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    A Day in the Life (approx 4,700 words)

    Discussion in 'Strong Character Contest' started by secularzarathustra, Oct 22, 2007.

    Hey guys, I didn't have much time to grammar check; hopefully, it this does not have too many errors.



    "A Day in the Life"

    By John T. Tennyson
    (c) 2007


    Quade walked into the kitchen with the newspaper folded under his left arm. The routine hustle of the morning fulfilled him in a way that little else could. He kissed Rose on the cheek and made his way to the small round table in the breakfast nook. He really liked that she did not have to work anymore. Still in her seersucker robe, Rose brought him his morning coffee, sizzling bacon popped in the background. Quade opened up the paper and frowned, closed it and looked forward, drumming his fingers nervously on the edge of the table. Well, today was the day, confirmed by the date printed in the top right corner of the front page of the paper. Today was the day of judgment everyone had been anticipating. What would happen to Brown? During his brief glance he had seen Brown's suitably sadistic mugshot blown up to twice life size, dirt, scabs, clogged pores and all; however, he shut the paper before he could process the headline.

    The videoscreen in the background had been muted for breakfast; however, its flashes sent a momentary annoyance through his mind. Rose was over at the stove serving the bacon and buttering up the morning toast. She was without a care about the verdict or anything else, the majority would decide.

    Priya and John bounded into the room. Without a word or thought, John started droning on and on about his Civic Theory lessons for the week. Quade, prepared for this, started flipping through the paper while grunting noncommittally to John's banter until, ``... funniest thing happened at our rally to spread awareness and campaign for a guilty verdict from those last minute, undecided voters.''

    Quade snapped the paper folded and shut, looked up, interested. ``How could you campaign for a guilty verdict in a trial for a crime whose penalty is death? Dr. Brown not only has hurt no one, but the entire matter is at the very core in the issues of speech.''

    ``Well,'' John began, ``as we learn from the study of Civic Theory, I have a right to my political opinion, just as you and mother and Priya have a right to your opinions. Any citizen may campaign on any side of any issue, you know the rules. Anyone may campaign or hold any thought until the majority's decision is tallied''

    Quade replied, ``Well, John, I think you know that I was not saying that you had no right to do it; however, the mere proposition that you can use a democratic process to arrive at a completely non-democratic and antithetical end is paradoxical. How can you defend your right to campaign for someone else's rights to be violated? You cannot seriously have campaigned, at school, on tax-payer funds for someone's death? Well, I tell you what, I'm going to visit that principal of yours, Mr. Towater. A school shouldn't be used as a recruiting center, and the mandatory socializations have gone too far. All Dr. Brown said, wait, no, he didn't even say it. It was one of those secret searches that was, interestingly enough, looking for something else entirely. Something that was not found. He had written, scrawled in the corner of his notebooks that he was tired of drunkenly marching through the streets singing The Internationale. That's it.''

    ``No, father,'' John replied. They were both scooting forward in their chairs a little bit. Quade smiled and winked at John. They both loved these little political melees, always picking up in the middle of a half-argued point. ``His views are so antithetical to the will of the majority, and more importantly to the security of the majority, that they must be utterly removed. This cannot be a heresy that is allowed to simmer. The weakness of the old systems was that they allowed the freedom of speech to be destroyed via the means of that selfsame freedom; moreover, the democracies all fell electorally, through the democratic process. Also, anyone who has at least been exposed to Civic Theory would recognize that, while there are many imperfections in the present system that we must remove slowly, we must do everything in our power to prevent a return to the days of pre-controlled societies.''

    ``Oh, come on John. You can't seriously believe that. It's straight out of the textbook. You should consider what is being taught to you and not blindly follow it, be more critical of what you are being spoon-fed, at such a young age too. Neither of us saw or experienced those days and you know that many of the surviving texts have been censored; however, I have spoken with those who lived in the pre-controlled era. I used to speak at length with my grandfather about those times, and he filled me with stories that his grandfather had told him. Their recollections were not those propagated in your textbook, they were positive.''

    Priya jumped into Quade's lap. ``Good Morning, Daddy,'' she beamed. ``Morning, kuchulu,'' Quade replied. He massaged the back of Priya's neck,
    under her long flaxen braid, as John and his mother laid out silverware and
    plates.

    ``Oh, Priya,'' John groaned. ``We were in the middle of something.''

    The weekly rationings had gotten markedly better this year. Today they were having bacon, eggs, and butter, all at the same meal. This would have been unheard of as early as last year. These thoughts always made Quade thankful of his new position.

    ``Honey,'' Rose queried, ``isn't today the day you close the Peterson account? It's all you've talked about for weeks, today's the ninth.''

    ``If the majority wills,'' Quade replied simply. ``And when its done we'll spend a week at the beach like we've been planning.'' Priya and John both cheered loudly, holding up their arms in triumph. Rose smiled, she looked content to Quade, he nudged her side and smiled. The had taken place the previous evening. So that the will of the majority would be known, everyone voted. It had been a leisurely affair taken slowly and by timezone. The threat was not considered that severe; however, it was still a threat. The case was not so urgent as to wake those on the opposite side of Terra in the middle of the night. Everyone just had to vote before they went to sleep, and if someone forgot, a friendly little reminder would vibrate on their portable voting machine. Everything was voted on.

    Quade sat sipping his coffee and reading a little bit more of the paper, he wanted to smile as he watched John and Priya eat their meal and tease each other. ``Priya's got a boyfriend.'' ``I do not. Tell John to stay on his side.'' ``His name's Paul. Can you believe that, Daddy, who ever heard of such a weird name?'' ``Daddy, make him stop.'' Quade forced a smile and asked Priya about Paul. She blushed and buried herself in her plate of food. Inside, Quade felt a bit guilty that he had ganged up on and embarrassed her.

    ``The last ditch effort,'' Quade began, changing the subject. The clanging of silverware and chewing abruptly stopped. ``The last ditch effort has failed. The material has been voted socially harmful and Dr. Brown will be executed today at noon. The will of the majority has spoken. You two, of course, will be able to watch, I'm sure all of the centers will be showing it. The removal of him from society will be a mandatory broadcast to all videoscreens.''

    ``Good, it serves him right. His ideology of hate and social unrest goes against the very ideas that must be accepted for society to survive and be civil. We cannot, history has shown, live together with writers such as Dr. Brown undermining order, tranquility, and peace at every single step. He openly called for a nullification of the will of the majority. This punishment only serves him right. Chemotherapy in killing the bad cells must also necessarily kill some. It is unfortunate that these good cells---for example, freedom of speech in this one incident, civic liberties or responsibilities, and the life of a human being---must die, but it is better for us in the long run and will help to ensure peace and social survival.''

    ``But, John, you have not seen any of the evidence against Dr. Brown. Neither your mother, Priya, me, nor anyone else has either. The majority have not seen the evidence because it was deemed sensitive to the security of the majority. This is tyrannical in the name of the majority who must decide with only the subjective information provided by its leaders.''

    The majority had spoken. Quade knew that he was perhaps going a bit far, but he was still a little riled up from his debate with John. It was time to quit playing devil's advocate. Quade remained silent and lit a cigarette. He inhaled slowly and held the smoke in his lungs. In the background all the hoopla continued unabated... the sound of the videoscreens automatically unmuted.

    ``It will be the first execution in over twenty years,'' Quade noted. ``It seems such a minor offense for the majority to decree total removal from
    society. All he did was write his own personal thoughts and feelings into a
    journal that he showed nobody. I mean, the last execution was of a serial killer who somehow had evaded the profiling and wasn't properly euthanized as a child; however, this...'' Quade suddenly stopped his rant and nervously looked around the table. His wife looked at him like he was a different person, her mouth hung open. John stared wide-eyed in an unintentional mimicry of his mother. Quade looked around and even little Priya was looking down, tears building up in her eyes. He inhaled his cigarette again, holding in the smoke and then half sputtered and half coughed a hazy smoke that lingered over the breakfast table.

    ``Quade,'' Rose interrupted his coughing fit with a voice that obviously demanded little argument, ``I don't know what you are doing, but I cannot
    believe that you would do this in front of the children. Saying these things, the majority has decided, you sound like you're implying that the decision was wrong,'' This last bit with disbelief.

    ``I know,'' Quade responded, ``but goddamnit this time they are wrong.'' He looked around. ``Priya, you said you voted for clemency and so did you Rose...'' Quade stopped suddenly when he realized that Rose had pulled a knife on him. Quade thought that the moment he mentioned Priya and unwittingly brought the children into this, he had gone to far in Rose's eyes.

    ``Stay away from the children and calm down now, you bastard,'' Rose stuttered at him. Rose, the Rose who had gone with him to high school. The Rose that the Psychologists had paired him with, as close to a perfect match as was supposedly possible. The Rose now held John behind her defensively, quivering and protecting her little man, her little soldier, her little citizen. The knife erratically darted back and forth in front of Quade, a mere meter away from his chest. Rose heaved hysterically, motioning for Priya to join her and John. Priya, sweet Priya, Priya joon, his everything actually sat there considering what she should do. But unlink John, at least she considered, at least she was conflicted. Quade felt a great hope in that, that some part of the system, in somewhere, someplace, for at least some people, was not an undisputed hegemony.

    Tears streamed down Priya's face. ``You bastard, you selfish individualistic bastard, how dare you do this in front of the children. Endanger them? How will the majority judge this episode when it was conducted in front of the young? I always knew you had a god complex...'' Rose cut herself off with a cry. There, it was out in the open, she had compared him with one of those and had uttered a near-unutterable curse. She had used the word that normally you wouldn't even hear down at the docks or among the drunks that slept under the benches at the train stations. Hell, even they voted and followed the will of the majority. Sweet Rose, quivered with rage and fear, spittle and snot ran down her nose and crept into her mouth.

    The videoscreen blared on loudly showing their kitchen scene and broadcasting it to the world. They were being broadcast, live. ``You've done it now,'' Rose murmured while slinking off to the background. Her hysterics must have alerted a censor through the videoscreen. Quade noticed that she kept the knife pointed in the general vicinity between them while trying to hold the children in a death grip. The look of fear and pleading
    now took on a more dramatic effect, was much more animated and much less sincere, Quade thought.

    ``Citizen 2P8-320Z-N4, by order of the majority you are under arrest,'' a voice boomed from outside the house and the videoscreens speakers simultaneously with a grating feedback. Quade rose to his feet, Rose herded Priya and John into a corner of the kitchen. Quade's shoulders slumped as he looked outside. He glared at the videoscreen and saw himself standing at the window, shoulders slumped, supported by the counter, tie unbuttoned. Quade then watched himself re-light his cigarette, he tried to look tough as he turned back towards the window. He tried not to watch himself, his reflection barely detected by his peripheral vision. He saw guardians approaching his house, tramping through his garden and stepping over his knee-high white picket fence. He hoped that they did not notice him straightening his back and sucking in his gut. Quade did not want them knowing that he was watching all of his things on the videoscreen, trying to figure out what his neighbors thought of them and, by projection, himself. Neighbors were coming out of their houses and congregating on the street in front of his house. A square cut-in screen in the bottom right corner showed Quade the scene that he could see much better from a different angle by glancing to the right, through the window above the kitchen sink. Everyone was watching him, this scene that they were indignant about happening in their own little corner of the world, wasn't this a problem of the other, of the poorer areas, this was a nice family neighborhood after all. They were being broadcast to all, but they also had front row seats. Good god, I've become a protagonist, Quade thought. It suddenly became much easier to swear, if just in thought.

    Every door in the neighborhood that was not already opened, opened and unbolted from a control room at the local guardian headquarters, Hero Station.

    ``Oh thank you,'' Rose whimpered as the guardians approached the door. Their passcards would have let them in any door if it was not already opened, as if anyone would object the entry of a guardian of public safety. Quade stubbed out the rest of his butt and tried to remember when, either historically or apocryphally, the last time a guardian actually was opposed.

    Quade turned around and rested his weight against the counter. He crossed his arms and met the eyes of one of the guardians, a youth of not more than nineteen or twenty. The rest of the guardians fell to the past time of all law enforcement officers through all epochs. The people on the lawn were staring vacantly, some with anger. One little girl munched popcorn and adjusted herself on her daddy's shoulders to either get a better view or position. Priya pulled away from her mother and inched over to her own corner, eyes black, red, and veiled. Her tears had dried and she controlled her emotions.

    The guardians approached and asked Quade how he plead. He finished his cigarette and said nothing.

    ``2P8-320Z-N4, for failure to answer you have been remanded of your name and identification number while this matter is settled. Since you have broken the social contract, accepted by implied consent you will be temporarily removed from society while this issue is resolved.'' Quade started to protest but remained silent. He wasn't exactly refusing to answer, he wasn't sacrificing himself stoically, he just did not know what to say or how to respond. The guardian immediately continued, ``Voting will now take place without plea.''

    Quade saw each of the guardians reach for their personal voting machines.
    His wife and children did the same. His neighbors on the lawn were also all
    clicking away at their machines. For a brief moment he thought that if he
    ran, he might make it. Quade could hear billions of clicks on billions of personal voting machines. This exasperated his unease. On the videoscreen
    Quade saw the tallying of the votes taking place in real time represented in
    neon graphics in the bottom of the screen. While the tallying was being
    done an advertisement for an anti-blemish cream was running, pointing out
    problem areas on Quade's face with cartoon neon arrows to the world, and how if he had used Horton's when a teen he would not have acne scars here, here, and here. At least the hemorrhoid people didn't get this, Quade thought.

    He looked furtively at the screen. What did he see? Was he really that ugly? He caught Priya's eyes as she voted, at least his little girl would always be with him. The guilty bar on the screen was getting much closer to the majority mark than was the innocent bar. Once that mark was reached, the decision was made.

    ``Wait,'' Quade suddenly shouted at the videoscreen, imploring the guardians
    in his kitchen. He could finally scream, he could finally respond. But whatever he was going to say next was violently cut off when the head guardian's fist crashed into his face---

    --Blood streamed down his chin and only the fact that he had been leaning against the counter had saved him from falling on his ass. He spat out the
    broken ends of his teeth. The guardian raised his gauntleted fist again as a warning and Quade froze, not moving lest his ruined nose and broken face be again subjected to the brutality of a gauntleted guardian's fist. He tried to speak too late.

    ``The prisoner has been found guilty by a majority of 785,265 votes,'' the videoscreen speakers loudly declared, above the allowable standard deviation. That was a close vote, few were ever this close, and Quade was surprised that they could have let it slip this far. But close does not matter since the loosing side would wholeheartedly support the majority, it was the democratic way, a tyrannical majority that only allowed any minority to survive as long as they supported every infamy via consensus; support the deplorable because the majority has spoken, reify a notion that leads to naught but the most tyrannical slavery of each man to every other person. The videoscreen then emitted a sound of cheering, the neighbors cheered, Rose and John cheered. Priya looked stunned but he earnestly hoped that none would notice her mousing in the corner and not cheering. What ever happened that led him to this? If he could beg he would, Quade knew; however, he also knew that once judgment was passed begging would do no good. He had no chance and no recourse. This was supposed to have been his big day, the Peterson account, their lawyers should've been boarding jets home now.

    Quade tried to talk through his broken teeth, but the words all came out perverted and garbled, pain shot through his jaw and he could almost see a blinding light. The suddenness of the pain reminded him of the extent of his injuries. Without warning one of the guardians hit him square in the face. Everyone in the room heard a squishy pop as Quade's nose flattened and sprayed blood down the front of his best shirt, the one that Rose ironed for him less than an hour ago. Bits of tooth poked through pools of blood on Quade's striped work shirt.

    A new swell of cheers rose simultaneously from the videoscreen, the neighbors, and from most of those in the house. Another of the guardians stepped forward and savagely kicked his combat boot between Quade's legs. At this, he finally slid to the floor, beyond pain. Rose and John were cheering along with everyone else, the majority had chosen. One of the guardians was squatting down and good-naturedly explaining something to John that Quade could not quite make out. The four other guardians noticed Quade straining to listen and the surrounded him and started buffeting him with kicks and batons, another pastime of all police of all epochs. One of them took pleasure in stomping on Quade's limbs, when he stomped on his left ankle there was a loud snap. The youngest of them looked askance at this, but the others fell right in with that oldest of law enforcement customs.

    Quade swam in and out of a sea of blackness now, bobbing up and down and
    drifting in a cold and wet void. He saw John walking towards him with a
    guardian-issue knife. Out. He saw John holding up what looked like a human ear, while the guardians were laughing and pointing and congratulating him.
    How ridiculous was that? Where in the world would John get a human ear? Out. Another blade, or the same, came out of the darkness towards his left eye. Out. Was it Rose cutting out his left eye? Why would she be doing that? Out. Pain like electricity suddenly brought him back. Not death, but a perverse second wind. The buffeting of kicks to his back had not ceased and his khaki pants held numerous dark red stains, he had repeated soiled himself.

    Quade grabbed the knife as it reentered his left eye, cutting and ruining and draining off its fluid. He clenched his fist on the blade, it bit hard into the bones of his palm. The guardians backed away laughing at this bloody and grotesque marionette shambling back and forth trying to make it to his feet. He was trying to actually stand up. Quade worked his way to his feet, wrenched the knife out of his ruined hand and stood, again leaning against the counter for support. Small waves of life ebbed out of Quade with every beat of his heard and every adrenaline fueled breath. ``Oooooooooh,'' he heard jeers simultaneously from all angles. No one had done this in years, standing up to a guardian, resisting arrest, they thought it quite funny.

    He coughed, blood. He spit, more blood. Quade looked down and saw a ruined body. He braced himself and focused, fighting to barely hold the blackness at bay. While he had been pummeled his tongue had be cut to ribbons by his jagged and broken teeth. He knew that he would say something, he knew that it would be expected after all of this. At least if he could say something. He was supposed to feel remorse. Hell, if he begged and did it right he might even be let back with his family, though he would be heavily supervised and medicated if the psychiatrists let that happen. Everyone laughed and made over his injuries. Quade heard inexplicable guffaws and grave explanations combined in a maddening way. He hear one parent mention the 1950s and another the 2000s.

    He looked down at Priya, she was expressionless but he felt that she understood, that she of all of them must understand. Quade hoped that she
    would never be conscripted, subjected, and brainwashed to either the national police nor the one entity through all histories that was even more
    immoral, the Army. Let her not learn violence, let her not agree to kill wantonly from the order of someone higher up, like the fabled psychopath who received his orders from a dog, at least that killer eventually understood
    that it were mere madness to point a gun at another human being while justifying it to yourself; only members of police or military could do such. Whatever is out there, if anything Quade thought, let Priya not fall to them. Let them take her body if they must, but not her soul.

    Quade tried to speak but could only wheeze a wet and bloody cough. Propping himself on the counter with his right arm, Quade held his left arm in the air. He waived and bobbled for silence. He had something to say after all.

    Quade lisped blood through his broken teeth, whistling sound as he exhaled.
    His hand gripped something firm on the counter behind him. A rolling pin. Rose's antique from the 1940s, heavy and wooden. ``I,'' Quade began with a slurry garble that sounded all vowels---the videoscreen displays had realtime subtitles to help the world in its difficulty in understanding him, provided by the best speech pathologists and linguists training paid for by military service---``I... I... I am going to take as many of you cocksuckers with me as possible.'' There was no visible reaction from the crowd to this; however, Quade wasn't sure if that was caused by either them being shocked or not understanding. Quade swung the rolling pin with all of his might and crushed the closest guardian's throat, a young female recruit's parents sat stunned at home as they saw this happen to their daughter, whose ambition had always been to help those less fortunate than her in this harsh world, in real time. No cheers were admitted from the videoscreen.

    Somewhere else around the world, a pregnant wife sat stunned when she saw her husband's skull caved in next on the videoscreen in the lounge of her midwife's office.

    A few hundred miles east, a man in a business suit sat stunned in the breakroom in his office building as he saw the bloodied sociopath on the viewscreen stab a guardian-issue knife deep into his boyfriends groin, before a swarm of uniformed, which must mean that they are good, men and women engulfed the bloodied mess.

    Quade was cornered; however, he did not fight like a cornered animal, in desperation with the mere hope of survival, he knew what would happen to him, he reveled in it because he knew he was already dead. Rose stepped forward and planted the knife in his belly and stepped away. Quade pulled the knife out, shoved her to the ground, and slowly dragged across the room. He grabbed and held the head of another stunned guardian in a death-grip. He pulled him to the ground and stabbed over and over again. The other guardians surrounded him and he lost consciousness for the last time.

    ...

    A panel of psychiatrists after a battery of tests and therapy sessions prescribed John and Priya a blue pill to help forget their father. It was best, despite the harm of being made fatherless, memories of him could hamper their social education. John was upset and wanted to remember his helping the guardians subdue the madman, but he took his medicine and did his duty like a little man. He swallowed the pill and asked his mother if he could spend the night with Justin. Priya, who said nothing since the incident, took her pill as well. When they were walking through parking lot on their way to the car she spat it out when she thought her mother and John were looking away. She ran up to them and started laughing. She would keep this secret in her deepest heart, she would nurture it.

    It would be damn hard to act normal from now on.
     

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