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Living Standards

by Bill Kowaleski

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Living Standards: synopsis

In a future world marked by extremes of poverty and wealth, 13-year old Jiri has known only poverty. One day, a wealthy woman appears in Jiri’s enclave, the slum he calls home, and offers his mother an unimaginable amount of money for Jiri’s services. Little do Jiri and his mother know what the woman intends, but they accept. As Jiri grows and prospers in his new life, he becomes involved in a dangerous movement that will change his life and everyone else’s as well.

Chapter 34: Bain in Chains

Andy Schultz drove one of the armored labor vans south along the Interstate. A soldier sat beside him and two more sat on the back bench seat, surrounding Bain. For almost half the trip, no one said a word until Bain asked, “So how did you end up in Joliet, Jaden?”

“I’m Andy now. Jaden was my middle name. The Gates preferred it. It sounded ‘sexy’ they said. That just made me hate that name even more than I already did. But, to answer your question, Jack, someone came and took me home just like what happened to you, like rescuing a dog from a shelter.

“Only, those were never loving happy homes for us, like most of those shelter dogs get. No, we just got abused some more. This guy was violent. He beat me, he tortured me, he verbally abused me. Two weeks after I arrived there, I’d had enough. After I pounded the life out of him with a shovel, I stole his car and drove right to Joliet.”

“God, Andy, I’m so sorry. How awful that must have been.”

“So your guy wasn’t so bad, then, Jack? After all, he did adopt you, and he passed his company on to you.”

“Yeah,” said Bain, looking away, afraid to tell the truth. “Not so bad. He died when I was eighteen. I had to grow up fast.”

“And you ended up being a customer at the Gates’. Is that right?.”

“Yeah. I guess I was always looking for you, or someone like you. Jiri was the closest. I really fell for him hard, but I was over forty when that happened. And he’s hetero.”

“Yeah, not exactly ideal,” said Andy. “Myself, I did find someone. We’re still together. He’s the most wonderful person I’ve ever met. Being gay in the enclave isn’t too bad. They’re open-minded in Joliet. It’s a poor place, but it’s like one big family. Too bad you’ll never be able to experience that.”

“What do you mean? Are they going to execute me?”

“I don’t know, Jack. Maybe, or maybe they’ll use you for some propaganda purpose. Imelda Gates is still alive. I think they’re going to...”

“To what?”

Andy sighed. “I really can’t say any more.”

As they approached the north entrance to Joliet Enclave, Andy saw throngs of people spilling out into the road and surrounding marshy fields. They were carriying cups or bottles and were singing, embracing, and in some cases even copulating. He thought about his high-profile prisoner and feared that Bain might be dragged from the car and torn to pieces.

He stopped a hundred meters from the entrance and used his comm to call the gate guards. They brought him a windowless van to which he transferred Bain. The guards who assisted Andy were in a festive mood and, to Andy’s great relief, hardly noticed Bain. They were talking of looting the wealthy zones and of the wonderful life ahead now that the revolution had been won.

After a short drive through the narrow, crowded lanes of the enclave, Andy entered the tightly guarded secure zone where much more serious guards guided him to a place where Bain could be safely offloaded.

As Andy walked beside Bain through the dark, musty corridor of what had once been an immense farm implements factory, Bain asked, “So, do you agree with that guard, Jaden, uh.. Andy? Are the good times beginning now?”

Their escorts stopped and indicated that Bain was to enter a cage, about three meters high and six by six meters square. The door slammed shut. Bain never turned to survey his new home. Instead, he stared at Andy. “Well?”

“No, Jack. The good times are now, and for maybe a few weeks. Then all hell breaks loose.”

Bain smiled. “Yup, the revolution is about to move into the next phase: eating its own children.”

Proceed to Interlude 3...

Copyright © 2016 by Bill Kowaleski

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