Submitted for consideration in the YC 119 New Eden Capsuleer’s Writing Contest.
By Ché Biko
Ever since I’ve been freed I’ve been searching for a new home. A new life. A new me. I never had to think about what a home is. What a life is. What I am.
People often asked me if I ever thought about what it was like to be free when I was a slave. I never really knew what to answer them until I learned to say what was expected. “Yes, of course.” I never really thought about freedom. In a way, part of me was always free. My mind was one of the few things my owner could not control. It would go places, wonderful places, even while my body worked on the fields. I would sore above the clouds, orbit distant stars, pierce through nebulae, and then plunge into oceans. It would think about the nature of life, gods, and everyday things most free people barely even seemed to notice anymore.
Now, my mind is one of the few things that isn’t free. It’s always worrying. Will I find a job, a wife, a home…a purpose? I can’t escape the continuous thoughts repeating themselves endlessly in my head. I have no education. No family. No friends. No social skills. When I was still owned, I was an equal among the other slaves. Now I’m almost considered mentally handicapped, and treated accordingly: avoid or pity.
I don’t want their pity. What makes their community so special that it’s a bad thing if you’re not able to fit in? Granted, I would not fit in with the Amarr either, but at least I was not expected to fit in, not until I had become one of the faithful.
The only time I don’t worry is when I have to make a choice. And I guess in a way I should be thankful that there are so many to distract me from my worries, but it reminds me just how much I am like a fish out of the water. I have to choose my clothes, my food, my furniture, my hobbies. Choices everywhere. Freedom is like an endless obligation to make choices.
I go to the bakery and I just stand there for minutes, staring at all those products. I don’t know what they are called, what they taste like, or even if it’s the proper time of day to be eating such a thing. Thankfully, the baker is getting to know me. He will just leave me be until I randomly point at something. Then he will either shake his head or give me whatever it was I pointed to and say something like, “One Ilisk bread for you, sir.” I think he’s even starting to know what I like better than I do myself.
It’s one of those days again. The master we belong to has lined us up, and paces up and down the row with 2 of his slaver hounds, staring franticly in our eyes as if he will be able to determine who is responsible now. Something is missing again, a tritanium pen this time. It will probably show up in our master’s pocket after his drones have executed the person blamed for stealing it.
Some of us have accepted this, however. We don’t hate our master for it. We know it’s because he forgot to take his medication. He’s usually a lot more reasonable. Well, lets just say that normally the worst thing that can happen to you is that you’ll have to polish the kettles again, with your toothbrush.
We’ll just have to weather the storm until his daughter comes home.
I’m in the Republic Fleet now. I think I could be happy here. Or satisfied. Or something like that. When I arrived at the training facility I was pleasantly surprised to find that quite a number of the recruits I was trained with were also former slaves. Now, a couple weeks after my training was completed, I think I understand why many former slaves are now the people that fight alongside me. It’s not the reason the propaganda folks in the military and the politicians are so vocal about; that we fight against the Amarr because we know the horrors of a slave existence and that we can’t rest until all slaves are freed. Well, it’s a reason, but not the reason.
I think I can tell if someone here is a former slave just by looking at the look in their eyes. It’s the same look that I see in my eyes when I look in the mirror. It’s a look that says, “I belong here”.
I’ve been thinking about this, about why we are here. Oh, yes, I’ve been thinking freely again. All the worries in my head have disappeared, like clouds blow apart by the wind. My mind is free again. I guess that’s the first reason.
Another one is that we are used to following orders, not having to think about what to do next. We’re very much used to saying, “Yes, sir”.
Heh, I just remembered the first time I felt like myself again. I had received punishment for my bunk being not cleaned properly. I had to wash my sheets with a toothbrush. I think I smiled the entire time, and that night, on those sheets, I slept better than any day I could remember before it.
The threath of semi-random death is also something some of us are familiar with. We accept it’s presence more than the other recruits, the ones that have never been slaves to those masters that might kill you for the slightest mistake or for no reason at all. Most of us don’t seem to fear it. Perhaps some even welcome it.
We are also more or less equals here, at least not the misfits we were in “normal” society. Here, everything that made us unsuitable for a normal life are welcomed attributes. We all wear the same clothes. We all sleep in the same bunks. We all eat the same food, which also shares similarities with the stuff our former owners fed us.
For us, home is not a house in a certain place. It’s a structure, a certain environment, one that does not have many, if any, physical properties. That’s the reason, the real reason, why we are here; because we are unable to function anywhere else. This is our home. This is our new master. This is what we belong to and where we belong.
Ché Biko 119