The Naming of Karl Marx (unfinished)

This was supposed to be my 2004 NaNo novel, but I didn't finish it. You might want to read my Senior Essay before reading this.

Karl Marx was born without a name. He was born from a mother and father who also had no names. In fact, no one where he lived had names, and no one ever had from what he knew. As soon as he was born, he was separated from the woman who birthed him. When he was healthy enough to leave the hospital, he was taken to Building 3. Building 3 was a large, mediocre building made up primarily of bricks. The inside of the building was in fairly decent shape: there were a few cracks on the wall, but it was obvious that the people in this community cared enough about this particular building to ensure that there was nothing seriously wrong with it. Building 3 was not actually one building, but two buildings joined together by indoor walkways on the ground floor and on the fifth floor. Building 3a faced east and housed all the children in the community while Building 3b faced west and served as the school for all the children.

When he arrived at Building 3a, he was taken to a large room filled with cribs. The nurse carrying him arbitrarily placed him in Crib 5 and then left him to the care of men and women of Building 3a. As he grew older, he was shifted from crib to crib, seemingly randomly, until the workers of Building 3a determined he was old enough to sleep in a real bed. He didn’t know the day he had been born, but he sometimes liked to pretend he had been born on the first day of spring. He kept track of each spring that passed and determined he was 3 years old when they moved him to the second floor. He was taken to a room with two beds. Since he was older now, they let him choose which bed he would sleep on for the first night. Both beds were exactly identical with the window facing east right between the beds. Since he preferred using the right hand, he chose the right bed. He was given a brown teddy bear and kissed goodnight by a pretty woman. When he woke the next morning shortly after dawn (the windows had no shades), he was greeted by a boy sitting on the other bed.

Every day for the next three years would be almost exactly the same. Each night, he would choose a room and a bed to sleep in. If it so happened that he chose the same room and the same bed for more than two nights in a row, he would be scolded by The Parents and told, “You can’t sleep in the same bed for more than two nights! Do what is best for the community and let someone else sleep in that bed tonight. And remember, what you do is who you are.” Each morning, he would wake up to a different person in the other bed. The Parents didn’t seem to mind if the other person in the other bed was female: they always let the children decide where to sleep. What the parents did mind, however, was if a pair of children slept in the same room for more than two nights in a row. When this happened, both children were scolded and told, “You can’t sleep in the same room with the same person more than two nights in a row! Do what is best for the community and let someone else enjoy the other person for a change. And remember, what you do is who you are.” The Parents were especially fond of telling the children over and over and over again that “what they do is who they are”. When he played during the day with the other children, they called each other by the name of the person who does the activity they were pretending to do. One day, he would pretend to be a fisherman and the other children would call him “Fisherman” for the rest of the day. Each day passed like this: a different activity, a different name, a different room, and a different bed.

When he had seen six springs, he was taken from the second floor of Building 3a to the third floor. The Parents, since he was now older and clearly capable of thinking, let him not only choose which bed he would sleep in that night, but they also let him choose which room. Since he was tired, he chose the nearest room and the nearest bed. Expecting to wake up the next morning to an idle day of play and make-pretend, he was surprised when one of The Parents came into the room where he had slept and told him that today he would start something called “school” in Building 3b. He was excited about school because, like every other child in Building 3a, he had learned to embrace change and appreciate it for making life exciting. He was taken to Building 3b by one of The Parents and was shown into a classroom filled with other kids who looked to have seen about six springs also. He learned quickly that today was the first day of school for all the kids who were about six years old and that all of them were very excited to meet the Teacher. Most of the children had been transferred from the second floor to the third floor just the night before, just as he had been. He was happy to hear that he was not the only child who was the first, but one of many.

While they were waiting for the Teacher, a group of The Parents supervised the children and told them that from this day until the day they finished school, they would be known as The Students. He was immediately taken aback, because if he was to become a Student, would that mean that there would be no change. He asked The Parent nearest him his question. The Parent replied, “Of course not! One day, you will be an English Student; the next day, you can be a Math student; the next day, a Science Student. Whatever type of Student you wish to be on that day is the Student you will be for that day!” He was instantly relieved. Within a few moments, the Teacher walked in and The Parents left.

"Good morning, Students," the Teacher said. “Today, since you are all new Students, you will all be Math Students. After today, you will all be able to choose which type of Student you wish to be for each day. The only suggestion I have for all of you is that you try to be a different kind of Student each day until you have figured out which kind of Student you are best suited to become. Remember, you want to do what is best for the community, and what is best for the community is for all of you to figure out what you do best and to further your studies in that particular field. You are, of course, always allowed to change your mind. There will be no one watching over you to tell you what classes you must take or what classes you’re best at. The Community trusts that all of you will be better suited to determine what you’re best at than anyone else in the Community. The Community expects that you will always do what is best for the Community. If you do not, you will be removed from the Community. I hope that none of you will suffer that fate. You’ll see in this room there are exactly enough desks for each one of you to sit in one desk. At this time, please seat yourselves in any desk you choose. I expect that after three years of choosing which bed and which room you sleep in that choosing a desk for the day will not be a problem for any of you.”

School lasted until the sun set. He, along with the other children, were escorted back to Building 3a by The Parents, who had shown up just before the sun finished setting. Nearing the end of the school day, he had found himself distracted by the sunset. All the windows in Building 3b faced west, and the desk he had chosen was right next to a window. He had done his best to listen to the teacher and to be a good Math Student, but by the end of the day he was tired of math and found himself gazing out at the sunset. It was a truly beautiful sunset, colored in reds and oranges which were so different from the reds and grays of the buildings that surrounded Building 3. He found himself searching for music or words — anything! — that he could use to describe what he was seeing to himself. But he could think of nothing, neither music nor word, to accurately describe what he was seeing and what he was experiencing. As he made one last effort to listen to the Teacher, who was trying to explain counting and numerals, he decided that tomorrow, he would like to be an English student, or maybe a Music student. The decision, he concluded, would be made when he awoke tomorrow morning.

During the night, he dreamt about that sunset, about its colors and contrast with the standard brick-reds of Building 3 and the way the light softened the colors of everything. Outside on the ground was a small green carpet. He realized that he didn’t know the word that represented the green carpet. In his dream, he left Building 3a. In between Building 3a and Building 3b was a courtyard. A few springs ago, he had asked one of the Parents (a hard-looking woman with black hair and brown eyes) what the thing in the middle of the courtyard was. It was tall and brown with spots of green attached to the brown. She had told him that was a tree. In his dream, he sat on the green carpet with his back leaning against the tree to watch the sunset. It was much more beautiful without the stain of glass separating him from it. The colors covered everything in reds and oranges and somehow made everything look more beautiful, more alive.

When he awoke, he found that he did not want to be an English student or a Music student, but an Art student. He was an art student for that day, and deeply enjoyed the drawing he made. The art Teacher told him bemusedly that the green carpet was called grass, and that it was a plant that was very easy to grow. He asked the Teacher what she thought about the painting he had done, and she told him that she liked it, and encouraged him to come back to art class.

As the year progressed, Karl experimented with all of the classes the school offered him. He tried being an English student, science student, music student, and history student. Math he found utterly boring, but he could understand its usefulness for the Community, and so he made himself go to several math classes until he felt he understood how to count and basic addition and subtraction. Science enthralled him, but he found he was more interested in the appearance of nature than how it worked. He continued sporadically with art, but was always frustrated by discovering that the drawings or paintings he had started had been finished by someone else. It wasn't that the art he had done wasn't made better by what someone else had added to it, but that he was inexplicably bothered by someone else deciding what happened to the art that he had begun. He couldn't understand why at the time, but he would learn later.

English and history were the classes that he enjoyed the best. He enjoyed reading and writing and picked up on both very quickly, or so the Teacher said. He had a sharp mind that enjoyed questioning and discovering new possibilities. The stories he wrote were imaginative and often based upon things he had dreamt the night before. Often he'd write stories in which he was the hero of some pretend world, and though he enjoyed the stories he wrote, the Teacher suggested he try to write stories that focused on the community he created instead of on himself. He was somewhat dissuaded by this, but he followed her suggestion and began creating elaborate communities, often with vivid descriptions of the nature in the world he created.

Out of all of the classes he took that year, history interested him the most. He had not known that the Community hadn't always been this way. On the first day of being a history student, the Teacher told the class about the Community's "Declaration of Interdependence", which outline all of the Community's rules and explained how the Community came to be.

© Tatiana Hamboyan Harrison