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~ “Being called the first shots in the War Against Ugliness, the petition for the so-called Narcissism Bill was presented to both houses of Congress today by the President of New You Incorporated, Jeremiah Ambrose. Following an impassioned speech about the horror of school bullying, Ambrose’s followers gathered on the National Mall, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, began a chant of “Make them all beautiful!” The petition was also presented to the office of the president and to all fifty-five state governors. The validity of the petition has been called into question by those opposed to the Mandatory Corrective Surgery Bill. They state that the use of the Internet to gather signatures has rendered the document a complete fraud.”~
“They will never get that stupid crap to pass. It’s insane to even think of something that silly becoming law,” said my dad. “Bunch of freaks, the lot of them. Damn, New People, my ass!”
Sitting on the floor in the hallway, listening to my parents talk about the news, I couldn’t understand everything they were talking about, but I knew it had something to do with my baby sister, Bellatrix.
“Stranger things have happened, when the majority of people wanted it,” said Mom, disagreeing with his every statement as normal.
“They’re not the majority! Not by a long shot! They’re just a bunch of DNA hacking, rich fuckers that think because they’re Hollywood superstars they can dictate to the rest of the world!” Dad spat.
“Honey, please watch your language,” Mom fussed. “I just put Ares to bed, he’s such a light sleeper.”
Very light, given that I was not asleep. Holding my favorite toy by its stuffed arm, I leaned my head against the door frame to listen some more. Looking past them, I saw the man on the TV and I almost laughed. I covered my mouth to keep it in. He looked a lot like a plastic doll. Except dolls don’t scream.
“What if it passes?” Mom asked after a moment.
“It won’t,” Dad insisted.
“But if it does…you saw what it said. All children under the age of two. What will we do? How will we afford it? I mean I want Bellatrix to have the chance to have those surgeries. She’s just an infant, yes, but she doesn’t deserve to be mistreated by mean kids at school. She’s young enough still to not remember surgery being done. Maybe we should go ahead and get her signed up? Beat the rush.”
“It won’t pass.” Dad got to his feet quickly, and turning, saw me sitting on the floor by the door. “Ares, What are you doing up boy? It’s way past your bedtime.”
Before I could answer, Mom hopped up. “You woke him up with all your yelling and profanity, obviously!” Mom took my hand, pulled me to my feet, lead me down the hall and back to bed. She looked at me with a sad expression on her face. With a sigh, she brushed my hair back from my face.
“Will I have to have…surgeries?” I asked, scared. I’ve been to the doctor before, I know how those needles they use hurt.
She shook her head, that sad look in her eyes growing. “No dear, you won’t. You’re too old for them to be effective anymore.” She suddenly made like she wasn’t sad. “You have to be under two and you’re a whole big five years old!”
“So what about Bellatrix?” I asked. Most days I didn’t like my baby sister and wished they would take her back to the baby hospital where they found her, but I suddenly didn’t want them to hurt my little sister. Those mean doctors!
“Oh, don’t cry. She’s going to be fine. All they are going to do is make her beautiful. Make her perfect.” Mom smiled, and wiped at my eyes with the corner of the bedsheets. “Now get to sleep young man; you have school in the morning.”
Why I cried once she left, I don’t know. Maybe it was the real joy I had heard in my mother’s voice at the idea of my sister becoming perfect. Beautiful. Joy that one of her children was going to become one of them. One of the New People that Dad was always saying swear words about.
Maybe I cried because it wasn’t going to be me.
** ** ** ** ** ** **
The high school I attended was more of a piss-smelling trailer park in the parking lot of a burnt out building than a proper school, but it was all that the government school board would spend money on for us “normals” to get an education. I can’t say I minded the way the school smelled or the way the books would fall apart if you touched them. It was the antique desks that pinched my ass whenever I sat down in them that I minded. That and the fact that there was not a single girl at the place that would rate above a three.
Of course they didn’t rate a “normal” even on a scale of one to ten anymore. We started at negative nine, so saying there was a three at this school was actually high praise. With a bit of decent schooling and some luck she might just manage to get a job doing telemarketing.
That was the best that a “normal” three could hope for in this…New World. A job where you won’t be seen.
Me? I was already being groomed as a sewer cleaner. pendik escort Or maybe a toxic or radioactive waste handler. That, one was popular with the general public lately. Since the Mandatory Sterilization Bill had failed to pass anyway.
I heard it was already being presented again though. The New People would ram that bill through just like they had all the others these last thirteen years. Bill after bill made Irreversible Law. That was their word for what they were doing. Irreversible…bills, surgeries, politics, elections. Everything with them was Irreversible.
In my worn gray coverall that was the school uniform here at Hell High, I made my way down the hallway past the other “normals.” All of us walked with the head down posture we were trained to use in grade school. I still remember my fifth grade principal yelling at me.
“Don’t look up, you might make a New Person have to see your face!”
I think they have a bill in the works to make that a crime as well. Wouldn’t surprise me. The list of crimes a “normal’ can commit is getting longer and longer every year, since the election of President Ambrose.
“Get to class children!” called out one of the teachers. Mrs. Graves, her voice a rusty harp string tuned too low. She wasn’t as bad as a few of my teachers, the ones that resented my whole generation as if we, the last “normal” generation of children, had somehow kept them from teaching the New People. As if that act of blasphemy was ever going to happen. A teaching position for those schools had a minimum two million in plastic surgery to correct any possible flaws in appearance that could cause mental harm to one of The Perfect.
The Perfect. The New People. The Beautiful People.
Not lifting my head, I looked over at Mr. Woo when he stepped into the hall. In his case it would have been three million. He was short, balding, and had scars from acne. Oh, the horror, the horror.
As I passed his class room he caught my arm.
“Mr. Achrann,I still need your essay, The Perfection of Society under the New Order. Have it on my desk before the end of the day, or it’s the Time-Out-Room for you tomorrow. Understand?”
“Yes sir. I will have it for you. I’m nearly finished, I just got caught up in a side story about President Ambrose’s childhood.” I winced as his hand dug into the muscle, but it relaxed the moment I mentioned the name of the “Enlightened Prophet” of the New People.
“Ah, well that is quite understandable,” he said, his face plastered with a smile of adoration. “His childhood makes for inspiring reading. In that case have it ready for me in the morning. Be sure though to include a section on his speeches about the years when he was degraded as a high school student. Those are by far the most inspirational words ever spoken.”
“Yes, sir,” I promised even as I was wanting to gag at having to read through those rants about how President Ambrose was bullied as a teen for not having the money to afford the newest generation of smart phone.
When I got to my session room, I stood next to my desk and, when the music began, said the Pledge to Never Bully that was required of all “normal” children at least once per day. By the time it was over I was my normal hoarse-throat self. A thousand word pledge, said without a pause, is dry work.
Roll-call was taken by Mrs. Harrison. Then she handed out the newest pamphlets we were to be tested on before the end of the day. I gave it a glance, then sighed. “How the World was Made Better”
Wishing I could shred this damn thing into confetti, I placed it into the plastic sleeve in my notebook. To protect it for future generations of Perfect People to look back on and study. That’s what they told us at the beginning of the school year anyway. Those kids, in that not-so-distant future, would have to have something about us “normals” to study…given that by then we would all be extinct.
Looking next to me, I smiled when I saw my friend Morgan using an invisible ink marker to write “Fuck you All!” across the face of his pamphlet before he slid it into his notebook. Those future Perfect Children would no doubt not understand what he had meant by that, but maybe some adult would. Maybe that adult would look at those words by the extinct “normal” and realize that we had truly hated them all.
The bell rang, and heads-down, we trudged off to class.
** ** ** ** ** ** **
“I say we burn one of them alive! Hack in and post it viral style, let the whole world see one of those plastic fuckers melting!” Morgan flung his empty beer can at the trash can in the corner. It missed.
Toliver, our nominal leadership figure, shook his head. “Morg, when I said I wanted to do something in protest, I didn’t mean something that would get me sent to the gas chamber!” Toliver popped open his beer. “I was thinking maybe some kind of vandalism. Maybe one of their surgical centers. That’s dangerous enough to be fun and even if we get caught, it won’t be a sniffing fumes punishment.”
“Bullshit! maltepe escort They did that up in Detroit you know what happened there.” Herald, threw up his hands. “If you guys want to pull something like that, I’m out. I’m not going to spend the rest of my life in a re-education camp.”
“You fucking cowardly cunt!” Morgan jumped to his feet.
“What do you think, Ares?” Toliver asked when he got Morg to settle down and Herald to put his knife away.
I let my eyes roam the “clubhouse” as I thought about it. An abandoned underground city cistern, it had been my home-away-from-home through most of my childhood. When I met Toliver and listened to him talk about forming a Resistance, I had offered it to him to use as a headquarters. Part of me occasionally wished I hadn’t done that. It had been some much more, mine, back then. Now it sometimes seemed tainted by the presence of the others.
“He doesn’t want to do anything!” Morgan said when I took a second too long to answer. “He’s worried his precious sister might get her feelings hurt if she found out he was involved in anti-New People protests.”
“Morg, you’re invited to go fuck yourself,” I said quietly. “And if you mention my sister again…I’ll do it for you.”
“Bring your shit on, you punk ass.” Morgan blustered, all puffed up bravado.
I saw that Toliver was watching me to see if I was going to rise to Morgan’s bull-baiting.
He needn’t have bothered. For all his name-calling Herald a coward, Morg would not start a fight with me. Morgan knew for a fact that I would and could kick his ass severely. Where Bellatrix was concerned, I don’t play. She was the only thing in this shit of a life that was truly worth a penny fart.
“Ares?” Toliver asked.
“Ever read about a guy named Theodore Kaczynski?” Toliver shook his head. “Died about thirty years ago. I found a old magazine that mentioned him. When I tried to look him up, every firewall on my computer went redline! I had to do a dash or I would probably be in the same camp Herald was talking about.”
“Why? Who the hell was this guy…zinzky?” asked Morgan, suddenly intent on my every word.
“He was a murderer. Used bombs to kill people he didn’t like. Got away with it for years.” I said with a slow smile. Then hearing a gasp, I looked over at Herald. He was looking green around the gills. “But, I’m not saying another word around this fuckin’ narc. Yeah, you! Run home, your momma’s calling you.”
After Herald left, in a huff, Morg and Toliver gathered in closer.
** ** ** ** *** ** **
~”In one of the most disturbing acts of terrorism to happen in decades, a homemade explosive detonated harmlessly outside of the New Haven Church of the Perfect Man today. Police say they are currently investigation this heinous crime and will have the perpetrators in custody within the day.”~
“Probably some mentally disturbed ‘normal’ reaching out for attention.” said my mother with a disapproving shake of her head. Her words were mumbled behind the porcelain mask she wore even in front of her family. “I hope they throw the full weight of the law at them. The fiends! What if one of the Beautiful People had been there? What if they had been injured by those silly explosives? How tragic an injustice would that have been!”
“Uh, huh. Tragic,” Dad mumbled through his thick lips. The latest round of mandatory surgeries his company now required for him to stay employed had his face puffy and swollen. I felt sorry for him.
Mom didn’t. She looked at the mask he had taken off in order to eat, and shook her head again. After a second she looked away from the man she had been married to for over twenty years, placing her hand up to block the sight of him. The disgust that filled her voice when she spoke filled me with a cold rage. “Please put that back on. I really can’t take anymore.” Then she played the trump card. “What if Bellatrix was to video call?”
Something my sister had not done but three times since she left for school at the age of five. And mom had been the only one allowed to speak to her then. Since his surgeries Dad had been hoping he might be allowed to talk to his daughter if she called.
Dad reluctantly picked back up his mask. I saw the pain-filed wince when the plastic thing touched his skin.
“Dad…don’t.” I reached across and took his aged hand, wishing he wasn’t wearing those damn Perfect-Skin* gloves mom required of him when in her presence. It had been years since I had felt the touch of his bare skin against mine. “Don’t hurt yourself.”
He gave me one of his rare smiles, then shook his head and pressed the mask firmly into place. “I don’t want to upset your mother,” he said in a whisper that just carried to me.
When I looked over at my mother I saw her doing this silly peeking around her hand thing till she was sure my father had his mask in place. She sighed dramatically when he did.
“Much better. Now what was I saying?” She turned to me asking kartal escort while she smiled those forty-thousand-dollar PerfectSmile* teeth at me.
That was it. A lifetime of wanting what she would never give me had left me jaded where my mother was concerned, but to see her blissfully happy that her husband had just hidden his face from her sight was the very last straw. Reaching up, I touched the pressure seals and felt my mask release. The horror that flashed across her face burned me soul deep.
I tossed the piece of plastic into the plate of food in front of her.
“You were saying how you were the most self-centered, mentally brainwashed, morally screwed up excuse for a wife and mother, that has ever lived on this sick planet…and I had just agreed with you.” Getting up from the table, I ignored her screech of outrage, and my father’s calling after me. When I reached my room, I grabbed a few things that I would need to last me the rest of what I hoped was a short life and headed for the front door.
Dad was there to stop me.
“Ares, please go put your mask back on and apologize to your mother for being rude.” His hand went to the center of my chest to block me from going forward.
My hands shot to his face and I popped the seals on his mask and tossed the damn thing into the corner behind me. I looked at the flash of pain that crossed his no longer familiar features. Somewhere behind all that skin smoother, and corrective work, was a face that would look similar to mine. Older, but similar. I slowly shook my head.
“No Dad, I won’t.” My eyes began to take in every feature, old and new, impressing them forever into my memories…because I knew this was probably the last time I would ever see this man. “I love you, but no. Mom…” I had to pause and swallow down the bile. “Mom’s not right in the head.”
Dad looked me in the eyes and then caught my head and pulled my face towards him. I felt his lips kiss my forehead. Then he hugged me quickly. Before he turned me loose, I felt his breath right by my ear. “I know,” he said softly. “I’ve known that she hasn’t been right for years. But in a world gone mad, maybe she’s not the one that’s insane.” He snuffled. “You’re my son, and I will always love you. And to me you were more perfect, than anything in this world. Even your sister.”
He turned me loose, and without a look back, walked over to the mask in the corner and put it back on. Without a word he opened the front door for me.
Shouldering my backpack, I swallowed down the tears and walked past my father. It was a long, cold walk to the cistern clubhouse. The place I would call home from now on.
** ** ** ** ** ** **
With a gout of black smoke and a fan spray of fire, the Molotov cocktail erupted onto the clear riot shields of the Grundels. The next two bottles I hurled from the roof top landed behind their shield wall and covered the fuckers in burning baking soda, fuel oil and diesel fuel.
I dove back, out the way as hundreds of rounds of .50 caliber bullets began to shred the brick on the side of the roof parapet. Running to the other side of the roof, I slowed down only to walk the wooden plank across to the next roof. Once across I pulled the board over with me and hid it quickly. When I was pulling the roof access hatch closed, I smiled, hearing the helicopter buzz the roof I had just been on.
In and out like a ghost.
Down the stairs, out onto a fire-escape and across another roof top, I met up with Toliver. He gave me a tight smile and a nod.
Masks in place, heads down, we calmly went down the stairs and left the building. We moved to avoid the terrible confrontation taking place four streets over. After about a mile we headed to our safe point. Well one of them. Morgan was waiting there.
“Ares, that was fucking sweet as Mary Sebastian’s pussy.” He held up his hand to give me a high-five. I reluctantly obliged. Though I was certainly still a part of the Resistance with him, I didn’t really call Morgan a true friend anymore. That had ended when the bombs went off outside of a school for the Perfects. The asshole had taken our plan to fight back to a far more evil and deadlier place when his bomb went off and fifteen kids were cut to pieces. Children of New Men or not, that was sick.
The Grundles had been out for our blood ever since. Can’t say I blame them, some of the kids were also from their families. The privileged, wannabe few.
“Morgan, go meet up with Donahue over on Syenica street. Make sure he gets the digital signal-jammers planted for tomorrows big party.” Toliver smiled at the hot head. He, like me, was only willing to tolerate the man.
“I’m on it!” Morgan said grinning.
We watched the lunatic leave. At least he had the sense to wear his mask and try to look like he wasn’t a psycho.
“He is going to become a problem soon.” Toliver said when we saw the last of Morgan’s back.
“He isn’t already?” I asked, spitting.
“Well, yes, but at the moment, he is a problem that has its uses. When we can start phase three he will quickly become a liability.” Toliver eased himself into the chair Morgan had been sitting in. “I’m going to have to think about what to do about him. Humph. Too many balls to keep juggling.”
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