”Focus, child.” He throws another punch.
”I’m trying, Dad.”
I know I have to move faster. Smarter. It’s my only way up the Chain.
“In a year, you can’t feed by my level anymore.” A blow hits my palm. “Don’t you want to eat, boy?”
I sigh, blocking his punches with my open palm while trying to lay my own blows on him with the closed one.
I always wondered how we ended up like this – until yesterday. My Dad said it was time, so he told me the story. According to him, the apocalypse dictated more than our clans. It affected how we ate too. After the apocalypse, all species except us died. The ones that didn’t die killed us if we merely touched them. How do we eat what kills us by physical contact? We needed to eat so a group of people agreed to lay their lives down. They’re immortalised as Matyrs and uneaten parts of their bodies – mostly their genitals – are at the Centre Bureau on the moon.
Now, when we’re born, the Chain is implanted into us. It senses increase in our survival skills, and, in turn, goes up to higher levels.
My clan has the highest levels to the Chain than any other. However, not many of us make it past the N-level which is the highest for many of the other clans. For a seventeen year old, it’s very impressive that I’m at I-level. It’s impressive to everyone, that is, but my father. The Binu clan’s highest level is the P-level, and my father is at the O-level. It’s not surprising that he thinks it’s only normal that I’m one step away from the height of the Chain for many other clans like the Fei.
The thing about the Chain is that the higher you get, the larger your food supply. Everyone at any point lower than yours on the Chain is automatically meat. The higher your Chain level, the better survivor you are. The Standard is the system ensuring that lower levelers can never beat higher levelers. Basically, as long as they can’t fight back, they’re food. Because of the standard, 6 out of 8 people cower at the mere presence of my father as long as each one of the 8 people are of every single level.
The Standard is, as it’s called, a standard. It runs by the Chain, and things like clan don’t matter in it. However, as it is with nearly every man-made system, emotions – more often than not – override it. A P-leveler can choose to show mercy on a C-leveler. It’s what happened with my dads and mom, although sometimes, Dad acts like he resents Papa for not growing with him. What did Papa need growing for? Marriage ensures that all the parties can feed by levels of their partners. Perhaps I should try to understand them, but right now isn’t the time.
Right now, I have to work on whether or not my future involves me eating or being eaten.