The Audric ExperimentPatrick Barnes / Fantasy
2014 Patrick Barnes
All rights reserved.
The heavyset man in the Harley Davidson leather jacket kissed a crucifix and then withdrew an inoperative Uzi submachine gun. He looked at his watch. It was 1:05. His allies pulled up behind him and shut off their motorcycles.
“For our creed,” the man announced.
Inside the facility, Kalpana Thindrel heard the man outside, and knew she could go with them, leave the government they knew as Audric. She looked at the faces of the Audric Compliant walking up to the machines for the annual bracelet removal. She breathed in and sighed. Faces like lost jewels, she thought. It was what she always thought when she went to a facility to get her bracelet removed. But she’d been an Audric Compliant for thirty years and never had the nerve to defect.
“Please read the statement written on the wall in front of you,” the woman at the bracelet removal machine said.
“I have faithfully served our government, Audric, and the codes outlined in The Financially Prudent World by Genesis Smith,” Kalpana read. “I am aware that Audric is a free society that I have served by my own free will. If another party wishes to enlist my allegiance, I can abandon Audric at this time if I so wish.”
“Put your arm in the machine,” the woman said. Kalpana could feel a machine arm grip
her bracelet and thought to request what was called “a dream view.” The rumors were that if one did watch their dreams the effect on the mind was worse than PTSD. Kalpana had never heard a legitimate tale one way or the other.
The men entered. Kalpana couldn’t see inside the machine, but she knew a laser was cutting the bracelet off her wrist. She decided then that she’d stay an Audric Compliant, as she had decided to be after the financial collapse several decades ago. When Barnaby Brown took office, he’d sworn to lead them all to Heaven, physically and spiritually. Most people agreed he had their best interests at heart.
“Am I dead?”
It was dusk in Heaven. He could tell from the light, reflecting off the shades. Pure like it was after rain. The heavenly rays danced on the white bed sheets. The ethereal ambiance clashed with the slashing pain he felt. He grimaced and turned his head. A newspaper rested next to him, The London Times. The headline read:
“A Fallen Angel
Pierre Morena Falls 13 Stories and Lives”
Pierre realized it was still this world; Earth. A bearded brown-eyed man sat by his bedside. A greasy ponytail lay on his shoulder. His face vaguely familiar. Pierre’s eyes went out of focus on the headline and then sharpened. The “angel” part was an exaggeration. He was the only seventeen year old in Brighton with no shocks. The second part, however – falling 13 stories -- was news even to him.
The man spoke. “Do you know where you are?”
“The infirmary. What do you remember?”
“I went to the library in the shopping mall.”
The man’s eyes, serious. “And?”
“Nothing.” That was a lie. Sensations. The feeling of a faceless girl. A gun in his back. And a sentence: “Do what you’re told. You’re good at that.” But he didn’t tell the man any of that. This man named …
“My name’s David Thindrel. I’m your social worker.” He opened a manila folder. “Pierre Morena. 17 years old. Audric Compliant. No shocks.” He raised his eyebrows impressed. “Good marks in school. Lots of friends. Professors all say the same thing: good kid. Self-descriptors: Boldness. Compassion. Determination. Faith. That last one intrigued me.”
“Put it this way.” He tried shifting his weight. “In fourth grade, I brought three copies of Smith’s book for the three functionaries investigating my parents.” He smiled in spite of himself then grimaced again. “I can’t breath.”
“You’ve cracked two ribs and broken both legs. We’ve done some rib plating and your prognosis is good. We estimate you should be healed and able to walk by the time school starts. You’ll need a wheelchair in the meantime. You’ve awoken twice since you arrived. Do you remember that?”
Pierre nodded. “One time I saw my father, by my bedside. The second time, a documentary on Audric was on TV.” The twenty square foot blue light that shown in the sky at Southwick Harbor was cemented in his memory. Southwick Harbor was a man-made island off the coast of Brighton. It was shaped like a starfish.
“It’s fine you don’t remember what happened. We think the sooner you get on with your life, the better. Don’t try to move if it’s painful.” He stood up. “I got my first shock at ten. Selling lemonade without GPS trackers. We thought no one would be able to tell. Goddamn drones took a photo. Who knew? Be right back.” He closed the door behind him.
Pierre strained to hear. Faintly, David said, “He says he doesn’t remember.”
A woman’s voice: “Did he know about the RF shielding pamphlet?”
David said, “No. I think he’s telling the truth.”
The woman: “So what does it look like?”
A low voice, barely audible. “They’re gonna kill him.”
“Kill him,” or “bill him?” Pierre may have misheard. “Bill him” was well-known slang among the Audric Earnings Authority. Pierre looked down at the bracelet on his right wrist. The electric potential of it was still a mystery to him. He felt the strength drain from his body. Each breath was painful. The door opened.
David pointed to his clothes on the chair. “I see you wear your Audric cufflinks.”
Pierre’s cufflinks were a magical dark blue. The color that signified compliance. “Yeah. Why wouldn’t I? I thought I’d make it to thirty with no shocks. Comfortable living.” He imagined falling, falling fast, and far, and his mind met with the feeling he felt earlier, but he still couldn’t remember the fall. He closed his eyes. “Where are my parents?”
“Edmond?” David called.
Edmond Morena came into the room carrying a bottle of chocolate milk, a toothbrush, and some toothpaste. The reason for the latter two was lost on Pierre. The chocolate milk was most likely a consolation. Pierre loved chocolate milk.
“Pierre,” his father said. “Pierre. God, you gave us such a fright.” He put the three items by his bedside. “I’m so sorry, son. I didn’t know.”
He almost asked, “Didn’t know what?” But he knew what. Then, he realized. Toothbrush and toothpaste. Pierre was about the have his first shock.
“We thought you were at swimming practice,” Edmond said.
“Not a strong swimmer,” David said, nodding. “But a strenuous worker, and a dedicated believer in The Financially Prudent World. You’ve been fired. Because you didn’t tell your parents you had a job. You should experience your first shock right about now. People have an investment in you, Pierre. You’re very special. You’re the only seventeen year old in Brighton with no shocks. Audric will give me a lot of elbow room on this one. We’re not gonna make note of your first shock. In return, you stay the course with Audric. When you go back to school, you’ll still be Pure Pierre.”
Pierre nodded, wincing. “Fine.” He looked at his bracelet as he felt the pain in his arm. The bracelet was triggering the Ulnar Nerve. He focused on why he was feeling the pain as he had always been instructed to. He shouldn’t have taken a secret job. He should have been honest with his parents. He should have gone to swim practice. The pain lasted for almost a minute. Then his eyes grew heavy and he went into post-shock REM.
He began his dream on a racetrack. The pain from the bracelet seemed to transform to a gunshot wound in his abdomen. He looked up, realized he held a gun in his hand. In the distance, past the finish line, he could see a man in a leather jacket, holding a gun, his face obscured by shadow.
Pierre realized he could turn around, but the finish line beckoned to him, so he crawled towards the white chalk, the red ribbon, the man whom Pierre somehow knew was smiling. He fought against the pain, fell on the finish line. Then involuntarily, he brought the gun to his temple and pulled the trigger. He heard the gunshot like a sonic boom and woke up.
He had always feared his first shock. When he awoke he felt relief it was over. His hope to make it to thirty with no shocks was also over. The man named David was gone. His father had his hand on his shoulder. “Always good to brush your teeth after a shock,” he said. “Trust me. I’ve had plenty.”
Pierre felt a new weight on his being. For the first time in his life, his past was now a mystery, and his future was out of his control.