“Harmony and sound.” Osscarte says. “They are also important elements to pay attention to. Not just what you see, but also what you hear. Distinguish sounds. Compare them. Listen closely. Do they sound intrinsically right?”
I’m glad Aris isn’t present for the session today, as I would have had a hard time concentrating. I would not be able to answer questions, or even look in his direction.
My mind wonders back to what I saw in Aris’ study. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what I saw, and if I could ever understand it. Since then, I’ve had waves of uneasiness and fear creep up on me in constant bouts. It could be halfway through a conversation with Vera or small talk with Hugo when I realise the things I now know; finding out about the planned invasion and walking into Aris’ study. The things that perplexed and haunted me the most were the drawings and images. They were of things I have never seen before, or could even begin to comprehend. Things non-human, sinister and hard to erase from my mind. It makes me wonder what really goes on in his head, and it becomes easier to dispute any of his beliefs, because it’s obvious that his way of thinking is more than unorthodox. It’s downright bizarre.
A part of me deeply regrets deciding to explore the house, but not enough for the other part of me to feel less grateful for finding out things I would have never known otherwise.
“You can’t rely on everything you hear, either; it’s just as untrustworthy as observation. What makes a sound? What distinguishes it from another? Is it the volume, the texture? The pitch? These are the things that need to come to mind when we study sound.”
“What study would that be, education-wise?” A student asks. “Music?”
“Possibly. But we have to look at it scientifically. The thing is... you cannot just expect to know what a sound is. You need to find out how and why. The sole reason you study anything should be in desire of virtue and enlightenment; to understand the ultimate truth of why anything is, and came to be.”
Drifting in and out of the lesson, I start thinking of my father and I hope he is alright. I start thinking of Hugo, Eric, Liza, and anybody else I know who is about to walk into what I can now confirm to be their doom. I hope that whatever the men meant by surrendering, it didn’t mean killing off everyone on the frontline in their wake.
“Do me a favour and try this out,” Osscarte demands. “Before our next lesson, I’d like you to go and study trees. Analyse, don’t just observe. Listen to them. Think about every single angle you could study them from. Compare them with other similar things. They sure are a nice view, but look deeper. Maybe you’ll find something peculiar about them.” He ends the lesson there, standing abruptly to signal the lesson coming to a close. After jotting down the note in my pad, I narrow my eyes in suspicion. Both Aris and he have mentioned an interest in the trees, which I don’t get. They seem as normal as anything else here, so I’m not sure what there is to delve into.
With each lesson, I pray I come closer to finding out the true purpose of Osscarte’s teachings.
“I just have a bad feeling about it,” I respond to Hugo’s questioning on why I don’t think that the soldiers should be drafted. I can’t let him know the real reason - and whether he’d even believe me or not is another question.
“Just toss it all to the side. We can’t afford any bad feelings.” He says. We’re sitting on the couch of his dorm apartment, watching an episode of some comedy show. I was awfully reluctant to come around, due to the stigma they have against males and females visiting each other’s dorms. Hugo tried reassuring me, telling me it’s far worse for guys to be caught in the girl’s dorms and girls tend to get away with it a lot of the time. I think about the chip in my wrist and how they could find me in the blink of an eye, and upon mentioning it to Hugo, he just tells me the chips are there to discipline citizens in situations that they think they might be able to get away with, or find them when they are needed the most. They hardly ever track people down unless it’s necessary, and looking for a HDSS student who may or may not be in the wrong dorms is the least of the Higher Authority’s problem.
The Higher Authority is run by an array of politicians and Generals, including the Head of State, General Bidas. The identity of the ultimate leader of the Higher Authority and the city always stayed under wraps. He is just referred to as The Overseer. He has never been seen or heard from by most people and any orders or commands he makes are sent through other members of the H.A. such as Bidas. All we really know is that he has the most control and Authority over the city, and whatever rules he lays out, goes. We only ever hear that a message has been sent from The Overseer during significant times, but mostly it’s unknown exactly if he is the source of any of the H.A’s demands or not. It’s just quite unsettling to think that technically, the destiny of our city is controlled by a figure that I’m even beginning to question might not exist.
“I don’t want to be pessimistic, Hugo. But it’s just a gut feeling.”
“Well, you know it doesn’t help that you’re vocalising your ‘gut feeling’ to someone who is a part of this terrible premonition. Hell, you could know that we’re all going to die but I think it is best just to keep it to yourself.” He demands. This is the first time I’ve known him to be so hostile, and I cannot blame him. Sometimes my lack of sensitivity can walk me right into touchy subjects without realising. I’m always afraid to throw out the plain truth, but even dancing around it can cause problems. I mean, I could have told him that I had heard two of Aris’ relatives threatening Bidas, but 1) he would be tenser than he is now and 2) he would hate Aris more than I would prefer him to. I don’t think badly of Aris myself despite being given the blatant opportunity to.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything.” I mutter.
“No worries,” Hugo says, sounding instantly calmer. “I just have high hopes for the future I was so scared at first. Shaken. Thrown right off course. I had dreams of being an all-star athlete, and that isn’t going to happen now. I’ve learned to get used to my current situation because as far as I know, it’s not going to change.”
“That’s a good way to go about it.” I smile. As we sit watching the show, I think about how the last time this happened, we were a Division below, experiencing a power-cut. We had no idea of our fate.
Hugo unexpectedly weaves his arm behind my neck before resting his head on my shoulder. He closes his eyes, as if daydreaming or trying to sleep. Maybe to him, the slow dance at the party was a pass to try and go further. Bit by bit by bit. Instead of asking what he’s doing or why he’s doing it, I let my racing heartbeat subdue and my body slack. The show is over and tedious commercials play on loop before the next segment. I stay awake as Hugo begins to fall asleep, and I’m stuck frozen in the same position, not sure whether to leave before any of his roommates arrive. I stay wondering if this is a common practise with any other girls – and it’s not jealousy, because of course, I don’t like him. I just don’t want to be wasting my time keeping someone company when it’s possible that someone else is available to do the same thing. I’m just sticking around for his sake. If he needs the comfort to seal over the inevitability of combat in a few weeks, then I’ll give it to him.
Just this one time.