Imagine His Thoughts
by Jonah Kruvant
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
I look out the window of the helicopter, the whirring of its propeller in my ears, and try to make out the skyscrapers of the City through the smog. Only as we descend do I see the Dancing Towers twirling, the Water Pyramid flowing, the skytrain zipping around like a rollercoaster, the Mountain towering above it all, and the vast expanse of the Slums beyond.
I used to find this view magnificent, but now I just think of the smoke above, accumulated from years of unchecked pollution, and I wonder if there was something we could have done to stop it. But no, I was indifferent, content to live my life as long as I was paid. If I had questioned things, maybe I could have gotten my mind out of the fog and seen things clearly: Sara is the best thing that ever happened to me. How can I throw that away?
“Wake up, Simon!” Thomas shouts. “Stop spacing out.”
I look around the cabin. Sitting in a semicircle along the windows are my fellow TPF officers, covered completely in black with nothing visible but our eyes beneath the oversized goggles, our weapons strapped to our belts. We only recognize each other by our voices and our eyes.
“He’s just pissed he won’t be getting his dick wet from that sixteen-year old anymore,” says Luther, that envious bastard, a new recruit to our unit. “Lucky son of a bitch. Claims he didn’t need a sex suit. I may take a piece for myself when I get in there.”
I leap across the helicopter and jump on top of him, sticking my liquidator in his face. “Don’t you touch her!”
“Get up!” Thomas shouts. I stare down into Luther’s sharp blue eyes long and hard before getting off him and going back to the seat by the window. “No one touches Simon’s girl,” Thomas commands. “Got it, Luther?”
“Yeah, I got it,” Luther replies, but his eyes glaring into mine say something different. His inimical gaze shifts to Thomas, whose back is turned, and he mutters under his breath, “Easy for him to say after banging that busty blond police officer.”
“Now listen up,” Thomas says, facing the officers. “This mission comes straight from the top. I will not have anyone screw it up. We are to follow Simon through the entrance to the resistance movement. Once we get inside, we use our missile guns to enter their weapons facility and take what they have in there. These Creators are inherently selfish. While the rest of us are contributing to society, they’re stroking their own cocks. Make the Nation proud.”
I look back out the window as we descend to the roof of the Round Tower, which from above resembles that of a large doughnut, and recall the time I spent with the Creators. I was faking at first, pretending I was one of them to gain their trust. But then, writing those poems made me feel alive in a way I never knew existed. I’d feel a pit in my stomach every time after I wrote. I didn’t want to feel enjoyment in any way associated with the Creators. They killed my parents. Thomas had shown me that long ago.
Then Sara told me that she heard the TPF had manipulated videos to gain recruits, and everything changed. At first, I convinced myself they were just rumors. But, later that night, I watched the video to reassure myself of what I thought I knew. And that was when I recognized the room. It was filmed in the room with the whitewashed walls I went to as a recruit, the very place where I had shed tears and plotted my revenge.
I left ARM when I realized the truth and walked through the Slums that night. The woman with her dog begging for food, the baseball field with its bases removed: everything seemed trivial and surreal; nothing was right. As the sun rose, I sat on a bench and wrote, my emotions pouring out of me onto the page.
I went back to the movement after, to that morning’s writer’s workshop. When Sylvester came into the room, I no longer felt the anger rising up inside of me at the sight of him, the urge to strike, to kill; I just saw an old man.
“When you’re in ARM,” Thomas continues, interrupting my thoughts, “feel free to destroy the art and kill the Creators except for Simon’s girl and the undercover police officer. Here are their pictures.”
The images flash on the lens of my goggles: Sara, with that smile I can’t resist, where her lips part, exposing four upper teeth, and her eyes light up. I have to protect her.
And the officer: that comb-over haircut, those coffee-colored eyes. So Victor Vale has been the informant working for the police the whole time.
I remember the first time Victor came to writer’s workshop. He seemed out of place that day. I think it was the way he hesitated before writing; I noticed a nervous glance at the other writers before he put the pen to the page. My instinct was that he was faking, and there’s no one better to spot a rat than a rat himself. But when Sylvester trusted him enough to write a book about their movement and expose the corruption of the Nation, I convinced myself otherwise.
Then, when books were banned by the courts, Victor’s book took on more importance than ever. It could be the last book ever written.
Does Thomas know of its existence? It has to be saved. I have to stop the TPF from getting into ARM somehow. Or if we do get in, I have to get to writer’s workshop before the others, convince the Creators I’m on their side, save Sara, my son, and the manuscript, and get the hell out.
“Let’s go,” Thomas commands as we land. I stand, my nanojacket hotter than usual. I change its setting to “cool” and jump onto the roof. How can I stop this? Luther is in front of me, moving toward the roof hatch. I bring my hand down to my belt and onto my liquidator.
I feel a hand on my arm. I turn my head and there is Thomas, peering down at me with those dark eyes. “You should be dead right now. I will make an exception because it’s you. But if you try any nonsense, I’ll have no other choice. Don’t forget where you came from.”
We go down a ladder that leads to the fifth-floor hallway. Everyone stops, and it takes me a moment to realize that they’re waiting for me to show them the way. I march toward Huppington Books, the heavy breathing of the officers behind me, until we get to the royal purple doors with the voice recognition box beside it.
“Oh, hell!” I exclaim. “They only let me inside when I was with Sara. I don’t know how we can get in without looking suspicious...”
“What does that matter now?” Luther quips.
“Break down the door,” Thomas orders.
The two largest officers, one particularly elephantine, slam into the doors three times until they break through. Automotrons look up from their desks as we enter; there isn’t a human in sight. We fire, and in a matter of seconds, the robots are dead on the floor, a faint humming pervading the air. I lead the men into Sylvester’s office.
“Simon?” Thomas asks. “Where is the entrance to the underground lair?”
“I don’t know.”
Luther grunts. “He can’t go through with it.”
“They blindfold us when they bring us here,” I explain. “I swear it.”
“We’ll find it,” Thomas states. The officers examine the walls, peer under the desk. My eyes shift to the painting of President Lapin.
Thomas follows my gaze and rips down the painting. He presses against the wall with his hands and examines it with his fingers. When nothing happens, he turns to me. “Now what, Simon?” He points his liquidator at my chest. “I swear to God, if you lie...”
I’m not scared. This is my last chance to stop the killing. I don’t owe Thomas anything. As I look down at the gun, the image of my son enters my mind, and I know I have to do whatever it takes to keep him and Sara alive. If I have to die, so be it. At least I’ll have had done one thing right.
Luther grunts and I can feel his knowing smile. Thomas’s hand holding the gun is shaking. He can’t even look me in the eye.
He puts his arm to his side. “I’ll deal with you later.” He moves to the wall behind the painting and speaks to trigger the voice activation device: “ARM.” Nothing happens. “The Art Resistance Movement.” Still nothing. “Creation.” “Art...tistry.”
One of the larger officers — the particularly heavyset one — walks forward and presses his face against the wall. “Ee-ma-gi-na-tion!” he shouts in a surprisingly high voice. “Make ba-lieve!”
“Get out of here!” Thomas shoves him aside, rolling his eyes. “Sylvester Huppington,” he states. I gulp.
“Wait,” Luther says. “Say it in his voice.”
Thomas clears his throat. Then he speaks in the voice of the old man he’s been chasing for the past ten years: “Sylvester Huppington.” Line by line, the outline of a door emerges in front of us. With the slight pressure of the palm of a hand, it opens.
We go down a spiral staircase in complete darkness, holding onto the cool railing, taking step after step. I listen for Luther’s grunts with my hand on the trigger — no one could prove it was me here — but all I can hear are the boots of the officers hitting the steps above and below me.
Copyright © 2017 by Jonah Kruvant