Monday, January 7, 2013

Burn the evil from your midst

I wrote this scene for my novel a few months ago. It’s a little rough, but it conveys better than any essay where I think Western society could be headed if it completely slips its moorings. As you read, remember the governments throughout history that cleansed their populations of “reactionaries,” people so deeply rooted in tradition and timeless wisdom that they resisted the “providence” of the totalitarian state.

In the scene, one of the leaders of a space colony is carrying out a public execution. The “criminals,” Vesta and Titus, are guilty of sedition. It begins in the middle of the leader’s inveighing against Christianity.

His voice rose higher. “We broke the momentum of the past. We cast off the chains of an antiquated code. We embraced opportunity! We became what is possible!”

A deafening roar rose up from the crowd.

The leader slowly lifted his hand to point at the cage. “Will we tolerate infiltration by absolutists?”

“No!” the crowd responded.

“Will we let them divide us against each other?”


“What will we do?”

“Kill them!” someone screamed, to the approval of the crowd.

The leader reached inside his shirt and produced a bound sheaf of paper. “We will do to them what their bible says to do to us. Burn the evil from your midst.”

A safety officer towed a pale, haggard civilian bound in handcuffs onto the dais.

The leader affected a look of confusion. “Who’s this? State your name.”

The civilian exchanged a panicked look with the blasphemers. The safety officer pushed her in the back, breaking the connection.

“Spencer,” she said.

“Well, Spencer, do you have something to say?”

The safety officer handed her a slip of paper. She rubbed tears out of her eyes and, holding the bottom edge of the paper against her chest, began reading aloud.

“I, Spencer of Theta cooperative, plead guilty—”

“Louder, Spencer, so they can hear you!” the leader boomed. The crowd laughed and jeered.

She started over, projecting shakily. “I, Spencer of Theta cooperative, plead guilty to the following crimes: I denied the evolution of man. I read and distributed hateful literature. I sowed falsehoods, division, and doubt. I conspired to commit treason against my brothers and sisters.”

“Bigot!” someone screamed. The crowd echoed the charge, which morphed into a disyllabic chant: “Bigot, bigot, bigot...” A rival chant went up in the back, accompanied by pumping fists: “Kill her, kill her, kill her...”

The leader raised his hands to quiet the crowd.

Spencer went on in a dull monotone. “I realize my mistake. I was a slave to ancient prejudices. I lost my head in the fog of supernaturalism. The citizenship oath rings true: ‘We and we alone are the authors of our prosperity. There is no obstacle our corporate will cannot overcome. We are free to fight in the present for a better life. We work together. We live together. We breathe together. We’re in this together.’ I am sorry for what I’ve done.”

Scattered members of the crowd raised their arms in a Roman salute.

“None of us is born right, but we can be made right. There is but one answer to the challenge of our time and place. That answer is here. That answer is us. Be on guard against liars. They prey on your weakness.

“I used to be weak. I felt isolated and different, and I compared myself to others. That’s how I was recruited. I found resolve in the sedition the traitors preached. I found solace in their companionship. They turned me against myself and my people. We kept secrets from the rest of you. We conspired and plotted. Now I have been cleansed of the lies. I know the truth, and I ask for your forgiveness.”

She broke off and glanced at the leader, who nodded encouragingly. “To show my sincerity, I give up to the altar of progress my old friends, traitors, Vesta and Titus. I begged them to accept reality. I tried reasoning with them. Even when faced with death, they wouldn’t listen to me.”

“Why not?” the leader said.

She winced at the scripted question. “They hate you—”

“What? Speak up, Spencer!”

She screamed at him, voice cracking with hysteria: “I said they hate you! They hate you! They’d rather bear witness and die than live! Look! They want you to! They’re waiting! Kill them! Please, kill them!”

The crowd took up her cry of “kill them,” with various epithets mixed in. The safety officer stepped behind the cage and reappeared with a flamethrower. The crowd’s frenzy grew. The spectators in front pressed against the barrier, pushed from behind by the roiling masses.

“Wait,” the leader said, his voice barely audible over the tumult. The safety officer lowered the flamethrower. “She’ll do it.”

Spencer almost dropped the flamethrower from her numb hands. She looked at the leader in shock.

“Do it,” he said. “They’re traitors. Burn them.”

She nodded and stepped next to the cage. She looked at Vesta for the last time, hoping for encouragement. A smile creased the woman’s wrinkled face. Titus clung to the bars and stared blankly at his feet.

“Burn them!” the leader commanded.

She shut her eyes and aimed the flame end at the cage.

1 comment:

  1. Joseph, we'd like to invite you to become one of our Authors in Alexandria.

    In addition to posting on anything you wish, as you desire, you may of course mirror posts you've already written from here or elsewhere to gain a different or additional audience or for any other reason that appeals to you.

    If you think you might be interested, contact me through Alexandria and I'll forward our formal invitations for you to look over and return, if you decide to proceed.

    Come contribute your perspectives and opinions to the ongoing conversations there or, even better, start some new - and different - ones of your own.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    H. M. Stuart