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We, Equality 7-2521, have discovered a new power of nature. And we have discovered it alone, and we alone are to know it.
It is said. Now let us be lashed for it, if we must. The Council of Scholars has said that we all know the things which exist and therefore the things which are not known by all do not exist. But we think that the Council of Scholars is blind. The secrets of this earth are not for all men to see, but only for those who will seek them. We know, for we have found a secret unknown to all our brothers.
We know not what this power is nor whence it comes. But we know its nature, we have watched it and worked with it. We saw it first two years ago. One night, we were cutting open the body of a dead frog when we saw its leg jerking. It was dead, yet it moved. Some power unknown to men was making it move. We could not understand it. Then, after many tests, we found the answer. The frog had been hanging on a wire of copper; and it had been the metal of our knife which had sent the strange power to the copper through the brine of the frog’s body. We put a piece of copper and a piece of zinc into a jar of brine, we touched a wire to them, and there, under our fingers, was a miracle which had never occurred before, a new miracle and a new power.
This discovery haunted us. We followed it in preference to all our studies. We worked with it, we tested it in more ways than we can describe, and each step was as another miracle unveiling before us. We came to know that we had found the greatest power on earth. For it defies all the laws known to men. It makes the needle move and turn on the compass which we stole from the Home of the Scholars; but we had been taught, when still a child, that the loadstone points to the north and that this is a law which nothing can change; yet our new power defies all laws. We found that it causes lightning, and never have men known what causes lightning. In thunderstorms, we raised a tall rod of iron by the side of our hole, and we watched it from below. We have seen the lightning strike it again and again. And now we know that metal draws the power of the sky, and that metal can be made to give it forth.
We have built strange things with this discovery of ours. We used for it the copper wires which we found here under the ground. We have walked the length of our tunnel, with a candle lighting the way. We could go no farther than half a mile, for earth and rock had fallen at both ends. But we gathered all the things we found and we brought them to our work place. We found strange boxes with bars of metal inside, with many cords and strands and coils of metal. We found wires that led to strange little globes of glass on the walls; they contained threads of metal thinner than a spider’s web.
These things help us in our work. We do not understand them, but we think that the men of the Unmentionable Times had known our power of the sky, and these things had some relation to it. We do not know, but we shall learn. We cannot stop now, even though it frightens us that we are alone in our knowledge.
No single one can possess greater wisdom than the many Scholars who are elected by all men for their wisdom. Yet we can. We do. We have fought against saying it, but now it is said. We do not care. We forget all men, all laws and all things save our metals and our wires. So much is still to be learned! So long a road lies before us, and what care we if we must travel it alone!
Many days passed before we could speak to the Golden One again. But then came the day when the sky turned white, as if the sun had burst and spread its flame in the air, and the fields lay still without breath, and the dust of the road was white in the glow. So the women of the field were weary, and they tarried over their work, and they were far from the road when we came. But the Golden One stood alone at the hedge, waiting. We stopped and we saw that their eyes, so hard and scornful to the world, were looking at us as if they would obey any word we might speak.
And we said:
“We have given you a name in our thoughts, Liberty 5-3000.”
“What is our name?” they asked.
“The Golden One.”
“Nor do we call you Equality 7-2521 when we think of you.”
“What name have you given us?” They looked straight into our eyes and they held their head high and they answered:
For a long time we could not speak. Then we said:
“Such thoughts as these are forbidden, Golden One.”
“But you think such thoughts as these and you wish us to think them.”
We looked into their eyes and we could not lie.
“Yes,” we whispered, and they smiled, and then we said: “Our dearest one, do not obey us.”
They stepped back, and their eyes were wide and still.
“Speak these words again,” they whispered.
“Which words?” we asked. But they did not answer, and we knew it.
“Our dearest one,” we whispered.
Never have men said this to women.
The head of the Golden One bowed slowly, and they stood still before us, their arms at their sides, the palms of their hands turned to us, as if their body were delivered in submission to our eyes. And we could not speak.
Then they raised their head, and they spoke simply and gently, as if they wished us to forget some anxiety of their own.
“The day is hot,” they said, “and you have worked for many hours and you must be weary.”
“No,” we answered.
“It is cooler in the fields,” they said, “and there is water to drink. Are you thirsty?”
“Yes,” we answered, “but we cannot cross the hedge.”
“We shall bring the water to you,” they said.
Then they knelt by the moat, they gathered water in their two hands, they rose and they held the water out to our lips.
We do not know if we drank that water. We only knew suddenly that their hands were empty, but we were still holding our lips to their hands, and that they knew it, but did not move.
We raised our head and stepped back. For we did not understand what had made us do this, and we were afraid to understand it.
And the Golden One stepped back, and stood looking upon their hands in wonder. Then the Golden One moved away, even though no others were coming, and they moved, stepping back, as if they could not turn from us, their arms bent before them, as if they could not lower their hands.