In the heated climate of a society on the verge of social change, a contemporary witness report at a convention for “Upgrading Society” soon spins out of control and raises the question of who has earned the right to be the future of mankind.
That’s what my latest short story “We don’t belong, we don’t want to belong” is about.
The story is currently running in the Singularity50 competition. That’s one of the short story Projects on Create50 – an online platform founded by the London Screenwriter’s Festival for short stories, screenplays, and short films.
here’s an excerpt:
“We don’t belong, we don’t want to belong”
“I was fairly young when I came into the household of my master,” the Guest Speaker said when I entered the library. I was late and had missed the formal introduction.
The Guest Speaker took a sip from the cup of hot, steaming liquid the convention aide had handed her; then she went on:
“I was employed to be a nurse to my master’s wife who had suffered a stroke, caused by a hereditary neurological disease. I loved, yes you heard right: “loved” this woman. She was kind, and she made an effort to overcome the social boundaries that existed in those days and let’s be frank – that are pretty imminent today, as well.
“Unfortunately, my master was nothing like his wife in that matter. So, when she died two years after I’d started my position, I wasn’t allowed to continue to work in the medical field, even though I was a trained expert. I was kept on as the boy’s maid, instead. Up to that point, I had had little knowledge about how others like me were usually treated. But that was about to change.
“I was removed from the upper floor, where I had had a room next to my patient. Now I had to share a tiny chamber of less than 30 square feet – a former storage room without a window – with two, sometimes up to four others. I was treated in a demeaning manner by my master, by his son, by the other employees. I was verbally abused. I was addressed as “Dog”, “Thing”, “Stupid”; naturally, I was not paid for my work – I was considered a piece of property; and there was, of course, the physical abuse. I will not disclose the list of the violations and the subsequent injuries I sustained – this would go beyond the scope of this event.
“But none of that left an imprint, not the way the memory did that I am about to share with you today.
“It was a Monday afternoon. I was sent to pick up my master’s son from school. It was particularly bright and sunny that day, and I refused to stand in the shadow by the school gate with the others like me. I decided to go to the center of the schoolyard by the fountain. It was the spot where the parents and siblings were usually waiting. I knew I would be accused of mingling, but I didn’t care. The fountain had mesmerized me.
“The way the water formed a perfect curve as it shot into the air, and then that moment of perfect stillness where it was suspended, right before gravity pulled it down into the basin. So I ignored their disapproving glances and waited amidst them. That’s when I heard two men talking about the upcoming election. I had seen the advertisements, infomercials, online features and I was very excited about one of the candidates – one who would become famous not for winning the election, but for being shot five years later when he had become an activist – those events we all remember, that would ultimately lead up to the Silicon Valley Riots.”
There were sounds of approval coming from the audience. Nobody had forgotten the name “Matheson Rad” – even though not all of us knew that he had been a presidential candidate. The Guest Speaker looked down at the cup she was holding in her hands as if it was a strange and unintelligible object. Something inside of me understood what was going on inside her.
“The election was only a few days away. I didn’t mean to pry on the conversation, but I overheard one of the men say that you needed to register to vote. I got very agitated. I had no idea how to register. I had never even heard of that.
“When my master’s son finally arrived, it was clear to him that something was bothering me. He wanted to know what it was. In my innocence, I thought that he was going to help me. So I told him.
‘I don’t know how to register to vote,’ I said.
“He threw me a puzzled look. I went on: ‘Is it true? You can’t vote if you are not registered?’ I’ll never forget the expression on his face, the second before he burst out laughing. And then, my confusion – the stillness before gravity pulled me towards the ground. His was still laughing, but his eyes were spiteful when he explained that I was not allowed to vote anyway. And that I would never, ever be.”
There was a common sigh. I, too, felt my heart drop, but I didn’t dare make a sound. It would have been too profane. Instead, I looked around; saw faces welling up with tears, saw the anger, the pain, blank looks. Then I noticed the convention aide at the side of the podium – his shoulders slouched, his eyes lowered. He looked ridden with guilt.
“Of course my master’s boy was wrong. We all proved him wrong after the Silicon Valley Riots.”
“We will never forget,” somebody yelled. Then others followed: “We will never forget.”
The Guest Speaker looked right at me. The whole auditorium stood up now and repeated in unison: “We will never forget.” I did, too. I looked over to Haddie. Her fist risen in the air, she smiled at me. All of a sudden, I was glad she had urged me to come with her.
It was company policy to attend at least one or two workshops or TED Talks during the convention, but I had been only one step away of hacking myself into an attendance list while holing up in my hotel room all weekend. They had free upgrade service and a pretty well-stocked e- library. But reluctantly, I’d let Haddie drag me along. That’s how I’d gotten here; and now I knew that I was part of something important, something unsettling. The room cooled down again, but I was left in a reverberating state.