the pures

by rachel yong

The Pures lived in their own kind of neighborhood. While the rest of the world spread cunningly around the globe and inhabited its cities and forests and plains with a grand sense of stewardship, the Pures settled stubbornly into the ghettos. They “settled” into the tattered trash and stank piss because of one thing: their principles. And principles, as we've learned, are dangerous things. At times, they are the driving force that pushes mankind forward, and at others they are the bitter liquid that slips fatally down our tender throats. In this case, the Pures’ principles were neither. They simply were. And of course they served to keep the rest of the world away.

And just what, you may ask, was going on in the rest of the world? Chaos, mayhem, death and destruction perhaps? Surely a world without principles was no world at all. But strangely, the surrounding world was doing just fine. Together, the people of the planet had found new ways of living in harmony – ways that had never been trusted before. There was no need for war, even as the ice caps melted and water and oil ran dry. Countries and states merged into one, and new forms of government and communication were born. At last, in this cooperating, communicating globe, new ideals had led the world to societal bliss. They had transitioned. And it was euphoria. Utopia, even.

But stubbornly still, the Pures clung to those beliefs which they knew were right. The beliefs which had once been revered by the entire universe. These were principles that people had once lived for, died for, and killed for. One father, one mother, one God. They were fundamental beliefs, and at one time they had been written explicitly into law. All that had once been sacrosanct could not just be abandoned – or could it? By the work of only a few generations, the principles had shifted – they’d morphed and twisted. Today, the Pures and their principles were alone. They were so alone, in fact, that the Pures lived in a dire sort of quarantine.

No families moved from the Inside to the Outside. Things had somehow… just… become the way they were, with no single individual remembering how they had come to be on the side that they were on. Despite these major gaps in grounded life experience, however, children on both sides were raised to the tunes of a collective conscience, fed off the notions of Forefathers and History, brainwashed into believing that they had themselves chosen this mode of living. Thus, children on the Inside looked outwards with the disdain of their grandparents and great-grandparents, a disdain similar to what the Good Sibling feels watching the Bad Sibling go astray. A form of self-righteousness.

On the Outside, children peered in at the Pures the same way technophilic thirty-somethings might watch their parents – in awe that one could still survive “that way.” An overwhelming and curious pity. Yet as easy as it was to view the Pures as the Silly Camp of Pushed Up Noses, or the Outsiders as a bastion of irresponsible heretics, the truth of the matter was that neither party ever really knew what went on on the other side anyways, let alone stand to judge on which side they would rather stand.

In fact their only porthole into the other world was through their respective newspapers: The Christian Herald, for the Pures, and Box Office (News), for the rest. The chief editor of The Christian Herald was the balding Mr. Baldsmith. As one might imagine, Mr. Baldsmith was the kind of man with a homely white wife and three ruddy-cheeked sons – lovingly enshrined in a wooden frame on his desk.

Box Office, on the other hand, had no known chief editor or board of directors or central staff at all. It was rather proudly a conglomerate, a daily amalgamation of micro sources gathered from across the vast web of happenings at any given time.

Truth be told, there were no worthy headlines to be had on either side, yet front page news reliably scandalized the opponent every day. To do this with a reasonable level of accuracy, both newspapers were allowed to command a single well-qualified reporter into the thick of the other's encampment. It was well-thought that these two particular reporters – their line of work quite similar to espionage – were the only individuals in the world who ever crossed from one side to the other. No one could really pinpoint how this arrangement had come to pass, but even the mildly curious simply assumed that it had been forged in the fiery mess of the Divide.

Of course, from what they could glean from Box Office news, the Outsiders had little reason to care about the Pures. The superiority of their own way of life could easily be discerned with a glance at the headlines: “WAR ON THE INSIDE ONCE MORE” “DIVORCE RATES QUADRUPLE IN SINGLE YEAR” “MAN LYNCHED AND LEFT TO DRY” said it all. By comparison, Outsider news was more intellectual than informative, more solipsistic than scandalous. They were all willing to concede that idyllic living hardly makes for interesting news. Thus, though Outsiders feigned a convincing apathy towards the Pures, the most exciting headlines in Box Office news were always about them.

On the day our story begins, one such headline came bursting hot off the Box Office presses: FACTORY EXPLODES IN PURESIDE! THOUSANDS DEAD!


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