Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hero Day by Steve Ormosi

This challenge was to portray a dystopian future.  Admittedly, I ripped off elements from (specifically) 1984 and (generally) a bunch of other dystopic classics, but I thought the idea for honoring something that no longer served any purpose in society was a cool one to mess with.


“Today is April Twelfth, the Two Thousand Three Hundred and Twenty Second year of our Lord,” blared the loudspeaker at the corner, dragging me from my fitful sleep, “Today marks the thirty second Hero Day.  Anyone not in attendance at their town square will be arrested for treason.  Festivities begin at 1100 hours.”

Ostensibly, everyone in the world was waking to the voice of the President all at once, though I secretly believed there were other people, freer people, living out lives of quiet desperation under another rule.  We would never know of them, though.  We were the People.  And only the People had survived the Last War, we were told.

I yawned and opened a closet filled with Government Issue shirts and pants.  They were all the same, black pants, white collared shirts, pressed and filed (as though they were important legal documents) from left to right by order of when they were last washed.  I took a pair from the middle in a timid act of defiance.  I contemplated a day when I would awake to find a camera in my closet, daring me to keep grabbing those clothes from the middle.  I imagined a platoon of SoldierCopsTM awaiting my subversive choice in the hallway outside my door.  They would cinch my throat for that, for sure.  I laughed to myself.  Not loudly though, you never knew who was listening, nor what they were listening for.

It was a ten minute walk to the town square from my building, I lived in the part of town for people who were not rich enough to afford an automobile.  Unless you were among the elite, no one was allowed a car.  Everyone stepped out of their doors at the same time, 1030 hours, and we exited the building in two orderly lines.  From the front of the building, we walked in lockstep the ten minutes to the square and arrived at the same time as everyone else in the city.  1042 hours.  Once there we waited patiently for 18 minutes until they opened the gates and let us in.  We strode in unison until we stood in front of a large TeleVizorTM.

A vision appeared before our eyes and we watched and listened to it with rapt attention.  The President was talking.  We knew his voice well.

“You are here to pay homage to our heroes in the Last War,” the vision said.

“The only true and just war ever fought,” it continued.

“Heroes like these paved the way for our glorious New World Order,” the TeleVizorTM flashed images of triumphant soldiers in various poses from a time before SoldierCopsTM roamed the streets with impunity.

“They died individually so that you may live.  We are now a glorious, single-minded world.  We no longer have the need to fear an individual death.  We can be one with our System.  One with the People.  We are whole now.  Praise the System.”

We all praised the system, loudly and enthusiastically.  Especially enthusiastically if there was a nearby SoldierCopTM trolling the ranks.

“Eat, and bask in the fruits of the System,” the President commanded (rather than invited).

We shuffled neatly to our places at the table and praised the System again before we sat.

The meal was simple bread, water and our special Hero Day treat, a small bowl of oatmeal.  I checked around to make sure no one was paying special attention to me and then allowed my mind to wander a little as I mechanically shoveled the food into my mouth.  I wondered who at the top had given up on their own humanity so badly as to allow the construction of this social ghetto.

The man sitting next to me had the ingenious idea of whispering his own, similar manifesto to me.  I was horrified.  I looked around and furiously whispered for him to please shut up.  But he continued on.  I caught a glimpse of a floating SoldierCopTM eyeing us curiously and I looked straight ahead and pretended to be deaf as he sidled up to us.  He stood behind and looked sharply at us both.  Thankfully my witless and entirely unwanted co-conspirator had shut up and I was relieved when the eyes of the System seemed willing to walk on.  My relief was short lived and turned to terror quickly when the man sitting next to us spoke up.

“These two’ve been sewing rebellion over here.  I heard them whispering to each other,” he said and my heart sank.

Though I was not and am not proud of it, I did the only thing I could think to do.

“It wasn’t me,” I said quietly and shamefully, “It was him, he was talking about rebellion, not me.”

It was the would-be conspirator’s turn to look terrified now.

“No I wasn’t, I swear it.”

He was dragged away from the table nevertheless and brought before the appointed JJ&ETM , an acronym whose origin I do not know, but which defines the term deathbringer to the People.

The SoldierCopTM gave him a quick description of the events that led to this man kneeling before him and pointed to me before saying, “This brave citizen gave him up for justice.”  My head dipped toward the ground with the weight of my shame, but I lifted it back up immediately to give the appearance of taking pride in my betrayal.

The JJ&ETM said nothing, he merely waved his hand, and the man was shot dead before us all to a single voiced chant of “SYSTEM!, SYSTEM!, SYSTEM!”.  I watched with a straight face. 

He looked at me then and spoke, “You did the right thing, citizen.  Keep us one, keep us whole.  There was no room for him here.  Today, you are a hero, too.”

My face betrayed no emotion as I nodded acceptance of his praise.  He brought out his own personal handgun and offered it to me.  “You will be remembered.”

“Hero,” I said, as I pressed the gun to my temple, “Sure.”

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