Forty-nine days was all it took, forty-nine days, fourteen hours and seven minutes. Hemholtz Watson was tired of it all. Even with the transfer to the Falkland Islands and to a surrounding more fit for his intellect, after forty-nine days Watson was sick of this tired old world that he lived in. Despite the island's inhabitance's greater understanding, they were all still conditioned; they had all been created to fulfill one purpose and one purpose only. Perhaps Mustapha Mond, one of the ten World Controllers, said it best … they really were all doomed.
He had a headache. Staring down at his paper, Watson toyed with the idea of taking some soma, a wonderful but vile drug that gave you the maximum sensation with minimal complication. Watson had vowed never to touch the stuff again, but that had been the Thirteenth time he had given it up. Soma may not be physically addicting, but mentally Watson was dead without it.
Helmholtz popped three-gram tablets into his mouth, swallowed with a gulp of water, and leaned back in his chair. So much had happened in the past 2 months, too much to process then, and still too much to process now, but he tried anyway. Helmholtz remembered his friend Bernard and especially how ridiculous he looked when he was boasting about one thing or another, particularly because he was so small. Faintly, in the back of his mind, a voice told Helmholtz that he thought this way because of them, the controllers, and because of his conditioning. Watson knew that his subconscious was completely controlled by people other than himself, but he still pictured Bernard's boasting almost like a mouse, chatting on about how many cats he had killed.
Just a month and a half ago a rather new, but dear friend of Helmholtz's had, like himself, become disgusted with the society in which they both lived. Instead of transferring as Watson had, his friend John decided on a short drop and quick stop … he hung himself. Watson remembered vividly the heartfelt emotions that john had shared with him when his guardian died. He quoted some lines from an old poet and that enabled Watson to glimpse the sorrow that John had felt. But now, even after he was separated from his two dearest friends, an ocean away from one and a dimension away from the other, he could feel nothing.
"Blasted Conditioning," said Watson to no one, "It is the lightest cage in the world, yet is stronger than any metal!"
Watson stood suddenly, slamming his fist on the table, the chair he was sitting in toppled to the floor and he upset his glass of water which promptly spilled all over the table, quickly enveloping papers, pens, anything in it's path. The water spread out like a miniature flood all over the synthetic cherry wood table and began to dribble off the edge like a small waterfall.
Watson stood staring blankly at the water; the soma was already starting to go to work, slowing his response time. Suddenly a stanza from a poem he did not know and could not know, appeared in his thoughts:
There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crow-flowers, nettles, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them.
There on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide
And, mermaid like, awhile they bore her up,
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes,
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indu'd
Unto that element; but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy from their drink,
Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.
The effects of the soma eventually took precedence over this verse and left Watson desperately clawing, trying to remember the lines.
"Damned Drug" spat Helmholtz. Again he focused his dwindling attention on the lines, but all that he could come up with was something about a gram being better than a damn, but a gram of what? All of a sudden it didn't seem to matter anymore; nothing seemed to matter. Helmholtz fell right where he was; fell to the floor and into a deep soma induced sleep. All that could be heard in the room now was the subtle, almost silent splash caused by the dripping water off the edge of the synthetic cherry wood desk.
Watson woke up the next afternoon genuinely happy, he had no idea why he was on the floor or why the water glass had been upset. Helmholtz certainly did not remember the sonnet from last night.
This was not the first time this had happened to Helmholtz and though it was not a frequent occurrence, it happened enough to leave him with a queer sense of nostalgia; Helmholtz new he should be remembering something important, but the subject always escaped him.
Watson sat up and after rubbing his eyes, stared at the puddle on the floor but still could remember nothing of what happened last night. The dripping had long since stopped, however Helmholtz's eyes followed the path that the drops had taken up to the surface of the table which was hidden from him because of his angle of vision from the floor. From there his eyes wondered over to the open drawer on the right side of his desk that usually remained locked; this is where he kept things that he didn't want anyone (including himself sometimes) to find. As soon as the open drawer registered, Watson's heart sank. He knew he had taken soma again.
This is a process repeated by Helmholtz all to often. He had tried to give up the vises that bound him to his "old world", however his conditioning ran deep and the more he tried to get rid of things like sex and soma the worse he felt, and the more relish he took in these vises.
"What brilliant engineering" Helmholtz thought to himself. In Britain and the rest of the civilized world, people were no longer born … they were made.
Thousands of children where now created on an assembly line and given different conditioning to control things like their daily habits and their overall intelligence. Everything was based on a caste system from alpha to epsilon, alpha's being the best and brightest, but also the biggest danger to the society because they had the luxury of choice. Because he was an alpha, he could understand it, understand it but not control it. Not even the World Controllers could override their conditioning.
Watson couldn't help but be a little proud because his job had been, and is, to create rhymes and catchy jingles that are repeated over and over to children while they sleep. The job itself was relatively easy for Helmholtz because he was quite skilled. The hard part was keeping all of his rhymes acceptable.
"Acceptable," Helmholtz sneered, "By whose standards?"
It was thoughts similar to this that had Helmholtz loathing his peers and the system they thrived on, and so it was also thoughts similar to this one that lead Watson to the transfer office for the first and final time.