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archive:stories:quarter.c3

" Where the secrets start, the republic stops. "

  1. -Norman Thomas

THE QUARANTINE By Moses Domingo

        Welcome to the good old U.S.A.!! Land of the gangs, land of the

ignored and the deprived; the land of dead soil, nuclear weapons and an illiterate population.It feels just great to be an American—to go outsideand walk upon the dead and trampled; to stretch your arms out and inhale the dry air; to walk through a field and pretend there are trees—doesn't it just feel great ?

        Where are my manners ? Hello, my name is Joe Simmons, and I'm a

drummer. Please—enter " JOE'S WORLD OF 2053 "—where nightmare is a reality !

        It has been over a month since my suicide attempt, and I still shudder

at the thought of my trying to blow my brains out. That same day, I went to the cemetery and visited the graves of my family and my girlfriend. As I stood there,I would occasionally look up at the sky— rather, the atmospheric-shield simulation of a sky—and prayed that it would actually rain. Not just to set the perfect mood, but to give everyone on Earth a big break.

        I waited in silence. It seemed like decades.....
        Nothing....nothing but my foolish imagination. I mean, why would it

ever rain on Earth again ?

        Like the "sky", I did nothing and began the slow journey home.
        That was Secondmonth.
        This is Thirdmonth. There was a riot of tremendous numbers of people

not far from the cubicle where I live. Some of the rioters had techno-machine guns, but they weren't really using them.

        Well, that's what I thought.
        In full view, I witnessed two people drag out the sector's

ration-distributor onto the street. There was an argument between the three of them. The two gun-toting people proceeded to place the ration-distributor against a wall. It appeared as though he pleaded with them. One of them literally shoved his pistol into the ration-distributor's mouth; the other, in his chest.

        I watched in horror as, simultaneously, they pulled their triggers.
        They blew the body into oblivion---a headless man

quivering and swimming in blood.

        " Holy shit," I thought. I didn't know what I was going to say next

because I suddenly keeled over.

         Catching sight of me, the rioters started and,  pointing their guns,

ran towards me but halfway they stopped in horror. One of them said " Look ! " and then ran away, the others right behind him.

        In turn, I got up and spun around--only to find  something standing

in my way. I practically ran into it— whatever it was—and fell down in the process. As I looked up, a dim glare covered my face.

        It was the glare of an Order-droid.
        Seven feet of metal leaned over me and scanned me with an intelligence

so cunning and evil that I broke into a cold sweat. Its' infra-red scanning light panned down me a couple of times. I wanted to run, but the same thoughts must have been relayed to the Order-droid because it suddenly lashed out one of its clamp arms around my ankle.

        " I am self-named S'neta, Order-droid/Riot controller model numbered

8892467122215983117. You have been witnessed and observed as a provoker of this food riot—"

        " What do you m---"
        "---Do not attempt to escape or to avoid me in any way."
        " What the fu--"
        "--Now I must prepare you for interrogation." With these words, it

extended an internal "hand". It looked like a closed fist which was now opening up—its fingers fully extended. Needles popped out of their ends, dripping with some kind of transparent fluid. With a quick swing of its forearm, the Order-droid punctured the area around my chest.

         Instantly, I blacked out into what I thought was  death.
       
        " What is the subject's name ?"
        " DNA Identification-Print is verified. The subject's name is Joseph

Berkin Simmons, age is unknown due to inaccuracy of true birthdate, although external features suggest that the subject is between 20 to 30 years old. Joseph Berkin Simmons is the only remaining member of the Simmons—it is believed that his parents died the first year of The Quarantine; the death of his two brothers and one sister, named respectively Johnathan Jacob Berkin Simmons, aged 10; Isaak Berkin Simmons, aged 21; and Catherine Fletcher Simmons, aged 28, occurred in the following month. Joseph Berkin Simmons' girlfriend, Jeanine Henors Forrester, who was coincidentally the last member of her family, was trampled upon during The Great Food Riot of 2048.

        " Subject's profession is founder/percussionist of New Chicago's

predominant band, Genital Leprosy. Information on accompanying members was found to be unnecessary at this time. End of scanalysis and report."

        " Continue to administer  internal-convulsion  ejections until further

notice. If subject Joseph Berkin Simmons awakens from his subconscious state, have him sedated immediately."

        " Understood."
        Order-droid/Riot controller S'neta left the  Examination/Sedation room

with the clanging of its feet.

        The boat I was in lightly tapped the dock. I woke up and looked

around. It was my summer house by the lake, in Galena, Illinois. Then I realized that I wasn't alone. I looked up and saw a beautiful woman standing in front of me.

        It was Jeanine, smiling brightly as always.
        My head hurt, but I got up and embraced her tightly then kissed her

lightly on the lips. Dumbfounded that the things around me were real, I actually pinched myself just to make sure. Just then my standing up in the boat tipped it over, sending Jeanine and I into the frigid lake.

        The water wasn't as deep as I thought it was.  Jeanine was kneeling

right next to me—laughing like a little kid but dripping wet. At first, I was quiet and suddenly I laughed so hard that I pulled her down with me into the water.

        " You bastard, " she giggled. " You got me all  dirty again just after

I showered. Now I'll have to take ANOTHER one."

        " Oh, damn, ' I said. " I SWEAR I didn't mean  it."
        She then put up her index finger and "shushed" me up. Our lips didn't

let go for a long time. Then I looked into her eyes and spoke to her quietly.

        " You know what?  I've got to tell you a little  secret, " I said.
        " And what is it ? " she insisted.
        " I think that I'm in love, " I replied.
        " And ??? "
         " And I've got to ask you a question that's been  burning my heart

for ages."

        " If I'm thinking about what you're thinking, then my answer is a

`yes'," she said enthusiastically. If looks could kill, then her smile was murderous.

        She raised her right arm and then...
        And then she SLAPPED me !!!!
        " Jeanine, what the hell are you doing ?" My face was twisted up like

play-dough just waiting to be formed. Then, her fingers seemed to stretch right in front of me— her face glowing almost like metal; her smile unnatural.

        And evil.
        Needles protruded from her now-extended fingers, dripping with a

transparent fluid that was somehow familiar. I stared in horror as she penetrated my wrists and WITHDREW from my body a yellowish-liquid. She slapped me again as she removed the needles….

         I woke up in the old reality. The Order-droid, S'neta, the one who

had arrested me near the food riot, was actually tapping my face instead of slapping it.

        " Please wake up, Joseph Berkin Simmons. You  will be briefed shortly.

Meanwhile, you will be shown to your new quarters as soon as you are decontaminated and released from The Quarantine. " S'neta spoke without emotion or pattern.

        " The what ?" 
        I was taken into a room as big as the entire building that my cubicle

was a small part of. One wall had nothing but open windows. S'neta was standing a few feet from me, just waiting patiently. I turned to talk to it.

        " Now tell me the flippin' truth. You guys grab me from a food-riot

I had nothing to do with, knock me out for no reason, give me a scrubbing and a shower, and then take me to a place that looks like a fuckin' hotel suite ! Why ?" I looked S'neta straight into its' eyes.

        " First of all, Joseph Berk----"
        " It's `Joe'. Okay ?"
        " First of all, Joe, you have been sighted and  subsequently chosen

as one of the few who are eligible and proper for The Reward. `The Reward' is our version of being released from The Quarantine."

        " Hold it one goddamned minute.
     " S'neta was really trying my patience. 
     " You mean to tell me that I have been living my entire life in a

holographic-situation ? Kissing an illusion of my mother, making love to a holographic woman—all the people and places that I've ever known are nothing but techno-computer simulations ?"

        " No, " it sighed. " Unfortunately the life that  you've been leading

was for real—the death of your loved ones, the situations of your lifestyle—EVERYTHING. And you've been living in there." Its' right limb was pointing out the windows.

        I ran toward the windows and pressed my face up against them. What I

saw looked exactly like the birthday gift my grandfather gave me when I was 10, the last birth- day present I received from him before he died. It was a little glass dome with a white-colored base, and inside was the city of his boyhood Chicago.

        The object outside the windows looked exactly the  same, except that

there were many new buildings and struc- tures.

        But it was no miniature model. It was the real thing.
        Suddenly my gaze was fixed outside the domed city upon the scenery

that reflected through the windows of this structure.

        A distance from the domed New Chicago was a lush  greenery that I had

never seen before in my entire life. It was definitely no match for the flexi-grass or the other plastic-green substances used as mockeries of grass and trees. There in front of me, outside the barriers of my in-born curiosity, were REAL trees,REAL grass,REAL animals and insects.

        " The Quarantine," said S'neta, disturbing my  peace of mind, " is a

term The Order uses to describe the domes or `atmospheric shields' that ones like yourself have been living in."

        " Bullshit ! I was told that in the 21st century, something called

`The Greenhouse Effect' nearly destroyed everything that once belonged to nature, which is why we lived within atmospheric-shields. " My concentration was still outside, in the "Hanging Gardens of Babylon".

        " False information given by the ruling government of the 20th

century. Their scientists had physically—and quite cleverly, I might add—created the so-called hole over Antartica by the use of silver iodine and some other nitrogen-based components, then passed along this false information to the circulating media of the time. It was decided that Operation Greenhouse, as it was called, was to take place in the years between 1999 and 2011. Skeptical scientists of the time were taken and re-educated, whereas those who had originally cooperated were put under the Witness Protection Program. The Year of THe New Order followed, and the building of the atmospheric-shields and domes began as predicted, following the plans of Operation Greenhouse perfectly. No one complained because all conspirators were dealt with simultaneously. And this is how it's been for the past 53 years. I was created in 2001, so you aren't the first person whose situation I've dealt with. So do not feel that you are alone."

       Dumbfounded, I slumped down to the floor. S'neta tried to help me up

but I refused. I sat there, thinking of what had just been said to me. " Governement lies—a tradition that dates back almost a hundred years." I pondered deeply at this statement. All of us have been living a great lie. I began to think that life itself was a big lie. Was God pulling a prank on us ?

       And then there were flashes of light outside. Thunder. Like a huge

brontasaurus taking a morning stroll. And then it began to rain.

       It began to rain.
       All natural, all thirst-quenching rain.
       S'neta opened one of the windows for me and picked  me up like a child

to let me touch the rain. THe clouds cried, the brontasaurus-lightning growing louder and louder, the water-gates of Heaven opened,the buckets of the wishing well overturned. I felt, absorbed, and jerked to every rain-drop that fell on my body. I screamed with delight as the rain soaked my body through my clothes. I looked at my newly-wrinkled fingertips, an experience I had only felt after washing a sink loaded with dirty dishes. When I turned to see S'neta's face, I could've sworn I'd seen it smile. Maybe it wasn't a real smile, the true physical act, but it definitely was some really subtle emotional expression.

       S'neta put me back down on the floor as gently as a mother would her

own baby.

       " As they say, `Since you've been a good little  boy' here is The

Reward. From now on, you shall live here doing whatever you like. Since the Order has no need for money, neither do you. In fact you do not HAVE to work again, unless you want to. Everything you need will be provided for you.Uh—(this is the first time S'neta stuttered)—think of your place as being the entire apartment complex that you used to live in, except only on a larger scale. In fact, you do not have to live here at all; the Rewarded can choose where they want to live, and it shall be prepared for them." It then stopped, as if to take a deep breath, but possibly waiting for my expected response.Finally, I spoke.

       " But...But why the hell are you doing all this ! What's your game ?"
       S'neta stayed silent for a moment, its "eyes" panning down me a couple

of times.

       " There is a famous quote," it said, " that gives a perfect explanation

for all of this `richness'. It says, `Never question a miracle, just let it happen and be happy.' My memory bank is not adequately informed about the

    originator of this quote. `Making all the wrongs right'. It was fortunate

of us to have such compassionate human beings as leaders of the Order—many of them felt that mankind was too destructive and violent and that its love for killing uselessly was becoming too apparent in the known universe. They especially wanted to isolate the more populous, crime-plagued cities of the world, New Chicago being one of them, with others such as New New York, Altered Alberta, New Detroit, Greater Los Angeles, S'an Francisco, and all the other major metropolitan cities in the States. Another reason I can offer you is that the majority of the Order were born as environmental-extremists, concerned about pollution, starvation and all the little goodies that go along with a now non-existent `human rights list'. It is even said among the older generations, that mankind is thirsty for war and that it is a last-resort for population control—"

        " Speaking of war, what the hell ever happened to the one we were in

? Is it The Oil War we're fighting or is it some other shitty vendetta—forgive me, I `lost track'."

        Here, S'neta laughed---a loud, mechanical laugh.
        " There never was a war," it said. " After The Oil War of 1991, all

the other wars were…how do you say…`bullshit', but for the good, nonetheless. As some of your past ancestors would say,`Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out.'"

        " But what about the bodies....the bodies--I saw them on the HDTV !

All the countless—-"

        S'neta "sneered" at me. " You SHOULD know the  answer to THAT by NOW."
        " Sigh! The magic of a techo-matte. So what the hell happens to me now

? What happens to my friends and property back in—-back in there ?? "

        " The Order will most likely clear out your cubicle as if you were

killed or taken for re-education. And your friends will have to learn to live without your presence—"

        " Wait one fuckin' minute, metalmouth !! " Even though I was to lead

the life of Reilly, I still didn't forget about my friends. They were there for me ever since my girl was trampled upon during The Great Food Riot. And I will NEVER forget them because of that."

        S'neta looked at me and paused. " Yes, I know." It started out for the

door, but stopped suddenly. " But I am truly sorry–as much as I may have the ability to occasionally resent my job, I still have to do it."

        I paused for a minute, then spoke. " Yeah,yeah. Yeah---I understand.

And I'm sorry, too."

        S'neta looked at me, seemingly confused at my response. " Joe, we are

each built for some sort of purpose in life. And that goes for everyone…and everything."

        I didn't look at S'neta as it walked silently and casually out of the

"room".

        After looking around for a few minutes, I finally found the

clothes-dryer and shoved my wet garments into it. I then walked into another room and was confronted by my familiar drum set, nicely cleaned and perfectly arranged, with all my other musical necessities. I turned on the elaborate array of synthesizers and synth-drums and chose my drumming sticks from a very familiar-looking bag. I put in one of my favorite techno-tapes and waited for the music to start.

        I looked outside and smiled for a long time.
        " Bitchin'" I said.
        And then I began to play----very loudly.



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