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A youth named Equality 7-2521, who has found a hidden tunnel and hides in it to write, knows his solitude violates all the laws of his society. Even though he does not feel guilt for his actions, he begs the forgiveness of the ruling Council. As he spends more time alone, he realizes that solitude suits him, and he begins to crave more and more time by himself. From his tunnel, Equality 7-2521 records episodes from his childhood. As a child, Equality 7-2521 wanted more than anything to be a scholar. He believed he was cursed with a terrific curiosity, which made him prefer some things to others and to prefer some people to others. He often fought with the boys at the Home of Students, and he was reprimanded by his teachers for being too smart and too tall. He tried to conform to the standard the others set, but no matter how hard he tried, he was smarter and quicker than they were. When the Council of Vocations assigned him to be a street sweeper instead of a scholar, he was pleased because it meant he could atone for the sins he had committed. When he was ten, Equality 7-2521 saw the public execution of the Transgressor of the Unspeakable Word, who had discovered the word "I" and was burned to death in the town square as punishment for using the word. While he was burning, the Transgressor showed no pain but locked eyes with Equality 7-2521. Equality 7-2521 comes to believe that that moment anointed him as a disciple of the same crusade as the Transgressor.