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The rooms that the orphanage made available to young adults were not very large, but they were enough to give them a little intimacy. The rule to use them was very simple: they had to pay 100 euros to the orphanage every month as rent but also as a guarantee that they were working, and in exchange the orphanage kept them there and continued to offer food, accommodation but also job counseling and specialized study courses done in collaboration with local and national universities.
There wasn’t much inside Simone’s room, except the clothes he used to go out and a small laptop.
<<You can use internet?>> Elia asks pointing to the pc.
<<Not in here.>> Simone answers with a sigh <<I don’t know why they insist on not wanting to put it.>>
<<To prevent you from going to see porn probably.>>
<<Shut up. >> Simone smiles closing the door of the room, while Elia sits on the bed.
<<So?>> the older boy looks at the smaller one <<What happened? You look awful.>>
<<Yes. It looks like you saw a ghost.>>
<<Ghost, eh …?>> Elia sighs <<You … you heard the story, right?>>
<<What story?>> asks the boy.
<<The story that revolves around me.>>
Simone shakes his head <<No … what happened?>>
Elia stands still looking at him indecisively, then at the end he takes the phone out of his pocket <<The director of the orphanage made me an offer.>>
On hearing these words Simone sharpens his gaze and becomes more attentive <<An offer?>>
<<Yes. Apparently the company that built this place has made another interesting place, a sort of … university, let’s say.>>
<<The Study Centers!>> Simone exclaims.
<<Exactly, those. You know them.>>
<<Of course I know them! But … we can’t go there.>>
<<Yes, I know.>> Elia sighs <<It’s because we were created.>>
These brand new study centers proposed and created by the same company that made the orphanages are exclusive places dedicated only to the best students and young athletes of the nation.
To enter these places it was necessary to take special entrance tests, which include a competition between the various members as a final exam. The places available were very limited and therefore the competition was fiercer than ever, and due to the artificial nature of Simone and all the other “unborn” they were denied the opportunity to enroll in the study centers.
The problem was very simple to understand. The humans created by DTC were devoid of any genetic imperfection, and although not always aesthetically perfect, they all enjoyed a physique and mind free from various diseases or problems that normal people generally have.
This meant that each of them was able to concentrate smoothly during class, none of them struggled to follow any kind of diet, and none were victims of any kind of addiction.
They didn’t have any particular advantages over normal humans, but they didn’t suffer from any disadvantages either. None of them have ever gotten sick, not even a cold has ever scratched them, and none of them have had any problems socializing while growing up.
They weren’t perfect, but they had no visible imperfections. Impeccable metabolism, immune system impossible to scratch, quick and responsive brain … all these things have frightened other people, who have started to think that this absence of problems and weaknesses would lead the “unborn” to dominate sports too easily.
Because of this every human without a navel has been denied the opportunity to take part in any kind of competitive event shared with “normal” humans. No Olympics, no competitions, no tournaments, no contest.
Simone discovered all this when, at the age of nineteen, driven by his passion for football, he tried to join the local team. Although capable and undoubtedly superior to the other players on the team, the chance to join the team was denied to him because he had no navel.
His skill was seen as a kind of scam. “He is not good because he became good by training, but because he was born good” they said, and this “being born good” was seen as cheating, like doping.
These laws prevented Simone and all the other “unborn” from being able to go to the study centers of the DTC, because since a competition was necessary to be able to do so they were automatically banned from enrolling.
<<But I can go there.>> Elia says <<The director told me this.>>
<<And not only him. I talked to a guy who works for the Divine. It was he who gave me this opportunity.>>
<<Ah … yes?>>
<<Yes.>> Elia nods, with a very serious look <<But I can’t go there alone. I have to do this with someone. Someone from the orphanage. We will go there as … a sort of “delegation”, that’s it. To show that we are no different from other guys.>>
Simone crosses his arms <<A delegation…>> he says <<to show that we are not different?>>
<<But we are different. We don’t have a navel.>>
<<Yes, but people think we are better than others because of this, that’s why they are afraid. But it’s not true. I was adopted, and in the school I went to I was like any other student.>>
Simone makes a half grimace <<I’m sure that other student don’t have more than 100k followers on social though.>>
<<What does this have to do with it? At school I barely had acceptable grades.>> Elia replied <<There were students a thousand times better than me!>>
<<Yes but have you ever studied?>>
<<Do you ever make summaries, take notes … ?>>
Elia scratches his head <<Well … no, but>>
<<Exactly! And despite this you still had “acceptable grades”. Or am I wrong?>>
<<Okay. You are right. But>>
<<This seems a bullshit to me.>> Simone cuts short <<I hate the fact that I can’t play football with normal people, it’s true… but it’s also true that I destroy them if I do. It’s normal for them to be bothered about this. In the end they train every day… but I don’t. So it’s not fair that I win every time without even trying. I don’t know… but winning like this really feels like cheating to me. I don’t like it either.>>
Elia sighs <<The director wants me to go there.>> he cuts short <<But I cannot do it alone.>> said that he looks at him with hesitation in the eyes <<Do you know a guy named Samuel?>>
Simone frowns slightly <<Samuel? Uhm … now that I think about it I saw a weird guy from another orphanage. He is the same age as me, and he was moved here from another orphanage due to work. He spends most of his time in the gym, he’s really big.>>
<<Yes, him! I have to go with him.>>
<<Yes. I came here to talk to him.>>
Simone nods slightly <<Understood. >> he says <<But then … why do you have that face? You really look like you’ve seen a ghost.>>
Elia does not answer immediately, he seems to reflect on a question, then returns to look Simone straight in his eyes <<You work, right?>>
<<Yes, I work.>> is the answer <<As a waiter. Nothing special.>>
<<And this is the job you would like to do?>>
<<If I have to be honest … yes. I mean, I know there are better jobs but… I’m not complaining. I’m having fun. I made friends. I had my first real girlfriends. I… I discovered a lot of new things out there.>>
<<And how many things could you discover if you went to a study center?>>
The boy rolls his eyes <<What?>>
<<I need a third companion. So …>>
Simone immediately shakes his head <<No, bro, I … I’m not suitable for those places. I don’t like studying, you know.>>
<<You don’t have to study, they also accept athletes, and you are very strong in>>
<<I know, I know, but it is called “study center” and is comparable to a university for a reason.>> Simone replies <<Besides, if I went there I would not be able to continue working. And after I go there … what? I wouldn’t be able go back here and I still don’t have the money to buy a house.>>
<<We can talk about it with the director and>>
<<I do not want to talk to anyone about this.>> Simone cuts short <<I … >> he hesitates a moment <<I would be of no use to you. I can’t do shit. And only the “best the nation has to offer” can enter that place. So it’s not a place for me. >>
<<If this is the problem then>>
<<No, this is not the problem. It’s just one of the problems.>>
<<And the others?>>
<<The others concern all my friends. My projects. The things I want to do.>> Simone tells him <<I can’t go there. I’m sorry bro, but you have to ask someone else.>>
Silence falls, and Elia’s gaze becomes sad. For a moment the faint glimmer of hope had lit up in his eyes, but now it’s gone.
In seeing that face Simone has a slight shiver though. Elia does not look like a boy looking for adventure or glory. No … Elia looks more like a frightened little child in search of help.
Simone said no though. His wish for the future was that of buying a small house near the orphanage, so that he could continue to hanging out with his friends. He did not want too heavy or too paid jobs, he only needed to find a quiet place where he could have a family and enjoy his life in peace, between a beer and a football match with friends.
But Elia’s face expressed a sadness and loneliness that he had never seen.
Before he had asked Elia if he had seen a ghost, but seeing that face he wondered if Elia himself was the ghost.
<<Hey.>> Simone says after a brief reflection <<Listen … the director is outside.>>
<<Yes.>> Elia murmurs with a low look <<I was waiting for him …>>
<<He will come back soon.>>
<<So … if you want … I’ll help you find someone who can go with you.>>
Elia’s eyes shine again with hope, but this time also with gratitude <<Really?>>
<<I promise nothing but … yes. Really. I know a tough guy. Someone who can help you with this.>>