Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Declaration Day

“Charlie! Help me!”

The sun hung low in the valley and threatened a darkness upon the shabby, povern-struck town in the distance. Charlie stood on the edge of a cliff, the drop was no less than a 100 miles long. At least, he assumed so with careful calculation. His brother, George, dangled from the mountainside. Charlie found his brother hiking, with the true intent of running away, but slipped and fell. So there George was, dangled off the cliffside.

“God damn it! Charlie, help me the fuck up before I fucking die!”

Charlie did nothing. He only stood there and smiled sweetly at his brother. 

Little by little, the dirt gave away under George’s fingertips. He frantically writhed and clawed for more traction, but it only caused the caked clay to crumble faster. George’s bright blue eyes widened and remained fixed on Charlie’s blank stare.

“Fuck Charlie! This isn’t you! Wake up god damn it, wake up! This isn’t you! Please wake up! Remember who you are damnit, just as I did!”

His left hand slipped and the earth started to sink down more, causing George to yelp as he dropped lower. 

“Oh God! Oh Fuck! Please Charlie! Snap out of it! Fuck! Charlie you need to feel, feel something, anything, and be -”

Alas, George’s right hand lost its grip and he plummeted down below. Charlie’s cold, hollow eyes remained fixed on his body, which grew smaller and smaller until it was completely out of sight. 

Charlie made his way down the mountain and scavenged the ravine until a splattered, bloodied mess (that was once his brother) was discovered. Charlie leaned down and observed his head. His skull had blasted open upon impact from a sharp rock still stuck through the remains of his skull and sunken brain matter. It was done. 

Roughly, Charlie took one of George’s legs and dragged what was still intact through the woods and back to their town. Not a single person was out and about. This was due to the government-mandated curfew, and it seemed everyone was following the rules. Well, not everyone. Charlie looks behind him at George’s shell. He didn’t follow the rules. 

Charlie stopped at a gate, one that's always left ajar. He slung the corpse over his shoulder, disposed of it onto a pile of decayed carcasses and exited. He looked back once again at the gate and stared at the rusted sign which read “DISSIDENTS”. Charlie looked forward again and made his way through town.

At last, he found the run-down home of his childhood. Charlie was only 12, but in many ways, one could say he was advanced. As he made his way inside he saw his father and mother watching the television, unaware of his presence. There was nothing unusual about their lack of attentiveness. Those who pay attention tend to become a new decoration in the dissidents graveyard.

“As you all know.  Tomorrow we celebrate the 84th Anniversary of Emacipal’s Revolution and Birth. Tonight we have with us Special General Panical, who we all know as our beloved hero and leader of the Emacipal Military. In honor of Declaration Day we will be taking a special look into the history of our great nation. So, General Panical, it is good to see you. Why don’t you start off by telling our audience about how we were founded.”

Panical coughs, his voice gruff and irritating, but a voice Charlie was well accustomed to. Panical did many education films that were required in the nation’s schooling curriculum.

“ Well, as we all know, Emacipal was once known as the United States of America. A country that failed on the basis of freedom. Could you imagine a world in which everyone had different opinions and fought over how to run a country?”

“Oh I couldn’t imagine it, General. It’d be way too chaotic, I think.”

“You’re damn right it was. The entire country was in crisis. There was great poverty, no access to health care, no real regulations on commerce. Hell, if you needed a tank of gasoline, you never had a set price. It was always changing. As prices went up and the value of money went down, inflation was at an all time high. Worst of all was the crime. I can’t tell you how much pain and suffering was caused. And what did the government do about it? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Hell, these dissidents were treated better than those who suffered in poverty by keeping them all in correctional facilities. All this madness caused a massive outbreak of pure anarchy. It was indeed a dark time for us all, but the sun has risen. This darkness is where the basis of our great nation was founded. We fought to victory, for freedom from a government who didn’t care about its citizens. And now, Emacipal is a thriving country without crime and suffering.”

“Isn’t that just fantastic! We certainly had dark times, but with careful regulation, we’ve all come a long way from anarchy, haven’t we?”

“Oh absolutely!”

Charlie’s mother shuttered. 

“I don’t know if I could ever imagine a world like that, could you, babe?”

“Well, it was just the way things were then, Maple.” His father shrugged. “Back then, people saw it as normal, just everyday life.”

Charlie narrowed his eyes, studying his fathers features. His face was plastered with lines, lines from smiling as a soldier. He learned in school about the role of authority figures, they were required to smile at all times. They did it to ensure that they are seen as the “good ones”, and no one was… whatever the opposite of trusting was. Regardless, no one wanted to see a soldier who was frowning. It was a good thing to smile.

But now, off the clock, his father would only frown. He had certainly seen better days before he was assigned his position by the government, as everyone is. Charlie was always proud of his father for getting such an honorable role, but now, he was nothing more than the shell of a man he was before. Something about his father was different, some unrecognizable emotion hid behind his eyes when he spoke about his job. Charlie was beginning to dislike it.

Charlie was different too, but far better. Ever since he and his brother were selected to participate in the new curriculum, things were different. However, Charlie knew better than to question who he is now, unlike his late brother. 

What was that look on his face as he plummeted to the ground?

The thought faded away. Instead of paying any attention to it, Charlie returned his focus to the television and his plastered grin remained.

“That is true, this new program is still in testing in our schools, but we are seeing promising results. We are really going above and beyond with technology and enhancing the minds of our youth, the people of our future.”

“And we hear that it helps prevent human error?”

“Absolutely. We can’t let these minor things go. If we do, the crazies will keep pushing the limit. As my great-grandfather would say, ‘give an inch and they’ll take a mile’”.

“Alright, thank you so much for joining us tonight. This is the Baron James Show on Emancipal Daily and we will be right back after a brief message from our government.”

The screen flickers to a scene with children, smiling and laughing with soldiers in a bright, sunny park.

Charlie’s father grumbled. “They show these ads all the time.”

“Don’t talk like that.” His mother said. “You know it’s a good message about teaching our children to respect our soldiers. Don’t you want children to respect you?”

“They don’t have much of a choice.” He replied. “They may smile but their eyes are what says it all. Children don’t know how to say what they feel when they look at us but I know that they feel-”

“Quiet!” She snapped. “We don’t talk like that.”

“Maple, you don’t see what I see every day! You know how many dissidents we have to” He paused, and his voice quieted. 

“To take care of,” he finished.

“Well, that’s good work, but I don’t see how that relates to our youth.”

He pointed to the screen “That isn’t what really happens, Maple. We don’t go around schools and laugh with children.”

“This isn’t about you seeing children! This is about children seeing you!” Maple cried. “Why, you don't want the children to see you and… well… I don’t know, but you want them to be happy in your presence, don't you? You want them to trust you.”

“Well I don’t want them to see me!” He shouted back. “And if they really understood, they wouldn’t want to see me either!”

“Shhhh” She says. “You are just tired and you had a bad day. You don’t know what you’re saying. Why don’t you go to bed right after supper, alright?”

He huffed, but said nothing.

Maple looked at the time. “Speaking of, it’s 7, dinner should arrive any second now.”

They waited. Nothing happened. 

“Well, this isn’t good. They’re late?” She said.

“Guess so,” His father replied.

Charlie walked to the window and watched the wind gently sway through the browned grass. Moments later, the delivery truck came racing down the street and halted with a squeal. Two patrol cars stopped behind it. The soldiers raced out of their vehicles, smashed in the delivery truck’s door until it fell off, and dragged its driver out onto the dirt road. Unintelligible shouting mixed with the sounds of pummeling was faintly heard through the window. The delivery man pulled out what Charlie recognized as a gun from his uniform and shot one of the soldiers. The soldier stumbled back but continued to beat the man with their batons. 

Charlie learned about the weapons of Old America and how Emancipal’s law strictly bans them completely, for the safety of all. Still, people kept finding ways to get them. It was people like them that made the government implement new programs in the school. Charlie and his brother were selected to participate in them. 

He remembered being transported to a research facility on a field trip. He remembered his brother, unconscious, on the lab table, a needle stuck to the side of his head behind his right ear. Charlie remembered feeling something…something strange as he watched his brother. It was a feeling most unpleasant, where he wanted nothing but to escape. The memory quickly faded to another, where Charlie was on that same table and the needle was-

The memory vanished as he felt a sharp pain behind his right ear. During the flashback Charlie's smile dropped ever so slightly, but afterwards it was quickly restored and once again the memory was forgotten. His attention returned to the scene outside.

Eventually, the man stopped screaming, and his body was dragged away. One of the soldiers remained to deliver the rations to everyone’s doorstep. His smile was almost as big as Charlie’s.

He turned back to face his parents, who seemed to have been oblivious to the sounds outside. The doorbell rings and Maple stands suddenly. 

“Oh that must be it!”

She scurried to the door and opened it.

“Oh” She says, smiling. “What happened to our delivery man?”

Charlie watched the soldier hand her their rations.

“He has been relocated. You will have a new delivery man tomorrow.” He says through his smile. 

“Well, thank you so much”

The Soldier nodded and turned away. Maple closed the door and said “Dinner is served!”

She passed his father’s meal to him, who opened it and grumbled, set hers down on her seat and handed Charlie his. She then looked around, and brought her gaze to Charlie. “Where is your brother?”

Charlie smiled and pointed to George’s bedroom. 

“George! Come on out! It’s time to eat!” After a few moments of silence, she adds “Hmm, he must not be feeling well tonight. Oh well.” There was no value in paying any attention to it.

Maple sat down and began her meal.

Later on, Charlie’s father groaned as he stood. 

“Well, I will be heading to bed now. Goodnight.” He wandered off down the hall. 

Maple yawned. “I’ll be right behind you.”

Before long, Charlie was left alone. He wandered into the kitchen and searched through the utensils in the drawers. He picked up a bread knife, examined it, and set it back down. He found a large chef’s knife and nodded slowly, his smile widened.

He stood in front of his parents bedroom and waited until his father’s snoring blared throughout the home. Slowly, he opened the door and crept to his fathers side. He watched his father for a moment, his chest rising and falling slowly. Without hesitation, he raises the knife and lets it through his fathers heart. He opened his eyes for only a moment. His eyes widened as he choked on his own blood, which came bubbling through his lips. His final expression was one Charlie recognized but couldn't place. It was the same look George had moments before his death. The very emotion that no one in Emancipal was taught to recognize or feel.

Once his father was fully gone, he took the knife out and placed it on the nightstand beside the bed. Maple had stirred slightly, but settled back down.

He pulled his father out from under the covers and took his body downtown to forever rest beside that of George’s. 

“Hey! What are you doing out here?” A vice sounded behind him.

Charlie turned slowly, his smile reflecting in the moonlight. There before him was the soldier who delivered their meals earlier that day.

“Come here,” he said, grinning.

Charlie obeyed. The soldier pulled out a device from his belt and put it just above Charlie’s right ear. Seconds later, the device beeps and he stares at the results on the screen.

“Damn.” He said. “I figured you were one of those beta testers but you already caught two dissidents today? That chip they put in you really works.”

Charlie smiled more than he ever did before.

“Alright kid, carry on.” Charlie nods and walks off. He sat on his front porch and considered what would be done to his mother should she begin to question the whereabouts of her husband. He shook his head and cleared his mind, it was no concern of his right at that moment. He stared into the night sky until the sun began to peak over the cliffs in the distance. 

The same sun that rose 84 years ago on Declaration Day.

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