Mark kept his eyes fixed upon the detainment supervisor as he walked away with the portable DVD player. It looked as if Russel and Stephen would glare at the door indefinitely, but he climbed into his bunk. None of them had even raised their voices. It was a shame, he thought as he lay down. He was really getting into The Office.
It would be an understatement to say that he was appalled that they were tightening things even further even though he’d recently concluded that nothing could possibly surprise him anymore. They had to remind people that they wouldn’t cater to those who violated the Order by letting them watch DVDs and play on PlayStations to their hearts’ content. The Keepers of the Order resolved that he should eat the can of worms that he’d opened a while ago. He hardly thought anything of it at the time. “It’s not like I murdered anyone” he’d said, but the people who revealed their contempt for the Order had to be judged just like the others who shared it, regardless of how they expressed it. If the KOTO didn’t neutralize the threat of those who disrupted the Order, they might just as well let people, who aren’t natural-born citizens into the country. No one had been able to refute the argument that if Outsiders were barred from the government for security reasons, it would obviously be irresponsible to allow those same Outsiders to walk right among the Natives in the country. The new arrangement in which foreign relations in matters like imports would be informal and safe had been met with cheers and thunderous applause from the Natives, who were united with the KOTO under their God. It was a fair, easily managed system that accounted for the possibilities of foreign infiltration and terrorism. There was no threat from Outsiders from India, yet Natives could still receive curry powder. He was filled with longing at the thought of curry. He wasn’t too keen on the food in detainment. He could remember when he was eating curry with Beverly as though it were yesterday. Even though it was delicious, he didn’t have the stomach to finish it back then. Now he estimated that he had enough of an appetite to clear twelve plates of the stuff.
Struggling to find something that would make him lose his appetite, he succeeded as he gazed down from his bunk and saw that Russel was crying. Mark’s expectation that nothing could shock him further was again subverted. He’d always been sort of wary around Russel, who generally seemed cold and indifferent, even callous. His fear was reinforced by the fact that Russel was detained for killing his cousin, but he had handed himself the responsibility of consoling Russel through his own disrespect for rules like these. He didn’t know how exactly Russel’s life had gone off road. He’d never asked and wasn’t sure how to respond to this outburst. Hadn’t Russel shown control over his emotions just now as the supervisor had confiscated the portable? He wasn’t loudly weeping. He just kept breathing heavily as tears streamed from his eyes. Mark had never been sure about things like this. “Come on” he said casually. “We saw plenty of episodes already. It was funny stuff. We memorized the hell out of enough lines.” Russel raised his head and began to breathe a little more softly. “It’s just that…” he began before putting his head in his hands and caressing his face. “It’s just that I can’t believe that I was capable of…I can’t believe that I chose this. You know why I’m here, but she was on cloud nine. She was a damn good writer.” Mark realized that he must be talking about his cousin and listened intently. “She always looked down on me. A while ago, I saw her all of the time. I’m a failed artist, you see and when we saw each other, she made sure I knew that she was miles ahead of me when it came to what I was obsessed with. She even made a hobby of it when she wasn’t earning hundreds of grand on books and poems. I read about it on Google!” Mark flinched as Russel yelled the last remark. Looking around, however, he observed that Stephen was sound asleep, though he budged a little at the noise. “She was successful and had a family, while I was stuck alone as a mailman and I couldn’t stand it…oh God. You know, part of me is glad that I’m here so that I won’t ever have to face her husband and kids. It’s like you tell your brother to get out of his pyjamas when he’s in his school uniform.” “What?” “Well, you know, you don’t get how you could have made the mistake…” He fell silent and clambered into the lower bunk of the opposite bed.
Mark couldn’t find his voice. He’d heard that the KOTO was considering a return to execution which he opposed just as he’d been against many of the things that they considered. He saw it as a pointlessly savage act on people, who were capable of good as well as bad, but after seeing Russel’s state of mind, he wondered if, for him, it would be euthanasia.
“I can’t believe this!” Beverly shrieked. “It’s not like I murdered anyone” Mark said softly, trying to calm her down. “I had no idea that Dave was gonna get cold feet…” “GET COLD FEET?! He’s dead, Mark!” she bellowed. “He’s dead, because he tried to stop you from facing the consequences for disrupting the Order and all because of your dream to go to Norway!”
International travel of any kind had long since been forbidden by the Keepers of the Order, let alone to Norway, a country that had achieved what countless others had not and become a social democracy which many people now seemed to cynically associate with states like China. He had campaigned for a society like that of Norway before taking his job. The prod from his girlfriend at his respect for it prompted him to shout back, “It’s because of the KOTO that I’m a construction worker and not a lawyer! It’s because of those people that we can’t borrow books, or walk about in parks! It’s because of them that we can’t go abroad, because it’s ‘dangerous’, while they threaten China with war! It’s because of them that no one can afford to educate their kids, or pay their bills unless they’re rich and I’ve had just about enough of penniless people, who blindly claim that the KOTO are just like them, because they don’t remind them that they aren’t millionaires by actually trying to help them!” He paused, gasping for breath. He had let out almost everything that had been bugging him since he became a construction worker.
“I get that you’re upset, but you actually COMMITTED A CRIME!” Beverly snapped almost as soon as he stopped his rant. “You sabotaged the factory! You used WOOD instead of metal for the girders in the walls! What the hell was that?!” “It was a demonstration” Mark replied, tiring from the argument. “It was a demonstration against a god damn cult of personality that was started in the states long ago by a man, whose only philosophy was to give people what they wanted to hear! It was a protest against it by disabling the place where the people who weren’t born with silver spoons in their mouths had to work!” “Making a demonstration is one thing, but taking a person’s life…” “Are we seriously going through this again?” he interjected. “He wasn’t supposed to waltz back into the factory! It was on him! Not me! Not only did he basically walk off a cliff, but he tried to ruin everything that we worked on to inspire people and pretty feebly! He didn’t succeed! He was never gonna fix all of the damage! I obviously didn’t want him to die, but his death is evidence that he was so scared of how he’d be punished for helping a peaceful protest that he died, trying to avoid persecution! He died for the greater good!” He fell silent as there was a knock on the door of the apartment. Beverly hurried to open it and two police officers entered. Looking around, one of them asked to him, “Are you Mark Maxwell?” “I am” he answered with as much pride as he could muster. “You’re under arrest for disrupting the Order through fraud and man- slaughter.” He glanced at Beverly, whose expression was stern and arms were folded. He wasn’t going to give anyone the pleasure of seeing him make a fuss over this. “Right” he said. “All right, let’s go.” He put on the handcuffs as they read him his rights. He felt a sort of satisfaction as he left with the officers. “This is evidence that I made a difference!” he called back to Beverly. “It’s evidence that I did something!”
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