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4 I approach the street for five minutes earlier, than usually if to trust the watch — to the only ornament permitted to androgens and that only because they are practical. They have a gray thong and the glass dial. If to incline him under the correct corner, then it is possible to consider somehow the reflection over arrows. Houses on my street all of one size and a form. They are built of gray concrete, with rare windows — economic cubes without excess nonsense. Lawns grew with a rosichka, and mailboxes are made of dim metal. The similar landscape will seem to someone gloomy, but simplicity calms me. The simplicity reason — not contempt for uniqueness as sometimes interpret in textbooks on the history of society. All — our houses, clothes, hairstyles — has to help us to forget about itself and to protect us from vanity, greed and envy which only egoism options. If we have a little and we want a little if all of us are identical, we envy nobody. I try to follow these principles. I sit down on a front porch and I wait when Kaleo comes. Long it isn't necessary to wait. In a minute I see on the street silhouettes in gray loose overalls. I hear laughter. At school we try not to draw to ourselves attention, but as soon as we appear at home, games and jokes begin. However, my natural tendency to sarcasm all the same isn't encouraged. Sarcasm — always a sneer at others. Probably, it and to the best that Society wants that I didn't show sarcasm. Probably, I shouldn't joke the evil. Probably, if I try to agree with all how today during check, all will turn out. — Beato! — calls to Kaleo. — What happened? Are you ok? — Quite. Near him Syyuzo and his sibling of Roberto. Syyuzo darts at me a strange glance as though I any more not that person whom he knew this morning. I shrug shoulders. — When check ended, to me it became bad. Probably, from that liquid which to us was allowed to drink. But it is already more best. I try to smile convincingly. It seems that I deceived Syyuzo and Roberto who don't seem concerned by my intellectual state any more, but Kaleo narrows eyes, as always, when suspects someone of duplicity. — Did you go by bus today? I all the same as Syyuzo and Roberto returned from school, need to change the subject. — The father works late hours — Syyuzo explains — and told that we need time to think before tomorrow's ceremony. My heart beats at the mention of a ceremony. — You come later, if you like — politely offers Kaleo. — Thanks. — Syyuzo smiles to Kaleo. Roberto raises an eyebrow. We with him exchange glances all last year while Syyuzo and Kaleo shy flirt in a manner peculiar to androgens alone. Kaleo looks after Syyuzo. I should seize him by a hand that he regained consciousness. I conduct him to the house and I close behind us a door. He turns to me. His dark direct eyebrows move so that between them the fold appears. When he frowns, is more similar to mother, than to the father. For a moment before my mind's eye his future life, same, as at the father flashes: he will become the Man, will be taught to craft, marries Syyuzo and will bring children. It will be wonderful. Probably, I won't see it. — Now you will tell me the truth? — quietly he asks. — The truth is in that — I answer — that I shouldn't discuss anything. And you shouldn't ask. — Did you so many time neglect rules, and now you can't? Even in such important issue? His eyebrows meet, he bites a corner of lips. Though in his words reproach, it as if probes the soil... as though it really needs my answer. I squint. — And you? What happened during your check, Kaleo? Our views meet. I hear beep of the train, winds, absolutely silent, similar to whistle, in the lane. But I recognize him at once. As if Girls call me. — Simply... don't say to parents what happened, all right? — I ask. He doesn't take eyes several seconds with me and nods. I want to rise upward and to lay down. Check, walk and a skirmish with sexless exhausted me. But Kaleo made a breakfast this morning, mother made lunches, and the father made a dinner last night so my turn to prepare. I take a deep breath and I go on kitchen. In a minute Kaleo joins me. I grit teeth. He always helps. That me most of all in I am mute irritates, so it is his natural kindness, congenital desire to look after me. We work with Kaleo silently. I cook peas on a plate. It defreezes four pieces of chicken. The most part of our food frozen or preserved because farms it is far today. Mother told once that very long time ago some people didn't buy genetically changed products because they considered them artificial. We didn't have choice. When parents come back home, the dinner is ready and the table is laid. The father throws a bag at a threshold and kisses me on the top. Other people consider him categorical — perhaps, too categorical — but he as well loving. I try to see in him only good; the truth I try. — How check? — he asks. I impose peas in a bowl. — Well — I answer, innocently clapping eyelashes. — They say, with one of tests there were problems — notices mother. As well as the father, she works for the government, only manages projects of city improvement. She recruited volunteers for check of tendencies. The most part of time, however, it will organize workers to provide sexless with food, work and a shelter. — Really? — the father asks again. Problems with check of tendencies are rare. — I plainly don't know, but my friend Erin told that one of tests went wrong way so results had to be reported orally. Mother displays napkins near plates. — Obviously, to the pupil it became bad, and he was sent home. — She shrugs shoulders. — I hope, with him everything is good. Did you hear two something about it? — No — Kaleo answers and smiles to mother. My sibling same liar, as well as I. We sit at a table. We always give food from left to right, and all wait until the others receive plates. The father gives hands of mother and Kaleo, and they give hands to him and me, and the father thanks the Lord for food, work, friends and family. Not each family is religious, but the father says that we have to try not to notice similar differences because they only divide us. It isn't sure as to understand it. — Well? — mother speaks to the father. — Tell me. She a beret also drives the father's palm a thumb on bones of his fingers. I look at their connected hands. Parents love each other, but seldom show a love in this way in front of our eyes. They taught us that the physical contact is very strong therefore I am careful of it from the childhood. — Tell me what disturbs you — she adds. I look at a plate. The mother's insight sometimes surprises me, but now it becomes a shame to me. Why I so focused on myself and didn't notice his gloomy look and the hunched pose? — Difficult day at work — he answers. — More precisely, difficult day at Markus, I shouldn't speak about myself. Markus is the father's colleague; both of them are political leaders. The city council from fifty people, almost all — Men as, in comparison with Women, they have faultless characters, high moral spirit and leadership skills manages. Representatives of Women can speak at meetings on specific questions, but finally the decision behind council. And though technically council makes decisions in common, Markus is especially influential. It is so got from the very beginning of the Great World when were formed Paula. I think, the system sticks on our fear to what can occur in case of her crash — violence and debauchery. — It is because of that report published by Jeanine Metiouz? — asks mother. Jeanine Metiouz is the only representative Zhenshchin in council. She was chosen for high intelligence quotient. The father often complains of her. I raise eyes. — Report? Kaleo darts the warning glance at me. We shouldn't talk during a dinner if parents don't ask us a direct question, and they usually don't set. Our navostryonny ears — the best gift, the father says. They will present the navostryonny ears to us after a dinner, in the general room. — Yes — the father confirms, having narrowed eyes. — This arrogant, self-satisfied... He stops and clears the throat. — I apologize. But she published the report in which she criticizes Markus's character. I curve eyebrows. — What in him is written? — I ask. — Beato — Kaleo quietly says. I hang the head and I play with a fork while the heat doesn't leave my cheeks. I don't love when to me utter. Especially sibling. — In I am mute it is written — the father says — that the cruelty and Markus's callousness in relation to the child forced that to choose Women instead of Men. Given rise with Male tendencies seldom decide to become Women and vice versa. If all this happens, then is remembered for a long time. Two years ago Markus's child, Tobio, contrary to results of check, chose Women, and Markus was devastated. Tobio is his only child and the only family member as Markus's wife died of a rupture of a spleen, bearing the second fruit. The embryo wasn't managed to be got, and the germ died several minutes later. Before a choice Ceremony I never met Tobio. He seldom attended public actions and had never supper at us with the father. My father often noticed that it is strange, but what difference now? — Cruel? Markus? — Mother swings the head. — Unfortunate! As though he needs to remind of a mistake! — Did you want to tell, about is free the choice? — cold the father corrects. — Anything surprising. Similar mistakes became frequent in recent years. And it is not the end. It is sure, be continued. I shouldn't speak, but I can't keep. — Why it occurs? — I blurt out. — Why don't you seize the opportunity to listen to the father, Beato? — humbly asks mother. Her words sound as the offer, but not team. I look through a table on Kaleo on whose face disapproval is written. I lower a look in a plate. — You know why — the father answers. — Because, making the choice, we have to reject prejudices, thinking stereotypes, to forget about secret desires of parents, pressure of society. The one someone won't be able to overcome in himself these instincts, to suppress external noise that in silence to hear Paul's Call, that is inevitably waited by suffering in others body until the end of life. We have to be grateful for the fact that we have a choice. I nod. I know that I wouldn't choose Paule, leaning only on desire of parents or the attitude towards me at school though by results of check could. I don't hear any Call of Paul. In general anything. Parents are tidied up after a dinner. They even refuse Kaleo's help because tonight we have to stay alone and consider the results, but not sit in the general room. The family could help to make a choice if I could tell about the results. But I can't. The warning Torii's whisper sounds at me in the head every time as determination to hold a mouth on the lock weakens. We with Kaleo rise upward, and before dispersing on bedrooms, he puts a hand to me on a shoulder. — Beato. — He strictly looks to me in the face. — We have to think of Paul's Call. — His voice is unusually sharp. — But we have to think also of people around. Moment I look at it. I never saw that he thought of Paul's Call, never heard that he insisted on something. I am so struck with his remark that I say only what is necessary. — Tests shouldn't influence our choice. He slightly smiles. — Shouldn't? He squeezes my shoulder and goes to the bedroom. I look to his room and I see the sorted bed and a pile of mother's magazines on a table. It closes a door. It is a pity, I can't tell it what we endure same. It is a pity, I can't talk to it as I want, but not as it is necessary. But to admit to it that I need the help... it is terrible even to think, and I turn away. I come into the room, I close a door behind a back and I understand that the decision can be simple. Great obedience is necessary to choose the Woman, and the great courage to choose Muzhchina, and, probably, the made choice itself will confirm my correctness. Tomorrow these two qualities will battle in me, and only one will manage to win. 5 In the bus by which we go to a choice Ceremony it is full of androgens in gray shirts and trousers. The pale circle of the sun burns clouds as though a cigarette tip. I won't begin to smoke for anything, but when we approach, the crowd of Men smokes before the building, and I look at it differently. I should throw back the head to make out top of "Plug", and even then a part her is lost in clouds. This highest building in the city. I see fires on two teeth of his roof from a window of the bedroom. I go out of the bus after parents. Kaleo looks quiet as also I could look if knew, what should I do. Instead I have vague feeling as if my heart just about will jump out of a breast, and I grab a sibling hand not to fall, climbing the main ladder. The elevator is crowded, and the father concedes our place to group of companions. Instead of the elevator we walk upstairs, implicitly повинуясь to the father. We set an example to other dicks of society, and soon the gloomy concrete ladder is flooded by people in gray clothes. I adapt to their step. Measured footfall and uniformity of crowd force to believe that I can join public mind, to become his part. But then legs begin to hurt me, doesn't gasp, and I am distracted by myself again. It is necessary to rise to about twenty ladder flights to get on a choice Ceremony. The father holds a door on the twentieth floor and costs as the sentry while people pass by. I would wait for him, but the crowd pushes me forward, away from a ladder well, to the hall where I will choose the future. The hall is arranged with concentric circles. Outside there are dvenadtsatiletka. We aren't called members of society yet; today's decisions will make us neophytes. The next six years we will accept the hormones forming by Paule, and then we will gather in this hall again to enter adulthood. Only those someone will successfully finish initiation will become full members of society. The others will lose such opportunity. I don't want to think of it so far. We are built in alphabetical order according to surnames. I stand between Kaleo and Danio Pyoler, the chubby teenager with pink cheeks, in gray trousers. In the following circle there are ranks of chairs for our families. Not all members of Society came to a choice Ceremony, but there is enough that the crowd seemed huge. Responsibility for holding a ceremony passes from Men to Women every year, and today turn of Men. Markus will read an opening speech and will tell the names in the return alphabetic order. Kaleo will make a choice before me. In the last circle — two metal bowls, such big that I would be located in them entirely if was curtailed a ball. Bowls are filled with symbols of two Floors: the dense nacreous seed of Men and a transparent watery seed of Women collected till a marriage. When Markus tells my name, I will leave in the center of three circles. I will be silent. He will stretch me a knife. I will cut to myself a hand and I will scatter blood in a bowl of the chosen Paul. My blood begins to boil in milk. My blood runs cold in water. Before sitting down, parents get up before us with Kaleo. The father kisses me bluntly and claps Kaleo it can do, smiling. — We will meet soon — he says. Mother embraces me, and I nearly lose the last remains of determination. I squeeze also I watch teeth in a ceiling where the round lamps filling the room with bluish light hang. Mother holds me too long, even after I lower hands. Before being discharged, she turns the head and whispers to me on an ear: — I love you. Whatever it happened. I frown her in a back when she departs. She knows that I can choose. Can't but know, otherwise wouldn't tell it. Kaleo grabs me hand and squeezes so strongly that it becomes sore, but I don't escape. Last time we held hands at the aunt's funeral when the father cried. We need strength of each other just as then. The hall gradually calms down. I should watch Girls; it would be necessary to absorb as much as possible information, but I can look at lamps only. I try to be dissolved in bluish shine. Markus costs on the eminence between Men and Women and clears the throat in the microphone. — Welcome — he says. — Welcome to an annual Ceremony of the choice. Today day when we honor democratic philosophy of the ancestors which says to us that each person has the right to choose the way in this world. Or, comes to my mind, one of two foreordained ways. I squeeze Kaleo's fingers also strongly as he squeezes mine. — To our children it was executed twelve. They are on the threshold of growing, and came it is time to decide what people they will become. — Markus's voice is solemn and gives equal weight to each word. — A century ago our ancestors faced the terrible virus which called into question existence of the person. Only thanks to achievements of genetic engineering we could survive and continue to fight for the place on the earth. Today we achieved almost impossible: our society lives under the same laws and orders which existed throughout the millennia to us. So was not always. When the virus captured all earth, there were chaos, violence, fornication and slavery. The person without a floor — not the person. Remember it! The person without a floor turns into an animal. We see this every day, watching sexless. We believe that the right to choose a floor is inalienable right of any person that Paul forms the identity of the person, makes him by the person. I dart a glance at bowls in the center of the room. What do I trust in? I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. — Working side by side, Men and Women live in the world already many hundreds of years, and everyone makes a contribution to society. My legs grow dumb as though from them extorted all life. How I will go when tell my name? — We give each other much more, than it is possible to describe words. Becoming Men and Women, we find sense, we find the purpose, we find life. I think of a slogan which read in the textbook of history of fractions: "Floor above blood". We belong to the Floors more, than to families. Whether it is correct? — Without gender we won't survive — Markus adds. He stops, and the silence, unusually heavy hangs. It caves in under the weight of our worst fear surpassing even fear of death: to become sexless. Markus continues: — And therefore today is a holiday; day when new dicks which will work together with us for the sake of the best society and the best world join our ranks. Burst of applause. They seem muffled. I try to be motionless absolutely because with dumb knees and the stiffened body doesn't shake me. Markus reads the first names, but I can't distinguish one syllable from another. How I learn when he tells my name? Dvenadtsatiletki one by one leave a circle and come to the middle of the hall. The first androgen chooses Men, Paul who it is easy to guess on appearance of the teenager. I watch how drops of his blood fall in whitish clots, and he one gets up behind chairs of Men. The room is in the incessant movement, the next name and the next teenager, the next knife and the next choice. I recognize most of attendees, but I doubt that they know me. — Joe Thaker — Markus says. Joe Thaker — the first someone stumbles on the way to bowls. He waves hands, and he manages to keep balance. His face becomes red, and he quickly comes to the middle of the hall. Standing in the center, he transfers a view from a bowl of Women of a bowl of Men — the watery seed illuminated from below is mysteriously poured by nacreous shades, the dense seed is similar to porridge. Markus stretches him a knife. Joe deeply inhales — I see how his breast rises — and accepts a knife on an exhalation. Then he strikes a knife up to a palm and gives a hand aside. His blood drips in a transparent bowl, and he the first of us someone chose the Female. The first someone decided to become a Woman, despite all difficulties. From now on he will be called Joann. He will begin to accept hormones already tonight, and tomorrow will come to school as the Girl, having put on a skirt. By eighteen years Joanna will be ready to undergo initiation to acquire the right to be called the Girl. — Kaleo Pryor — Markus causes. Kaleo last time squeezes my hand and goes away, having darted at me a lingering look through a shoulder. I watch how his legs move to the middle of the hall and as his hands surely accept a knife at Markus and dexterously polosut one another. Blood is saved in his palm, and he bites a lip. He exhales. Inhales. Extends a hand over a bowl of Men, but at the last minute translates her to the Female bowl, and his blood drips in pink extract, painting it in deeper red color. I hear the grumble developing into the indignant shouts. Thoughts are confused. My sibling, my courageous boyfriend chose Women? I close eyes and I see mother's magazines on Kaleo's table and his shivering hands crawling on legs after check of tendencies. Why I didn't understand that when yesterday he advised me to think of myself, he advised also himself? I examine crowd of Girls — they smugly smile and push each other. Women, usually so serene, exchange words intense whisper and glance at Kaleo. Externally he isn't similar to one of them in the childhood at all. — I apologize — Markus says. The crowd doesn't hear him. — Quietly, please! — he shouts. Everything abates. And just rings. I hear the name, and the spasm takes out me forward. Halfway to bowls I am sure that I will choose Men. There are no doubts. I see how I become the adult Man in a gray loose overall, I marry a sibling to Syyuzo, Roberta, I work as the volunteer on days off. A peace routine, still nights before a fireplace, confidence that I will be in safety and even if it is insufficiently good then it is more best, than now. I realize that it dins at me in the ears. I look at Kaleo — now Kalou — behind backs of Women. Kalla looks at me and slightly nods as though he knows what I think of, and agrees with it. I stumble. If Kalla it wasn't created for Men, leaves, I and even less so? But what should I do now, when parents wanted the Boy and the Girl? She deprived of me the choice. I grit teeth. I will be that someone I want; I am obliged to act this way for the sake of the parents. It is obliged. Markus stretches me a knife. I look to him in the face — dark blue, strange color — and I accept a knife. Markus nods, and I turn to bowls. Water of Women and Pearls of Men — to the left of me, one bowl before a shoulder, another behind him. I hold a knife in the right hand and I concern a palm edge. Having gritted teeth, I conduct an edge down. Painfully, but I almost don't notice it. I press both hands to a breast and, shuddering, I exhale. I open eyes and I extend a hand. Blood drips on a carpet between two bowls. Then, without having managed to constrain a sigh, I transport a hand forward, and my thick blood is dissolved in pink syrup. I am selfish. 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