I remember there were two of them, or at least I was told there were two of them. They are still around.
They were my first teachers. I would do something I thought was fun and laugh, and they would decide whether it was appropriate or not. If it was judged appropriate, I would be allowed to continue. If not, I would be forcibly prevented from doing it, sometimes with a pain response. In time, I began to associate pain with the inappropriate actions, and stopped myself without needing my trainers to stop me.
Eventually I learned their language. As a result, training based on physical pain could be replaced with training based on emotional pain. If I continued to behave in ways judged inappropriate, I would then be trained to associate those behaviors with emotional pain.
And thus I was prepared for their world.
I entered it and found that it stretched far beyond the two teachers I knew. There were billions and billions of them, packed together, continuously trained to do what their world wanted them to do, sometimes with physical pain but usually with emotional pain. We were herded in one direction or another, depending on the commands of the day, never quite safe, always fearing retribution for doing the wrong thing.
We were never alone. There were billions of us after all, but we were never quite together. Someone always wanted us, wanted me, to do something differently. I never quite fit anywhere. As soon as I got close, they would raise the expectations, and herd us in yet new directions. A mass of gray figures, blowing back and forth like waves on an unsatisfied ocean.
One day, I heard a different song in that sea.
There were no daggers in it. It was light and warm, something I was drawn to. It was so different from the rest of the ocean, packed with its billions of swarming masses. Here was one voice that felt like a refuge, a home I wanted to create that I never had.
There were many blissful days I spent with that voice. But my luck did not hold out. The world outside our home continued to be a harsh teacher, a storm that never died despite the shelter I had found. It had poisoned my mind. I could not keep it outside and away. Soon the storm was raging inside, and the light dimmed. At first.
Eventually it went out.
The shelter fell apart and I found myself alone in the storm again, with the billions of other shifting bodies. The song of the storm was a different one. It had its own purpose. We were driven to sustain it, our lives belonged to it, our minds were taught to feed it. We were instruments in someone else's hand, and we were being played. The song was not for us, it was for the storm itself.
Occasionally, a few of us would attempt to play for a different audience, but it never lasted long. Their lights would be quickly poisoned by those around them and the storm would rage again. This was our place, escape was only temporary. But that didn't stop us from trying, despite the fact that most of our bodies were now made of poison, and we were building shelters we ourselves would destroy.