Have you ever wondered how it feels to kill somebody? Have you ever been dreaming at one time or another, about how a neck would feel if you squeezed too hard, or the look on a face with a hole right between its eyes? Mind you, I do not know much about killing either. There are books I have read, shows I have seen, and radio programs I have heard. I have discussed this often with my friends, and at class. The teacher has tried to share her own experience and walk us through the steps a thousand of times. She is good and she means well. Her story however totally clashes with my mother’s story, and my aunt’s. My dad has never told me his. He refuses to talk about it with anybody. Anyway, soon it will be my turn. The moment is drawing near. My Becoming. Of course, I do not have to go through with it at all.
There is no written law. It is rather one of those bridges that must only be passed if one wishes to move to another place. I do not have to do it. But then, the growing ritual will never be complete and I will not be allowed to vote or be eligible for election. I will not be heard. I will be forever an aging teenager, somebody to be handled with care and concern, too weak to take care of herself, too scared to grow up and face life. I do not want that. It has been in my mother’s agenda since I was a little girl, that one day I would become a politician. I do not know why. Maybe to get back at my dad, who never helped her realize her own ambitions. He has always been a reticent man, pouring over a book or a newspaper, even during dinnertime, and never participating in anything my mother organizes. Of course she needs his help to make the elections, because although theoretically only one person runs, in practice, the whole family is elected. They are scrutinized, paraded, interviewed, poked and prodded from every direction. The smart, or the well organized politicians-to-be, start as early as first grade. Most of them have shining Becoming records, with all proper tears and memorable words, carefully conserved and played on the campaigns. The marriages are also very well thought out, with lots of love and affection on display. It is a full-time job for the couple on the campaign and afterwards. The children have it easier, but most are already infected with the ambition bug and lead the same perfect lives as the parents in order to get into the race and succeed. Nepotism is the base of our governmental system. Countless classes of Social Studies have helped me understand how effective this system is. It pays to give the vote to somebody who has been groomed from childhood to take care of it. And the Becoming makes sure responsibility and courage is learned.
Here, I am rambling on again. It seems I will do anything but think about tomorrow. My mother is hovering around me, my father is leafing through a book instead of reading it, and my aunt is furiously cooking in the kitchen. Only my brother sits content on the sofa. From the hand signs, I understand he is at his s-game again. The way he is playing, he is going to blow his chip and brain, before he gets a chance at a real Becoming. I never liked the game or plugging in directly like he does. My friends invented the method, and now everybody is doing it. It takes one over completely, allowing only limited awareness of the surroundings and I do not like that. My mother complains about my stubbornness and controlling ways, but hey, it is not my fault we share the same genes. If she wants me to be a politician, it will be on my terms. Which brings me to the Becoming once more. I do not know who will be the one. Theoretically I could pick anyone. I could just go wherever they are and off them. The politically correct thing is to ask for permission to handle a very dangerous prisoner. They let the chosen one out in an open yard. The candidates have to go over and inhume the guy. Some prefer to try and talk to the condemned first. I do not understand why. Maybe they feel the need for absolution, or at least an assurance that they are doing the right thing. There was this girl who granted the condemned his last wish. She had sex with him, and then killed him right after orgasm. She always maintained it was more humane that way in all her later interviews. When she became the youngest governor candidate in the history of our state, the story had a special place in all the election publicity stunts, complete with footage from the event and medical testimonies about her virginity.
My music does not let me think. I do not know whom to choose. Somehow, as my mom is looking anxiously over my shoulder, I picture myself getting a swing at her. Or my father. I know I can’t, but sometimes it almost makes sense. It is in the way they almost communicate with each other. It is in the freedom of decision they have given me, trusting that I will do the right thing. I’d like to show that they have no clue, but I am just kidding myself. I do what they trust I’d do. They got me down pat. I am old enough to understand that there is no escape from their programming. What about my brother? His idiotic smile is getting on my nerves as he celebrates his umpteenth victory over the stupid s-game. His brain will be too fried in a couple of months for anything serious anyway. It can be so quick and easy. A mercy, even. However, there is nothing to be gained from killing him. No, death penalty row it will be. I plug my piece in and call the public file. Currently there are 23 inmates, waiting for their demise. I choose album mode and their faces hover all around me, seriously looking forward. It is so weird that nobody has thought to replace mug shots. Oh, there is a lot of backup and additional vivid footage at the touch of my fingers, but the main shots are the same style as those ancient ones I went through for my history assignment a long time ago. I get up and walk around the room, the faces of the condemned men still hovering around me. They are all serious and sober. Some have anger showing through the corners of their faces, some look forward with resignation, some with defiance. I have to choose one of them.
I breathe deeply and ask for the files on #22215B. The mug picture is that of a strong face with an ugly jaw and low forehead. Hmm. The log of his crimes opens by itself, a stark list of places, names and dates. He has killed 23 women, dispatching their limbs throughout the seashore, leaving legs, arms, torsos and hair to be found by anybody out for a leisure stroll or romantic rendezvous. Yes, he might make a wonderful choice. His looks are those of a typical criminal and the female voters will strongly support my candidacy when the time comes for me to enter politics.
I stare at the shot for a while longer, until I feel my mother hovering over me again.
‘Did you make a choice?” she asks.
‘No, – I admit, hating myself for doing it.
I know she is thinking about herself at my age. She chose very well for her Becoming, indeed helping stabilize that shaky and totally alien custom at the time. At the time, there were a lot of bleeding hearts that opposed the death penalty and advocated for leniency to criminals. In fact, to succeed in politics, one had to display their merciful side prominently, by kissing children and forgiving the condemned. My mom helped put an end to all that by becoming the first woman to go through the Becoming. After, she shot through the government ranks with the dizzy speed of a star, only to become stuck in midway, because she had not been born into it and fame could only propel her so far. She married my father, attracted to his birth records and wonderful family connections, but found out that he was not interested at all in politics or helping her advance. Actually, she had known this beforehand; she’d just thought that she would be able to seduce him out of his refusal, as she had seduced him out of his celibacy wow. She had been wrong, and it had taken her a while to understand that. By the time she became completely sure, my brother and I had come along and it had been too late to divorce him. She pinned her ambitions on me instead. I had her strength and her guidance, and I had my entire father’s family support to get into the politico game. It was as natural as blood to me. It was in my genes.
My mother turns and leaves me alone. She knows she can not afford to show disappointment for fear that my young blood will still rebel in some way, but it is a useless concern. I see her point all too clearly, and my mother’s ambition is my ambition. I am adept at the political game, and I love having the power to guide, change and make decisions about life and death. I honestly believe that I will be an excellent ruler and that I have all that is needed for bringing our country to new heights. After all, have I not been groomed for this since birth? Have I not passed all that life has thrown me so far? Don’t I have the right relations? Who better than me?
It is useless. I cannot decide. I close the condemned file and unplug the piece. I will let the courts decide. Any inhumation will be useful and a service to my country, and a very satisfactory Becoming trial. I better get some sleep and start the morning refreshed and clear. Besides, I do not want to look haggard and worn in front of the camera. My eyes have a tendency to show sleeplessness very quickly.
I awake with the rays of the sun, 1 minute before my alarm clock goes off. I like this old alarm clock; it adds a lot of humanity to the holos of my room they publish in teen e-zine. I get in and out of the shower very quickly. I put on my white shirt, with a soft lambskin west on top, black tight pants, combat boots and gun belt. It is symbolic only, I have already chosen to use the large knife my mother brought from my father’s family ancient armory. She initially was against such a close-up inhumation, but I insisted that it was only fair to the condemned. Besides, it would better show my humanity and merciful nature, together with the determination and gall to get the job done.
My mother presents me with the knife and kisses me on the forehead before I am set on my way. My father is nowhere to be found, and I surprise myself with the disappointment I feel at that. Somehow, I still hope he is going to come out of his room and see me off, but it does not happen. My mother wipes her eyes dramatically and waives at me. Well at least she’ll look good on the reel.
The condemned is waiting at the inner court of the ancient prison building. It is out of respect for tradition that she is bound in heavy chains, and put in the middle of the arena-like court. The buildings, as well as the chains, are all secured with the highest holo-tech gadgets camouflaging as ancient artifacts here and there. The guards are ready, just in case something goes wrong. I know they have to be here as witnesses more than for security but I cannot help being a bit miffed. I have never done a bad job after all.
I straighten my back, put a smile on my constrained face and get closer to the condemned. She is looking at me with scared, teary eyes, and trembling lips. Her hair is disheveled and still wet. I meet her eyes with my best compassionate smile.
This is something we need to do for you sister, this is the price I have to pay for freeing your soul and balancing the harm that you have caused to our society. We protect what we work so hard to achieve, we fight for what is taken from us, we hurt our enemies so that they cannot hurt us back. Look at this as redemption and freedom from vice, from that evil that claimed your soul until now, the cure from the pain that muddled your thoughts and let you damage our collective soul. Give your blood and your wounds so that ours can be assuaged. Let your body bleed freely from it hundreds of openings, not nearly enough, more needed, we need more stabbing, so that everybody can see and understand and never forget. By this blood I prove myself today, I show the power and the resolve in me to bring the country forward and make my family proud, so I need more, bleed more, more bleeding, blee…
I feel pulled from the bloody mass in front of me and the dagger is pried from my sticky hand. Blood blotches bloom everywhere on my clothes, shoes, hair, and face, permeating my skin and slowly bringing this very unfamiliar taste to my own blood stream. I stick out my tongue and cautiously taste the splatters on my lips. Not bad.
I look around at the awed faces of the guards and I know I have done well and passed the test. There is terror in those faces, which is just as well. It can be a very helpful ally.
The bloody mess that was a woman not so long ago is still at my feet. The images are already being transmitted. I should remember to get a holo for my room. It will be a good reminder about what I am capable of doing to my enemies.
I kneel and say a short prayer for the benefit of the phantom audience, surely captivated at their living rooms. As I feel the cameras concentrating at my face, I wipe the knife on one clean side of the bloodied shift of the condemned. I cannot abide dirty weapons.
Then I salute the guards, and walk back slowly towards the open prison doors.