Thursday, January 18, 2001
Thinking had taken a while.
Thinking about anything besides his orders, his classes, and homework was….
Professor Vanderlinden was dramatizing Brave New World at the head of the class and Leofric was attempting to keep up and take notes (don’t get me in trouble again, and if you start slacking off in classes the teachers will blame me) while Zita and Howard whispered to each other (don’t interfere with other people’s Kept, don’t draw attention to yourself, don’t speak unless spoken to, don’t cause trouble in class). The orders tugged at his mind, his actions, pushing him through the motions of being a Good and Normal Kept. That was, after all, the only way he’d ever be one (too stupid to breathe, at least you’re pretty, don’t you want to be a good Kept).
He didn’t have permission to find the professor attractive, or anyone else, but he’d gotten used to that; after all, he didn’t have permission to feel anything. It was a constant roaring static: feeling without permission, guilt, pain, feeling guilt and pain without permission. A very small part of him noted, once, after he’d figured out Thinking again, that he shouldn’t be able to function like this. He should just be curled up under the bed, forever, and never come back out.
But he had Orders.
He had lots of Orders.
He didn’t need to function; he didn’t need to do anything. They did it for him.
Howard grumbled something to Zita.
Don’t speak unless spoken to. Leofric ignored it. If he paid attention, he’d have to think about it, and he didn’t have permission to think about it, so he didn’t pay attention. It would worry him, if he was allowed to worry.
The bell chimed for the end of the period and he quickly packed up his books. Come with me to lunch every day. Don’t be late. If I have to come get you, you’re being too slow.
Zita and Howard were talking again, but it had nothing to do with him.
Don’t be late.
Leofric hurried down the hall to Eriko’s class, waiting at the door, until she stepped out with barely a glance at him.
Come with me to lunch every day. He followed her. Don’t speak unless spoken to. Don’t draw attention to yourself.
Eriko ordered his lunch for him.
Carry your own lunch to the table. He picked up the tray with his lunch and carried it to the table.
Sit with me in the cafeteria. He sat next to her.
The conversation ebbed and flowed around him, processing just enough to know if someone was talking to him (don’t ignore my crew, don’t ignore me, don’t speak unless spoken to) before continuing on and out of his consciousness.
He had permission to eat his lunch; he ate his lunch, whatever it was. He had permission to drink his water; he drank his water.
He wasn’t allowed to think about— He was allowed to think about homework. He thought about Japanese vocabulary, tracing out the strokes of the kanji in his mind.
“It took a while, but he’s finally starting to figure out how to behave.” Eriko affectionately patted his hand as he registered that his Keeper was talking about him. “Even if he is ridiculously high-maintenance.”
Don’t ignore me. Leofric smiled at his Keeper. Don’t speak unless spoken to.
She smiled back and kissed him, a brief brush across his lips. “You do like being a good Kept for me, don’t you?”
Don’t ignore me. Don’t lie to me. Answer me when I speak to you. “No, Mistress.”
Her smile vanished. “What? Don’t be ridiculous.”
Don’t be ridiculous. He wasn’t being ridiculous. Answer me when I speak to you. “I’m sorry.”
“What do you mean, you don’t like it? You’re supposed to like it.” Eriko was scowling. “That’s what being Kept is.”
Answer me when I speak to you. “I’m sorry.”
“Ugh.” Eriko stabbed her salad with a fork. “Sometimes I swear I managed to get the only defective Kept in the school.”
The world shifted red.
“Enough!” Leofric was shouting. He didn’t have permission to shout. He didn’t have permission to speak. Don’t draw attention to yourself.
He felt himself stand up, his body moving without him, as though he’d been ordered to. But he hadn’t. He didn’t have permission to stand. He didn’t have permission to speak. Don’t speak unless spoken to. “Good Kept, bad Kept, always the Kept. What about you? What about the Keepers?”
“Leofric! Sit down!” Eriko was hissing at him.
He sat– He stayed standing. He didn’t have permission to stand. Sit down!
“All this talk about bad Kept and no one talks about the bad Keepers.” It was his voice. It couldn’t be his voice. He didn’t have permission to speak. Don’t speak unless spoken to. “No one talks about you, secretly torturing your Kept, abusing them, breaking them, trying to hide it from your teachers so your precious Kept doesn’t get taken away! As if that’s the worst thing that would happen!”
Eriko was yelling at him. People were staring. Everyone was staring. He was making a scene. Don’t draw attention to yourself. He wasn’t allowed to make a scene. Don’t speak unless spoken to. Sit down!
“You all think you can do whatever you like? Because you’re in charge? Did a Keeper getting herself murdered mean nothing?!”
The cafeteria exploded into chaos.
Leofric stood numbly as the red haze faded, and then
the Orders came crashing back.
It wasn’t enough.
oh God make it stop
He thought he’d gotten used to it. Being a Bad Kept.
why was he so awful, why couldn’t it just be over, why couldn’t he be Good
He hadn’t gotten used to it at all.
why wouldn’t it stop
Everything went black.