Where does it end? Read on for the final installment of “The Seventh Day” and when the opportunity comes, don’t forget to vote!
The Seventh Day
by S. D. Matley © 2016
Marge didn’t speak Thursday morning, and Joe had never been one for starting conversations, especially one-sided ones. The soysynth coffee cooled in their mugs, untasted. On the eighth chime, Laurel materialized.
“Citizens, I know you must be disheartened by losing your work. The Minister of Psychology made it clear to myself and the Cabinet that, even though our new system is better for the country, many of you value yourselves primarily by what you do. Now, I’d welcome a vacation, myself.” Pantomime of golf swing, invisible laughter. “But all clowning aside, after careful consideration we’ll be introducing an anti-depressant into the soysynth supply. The experts agree this will help you, all of you, in this transition.”
Marge picked up both mugs and poured the contents down the sink. She didn’t return to the breakfast nook, just stood there looking down the drain.
“Now the mass-introduction of anti-depressants will require monitoring, which leads me to Phase Five of New Genesis. At one second past midnight tonight, Eastern Standard Time, our clean and efficient super airtrams will transport each and every one of you to Central Housing. Don’t pack a thing, everything will be provided for your comfort . . .”
“For the love of God,” Joe said, slapping his hands on the tabletop and rising, pressing his face toward the holo as if it would do any good. “You can’t make us leave our home! I broke my back paying for this place . . .” Marge’s arms slipped around him and held tight.
“What’s going to happen to us, Joe? They’re treating us like cattle!”
Joe felt cold in the pit of his stomach. He and Marge had been amazed when the majority of Americans voted to abolish the judicial branch in 2032, then appalled when the same thing happened to the legislative branch in the last election cycle. Fifty-one percent of Americans had grown so gullible they’d pulled the trigger on themselves, but who could have imagined . . .
That evening they sat on their porch, rocking in the cool April air. Joe tried to memorize the sway of his old chair, the one that went back as far as Great-Grandpa Miller. Marge distractedly knit on a sweater she’d started for Alice and Joe Junior’s little boy. The porch light was good enough so Joe could see she’d dropped a stitch. Or two. Finally she gave up, tossed the project into the basket alongside her and said, “I still don’t know how we’re going to find them. Our own kids, Joe!”
“These Theocrats are organized,” Joe said, reaching over to pat her hand. “I’ll bet they have some sort of directory.”
They continued to rock, not speaking, until midnight began to strike.
An airtram appeared at the intersection of Acorn Street and Prosperity Boulevard. It stopped first for Hal and Angie Bascomb, who advanced down the rose-bordered walkway hand in hand, ignoring the bot escort that waited for them at the sidewalk and followed them close behind. Then the Castles with their youngsters, and the Royces, and house by house until the airtram was one stop away from Joe and Marge Miller.
Phyllis next door screamed and kicked when the bots loaded her into the airtram, her grandmother’s prize teapot clutched to her chest until a mechanical hand gently pried it away and set it on the grass. “You’re making a mistake!” She struggled against the metal arm wrapped around her waist. “I’m precinct committee person for the Theocratic Party!”
“All the same. You go.” A faint hydraulic sound emanated from the robot. Phyllis went limp. The machine lifted her aboard the airtram.
A twin of Phyllis’ escort whirred up Marge and Joe’s walkway. “Miller, Joseph R. and Marjorie J., 821 Acorn Street,” droned the bot. It beckoned them toward the airtram and wheeled back far enough to let them pass. Joe ran his hands along the arms of the rocker, storing one last memory. He stood and took Marge’s hands, steadying her as she got to her feet. A tear ran down her cheek.
“I don’t want to leave, Joe. I don’t want to leave our home.”
He squeezed her hands and tried to smile. “It’ll be okay. We’ll keep it all, every bit of it, in here,” he said, pressing one of her hands to his heart.
Together they walked to the airtram. They climbed two metal stairs, walked past the guard bot posted near the door and claimed the first pair of empty seats halfway down the aisle. Automatic safety belts slithered across their torsos. Joe glanced across the aisle at Phyllis, who was propped up against a window, seemingly unconscious. The driverless tram continued collecting passengers to the end of Acorn Street, turned around in a vacant lot where Joe Junior and the other neighborhood kids used to play softball, floated back to Prosperity Avenue and swept on to the Interstate. The vehicle sped at, Joe figured, maybe twice the posted two hundred miles per hour limit, but what did that matter without the traffic of aerocars? No way to measure time since his watch had been absorbed by the nanobots on Tuesday, but he looked out the window and tracked the moon as it descended. Two-and-a-half, maybe three hours had passed when the tram pulled off the Interstate. It parked amongst more airtrams than Joe could count in front of a vast rectangular building with no doors or windows. The structure was maybe twelve stories high but the lack of exterior features made it hard to figure. Certainly it was bigger than any hospital or factory or prison Joe had ever seen. Groups upon groups of people were being shepherded by security bots toward the edifice.
“Looks like a goddamn slaughterhouse!” Hal Bascomb said from a few seats forward.
“All Citizens please to stay calm,” the nearest of the half dozen security bots said. It whirred down the aisle toward Hal and Angie, syringe rising from the end of its metal arm. “Bascomb, Harold Q., not to blaspheme. Please to stay calm.”
“Goddamn torturer!” Hal said, struggling with the arm while Angie shrieked. The injection was effective immediately. Hal sagged like deadweight toward Angie. Her shoulders, neck, the back of her head shifted as close to the window as possible, where she shook and sobbed before she, too, was injected.
Three pairs of bots, each pair with a floating stretcher, emerged from the seamless building from an opening that simply appeared – – no doors, just blank space where a wall had been. The bots boarded the tram, placed Phyllis and the Bascombs on the stretchers and returned from whence they came, the wall reappearing to fill the blank space behind them.
The remaining passengers were herded by the security bots to a second opening, about the size of a single garage door, also created by a dematerializing wall. Parents carried small children, older children huddled close to their families, couples held hands or wrapped their arms around each other in a grim procession from outer world to inner world. Joe turned to watch the portal turn solid, a wall once more. He gazed up at the ceiling, no more than eight feet high. A narrow corridor ran both left and right, with numbered doors set in the walls that bound it.
“Welcome to New Acorn Street,” a disembodied voice said over a public announcement system. “Please advance to the door bearing your former street number.” The message repeated, neutral and calm, to the muttering, uncertain crowd.
The knot of people began to dissipate, some to the left, some to the right. “This way to the eight hundred block,” Marge said. She tugged Joe’s hand, pulling him left. He heard doors slide open behind him, feet shuffling out of the corridor, doors sealing with a hiss.
“Here,” said Marge, stopping in front of door 821. She looked at Joe with an expression he hadn’t seen in years, since the day her father had announced he was terminally ill; stunned, questioning, but understanding there was no other choice.
Door 821 slid open, revealing a room about ten feet wide and twice as deep. An opaque wall divided a small bathroom, complete with shower, from the rest of the unit. The furniture was dull beige in color, sparse and built-in; a double bed and small dresser at the far end and a table, two padded chairs and the inevitable soysynth fabricator in the middle. The chairs faced a large wall-mounted broadcast screen.
Marge entered first. Joe followed, gritting his teeth as the door hissed shut behind him. Would they be free to come and go? Was there any place to go? Marge advanced to the dresser and pulled open the first of two drawers. “Jumpsuits – – mine,” she said over her shoulder, followed by, “jumpsuits, yours,” when she peeked in the second drawer. She collapsed onto the bed. “I’m beat, Joe. What time do you suppose it is?”
“Gotta be four in the morning, at least.” A wave of exhaustion smacked him. “Nothing to do, nothing we can do,” he said, as he lay alongside her. The bed was smaller than he was used to but not bad, not too soft, not too hard . . .
Joe, exhausted and mesmerized by the second-by-second update of the digital clock at the bottom right-hand corner of the video broadcast screen, missed a few of President Laurel’s opening platitudes at 8 AM.
“ . . . and hope that you are enjoying your new living quarters. We at Theocratic Republic HQ put in a lot of overtime designing the best housing that economics would allow to see you through the next five years.”
“Five years?” Joe looked away from President Laurel’s oversized face and stared at Marge who stared back at him, her jaw slack.
“Now I will announce the final phase, Phase Six of the New Genesis economic plan. Effective one second past midnight Eastern Standard Time, April twentieth, the Year of Our Lord twenty forty-one, the Theocratic Republic of the United States of America will become the only peopled nation on Earth.”
Joe dropped his mug of soysynth and leaned forward. “What in the – -”
“Citizens, just as you requested in the 2040 survey there will be no more war!” Invisible applause while the image of Laurel beamed, then masked itself in humility. “We will deliver on this mandate with full economic accountability, just as you insisted we should. The most efficient and economical way we, your leaders in the Theocratic Republic, can guarantee no more war is to remove all possible enemies. At one second past midnight, we’ll release an agent into Earth’s atmosphere that will create a Super-Plague.”
“He’s insane! Joe, we’ve got to get out of here! We’ve got to warn the rest of the world!” Marge dashed to the door, pounded on its sound-deadened surface, tore the air with a sob. Joe wrapped his arms around her while she shook.
“It’s too late, Marge,” he whispered. “It’s already too late.”
“. . . will run its full course and die out in an estimated three-point-seven years, but we’re rounding up to five, just to be on the safe side.” Invisible chuckles. “But on a serious note, Mrs. Laurel, the Cabinet and I would like to thank you, the citizens, for your support, and to express how excited we are about meeting you on the outside five years from now, when the only nation on earth will return to the American way of life that we love and value above everything and everyone else. Thank you for your confidence in the right and righteousness of the Theocratic Republic! And best wishes for a well-deserved Seventh Day – – five years of rest!”
Subscribe To Susan's Newsletter
Join the official mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from Susan D. Matley. It's free and you can opt out anytime!