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Chapter 1

    Being born was a process I had gotten used to. Of course, depending on the assignment the birth sensation was always different. Being brought into a human existence was a distinct experience compared to that of a house fly or that of a horse. With a lot of four-legged creatures you have to prepare for that initial drop. Giraffes, zebras, clydesdales- any animal with four legs and a bit of height will squeeze you like a sack of wet flour out of their baby making parts till you hit the ground. Your first memory will always be the slam to some hard dingy surface. Dirt and grass if you end up in the elements, straw and concrete if  you’re confined. 

    Your second memory will be standing-up through the disorientation. Wobbling and covered in amniotic goo, you’ll somehow manage to stand on your own. As a human infant you would have to wait a year for this moment, but only seconds after your birth your exhausted mother will look on with pride at your feeble attempts at stability. When you’re born as a creature who’s programmed survival depends on rapidly cultivated mobilization, the second memory will come to be your favorite.

    I hadn’t been back in Macro for very long when I ran into Emery. He was heading to his first stage of detox from training, I was in my third. After the sixth cleansing cycle we would be given our new assignments and sent back into the training world for further education. 

“I hadn’t been human in so long. It was interesting to be back on that side of the world,” he began.

“Run into anyone we know?” I asked.

“Not really,” he explained, “no partners or children, or really any strong relationships to speak of. Strange for how long it lasted- didn’t kick it till eighty-two,” he pulled off his tunic and exchanged it for the white robes we always wore during cleanses.

“Oh, but you make such a good dad,” I smiled playfully reaching for a robe on a nearby rack. 

    A while back we had found ourselves in an assignment together. He was assigned first and I came several decades later. I was his second child. We were poor, but part of a very loving family unit which Emery held together as a very dedicated and overworked single parent.

    Previous to that assignment we had been brothers, cousins, and on one occasion full-on enemies. As the appointed leaders of two lion’s prides we battled over an injured gazelle in the African savannah. Both fighting to save their starving pride- we fought to the death.

    Things were different in Macro. In training you may have cried together, saved each other, been each other’s everything- but in Marco you would regard a person who had been a grandmother, a friend, a hero to you in training with nothing more than a nod of recognition. It wasn’t against the rules to offer more, at least within reason.  It just simply wasn’t expected. You would never run and embrace or intentionally injure someone in Macro regardless of how much they had helped or hurt you during an assignment. That degree of emotion wasn’t something experienced once an exercise was complete. 

    There was a level of self-awareness about emotion. Saying you loved somebody or felt anger towards them would just seem silly. Emotions were training tools. Holding ill-will or even positive feelings for someone for something that happened during training would be akin to holding them accountable for something they had done in a dream. 

    It’s not to say that it didn’t happen, because of course sometimes the detox process didn’t wipe everything away, but when training related emotions did occur the event was always regarded at the very least as inappropriate. We had heard in that past, before the detoxification process had been perfected, action was taken against those who could not release training related emotions. What those actions were, I wasn’t quite sure.

    Perhaps it was that Emery and I had both so recently been exposed to the training world, but as we both sauntered into our respective cleansing beds we couldn’t stop trying to make each other laugh. Detachment from a training scenario wasn't always automatic. I got the feeling from what he had explained that Emery’s last assignment had been quite lonely and as much as I knew he would never admit it, he was probably grateful to have interaction.

“I was a kangaroo,” I told him, “with a pouch.”

“More creatures should have pouches. What did you put in yours?” he asked.

“Baby kangaroos, mostly.” I shrugged. 

“I think when I’m a kangaroo I’ll sneak into houses and hide people’s things in my pouch,” he giggled a bit at the thought. I was suddenly feeling a bit bummed I hadn’t taken advantage of such an idea while I was in that form. Not that Emery was going to remember to do such a thing if he ever had the opportunity to be a kangaroo.

“Well then hope they make you a female. The males don’t get pouches.” I explained.

“Bummer. Everyone should get a pouch-” Emery’s voice drifted off as the attendant above his cleansing bed pushed the button on the side of the armrest. We were both slowly drifting into emptiness. 

“Stay awake old-timer,” I said, challenging him to fight off the feeling consuming us both.

Emery strained to chuckle, “Watch it, I’ll take those toys away faster than you can say-”

“-Howdy-Doody.” I somehow finished his sentence with almost nothing left in my mind.

“I was so lame,” he managed to squeeze out in a whisper. Then we were immersed. Somewhere beyond the everything was nothing, and we were part of it. Clear and empty, cleansing our vessels for the next assignment.

The detoxification process was extremely important and very strictly monitored. Our experiences in the training world were not only intended for our own learning. Every moment cultivated in the training world was recorded to the UT. If a tear was shed by a trainee as a young girl in Nebraska with a loose tooth or as a shark being pulled by the back fin onto a boat which intends to chop him to pieces for scientific research, it’s all in the vault. Every wide gopher smile or high-pitched hyena laugh, every freshly polished chipped nail of a Bostonian cosmetologist has and will be part of the UT. Universal Truth is what the elders call it, but for kids like Emery and I, we’ve always known it as the first syllable to the sound you make after you’d made a mistake. 

I’m sure for Emery being back in Macro after an eighty-two year run was feeling a bit odd.  In the training world we had both lived to be in our nineties or beyond several times, but in Macro we were still teenagers. Time was different in the training world. Years were days or sometimes only a matter or hours in Macro time. 

In training you may have been respected or revered for your accomplishments or age. I had once been a shaman, the recognition I had felt from my tribe was something I found difficult to shake when my assignment was terminated. I had been adored, favored, worshipped. Even when I didn’t have all the answers, my tribe believed I did, and that gave me great honor. The power was intoxicating and difficult to release when I returned. I required an extra cycle of detoxification after that assignment. 

That was another reason cleansing was so important. At times it was difficult to remember that being an elder in the training world did not make you and elder in the real world. In Macro the elders had been training since before time was time, and in the grand scheme of things entities like Emery and I were just a couple of yearling souls. Being part of the UT would be lightyears in our future, so for now, it was training. It was not forgetting our place in the order of things.

My third round of detox had cleared a lot of the Australian heat from my conciseness. I could recall that it had indeed been hot, but the grit and grain of sweat on my tough skin was less powerful. Even the mEmery of the last moments before the assignment’s termination were starting to fade into the oneness of Universal Truth. 

Though with the emotion of it blurred, I could still recollect it had been particularly painful. With two children in my pouch, I was snared. I had witnessed it from afar before with acquaintances, had communicated with others about avoiding the traps set out by hunters in the leather trade, but with a sick infant in my care- I admit my distraction. I felt the sharpness immediately. The physical impact of the snare followed by the emotional pain of my own negligence. It wasn’t just my life I was concerned with, it was the life of the two youths. I was their mother. They were my responsibility. 

I picked at the snare, mindful not to panic or struggle. Already I had a keen sense that doing either would only make the situation worse. I spotted another female in the distance. I knew her face, but not her name. She slowly edged closer, cautiously, in case the hunters who had set the trap were near-by. When she reached us there were no words exchanged. With only momentary analysis of the state of the snare and the way I had been caught in it, my fate was written on her face.

Calmly, I removed the young kangaroos from my pouch and set them on the ground near her. I didn't know how to say goodbye. To relay to them all the love and care I felt for them. To apologize for my absence in their future.  I nudged them lightly and then nodded a silent thank you to the other female. She winced, wishing she had a way to free or at least to console me. I turned my head away as she navigated my children away from me and towards what I could only hope would be safety.

Once as a human, I can recall being of the mindset that animals were incapable of intense emotion. I explained to an audience that non-human creatures were intended for human consumption. That they were little more than machines made of flesh and blood. That they had been been placed side-by-side with humans so we may make use of them. For food, for clothing, for study. Whatever suited our needs, these creatures were emotionless in my eyes. They were incapable of feeling pain, and if they felt pain, they weren’t intelligent enough to experience it on a ‘human’ level.  A young woman in my audience asked me, “Can animals cry?” I laughed hardily and simply replied, “No,” with a condescending sneer.

Of course, as I sat in that snare I had no mEmery of being that person. I had no idea I once cultivated such ignorance in other human beings. But as that human I also was not aware that I had ever seen life through the eyes of a non-human creature. 

Our memories and experiences leave us as we are birthed into the new assignment. We go into each experience with a clean-slate. The intention being to see through new eyes, untainted by our previous memories. It isn’t until we get back into Macro that what’s left of our memories and experiences combine together and we become aware of every being we’ve ever taken shape of. All of our experiences. The people and creatures we have been as entities training to become one with Universal Truth.

My soul embodied as young mother kangaroo hopelessly caught and left to the mercy of humans who wanted to make my skin into handbags, belts, and wallets to sell to other humans- I felt pain. Watching the children I felt grow in my womb and gave life to being forced to turn their back on me, knowing I would never see them again- I felt sadness. Feeling absolutely alone until the moment the hunters approached the snare I was snagged in to collect me- I cried.

“Never fails,” Emery said rising slowly from his bed. We had come back from nothingness around the same interval. 

“Rough one?” I asked still rubbing my eyes.

“It’s nice to be back, that’s for sure.” Emery knew me asking about his experience was a courtesy. I mean, he could tell me if he wanted to, but it wasn’t considered typical practice to directly discuss the difficult parts of an assignment with anyone aside from the Analysts. We had both seen them just before coming to the cleansing center and would see them again the next day before the next stage of our detoxification.

I breathed in deeply and sat up on the bed.  “Me too.” I said touching my feet to the cold floor. 

It was truly nice to feel a little lighter. The memory of the last moment’s before my last termination were much less vivid now. I had a very real awareness that all these events had occurred but the sense of it all was more dim. Like an ocean wave coming in and out of the shore. That’s how it felt after detoxification. Our minds merged with a place either parallel or opposite UT, depending on who you asked. Nothingness was the lack of all things. In that blank state, the void took hold of the memories, washed them clean, and divided them. The highly emotional recording would transfer out and the recollection of the events and would be put back in our consciences in a more organized and useful way. The memory would still be there but the emotion no longer belonged to me, it belonged to the UT. It belonged to all and none of us at the same time. 

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