spoke to the Golden One.
The other women were far off in the
field, when we stopped at the hedge by the
side of the road. The Golden One were
kneeling alone at the moat which runs
through the field. And the drops of water
falling from their hands, as they raised the
water to their lips, were like sparks of fire
in the sun. Then the Golden One saw us,
and they did not move, kneeling there,
looking at us, and circles of light played
upon their white tunic, from the sun on the
water of the moat, and one sparkling drop
fell from a finger of their hand held as
frozen in the air.
Then the Golden One rose and walked
to the hedge, as if they had heard a
command in our eyes. The two other Street
Sweepers of our brigade were a hundred
paces away down the road. And we
thought that International 4-8818 would
not betray us, and Union 5-3992 would
not understand. So we looked straight upon
the Golden One, and we saw the shadows
of their lashes on their white cheeks and
the sparks of sun on their lips. And we said:
“You are beautiful, Liberty 5-3000.”
Their face did not move and they did not
avert their eyes. Only their eyes grew wider,
and there was triumph in their eyes,
and it was not triumph over us,
but over things we could not guess.
Then they asked:
“What is your name?”
“Equality 7-2521,” we answered.
“You are not one of our brothers, Equality
7-2521, for we do not wish you to be.”
We cannot say what they meant, for there
are no words for their meaning, but we know it
without words and we knew it then.
“No,” we answered, “nor are you one of our sisters.”
“If you see us among scores of women,
will you look upon us?”
“We shall look upon you, Liberty 5-3000,
if we see you among all the women of the earth.”
Then they asked:
“Are Street Sweepers sent to different
parts of the City or do they always work
in the same places?”
“They always work in the same places,”
we answered, “and no one will take this
road away from us.”
“Your eyes,” they said, “are not like the
eyes of any among men.”
And suddenly, without cause for the
thought which came to us, we felt cold,
cold to our stomach.
“How old are you?” we asked.
They understood our thought, for they
lowered their eyes for the first time.
“Seventeen,” they whispered.
And we sighed, as if a burden had been
taken from us, for we had been thinking
without reason of the Palace of Mating.
And we thought that we would not let the
Golden One be sent to the Palace. How to
prevent it, how to bar the will of the
Councils, we knew not, but we knew suddenly
that we would. Only we do not know why
such thought came to us, for these ugly
matters bear no relation to us and the
Golden One. What relation can they bear?
Still, without reason, as we stood there
by the hedge, we felt our lips drawn tight
with hatred, a sudden hatred for all our
brother men. And the Golden One saw it
and smiled slowly, and there was in their
smile the first sadness we had seen in them.
We think that in the wisdom of women
the Golden One had understood more than
we can understand.
Then three of the sisters in the field appeared,
coming toward the road, so the Golden One
walked away from us. They took the bag of seeds,
and they threw the seeds into the furrows of earth
as they walked away. But the seeds flew wildly,
for the hand of the Golden One was trembling.
Yet as we walked back to the Home of the
Street Sweepers, we felt that we wanted
to sing, without reason. So we were
reprimanded tonight, in the dining hall,
for without knowing it we had begun to
sing aloud some tune we had never heard.
But it is not proper to sing without reason,
save at the Social Meetings.
“We are singing because we are happy,”
we answered the one of the Home Council
who reprimanded us.
“Indeed you are happy,” they answered.
“How else can men be when they live for
And now, sitting here in our tunnel, we
wonder about these words. It is forbidden,
not to be happy. For, as it has been
explained to us, men are free and the earth
belongs to them; and all things on earth belong
to all men; and the will of all men together is
good for all; and so all men must be happy.
Yet as we stand at night in the great hall,
removing our garments for sleep, we look
upon our brothers and we wonder. The heads
of our brothers are bowed. The eyes of our
brothers are dull, and never do they look
one another in the eyes. The shoulders
of our brothers are hunched, and their
muscles are drawn, as if their bodies were
shrinking and wished to shrink out of sight.
And a word steals into our mind, as we look
upon our brothers, and that word is fear.
There is fear hanging in the air of the
sleeping halls, and in the air of the streets.
Fear walks through the City, fear without name,
without shape. All men feel it and none dare to speak.
We feel it also, when we are in the Home of the
Street Sweepers. But here, in our tunnel,
we feel it no longer. The air is pure
under the ground. There is no odor of men.
And these three hours give us strength
for our hours above the ground.
Our body is betraying us, for the Council
of the Home looks with suspicion upon us.
It is not good to feel too much joy nor to be glad
that our body lives. For we matter not and
it must not matter to us whether we live or die,
which is to be as our brothers will it.
But we, Equality 7-2521, are glad to be living.
If this is a vice, then we wish no virtue.
Yet our brothers are not like us. All is
not well with our brothers. There are
Fraternity 2-5503, a quiet boy with wise,
kind eyes, who cry suddenly, without reason,
in the midst of day or night, and their
body shakes with sobs they cannot explain.
There are Solidarity 9-6347, who are a
bright youth, without fear in the day; but
they scream in their sleep, and they scream:
“Help us! Help us! Help us!” into the
night, in a voice which chills our bones, but
the Doctors cannot cure Solidarity 9-6347.
And as we all undress at night, in the
dim light of the candles, our brothers are
silent, for they dare not speak the thoughts
of their minds. For all must agree with all,
and they cannot know if their thoughts
are the thoughts of all, and so they fear to
speak. And they are glad when the candles
are blown for the night. But we, Equality
7-2521, look through the window upon
the sky, and there is peace in the sky,
and cleanliness, and dignity. And beyond
the City there lies the plain, and
beyond the plain, black upon the black sky,
there lies the Uncharted Forest.
We do not wish to look upon the
Uncharted Forest. We do not wish
to think of it. But ever do our eyes
return to that black patch upon the sky.
Men never enter the Uncharted Forest,
for there is no power to explore it
and no path to lead among its ancient
trees which stand as guards of fearful
secrets. It is whispered that once or
twice in a hundred years, one among
the men of the City escape alone and run to
the Uncharted Forest, without call or reason.
These men do not return. They perish from
hunger and from the claws of the wild
beasts which roam the Forest. But our
Councils say that this is only a legend.
We have heard that there are many Uncharted
Forests over the land, among the Cities.
And it is whispered that they have grown
over the ruins of many cities of the
Unmentionable Times. The trees have
swallowed the ruins, and the bones under
the ruins, and all the things which perished.
And as we look upon the Uncharted Forest
far in the night, we think of the
secrets of the Unmentionable Times.
And we wonder how it came to pass that
these secrets were lost to the world.
We have heard the legends of the great fighting,
in which many men fought on one side and only
a few on the other. These few were the Evil
Ones and they were conquered. Then great