by Ayn Rand
It is a sin to write this. It is a sin
to think words no others think and to put
them down upon a paper no others are to see.
It is base and evil. It is as if we were
speaking alone to no ears but our own.
And we know well that there is no transgression
blacker than to do or think alone.
We have broken the laws. The laws say
that men may not write unless the Council
of Vocations bid them so. May we be forgiven!
But this is not the only sin upon us.
We have committed a greater crime, and for
this crime there is no name. What punishment
awaits us if it be discovered we know not,
for no such crime has come in the memory
of men and there are no laws to provide for it.
It is dark here. The flame of the candle
stands still in the air. Nothing moves in
this tunnel save our hand on the paper. We are
alone here under the earth. It is a fearful
word, alone. The laws say that none among
men may be alone, ever and at any time,
for this is the great transgression and the root
of all evil. But we have broken many laws.
And now there is nothing here save our one body,
and it is strange to see only two legs
stretched on the ground, and on the wall
before us the shadow of our one head.
The walls are cracked and water runs
upon them in thin threads without sound,
black and glistening as blood. We stole the
candle from the larder of the Home of the
Street Sweepers. We shall be sentenced to
ten years in the Palace of Corrective
Detention if it be discovered. But this matters not.
It matters only that the light is precious and
we should not waste it to write when we
need it for that work which is our crime.
Nothing matters save the work, our secret,
our evil, our precious work. Still, we must
also write, for–may the Council have
mercy upon us!–we wish to speak for once
to no ears but our own.
Our name is Equality 7-2521, as it is
written on the iron bracelet which all men
wear on their left wrists with their names
upon it. We are twenty-one years old. We
are six feet tall, and this is a burden, for
there are not many men who are six feet tall.
Ever have the Teachers and the Leaders pointed
to us and frowned and said:
“There is evil in your bones, Equality 7-2521,
for your body has grown beyond the bodies
of your brothers.” But we cannot change
our bones nor our body.
We were born with a curse. It has always
driven us to thoughts which are forbidden.
It has always given us wishes which men
may not wish. We know that we are evil,
but there is no will in us and no power
to resist it. This is our wonder and our
secret fear, that we know and do not resist.
We strive to be like all our brother men,
for all men must be alike. Over the portals
of the Palace of the World Council, there
are words cut in the marble, which we
repeat to ourselves whenever we are tempted:
“WE ARE ONE IN ALL AND ALL IN ONE.
THERE ARE NO MEN BUT ONLY THE GREAT _WE_,
ONE, INDIVISIBLE AND FOREVER.”
We repeat this to ourselves, but it helps us not.
These words were cut long ago. There is
green mould in the grooves of the letters
and yellow streaks on the marble, which
come from more years than men could
count. And these words are the truth,
for they are written on the Palace of the
World Council, and the World Council is the
body of all truth. Thus has it been ever
since the Great Rebirth, and farther back
than that no memory can reach.
But we must never speak of the times before
the Great Rebirth, else we are sentenced to
three years in the Palace of Corrective Detention.
It is only the Old Ones who whisper about it in
the evenings, in the Home of the Useless.
They whisper many strange things, of the towers
which rose to the sky, in those Unmentionable
Times, and of the wagons which moved
without horses, and of the lights which
burned without flame. But those times
were evil. And those times passed away,
when men saw the Great Truth which is this:
that all men are one and that there is no
will save the will of all men together.
All men are good and wise. It is only we,
Equality 7-2521, we alone who were born
with a curse. For we are not like our brothers.
And as we look back upon our life,
we see that it has ever been thus and that
it has brought us step by step to our last,
supreme transgression, our crime of crimes
hidden here under the ground.
We remember the Home of the Infants
where we lived till we were five years old,
together with all the children of the City
who had been born in the same year.
The sleeping halls there were white and clean
and bare of all things save one hundred beds.
We were just like all our brothers
then, save for the one transgression:
we fought with our brothers. There are few
offenses blacker than to fight with our
brothers, at any age and for any cause
whatsoever. The Council of the Home told
us so, and of all the children of that year,
we were locked in the cellar most often.
When we were five years old, we were
sent to the Home of the Students, where
there are ten wards, for our ten years of
learning. Men must learn till they reach
their fifteenth year. Then they go to work.
In the Home of the Students we arose when
the big bell rang in the tower and we went
to our beds when it rang again. Before we
removed our garments, we stood in the
great sleeping hall, and we raised our right
arms, and we said all together with the
three Teachers at the head:
“We are nothing. Mankind is all. By the grace
of our brothers are we allowed our lives.
We exist through, by and for our brothers
who are the State. Amen.”
Then we slept. The sleeping halls were white
and clean and bare of all things save one hundred beds.
We, Equality 7-2521, were not happy in
those years in the Home of the Students.
It was not that the learning was too hard
for us. It was that the learning was too easy.
This is a great sin, to be born with a
head which is too quick. It is not good
to be different from our brothers, but it
is evil to be superior to them. The Teachers
told us so, and they frowned when they looked upon us.
So we fought against this curse. We tried
to forget our lessons, but we always remembered.
We tried not to understand what the Teachers taught,
but we always understood it before the Teachers
had spoken. We looked upon Union 5-3992,
who were a pale boy with only half a brain,
and we tried to say and do as they did,
that we might be like them, like Union 5-3992,
but somehow the Teachers knew that we were not.
And we were lashed more often than all the other children.
The Teachers were just, for they had
been appointed by the Councils, and the
Councils are the voice of all justice,
for they are the voice of all men. And if
sometimes, in the secret darkness of our heart,
we regret that which befell us on our
fifteenth birthday, we know that it was
through our own guilt. We had broken
a law, for we had not paid heed to the
words of our Teachers. The Teachers
had said to us all:
“Dare not choose in your minds the
work you would like to do when you leave
the Home of the Students. You shall do
that which the Council of Vocations shall
prescribe for you. For the Council of
Vocations knows in its great wisdom where
you are needed by your brother men, better
than you can know it in your unworthy
little minds. And if you are not needed by
your brother man, there is no reason for
you to burden the earth with your bodies.”
We knew this well, in the years of our
childhood, but our curse broke our will.
We were guilty and we confess it here:
we were guilty of the great Transgression
of Preference. We preferred some work
and some lessons to the others. We did not
listen well to the history of all the