The Lies that Bind


BY:
Admiral Coeyman
Inspired By:
Richard "Texan Hawk" Claypool


Reyon awoke to the annoying buz of the alarm clock, but it was the job of the clock's alarm to be disturbing. She had no delusions about the world in which many of us live. Like the clock, it was designed for a reason and built for function. It would not miss her when she wore out and had to be replaced.

The blinds, sensing that it was time for Reyon to exit her slumber, opened to let in some light, however, they did not open in such a way as to allow prying eyes past their guard. This would have meant more if Reyon lived below the eighth floor. No eyes could see her regular sized window much less past it. She needed the blind because it was popular when she bought it. That was reason enough.

She pulled back the covers in just the way she had been taught as a child. It was the right way to do it and she always did things right. Then she rolled to the edge of the bed, letting the weight of her feet pull her body into a seated position off the edge of the mattress. That was how her physical correctness teacher had told her to move. Who doesn't want to do popular things?

Reyon's life was busy enough without trying to understand the world around her. It was hard enough to live her life. She had to worry about fashion with a flair for style. Her world would tell her what was popular and what was evil. The morning news would tell her what to protest and what to preach.

It was good to live in a free country. Reyon enjoyed freedom from many things.

Stretching in the light of the early day, Reyon shook sleep from her mind and made a mental scan of the events in her day. She had six classes, a game that night and a party with friends after that. Priorities outlined themselves in her mind as the mist of dreams departed. This is a world where what you know means less than who you know and she would never know anybody unless she was popular first.

Her classes were dull, yet they repeated so much that she could catch on to the things she was supposed to believe without sacrificing the time she devoted to more important things. Reyon lived in a big world and she knew that she'd need directions to avoid getting lost. She had so much to learn that she could not hope to understand it all. It only matterred that she got good enough grades for the prestigous paper that she had to earn, but not so high as to tarnish her popularity.

Reyon stood up, smoothing out her sleek nightgown. It's fabric had a shine to it that made it look as clean as the world she wanted to one day belong to. She was not destined to be one of the silkworms boiled to make the fabric of the better world. Her destiny was in a big office with a huge and equally cold home amongst the glowing towers of the city. Wasn't this what everybody wanted?

Then she crossed the room to sit in the metal framed chair behind her dressing table. The chair was cold and a shiver ran up her spine as she sat in it. She could not get rid of the chair without damaging the look of the room, so she endured the shock to her system every morning. It did help her to wake up. A thought almost crossed her mind that she resented the chair for the security of its position.

Placing her hand on the table, a machine detected her presence. In a less liberatd world, the table would have had a mirror built into its back. These tables had flat panel displays. Being popular, very hard work to be sure, is not a matter of crafting the image you see of yourself. The computer would help Reyon create the correct image to project to the world around her.

"Mirror, Mirror on the wall. Whose the fairest of them all?"

"Excuse me, darling," replied the mirror with the synthetic voice of a mature woman. The system made a pass at her every morning, as it was programmed to, and Reyon wasn't allowed to acknowledge that it made her uncomfortable.

That was unpopular.

"Nothing," replied Reyon. "A fragment of a dream stuck in my mouth."

"If this condition persists, see a psychologist. That is the sheek thing to do anyway."

"Than you."

"You're welcome, my darling."

"Any messages while I was out?"

"0-voice, 12 text and 3 video."

"Delete the junk mail, please."

"1-text message remaining--Your horoscope."

"I'll get to it after my shower."

"Do not forget, again. It is unpopular to not know your future."

"I understand. Any fashion advice today?"

"Wear the pastel green pants, and blue blouse. Additional clothes shopping is advised. Try for pantilines--they're in the height of fashion."

"As you say."

Reyon did not listen for the system's reply. She went to her closet to draw out exactly the uniform she had been told to wear. It wouldn't be entirely comfortable for her, yet it was too popular to escape. Having a will of her own, Reyon would have refused to wear such tight clothing.

The soap Reyon had to use produced a mild allergic reaction which she secretly treated with a drug in her skin lotion. Discomfort told Reyon that she was still alive and that was a good feeling. She would have been more pleased to avoid the discomfort and just know that she was really alive, however that was out of style. It was more pleasurable than the menswear look that had come to power in high school.

Standing in the mist of the washing unit, Reyon's mind drifted back to a time when she could be happy being herself. There had been a time when Reyon could wear pretty dresses that her mother selected and be happy for who she was. She could once have played simple games for the fun of it without a care in the world. Adults in her time actually enjoyed paying attention to her for the smile on her face.

This was also a mythical time before Reyon was born. Her mother was an engineer with a distaste for fairy tales and knights in shining armor. Reyon's mother may never have said it, yet Reyon remembered the displeasure on her mother's face that little Reyon didn't try harder to be like her brother. It was Reyon's fault that she did what she wanted and not what was popular. Little Reyon wanted to be more than a child. She wanted to be a little girl and to be accepted for it.

Litle Reyon's was the apple of her father's eye, even though he knew that he couldn't protect her from the harsh, cold reality in which they both lived. Knowing that he couldn't vanquish the dragon for his little girl, he didn't even try. Reyon grew up hearing about how she was strong enough to face her own monsters. She too could weild a sword. A small, clandestine flame of rage burned within Reyon, slow roasting her heart in certain knowledge that nobody felt she was worth facing the dragon for.

Then the jets from the washing nozzles died out. She was clean enough to get dressed as soon as the drying blowers shut down. Reyon closed her eyes, releasing her body to the warm airflow of the dragon's breath. It would soon be all over. Maybe she would wake up in a real world when the blast died out.

The airseals then released and the door retracted. Reyon knew that she had not been delivered to Heaven. She stepped from the washer, naked before the world, into the cold air of the same nightmare she had earlier been locked into. Her clothes gave her no comfort as the world gave her no quarter. Death in the daydream had more meaning than life in the outer world.

After getting dressed, Reyon took a cold drink from the back of her small refrigeration unit. It had to come from the back because it was an unpopular brand. Her friends would reject her if she even admitted to tasting it, even though most of them had the same thing hidden in the same place. Reyon had seen it and her friends know that she knew. They shared the same secret.

Even for a chance at moving to the ninth floor, Reyon did not betray her friends. She once passed up a date with a popular athlete in high school to go out with a friend or she would already have been on the ninth floor of her building; if she had survived the accident that killed him that night. Reyon had been allowed to move to the eigth floor because she was really sorry not to have been with that athlete, whose name she did not even recall. The group would not have been as forgiving if it had known she regretted her indescretion because she sometimes wanted to die in the accident.

Her popular clothing was tight around the waistline and Reyon was uncomfortable. She was uncomfortable with the cloth cutting into her soft, blood starved, flesh, with the lack of mobility it imposed and, most of all, she was unhappy with the thought that her place in popular society was set by how much of her body could be seen through the elastic cloth. There was nothing Reyon could do about it. The simplicity of denial was her only shield. Yet, she knew that she could not hide from the truth of herself.

She sat in the cold seat as though taking a settling into the electric chair. Time for foolish reflection ran out as the terminal reacted to sight of the unpopular beverage Reyon placed on the table. Reyon knows that she had been shown a subliminal image, although she was too lost in herself to see it. For the sake of popular society, Reyon faked shock at what she had not even seen.

Reyon was not an actress. She splashed the screen with a few ounces from the can in her hand, then reacted from real shock. Her terminal went blank for a number of seconds that Reyon felt as hours. Bad things would happen to her if she destroyed school property. It would make her unpopular.

"Terminal?"

"Yes, dear," it replied.

"I'm not sure what came over me. I am sorry, terminal."

Without feeling, the terminal replied, "I know that you are."

Reading more into the electronic simulation that it had projected, Reyon almost begged with the tone of her voice. "Please forgive me."

"Would you like to listen to the top ten list on the local channel?"

"Yes, please. I have to keep up with the rest of the world."

Even though the system asked Reyon's preference every morning, both of them knew that it was part of the prescribed routine. Reyon held her breath in hopes that she hadn't damaged the hardware of her terminal. It took a little longer than usual to follow the morning routine, even though it did not skip a step. Maybe Reyon's nerves made it seem longer or the system may have been programmed for a vindictive response.

There was a new feel to the music on that morning. It was as though a new decade had turned and the industry alligned for a new focus. The beat of the rythem was mathematically precise enough to convey the deep secrets of the universe into the listener's mind. These bands did not hide their talent in a barrage of harsh musical tones. Most importantly, Reyon could identify with the depth of feeling in the lyrics as she rarely could.

This was not the angry prophet style Reyon had become accustomed to and hardened by. It spoke to a people who did not condemn achievement for the failure of others. These were songs of making a better world by being a better people. In the art of these songs was a sympathy for the state of being human without pitty or guilt. At last it had become popular to cast aside the masks.

Reyon could not deny that she had become a fan. She did not want to hide the fact that she liked what she was hearing. It was not often that Reyon could like popular music without forcing herself to enjoy it. Her society had been hollowed out by the decades of micromanagement hiding behind the curtains of anger and outrage. Feeling alive might even be worth casting off the freedom from reality.

The system seemed happy in that it did not punish Reyon for expressing her approval. It paused a few times while guiding Reyon's application of make-up so that Reyon could immerse herself in the flow of the gently driven river of sound. When Reyon was ready for class, she could think of only one song in the top ten that she would have to work on liking. Reyon's day had started out good.

Thoughts of getting together with her friends, at her place, after the game compressed time as Reyon walked to class. The feeling awakened within Reyon had to be shared with the people Reyon most cared about. Reyon forgot that she didn't like the clothes she was wearing and that the first class she had would bore her into clinical depression. It didn't even matter to Reyon that she had not wanted to be there at all. All Reyon could think of was the next dose of popular music.

Nobody had the new digital music files from what Reyon heard in the halls. She would be amongst the first to get the recordings, stopping at an on campus store between the end of her classes and the game that night. It may even have been the first time that Reyon was happy to be popular. The tide had turned and Reyon didn't have to become somebody else to be popular.

Reyon sat with her group in the class, about halfway to the back of the room. The highest popularity was in the back of the room. Class was always the best place to learn the important things in life, of fashion, ideology and relationships, without regard for what the teacher tried to teach. Only the classes that taught free thought and expression were required to maintain popularity so Reyon's first class was merely filler. It was more than just that the class was unpopular which drove Reyon's disassociation. This was a class that Reyon had to take even though she didn't care for the subject.

Every so often, Reyon considered the poor teacher. She had nothing else to do in class, as long as she passed, so her mind drifted. Society, or whichever powers masqueraded as the collective mind, had commanded that this man would teach a class that he seemed to be the only person in the galaxy to actually enjoy. However, these forces drove popularity and were the same forces that allowed the students to ignore the teaching completely. If you are popular, you are not allowed to fail it.

Between classes, Reyon would spend her time in the restrooms. Partially to keep up on the social calander, but also because she could release the tension of her uncomfortably tight clothing in those rooms. There, Reyon would hum the backbeat of her new favorite song, spreading the music all over the campus by the end of the day. Reyon's mind tried to push her into the music store at the end of every class, yet her popular discomfort was maddening. She decided to change clothes for the game after buying the new recordings.

Reyon paused in the restroom a for a few minutes after leaving her last class. It was one of the important classes for popularity on campus so Reyon could not skip it. The irony of a course in free thinking with such a strict lesson plan was not lost on Reyon, although she dared not say so. Her life could be easily ruined by a single misplaced word. She listened to the teacher for what she was to think, and then pretended that the thoughts she defended were her own.

A friend approached Reyon while Reyon took direction from one of the restroom displays on correcting the part in her hair. Reyon's part had become to straight and unpopular. The display gave Reyon instructions on how to move the comb in her hand to fix the problem. It was not necessary for Reyon to see anything. Reyon never had to see herself.

Deara stood at the display next to Reyon's, taking direction on fixing her lipstick. Reyon tried not to notice Deara's embarrasment as the display advised Deara that her lipstick was the wrong shade. It stung Deara as badly as a right cross would. There was no hiding in the popular world for Deara. Her image had been perminantly harmed by the error.

After a short pause, Deara worked up the courage to speak to Reyon. "What is that tune?"

"Didn't you get a chance to listen to the local station this morning?"

"No," admitted Deara. "My terminal is on the blink. It even gave me the wrong lipstick this morning."

"The song is called 'Star Slide.' It came in at number three today."

"It sure is catchy."

"It must be," Reyon replied. "The song wasn't even on the charts yesterday."

"Did you hear that there's a new trend comming back?"

"Something new under the sun?"

"The Buffalo Girl look is comming back," answered Deara. "Maybe I should keep this lipstick. It looks like it should be a popular shade with synthetic leather."

Reyon couldn't help but chuckle. There was little humor of value in the remark, however the failed joke broke the tension. "Maybe you should give it to Jackson. Are you two going to the game together?"

"Should be. You really should reconsider going with Jarod."

"No thank you," responded Reyon. "I've already had one unpopular boyfriend."

"He's on his way up."

"I'll get there first."

"It's your choice."

"I'm going by the music store on my way home. Would you like to come along?"

"Sure," replied Deara. "Just give me a moment."

In as much as Reyon couldn't wait to own her own copy of the top ten list for that day, the pause was a godsend. It was another few minutes in which Reyon would not have to tighten her belt for public display. The buffalo girl look was sure to be just as uncomfortable so Reyon hoped that the change in musical style hinted at a loosening of popular culture. Maybe fashion trends were on the way that would allow Reyon to get dressed and keep breathing.

Deara led the way to the music shop on the campus. Everything that remained to say had been scripted by the inner circle and was just as well left unsaid. Even with the threat of falling from grace in popular culture, Deara understood that Reyon was as uncomfortable with the forced smalltalk as Deara was. The walk to the music shop was just a chance for friends to pass time together. There was an understanding that Deara and Reyon both wanted to let go and be real. However, reality was unpopular.

The campus had been landscaped under the direction of the environmentalist club. It was a scenic walk along the winding paths between buildings, designed with an artist's eye for color and composition. Reyon liked the smell of the flowering trees and schrubs in their season. Deara was robbed of the simple pleasure Reyon knew by allergies and the drugs which masked the reactions. The walk was still pleasant for both of them.

Maintaining the campus took constant work. So much effort had been put into biodiversity that no account had been given to the fact that the diverse plant life did not fit together. Nature could look like chance in its design, even though there is an enormous effort to keeping the balance. The layout looked good even though the plants did not want to be together. Grounds keepers fought a constant battle to contain the outbreak of war within unbalanced nature.

Jackson saw Deara enter the music shop with Reyon and followed them in at a slight distance. Reyon saw him first, signaling Deara to slow down. He was not Reyon's type. In truth, Reyon doubted that he was any more Deara's type than Reyon's. Love, wanting to be unexcelled, cannot be allowed to live in a world of equals.

Deara went into a corner of the shop with Jackson while Reyon approached the counter. Jackson would be acceptable for Deara in popular culture because all the closeness between them would be a mere illusion. Reyon knew that Jackson would always see Deara as another man, for the most part, and would only care for her as much as the script called for. That is just how Deara would spend the rest of her life and Reyon was heartbroken by it. One break in Reyon's heart was for the pity of the situation and the other was for the knowledge that Reyon would know the same fate herself.

The clerk hesitated a few moments before breaking Reyon free from the daydream. He did not look up from the list on the display in front of him. It did not matter who Reyon was in the store. Reyon was a component in the machienery of the economy and nothing more. She would spend her life as a pack animal walking the treadmills of the system. And the clerk was no more to Reyon.

"Can I help you find something?"

Reyon closed the short distance to the clerk before responding, just to be sure that he was talking to her. It was an old paranoia of Reyon's that she would become so much a part of the crowd that nobody would ever see her as anything else. "I heard a song on the local station this morning called 'Star Slide.' Where can I find the album containing it?"

The clerk looked up for a moment, then looked away. "I don't think I've heard of that. Can you name the artist?"

It was a big black mark on the clerk that he did not know his popular music and Reyon could not hide her suprise completely. The campus music store should have the popular recordings on the counter before the top ten played on the local station every morning. None of the crystal spheres in easy reach of Reyon had the title she was looking for, but it was popular to ask for merchandise so Reyon didn't look too closely.

"I think the group was called 'Mumbo Jumbo,' although I'm not sure. It's not every day that the list changes so completely."

"We don't have that in stock," replied the clerk. "If you really want it, I can get it for you. Off the record, I can get it for you."

"Would I ask for it if I didn't want it?"

"The bass guitarist of 'Mumbo Jumbo' is a friend of mine. It's actually a local band. I could introduce you, if you like."

"Sure," replied Reyon. A clerk at the campus music store had to be popular.

"I can get you the recording tonight. I'll drop it off at your room in person. The introduction has to wait until Saturday when the band plays a club nearby."

"I'll be having a few friends over after the game."

"I've seen you on campus and I know where you live. Seimon will be pleased with all the attention."

"He should be."

"It's a pleasure doing business with you."

"Likewise."

Reyon left Deara with Jackson while she went home to change. By Monday, Reyon would be in tight with one of the best bands on the top ten list and she might even have a more acceptable boyfriend. She could do worse than Jarod, or even Jackson, although neither of them appealed to her. It would be hard finding a guy who she could actually like and still be popular with. Loss of popularity would definitely cost her.

Maybe it was a good game and maybe it was not. Reyon knew that it was popular to show school spirit, which is all that really matterred to her. It did mean a great deal for Reyon to be close to her friends, even though she lived in a society that idolized only the tough. Popularity meant not caring about anybody or anything else. Some say that service to Satan is reward enough.

Jarod played on the team and did his best to impress Reyon. But, she was a dot on the moon where Jarod's eyes could catch no sight of her. The crowd was only a waving mass of colored dots from the playing field. Every moment that Jarod could spare, more than he had to spare by most accounts, went into looking for Reyon. He believed that he loved her.

Socializing the in bleachers, Reyon didn't know that Jarod had been carried off the field until the game ended. His injuries were adequate to halt the game for a few minutes, although Reyon didn't even notice that. Reyon would be with her friends for the rest of the night, being amongst the first students on campus to own 'Star Slide,' thus she had no time for the world around her. She had not yet been told how she felt about the event.

Yet Reyon felt a moment of remorse. A friend of hers had been harmed. She was so entrapped in popularity that she had to be told what she was allowed to feel and she secretly resented it. It was a secret that she kept even from herself. That was the first time she had known it. Like the star slide, she was falling through space, encapsulated in a tube. Reyon knew the freedom of sliding down its length with the security of its unseen walls.

The clerk from the music store was waiting for Reyon when she got back from the game. Her friends didn't think much of the clandestine exchange of money for a sealed package since party drugs were popular. Most of them had made purchases just outside the doors of the housing units on campus. Although against the law, the deals were a sign of prestige to be carried out where the rest of popular society could bear whitness.

Reyon's party was slow to begin, however, Reyon did not know the true meaning of fun. Popularity required following the script of social conduct and that was all Reyon and her friends knew. It was no secret, to her friends, that Reyon only took pills for the status of the action. This party started when Reyon inserted the cube into the console to play.

Drinking the popular drink and discussing popular topics, Reyon tried to enjoy herself. She knew that something had been placed in her drink, but it was a slight buzz, like alcahol. Reyon drifted through the music with her friends. The next morning found Reyon sleeping on the floor at the foot of her own bed. It didn't matter what had happened the night before. Only the gossip of what had transpired was important.

At the start of classes the next day, Reyon wasn't wearing the fashion of the day. She was the talk of the school for the whole day and she did not know why. It was popular to stick out in the crowd. Reyon soon learned that there was a specific set of prejudices in that nonconformity of popularity. Nothing could be popular that was constructive.

Toward the end of the day, Reyon was met by a school counselor. That was the kind of thing that only happened to unpopular people. She was escorted into an office by the homeliest woman she had ever seen. This woman wore a most decidedly unpopular white suit. Reyon was worried by the outsider.

"We hear that you accepted a package from a man outside your building last night."

"I did," replied Reyon. "Is that what this is all about?"

"Would you mind telling us what was in that package?"

"It was only a musical recording. You should have heard of 'Star Slide' by Mumbo Jumbo."

"Where did you hear of that group?"

"On the local station," answered Reyon. Reyon knew that she had done nothing wrong and, more importantly, that she had done nothing unpopular.

"We have a problem with that story," responded the woman. "The local station doesn't own anything by the group you mentioned."

"You're making that up," shouted Reyon!

The woman lit a cigarette below a no smoking sign, flicking the ashes onto the carpeted floor. "We believe that you didn't know what you were doing."

"Are you being honest with me?"

"The terminal in your room was damaged and has been repaired."

"Oh," answered Reyon. "You're from maintenence."

"You might say that."

"But I don't like the sound of that reply."

"I'm here to offer you a chance to return to good social graces. If you do your part, you might make the ninth floor by the end of the month."

"What do I have to do?"

Reyon is not and never will be sure of what happened next. Time stopped running for a little while, like a movie which had snapped halfway through a scene. There was a slidding of time as it came abruptly to a stop, then a nothingness. The nothingness gave way to an unstable period of grogginess as though reality was still under construction for the first few hours after that. None of it was real enough to matter.

When Reyon awoke, her parents were sitting beside her bed. It was hard to tell her mother and father apart, at first. Reyon was most comforted by her father, however, it was her mother who at on the side of her bed. Her mother brushed back Reyon's hair while her father waited in the darkness. The blinds chose the time to open the room for the light of day.

"Mom?"

"You've been sick, dear," came the reply. "We thought we were going to lose you for awhile."

"Dad?"

"Yes Reyon?"

"It's good to see you here."

"We took the first convenient shuttle out here when the doctor called," replied Reyon's mother.

"Thank you."

"You couldn't help being sick, dear." To Reyon, every word her mother spoke was a condemnation. If the words did not overflow with disgust, then the tone of her voice flowed with distaste.

"I'm still sorry."

"It's only a few days. We'll be back to work when you get back to class tomorrow."

"Then I'm cured?"

"You'll have to talk to a psychologist. There may be brain damage."

"It's popular to have therapy, anyway."

"That's my Reyon," called her father.

A smile spoke the lines in Reyon's mind. She did not speak at length to either of her parents. In fact, she was too tired to remember speaking to the therapist. Reyon just rolled over and went back to sleep. Her life returned from the fitfull illusion when Monday dawned.

The blinds parted to light Reyon's room and she was out of bed moments later. She chose not to listen to the local station that morning, being the first morning that she had skipped in almost two years. Every other step of her morning was just as it had always been. Reyon did what the terminal told her to and recorded the appointment with the psychologist at the end of the school day in her mind.

Reyon walked to class through the same halls she had traversed for two years. Her dellusion made perfect sence and didn't need rationalization. As her psychologist reported, Reyon had always been a dreamer. Myth and magic were the heart of Reyon's secret self. The power of music to disturb or calm the soul may have been the greatest sorcery of all.

"But," thought Reyon. "If this needs no rationalization, why am I spending so much time explaining it to myself?"

The sky above Reyon was dark, although the sun shone brightly overhead. Reyon was back to the tight clothing and fashionable taste of the world around her. She was not a piece of meat over which the hounds of society would drool and for which they would fight. A piece of meat was sustenence. It was worth having and Reyon didn't even want herself. Her popular friends did not approach her as she crossed the campus.

Maybe the psychologist could patch the flaws in Reyon. An expert in the art could remove the unhealthy desires that Reyon had so long endured. Treatment could turn Reyon from a hopeless dreamer into a productive member of society. Reyon did not deny to herself that she was rationalizing those thoughts. She was happier in her social sickness.

As Reyon was walking between rows of lockers, Deara approached Reyon from the left. At first, Reyon did not see her old friend. Her eyes had the image, although her mind wasn't taking messages. Deara changed her course slightly to reach Reyon just as Reyon walked past her. That got Reyon's attention.

"Sorry," opened Reyon. "I didn't see you."

"I just wanted to thank you for introducing me to 'Mumbo Jumbo.' It's some of the best music I've heard."

"I'm not sure what you're talking about," replied Reyon.

Deara's lips parted, as though she had more to say that was stuck in her throat. Her pause said more than a novel of words could orate. "I'm sorry," she replied. "I have you confused with somebody."

Searching for meaning in the moment, Reyon's eyes caught sight of a reflection in Deara's sunglasses. Reyon saw a man in a suit standing directly behind her at a good distance. He was just close enough for Reyon to see in the reflection. It was his black, unseen eyes, that had spoken the missing syllables to silence Deara.

Before Reyon could speak, Deara left. She walked back down the row of lockers and out a side door of the building. The strange man had scared off Reyon's only remaining friend. But, Reyon was still popular and her popular friends would return in time.

Reyon stood for a moment, alone in the hall. Why must all be repressed from the things that they love and enjoy to pretent to protect phantom others from offense? Was it not the right of each to be offended? Is a hollow world, free from emotional risk, really any better than one in which it is popular to be real? Did Reyon have the right to ask those questions?

Then Reyon had to move on and live on in her world. That is what she did.







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