“Did you know that the World Before was much different?” Luke’s words startled Eve. They were walking along the grassy bank of Placid Lake in the cool, fragrant evening. She stared up at her friend in shock. No one ever spoke of such things.
“What do you mean?”
He looked around as if afraid someone might overhear. Several other New Eden Citizens, garbed in colorful tunics, were also out strolling, enjoying the sunset and watching the stars come out before the sky clouded, issuing the start of the scheduled nightly rains. A group of children, their laughter piercing the air, were playing a game of toss-ball a short distance away. Shuffling, awkward drones in shadowy gray tunics were sweeping up the stray debris left behind by the Citizens. It didn’t matter if any of them were within earshot, since drones only understood direct orders and nothing more.
“Don’t tell any of the Father or Grandfather Lukes, but I’ve been studying some of the forbidden archives,” Luke whispered. Every New Eden Citizen belonged to a particular House, each cloned to be the exact replicas of every member of that House. Luke, from the House of Luke, was an Archivist. His current title was “Son,” an apprentice. Eve was a Daughter Nurturer from the House of Eve, whose job it was to care for the small children in the Community Playpen. A queer feeling always filled her whenever she played with and supervised a younger Eve or Luke, the newer clones that they would eventually train when the children came of age at twelve and joined their respective Houses. By that time, some of the Grandmother Eves would have retired to the House of Bliss to live out their later years.
Eve blinked away tears at this sudden thought and focused on what Luke was saying.
“The Oracles don’t want any of the Citizens to know this. It is confidential information that only we Archivists have in our forbidden records, so you must promise, really promise not to tell.”
“I promise!” Eve nearly shouted, then clapped a hand over her mouth when a few people glanced their way. “Sorry,” she quickly whispered.
Luke didn’t speak again until the others were once again out of earshot. Eve felt as if she were about to burst out of her skin. “I’m sure you’ve heard about the Chaos of the World Before and how our world was nearly destroyed because of it and how we must avoid it at all costs.” Eve nodded. The evil of Chaos was emphasized most during the school years, at the ages of 6 when the children left the Community Playpen, through 12, when they began their House apprenticeships. “But did they ever tell you what the Chaos really was?”
“No.” A chill spilled through her veins. Chaos was forbidden to even speak about. It was the job of the Oracles, New Eden’s lawmakers and spiritual leaders, to make sure that it didn’t return. They were the ones that officially Banished those that threatened Chaos.
“People were different in the World Before,” Luke continued, his eyes glinting against the brightening moonlight. “They came in various sizes and colors and even held radically different beliefs from one another.”
The coldness within Eve increased. How was this possible? All people had the same medium brown hair, eyes, and skin. The adults were relatively the same height with the men only a few inches taller than the women. Facial features differed only slightly, to distinguish the members of one House from another. But, aside from those, all resembled one another. “That’s amazing,” she gasped.
“It was,” Luke agreed. “But, sadly for the human race, these differences, or ‘Chaos’ as the Oracles like to call it, nearly destroyed the entire world. Billions died because of it.”
“Billions?” Eve’s throat felt suddenly dry. She struggled to swallow. “There were that many people?”
Luke nodded, his expression rueful. “Yes, according to the records. Many, many years ago, a group of scientists got together and determined that, if humanity was to survive, the Chaos had to end. They blended the races — which was mainly the color differences — and developed the process of cloning, to make one person an exact replica of another. In the old days, it took the joining of a man and a woman to create life.” Eve shook her head, stunned by what he was saying. If this was true, could she and he create life together? But how? An unexpected warmth touched her cheeks. She was grateful that it was nearly completely dark except for the silvery moonlight filtering through the maple branches and the faint glowing of distant bonfires. She thought about the embryo, formed from a drop of her own blood that one of the Grandfather Jacobs from the House of Cloning had taken from her several weeks ago, growing in a test tube. In a couple of months, it would be placed into one of the Birthing Mothers, all from the House of Mary, and then delivered to the Community Playpen after the infant had been born and weaned. Eve looked forward to helping care for the child, and then to the time when her title would become Mother and she would be responsible for training this new Daughter Eve in the trade of child care.