with almost mathematical precision, erasing the knots of anxiety and tension caused by those heathen numbers. All was right. Of course the Creator would protect him.
He set off towards the chapel, where morning Worship would soon commence. The milky grey of dawn cast an absurd, wintry pall over the landscape, suggesting the illusion that the buildings and fields were wrapped in a thin film of snow. Levi knew this impression was ludicrous, since the last snowfall had occurred more than ten years before his birth 21 years ago. With effort, he pushed the image aside, and fell in with the file of his fellow Amesh. Two by two, a measured tread. An effortless diurnal rhythm. No need for the clamorous peal of church bells. All Amesh were regulated by the precision of the Creator.
In the chapel, wrapped up in his private devotion, Levi sensed the familiar trickle of Instructions filtering into his conscious mind. Worship was much more than a repetition of prayers and supplications. It was a reiteration of the single, holy purpose that shaped the existence of the Amesh: producing the food that nourished their community. It was also a practical and efficient way to ensure no labour was wasted. By the grace of the Creator, every Amesh left the chapel with their daily task list firmly established. Levi relaxed into the familiar rhythm of the service, visualizing the labours ahead. With a sickening lurch, he became aware of a vibrant stream of numbers trailing along the lower edge of his perspective. Luminescent. Green. Mocking. His clasped hands began to shake. Please Creator, no. Not here. Anywhere but here.
Outside the chapel, Levi paused for a moment, struggling to regain his composure.
“Levi! Are you alright?” A gnarled hand on his shoulder.
“Yes, thank you David, I’m fine,” Levi responded, hoping his words sounded convincing.
David’s dark eyebrows furrowed slightly he scanned Levi’s face, searching. “Another nightmare?” he asked, gently.
Levi’s shoulders slumped. “Yes.”
“About time to see the Elders, I’d say, my boy. Do me a favour — make it a priority after labour. In the meantime, I’ll be praying for you.” David raised the brim of his hat slightly, and with a meaningful look, turned towards his assigned section of field.
“Thanks David, I will,” Levi called after the departing figure. With a deep breath, he set off towards the far side of the compound, relishing the idea of a brisk walk before setting about his tasks. The Creator always knows. And provides.
To rid himself of the disquiet produced by the intrusion of evil into Worship, Levi began a standard contemplation on the bounty of the Creator. As a result of their simplicity and devotion, the Creator had rewarded the Amesh with robust health, limitless strength, a blissful state of contentment, and a secure place to live, untouched by the violence of the technological world. Perched in the centre of the continent, Levi took satisfaction in being isolated from the bitter CorpWars that raged from Flor on the west coast, to Amica in the east. He was only peripherally aware of the consuming greed that caused the various Corps to pervert the gifts of the Creator, using them to create weapons, drugs, enhancements, alterants, and other agents of human sickness and misery. And all for the sake of whichever bloated bureaucrat possessed the most credits. He shook his head. What a tragic way to live.
Soothed by the contrast, Levi soon lost himself in the ecstacy of labour. A rhythmic diving, delving of the multitool into the embracing earth. The reassuring thuck, thuck that filled his ears as each blow fell with precision. A divine smell of wet soil and burgeoning life, blessed by the rains of the night before. The supreme satisfaction of living by sweat and strength, untainted by illness, desire, or infectious complexity.
Unbidden, a sinking dread rose from the pit of his stomach. That meeting with the Elders. A confession. What if they think he’s a Cursed? Everyone knows the Cursed simply cease to exist. Just last year, seven members of other Amesh compounds had vanished due to uncontrollable anti-Creator sentiments. And it always starts with questions, with uncertainty. Why does each community produce more food than it’s capable of consuming? Why are we forbidden to leave the compound? Why must every Amesh devote themselves, body and soul, to the Creator and the fruits of the earth?
Hush. No more of these impure thoughts. The Creator sees the true soul of every Amesh. Trust in the Creator, and all will be well. There is no room for “why” in this existence. Just like there is no room for meaningless symbols and destructive numbers.
Flushed with the pleasure of his exertions, Levi surveyed his patch of field with satisfaction. Looks like another bountiful harvest ahead, thank the Creator, he thought.
Th4nk th3 CreAto…
Liquid fire scorched through Levi’s veins as he collapsed onto the damp earth.
A searing grid of symbols branded into the cloudless sky. Getting closer, overwhelming his sight.
Growing darkness. Panic. Fear.
A message, dancing across his vision: “A*MESH Corporation: Food Production Unit LEVI 1589-A, Software v 8.0 — critical failure. Initializing Elder Rescue Protocol 12-387.”
Utter blackness. Familiar voices bubbling up from the depths. The Elders spoke to him in his dying hour. Maybe everything was going to be OK.
“Damned LEVI unit blew out on us again. It’s a wonder these patched-together mecha-bio sons of bitches manage to grow anything with this glitchy code. Worst idea to ever come out of the Ag Department, I can tell you. Well, plug him in, and let’s run CREAT-R again. Maybe he’ll work this time around.”