Jimmy’s family had just moved to Chaplin, Maine from Hawaii. It wasn’t that bad for him, he was used to it since he had been doing it his whole life because his dad’s job demanded it. Jimmy was born in Nebraska, his sister in Alaska, over Jimmy’s life he had moved seven times.
“Chaplin, Maine, the friendliest town in the North East” was its motto; it was the choice Jimmy’s parents decided on to settle at, permanently. They felt Jimmy and his sister deserved a half-way decent childhood. Jimmy had just started high school and Nicki was in third grade. Neither ever had made close friendships, as a result they became each other’s best friends, despite the age difference.
Chaplin was a small, northern Maine farming town. There were two schools, preschool through sixth grade and seventh through twelfth, some local businesses and a Protestant church (most likely from the 1800s). Best described: quaint. A few miles away was a larger town with the normal city things but everyone was contempt. The main entertainment was the high school, which had a variety of sports teams. It was the town’s obsession.
“When are you going to unpack your stuff?” yelled Jimmy’s mom from downstairs.
“As soon as time permits.”
“Doesn’t it permit now?”
“I have my first day of classes, tomorrow! I need to get everything ready!”
“You have half your stuff in those darn boxes. I want you to get them emptied so they can be thrown away. Got it?”
“Yes mom,” Jimmy sat on his bed surrounded by towers of boxes just like his mom said, with all the other stuff on the floor. The next morning was his first day of classes at Chaplin High School. He had visited two days ago and had gotten his schedule; he was tossed right into everything, nothing new.
He was tired, he flung himself onto his bed, he just wanted to get to sleep, in his new bedroom, his new house, his new world.
He walked up the steps of the school; it seemed ancient, cold, like high school. Jimmy was surrounded by other students passing by, some looking, staring, others not noticing. He felt out of place, he hadn’t gotten a tour of the school when he went the other day, he had had other stuff that had to be done. He reached the door, caught it closing and walked in; a trophy case welcomed him, boasting several trophies of all sorts.
“Hey! You Jimmy?” asked a kid to his right.
“Yeah, who are you?”
“Welcoming committee. I’m your buddy for the day, to help you get used to the school and classes. The name’s Quinn,” he shot his hand out in a shake. He had short black hair and wore an open white and blue button shirt and a white shirt underneath with blue jeans.
“Class begins in ten minutes, they’re strict with tardiness, let’s get your stuff to your locker. Where are you from?”
“All over. I was living previously in Hawaii.”
“You play any sports?”
“Not really, I’d gotten into surfing but I won’t be doing that for a while.”
“Pretty much, I’m not really competitive.
I have a sister six years younger than me, and like I said I’ve moved around allot, so I didn’t get too active in much group stuff.”
“What have you thought of what you’ve seen so far of Chaplin?”
“Lots of farms.”
“Hah! Not to much more than that here.”
They walked down the hall to the locker in silent, awkward, uneasiness. The halls echoed, they were badly lit, the walls were aged, and the lockers were loose. Papers scattered the walls and lockers, mostly they advertised sports games and events.
“I suggest you join some sport, everyone is a part of something,” stated Quinn.
‘Did he read my mind?’ thought Jimmy.
“Hockey is the biggest thing this town has going, it unites it, everyone turns out for the games. The players are celebrities, role models, idols.”
“Really?” Jimmy scoffed.
“Learn to like it. So, have any hobbies?
“Plenty; reading, chatting online, video games.”
“You’ll need to get into hockey, don’t worry you’ll become one of us.”
Jimmy arrived home, it had been two months. It had been good, he had made some friends and had no problem getting used to the classes. He set his stuff on the kitchen table. Hockey was starting soon. The one thing he hadn’t done was commit himself to anything of that nature, no sports or activities. A few minutes passed, Jimmy had grabbed some snacks when Nicki walked in.
“So, how was your day?”
“We had a birthday party for Megan, so we got to eat cake and play!” Nikki ran through the kitchen and went up the stairs.
His mom had made friends with plenty of the PTO members. They often they went on trips to the city to shop, like they were doing that afternoon. Jimmy’s dad was in his study, at home. Finally the family was all together with no plans of ever going anywhere else, they had become settled. It meant he could make friends and not fear moving and losing them. But he didn’t have a clue of the significance of what approached…
“So, you going to the game on Friday night?” Quinn asked.
“No, I’m not interested all that much in hockey, what’s the point?”
“But it’s opening game! You’re insane,” he muttered.
“I am not interested, okay?”
“You’re not really trying to fit in. You should start now.”
“You weren’t at the game,” inquired Quinn. “be at the next, for your own good's sake, besides you may like it.”
“Hostile, don’t you think?” replied Jimmy. “What’s the problem? It’s just a hockey game, not a matter of life and death.”
“You still don’t get it.”
Things had turned horribly wrong. Nicki had begun to act distant towards Jimmy, and his parents were no different, he felt alone, his friends had seemed to turn their backs to him and had become cruel.
It was dinner. They sat around the table when his dad broke the silence. “Your mother, Nicki and I are going to the game tonight. Would you like to join us?” asked his dad.
“Yeah, it would be fun, come on,” Nicki added.
“I-” Jimmy started.
“Actually, I insist,” his father said, gripping his knife tightly.
Jimmy stepped out of the car, how this happened he couldn’t figure. They walked to the gates, Jimmy’s parents and his sister smiling, seeing friends, literally everyone from Chaplin. They seemed to be a collective, joining to be a whole. Jimmy’s “friends” saw him; they called him over to them,
“Glad to see you came to your senses. Everyone always does. You see, Chaplin is a community, all as one, one in all. Make sense?”
“Don’t worry, it will be pleasant, you’ll feel belonging. You want that, right?
Jimmy shook no.
He shook no again. “This is mind control. Thieves, you stole my family, I don’t know how, I don’t care, you can’t just- whatever it is you’ve done.”
“They’ve joined because they want to, simple as that. You want to too, don’t you? Have a circle of friends that care about you, that won’t disappear in a year or two, loyal friends.”
“Friends? You call those people friends, they aren’t interested in me as a friend. They were just acting. This whole place is so, obsessed with itself! Why?”
“I guess you deserve an explanation. You see, years ago this place was like any other at the time, a perfect city, we never wanted it to change, but the world grew and so did the country and cities. We decided not to, to defy time. We can’t have people coming and going. Nothing is wrong with us, it’s you, didn’t I already explain to you that this is a community, you’re not apart of it, you won’t assimilate. We are a world, we are the world! Everyone believes it.”
The town cheered. It was a nightmare, they believed it, they believed that they were the greatest and only people worth anything, in the world. It was obvious. Jimmy went into a daze as Quinn suggested going in. Jimmy was moved with the crowd and sat down.
Cheerleaders were at the bottom of the stands rallying Chaplin. Chaplin threw insults to the other team and screamed for Chaplin at every mention of the name. They had no brains of their own, just emotions for Chaplin, drones controlled by one word: Chaplin.