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The System

 
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2012 6:25 pm    Post subject: The System Reply with quote

THE
SYSTEM

David Williams




‘Julia Page?’

Here, she said, standing from her desk. Her hair was in gold curls and adorned with two bright red ribbons. She smiled and sat again in her class of 30 children varying from age 7 to 8. The teacher called out the rest of the roll and began to speak.

‘We are close to our final lesson and you will be going to your families.’ She clicked something in her hand and a slide appeared, showing Dr. Ribbentrop. ‘He was first a politician and then a writer in his later years, honored by the London Consortium. Can anyone tell me his most famous paper?’

Julia raised her hand.

She stood.

The Eradication of Evil,’ she said.

‘Very good.’

She sat.

‘In this 1962 paper, which you will be tested on, Dr. Ribbentrop postulates that evil is not real but merely a necessary impulse—an exotic need for expression. Humankind can contain it by allowing it in small portions in the system. Denying it only creates greater harm and is unnatural as denying the need for competition or eating. All the wars of the past were created to satisfy man’s need for an evil that they denied. But if you do not deny it and make room for it then man no longer bottles up his hates or impulses. They no longer explore in mass warfare or destruction of societies. By institutionalizing certain impulses we may save millions—even billions of lives and progress as a people.

‘Understood?’

‘Yes!’ the children said.



Julia waited in the library. The teacher came to her personally, handing her an envelope with a name and time on it.

‘Congratulations, Julia. Your family is ready for you. You passed the test.’



Several hours later she was in the back of a Mercedes-Benz, the white car pulling up the driveway of a gated, tall white house. Her new mother and father opened the door for her, holding her hand as they helped her up the steps.

The den was very large with a spiral staircase at the end; the windows rose to the ceiling, firs and shrubs twisting in the low wind; by the white kitchen a long dining table. A reading room was to the left, adorned tastefully with antique chairs, a lounger and oak bookshelves.



That night at the dining table she sat with her new parents and new brother and sister. A tall table of mahogany covered in white linen cloth, the sterling forks and spoons arranged beside five China plates. They ate quietly, the courses placed and taken by an even quieter maid. We’re so pleased to have you, Julia, the mother said. The new brother and sister looked at her with interest, hardly touching their food and eating even less until father rebuked them. He told Julia their names and what school they went to. She nodded, smiling demurely and answering clearly.



The table was cleared; she went to her room with her siblings, sitting politely as they played with a fire engine. They offered her to play with it and she got on her knees to steer it around. The boy asked:

‘How long did you study?’

‘I was a student for 2 years,’ she said.

‘We went to school for five years!’ the new sister chimed.

‘Yes,’ said Julia.

‘What did you learn?’

‘We learned how to sit, walk and answer correctly,’ said Julia.

‘We learned math, reading, and sports,’ the boy said.

Julia smiled.

She sat back watching them play. The boy played with some blocks for a while, then asked:

‘What’s it like?’

‘It’s no different,’ she answered. ‘I’m so glad to be here.’



The morning came. She ate breakfast with the children. The husband went off to work. Two hours passed. Monique, it is brunch time, the mother said. Julia took off her ribbons and her little shoes. She walked into the den. There sat a stainless steel pot, plugged into the wall. It was three feet deep. Monique helped her into it then walked off. The water was cold, small bubbles on the bottom of the pot collecting on her feet. Her mother brought in a small chair, sitting to watch. Let us know when it gets too hot, dear, she said. Julia nodded nervously. She was so glad to be home. Can we help? the siblings begged. Not yet. More bubbles rose and beaded along the black curve of the pot, her legs now feeling warm. The maid wheeled in a small tank of helium, affixing over Julia’s head an oxygen mask. Breathe in very deep darling. You will feel light. Steam rose from the water line, her whole body feeling warm and glowing; sweat ran along the temples of her head, her mouth sucking in the helium as she looked at mother who smiled. Can we help? Yes. The brother and sister lifted a small bowl, pouring soup and potatoes over her head. Her neck slacked, the heat growing; hugging; the helium flowing. Her breath echoes in her head, the room warm. The bubbles made sounds; echoes; her neck touched the rim of the pot; the maid speaking a strange language. Masks on all of them, warm sounds; numbers dividing.

Sweat.

‘We’re so glad you could be here Julia.’

She saw her mother.

Her heart rose; jumping like a little bird—flowing in waves.

‘You will taste so good honey.’

More soup over her head. She could not feel her arms.

Chest heavy.

Large bubbles in the water.

So warm.

She thought of the teacher’s words. She floated. You are the lowest, a Level 5. But you can still be a part of the system. You can still contribute. The lowest holds the foundation. Who built the Pyramids? Yes. You are part of that line. Who pulled the sleds and carried the Kings? Yes. You are part of a heritage, and you will feed those who will do great things for all of us. You are progress. The servant is invaluable. You will go to the heart of us. You are immortal. For as long as you are in the world and the system never dies, then you live on in the system. You are a part of the system. Forever.

She smiled, tears of joy in her eyes.
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Harbinger
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2012 6:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

her class of thirty seven and eight year olds.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2012 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Harbinger wrote:
her class of thirty seven and eight year olds.


To be honest I'm not sure what this statement means.

30 seven and eight year olds in a class is possible in this fictional society. Their school system and society is markedly different from ours.

Or are you correcting my wording?

I prefer mine, personally. I appreciate the suggestion, but to me it reads like there's a class of thirty-seven year olds and eight year olds. Laughing
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2012 8:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's why I didn't hyphen between thirty and seven. Jeez. I thought about writing "30 seven and eight year olds" just to avoid having to write this response.

"Varying in age from 7 to 8" is what seemed cumbersome to me. I would reserve that type of statement for a larger difference in age such as "varying in age from six to eleven." Now that's a variance worth pointing out.
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2012 3:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Terrifying.
Good lead-up... from the very beginning, you KNOW something is very, very wrong.

I think the depiction of Julia you gave was brilliant - not too much detail, not too little.
Blond curls, red ribbons, bright smile.
So I'm pretty sure many readers will instantly generate their own generic image of an adorable, precious child...
enough to make your reader feel sick from missing her.

Also, I just noticed the only people whose first names are given are Julia and the maid, Monique.
Brilliant.

Rather gripping stuff.
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deer of the dawn's anti-recommendation of "Gilead"
My anti-recommendation of the same. (hers is shorter!)
Both are on the Watch's excellent "Anti-Recommendations of your Favorite Books" thread.

'"He will wipe the tears from all faces." It takes nothing from the loveliness of the verse to say that is exactly what will be required.' -Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2012 12:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Linna, thanks for bringing up this thread. *Gives self a virtual kick* I should comment on the new threads in the Hall more often, once again I thought to think out a fine review, got busy, forgot completely...

The review actually - it turned out much similar to a dissection)

The story feels surreal and otherworldly, but is closer to reality than it may seem - but I'll get to that by the end.

Worm of Despite wrote:

‘Congratulations, Julia. Your family is ready for you. You passed the test.’


Making it look as if it's something Julia had to try hard for and deserve.

Worm of Despite wrote:

The table was cleared; she went to her room with her siblings, sitting politely as they played with a fire engine. They offered her to play with it and she got on

her knees to steer it around.


As if a normal family.

Worm of Despite wrote:

There sat a stainless steel pot, plugged into the wall. It was three feet deep. Monique helped her into it


And that's where things start looking really wrong.

Worm of Despite wrote:

Her mother brought in a small chair, sitting to watch. Let us know when it gets too hot, dear, she said. Julia nodded nervously. She was so glad to be home.

Can we help? the siblings begged.


So gently, as if everything's still fine.

Worm of Despite wrote:

she looked at mother who smiled. Can we help? Yes. The brother and sister lifted a small bowl, pouring soup and potatoes over her head.


And now completely surreal, with the "family" behaving as if it's yet perfectly normal.

Worm of Despite wrote:

You are the lowest, a Level 5. But you can still be a part of the system. You can still contribute. The lowest holds the foundation. Who built the Pyramids? Yes.

You are part of that line.


And a pompous speech on how being stomped on is so great.

Worm of Despite wrote:

You will go to the heart of us. You are immortal. For as long as you are in the world and the system never dies, then you live on in the system. You are a part of

the system. Forever.


Forever?

Worm of Despite wrote:

She smiled, tears of joy in her eyes.


Joy about being used and abused - something not unknown in this world as well, something people should keep in mind better. As surreal and fantastic as this story looks, particularly the girl's reactions, it's a surprisingly correct and precise depiction of how people swallow propaganda and and "stick to their place" in a system, though the place is rightfully not theirs - and perhaps even shouldn't exist.
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