Thursday, February 13, 2014

Think #18: Beft Go to the Left

This story was inspired by one of the "Thinks" proposed by Dr. Seuss's "Oh the Thinks You Can Think!". If you are unfamiliar with the book, you can find an online version of it here. Every day from now through February 15th, I'll be posting a short story or poem based on one of the "Thinks" in the book. Enjoy! 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Program now online.

I keep my eyes firmly shut, reveling in the feeling of control, ignoring the Beft Industries Control Center voice in my mind. I count the seconds, silently hoping to make it past ten—

Eyes open.

Nope. Ten seconds. Every day.

I sit up and place my feet on the floor, obscurely noticing the chill of the terracotta tiles. No rugs were spared for my room, nor any blankets. A plain sheet and thin pillow maintained the aesthetic of a bed, but what was the point in adding warmth or comfort? My body would regulate its own temperature, regardless of the weather.

Not that the weather was ever unpredictable. Four perfect seasons. Four smooth transitional periods. Rainfall only at night, so as not to interfere with workloads and recreation.

My legs push my body from the bed and propel me toward the water closet. I move through the perfunctory exercises of cleansing my body and preparing it for the day. My mind wanders; I don’t need it for this. I rarely need it.

I dress for the workday – a hideous blue-gray, shapeless uniform – and step out of my studio apartment.

Please keep to the left.

I sigh.

The tiny acts of rebellion – sighing, keeping my eyes closed as long as possible, even hating the uniform – buoyed me up. These little things, these miniscule pieces of who I was, they helped me stay sane. They quiet the louder acts of rebellion, the ones that would get me destroyed.

My feet, clad in utilitarian boots, carry me along the streets through my workday route. First stop of the day was always the sandwich stand to hand over my coin and collect my morning sustenance, a hefty sandwich made to mimic the fast-food glory days of the 21st century. Bread, eggs, meat, cheese. All synthetic, all enhanced with the exact balance of proteins and fats and carbohydrates to fuel the human portion of my body. I’ve been told the fast-food versions were pleasurable to eat, but I cannot conceive of such a thing.

Please keep to the left.

Chewing the sandwich, I sigh again, relishing in the feeling of discontent. I step back into the flow of foot-traffic, staying on the left side of the street, the yellow-and-black Beft Industries logo stamped everywhere. On the backs of uniforms. On the wrapper of my sandwich. On the face of the coin I traded for the tasteless sustenance. Everywhere I look – Beft Industries. The circular, coiling logo screams at me.

Beft.

Beft.

Please keep to the left.

I roll my eyes, pushing my luck.

Insubordination. A warning has been issued.

It’s too early in the morning to squander my warnings. And I can’t afford to lose my coin allotment. Insubordination will have to wait.

I chew in silence, keeping to the left side of the street. An identically uniformed man walks in front of me, another behind. Our footsteps are perfectly synchronized, as are the footsteps of every other person on this side of the street. Blue-gray uniforms, black matte-finish boots, simple hairstyles, basic grooming and hygiene.

We march to our work assignments. Mine is in a personal residence – where the non-Beft Industries-owned people live and love and make choices about the color of their clothing and shoes. The man in front of me goes to a production line. He exits the sidewalk three exits before I do and there’s a new-but-not-really-new back for me to stare at. Same logo. Same uniform. Different person.

I steal a glance to the right side of the street. Maybe it was my imagination – or what passed as imagination these days – but the right side looked brighter. Happier.

It was certainly more colorful. No blue. No grey. They wouldn’t insult themselves by wearing the Beft uniform colors, but instead seemed to take pride in being everything we were not. Red. Orange. White. Purple.

I always thought purple was the best color. A blend of happy and sincere, conveying a seriousness that wasn’t boring or bland.

Please keep to the left.

One exit before my workplace, a shriek rings out from the right side of the street.
A child.

Not an angry shriek. Not a scared shriek. But… one of … joy?

I turn my head, curiosity getting the best of me. A little girl in a purple dress flounces down the right side of the street, her curls bouncing around her head, her hand holding the hand of a woman in a pristine white dress. The girl bounces again, the shriek bubbling up once more before they move out of my field of vision.

No. Not now.

I haven’t seen somebody so happy in… I can’t remember. It was before my conversion, that much I was certain of.

Please exit the walkway.

I stop, the foot traffic breaking around me like a stream diverting past a stone dropped in its midst.

Please exit the walkway.

I turn.

I turn to the right, looking back over my shoulder, past the stream of blank, obedient Beft Industries faces.

I just want to see. I want to know what makes her so happy, how she has found such joy on a bland spring day. I want to know what brings about an emotion like that.

Insubordination. A warning has been issued.

Only one more for the day and I haven’t even officially arrived at work yet. I stand on the walkway, my exit at my back, the steps to my workplace yawning in the entryway.

But the shrieking continues, followed by a peal of laughter, loud and ringing.

I continue turning, turning to the right, traffic continuing past me without a second glance. Not one person on the left side of the street cares that I’m breaking protocol. People on the right side of the street do, though. Several of them turn back over their shoulders, much in the same way I have done, noticing the blockage in the flow, the change from the norm, the small difference that looks so huge in a landscape of homogeneity.

Insubordination. One demerit. Please keep to the left.

I long to follow, to step off the walkway, to step forward. I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to enter that gaping stone staircase and I don’t want to follow someone else’s decisions for the rest of the day, the rest of the week, the rest of my life.

Insubordination. Two demerits. Please keep to the left.

This is it.

This is my last chance. Two demerits. I’ve lost my food coins until I prove myself to be compliant again.

The third demerit deletes my biometrics from the housing commission and my little apartment will be locked to me.

How can she be so happy?

Why does nobody on this side of the street, nobody on the left, notice me standing here, facing the wrong direction, blocking their path?

I scream. Scream into the void that surrounds me, hoping the sound will reach them – the people on the right side of the street. The people who are looking at me. The people who still see things and hear things and feel things.

Non-compliance. Insubordination. Three demerits. Please keep to the left.

And I do it.

I step off of the curb. The metallic voice of the Beft Industries Control Center rings in my head, but I block it out. I know what it’s saying. I know it wants me to do.
And I know that I am never going to listen to it again.

I am not owned by Beft.


I will not keep to the left.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gina Denny is a homeschooling mom of three living in Phoenix, Arizona. She lives for summer (yes, Phoenix summer) and eats too many burritos. She writes fantasy and science fiction for people who like to think they aren't really grown-ups. She tweets a lot (like, a lot), she contributes to Mormon Mommy Writers, ANWA Founder & Friends, and runs this blog. 

4 comments:

  1. This is my second favorite

    ReplyDelete
  2. Holey buckets. George Orwell would be so proud of you!!! This is so freakin' awesome :D

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

    ReplyDelete