by Kate Ward ’23
As he took in the city view from the 20th floor of his apartment building, the lights flickered and dimmed. Methodically, as if there was someone going through a circuit breaker, each building went from a warm glow to a cold darkness. This wasn’t something new to Thomas. In fact, it happened almost every Friday night, and things stayed like this until early Monday morning. It gave the other species their own time to come out and do their business.
The society Thomas lived in was split between humans and an animalistic human hybrid called Gorcs. Well, at least that’s what everyone called them because they were failed lab experiments. The Gorcs would occasionally have extra limbs, wings, horns, various skin tones on one body, scales—anything was possible. The odd-looking were forced to stay inside until the lights were dimmed. It was not because of humans’ distaste for the other species, but because of how sensitive the Gorcs’ bodies were to sunlight.
Thomas watched from his window as the streets began to crawl, seething with Gorcs who were slowly emerging to make deals and slip into stores that had no vendors. He turned away and walked to his kitchen, preparing a late meal. Humans were allowed to go out at night but no one wanted to disturb the fragile peace that had been achieved after the 10 Years’ War that had erupted in the olden days between the Gorcs and the humans. Tensions were still high among some factions of Gorcs and humans, especially those who were poorer.
He enjoyed knowing that there was no governing body. It had dissolved after the war since the humans did nothing but kill their own and hoard money, jewels, and property. The two species had settled their own rules directly after the war at a meeting that had been declared by the two captains of each side. The rules are as follows: no light after 7 p.m. on Fridays, no fighting in the streets, and no attempt to rise to power. After the 10 Years’ War, people had decided that these rules were reasonable. Anyone who disobeyed would be swiftly reprimanded at a town hall. It was a dodgy society, and Thomas knew he could never be found out for fear of being thrown out or verbally destroyed.
As he ate, he watched the foot traffic move in the inky darkness. It was satisfying to watch the Gorcs move about freely. He knew what it was like to be an outcast, knew what it was like to have to live inside day in and day out. Finishing up, he piled his dishes in the sink and shuffled to the bathroom, staring at the mirror. The splotches had begun to pop up more and more, this time on his neck, face, and shoulders, all spots that would be more and more difficult to hide under clothing. If he was found out to be a Gorc playing a human, it might be bad enough that another war would begin. Taking off his shirt and trousers, more and more patches of greasy, oil-slick skin appeared. No one could find out. No one. He had kept it this way since he was a child, his parents helping and teaching him how to hide, how to act normally, how to navigate society. Thomas sighed and nodded, beginning to brush his teeth. As he spit a wad of toothpaste in the sink, he heard the distinct click of a camera shutter.
He had been found.