Author’s Note: I’m stuck on my other projects, so… Back to the editing I need to do.
“Those among the collectors who had taken the role of trainer—the ones that sought to teach the newer generations the process and duties and even morality of a collector—were the first to see the eventual end of all collectors. They were going mad, one by one,” the trainer said, pacing the far end of the room. He seemed uncomfortable with his subject, or perhaps the boy was still being punished. He did not know. They’d left him alone with the tendrils for far too long, and while they might have said it was not torture, it was. He was going to be as insane as the collectors that the trainer spoke of, all because of what they’d done to him.
They said it was his fault.
He did not understand why it was always his fault, why he was always the one to blame. He supposed it had to do with his unhappiness, with his willingness to be what they expected of him, and he did not know how he could change that. They would never let him be free, never let him have what he wanted, and that meant that he would always resent them. He would always do things that got him in trouble.
He knew that he would never want to be what they wanted. His mind was too independent, and they hated that. He was supposed to be loyal. If he could accept the lies they were telling him about the great importance of his work, about the necessity of what he did, the honor that it was, then he’d be the perfect minion that they’d engineered him to be.
He thought it was a shame that the robots could not do what they wanted him to do. They could program those poor machines, make it easy for them to get all of what they wanted.
He wasn’t programmable. He wasn’t pliable, wasn’t able to ignore what he knew was right. He didn’t know how the trainer had convinced himself of their lies, but he knew that he would not be able to do that himself.
A part of him wondered if that was why he’d been sedated. They’d scared him, and he’d begged the trainer to stay so he wasn’t alone. What if they did that again? What if he went through it a second time? A third?
He’d give in, wouldn’t he? He’d become dependent on them, give them what they wanted.
“Can I go crazy already, then?”
The trainer looked at him. “Why are you asking that?”
Sometimes the boy thought his trainer was an idiot. He didn’t understand how they could be so stupid or unwilling to listen, but they were unwilling to hear what he said. They refused to accept his words, so why should he accept theirs? “I hate being what I am, and I hate you. I would rather be crazy than be a prisoner. It is that simple. I don’t know why you’re asking why I’m asking.”
“It is not that simple. You say that you were frightened by the experience you had when you were given that sedative. You were terrified by the things you saw, by the way all of it blurred together and twisted around, confusing and scaring you. Do you understand that fate could be yours again—without the medication this time?”
The boy frowned. Not again. Not that. He had just been thinking about them using that against him, and now they would. He didn’t want that. He didn’t want any of this. “You do realize that by the day you give me less and less reason to want to live. If all I have to look forward to is a life of slavery and then madness, why would I ever want to be a collector?”
The trainer sighed. “I thought I had answered that question.”
“No. You will never answer that question to my satisfaction. Never.”