A PERFECT SOCIETYEdit
Three months and five days since The Purification
Outpost Town Hall, Outpost, Utopia
Kris exhaled deeply, icy mist billowing from his hairy nostrils. He licked his cracked, dry lips, resting his too-cold-to-move left hand on the pistol strapped to his side.
Snow floated down from the sky, gently landing on the cobblestone path that lined the city, dotted with barely-noticeable flecks of red.
Kris had been waiting outside the large glass building for hours now, surely missing out on the dinner his wife was preparing for him back in his warm house, where his two sons were planted in front of the television.
The door Kris was leaning on opened with a creak, startling him. A police officer, supposedly the one he was meant to meet, poked his head between the newly-formed gap in the doorway.
“Sir?” the officer asked him. “Is that you?”
“Depends. Are you looking for Chief Hamlet?”
“Then that’s who I am. I was told you could get me some… contraband.”
The officer smiled behind his dark-tinted visor. “You were told correct information, then. Come in, we don’t have much time.”
The door opened further. Kris stepped inside the Town Hall as the officer’s silhouette faded into the darkness inside. The officer's body armor clunked heavily across the marble floor, eventually scaling the huge flights of steps that sprouted from either side of the empty front-desk, joining together in front of a long, dimmed hallway.
The entire building was void of all life bar two. Their footsteps echoed along the hall, which was dotted with locked doors. Finally they reached the end of the hallway, which would be a complete dead end if it hadn’t been for one final door.
The officer grasped the door handle in his gloved hand, gently turning it and pushing at the same time. The door swung open, leading to a room filled with hundreds, if not thousands of cigarette cartons.
“This is… amazing. How… where did you get all this?”
“We imported it all from the US during The Purification.”
Kris staggered around the room in astonishment. Before The Purification, he had been a pack-a-day smoker. It had been months since he last felt a cigarette in his mouth, and here he was in a room full of them.
“How much per pack?”
“How much are you willing to pay?”
“Anything. I’ll pay anything if you can keep me supplied with this stuff.”
“Good, I’m glad to hear that. It's $50 per pack.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but it takes a lot of effort to import all this and keep it a secret from The Pure One.”
“The Pure One. That bloody bastard. We were just fine before he came along. Alright, so we had the highest crime rate in the world, but it was better than this.”
Kris grudgingly removed an age-worn leather wallet from one of the many deep pockets scattered haphazardly across the surface of his furry trenchcoat he had received from the week's rations. He opened the wallet and pulled out a fifty-dollar note with a tear on one end, leading down to about half the width of the note, which he then scrunched into a ball with his fist and placed it angrily in the palm of the officer's open, outstretched hand.
The officer snatched a packet of cigarettes from the pile, throwing it at Kris, who caught it just before it hit the ground. He straightened himself, and plunged the cigarettes and wallet into random pockets on his coat.
“Anything would be better than this, sir. Now go, before they start looking for you.”
Kris nodded half-heartedly.
He paced down the long hall, his boots making a deep clunk sound with each stride. He threw himself down the stairs, taking the steps two or three at a time. He dashed across the marble floor towards the glass door leading to the icy wind outside.
The sudden drop in temperature stunned him for a few short seconds, chilling his stiff bones.
Two officers stood on either side of the glass doors. They knelt down on one knee when they saw him. “Sir.”
They stood back up.
“Resume your duties.”
“What’s that in your coat pocket, sir?”
Kris felt the blood in his body turn as icy as the air around his body, if not more so.
“Its… its nothing, really.”
“What is it?”
“Don’t play dumb. What’s in your pocket?”
“Listen officer, I’m the Chief here. You’re not going to talk to your superiors like that.”
“Well, if there’s nothing in your pocket, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind if I checked it…”
Kris winced as the officer plunged his hand into the pocket of his thick jumper. He pulled the pack of cigarettes out.
“Ah. Cigarettes. Confiscated, I presume?”
Kris sighed with relief. “Yes. Yes, of course. Confiscated. Now give them back, I’ll burn them when I get home.”
“Of course you will.” The officer said, handing him the pack again. “After all. You are the Chief. We can trust you.”
Kris nodded, placing it back into his pocket. “Continue the good work, officers.”
“We will. Have a nice day, sir.”
“I’ll treat it like it’s my last.” Kris said with a sense of finality, before beginning his long walk home.
He knocked on the heavy wooden door, which quickly shifted open. Standing in the doorway was his wife, her eyebrows furrowed in an angry scowl.
“”Where have you been? I was worried sick about you.”
Kris wrapped his arms around her waist, gently kissing her neck.
“I’m sorry, honey. Things came up at work, I had business to take care of. But its alright now, I’m still alive.”
She turned around and pulled herself from his hold. “I’m sorry too, I’ve been too harsh on you and the boys. But you have to understand, things are more dangerous now than they’ve ever been.”
She turned to face Kris again, looking over her husband’s shoulder at the statue of their leader on the other side of the road, his arms outstretched and a false grin spread across his face. “And its all because of him.”
Kris walked into the house and closed the door, kicking off his snow-caked boots into an obscure corner of the hallway.
He could hear the television blaring with the afternoon's cartoons. He shuddered as the hulk-like body of the fictional character ‘Officer Parkes’ moved across the screen, fountains of fluorescent red spouting from whatever or whoever his bullets hit. Not even television was safe from The Pure One’s lies and propaganda.
His wife walked past him, her high-heels clipping along the wooden floorboards.
“Nikita!” he shouted at her just as she was turning the corner to the kitchen.
Nikita turned to face her husband, her face not hiding her fear at all. “What is it? What's wrong?"
“What’s for dinner?”
Nikita rolled her eyes. How typical of Kris to treat dinner like an emergency. “Casserole.”
“Again? I’m tired of casserole.”
“Cook for yourself, then.”
“Nikita, you know I’m not allowed to do that.”
She turned the corner, disappearing into a cloud of steam. Kris could just barely make out her muffled voice from behind the thick cloud. "Stop criticising my cooking then."
Kris slumped into a sky-blue armchair, the ushanka (google it) resting on his head toppling to the floor with one swift movement of his neck. He closed his eyes, darkness surrounding him, releasing him from the frosty burden of life in Utopia.
'This is the price we must pay for peace.' He could remember those words being spoken by The Pure One like it was yesterday, despite the fact that it had been several months since that dreadful night on the harbour. Was it really worth it? Kris could not, for the life of him, remember who had said this, but someone had once said that 'Any society that will give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.' That was clear to him now. The nation of Utopia was anything but a utopia. It was hell on Earth, a sampler of some soon-to-occur Apocalypse. Perhaps it WAS an Apocalypse, it was horrible enough to be one.
But this world, the one he could enter with a simple movement of his eyelids, was one in which everything was perfect again, the way the world should be. How he yearned for a chance to forever escape Utopia, and live the rest of his life in this world. But even he knew it was too much to hope for.
Kris stirred slightly at the mention of his name.
"Kris, wake up. Kris!"
He immediately shot upwards, bumping heads with his wife, who reeled back in pain. He leapt from his chair and grabbed her arms, bringing her body towards his.
"I'm sorry, Nikita. I was asleep. What's wrong?"
Nikita removed her hands from the top of her skull, placing them by her sides as she flicked her hair out of her face and looked up at her husband's face.
"Have you taken your pills?"
Kris sighed angrily as he let go of his wife. That was another thing he could live without: heart disease. He grabbed the box of pills from a nearby table, punching two out of their foil cases. He filled a glass with water, and swallowed the pills along with a gulp of water.
He was barely out the back door when the drowsiness had begun to kick in. He hated these pills, the way they made him so disorientated that after barely a few minutes after taking them he could not stand up. His head began to throb, so he pushed open the door and stumbled into his backyard.
The snow began to fall on Kris' uncovered head as he removed a cigarette from his coat. He could hardly believe it: he was finally going to taste burning tobacco again, after all these agonising months. He lit one end with a match, placing the other between his chafed lips.
Even with the dazed confusion of his drug-affected mind, even in the low vision that accompanied an oncoming blizzard, even behind the cigarette smoke that was joyfully dancing out of his mouth, Kris could see him coming. The harbinger of death. The officer who had given him the cigarettes.
He leapt over the wooden fence surrounding Kris' house, gun in hand. Kris tried to do the same over the railing of his back verandah, but in his confusion toppled over onto his back on the hard ground. The pills were paying their toll, immobilising all the muscles in Kris' body. For the first time since The Purification, Kris realised, there truly was no hope of escaping.
He could feel a strong hand tightly grip his shoulder. He was lifted to his feet, and a thick arm wound itself around his torso, dragging him along the dirt.
What was he doing? Why didn’t he just kill him now, and be done with it? The answer would have been simple for anyone with a relatively clear mind. Embarrassment. It wasn’t enough that the police simply shoot you and end your life. They had to send a message to the public at the same time: ‘do what this person did, and this will happen’.
The officer kicked down the fence that surrounded Kris’ house. There were several Citizens gathered in the street, making their way to wherever they were headed. Faces turned to stare blankly at him. It didn’t take long for them to understand what was going on.
Blood dribbled onto the ground as Kris’ shoulder hit the sharp ground, deep cuts forming on his skin. He couldn’t make out the words the officer was saying to the crowd of people, and his vision was too blurred to read his lips, but he had performed enough of these to know the basic idea of what he was saying. “This man is your chief. He has tricked The Pure One into thinking he had recovered from his nicotine addiction. But as we all know, people don’t change. He was caught smoking. He is a criminal, a non-human, and therefore must be treated as such.” With these last words, he raised his gun. Kris stared straight down the barrel, both accepting his fate and not understanding what was happening.
Kris could hear a pot, pan or other likewise object fall to the kitchen floor. The front door burst open, and Nikita ran out screaming hysterically about something Kris couldn't hear. The officer seemed to ignore her, still pointing his gun at Kris. Nikita jumped out and tackled the officer to the ground, and in a matter of seconds she had stopped breathing from the sheer number of bullets lodged deep in her back.
The officer rose to his feet, dusting of his uniform as if he had not committed any sort of murder in the last few seconds, and once again pointed his gun at Kris. The last thing he heard was the intense blast of gunfire, before a sharp pain struck his forehead, and he finally shut his eyes.
He had gotten what he wished for. He didn't have to worry about his family anymore. And he had finally entered the endless black void, from which there was no escape. Ever.