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"Look at the palm of your feet, and you will know the truth." Words collide like crashing meteorites, cracking my mind wide open. They don't make any sense. They don't belong together in the world I come from. Maybe I've heard them wrong? If only I could picture them right. Too late. My ears have already channelled their vibrations and the brain has turned them into living thoughts.

I instantly picture an ethereal feathered creature whose figure and limbs I can't quite distinguish. It stands tall, its back facing me. It suddenly lifts one of its webbed feet to reveal the gently pulsating papillae lathering the surface of its sole. Beneath its rugged skin, luminous affluents of shimmering life flow in all directions, bathing the ribbed ground with their spectral light. I am mesmerised by such luminescence. I hear a whooshing sound which sends a shudder down my spine. I quickly draw my attention back up. And there it is - menacingly magnificent - looking at me, straight through me, with its triangular-shaped eyes. Oh my! Is that it? Is that what it's all about? Am I "feeling" this intense gaze?

"Desrea!" A thundering voice echoes through the Learning Space. The soothing white-green lighting turns bright and screeches with harsh intensity. The word Focus blinks on my frontal screen - again.

"You've dropped out of the Learning Zone once more...," said a voice in a matter-of-fact tone. Or perhaps in a slightly annoyed fashion? I can't tell the difference anymore.

The hologram of Learning 4 appears. I got used to seeing three-dimensional images of human silhouettes clad in their monochrome uniform, however, even the fuzzy interference of light beams cannot hide Miss Learning 4's annoyed looks.

She is the last of a kind; she features a wide range of facial expressions - not that I know how to read most of them. I heard that, in the olden days, they spent a great deal of time developping "emotional intelligence", this ability to perceive, control and assess emotions. They also found it useful to learn how to read physical expressions in preamble for deciphering emotions, which they both valued as a source of information. This practise was, however, deemed obsolete with the advent of the Nova Terra curriculum. Why reading expressions when you can plainly scan and compartmentalise them, ready for a suitably intelligent response?

Nana told me that she had read a great deal of books on "emotional intelligence", her favourite subject, before they were locked away in the Veteribus.

"Ansyen fason felt so much more open. It just felt," she then said, staring into oblivion for an instant before closing her eyes. This fascinated me as a child and even more so in the light of the present.

I find it difficult to close my eyes now, and nearly impossible to keep them shut. In the Learning Space, sensors incorporated in our frontal screens capture the downward movement of shutting eyelids. This automatically triggers a bright flashing light. The word Focus then blinks on the screen intermittently till the subject's eyelids are deemed open enough to instil further Knowmage - the omnipotent visual knowledge of the Great All and its deepening practice. Such knowledge is aimed at developping our Visus Intelligentes, more commonly referred to as 'Intelligent Sight' or 'InSight'.

Whoever masters InSight is said to be in constant awe, infinitely sagacious and all powerful. Reward for high-achieving students comes in the form of a promised place in Omnispecta, the most exclusive settlement of Nova Terra, and for a selected elite, hopes of a seat on its Ruling Council.

"Desrea, you rely far too much on the focus and voice prompts..."

Miss Learning 4's words show up on the frontal screen while she speaks. I purposely switch my attention back to the screen, as is expected of me.

"I would not want to flag your behaviour, however, I concerned that your Learning is not heading in the right direction. That you're not gaining...," she paused for a few seconds, "valuable InSight. Should I need to intervene again this week, I'll be under an obligation to file a report." There was a marked pause in the transmission. "You know it's for your own good." Her words hissed in my ears.

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⏰ Last updated: Jan 21 ⏰

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