Safe Hate Division
by Harry Lang
George Clark always did his best to avoid the Psych section of Ultimate Aim’s developmental labs, or “the dungeon” as his buddies in Marketing called it. The shadowy corridors lined with doors that never seemed to open screamed “mad scientist” and the fact that it was underground and cramped didn’t help his claustrophobia. But he owed Dr. Charlie coffee and a bagel thanks to a fumble on the Giants’ two-yard line. Down he went.
Squinting at the labels on the endless rows of doors, George finally found the one he wanted. Safe Hate Division, Dr. Charles Holmberg, Director. George shuddered and went in.
Charlie’s office was small, battered and drenched in hideous fluorescent light. Ultra-modern when it had been built seventy years ago, it was depressingly decrepit now. It made George think of prehistoric ICBM’s and family bomb shelters. Oddly enough, Charlie’s bald head with its little fringe of gray and his iconic lab coat and spectacles seemed more at home with the 1950’s décor than the holo-display hovering over his desk.
“Right on time,” said Charlie, smiling as George handed over his breakfast. “Nice suit,” he commented as George sat down. The delicately shifting iridescence of the contour-hugging fabric highlighted the ivory pallor of George’s skin and the layered reds of his sculpted hair. “They give you a raise?”
“They gave me a suit,” answered George. He cast a sidelong glance at a formidable-looking door at the opposite end of the office. “How’s Frankenstein?”
“Hungry for human flesh,” said Charlie as he took a bite out of the bagel. “Go on in and say hi.”
George smiled. “So this one is what? Revision eight?” he asked.
“Eleven,” corrected Charlie, frustration clearly evident. “We keep running out of budget for the prototypes before we can finish them up. Then, instead of supplemental funding, we have to go through the whole proposal process all over again. I have a file of future proposals, all the way up to twenty-five. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Yeah, well you guys better get cracking,” said George. “We can only sell promises for so long, you know. Speaking of which, just what are we selling? Besides promises.”
“You don’t know?”
“Sure,” answered George, “I know what the steak is. Clones for every occasion. But I don’t think I get the sizzle...” George caught the perplexity on his friend’s round face. “You know,” he went on, “the adage from the restaurant business. You don’t sell the steak, you sell the sizzle.”
“No sizzle here, George,” said Charlie, taking a sip of coffee. “This is science. It’s boring.”
“If you say so, Charlie,” said George. “But it may only look that way to an insider like you. Science can be pretty exotic to regular slobs like me. For instance, ‘Safe Hate.’ What is that, some yin-yang, Jungian dualistic double-think? What’s it all about?”
George’s “Ah!” awakened Charlie. George seemed to have hit paydirt. “The ultimate aim in Ultimate Aim. Dear oh dear, where to begin?”
Dr. Charlie took a big drink of coffee, stared thoughtfully for a moment then asked, “George, what’s wrong with the world?”
George was at a loss but was never one to let that stop him. “Traffic jams, world hunger, trouble and strife...?” he fumbled. “So what, you’re cloning Jesus...?”
“You asked a serious question,” said Charlie. “I’m attempting a serious answer. Everybody knows what’s wrong with the world, and pretty much everybody is wrong about what’s wrong with the world.”
“Okay, doc, set me straight,” said George.
“What’s wrong with the world is the other guy,” revealed Charlie. “Think about it. Anthropomorphic climate change. It’s not real. If the lunatic alarmists would knock it off, we could all relax and enjoy life. Or it is real. It’s a threat. If the knuckle-dragging deniers would get out of the way, we could fix it. All the energy gets used up blasting away at the other guy, and the rubble isn’t pretty.”
“That’s a very old story, Charlie.”
“Yes, it is,” said Charlie, “but I’m just getting warmed up. Building a case, as it were. Look at politics. Look at race. Look at religion or class or national identity. Or individual relationships based on none of those things.
“Don’t misunderstand me. There are real issues at stake, real true things and false things, real complexity. But there is also one very simple thing that is, I think, universally overlooked or downplayed.”
“Consider the drums rolled,” said George. “What is it?”
“We can’t function without hate,” said Charlie. “I’m not talking about some book-balancing karma thing. I mean human beings have an unbreakable, pathological attachment to hate. If there’s no reason to hate somebody, we’ll invent one. We see that all the time, don’t we?
“Furthermore, I propose that this attachment to hate is unrelated to the subjects of the conflicts that bring it out. It is a thing unto itself. We make a serious mistake when we ascribe hateful behavior to depth of passion or strength of belief, as if loving one god logically demands killing the followers of another, or holding a political opinion means annihilating people with an opposing opinion.”
“So... we teach everybody to settle down and sing Kumbaya,” said George. “What do clones have to do with it?”
“We’ve been trying Kumbaya since the dawn of time, George,” said Charlie, spreading a blob of cream cheese on his bagel. “Remember the popular definition of insanity. It’s time to grow up and stop kidding ourselves. Humans have an innate drive to hate. It can’t be eradicated; God knows we’ve proven that. But it can be directed. We’ve proven that, too.”
George began to notice some of the research materials spread across Charlie’s desk. They included photos of German concentration camps, woodcuts depicting scenes from the crusades, and people George didn’t recognize torturing other people George didn’t recognize.
“You’re, um... you’re starting to scare me a little bit, buddy,” said George.
“Hmm? Oh, that stuff,” said Charlie, noticing where George’s eyes were pointed. “Be of good cheer, young man! Science has found the solution to all of that.”
“Clones,” said George as the light went on. The scant color in his face drained completely. “You’re going to manufacture a class of clones for people to hate, and I’m gonna sell ’em?!”
“Almost,” said Charlie, leafing through a pile of spreadsheets. The clock was ticking, and they both had work to do. “What we’re actually doing is making clones universally hate-able. We’re working on a comprehensive hate-able profile including things like appearance, body language, chemical factors and tone of voice. Everything we can think of goes into the pot.
“The idea is that, over time, people will learn to direct the bulk of their natural hatred against the unnatural sub-humans. All that hatred will be rendered harmless; the clones will be conditioned not to reciprocate.”
“Or protect themselves,” observed George.
“Good point,” noted Charlie. “And that brings us back to this lab. For all of this to work, the clones have to inspire enough hatred to distract humans from hating each other but not enough to make them want to physically harm the clones. Once we get a working prototype, we’ll start testing in limited social settings. A lot of fine-tuning to be done. That’s what the bean counters don’t get.”
“But what about the clones?” asked George. “I mean, they’re people, right? With feelings?”
“Well,” said Charlie, “their status as ‘people’ is a little ambiguous now, but the legal department is working to clear that up. As far as feelings are concerned, they’ll have the feelings we give them. They’ll be satisfied with the menial jobs they have, and they won’t even notice how the natural people feel about them.”
“Are you sure?” asked George, because he sure wasn’t.
“We’re scientists, George,” assured Charlie. Good old paunchy, middle-aged Dr. Charlie shining the happy sunlight of reason into humanity’s darkest corners. “We leave nothing to chance. The clones will be satisfied with the lives we give them, probably more so than the rest of us.”
“Yeah...” said George as he stood to leave, his mind groping through the twilight of a vast new territory. He didn’t quite know what to make of his friend’s assertions and assurances, but he did know he was late for a meeting. “See you later, Charlie.”
Dr. Charlie took a last swig of lukewarm coffee then located the spreadsheet detailing the points to be covered in today’s examination. With thoughts divided between his work and approaching retirement, he went to the locked door at the opposite end of the office and punched in the entry code.
“Good morning, Dr. Holmberg,” said a pleasant female voice as Charlie stepped into the examining room.
Charlie’s heart pounded. He noted it on the spreadsheet.
A young woman stood next to a cot in a neat little open cell. She was not beautiful. She was not unattractive. Her appearance was as nondescript as science could make it.
“Speak when spoken to, Eve,” the doctor reminded her as he scanned the readouts of two banks of monitors keeping track of everything measurable in a human body and mind. One for her, one for him.
“Did you sleep well?” asked Charlie.
A blink on a monitor. She was going to lie. She would lie because they were all liars.
“Yes, doctor,” she answered.
“Then tell me your dreams,” he ordered.
Eve smiled warmly. Blink went the monitor. Charlie felt tense all over.
“I dreamt I worked in a big factory,” she began. “It was strange, because the factory was full of sunlight and fresh air, not dark and dirty like factories usually are.”
Blink, blink, blink. Charlie’s grip on the pen he used to scribble notes tightened. “Go on.”
“That’s all I remember,” she said. “Except that it felt good to know my purpose and work hard.”
Charlie had reached his limit. “Congratulations,” he said, slamming the clipboard down onto the desk. “You’ve developed yourself into an accomplished liar.”
He stepped into the cell. “I hate liars!” he said, then he gave her the full force of the back of his hand.
Down she went onto the cot, staining the pillow with blood but no tears. She was perfectly capable of crying but she wouldn’t do it. He couldn’t make her.
Charlie went back to his desk in the battered office, feeling calmer once he was out of her presence. Clearly, more “fine-tuning” was needed, and the budget for Eve Eleven was nearly exhausted. He recorded the morning’s findings then started finalizing the proposal for number 12.
When his work on the proposal was finished, Dr. Charlie made a phone call to an office on the next floor down. “Hello, Dennis?” he said. “Yeah, Charlie. Number 11 is kaput... I know, right? Listen, I can never remember: do you let Housekeeping know or do I? Okay, thanks. What? No, the Giants aren’t going to the Super Bowl! Okay. Bye.”
In the little cell in the locked room in the battered office in the creepy basement of the start-up company with the bold new idea, Eve Eleven heard the hiss of gas. Soon she would join her ten sisters in the freezers down below.
She stopped crying. She folded her hands, smiled and did her best to thank the God she had heard so little about in her short life.
The light on the monitor did not blink.
Copyright © 2015 by Harry Lang