A story of one town's struggle for change.
|Heat. Blistering heat, the kind that that doesn’t leave you even after long hours spent in the cool shade. The kind that turns your skin pink and blisters over, leaving a burning sensation. But this is the way it always is, or, at least the way it always has been since Marco could remember. Every day the same blistering heat, every day the same routine. Every able bodied man and woman toiling under the sun, because, after all, the hole wasn’t going to fill itself, now was it? That’s what the posters said at least, black and white with fading edges. The words were almost indiscernible at this point from the layers of dust that had accumulated over the years. There was talk of new posters, just like there was talk of new shovels, and new fans that didn’t break down every few minutes. But like all of these talks, the push for the new posters was fruitless. It’s not like anyone would notice them anyway. They were one of those things that you could pass a million times and still not notice, like a painting on the wall you had seen so many times it might as well have been invisible, because it didn’t command one ounce of your attention.
“Today is different though,” Marco thought to himself. He knew he felt it, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on why. During his 5 minute allotted break time he walked over to one of the numerous wooden message boards scattered about Town that no one ever bothered to give a second glance. The ones that spewed propaganda like a busted pipe spews water, except in this case, the effect was much less noticeable. He removed the tarnished push-pin that kept one of the posters securely fastened to the board and caught the poster as it fluttered noiselessly toward the ground. Coughing, he brushed some of the dust off so that he could make out the carefully printed words at the top of the page.
“FILL THE HOLE, SAVE YOUR SOUL”
The photograph of the mayor dominated the center of the page. A black-and-white photo that must have been at least 40 years old, as it depicted the now decrepit old mayor in the prime of his youth. He had a sinister grin on his face that was accentuated by his sinister features. A long, crooked nose, sharp, angled cheekbones and harrowingly dark eyes that no matter which angle you looked at them from seemed to be staring right back into yours. Marco shuddered.
“No wonder no one looks at these anymore.” He said, accidentally out loud. He covered his mouth and took a look around to make sure no one was watching.
“I really need to watch what I say out loud” he thought to himself as he retrieved the push pin from where he had dropped it in his moment of fright and fastened the poster once more to the board.
It was strange, usually the people that shared his allotted break time congregated near this area because the few buildings provided a small portion of shade. But today it was empty, in fact, he couldn’t remember seeing anyone on his walk here. Had he missed something? Surely if there was a mandatory assembly he would have heard the sirens. But then again, since his “accident” by the hands of Townscorp, courtesy of the mayor’s son, there were times when he couldn’t hear very well, and times were his ears seemed entirely useless. While he was thinking all of this through his legs had automatically taken steps toward the Administration Hall.
He arrived on the front lawn of the Admin Hall just as the town song was finishing up. As always, the masses erupted into earsplitting cheers and applause as soon as it was finished. For the first time ever, Marco abstained from cheering or even making a sound. Instead he just stood in the back of the crowd, arms crossed lost in thought. He hoped none of the Supervisors saw, he knew it was dangerous, but something was different today, it just, it didn’t seem right. There was something wrong about the way the Town had total control over people’s lives, he just didn’t know what. It was all he had ever known, it was all his great-grandparents had ever known. In fact, he was fairly certain it was all anyone had ever known. While he was lost in thought, the Spokesperson must have come up to the podium, for the excruciating sound of microphone feedback filled the lawn.
“Ladies and Gentleman, welcome! I bring greetings from the Mayor himself! He was unfortunately not able to make it today due to a last minute work related obligation.”
Everyone knew that was a lie, the mayor hadn’t left his home in 5 years, it was doubtful he had any sort of obligations, besides that of signing official documents. Which, if it were the case, would have only taken a minute or so and the mayor’s excuse for absence had no grounds.
“I know that this meeting was not a part of the regular schedule, the mayor sends his apologies about that,” he continued.
“But the subject of this meeting is of the utmost importance my fellow townspeople. This is to be a short meeting, so let me cut to the chase. Yesterday, there was a deliberate violation of Town rules.”
The crowd let out a collective gasp, for everyone knew what the punishment was for any sort of infraction. Death.
“It seems that one of those among you chose to doubt the promise of Townscorp. What is the creed, again?”
A unanimous “fill the hole, save your soul” rang through the air.
“Yes, that’s what I like to hear,” The spokesperson said, with a hint of sinister satisfaction in his voice. “You all know very well that there is no question as to why we devote our precious time filling the great hole. Because once it is filled we will all experience the true glory of our humanity and there will no longer be a need for toiling under the hot sun!”
A cheer erupted from the crowd, the promise of salvation and liberation from the seemingly pointless endeavors excited the townspeople to no end. Once again, Marco abstained from the revelry.
“Why is it then that any of you would possibly question this? Now I know you all would not, but one among you has decided that this promise was not good enough. A one Soren Errator.”
From the lack of reaction of the crowd it was apparent that no one was surprised. Soren had always tried to fill people’s heads with ideas of freedom and promises of a life apart from filling the great hole. His ideas were so bizarre to most of the townspeople that some considered him dangerous. “A man shouldn’t question like that,” people would say. “It’s dangerous; we have everything we need here.” After quickly realizing there would be no reaction, the Spokesperson continued, “Well then, you all know what happens to people like Soren, don’t you?
As he spoke a hooded man escorted the bound Soren to the front of the stage. Thick steel chains bound his hands and feet and a heavy cloth was tied around his head where his mouth would be, totally obscuring the lower half of his face. The muscles on his face were intensely strained and sweat dripped from his brow at an exceptional rate.
“Ah, yes, here he is; the serpent himself. Have anything to say for yourself? Ah right, I seem to have forgotten that your mouth is incapacitated, a shame really. I would have liked to hear one of your fantastical theories about how we are all really the crazy ones and you know the order of the universe.”
The crowd roared, the Spokesperson really knew how to make a show out of a public execution.
“Now then,” he began again as the crowd died down. “It seems that it is—“
“Lies!” Soren cried out. While the crowd was busy laughing no one seemed to have noticed that Soren had managed to free himself from his chains and mouth covering. Not only this, but he had managed to knock his guards out cold in the process. The entire gathering sat motionless, stunned, eagerly anticipating what would happen next. When no one challenged him further he spoke up again,
“Your entire lives have been spent working to fill this hole, but do you want to know what is in the hole? When you load your dirt onto the transportation vehicles that supposedly go to fill up the hole, do you want to know where they really go? Doesn’t it seem strange to you that no matter how many endless shovelfuls of dirt you pile into the trucks the hole never gets filled? Are you really blinded by the once a year reports detailing ‘how much progress we’ve made’? I am being executed because I have seen the truth. Have any of you even seen this hole? Well, I have. I tell you that it is no bigger than 5 or 6 loads of dirt could fill. But the dirt you pile in the trucks is moved to previous digging locations so that they can be reused. Another thing, every time someone gets too close they—”
The next few seconds were a blur to Marco. Shots were fired; that he was certain of, for Soren now lay in a bright crimson pool on the stage. People were shouting, arguing. Some people believed what Soren had to say, other dismissed it as the musings of a madman. Marco didn’t have time to decide for soon shots were fired into the crowd and people began scrambling every which direction. The last thing he heard was the sound of the speakers mounted around the city, blasting a personal message from the mayor.
“This is what happens when you challenge the way things work”
Silence. Endless silence. The type of silence that was inescapable, the type that is never-ending. Void. A single shot had pierced the back of Marco’s skull. He left no one behind. Once again, the Town won out, and by the next day, things were back to normal.