The Displaced - A Perfect Society
DescriptionA man with an angry heart finds himself in a place where angry hearts are Illegal.
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I Charles Henry Rice was not a man who would ever believe in things that were not right in front of his eyes. He was a cold, unimaginative man whose life revolved around numbers and prisoners, who to him were nothing more than herded animals. What little his imagination did conceive was more efficient prisons, and dreaming of better ways to increase production in the factories the state had sent inmates to. Although not a prideful man, he enjoyed the power he had with just paper and pens. At forty-nine years of age he had become a stereotypical middle-aged man. All but balding, and a body that had never known exercise, and a hard face that no one wanted to talk to, save for his few drinking buddies. His wife Ellen dreaded him coming home each night, for Charles always left the bar after work with almost a fifth of whisky sitting in him. Coming home was a copy of the night and weeks before it; loudly coming through the door barking at his wife over the most insignificant subject, eating his dinner without any grace, and talking loudly about what he did at work. Ellen had not the faintest idea what his job entailed and did not understand what he spoke about, but noticed he always talked about the prisoners as if they deserve to be treated less than they already did. She hated her life and often dreamt of something taking her away, or at least taking her husband away to a place best suited for him. Little did she know that soon her thoughts would become very real. One particular night in late may the ritual began as it usually did, with the opening of the front door. “Ellen! The brats next door left their bikes in our yard again. Didn’t you tell George to keep his kids trash on his own property?” She hung her head down for a brief moment before she entered the kitchen. “Felicia and Jen wanted to show me something, but George called them home quickly.” She replied. “Well that’s no excuse. I threw both bikes over the fence, so if they are broke, tough luck. What the hell did they want to show you anyway?” Charles voice became an almost permanent growl. “They wanted to show me some things they found in the park.” Ellen said as she handed him his dinner. “Felicia found a flower she had never seen before, and Jen brought home another frog for her collection. I thought they were both marvelous.” Charles scowled at her and pushed his plate away in protest. “You let them bring a filthy animal in here!!” “Oh Charles it was harmless and Jen held onto it so it couldn’t get away. You don’t need to be mad at them.” “Ellen, I don’t want ANY disgusting creature in my house at any time. Is that clear!” Charles yelled. “Yes, I’m sorry.” Ellen sat down and they both began eating in a tense silence. It was reasons like this that she never wanted to have children. Her husband was a man who could break a child’s arm without remorse. Charles’s anger grew worse as the evening went on, slamming the television remote, slamming doors and glaring at Ellen as if she were one of the prisoners he detested. Ellen’s thoughts were of fear and escape, the former becoming a constant feeling and the latter being impossible. All the while in the corner of the living room a thin multi-colored light began to appear in the seam of the two walls, gradually growing brighter as the anger and the fear began to rise. Charles and Ellen did not see this at all. As Charles watched the news his anger boiled over with one particular newscast: “Today the state Governor signed into effect a new law that will reduce the number of state prisoners in prison factories after two years of protests from human rights groups, who claim the state’s prison-industrial complex is bordering on slavery. The governor issued a statement after…” “Those dirty hippies!” Charles screamed at the television. “They don’t know anything about prisons. Goddamn Ellen, all of those filthy do-gooders deserve to be behind bars themselves, worthless pieces of shit.” “Charles please quiet down.” Ellen said almost on the verge of tears. Charles stood up and towered over his wife with his fists clenched. She was actually afraid he would hit her. He began to scream at her as she sat, in a manner so intense that she had never see. Screaming about worthless liberals and how nobody does honest work anymore, of how he has to somehow pay for all these spineless kids to live. Worse was the mingling scent of whiskey breath and the night’s dinner breathing down on her. She hoped someone next door would hear and call the police, but tonight they would not be needed. As Charles was yelling he caught the glowing of the light in the corner of his eye, only it was not a thin beam of light, but a rectangular shape from floor to ceiling and slowly filling the space between the two walls. And it started to move closer to them. Charles instantly turned pale and his face began to reflect the fear his wife had at the moment. He moved back, falling over backwards on the coffee table. “Ellen…what is that!!” She stood and turned around. The first moment she saw it she felt no fear, but intense joy. The shape had grown bigger and brighter. She saw a solid wall of brilliant energy with a rainbow of colors swirling all over its surface, and a piercing yet thin white light around its border. Looking back at her husband on the floor, she found herself smiling at the complete turn of events. Looking down, she spoke to him as if he were a child. “My my dear, whatever is the matter? Stand up and be kind to our guest.” “Ellen I swear if this is some trick you and those brats are pulling I promise I will make you all regret it.” Charles threatened, and a hollow threat at that. She could hear, or feel, or something, communicating from the shape in the corner. It felt wonderful. A sense of safety that was new to her, and a sense of justice that would take place. Standing in its presence she could not think beyond what was already going through her head, but she did think it might be aliens of some sort. What lonely housewife hasn’t dreamed of little green men taking them from their boring lives and shooting with them across the stars? As she continued to stare in ecstasy at the intruding form, Charles rose up off the floor and started reaching for things to throw at it. He found a vase, a clock and several telephone books and threw them at the shape, only to have them disappear inside of it. Shocked, he did the only thing remaining he could do. Scream at it. “Oh Charles, it’s beautiful! Why don’t you stop being mean to it.” “The only thing beautiful here is what I’m going to do to the person who started this little prank. And you shut up Ellen! I will have the final say over what is in my house.” His words meant nothing to her anymore. She slowly turned her head toward him with an almost possessed look on her face. “My dear husband, I think you need a vacation.” She said smiling from ear to ear. A moment later a tentacle of white energy came out of the shape and grabbed Charles by the leg and pulled him back down to the ground and dragged him screaming into the shape. “Ellen, Ellen help me now” he shouted as he twisted and fought the dragging motion until he was pulled completely into the blinding shape. A moment later the shape retreated back into the wall, its shimmer and brilliance fading with it. When it eventually was gone, all that was left in the corner was a vase, a clock, and several phone books sitting neatly on the floor. Charles was gone. Ellen closed her eyes and wept with joy, whispering “whatever you are, thank you.” II Charles knew where he was, but could not believe it. It looked familiar, but not. And if it was what it looked like, he was shocked to find himself on the inside instead of out. It was a cramped room with a concrete bed, a toilet, and a very heavy door locked from the outside. It was a prison. But not like any prison he was familiar with. Nor the clothing he was wearing. The form had dragged him from his living room and deposited him here, but his clothing had changed. No longer were they his stained shirt and tie, but a prison orange jumpsuit made of fabric he had never felt before. For several hours he paced in the cramped cell, occasionally pounding on the door trying to get someone’s attention. The concealed light above him was too high for him to reach and try to break, and eventually he gave up and sat on the concrete bed contemplating the things he would do to his wife once he got home. Nobody pulled pranks on him like this and gets away with it, he thought to himself. Even in his limited grasp of the situation it never did cross his mind of the supernatural nature of how he arrived, just the fact that he did, and was furious. However anger turned to dread when he heard heavy footsteps outside the cell door. Charles started trembling at what may lay outside. “92682 Rice! Stand up and put your back against the wall facing the door!” A booming voice commanded. He did as he was told. The lock bolt slammed hard and the cell door opened. Two towering guards with futuristic looking armor entered the cell, grabbed Charles by the arm and threw him down on the ground. “I don’t understand, why am…” Charles tried to plead before a boot stepped on his head forcing him to be quiet. “Silence 92686, you know the rules.” The guard commanded. The other guard came in and pulled him out of the cell and into a long cement hallway. Standing outside was the cell block officer in a crisp uniform with his hands behind his back. He looked at Charles with a grave curiosity, as if he was expecting someone else to be in the cell. A look from the guards told they had the same idea. “You are looking far healthier than you should be 92686. I don’t recommend getting any fatter Rice. Now, the governor thinks it’s time he had a little chat with you, that is if you are willing to confess and ask for repentance of your crimes.” The officer spoke with a cold calmness. Charles meekly stood up to face the officer after a glare from one of the guards. He looked down the long corridor that had other bolted doors along the left side, and solid concrete construction with small slits for windows on the top of the right side. The officer himself looked like a normal human, but Charles did not recognize any of symbols or insignia on the officer’s uniform. “Listen sir, I have no idea what’s going on. I was…” Charles tried to speak. “SILENCE!” The officer shouted. “92686 Rice, apparently you are not feeling well today. We will continue this when you feel…” and with a slight sneer in his voice “…better. The governor doesn’t want to be bothered by cowards.” And with a nod Charles was knocked unconscious and thrown back into the cell like a fat potato sack. Once the cell was locked the officer gestured with his hand for the guards to follow him. While despair was an ever present mood in this hallway, both the guards and the officer sensed something was not right with the prisoner. “When was the last time the prisoner was checked on?” The officer questioned. “Two days ago sir and he looked worse than what you just saw.” The first guard replied as they walked down the concrete corridor. “And normally is either fighting us or putting up a rant like you seen when he first arrived here.” The second guard added. “Ahh yes, the insanity of apathy. Such a shame people today still acquire such illnesses.” The officer thought aloud as he turned around. “Illness or not, our world does not tolerate any expression of apathy, bigotry, or hatred.” “Don’t worry sir. Our section is quite skilled at handling prisoners of his like.” “Good. Meanwhile I have to explain to the governor this curiosity. You two may carry on, you will hear from me later today.” The officer exited the cell block with guards, and the block went totally dark. The officer continued on to his office contemplating the change in appearance and demeanor of the prisoner. He did not have the stature or even the normal tone of voice of the convicted prisoner Charles Henry Rice. The prisoner he knew had a lifelong history of subversion to the natural order. It had been established long ago that thought and action that led to hatred, jealousy, or anything that would lead to any kind of destruction would be outlawed. And punishments for crimes such as this were also severe, as 92686 Rice was to soon face. His crimes revolved around a central one. Rice was a man that on the surface was a good and law-abiding citizen, not suggesting that he would be trouble, but underneath he found ways to cleverly disrupt the fabric of society, and convince others to do so. As a result small groups of people started to try to seize unearned positions and rewards for themselves, in effect preaching that the desires of the individual is more important than the needs of the society as whole. It was common knowledge that individual ambitions beyond general needs always led to destruction. The history books were filled with stories that proved this, and looking at Rice, or any others that followed his path, was like looking at destruction personified. Once the officer reached his office he contacted the governor, which surprisingly did not take as long as it normally did. “Captain Bryant, I’ve been expecting your call. Do you have the prisoner with you?” A voice of supreme authority spoke to the officer. “Sir…something unexpected has happened.” Captain Bryant informed the governor of the incident that had just taken place. Naturally the governor was just as puzzled as the officer. “Sir, we have no idea how 92686 has changed both his appearance and tone, but I suspect deception of some sort. This may have been planned before his arrest.” The officer reported. “I may have to agree with you Captain; looking at testimony from his accomplices he is no stranger to these kinds of acts. In light of this event I will no longer accept any idea that suggests Rice wants to repent his ways. The execution will go forward. If it is Rice the original crime must be punished, and if somehow someone has taken his place he will be punished just the same.” Captain Bryant smiled in approval. “nd we cannot deny our citizens the chance to witness a sick man like Rice to be put down. How long has it been since the last spectacle, six, seven years?” “Seven, Captain.” The governor replied. “Seven years of peace, and no doubt putting Rice on display will continue to inspire the peace be held longer.” “Indeed Captain. The execution will take place two weeks from today. Four days before his sentence is to be carried out have your physicians keep him full of stimulants. I don’t want him sleeping until we say he sleeps. In the meantime carry on Captain. Your work has been excellent in regards to this matter.” Bryant stood up from his chair and saluted the video screen he was communicating on. “Peace and Harmony Forever!” “Peace and Harmony Forever!” The governor saluted back, and the screen went dark. Charles was left in his cell for an unknown amount of time, most of it spent in pitch darkness or on occasions, blinding light. Only once was he visited by four guards and two physician types who injected him with a searing, painful substance into his body and with the help of the guards, forced to swallow several things that tasted like cardboard crackers. “We shouldn’t even be giving you food, you seem to be staying quite round in there all on your own.” The head guard said to him. Despite the confusion and drugs they had given him, his true personality began to surface once more. “Because before I ended up here I ate steak every other night, that is if my worthless wife cooked the damn thing right.” Charles voice became more challenging and began to glare at the six men surrounding him. “And while I’m at it, my job is prison efficiency assessment. I make damn good money too, and when my lawyers hear about this all of you are in serious trouble.” Charles knew he had them for a moment, for two words he said didn’t register with any of them. And he was right. Between the six men no-one knew what a steak was. And only one of the physicians knew vaguely what a lawyer was from ancient history lessons. The tallest of the guards walked up right to Charles’s face and looked down at him. “All of your so-called people have already been arrested and corrected, and no matter what you say or what physical tricks you might pull in that cell, you are still guilty of apathy and attempted destruction of society and you WILL be executed, in front of every citizen of this land. Don’t pretend you didn’t know this would happen, or that you could escape from your punishment.” The guard stepped away from Charles and the six men watched his attitude vanish and his face turn pale white. The other three guards started jeering at him, chanting “execution” over and over again in a disharmonious fashion. “Is a loving and nurturing society not good enough for you Rice?” Another slapped him in the face. “You think it’s perfectly fine to have everything to yourself and leave nothing for the rest of us?” “We are going to relish watching the machine eat you alive.” Charles had broken. The jeering stopped when he screamed in terror at the fate that had just been placed before him. Once again he was knocked out cold and placed back in his cell. “Wasn’t there an old saying before the wars that it was the bullies that always broke first?” The others, truthful or not, agreed with the physician. It was amusing to be a part of this, as bullies no longer existed. They locked the cell and when they made some distance from it one of the guards asked what a steak and what a lawyer was. III On the day of the execution Charles had now the appearance of the man he was supposed to be. Fed only the cardboard crackers and water had reduced him to a thin, weak version of what he was two weeks prior. A week and a half of being in an unlit cell had turned him very pale, and days before the prison physicians injected him with something that had kept him awake for what felt like two or three days. By the time the guards came to get him, he was pale, shaking, and eyes bloodshot. The guards took him from his cell and to a specially designed monorail car that had a transparent compartment above the car. He was strapped into a lift device that brought him into the transparent compartment and locked into place. For the first time he saw the vast futuristic metropolis he was now in. Thru a speaker on the rack beside his left ear one of his guards spoke to him. “Maybe you’ve never seen the city this high up Rice, but we want you to see it one last time. Remember Rice, this is the heart of the very world you tried to disrupt.” It was no use arguing with the guard, or with anyone. He looked around at the city, for the monorail was already very high off the ground. The city was beautiful. Clean, with greenery and art covering many of the buildings both tall and short. Absent were billboards or smokestacks or any sign of grime that usually came with an industrial society. In his weakened condition, Charles succumbed to the majesty of the sight. “Next stop, the governor’s stadium! Enjoy the ride!” A different voice had said delightfully over the speaker. The monorail started to move and gain speeds toward an immense structure, making his already shattered body want to heave because of his high seat. The closer it got to the stadium he noticed hoards of people flocking in its direction, coming out from far and near to witness the event he would be the center of. Once it arrived he was brought down from the transparency but kept in the lift frame, still bound, and moved to a staging room facing two immense doors. “Have a wonderful day!” was the last thing the guards had said to him before leaving Charles alone in the room. From beyond the doors came the thousands of voices of the spectators. He began to weep. A deafening sound echoed through the stadium and the doors began to open. His lift rack had been placed on a track that began to move him forward into the chamber. Once he entered the sight was unbelievable. Tier after tier of people surrounded an elevated platform in which the rack was moving towards. It was a glowing white square, twenty feet by twenty feet with an identical platform right above it. As Charles tried to grasp mentally what laid ahead of him he was reminded of the arenas of the Holy Roman Empire where the emperor would decide the fate of a gladiator with a thumbs up or thumbs down gesture. Directly in front of him and the platform was a special place with a man dressed as though he was in supreme authority, surrounded by other similarly dressed people. The rack was brought up to a walk-up for the platform, and once it stopped it automatically released Charles. The crowd was very loud with excitement. The governor rose and raised his hand that quickly brought silence to the audience. Charles could hear his heart pounding in the silence. “Great and loving citizens of Teleiotes, today is a cleansing day. Ages ago, long before the creation of this city and our nation this world was a horrifying place to exist. Wars spread all over the globe destroying civilizations and killing thousands of people each day. It only came to a halt when there were no resources left to make weapons and support armies. What remained of the populations could not fight anymore and collectively came to a decision. The decision was to NEVER let one person, or group be in control and create that nightmare again. That decision was accepted by all and became the birth of our perfect society, which has been without conflict since its founding. Men, like the one standing right here now sow the seeds of disharmony, preach that one group of people should have more than those around him and turn back into the despots that wish to leave our world burning, while they sit in palaces surrounded by riches hoarded only for themselves. People who refuse to see themselves as brothers and sisters and refuse to love WILL DIE JUST LIKE HE WILL!” The crowd roared with approval. The governor looked directly at Charles. “92686 Rice, you will place yourself on the platform before you!” There was nothing Charles could do. Nowhere to run, too weak to run, and no longer acknowledging that he was not the person they wish to do away with, he meekly walked to the center of the platform. “92686 Rice, your crimes of apathy and subversion represent the opposite o what values every person in this society holds true. You will serve as a reminder to future individuals who think like you do. Your punishment, as you may very well know already, is to have every citizen watch as your internal organs are destroyed one by one by our great machine. Within the next two hours, what you represent will cease to exist. Do you have any final words?” In shock and dissociated from the governors words Charles began to scream at the top of his lungs. “ELLEN! ELLEN! I’m sorry, please make this stop. I’ll do anything Ellen, I’m sorry!!” He pleaded over and over with all his might. The governor turned and asked his aide who Ellen was. “We are not sure sir, he was never married and none of his close accomplices were women. I would say sir that he has cracked.” “Disappointing, I had hoped he would make a better example, a fighter until the end, but no matter though.” The governor turned and smiled at the crowds, who were feverously demanding the execution to begin. “Let’s start with the left calf muscles.” Charles Henry Rice would never harm, frighten, or disrupt anything again, past, present or future. Ellen stood in her living room on a bright sunny day. Life had grown very peaceful in the two weeks since her husband had been taken. What was more surreal was the fact nobody seemed to notice. His job believed he had quit due to the new laws being passed, and no police came around to question her. But faintly, she did hear out of nowhere the events of the governor’s stadium, hearing him plead to her, but she shed no tear for him. The sound disappeared as the stadium crowd got louder and Ellen was lifted out of her mild trance by the sound of the telephone ringing. “Hey Ellen, its George from next door.” “Well hello George, what can I do for you?” Ellen replied. “Jen and Felicia just got home from school and wanted to know if you would like to go to the park with them. I certainly don’t mind at all.” “I suppose you don’t mind the zoo they are bringing home too?” Ellen said jokingly. “Well aside from the strange smells, no.” “Well ok then, send them over. And from now on they can leave their bikes in my yard anytime they wish.” ------------------------ The Displaced: A Perfect Society Written by Thomas Alan Oakley, June 2015.