All my life I knew that I was different to everyone else. People would ask me how I knew they were near me and all I could express was that I just knew it. I could even let people know when doors opened or closed, when others were home or not, or if someone was walking or running behind a wall, and all without seeing them. The adults speculated that I had the second sight, while the children preferred to spread rumours that I had the devil’s touch. The adults informed us that this was nonsense and that no one had had the devil’s touch in generations, however, I could see in the faces of some adults the echo of genuine concern from generations passed. The children believed that I had the devil’s touch because I could also make the lights turn on or off without touching the wall panels. No one could see how I did this, and at the time I didn’t understand either. No one could point out to me what I was doing. I was a source of wonder and fear for everyone around me, yet I was still a small boy and my unusual abilities hadn’t gotten me into trouble yet.
My life was still relatively normal until when I was fourteen I woke up with the realisation that someone was breaking into my bedroom. I made the lights come on without touching the wall panels in my usual way and there standing in my room was a woman in a thick black jacket, she’d obviously smashed in my window to get into my room for the glass was so freshly broken it hadn’t started to melt into the floor as it typically did when broken. She signalled to me that she knew that I was the boy with the devil’s touch. Feeling that I had to reply to her, as she was an adult, I signalled back that she was correct. She unbuttoned her coat and it slid from her naked body. She was the picture of mature womanhood in full bloom. However, I was only fourteen and found her terrifying. She saw the fear in my eyes but signalled for me to keep still because she just wanted to lie in bed with me.
She advanced and I used my ability to make all the doors open and all the lights turn on within the house. Within moments my parents rushed into the room to confront the naked woman and she jumped out of the window and ran away into the darkness never to be seen again.
At this point I should tell you something about the houses we all lived in, for they would be quite peculiar to people who live in traditional houses. My people live on a planet called Eden, the old ones told stories about how we were dumped here on this planet by a god who lives inside a great steel obelisk. We were given special seeds though that when planted eventually grow into a three bedroom house. The outside walls were made of bark, the roof tiles were leaves, and the windows grew a kind of glass that was hard like dry sugar but went soft when broken so it wasn’t dangerous. Broken windows would simply heal over time. Although I didn’t understand it at the time, the house was a product of genetic engineering of a plant that had once been a tree. The houses also provided fruit and vegetables of two dozen different varieties for us inside a special pantry room. The fruits and vegetables simply grew from branches that hung from the walls inside. Cupboards also grew inside the houses, there was always one cold cupboard for storing food, and one for heating food when one pushed a button next to its door. The houses were ventilated by a system of bellows so perfectly lubricated they made no vibration at all as they circulated warm or cool air about the house.
Apparently it takes twenty years for a tree house to fully mature so when the first people arrived they lived in the great steel obelisk on the mountain with the being they called god. They lived there for years waiting for their houses to grow. However, a dark time came and the people were cast out of the steel obelisk by god. The houses were not finished growing by then so my people had no food. It is said that during this time our people forgot who they were. They lived in caves and sometimes ate each other until finally the houses were finished growing and they all had plenty to eat again. However, god had forbidden anyone from setting foot inside his steel obelisk again.
That all happened one hundred years ago, since then our society has been growing, healthy, and for the most part happy: our tree houses supply all our needs: food, fresh water, heating, cooling, electricity, lighting, and protection against the elements. A few people insisted that the houses were built by men from another world, but most people believe now that the houses were a gift from god and that by purifying the world of the devil’s agents in the dark times we had earned god’s favour and given us these houses. This however, presented a problem for me that at fourteen years of age I couldn’t yet comprehend. I was still scared of women breaking into my bedroom at night yet the few people who thought like her would turn out to have more of my interests at heart than the others.
The day after the woman broke into my house there was a gathering of people outside my window; which had healed over as the windows on our houses were apt to do. There was much discussion about who she was and what she had been wanting. Some of the older children provided the explanation that eventually took root in most people’s minds: she knew that I had the devil’s touch and so she wanted to have the devil’s child. This idea as fantastic as it sounded, or because of how fantastic it sounded, spread quickly throughout the community.
In the coming weeks life would get increasingly uncomfortable for my parents as various groups started to picket our house. Some were wanting to examine me to determine if my so called psychic powers were god’s or the devil’s work. Others were sympathetic with the woman who had broken into my house and wanted to praise me as a prophet but there upon divided themselves into two groups those who believed I was sent by god and those who thought I was sent by the devil. Finally there was those who were utterly convinced that I was the product of the devil’s machinations and these people wanted to deal with me the way our ancestors had supposedly done a hundred years earlier when they arrived on Eden: burn me and eat me.
My parents were definitely kind and protective of me, they wanted to keep me safe from these hysterical mobs but I could see the strain and pressure the situation was putting on them. I felt terribly guilty for putting my parents through this ordeal on account they never asked to have a child who could command doors to open, lights to turn on, and who knew when people are there without seeing them. Late one night I made my own decision to protect my family: I would run away and thus spare my parents the ordeal of being harassed by the rest of the community.
That night I smashed my own window without any of the loiterers outside the house noticing me. I slipped out and disappeared into the night. The planet Eden was mostly rocks and water with a few exotic species of moss and lichen. In fact the only job people really had to do on Eden was to make pots from the stone and mud, and then use those pots to carry water to their houses to keep them soaked, as each house had a reservoir underneath for storing the water needed to keep it operational. Otherwise the houses were completely self-sufficient drawing the rest of their nutrition from the ground, the air, and the sun. However, the emptiness of the landscape meant for me that I ultimately only had one place to go: the steel obelisk.
I had climbed to the top of the mountain by dawn only to discover in the morning light that a mob of people had spotted me already and were charging up the hill to get me. I stood before the steel obelisk; for it was more properly a tower such was its immensity. I felt trapped and desperate between its imposing greatness and the hysteria of the mob rushing towards me from below. The mob had arrived at the summit of the mountain and looking at their hands they signalled their intentions to bind me and carry me away back down the mountain. Afraid I turned back towards the obelisk and commanded it to open in the same way that I commanded the doors at home to open and close on command. The obelisk obliged and a doorway slid open for me to pass through. I stepped through and turned to face the mob. Their hands were a hopeless jumble of surprise and confusion to read any meaning from. I commanded the obelisk to close and again it obeyed my commands.
Once sealed inside the steel obelisk I was astonished to find that light came not from multiple glowing roots that hung from the ceilings like in our tree houses, but from small points embedded in the ceilings that shone from a single focused point. There were rooms and corridors inside the obelisk but unlike in our houses where everything was made of wood and rock, everything here was made of metal and plastic. Then I heard a voice speak to me, I was dumbstruck because that was the first time in my life I had ever heard a voice speak directly to me.
I struggled to understand the voice at first, and it struggled to understand me beyond basic instructions like lights on and lights off. However, over time I learned knew words and phrases. I would spend the next seven years living inside that obelisk. In that time I learned how to speak and how to listen. This might seem strange to you but all the inhabitants of Eden are deaf. They were born deaf and thus never learned to speak. I was a mutant, I was born with hearing. Thus I was able to hear people and other objects and know what they were doing without seeing them and hence my ‘psychic’ abilities. The tree houses did speak too when a door or window opens or a light is turned on. I had heard these phrases, “door open”, “window closed”, “lights on”, etc… without even realising that I was speaking commands to the houses and they would obey any voiced commands: hence my ability to make things happen without touching anything. I did not even know I was speaking, I did not realise that other people couldn’t hear these sounds nor realise that I was simply imitating them.
The voice inside the obelisk was a computer that had been programmed to transport the deaf people to live on their own planet. Apparently there had been civil unrest back on Earth because when genetic engineering had developed to the point to eliminate deafness in the population a large segment felt this was genetic and cultural genocide. They refused to take the cure and lose the long history and richness of their deaf culture. Since they were for the most part dependent on charity from the public to maintain their genetics and culture the decision was made to deal with the discontented segment of the deaf population by evicting them from Earth and planting them on Eden where they could live and continue their deaf culture and traditions in peace and without being a drain on the charity of the people of Earth.
The obelisk itself was a space ship that had transported all the deaf people from Earth and it was programmed to help the deaf population establish their houses so they could be self-sufficient. However, the computer was also programmed to aid and support any non-deaf people since the probability existed that some might be born. In the first few years after arriving on the planet some children were born who weren’t deaf and the computer started teaching them how to speak. So the rest of the deaf community left the security and protection of the obelisk to stop heretical ideas of ‘deafness is a disorder’ from seeping into their community. They then murdered and ate the children who could hear. The computer was forbidden to give aid to people who harmed other human beings and shut the doors to the people at the time leading to the dark times for the people had no source of food anymore.
During these years of famine and exposure, while the tree houses were still maturing for them, the old culture of the deaf community died and a new one centred on justifying what had happened to them developed. For all their attempts to protect their culture, it appeared to be rooted more deeply in genetics than they had wished to believed.
So here I am, a man alone in a steel tower. I have acquired much technology and wisdom to bring back to my people to ease their burdens, however, they see themselves as having no burdens, no shackles to be struck away from their ankles, no plugs from the ears to be removed so they can at least hear the truth. They live in contentment in a paradise built by others because they chose not to listen. They live apart because they chose to be apart. Who am I come down from this tower to return to my people and grant them the gift of hearing? Indeed, how many would call it a curse?
So instead, I will sit here alone, missing my family terribly, but hopeful that another child with the devil’s touch will one day seek refuge with me inside these steel walls.