That night, the facility is a light and bustling with many people. I try my best, but I still manage to bump into those I walk past.
No official meeting has been scheduled for the night, but those in the group have been invited by Riles and Marcus to check out the experimentation as it occurs.
I’m shuffling my way through the crowd of people in the hall, searching for a familiar face. Eventually I find Gordon talking to a man dressed in a lab-coat. I wait until he’s finished conversing before approaching.
“Everything looks to be going well,”
“Tell me about it,” Gordon leans back against the wall with his arms crossed. “I’ve been here since nine pm trying to get everything sorted. As you can see, we still don’t have order.”
He’s right. Everyone seems to be loud and frantic, excitement heavy in the air.
“It’s like people are getting a taste of freedom,” I theorise and Gordon nods in agreement.
“There’s no timeline so while we have the pessimists like me who reckon it’ll take a year or so for it to be implemented, the majority are optimists and they’re not going to stop until it’s done.”
“Why are we here?” I gesture between us. “We can’t really contribute anything.”
“You don’t have to be here if you don’t wish, Jonathan. Otherwise, you have unlimited access to these facilities. You can go exploring and stick your nose into everyone’s business. You can read the test results and reports.”
“What have they managed to do so far? Have they started tests already?”
He shakes his head.
“No they still have to complete the plans and gather resources to make it possible. You can’t just mix up a body changing medication in a matter of days.”
“They’re geniuses though. If they can build whole compute systems that could wipe-out the human race, anything is possible for them to achieve.”
“True, you are.”
After a while I continue down the hall, looking for no one in particular. I take a peek into one of the rooms in the hall to see a bunch of men installing fluorescent lights in the ceiling and setting up metal benches. It makes me shiver at how synthetic it all looks, like it’s cold enough to cut through skin.
I turn away from the room and peer back down the hall to see Thomas jogging towards me. His eyes a bright and the grin on his face looks so wide that it could hurt.
“How’d you go?” I ask him with a grin. “Where did you take her?”
“One of the restaurants on the main street. We were only out for an hour or so, but it was magical.”
“Did she enjoy herself?”
Thomas looks down shyly.
“Well she agreed to go out with me in a few days.”
“Thanks. Would you like to come and check out my work space?”
I of course, agree.
Thomas takes me back the way I came and leads me into one of the rooms nearer to the elevator. Obviously the builders are working from the front of the hall downwards because everything is set up.
The room is a decent shape with shiny lights in the ceiling, bright enough to almost make my eyes and head hurt. The walls are replaced with huge whiteboards, ready to take down any formulas that might be needed. There’s a desk already covered in paper, probably brought in by Thomas.
In the centre of the room are long tables that look like the whiteboards. When I ask Thomas, he confirms my idea. They’re made out of the same material so when the geniuses come together they can write down their thoughts as they go.
“This is quite the impressive setup,” I say as I peer around the room, surveying everything. “It looks like a gathering place for the greatest scientists in the world.”
“We are the greatest scientists,” Thomas laughs at me. “If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be entrusted with such a thing as changing the human race.”
“Right you are,” I chuckle and sit down at one of the tables. “It looks snazzy.”
“I’ve already started on plans,” Thomas tells me as he scans some of the papers on his desk. “I’ve been reading up on human genetics a lot lately.”
“Do you think it’s possible to make this work?”
“Yes of course,” he nods quickly. “Science can do anything it wanted. It just depends if we have the technology to make it happen. We should have what we need to pull off the basics of the idea.”
“What about with stuff like sexuality? Can you rewrite someone’s mental state?”
Thomas sits down across from me, excitement written across his face.
“Different sexualities mean a different mental state. The mind of a gay man is wired differently to a straight man and then different again to those who identify with a different gender. The mind of a straight man is considered to be the normal one so we just have to create something that will normalise the abnormal.”
“So it’s possible?”
“Yes,” he nods sternly. “It’s going to suck for people, but as you say, it’s for the greater good.”
“What about stuff like hair growth? We want them all the same length, I think Riles said a few days ago.”
“That, science can’t control. The body is always growing in some kind of way. We can’t hinder hair growth without hindering everything else.”
“Meaning laws would have to be implemented?”
“Yes, sadly. People aren’t going to like it.”
“People don’t like a lot of things.”
Thomas lets me read through his files which is what I do for the rest of my time at the facility. A lot of it I can’t understand due to my lack of maths and science knowledge, but I nod along with his words as if I can understand him. By the end of the night when I hand the papers back to him, my mind is aching for all the numbers and terms.
I say goodnight to the remaining men in the facility before making my way out of the rugged building that now holds the key to the cities survival.
I’m fishing through my pockets as I search for the car keys amongst countless other objects when I hear snapping of twigs. My eyes immediately go to the tree-line on one side of the parking space and I try to peer through the darkness.
My voice is startling loud in the blanket of darkness and quiet of the night. I immediately feel like countless eyes are watching me.
I scan the parking space again before hurrying towards my car and jumping inside. I’m just hearing my sleep deprived state. Nothing to worry about.
When I get home I fix myself a bite to eat having had nothing since dinner time. I debate staying awake until work but decide against it. Even though I feel more then awake right now, I know that within a few hours I’ll be begging to take a nap for an hour or two. It’s better to give my body what it wants now rather than later.
I’m making my way up the stairs when I think I hear rustling coming from Rose’s bedroom. Thinking nothing of it, I quietly make my way to her door before opening it the tiniest bit.
I’m surprised to find Rose standing in the centre of the room, taking off a black hoodie to reveal her normal outfit of jeans and a long sleeve shirt on underneath. At the sound of her door opening, she whips around to face me with her eyes wide.
She stares at me like a deer in the headlights and I flick on her light before stepping inside the room.
“Where have you been?”
“I,” she stammers. “I just went outside for a little while.”
“If you were just outside I would have seen you when I got home.” My eyes fall on her open window. “Did you climb in the window?”
After a moment’s thought and a long sigh, Rose finally nods.
“I tried to follow you tonight.”
Now it’s my turn to go wide-eyed.
“It was you in the parking lot?”
She nods, eyes on the ground.
“You don’t drive very fast so I was able to keep up.”
I move over to sit down on the bed, resting my elbows on my knees.
“Did you run or take the bike?”
“The bike. After years riding it, I’m able to keep up a fast pace.”
I know I should rebuke her but instead I pull her down onto the bed beside me, keeping my arm around her waist.
“Why would you do that, Rose? I told you it has the potential to kill us.”
“How? All I saw was an old run down building. There wasn’t even anyone else there. You all went in, but when I explored inside it, no one was there.”
I start taking deep relaxation breaths so my anger doesn’t speak. I want to both shake her and hug her at the same time.
“You need to listen to me. I don’t want to lose you.”
“I don’t want to lose you either, but if you’re involved with some gang, you’re going to lose me anyway.”
“It’s not a gang,” I smooth back her hair gently. “I promise it’s nothing like that.”
“Your promises don’t mean much,” she frowns. “You’re always lying or keeping the truth from me.”
“Rose I’m trying to protect you.”
“I would rather die knowing you told me the truth then go on living knowing you’re lying to me every day.”
I jump up from the bed and begin to pace the floor. Her bedside clock reveals it to be close to four am.
“As your father, I have a responsibility to keep you safe.”
She crosses her arms and glares at me.
“At what cost?”
“All costs! Your safety means everything to me.”
“Would you lie to mum?” she bites at me. “If mum was asking you this right now in front of you, would you lie to her and tell her, her safety mattered more than being truthful?”
“Don’t do this to me,” I beg in a pained voice.
“Would you or wouldn’t you? Please answer the question.”
“I.. I don’t know,” I search my mind for the answer.
“Please tell me the truth. I hate all this lying, even if it is done in the name of the greater good.”
I want to tell her. I can feel the words crawling up my throat now, but my mind which has always been stronger than my heart battles it wildly in the fight for control.
In the end, my mind wins.
“No, Rose,” I tell her bluntly. “I have authority in this house and I’m not going to let you take it. I have an obligation and need to protect the both of us, even if that does mean you hate me for a while.”
Rose looks hurt. She opens her mouth to say something, but I beat her to it.
“You’re grounded. You are not to leave this house except for school until I say otherwise, do you hear me?”
Tears flow down her cheeks as she nods again.
“Good. Now get some rest and I’ll see you in the morning.”
Without a word I march out of her room, slamming the door shut behind me. I know I’ve been harsh and hurt her feelings, but I remind myself it’s been done for the greater good. Just like everything else. Our wants and desires have to be sacrificed to better supply people with their needs.
Rose might want answers, but she needs protection. I need to tend to her needs first and everything else falls into place.
I crash onto the bed, doing my best to shut off my own feelings of pain on the matter. I’ve always been good at hiding my emotions and thoughts even from myself. It makes it easier to sleep at night.
The next morning Rose doesn’t come down for breakfast before I have to leave. The only times she’s ever done that in the past is if she’s been sick or got in trouble for misbehaving. Either way, they were never any good reasons. I want nothing more than to walk into her room and give her a hug, but instead I settle with knocking on it lightly before telling her to get some food before she leaves for school and that I love her.
She doesn’t respond.
Time starts to fly after that. Due to the nearing of Christmas season, work picks up quickly and every spare minute that I’m not talking to a customer at work is spent working on the designs for Thomas. As days pass, I see a change in Elaine. No longer does she flirt with everyone and look sad when she thinks no one is looking. Instead, she’s always polite and wears a consistent small smile on her lips.
I’m glad Thomas arrived in her life when he did.
The plan for the Changed Society moves along smoothly and swiftly. Within a few days, the geniuses have designed and created a test formula that they soon start using on small rodents. In the most recent case of administrating it, one of the animals died, alarming many of the scientists. Even they can make fatal flaws, but they’re not used to it when they do.
You wouldn’t notice it if you weren’t look for it, but the government begins to hint at new changes. Already talk of new laws has reached the media as many theorise over what they might be. When asked, the leader of the city only tells that it will better benefit the city and the world. He does warn that it will require sacrifice by everyone.
In the office, they think it’ll be yet another rule on driving or the school system. I wish I could tell them that it’ll affect their personal lives more than anything. Of course, I don’t though.
One night on my way to the research facility, I notice that a few houses have been knocked down in the outer city by the demolition council. I don’t anything for sure, but I immediately theorise that it’ll will be the erection of the new housing facilities that will gradually take over the whole city. I have to wonder what happened to the house occupants though. I hope they’ve been momentarily relocated to apartments. I wonder if they know what it all means.
Of course though, no one seems quite bothered by the changes that have started to occur.
In the Charles house, Rosemary Bownds has officially moved in for good, just in time for Christmas. After her trial week went smoothly and some contemplation, she agreed to take up permanent residency with us. Already, you can see the difference in the house exterior. She works to the best of her ability on each room, taking the time she needs to do it without injuring herself in the process.
Although Rose has refused to talk to me for quite a few weeks now, I can tell she appreciates the company of another woman in the house. When she doesn’t think I’m looking, I can see her smiling and sometimes even laughing in her discussions with Rosemary. It hurts that she refuses to talk to me, but I’m glad that she has someone she can talk to.
It’s a month later when the news of the vaccination makes it’s way into the media. By that point, there are attacks on the city nearly every day. Although still based on the outside areas, it’s starting to make it’s way in further. By now it’s clear that the people behind each attack are from the city and people are starting to panic and even riot against the authorities. Eventually, the government takes to the press.
I’m talking to Elaine at the front desk when the television lights up, a sign of urgent news. Elaine and I pause our conversation to turn up the sound and listen carefully.
“We are well aware of the trouble occurring in the city and we wish to assure you all that there are plans in place to battle terrorism once and for all.”
I feel my heart rate pick up and I clench my hands together in excitement.
“We wish to implement you of the changes,” the city’s leader announces. “Do that, we will, but for now, we wish to announce the first plans of taking this city back under control.”
Cameras flash wildly and you can hear the crowd murmuring and shouting out questions. He continues speaking.
“Today we are passing the first law,” he pauses before continuing, “Starting today, all religious practices and artefacts are banned. This means the demolition of churches, mosques and any other buildings that contain any religious gatherings. All religious textbooks are to be burnt or delivered to authorities by the end of the day.”
The murmur of the crowd has increased and I can even hear some people screaming in anger. Beside me, Elaine has her hand to her chest, horror written all over her face and mouth open in surprise.
“Anyone caught involved with any sort of religious activity will be charged accordingly,” he states bluntly. “I will now take questions.”
By now I can barely hear the television. I can almost feel the floor below my feet shake and quiver as the workers below protest at the screens. I can hear the yelling from here and it’s not quiet at all.
On screen, you can see the police authorities pressing back against the crowd as they surge forehead, clawing at the governor. While I know this move is cruel, I can’t help but think this is exactly why it should be banned. If this is how badly people want their religion, it should be banned from their lives. It would better not only society, but them personally as well.
Eventually, one reporter pushes to the front with his notepad and pen at the ready and one of the stage assistants present him with a microphone.
“Why are you doing this?” he asks straight up. “How is taking people’s rights away going to assist against terrorism? It was debunked last year that religion was the cause of attacks like these.”
“This problem goes further than any attack,” the governor answers. “We need to get everyone on the same page so we can work together.”
Another reporter rips the microphone out of the others hands and asks,
“Won’t this cause even more division? Separate the people from the government?”
“As the last census revealed, there are way less religious people in this city then there are none. If these people were to fight against the government, it wouldn’t affect anyone’s life except theirs.”
The television switches off and I turn to see Elaine clutching the remote to her chest with tears in her eyes.
“Are you okay?” I ask her and she wildly shakes her head.
“I’m not of faith, but my family is. This will truly destroy them. I can’t believe they would do something like this.”
“It’s for the greater good,” I try and say soothingly but she just shakes her head.
“This benefits no one except the government. If a plan requires taking people’s rights then it’s not the right kind of plan.”
A pang of guilt shoots through my chest.
“Just wait and see what their other plans are,” I rub her arm, trying to be reassuring. “Who knows? This might work out.”
“You don’t understand,” she brushes my hand aside and marches back behind her dress. “The people who made this choice are the ones who don’t have a faith. They have no sympathy and they don’t understand. Bad things happen in this world and it will never ever be stopped. Doing this is only going to be fuel to the fire.”
Sure enough, Elaine was right. The next day it’s the weekend and I’m sitting at home sipping at my coffee and reading the newspaper and my INews (an invention by Telcorp) when a headline catches my eyes. Not online has a riot started outside the city, but it’s making it’s way towards the centre.
I jog up to Rose’s room and knock on the door before throwing it open.
Rose looks up from the book she’s reading and pulls out her headphones.
“What do you want?”
I ignore the anger in her voice.
“You’re not going out today.”
“I know. I’m grounded, remember? I know you might find this hard to believe, but I’m not going to try and sneak out in some sort of rebellion.”
I cross my arms and frown at her.
“No need to accuse me. I just wanted to let you know. There’s a riot in the center of town and I don’t want you mixed up in it.”
This seems to peak Rose’s interest and she sits up, eyes suddenly wide and bright.
“What’s the riot over?”
“The religion ban.”
Rose wrinkles her nose and frowns.
“I think they’re right to riot.”
I feel my mouth drop in astonishment.
“What did you say?”
She picks up her book again and settles back against her headboard.
“I think people have the right to be angry and riot over it. Our dickhead of a governor is only making things worse in this city.”
“Don’t swear,” I rebuke her, but my minds reeling over her words. She was the last person I assumed would be mad over the rule. “Your mum thought about it a while ago.”
“I know,” Rose tells me as she peeks over her book. “We would talk about it all the time.”
“She wondered what would happen if it were to be banned, but she never wanted it to be.”
Coldness begins to spread through my body and I sink to my knees without thinking. I press Rose for more information.
“She told me she thought it might work to control everyone.”
“We’re not meant to be controlled,” Rose frowns. “Each person is unique with their own minds. To take away what they believe, we’re stealing their uniqueness. Mum hated the idea of people having their originality stolen.”
My mind is reeling from this new information. All I’ve wanted to do is make Danielle proud. It’s killing me to think I might have done something she totally hated.
That night when I collapse into bed, all I can think about is how I have betrayed the love of my life. If she were here, how would she be reacting to this new information? How would she react if I told it was all me who came up with this idea of stealing others rights?
I begin to wonder if I have made a mistake.