In Part 2, JAC03225 is waiting for the shuttle bus, deep in thought about what his future holds. He has been ruminating about his father's odd behavior, and how that might affect the completing of his doctoral dissertation and his academic future, when his thoughts are interrupted:
The hand was no longer in sight, vanished along with the body to which it was exquisitely joined. Then a voice, bass-like, boomed out from behind. "I've come to arrest you for being such a bad dresser, Mr. JAC0," said the voice with a strong hand gripping his left shoulder.
"Who, me?" JAC03225 said, first taken aback, alarmed, then feeling calmer when he realized who it was that griped his shoulder with such effective force. Only one person ever addressed him as Mister JAC0 and that was his good friend, MEL03226, who was born the same day and the same place as JAC03225. They shared many other things in common.
In physical features, they differed. MEL03226 was a large man, six-foot-four and two hundred and fifty pounds. He had strong muscular arms, an intelligent forehead, and a strong grip, which one would expect for a State Security Officer.
"How is it going JAC0?” said his good friend, as he pulled his hand away. "Did you like that little joke?
"Yeah, it's just like you to pull a stunt like that on a guy."
Are you OK—you look a little green around the gills? Anyways, have you heard the news? It’s all over the Inter-networks.”
“No, I haven’t been on yet.”
“What about BS. You have been reading your daily BS report, haven’t you?”
“Umm, no, I have been thinking.”
“I dunno,” said JAC03225. “About things my father told me, and stuff.”
Yes, these thoughts of late were interfering with his general well being. In truth, JAC03225 had not done his civic duty and not logged on to BS for the last few days. Soon, the authorities would catch up with him and give him a warning. Shirking one's patriotic duty was not taken lightly. A warning was a first step. Other measures would follow. These were written into the bylaws and regulations of the State, in accordance with its policy of Order and Good Government.
The State as a rule was somewhat tolerant about many things, but not about its citizens who do not take seriously the rules and obligations of citizenship. The heroic fighters of all the recent wars on record have fought for such freedoms. To shirk responsibility was to spit on the graves of those heroic figures, men and women, who fought for such freedoms. That was the general sentiment, at least that expressed outwardly.
The sentiments pulled at the heart strings, and at the moral centre of human emotion and experience. These patriotic soldiers, fighting for world peace and freedom, vanquishing enemies of the state, have suffered greatly. Many have given the ultimate sacrifice for the State, paying for the freedoms that others now enjoy with their blood. It would be unreasonable and unpatriotic, and indeed in poor taste, to not recognize the value of fighting for freedom.
MEL03226 gently reached across and gently touched JAC03225 on his shoulder, rubbing against the brown suede jacket, saying, “Wake up, my friend. What is there to think about when we have such a beautiful day? You want to get deep and existential, OK. The wars are over. There are enough resources for everybody. Science has found all the answers. Religion agrees with Science. Science agrees with religion. And Science and Religion now co-exist in harmony, in accordance with Article 2 of the New State Constitution on Harmony. How’s that for deepness? He said with a wide smirk on his face.
Both were bosom buddies since Grade 1, inseparable since MEL03226 had generously allowed JAC03225 to play with his media device. They have been inseparable since then, playing for the same sports teams, attending the same schools and watching the same movies. They diverged only in their career paths: MEL03226 opting to work directly for the State in its Legal and Security Sector, and JAC03225 for the rarefied reaches of academia.
“That’s great, I guess,” JAC03225 said distractedly. The sun lit a monarch butterfly’s wing as it gracefully flew away from one of the thousands of white and yellow roses that lined the wide boulevard of his city, Elysium. The butterfly fluttered left and then right before making a straight line to another row of yellow crocuses that were growing wildly amidst the roses, sure where it had to go while following the path of the city's most famous and prosperous avenue, Rose Bowl Boulevard, adjacent to Park Avenue.
Thoughts of butterflies; thoughts of poetry, from a distant past, echoed in his mind:
Elysium was the seat of power, the capital of the State, where all the government offices were located. It was also home to all the largest libraries, prominent residences and prestigious universities and think-tanks.
I've watched you now a full half-hour;
Self-poised upon that yellow flower
And, little Butterfly! Indeed
I know not if you sleep or feed.
How motionless! - not frozen seas
More motionless! and then
What joy awaits you, when the breeze
Hath found you out among the trees,
And calls you forth again!
It was considered no small honor to reside in Elysium. It also required permission from the authorities. The official population was two million, and it was maintained at that precise level, since Science had determined that was the most suitable size for a well-functioning capital city.
The wide boulevard was beautiful this time of year, and every time of year. The delicate petals of the roses were beautiful and luminescent in the light of day. He remembered reading in his History of Science class in high school that Science had made these flowers more perfect for human consumption by genetically modifying the Rosa plant, removing the thorns for the protection of its inhabitants.
Now in resplendent full bloom were the handiwork of man’s perfecting hand, the Rosa lutea in all its purity and Rosa alba in its butterfly hue. The butterflies made it perfect as perfection ought to be. Even the people travelling about in their vehicles often slowed down to marvel at the roses. At times, people would elect to walk, as JAC03225 was doing, to take in the intoxicating fragrance.
Although it was a perfect 24 Celsius, he was sweating, the beads of droplets falling from his forehead, and from his armpits, staining his shirt. It was clear that JAC03225 had an uneasy sense this morning that something was not right with the state of affairs. He had an uneasy sense that something was not right, a foreboding sentiment that weighed heavy on his soul. It was an odd sensation, particularly since such emotions were in contradiction to the way every else was feeling, or at least that is what he had been reading on BS, that is, when he last read BS.
“I forgot all about the great news that’s all over BS,” MEL03226 said, with excitement, in contrast to his usual calm manner as a State Security Officer. “The Store has released the latest network appliance, the GG99. It’s really cool. My friends from work have been saving my place in line when I had to get a coffee."
His media appliance chimed a message, and MEL03226 deftly pulled it out from the inside vest pocket of his black leather jacket, a vintage brand of exceptional quality. After a quick look, he put it back in. With a quickened pace he started walking away from his friend. "I gotta go back, it’s almost opening hours, and I would be really disappointed if I wasn't among the first to get the newest and latest model. See ya.”
MEL03226 walked a few feet, and quickly turned around, slightly raising his voice for clarity and effect: "“And don’t forget your civic duty,”JAC0. You better get on BS, or I’ll have to arrest you for non-compliance,” he said with a wink and easy smile and a nod of his large head.
JAC03225 waved his hand good-bye and smiled weakly The shuttle arrived and JAC03225 stepped into it. The doors closed behind him as the bus quietly moved down the street, propelled by its hydrogen-powered engines. Small water droplets formed around its chrome exhaust, making a hissing sound as a few oval-shaped spheres hit the gleaming-white concrete pavement.
To be continued next week (Part 4):
Copyright (c) Perry J. Greenbaum, 2010. All rights reserved.
Author's Note: This is a work of fiction. While the author might have been inspired by some true-life events, names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or locales is entirely coincidental.