room. The Judges were small, thin men,
grey and bent. They gave the signal to the
two strong hooded ones.
They tore the clothes from our body,
they threw us down upon our knees and
they tied our hands to the iron post.
The first blow of the lash felt as if our
spine had been cut in two. The second
blow stopped the first, and for a second we
felt nothing, then the pain struck us in our
throat and fire ran in our lungs without air.
But we did not cry out.
The lash whistled like a singing wind.
We tried to count the blows, but we lost count.
We knew that the blows were falling upon our back.
Only we felt nothing upon our back any longer.
A flaming grill kept dancing before our eyes,
and we thought of nothing save that grill, a grill,
a grill of red squares, and then we knew
that we were looking at the squares of the
iron grill in the door, and there were also
the squares of stone on the walls, and the
squares which the lash was cutting upon our back,
crossing and re-crossing itself in our flesh.
Then we saw a fist before us. It knocked
our chin up, and we saw the red froth of
our mouth on the withered fingers, and the
“Where have you been?”
But we jerked our head away, hid our
face upon our tied hands, and bit our lips.
The lash whistled again. We wondered
who was sprinkling burning coal dust upon
the floor, for we saw drops of red twinkling
on the stones around us.
Then we knew nothing, save two voices
snarling steadily, one after the other,
even though we knew they were speaking
many minutes apart:
“Where have you been where have you been
where have you been where have you been? . . .”
And our lips moved, but the sound trickled
back into our throat, and the sound was only:
“The light . . . The light . . . The light. . . .”
Then we knew nothing.
We opened our eyes, lying on our stomach
on the brick floor of a cell. We looked
upon two hands lying far before us on the
bricks, and we moved them, and we knew
that they were our hands. But we could
not move our body. Then we smiled, for we
thought of the light and that we had
not betrayed it.
We lay in our cell for many days.
The door opened twice each day,
once for the men who brought us
bread and water, and once for the Judges.
Many Judges came to our cell,
first the humblest and then the
most honored Judges of the City.
They stood before us in their white togas,
and they asked:
“Are you ready to speak?”
But we shook our head, lying before
them on the floor. And they departed.
We counted each day and each night as it passed.
Then, tonight, we knew that we must escape.
For tomorrow the World Council of Scholars
is to meet in our City.
It was easy to escape from the Palace of
Corrective Detention. The locks are old on
the doors and there are no guards about.
There is no reason to have guards, for men
have never defied the Councils so far as to
escape from whatever place they were
ordered to be. Our body is healthy and
strength returns to it speedily. We lunged
against the door and it gave way. We stole
through the dark passages, and through the
dark streets, and down into our tunnel.
We lit the candle and we saw that our
place had not been found and nothing had
been touched. And our glass box stood
before us on the cold oven, as we had left it.
What matter they now, the scars upon our back!
Tomorrow, in the full light of day, we
shall take our box, and leave our tunnel
open, and walk through the streets to the
Home of the Scholars. We shall put before
them the greatest gift ever offered to men.
We shall tell them the truth. We shall hand
to them, as our confession, these pages we
have written. We shall join our hands to
theirs, and we shall work together, with the
power of the sky, for the glory of mankind.
Our blessing upon you, our brothers!
Tomorrow, you will take us back into your
fold and we shall be an outcast no longer.
Tomorrow we shall be one of you again.
Tomorrow . . .
It is dark here in the forest. The leaves
rustle over our head, black against the last
gold of the sky. The moss is soft and warm.
We shall sleep on this moss for many nights,
till the beasts of the forest come to
tear our body. We have no bed now, save
the moss, and no future, save the beasts.
We are old now, yet we were young this
morning, when we carried our glass box
through the streets of the City to the Home
of the Scholars. No men stopped us, for
there were none about from the Palace of
Corrective Detention, and the others knew
nothing. No men stopped us at the gate.
We walked through empty passages and
into the great hall where the World Council
of Scholars sat in solemn meeting.
We saw nothing as we entered, save the
sky in the great windows, blue and glowing.
Then we saw the Scholars who sat around
a long table; they were as shapeless clouds
huddled at the rise of the great sky.
There were men whose famous names
we knew, and others from distant
lands whose names we had not heard.
We saw a great painting on the wall
over their heads, of the twenty illustrious
men who had invented the candle.
All the heads of the Council turned to us
as we entered. These great and wise of the
earth did not know what to think of us,
and they looked upon us with wonder and
curiosity, as if we were a miracle.
It is true that our tunic was torn and
stained with brown stains which had been blood.
We raised our right arm and we said:
“Our greeting to you, our honored
brothers of the World Council of Scholars!”
Then Collective 0-0009, the oldest and
wisest of the Council, spoke and asked:
“Who are you, our brother? For you do
not look like a Scholar.”
“Our name is Equality 7-2521,” we answered,
“and we are a Street Sweeper of this City.”
Then it was as if a great wind had stricken
the hall, for all the Scholars spoke at once,
and they were angry and frightened.
“A Street Sweeper! A Street Sweeper walking
in upon the World Council of Scholars!
It is not to be believed!
It is against all the rules and all the laws!”
But we knew how to stop them.
“Our brothers!” we said. “We matter not,
nor our transgression. It is only our
brother men who matter. Give no thought to us,
for we are nothing, but listen to our words,
for we bring you a gift such as had never
been brought to men. Listen to us, for we
hold the future of mankind in our hands.”
Then they listened.
We placed our glass box upon the table
before them. We spoke of it, and of our
long quest, and of our tunnel, and of our
escape from the Palace of Corrective Detention.
Not a hand moved in that hall, as we spoke,
nor an eye. Then we put the wires to the box,
and they all bent forward and sat still, watching.
And we stood still, our eyes upon the wire.
And slowly, slowly as a flush of blood,
a red flame trembled in the wire. Then the wire glowed.
But terror struck the men of the Council.
They leapt to their feet, they ran from the
table, and they stood pressed against the
wall, huddled together, seeking the warmth
of one another’s bodies to give them courage.
We looked upon them and we laughed and said:
“Fear nothing, our brothers. There is a
great power in these wires, but this power
is tamed. It is yours. We give it to you.”
Still they would not move.
“We give you the power of the sky!” we cried.
“We give you the key to the earth! Take it,
and let us be one of you, the humblest among you.
Let us all work together, and harness this power,
and make it ease the toil of men. Let us
throw away our candles and our torches.
Let us flood our cities with light.
Let us bring a new light to men!”
But they looked upon us, and suddenly
we were afraid. For their eyes were still,
and small, and evil.
“Our brothers!” we cried. “Have you