The future is here. In the last week I’ve seen an article about how newborns in England will have a microchip implanted in them, and spying devices the size of a mosquito. “Are You Safe” delves into the world of tryanny in the name of personal protection, and was written about 20 years ago.
Are You Safe?
George breathed a sigh of relief. He felt the sweat beading up on his forehead. He picked up the shot glass of whiskey from the table, and drank it down. There was a red stream of blood twisting around his arm like the snakes of a caduceus, from the incision he had just made a with a pocket knife. He let the whiskey settle in his stomach, he felt the flush pass, and waited for the numbing to begin. He picked up the knife again, gulped once, but he felt the resolve in his mind, he wanted his freedom. He pushed the knife back into the incision, he could feel the knife pushing through his muscle, slowly, he reminded himself, he didn’t want to cut anything or cause any permanent damage. Finally, he heard the ‘clink’ of metal on metal. He nudged the blade under the positioner lodged in his arm and slowly began to push it up through the striations of his muscle. Finally, he felt it pop out, and lodge between the muscle and the skin. He took the knife out of the wound and pushed his index finger and thumb into the cut until he felt the smooth metal that encased the microchip, he pulled it out of his body and threw the blood covered pellet onto the table, it slid across the table, clinking against the whiskey bottle, ricochetting off his copy of Thoreau. He knew they would burn it when they found him, but he had made copies and passed it on to others with the promise they would do the same. The sweat rolled down his brow, he poured himself another shot and drank it fast, he was starting to go into shock. He didn’t think he had damaged his arm, that’s how others have been caught they mangled their arms, badly cutting through nerves or muscle, and their arm shrivels up. Or they made the incisions so crudely and recklessly the thick scars betrayed them. But at least they were free, and not beholden to the corps.
Those who took out the positioner were declared legally insane by the courts and remanded to custody. The positioner’s had started out innocently enough with the best of intentions. One was placed in the arm of every child born as a means of tracking and identification in case the child was lost or kidnapped. As time went along, it was reasoned to keep the positioner in the body to ensure the child’s safety through adolescence it was to be taken out on a child’s eighteenth birthday. Then the corps, the corporations, argued, the positioner should be left in place so when a person entered the workforce it could be used to cut down on absenteeism, extended illnesses, or if you weren’t where you were supposed to be, the Government legislated it, and the corps became the government. If the positioner stops functioning or doesn’t respond, a representative is sent to find you, ostensibly to see if you were safe. If they find you involved in something they deem antisocial, or you’ve dug out the positioner, they take you into custody, declare you insane in court, and you’re put into protective custody to be kept ‘safe’ for as long as they want. He put his boot heel over the pellet on the floor and smashed it, there was an insect crunch. George was now legally insane by definition of statute.
George drank down another shot to drown out his thoughts. He didn’t want to think about what happened next. There were a lot of rumors, no one knew for sure what happened in protective custody. There were a lot of horror stories, but nothing so horrible as what life had become. It was all safety and no surprise, life was tame, secure, nothing unexpected was allowed to occur, no one was unique, they trundled off to work at the same time, in the same uniform, at the same time everyday, drank the same expensive mocha, got to work at their appointed time, their cubicle their own, entering the same information into computers and sent on to the next step in the process. No one ever knowing what the final product was. The corps tested you, demanded body fluids, school records, personal information, used your services, discouraged talent and creativity, everyone was a cog, we became the machine, ultimately dispensable. No one was supposed to be outside during work hours without good reason, most people found comfort in the antiseptic routine, knowing what would happen, and where they would be at any given time. You were expected to tend the little bit of property surrounding your house, but the corps owned the property, as it was valuable and deemed to important to be left in the hands of individuals. The corps decided what property would be used for what function, an area used for homes could instantly be condemned, the people relocated and its new function implemented.
Homes were built in cookie cutter conformity, food was the same, high fat, high taste, low nutrition. The Arts had become approved recreations with wholesome messages, and was nothing more than wish fulfillment or mindless action. Church and alcohol consumption were encouraged, still the allowable opiates of the masses. Human life resembled the hive, he was tired of being safe. He wanted to live the life of an outlaw, he wanted to go where he wanted, when he wanted. He wanted to meet different people, he wanted to be different. He wanted to live.
George filled the shot glass again. He wiped the sweat from his brow, his skin was clammy. He pushed the chair back, it scrapped against the floor as he stood up, and the blood drained from his head, he swooned grabbing the table to steady himself. George staggered to the mirror on the wall. His face was pale, and the sweat was still beading on his forehead. He was a little scared about what would happen now, he was starting to feel woozy again, and the thought flashed through his mind that maybe he had hurt himself worse than he thought. But he had declared his independence, now they may confiscate his body, but he had struck out for his freedom. They will never again control his thoughts, his actions. His mind is free, free to feel, free to think, dangerous. The scar will forever mark him as a radical. There was a knock at the door.
“Mr. Grainger, are you safe sir?” George smiled, that hadn’t taken long at all.
‘Like a slave’s spirit that is unbroken.’ George thought, as he fainted.
Are You Safe? is included in my book of short stories Stranger Souls.