The audric experiment, p.1
The Audric Experiment, p.1
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.
They began school in September, even in 2328, and even in England. Brighton had had a well-known beach since the time of the dinosaurs and once Pierre could walk he sunbathed there several times. He wished he could absorb the sun’s energy like their Sun Pod. Not everyone had their own Sun Pod, but Edmond did considerably well as a teacher, and Pierre had a comfortable life. He thought of his gratitude for this fact as he climbed into the vehicle on the first day of school.
The radio that ran on solar was his invention, having come up with the idea for Entrepreneurial Etiquette, and then seeing the device on the market from Walden Now a few weeks later. Just a coincidence, he supposed. As an entrepreneur Pierre had learned that the best place to look for ideas was the twentieth century. An Orangina bottle and some candle holders on their mantle in their home was his latest inspiration. Most ideas from the twentieth century had been unmined. Pierre liked to visit the fifth floor of the athenaeum and watch old movies like Star Wars; as did many of his classmates.
One classmate, a prickly haired dilettante named James Rabb overheard Pierre talking about an R2D2 packaging idea and made a similar model. When it came time for presentations in Entrepreneurial Etiquette, Pierre decided not to confront him or tell the professor, but rather stayed up half the night making a C3PO version for James to present. James gladly took the packaging idea as his own, and he didn’t copy Pierre again. Pierre thought of it as one of the defining moments of his life.
Pierre’s first class of the day was Understanding Audric which gave guidelines and philosophical revelations about how and why Audric gave shocks and serotonin boosts. Pierre felt ambivalent about going to school and still being called Pure Pierre. He didn’t know how sheltered the secret of his first shock would be, if it would be difficult to hide. He thought he would pay even closer attention than usual now in Understanding Audric.
His Mother had heard that Pierre was going to have his first shock and said she didn’t want to be there for it. She knew he’d feel shame if she was. His Mother was named Cloud Morena, and she was addicted to ecstasy during her teenage years, the most dangerous drug according to Audric, because it severely influenced serotonin.
She’d told Pierre about her shocks, and what she’d experienced. Her standard dreams were her being in an ocean, terrified, a helicopter above her and a rope dangling for her to grab hold of. When they pulled her into the helicopter, a wildebeest attacked her and Genesis Smith put his hand up to halt it. From then on, whenever she thought about ecstasy she felt that same terror and loneliness she felt in that ocean. But the fear wasn’t strong enough. It took almost thirty shocks before she got straight.
At lunch, Pierre sat with his friends Gordy Mitchell, Max Thurgood, and Chester Higgs. Gordy was an overly, skinny, computer punk. Max was a speed reader. Chester was in Limited Education. Though clearly opposites, they had gone to the same elementary school and in fifth grade were a team for Math Wars. Max had an exchange student, named Brian Miller, with him from America.
“Pierre Morena. Glad you’re still alive bro,” Chester said, munching on a sandwich.
“Pierre, this is Brian,” Max said. “He’s from the States.”
Pierre shook his hand, then dug a fork into his Caesar Salad. “I heard Washington D.C. went telepathic.”
“Telepathic. What’s that?” Chester asked, leaning in.
“Mind reading and stuff,” Gordy said.
“It’s a nightmare” Brian said. “I’m watching the tele and the political debates are like an anarchist’s wet dream.”
“Should’ve gone with Audric,” Pierre said.
“Speaking of wet dreams,” Max said. “Chester got something to tell you.”
Chester blushed. “Nah. Some other time.”
“He went to a prostitute,” Max said, “in the green light district.”
“Red light district,” Brian corrected.
“They changed it to Green Light, here, after Audric announced its leniency on prostitution.” Pierre ruffed his own blond hair. “Did it 15 years ago.”
“So Chester,” Max said, a little smile on his face. “Did the suit prepare you?”
Chester turned a darker shade of red. “The suit?”
Max rolled his eyes. “You know, the VR.”
“The suit is better than heroin,” Brian said. “Not that I would know what heroin feels like.”
“Ain’t as good as the real thing,” Max said. “I’ve had a girlfriend for three years.”
Pierre thought of the girl that haunted his dreams at night, so sexually charged that she caused him to wake up aroused. Who was she? Where did she come from? He hadn’t spoken of her to his friends. He only told them he couldn’t remember what happened after he entered the Athenaeum – or as he called it, the library.
“Pierre. I’m getting shocked every day now,” Chester said. “It’s so unfair. They accused me of squirreling money away.”
“Who?” Pierre asked.
“Audric Earnings Authority.”
Pierre knew that if he was getting shocked every day it was because he really was squirreling money away. Probably an independent retailer had reported that Chester had too much money. Audric frowned upon squirreling money but he knew it was so common he was surprised they decided to act. The question was, why had they decided to act now with Chester.
“They’re on my case now. About everything. Because I’m in Limited Ed, I think. They already told my parents that if I don’t get better grades they are going to cut my family earnings.”
“Damn,” Pierre said.
“Can’t you do something? They’ll listen to you. You’ve got a 40/40.”
“Can’t do much. But squirreling money is pretty common.” He thought of his father squirreling money – something he’d known about for years – but decided against sharing it now. Pierre wanted to share the fact that he had his first shock this past summer, but he couldn’t bring himself to. He thought Audric had grand plans for him, and he wanted to be part of them.
“So you guys like Audric,” Brian said.
Pierre spoke up when it seemed no one else was going to. “Better than gangsta’s shooting up the block with their AK’s. Mother’s killing their children. School shootings every week. I think Barnaby was smart.”
“We wanted to have a code to give life meaning,” Chester said. “But my life just means that my choices suck. It’s different for Pierre. I’m sure I’ll be slaving away washing toilets just to avoid getting shocked. But hey, what’s life without a purpose,” he said sarcastically.
“’Suck’ is from the twentieth century, Chester. They believed in Jesus,” Pierre said flatly.
“So what Pierre?” Brian asked. “You’re just smarter than everyone else.”
Pierre shook his head. “It’s not that.”
“What is it?”
Pierre pretended to have a mouth full of food. He shook his head, then said, “It’s not that.” Everyone was staring at him as he kept eating, not bothering to elaborate. “I gotta go to Entre Et. To be continued.” He stood up.
“Pierre,” Max said. “After school, we’re going to teach Chester everything we’re learning in Understanding Audric. Want to help out?”
“I do,” said Pierre. “But I’m gonna go to the library. Haven’t had a chance yet. Hoping to jog my memory.”
“Suit yourself,” Max said.
As Pierre walked to Entrepreneurial Etiquette he saw the shock board above the entrance to the cafeteria. He looked at Chester’s name. He had twelve shocks since the beginning of the month. Ouch.
The bracelet triggered the Ulnar Nerve, and Chester felt his eyes close. He knew that the bracelet had sent a signal to a receptor on his Ulnar Nerve and the acceptor in his brain. But the only thing he was thinking about was the thirty pounds under a baseboard in his room. It was GPS-less money, and he thought he’d never be found out for possessing it. As the pain spread up his arm, he had nothing but feelings of regret. The pain wasn’t unbearable, but the fact that he was getting shocked felt terrible.
A few weeks ago, he’d made a deal with Martin Little, an independent shop owner, under the table. On weekends, when the store was closed, he’d offered to clean the bathrooms, and mop the floor of the shop, for a small sum. Martin was a middle-aged man with a light brown mustache. The reason for the shock wasn’t clear at first. He’d squirrelled away thirty pounds and thought he was home free. But as the REM began, he knew there was something he hadn’t thought of.
Martin’s daughter, Julie, a “five star” blond, according to Chester, went to school with him. He thought being a reliable worker for Martin might give him an in with Julie. Martin, however, was not amenable to surrendering Julie to a screw up like Chester. What Chester found out later, was that Julie’s brother, Paul, had an even more personal dislike of Chester. The dream was painful, physically and mentally.
He looked at his paws, stomach, and fur. He was a squirrel and while he had no familiarity with the anatomy of a squirrel this seemed to be what they probably looked like. Across the street was an acorn hut. A car sped towards him, and Chester realized that the smart decision was to stay where he was. Nonetheless, he found himself venturing into the street headed for the acorn hut. He looked around, perched on his hind legs. When he turned, he saw a car headed straight for him, Paul behind the wheel, and Julie in the passenger seat. Julie pulled the steering wheel but seconds later, he felt an explosion of pain as the car crushed his body. He woke up.
The Audric Experiment by Patrick Barnes / Fantasy have rating 4.5 out of 5 / Based on18 votes