The Heaviness of Knowing

My Alien invasion, Distopian novel, The Heaviness of Knowing, is available on Amazon. Here's part of the first chapter.

Blending in to the point of being invisible was the only way Roxal knew to survive. So she stood quietly in formation with her fellow Travelers caste members, waiting to enter the assembly hall for an unscheduled Glorious Session. Unscheduled gatherings never meant anything good, but Roxal did not let her worry show. Like the sea of people all around her dressed in their identical cobalt blue uniforms, she stood erect, looking forward, with her hands clasped behind her back. Her stance matched that of everyone around her. No one fidgeted; they all just silently waited until it was time for the Travelers to enter.

When the shrill tone sounded, everyone stepped forward in unison, right foot first. Once through the doors, smaller groups split off with precision as people went to their assigned seating areas. The room was noiseless, except for the sound of marching, even though thousands of Citizens had already entered and many thousands more were silently streaming in.

The assembly hall was a massive, four-sided room designed to reinforce the strict caste system in which they all lived: the lower your rank, the lower your seating area. Along the outer wall where the doors were located, there was a walkway that went around the entire room. However, to get from the walkway to the seats, there were only four floating walkways on each caste’s level that connected to their assigned seat section, like spokes running from the outer section of a wheel to the central hub.
In the case of her assembly room, the central hub was also four-sided and sloped at an angle, like the four-sided pyramids that Roxal’s Earth Connection, Lauren, had once shown her. There was a slight difference from the pyramids she had been shown, however. Instead of the sloped walls meeting at the top to form a triangular point, the top of the hub was a broad, flat platform on which the highest in their society, The Keepers’ Representatives, sat during Sessions. When seated, everyone else had to continuously look up to see them.

The seats were arranged in concentric boxes around the hub. One level down from The Keepers’ Representatives was the seating section for the next highest caste group, the Talented and Honored Citizens. Below them was the seating section for Roxal’s caste group, the Travelers. And at the bottom was the Helpers and Laborers caste. Roxal, thankfully, had always been a Traveler, so she knew nothing about the lowest caste beyond what her various assigned Helpers had told her through the annums.

Everything on Trebor revolved around their caste system. Children were created in birth pods of thirty beings. Once gestated, you were trained and educated together until the age of ten annums. At ten, each child began a series of aptitude tests to determine his or her caste designation. Travelers were identified first, and then the remaining children were sorted into Helpers and Laborers. Membership in the higher groups, the Talented and Honored and The Keepers’ Representatives, could only be earned through ascension. Ascension was a gift bestowed on the obedient by their gods, The Keepers. And assemblies such as Glorious Session were just one of the many ways obedience was reinforced.
Attending Glorious Session was a solemn occasion, so once Roxal was seated, she sat in silence with her head raised so that she could see the platform where The Keepers’ Representatives would eventually sit. She watched as the last of the Talented and Honored took their seats. The Representatives would not enter until everyone else was inside. Their sacredness demanded they not mingle long with the masses

The thought of this lie and the many others that she once believed left her feeling anger towards those who had taught them to her and shame at how, for most of her life, she had accepted the lies as the truth. Actually, the shame she felt was also mixed with some anger, because even though she now knew the truth, she still had to pretend that she believed the lies for her own safety.
Her conformity allowed her to be invisible. Roxal did nothing to bring notice to herself. She dressed the part of loyal Traveler. She talked the part of loyal Traveler when not around Edo, who had taught her the truth. She acted the part of loyal Traveler. Being invisible allowed her to stay alive, so she perfected her invisibility.

The tone signaling the entry of the Reps sounded. Roxal, in unison with everyone else in attendance, stood, raised both of her hands, and covered her eyes, so as not to gaze too long on the godlike beings. Even a motion as simple as covering one’s eyes in assembly was scripted. Their arms were raised and held parallel to the ground. The elbows were bent, and each hand covered an eye with the palm side towards the face. The hands were flat and the tips of the longest fingers touched on the bridge of the nose.

She presumed everyone covered their eyes. Roxal had never been brave enough to even peek through her fingers. As they all stood with their eyes covered, they began to chant, “The Keepers know all. The Keepers see all. The Keepers are gods and therefore must be obeyed. It is through their benevolence that I am allowed to live and serve them. If I can no longer serve The Keepers, then I no longer deserve to live.”

Another tone sounded and everyone was allowed to uncover their eyes and be seated. Covering their eyes while the Reps entered was symbolic, because the Reps’ uniforms completely covered them from head to toe. The Rep uniform consisted of a heavy brown robe with a black, hooded piece attached at the shoulder that covered the entire head and face. In contrast, all Travelers wore front-fastening shirts and drawstring pants, in their caste color.

“All hail The Keepers! All hail The Keepers! All hail The Keepers!” the Reps led the responsive chant.
“We have called you all here for a matter of grave importance,” one of the Reps spoke. “It is with much sadness that I must inform you that there are traitors among us!”

With those words, Roxal’s heart fluttered and her breath skipped. An audible gasp was heard, and for the first time in her life, Roxal heard the murmuring of the Citizens in attendance. She looked around at the other Travelers in her area. In the sea of blue, she could see heads turning in different directions, with some people whispering to their neighbors. She wished that she could look behind herself down into the Helpers’ section. Edo was back there, somewhere. And she desperately wanted to see him to reassure herself that her worst fear was not about to come true. But she was afraid of what would happen if she was seen looking out of her area.

Though she had learned that The Keepers were not all knowing and all seeing gods, she knew they had surveillance everywhere. And concern for someone other than yourself and your fellow caste members was not normal. Showing concern for Edo would disrupt her camouflage of conformity. As she thought about it, this announcement during an assembly would be just the type of trap their surveillance was made for. Bring everyone together, make the announcement, watch their reaction, and follow up with those who did not respond as they should.

The Rep spoke again, “Yes. We are devastated as well to know that there are blasphemers among us who have rejected the wise and benevolent leadership of The Keepers. But then again, it just shows us why we, The Keepers’ Representatives, are so needed. We are here to guide you and to ensure that you stay on our holy path.

“To that end, we are letting you know that everyone will be reviewed and judged to determine if you are still loyal, or if you have turned against your gods and deserve death.” The Rep paused again, as if to let the weight of his proclamation sink in.

“What does he mean by reviewed?” was a question Roxal heard whispered over and over again.
Roxal sat in silence while her mind raced.

Something must have happened. Why now? she thought.

Roxal first learned of the Resistors almost an annum ago from her current adult Helper, Edo. Edo was a demoted Traveler who had been abruptly assigned to her, replacing her previous adult Helper, Daken. When they were first paired, Roxal did not trust him, and apparently Edo had not trusted her either because for two annums he said nothing to her about the Resistors. Even after they became involved physically, as all Travelers did with their adult Helpers. But at some point, things between them changed, and slowly, he told her what he knew.

Initially, it was hard to believe that her entire life had been a lie, until she finally worked up the courage to begin testing the so-called omniscience of The Keepers. Her first act of defiance had been small. While in a Glorious Session, she had dared to think of The Keepers’ Representative who was speaking at the time as an ignorant Rep.

A stray unapproved thought was her first act of defiance. However, for Roxal, it was huge. She honestly did not know what she had expected to happen exactly. But when she thought about it later, she realized she had expected that in the sea of hundreds of thousands of people present, her treacherous thought would be heard by her gods and she would immediately be called out for it. Yet nothing had happened. The Glorious Session had continued, and she was allowed to leave unharmed. She returned to her quarters, and continued on with her helio as if nothing had happened. That simple thought had opened up a world she never considered possible.

Still, this new world was dangerous. Always guarding her behavior to ensure she never broke character was becoming tiresome. Only being able to trust one person, Edo, with her newly discovered truth was isolating. And always waiting for the moment when her defiance would be discovered and she would be killed was nerve wracking. Now this assembly, as if in answer to her worst fear, was moving dangerously close to her dread of being discovered and killed.
“Silence,” yelled the Rep, and everyone stopped speaking at once. “Do not worry, dear Citizens. You will have a part to play in rooting out this evil before it takes hold and destroys our paradise. But first, we must make an example of The Keepers’ power.”

There was a scream from the seating section around the corner to Roxal’s left. She could not see what was happening, but there was a lot of commotion. Then, other shouts could be heard from all around the assembly. As Roxal wondered what was going on, she saw the all black uniforms of the Security Force entering the aisles and making their way through each row of seated people. As she watched, someone was grabbed from five rows above her. The person was dragged out into the aisle and practically carried up to the platform.

As Roxal continued watching, she heard a noise to her right. She turned and looked just in time to see Security Force members forcing their way onto her row. The Security Force members did not speak as they marched through the gathered. Some people were fast enough to climb over their seats and get out of the way. Other, slower moving people were just shoved either backward or forward over the seats.

Roxal sat, waiting for them to come get her. Running would do no good because there was nowhere to go.

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