Tales from real life
|Birthday Bash Relay, day 3
short story, 625 words, 'forgotten birthday'
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, . . .”
“Daniel Angstrom, please return your attention to the vidscreen,” said the Structor in its firm, but friendly tone of minor correction.
Danny recomposed his face into the attitude of earnest focus that his grandfather had taught him, and went on with his mental recitation.
“. . . that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, . . .”
It was difficult for the sixteen year-old to maintain an appearance of paying attention, but he enjoyed fooling the Structor almost as much as he enjoyed sharing secrets with his grandfather. Danny didn’t entirely understand why it was so important to maintain the oral history, but there was something about the words that fired his imagination and filled him with pride.
“. . . That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, . . .”
Danny had grown up in the comfort and safety of the Comity and had never known the effects of war, poverty, pestilence, or civil strife. His only knowledge of these evils came from his grandfather and the loose association of preservationists who had learned of such things from their grandfathers.
Danny hadn’t been fully initiated into the group as yet, but he was looking forward to seeing the legendary paper book that held the words he’d been painfully memorizing. It was difficult to imagine data being frozen on physical pages that couldn’t be changed. Comity taught that data has no objective reality, that it exists only as a tool to serve the needs of the greater community.
The civil harmony of Comity was ensured by celebrating a common heritage that led inevitably to the status quo. All citizens understood that it was only right and proper that history should change to reflect current events. And, with no permanent record of alternate choices, there was little incentive for the populace to seek social change. The way things are is the way they’ve always been, shrug.
The preservationists disagreed, arguing that an objective reality must be acknowledged to make life meaningful. They held that freedom from choice was actually a kind of slavery. It seemed like a losing battle with the vidscreen showing only the fluid official version, but the oral histories managed to survive by being passed from person to person underground. Comity deliberately refused to recognize the preservationists as a group, damping any publicity by giving ‘restorative therapy’ to maladjusted individuals.
Danny’s grandfather was an important member of the movement. His position as a senior vidscreen tech made it possible for them to circumvent the home security scans and conduct private meetings. Danny knew that there was real risk involved, and he felt proud to be trusted with the secret. If his grandfather was exposed, he’d not only be unemployable as a tech, but subject to therapy. No one who returned from therapy was quite the same afterward.
It was important to get the full text memorized before next month’s meeting. Danny was expected to recite the whole document as part of his initiation, and he wanted to make his grandfather proud. He was puzzled, though, about why the July Fourth meeting was being held under the cover of a birthday party. Danny’s family had already celebrated his birthday last May. Oh well, there must be a good reason.
“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; . . .”
“Daniel Angstrom, please return your attention to the vidscreen,” said the Structor in its firm, but less friendly tone of repeated correction.