𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗙𝗮𝘀𝗰𝗶𝗻𝘂𝗺

𝘣𝘺 𝘌𝘭𝘰𝘪 𝘙𝘰𝘮𝘢𝘯 𝘉𝘦𝘯𝘨𝘰𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘢

I’ve run an analysis of Segment 12587-sigma, and it seems the average year-over-year ROI has been trending downward for some time.”

“Tell us more about the demographics, Wissen.”

“Pretty standard, ma’am—a mix of economic groups, gender preferences, ethnicities, races, and creeds.”

“Shit! What’s the percentage annual tax revenue decline?”

“Close to twelve percent… At this rate, they’ll dip below our current goal post in about 2 years.”

“Show us your methodology.”

“On this slide, you can clearly see the forecasting and regression techniques I’ve used.”

“For the love of nature, how could this have happened? We haven’t had a segment decline this steep in years! A few aren’t pulling their weight.”

“Productivity does tend to wax and wane over time, ma’am.”

“Spare me the classical economics lesson, Wissen! That was then, this is now. I suppose next you’re going to tell me how we once had ‘free markets’! Ha! Well, those went the way of ‘essential workers’ when workers became ‘unessential’ and ‘essential political opposition’ when… well, we won’t go there! In any case, I’ve made up my mind. Send a squad to delete Segment 12587-sigma—do it now!”

And with that order, Karen Mann-Vernichts, my boss, condemned tens of thousands to death in the blink of an eye. These were real, living, breathing human beings, not just numbers, although that’s how I saw them at the time. They were someone’s brothers, sisters, nephews, cousins, mothers, and fathers.

But I’d like to bring the focus back to that fateful day. Something truly felt amiss—I wasn’t sure what, but I went to see Karen later that afternoon to tell her how I was feeling.

When I entered her office, the first thing she said was, “You know, Wissen, when social media was rolled out, we observed them. These pathetic, fucking creatures... They were more than obliging to show us how they lived and what they thought. As we observed, we learned what made them tick and how to get them to play for our team—the correct team. All the while we had to put up with their moronic tendencies and watch endless hours of cat videos… I felt like slitting my lifelines.”

She paused momentarily to gather her thoughts and wiped her palms together as a gesture of dismissal. Then she fixed her cold, dead eyes on me.

“Forget them,” she said, “You made the world a better place today.”

“I’m not so sure, Karen. One day, this could come back to haunt us.”

“Oh? Well you can relax, Wissen, as far as they’re concerned, we’re the ghosts, we don’t exist. Even if we did, in their eyes we’d be the good guys.”

“You know, my grandfather used to say that the biggest trick the devil played on people was to convince them he doesn’t exist, and his second biggest trick was to convince them that he was the good guy!”

“Your grandfather sounds like a senile old bat beholden to ancient myths.”

“My grandpa?”

“Yes, it also sounds like he wasn’t a very tolerant person. You could be deleted for that alone, Wissen… But hey, I guess everyone from your grandpa’s gen was a racist, sexist pig, except for a few visionary leaders who made our system—the here and the now—possible, and that’s all that matters, Wissen. Just focus on the present and let the other shit fall away.”

“I guess you’re right.”

“Of course I’m right. Look, I know working here affords you some ‘liberties’ of free expression for the sake of ‘emotional balance’ and whatnot, but I suggest you forget your bullshit, family anecdotes. Stop trying to search for some deeper meaning. You have a job to do, and you do it. Period.”

“Yes, I just follow orders, ma’am.”

“Good! That’s what we all do. It’s simple, Wissen, very simple! We do it to carve out a utopia on this pisshole planet, and that’s in everyone’s best interest. Now go home and get some rest—you’ve earned it.”

Predictably, the next ‘blockbuster analysis’ I performed was horrifying. It turned out another segment would go into arrears, this time within a year. And I, Markus Kijani Wissen, a number cruncher at the Department of Population Analytics was part of the segment that would be deleted, disappeared, murdered—all consensually, of course. 365 days out from my calculation, I would cost the government more money than I would ever bring in. It didn’t matter where I worked; it didn’t matter what I did. No vague, unwritten workplace ‘liberties’ could save me. My segment had decided my fate. And I had to face my end for the greater good, just like everyone else who got deleted for falling into the red with their citizen average ROI.

I psyched myself up to take the final walk to the barren room where my life would be terminated. There would be pre-recorded cheers, words of encouragement played on a sound system, and a caring speech delivered by our vaunted Supreme Leader with fake tears and some claptrap about ‘sacrifices.’

But, just then, something inside me snapped. What was I thinking? My conscience clawed at the reigns of my galloping psyche, and oddly enough, it conjured a powerful instinct to rebel. No, I would not submit to the decree—I would not choose death over life. My citizen ROI was not more important than my life. So I resolved to run. I heard my grandfather’s voice as he had once run from tyranny himself. There was no shame in this... But unlike in his day, this time there was nowhere to go.

So I resolved to stand my ground and fight. Thanks to some like-minded supporters, I am now in safety—nowhere and everywhere—telling you what you need to hear. Our overlords, our Supreme Leader and his stooges will lie, deny, and forever deflect, but I live in your hearts as surely as your instinct to resist, which is what brought you here today! Rebels will always exist, and there are more of us than you think!

And with those words uttered by the narrator, Markus K. Wissen, the screen flinched. After a pause of a few seconds, the voice of Markus—this time very agitated—could again be heard blaring through the speakers:

“Run! The police are on their way! For the love of God, run!”

• • •

When the police arrived in their riot gear ready to bash heads and round up the participants of the ‘illegal gathering’ as defined by law, all they found was an empty, abandoned auditorium.

On the screen was an image of a huge, winged phallus, the fascinum, with the message, “Fuck you!” written in bright, neon paint underneath. ✦

Eloi Roman Bengochea was born in Vanuatu but now resides in Hamilton, Ontario. His recent anthology, Rebels and Exiles: An Anthology of Dystopian Sci-Fi has been published by Planetesimal Press, publishers of Granfalloon, Speculative Fiction Zine.

Speculative fiction & POETRY ZINE