Copyright © 2017 by John Wiber
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Goddamn the bastards.
How did they know? How could they have possibly found out?
But deep down she knew. Of course they found out. That’s what they do. That’s what they’ve been doing the past four decades. All it takes is one mole. One person who hasn’t been excavated, and they had everything. Those chips acted as mini Global Positioning Systems, and even gave reports on vital statistics. They also had the ability to make audio recordings.
The SSF could have been tracking them also. It was impossible to say. The only thing she knew for sure at this point was that she had been captured. She didn’t know where she was, although she assumed she was in a deep underground bunker somewhere beneath Sector A. At least you’re inside the walls, a voice whispered to her from the back of her mind. The System Wipe could happen any day now, you know this.
Yes, it was true she was safe from the System Wipe, but she didn’t necessarily want to be saved. Not like this. She knew they would offer it to her; her freedom and safety within the walls of Sector A in exchange for information regarding the People’s Army. They will ask her to give up her friends and comrades. They will demand that she claim responsibility for the terrorist attacks. The men in black masks.
She hasn’t eaten a full meal in three days, and yesterday she came to the realization that her servings of water were being systematically stretched to longer intervals as the days progressed. So far at 18:00 hours on the third day, she had received only one glass of water, and no food as of yet. Her stomach felt like a tightly tied knot. Like she’d swallowed a rock.
This is only the beginning.
Her ankle is chained to the metal chair, which is cemented into the ground. They have her placed in front of a wide steal table with a reflective top and cold surface. So far, they had yet to free her from the chair. Her back ached, and she felt like her spine was twisting. Her butt was sore too. The walls around her are mirrors, likely two-way, and have been making her feel dizzy for the past hour or so.
They probably put something in the water.
Just then, an invisible door in the mirror opens and a man in a suit enters the room, shutting the door behind him so that it disappears again into the mirrored wall.
She doesn’t respond, continuing to stare down at her own feet, the bottoms of which are blistered and bruised.
The man in the suit sits down, never breaking eye contact with her. He takes out a folder from his suit jacket. She wonders if he is a robot. But no, that would be too convenient. She wanted him to be a robot. At least that would explain how he could so easily comply with treating other human beings this way.
“How are you feeling?”
Still, she says nothing.
“Would you like a glass of water, perhaps?”
She stares at her feet.
“Some food, maybe?”
His eyes like marbles, wide and unblinking.
He sees me.
“You can play the silent game all you like,” he says, sighing. “But you know in the end you will talk. In the end, you won’t have anything left to care for, so you will talk.”
“I don’t know the things you think I do,” she says.
“That’s okay, that’s fine,” he smiles. “We will tell you what to say.”
“Don’t I get a phone call?”
He laughs. “Who would you call?”
“No lawyer will touch you. You’re a terrorist.”
“The People’s Army has lawyers.”
“Ah yes, the People’s Army. The last crusaders fighting in the name of righteousness and civil liberties for all!” he laughs again. He had a horrid sounding sort of laugh, a cackle like the sound of scraping on a chalkboard. “Can you confirm that the People’s Army is responsible for the wave of terrorist attacks sweeping across the country?”
“So you are denying the PA’s involvement in these attacks?”
“Then who is responsible?”
“You wonder why it is we on the outside hate you?” she says in a whispered voice. “It’s because you smile when we say things like that. You smile when we accuse you of crimes that you know are true.”
“That’s not why I’m smiling.”
Shirley stares across at the smiling man, unable to respond.
“Do you want to know why I’m smiling, Shirley?”
Again, she cannot find the words.
“Okay, I’ll tell you – since you seem to have momentarily lost your voice. I’m smiling because you actually believe you can do anything to change the way things are.”
“We outnumber you eight to one.”
“What good is numbers without knowledge? We know everything about you. We have access to all of your movements, all of your associates, any word you’ve ever searched the internet for has been logged away in our database, and we have the ability to access it anytime we like.”
They don’t know then. At least he’s acting like he doesn’t know. For now, Hector was still her little secret, which meant there was still a chance.
“Sure, some of you are excavated, but that makes no matter. The SSF are quite adept at finding those who wish to break protocol.”
He pauses. “But you know all this, don’t you Shirley?”
She shrugs. “It’s hard to say what I know anymore.”
The man pulls out a picture from the folder and places it on the table between them, sliding it over towards her with the tips of his fingers.
“What about this man, do you know him?”
She looks down at the picture.
“Carlos,” she says.
“Yes,” the man nods. “He works for us.”
Carlos? A double agent? She had been present at exchanges where Carlos had shown up with plastic explosives. He was also a drug dealer; X----- tabs, coke, weed, MDMA. he was a venerable candy shop of illegal substances.
He’s trying to trick you.
“Are you having trouble believing me?”
She stares back at him, doing her best not to give anything away.
“I can assure you, he works for us. Why would I lie at this point? It’s not as if you’re going anywhere.”
He laughs again, and Shirley feels a shiver run up her spine.
It’s not as if you’re going anywhere.
“What do you intend to do to me?”
Suddenly, she became acutely aware of just how dry her throat had become. The fluorescent lights above seemed brighter now, and were causing her head to ache. Her tongue felt like sandpaper.
“Well, really, that depends on you.”
“And what if I refuse to tell you anything?”
“In that case, after extensive questioning has been done and all methods of extracting any information from you have been exhausted, we will place you on a train headed for the Mid-West.”
“The detainment camps.”
“You don’t scare me, you know.”
“You don’t even know what to be scared of,” he says, holding up another picture of Carlos, except in this one he’s wearing a suit just like this man, and appears to be standing in a row with other detectives outside the Parliament Buildings in Sector A. “Clearly.”
“That picture’s a fake.”
“It isn’t real.”
“Okay,” he says, shuffling the pictures together and setting them aside. “So, you don’t want to survive the Wipe then?”
She says nothing.
“I assume you know about the Wipe?” he asks.
“Listen, Shirley, I know you know, okay? This will all go a lot easier if you can just accept that. Just accept the fact that I know everything you know, okay?”
“I won’t.” she says.
“Well,” he says, “I know something you don’t know.”
He takes another picture out from the folder, placing it face down on the cold table top. “Want to know what I know?”
Her hands tremble as she reaches for the picture. It squeaks against the steal table top as she slides it clumsily closer. Finally, after staring into the man’s eyes for endless seconds, she flips the picture up and gasps.
“No…” she says, breathless.
“It was a very unfortunate thing, truly tragic…”
“His face…. what have you done?”
“…the result of yet another heartless terrorist attack. The savagery of it. Such a barbarous act, and to think, that this attack may have been perpetuated by the very group you affiliate with…”
“Liar!” she screams, flinging the picture back at the man. It slices through the air and knocks against his chest, landing face up on the table. The picture shows the lacerated face of her nephew Tyler, who had apparently been stabbed repeatedly in the face and throat, the gaping wounds looking like red pools in the glaring light, and his eyes so black and lifeless…
“You’re lying,” she sobs softly. “Please stop lying to me…”
“Just savage,” he says again, holding up another picture of what appears to be Tyler’s torso, riddled with further stab wounds and lacerations, one of which slices down his shoulder muscle so that it had become detached from the rest of his body, hanging off to the side like a slab of spoiled meat. He looks like a Piñata, a terrible voice whispers at the back of her mind. She can hear that same voice laughing at her. Laughing in that same sort of high-pitched cackle, and Shirley wonders if she is going insane.
“According to the coroner, some of the weapons involved in the assault include, but are not limited too; a meat clever, a machete, obviously, your run of the mill kitchen knife, an axe…”
“Please stop,” she says, her face buried in her hands, choking on her own sobs. A meat clever, a machete, an axe… he looks like a piñata…
“Would you like a glass of water? You’re awfully dehydrated.”
She stops then, taking a few deep breaths. “How do you know I’m dehydrated?”
“Shirley,” he says, shaking his head. “You must have realized… but I suppose you’ve had your mind on other things… so it is understandable you would miss such an obvious fact.”
“What are you talking about?”
“We had another chip implanted the moment we first brought you into custody. Like I said, it’s understandable you wouldn’t notice. Now-a-days it’s as simple as pricking your finger for blood. It feels like nothing more than a slight pinch, and leaves only the slightest of swelling. In fact, many of your friends and associates within the People’s Army have been re-implanted unknowingly, and are feeding us information even as we speak…”
“No,” she says frantically, reaching for the back of her neck with her chained hand, except the chain is taut and doesn’t allow her to reach the spot where the chip is buried; burrowed beneath her skin like a parasitic insect. Shirley imagines a grotesque six eyed bug, it’s dozens of legs squirming inside her, which only made her squirm more violently. She tugs at the chain, straining her neck and crying out as the man in the suit across from her smiles and nods.
“Ah, now you’re beginning to understand.”
“Please, take it out, take it out.”
“Why do you fight us still? Why not embrace it. Surely, you don’t want to see anything else happen to your family, to the ones you love. We know about Hector, your secret lover. He’s looking for you right now, out in Sector B. He’s trying to figure out a way in, isn’t he? Tsk tsk tsk. Such a precarious position. What if I were to instruct the SSF to apprehend him. What if I gave them further instruction to mutilate him? Starting with his genitals, and moving then to his fingers, his eyes, his tongue. And I would make sure you were there to watch, Shirley, you better believe that. It’s something you would want to see, something that would be a direct result of your refusal to comply…”
“Just because I read George Orwell doesn’t mean I’m a terrorist!”
“Ah, but you are.”
“That’s not the point.”
“What is the point, Shirley?”
She pauses then, looking up at her captor with the whites of her eyes. “A human life doesn’t fit neatly into any category, no matter how much data you may have, no matter how many predictors there may well be, a person’s choices and actions can never be predicted. Free will. That’s the point.”
She tries to speak but her voice gets caught in her throat. She coughs into her closed fist, the chains rattling against the table.
“Take the water, Shirley. You are thirsty.”
Travel to the year 2039 in this dystopian North America where the governments of Canada, America and Mexico have consolidated, and society is segregated into Sectors. A haunting glimpse of what could become of our increasingly militarized society, as the public's privacy is slowly reduced to absolutely zero in the wake of state-sponsored terrorism. Aunt Shirley has been captured. Chained to a metal chair in an interrogation room, starved and sleep deprived, she tries to prepare for what is coming, but cannot help but question her motives and the actions which have lead her here...