His sleep was troubled. Not troubled by dreams, only by memories. They flicked in his mind, mocking him, laughing at him, watching him cry, watching him stand at the edge of the cliff, looking down, so lost, so alone, so crowded, so alone. He remembered them, he remembered them; he remembered the self of old, so innocent, so naive, so scared... So lost. But he's so lost now...
The fairies were scientists. They called themselves revolutionaries, grinning in a stupid way as they said it, laughing at their own 'joke'. They would revolutionise the world, their names would be recorded down in history, listed under other saviors that had come through the ages; perhaps in the future those who invented the atomic bomb and saved the world from a continued WWII would get on the same list.
Their research was important. They received a lot of donations from caring - rich - individuals of Haven. It would change the way the Underground operated. It would save a species.
It would ruin many.
Firstly, it would ruin the marriage of Howard Thistle, a lab-hand working there; the stress and ideas and moral considerations would give him a mid-life crisis at 100. Then the life of Calyx Orwell, a moral activist too caught up in opposing them to remember about her own life, not only the lives that she was trying to prevent being abused. Then the lives of 5 Centaurs, who had done what they thought was best, then regretted it with the entirety of their being as soon as they realised what it truly was that they had done, had allowed to be done.
It would ruin a society. It would ruin a culture. It would ruin children while they were still young, still unsure about their place in the world. It would ruin a kid named Foaly.
'They' had the wonderful idea that the world needed replenishing. That the Centaur populations - heavily depleted almost to the point of extinction by wars and Mud Men and disease, susceptible to so many things because of their lack of magic - should be rebuilt. And to get around the fact of only one pregnancy every 73 years for Centaurs, they decided to create them.
Standing still... moving slow... slowly still... fast growing up; growing up all too much in one day, in one night, in one life. Unable to cope. Unable to cope at all. He sat alone. But then again, they all did. Even those talking, plotting, comforting each other - 'staying together, all in the same boat' - were alone. And they now knew that they were all alone. All alone, for all eternity. They had no one, not in the family sense, not in the way they should do. They had each other, but sometimes that wouldn't be enough.
They had thought it would be good. They had thought it would be a community, giving the centaurs a family such as they wouldn't have had in any other circumstances. And they would all be brothers and sisters, all together, all helping each other. And they all did, they relied upon others and let others rely upon them. But they wished that it wasn't like that. They wished they didn't have to. And that meant - because of the deep desire, deep down, so all encompassing, the expectation - that though they were similar, so very, very similar, they didn't want to be. They didn't care. They couldn't support each other, because all they each wanted was support, and it was too hard to be caring if you know you are not cared for.
They read the books. They even pretended to care. Well, to an extent they all cared. They cared about the Project working. They cared about the fairies that were providing funding being happy with the results. They cared about their success. Some even believed in the cause. But they didn't care about the results, not the walking, talking, fairy results. They didn't understand. Not at all. They didn't think.
But the media, the Council, the People, liked the outcome. It made them feel good about themselves. They thought it was very worthy. The scientists were praised; then they wondered about what to do next.
They had been good kids, on a whole. They had been friends, laughing and galloping around in the courtyard of the Center. One group, no divisions - only compassion, reliance, friendship, dependence, respect... There was inequality, but that was to be expected. The scientists didn't really care about childhood bullying, or one soul left all alone at the edge of the happiness; forgetting that they had once felt it themselves. They didn't see him. The runt of the litter, smaller than the others by a few inches at least. Weedy, self-inverted, intelligent … but not clever. He never saw things in front of his face, emotional things, those things learnt best through osmosis and friends and parents - but with mathematics, mechanics or calculators he far outstripped anyone else in the Center, anyone else in Haven. He was given a nickname, an insult, and after a time he was forgotten to have ever had any other name. He kept the name, and some would say that this was because of a perverted sense of pride - but he didn't know that he had already proved it wrong, he just knew that that was who he was, who he would always be, and for ever he would be striving to beat them all, all those who had rejected him.
"The Centaur communities have always been small; intimate, isolated from other Centaur communities and, generally, from all other fairies. In the beginning it was the Centaurs who knew most, and those who were most discriminated against. They were larger than the rest of the Fay species and so the others held them in fear; and later, contempt. It was they who received the worst injuries in the Fay/Human wars. And when the time came for the People to move to their home Underground, it was the Centaurs who were the last to come down through the surface. They didn't want the forced interaction that came from living beneath the surface, as the area and People restricted their freedom. The Centaurs claimed the furthest tunnels as their own.
"The ideal of freedom is most appealing - most necessary - for members of the Centaur species. They are by nature a nomadic, romantic people, spending their days watching the stars and philosophising. They are passionate, especially concerning each other, and this is highlighted by the tight-knit groups they form. They are generally of a higher level of intelligence, but are not as creative, generally, than perhaps a Pixie or an Elf. The family unit, and wider community, is of abnormal importance with the Centaurs, although each Centaur also has an extreme independent aspect."
They'd all wanted to be taken away at some point in their life, but none so much so as he did. He was tired of it all. He had dreams in which one of the people who came to visit on occasion took him away, singled him out for something other than bullying. But they knew. They all knew.
"Stop crying and dreaming, Foaly, no one will come and claim you. You're worthless, and no one cares about taking away any of us. You're delusional. For a start we aren't even in an orphanage with allows adoption. And who'd want to adopt a measly Centaur like you? And the whole point is that we have no parents - get over it. Seriously." The Centaur, larger than Foaly by almost 12 inches, looked down upon him, a sneer on his face.
"Dreaming is useless."
"I know, David." David had already turned around, his mission to get Foaly to shut up completed. He finished under his breath. "But that doesn't mean that I can't do it anyway."
They had been together, all together, when they'd found out. For once they had liked an idea as given by Foaly and had decided to act on it. Foaly had been convinced that with access to the labs that They used, and the tools inside, they would be able to make something. It didn't matter what, whether it was booze or a calculator or a slushy mess of nothing, it only mattered that they would do something, and that it would have been Foaly's idea.
They'd broken into the lab backing onto their dorm and once they'd got in, Foaly disabling the alarm system and getting a pat on the back by one of the others, they'd all galloped off in different directions, wondering what it was they could find. Foaly had stood back, watching them from the doorway and feeling pride, immense pride. After a while he'd trotted off to look into a tank where strange things were swimming, and to peak inside a centrifugal force chamber.
A girl named Sasha was the one who saw the filing cabnet and kicked open the lock so she could get inside. She'd plucked out a pile of papers, not being careful about keeping things ordered so that They wouldn't know that the kids had been inside the room and the cabinet. She started reading from it, joking with David, and then… the room had become silent… the only noise her reading off the thick paper. Foaly was the only one - or at least the first one - to understand what the numbers and sequences and words and sentences and paragraphs and legal jargon meant. It meant that they weren't orphans; it meant that they were experiments. They were a specimen, like the thing he had seen swimming in the tank only minutes, moments, before.
They'd blamed him. They'd blamed him for finding out, for stamping and dancing and laughing on their ignorance. They'd even blamed him for it happening in the first place.
They'd all dreamed. They'd all dreamed that they had been loved, had had parents who tragically died in a Troll attack, valiantly defending a far off tunnel where a clan of young Centaurs lived.
He'd blamed himself as well.
After his stunt, after the event that was meant to launch him as a person with great ideas, they all hated him all the more.
He didn't hate them. He loved them.
He hated himself.
Balancing, but only technically, on the edge of life and death and loneliness, the tips of his hooves over the edge. No, he was far, far into the realms of loneliness. But now, now, they all were. He was used to it.
He had the advantage over them; he had experience on his side.
But they… They didn't know what to do. They wanted to be free, wanted to have history, not to have made history.
Foaly looked up old newspapers, all from around 40 years before, when they had been 'born'. He cried when he saw their names in print - his real name, which no one but he remembered anymore.
Sasha was found one morning, a month or so after they found out. She's broken into the lab once again, but this time had gone straight to the chemicals. She had wanted to be free.
They had all attended her funeral, and stood together. Together, but alone. They all glared at Them, or at Foaly, whichever was closest.
She had hated the fact that she wasn't part of nature, only a part of science.
Foaly cried that night, in bed, pretending to be asleep. He cried for dreams, lost forever. He cried for Sasha. He cried for himself. He cried for the Centaurs left out there, however many there were left.
The project had been a successful failure. It was technically a wonderful success, breaking boundaries that they hadn't even thought about before.
But, in the words of Chief Scientist, Gary Warratah: "Some of the more complex aspects of the Project could have been handled with more tact. We overlooked crucial ideas relating to the growth and emotional development of the children. It was necessary for the continued supervision of the children that we kept them isolated, and this shielding was unhealthy in the long run. We are sorry that we did not have more foresight, and we assure the public that we are doing our very best to integrate the children into a normal society where they can be accepted. The second generation at the Center is handling well with the group of 24, twice the number of those in the first generation."
But soon, after the news of Sasha's death - but before Daniel's suicide or Jason's drug overdose or Julia's alcohol addiction - the public opinion changed, turning in full circle. This was wrong; it was against everything the fairies stood for morally. It couldn't happen again.
The second generation was the last. They never found out. The Center was disbanded when they were only 7 years old and all 24 went into foster care. They were 'normal'.
The first generation never recovered. Because they knew. They knew too much, too much to cope with.
They stayed in the Center for a year after Sasha died. They weren't allowed to leave, and in a way they never wanted to. Out there wasn't safe. They discovered that when the people - reporters, scientists, media, psychiatrists - came. Out there you were an oddity, only in here were you a Person.
The friendship group was strong, even allowing Foaly to join them. They knew that they needed to stick together - the last of their race, the only ones of their 'model'.
But every night, they were alone. Two dorms, interconnecting, yet when they sobbed a bit too loudly and their neighbour heard no one did anything, except perhaps feel a tear in their own eye.
But then, a year after - when they were rebuilt into a mockery of the friendship, the family, that had existed before - the outside proved it's hostility, in the same way as the Center had proven it's own in that lab file.
They were taken away - 'for the safety and general health of them all' - and put into care, or thrown into a family and expected to fit in perfectly.
At the schools they were poked, whispered about, odd in not only their species but also their creation. And everyone knew, they could see it - the hooves seemed to give them away as the failed experiments. They were more alone than they had been in the test tubes in which they were first formed.
And those who had taken them away from each other disallowed communication between each , so that they'd be able to 'adjust properly to their new situation, make new friends'. It didn't work the way they hoped it would.
They all craved company, but it was out of their reach. However often elves and pixies and sprites put on false airs of friendship, which was really thinly disguised curiosity or pity.
The village that Foaly was placed in was a beautiful one. There were folds of crystallized quartz sparkling in the walls of the tunnel. There were limestone stalactites in bright white hanging above their heads and rainbow rock strata running through the back rock face.
But Foaly couldn't see the beauty for the people. None of them wanted to know him, they just wanted to touch his cloak so they could say they did, like he was a famous criminal walking towards the gallows. They'd pat his rump, treating him as a horse. And the younger ones would ask for rides, even though he was smaller than any adults, or even other fairies his age.
No one knew that his name had not always been Foaly.
And above the village there was a tunnel which had half-collapsed. What had once been a transportation tunnel was now a hole in the roof, useless. But with effort, and time, and determination, you could climb all the way up, using a sloping ramp along the rock fall. Foaly climbed up it, and at the top he stood there. Looking down on life as he was meant to live it. He didn't like what he saw.
His hooves sounded against the rock as he moved forward. He leaned over, bending at the wither. It was a long way down, and you'd probably land in the courtyard behind the corner store. That wouldn't be a good place to land - a child might find him.
He climbed down, slipping on the loose stones a few times.
People were watching him when he returned to the village, more than usual even. They were whispering in quieter voices, more anxious that he didn't hear them.
He turned on the radio as he lay down on the uncomfortable floor of 'his' room.
"Today, Daniel Hypericum, one of the twelve Centaurs from the first generation of scientifically created People, was found to have committed suicide. He deliberately jumped into a magma flare close by his home in the Haven hinterland. The family he was living with are distraught over the loss of such a promising boy. And now, an interview with Dr Warratah, scientist in charge of Center research - the facility responsible for the creation of Daniel and 34 other Centaurs. Hello-"
"They forgot Sasha." Foaly yelled, cried, whispered. "They've a'Vi'itae forgotten about Sasha!"
There were tears in his eyes as he galloped out the door, not caring about the looks anymore.
"Foaly! Foaly, come back!" Called out his 'mother'.
"My name isn't Foaly!"
He didn't go back, although he went to Daniel's mockery of a funeral ritual and stood at the back. None of the others were there.
The next year he applied for a scholarship at Haven University.
He didn't try to find friends, because he didn't believe in them anymore. He relied on himself and no one else, it didn't matter that he was only 45 - Centuars grow up quicker, and live shorter lives.
And a few more times he stood on the edge of yet another abyss, another jump which could end him, or/and prove all the things which they were always saying. But life is a risk, and if you always look before you leap whatever you see might have disappeared by the time you land.
And he didn't want to give them the satisfaction of giving in, like he saw others all around him doing, like he knew was happening to the only people who might once have been family to him. He never gave in before, not really, and he wasn't going to go out without being known. That was his mission.
But he learnt that those who knew him didn't. And those that tried to know him abused whatever lengths he gave them.
He was famous, but for all the wrong reasons. People were watching him, but only because they thought he'd flip like his 'siblings' had.
He learnt not to care about them, and even convinced himself that he had never cared about them. He kept his distrust so close to the surface that nothing could get in.
But he didn't care if he was considered a freak, because he was already. He didn't care if he was anti-social, because no one was willing to be social in the first place.
He read. And learnt. And immersed himself in texts and technology and ideas, keeping people as far away as possible.
He found a Mud Man book on mind control once, and after that he shaped a piece of scrap tin into a hat to stop any telepaths from gaining access to his mind.
The year after someone spat on him because he was created in a lab.
He held his head higher, and gained those extra inches that he'd always been lacking.
"Today the first of the Centaurs created in a scientific laboratory was born. It's a scientific first, and the first step towards the savior of the Centaur race. He is small, but the first of 13 planned births and they are hoping that the next 12 will not be born as premature as the first. Even through his birth was 3 months premature, Adam is going very well and is highly likely to survive."