In semi-related news, I thought I'd post the story I wrote for my creative writing class, since most of my friends are writers I thought they'd enjoy. I also have a poem about the Dirty Maid which I'll probably post later.
Since I don't know how to do that cool private link thing, I'm gonna copy/paste ;
It didn’t seem fair, Mark thought. After all he sacrificed for the State, after all he been through, they wouldn’t tell him anything. He was now a hero because of his actions, and he deserved to know. He had to know, no matter what it cost him.
Day One, Week One:
It was Gregory’s first day. After weeks of working maintenance and clean up he’d finally been promoted. No more white uniform. From here on out he’d be wearing the pressed grey uniform of a guard. Guard duty was the highest honor a citizen could have. Gregory knew this because the State told him so. He’d be working with Mark; Mark was a hero of the State, and he’d sacrificed much for the peace of everyone. Gregory knew all of this, again because the State had told him so.
Arriving at his assigned position Gregory exchanged cursory introductions with Mark, and took his post. The two men stood opposite each other, in a darkened room, defending the door. The only light source was a small spotlight in the center of the room shining down on the button.
The button was set in a grey pedestal in the center of the floor. The floor, walls and ceiling were also grey. Gregory was struck by the notion that the only other color in the room was red. The button was red. It stood so polished that it almost glowed with an inner light. It was the sworn duty of every guard to ensure that the button was never pressed. It was watched all day, everyday. Should the button ever be pushed, it would be disastrous for the State, for all of society. Because of its importance, guards were even allowed to kill to protect the button. In addition to the standard grey uniform, each one was given a gun that he carried in a holster at his hip.
After two hours of standing guard in silence Mark looked to Gregory and spoke. “Greg,” he asked, “What do you think of the State?”
Gregory scowled, confused by the question. Was the hero of the State testing him? If so it was a simple test. The answer had been told to him over and over in all the state-sponsored broadcasts. “The State protects us. They protect society, and without them there would be no laws, or civility. There would be only chaos, sir.”
Mark frowned, and Gregory became worried. Had he given the wrong answer? Mark scratched his head, and spoke again. “Really, what do you think of the State? Without the rhetoric they tell us to say, what is your honest opinion?”
Gregory nodded at the question. He saw through this test as well, and knew it to be a trick. “The State is what keeps order amongst the people. Without it, children would go hungry, and people would be without homes and jobs. Honoring the State is the only way to ensure that we will not see the horror of what would happen if we were to push the button.”
“Do you want to know what the button does?” Mark asked.
“Our job is not to question the State, our job is to guard the button. If we all do our jobs society will flourish.” Gregory answered.
“But what if this is wasting our time? What if the Button doesn’t do anything? Don’t you want to know?”
“What if it does something horrible, sir? We know what we know for our protection. It is not our job to deal with what the button does, only to see to it that it is never pushed.”
When Gregory gave his answer, Mark lapsed into silence. They resumed their guarding in silence, and remained that way for the rest of Gregory’s first day.
Day One, Week Two:
Over the course of the previous two weeks, Mark had begun to act differently. It was unheard of for a Citizen to arrive late, but Mark was coming dangerously close. His clothes were no longer perfectly pressed, and his tie was not pulled completely tight against his neck. What’s more, when he arrived at the room to work, he was accompanied by a young woman. She was pretty, with light eyes and light hair. She wore the white uniform, and didn’t seem to want to say anything to Mark in front of Gregory.
Gregory had begun to worry that perhaps the event that made Mark a hero of the State had somehow effected his ability to perform his duties. He decided he would speak to Mark about it when the two of them were alone, sealed in with the button.
“Her name is Jessica.” Mark said. He’d managed to deflect the questions about the incident onto the woman. “We met on the passenger train, and it turns out we have a considerable amount in common.”
“I’m glad you’re happy,” said Gregory, letting his eyes idly drift to the button.
“She does make me happy.” Mark continued. “For the first time I feel free. I think a lot of people take personal freedom for granted.”
“Personal freedom cannot be enjoyed without responsibility. If you can make choices, you need to be able to be responsible for those choices.” Gregory told him. Their conversations had been relatively casual, except when Mark brought up the button and things like choice and freedom. Gregory had begun to believe Mark was not testing him, and the implications of that worried him a great deal. “The State takes the responsibility from us, allowing us to enjoy our choices without worry.”
“But that renders us blind children.” Mark responded. “We have no worries but we do nothing for ourselves. We simply obey. There’s no sense of accomplishment of personal achievement, simply capitulation. What if this is a test to see if we’d do it? Do you want to spend the rest of your days standing here in silence?”
“Would you prefer we cast off all the laws? Do we want to destroy everything our race has worked for in order to be allowed to make any choice we desire? How many people would make bad choices?”
“Making bad choices is how we learn to make the good ones. Besides, we don’t need to wholeheartedly disregard all of society. The State can still stand in power. I don’t want to break all the laws, I only want to know what the button does.”
“But that’s just as bad. Who is to say what rules we follow versus which ones we don’t? First you want to know what the button does, next people will want to be allowed to choose their job, and soon they’ll want to push the button.”
Mark’s response sent a chill down Gregory’s spine. His voice was calm as he spoke and asked a simple question. “Would that be so wrong?”
“You sound like a member of the Underground.” Gregory said. The Underground worried every respectable Citizen. They were a radical group who believed the State was lying, and were willing to use violence to get what they wanted.
“The Underground has some good ideas,” Mark said, “They don’t really want to see the button pushed, but they would like to see the system changed. Unfortunately the State won’t listen to dissent of any kind, so the Underground needs to resort to drastic means to be heard.”
“You think we should listen to the Underground and do what they say?”
“No Greg, it’s what I’ve been saying all along. I think you should listen to the Underground’s ideas, really listen. Listen to what the State has to offer and make your own decisions. Make your own choices.”
“This is a dangerous line of thinking” was all Gregory could manage to say in response.
“But you know you want it.” Mark said. “You want it because you know people should have freedom.”
Week Two, Day One, Evening:
When Gregory’s time guarding the button ended he returned home. He stayed awake into the late hours of the night, contemplating Mark’s words and the situation he was in. His mind was filled with questions and confusion. He wondered what he’d do if Mark attempted to push the button. Part of him, though, wanted to believe in Mark. That he was right about freedom and the importance of choice. He thought long and hard about the two sides until his mental reverie was broken by a knock on his door.
When Gregory opened the door he stood in mute shock. On the other side stood a beautiful woman. She had pale skin, dark eyes, and dark hair that was pulled back. She wore the black uniform that was instantly recognizable to any Citizen. She was an Official of the State.
“Good evening Gregory.” The Official said, “May I come in?”
“Of course Ma’am.” Gregory said, stepping aside to allow her entrance.
“I’ve come to see you this evening, Gregory, because the State is worried about your fellow guard, Mark,” she said.
“If there is a concern of the State, I will help in any way I can,” Gregory answered.
“The State believes that Mark may have been compromised.” The Official told him. “As you can imagine the idea of a guard being compromised is one of the worst situations that could befall the State, so I must ask you, Gregory: has Mark been acting strange?”
Gregory thought long about the question. The conflict in him raged, and he stood in silence debating how to answer and trying to play it off as recalling Mark’s behavior. Finally he settled on his answer.
“No Ma’am, I don’t believe so.”
“You realize, of course, if Mark were compromised how bad it could be. He could make an attempt to push the button. And as a guard you know that if the button were to be pushed, all of us would face a tragedy the likes of which has never been seen. So I must ask you to consider again just to be sure.”
“No Ma’am. I don’t believe Mark to be a danger.” Gregory said, trying hard to keep his hands from shaking. It wasn’t really a lie. Mark had some dangerous ideas but the situation couldn’t be so bad the State need worry about it.
“I understand Gregory.” The Official said. “May I ask you something else?”
“Of course Ma’am.”
The Official took out a picture, and handed to Gregory. “Have you ever seen this woman?” she asked.
Gregory stared down at the drab picture in his hand. It was slightly blurry, but the image was unmistakable. Staring back at him were Jessica’s light eyes. “Wh-who is she?” He asked.
“Her name is Jessica. She’s a high ranking member of the Underground.”
Gregory’s stomach went cold. He felt a slight sense of betrayal and his feelings became even more conflicted. “Ma’am,” he said softly. “May I ask you a question now?”
“Of course you may Gregory.” She said in response.
“How does the State feel about personal choice?”
The Official smiled. “The State fully supports the Citizen’s ability to make their own choices. We are not a dictatorship. The State does not force people to be a part of the system. They choose it because they want to be part of society. They want to see our race advance. They believe that if we are going to become a great people we will do it working together, not fighting amongst each other.”
Gregory took in her statements. The answers she gave only provided him with more questions, and more problems.
“Don’t worry Gregory.” She said, “When the time comes for you to make your own choice, I’m confident you’ll make the right one.” With that she stood, and walked to the door. She let herself out, and left Gregory alone with his thoughts.
Week Two, Day Two:
Gregory arrived early to work the next morning. He spent the whole morning thinking about Mark and Jessica and the things the Official told him. He stood in the doorway and waited for Mark to arrive. Mark finally showed up, one minute before their time with the button was to start. The two men entered the room, and the door was sealed shut behind them, it would not open again until their time with the button was over. The two men assumed their posts and Gregory looked at Mark.
“I’ve thought about what you said yesterday.” He said.
“Oh?” Mark asked.
“Yes.” Gregory said simply. He reached to the gun at his side and pulled it free. His thumb flipped the safety off and he aimed it at Mark.
“Greg… what are you doing?” Mark asked.
“You’ve been compromised. You’re part of the Underground.” Gregory said.
“What?” Mark said in utter shock.
“That woman, Jessica, she’s a member of the Underground.”
“Greg… I had no idea.” Mark said, “I just spoke to her about her thoughts on the State. She never told me she was in the Underground.”
Gregory’s hand tightened on the gun. He wasn’t going to be fooled again. “This is the only way to be sure that you won’t push the button.”
“Greg, listen, I don’t want to see the button pushed, I just wanted to know what it does.”
“I don’t know that I can believe that.”
“You can. It’s your choice, remember? You agreed with me, we agreed that people should have freedom.”
“I did, but now you might be in the Underground. You might push the button and this is the only thing I can do to stop you.”
“That’s not true, Greg. You make the choice. You can kill me, but that’s just giving up. Make your own decision instead, weigh the options. Think about what I have to say versus what you’ve been told, and make your own decision.”
Gregory’s hand sat frozen on the gun. Deep in his heart he felt that Mark’s words rung true and he began weighing the two ideas against each other. The State offered the people safety and order. Under them every Citizen had a home, they had a job, they had food and shelter. All their needs were provided for. But by accepting all the State had to offer, people had given up the ability to truly be free, to make their own choices and to have the responsibility of those choices. They gave up the ability to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.
The other choice was freedom. People would have to make their own decisions, learn their own lessons. The responsibility of those choices would be on everyone’s shoulders. They would follow the rules of society because they wanted to, not because they were forced to. There was a chance for poverty, for people to be out of work, but at least the reigns of humanity would be placed in the hands of the common man.
Gregory stood silent for two minutes, but it felt like an eternity. “Alright Mark, I’ve weighed my options and made my choice. It’s hard to image what the world will be like without the State, but we are an oppressed people. We do not have personal freedom and in all honesty, it’s better that way. The State may be seen by some as cruel, but without it we would fall into a new dark age. I’m sorry Mark,” Gregory said, “But I choose the State,” and with that, he squeezed the trigger.
Mark’s eyes widened with the shot, and froze that way. His body crumpled as the bullet tore through his midsection and he collapsed backwards. Gregory stared at the wall behind him for a moment, watching the splattered blood drip down. It struck him that even now the only other color in the room was red.
He slipped the gun back into the holster at his side, and returned to his position, and remained there, silent until the door opened.
Week Two, Day Three:
The next day the room was spotless. Mark’s body was gone and every inch of blood was completely cleaned up. It was if he’d never existed. Someone new had been promoted to guard status. A young man named Sam. Gregory was now considered a hero of the State, someone who’d sacrificed much for the peace of everyone.
Sam arrived early and exchanged cursory introductions with Gregory, then took his post. The two men stood opposite each other, in a darkened room defending the door. The only light source was a small spotlight in the center of the room shining down on the button.
In the silence, Gregory began to think. The State was safe, and society would continue to function. Though he had to kill Mark his actions saved everyone, because Mark would one day have pushed the button.
It didn’t seem fair, Gregory thought. After all he sacrificed for the State, after all he been through, they wouldn’t tell him anything. He was now a hero because of his actions, and he deserved to know…