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The wake-up call blared throughout the compound, the tinny, bell-like repetition pounding its way into my skull. I groaned softly and rolled onto my back, blinking the harsh light out of my sleep-filled eyes. Haphazardly groping the bed for my pillow, I dropped it onto my face, savoring the darkness, as I sank back into the land of my dreams...
Rule 32: One must not be overly reluctant to rouse, or complete daily tasks. If reluctance is shown, the individual will be tested for a mental illness. Refer to Rule 9 for details regarding mental testing.
Rule 9: Anyone showing symptoms of any mental or physical illness will be tested by a certified healer. If one has a physical illness, the healer will decide the best course of treatment. If one has a mental illness, the patient will be placed in the Clinic.
Remembering the rules, I roused myself. The image of the Clinic in my mind's eye- complete with its looming dark walls, silence, intense security, and the fact that only the people who couldn't cooperate went- was enough to propel me from the safety of my bunk to the washing rooms.
The others were already in the washing room, splashing their faces, rubbing the last of the stubbornly clinging sleep from their expressions, and brushing their teeth. No one acknowledged me as I rushed in, of course.
Rule 12: Unnecessary interaction among the Same is forbidden. Any infraction indicates a mental illness, and will be treated in the Clinic.
Going through the regulated morning sequence, I clean myself, dress, and pull my hair back into a ponytail.
Rule 79: The Same females will adhere to the rules outlined in the Compound Handbook.
Handbook Section 2: Upon waking promptly at 05, males and females will wash their faces, brush their teeth, and clean the entirety of their bodies with a quarter cup soap mixed with three cups of warm water. All will brush their hair until it has no tangled sections, and use the provided tie to make a single ponytail at the nape of their neck. Both males and females will dress in regulated attire, and inspect the others in their quarters to ensure that everyone is identical in every aspect. If inconsistencies are found, it is the duty of the quarter-members to assist the inconsistent one. If major inconsistencies that cannot be fixed immediately are found, they must be reported. These inconsistencies are a sign of mental illness, and will be cured at the Clinic.
We all stood in a somber, sleepy circle in the clearing in between our bunks. Five pairs of dark brown eyes stared back at me. All with the same olive skin and freckled cheeks. All with the same straight black hair tied at regulation. All with the same height. All with the same layer of pudge coating us all, showing slightly through our uniform of white tunics and white pants. All with the same full lips pursed anxiously. All six of us, perfectly identical, down to the freckle on the right corner of our mouths, the dimple on the lower left cheek, and the birthmark on the back of our right knee.
Identical. The way it was meant to be.