There were three levels. There was red, which was Basic. These were the least of everyone. They were the masons and the carpenters and the kitchen workers. They had importance, but they were overlooked. There was blue, which was Intermediate. They taught the Basics. They were the merchants and the businessmen. They were well-liked, but they were always away doing things for the Betterment the country. Then there was the yellow, the Elite. They were the thinkers. They wrote and they drew and they taught and did things that were considered Most Important. They fought wars and they became celebrities. They were smarter than everybody else.
Then, there were the Elders. They were in charge of everybody. They held meetings and said prayers and grew beards and had wrinkles. They were strict and unbending, for the Scale of Evil was tipping further and further every day.
Before we did worked and did business and taught, we had to go to school. There we learned only the amount needed to do our jobs. I was Elite, so I learned many things. But, I was Elite By Deed (EBD). My Intermediate parents had saved the planet when they were Young, and because of it they were given seats at the Elder Circle. And so, I was placed in Elite school.
There was a guest speaker. All the levels came to hear her. She was an Elite and a celebrity. She spoke of realizing one day that nothing was stopping her from becoming famous, as she was Elite By Birth (EBB). She had gone to the Elders and signed her name to be on the screen. It was a pep talk of sorts. To the Basics she said to keep up the good work, and be the best in their field. To the Intermediates she said to keep their minds strong for the figures and money that came their way for the Betterment of the country. And to her fellow Elites she said to always be courageous and to never, ever lose their minds. Our minds are what keep the scale from tipping, she said.
We broke for lunch. Each level sat at their own tables, but I was friends with a Basic, and I sat at her table. People were fine with the friendship, because I was different and I was considered a Defect Elite. We were each given a plate and some crackers and we stood in line for our soup. When they ladled the soup onto my plate, I questioned why we didn’t use bowls, instead. The look the Basic kitchen worker gave me reminded me of the many reasons I was thought to be Defective.
When I was returning to the table, I realized that I had dropped my crackers somewhere. When I looked on the ground, I saw them in a neat little stack. The Basic straightener gave me a nod. Even the messes had to appear orderly and straight and alligned.
I sat down and found that more Basics had joined my friend at the table. They all looked at me but they couldn’t tell me to leave because I was a higher level and I had more authority. Their Intermediate tutor came and joined us, and we all held hands for Prayer. As we prayed, the male Basic to my left started playing with my gold Elite ring. I thought he was rude but I said nothing to Denounce him, as that might tip the scale. We finished praying and he let go.
They all had sheets of paper as their tutor taught them. I asked for a sheet so that I could keep my hands busy while I tried not to listen to the Intermediate. It was taboo for an Elite to be taught by an Intermediate. As they learned their Basic figures, I drew triangle and leaves. At one point, as I was staring it to space thinking of what else to draw, the same male Basic started playing with my ring. I looked down at my hand, and he withdrew his.
The break was over, and we all returned to our seats in the conference room. But just as the speaker was continuing, all the Elites were called away for an urgent meeting with the Elders. We were nervous because this wasn’t a normal thing. When we entered the meeting room, we all gazed in awe at the scale in the center. It looked like a weight scale, only it had a long pole sticking out the top that had millions of misdeeds written on it. Every misdeed caused the pole to grow heavier, and we could all see that the scale was straining under the weight.
The Elders motioned for us to sit down and began speaking. I looked at my Elder parents, and they nodded. They told us that we were only two misdeeds away from total disaster. This struck fear into our hearts, as nobody knew what exactly this “total disaster” was. Suddenly, a bee swooped down in from the window. It buzzed near my head, and I jumped up screaming bloody murder. As everyone scrambled to shoo the bee away, my father glowered at me (one of my defects was that I was deathly afraid of bees. As a child I had been stung on the neck, and I had gone into shock. My parents found me convulsing in the front yard for no other apparent reason than a little bee sting). He began listing my Defects to the Elder beside him, who nodded and looked at me in pity.
After the meeting, my mother motioned to me to come over. She told me she was taking me to the Baths to be cleansed of my fears and ignorances. My female Basic friend was our assigned driver. I was glad to see her and I wanted to tell her about the scale, even though we weren’t supposed to tell the other levels. But my mother wouldn’t let us speak to each other.
On the side of the road was a girl. She was a Straggler, because she didn’t have a color or a level. Her hair was long and dirty, her shoes worn and her clothing patched. She waved at us to stop. We didn’t want to ignore her and cause her to do something that might tip the scale, so we halted. We asked if she wanted a ride, and she said no. She stared at us for a moment, and then said something about the woman in the ravine that had killed her own children. We looked down the ravine on the right, and there was nobody. Then the girl asked why we wouldn’t give her a ride. We were confused and slightly worried, but let her in the vehicle.
We asked where she was going, and she said the same place as us. We drove in silence and pulled into the Baths. When we entered the doorway my friend was pulled away by a male Intermediate. They looked to be in love. I thought,no, they’ve tipped the scale. It was wrong for the levels to mix like that, and it was so obvious, I had no doubt that the Elders knew. My mother looked at them and frowned, saying we were this close from total disaster and all they thought about was themselves.
We went into the room with the pool, and my mother got in. I waited a while. When I went to go in, I didn’t see my mother anywhere, but the pool was large, so I didn’t worry much. Then someone shouted at me, and I turned to see the girl. She said, see? The woman killed her children! I looked back at the pool and saw that everyone was being pulled underwater by an invisible force. I screamed and started to reach for them, but I didn’t want to touch the water, lest I be pulled in also.
I ran around the edge, shouting for help and looking for something that I could hold onto and that they could grab, but the room was empty. Then somebody tapped me on the shoulder and I found the male Basic, the one who had played with my ring, standing behind me. He told me that I had tipped the scale this time. I asked him how, and he pointed to the water, saying don’t you remember? Don’t you remember our child? And I looked in the pool and saw a floating baby doll, and my mother also floated by, grinning up at me.