AntipodeanSF Issue 309

By Brian Connelly

Today was the day. It was a perfectly clear and sunny day, with a tender breeze blowing, the kind of weather that makes you think of picnics and flying kites.

Finnegan stood behind the bent and gently-mangled basswood tree in the mobile-home yard, clutching the Ruger Max-9 he had purchased as soon as he heard the news.

“Our neural implants provide the perfect means for violent convicts to live a harmonious, rehabilitated life!” cried the jubilant voice on the hovering M22 flat-screen TeleBox, a floating televisor device perched on a solar-powered Zeppelin hovercraft, high above the crowd.

There was movement behind the curtained window in the mobile home. A shadow walked across the room, like a slowly fading memory. He gingerly placed the weapon in his belt and walked towards the front door. The breeze blew stronger, cooling the sweat on his brow.

Now was the time.

“These implants will help reduce recidivism, improve interpersonal interaction, and enable ex-cons to receive employment.” It continued, overjoyed at the news and the sound of its own voice.

The man was Patient Zero. He had agreed to receive the implant in exchange for early release on parole. So far as anyone could tell, including the government agents who kept a close eye on him, it was working. He had gotten a job at a local warehouse that took kindly to ex-cons not long after. He made the government-provided mobile home his own and made a few friends (if you could call them that) at a local pub. Heck, he even joined a local book club that met every other week to talk about the latest best-selling thriller novel. It was all over the news.

“Soon, we will be providing these implants on a larger scale, revolutionising the penal system — even the justice system — nationwide!” His lips parted way to reveal teeth like moonlight, shiny and fresh.

In what felt like the blink of an eye, Finnegan found himself in front of the man’s door. He could hear some faint movement behind it, the jangling of keys, some shuffling. Gun propped up in his hand, Finnegan waited. The door swung open, and there he was, mere inches from his face: his wife’s perpetrator. The one who forced his way into their home while Finnegan was on a business trip and took from him the person he loved more than life itself.

“With the assured success of a heavily-funded, government-backed program like ours, we expect to expand to even the mass market, enabling our upright and dutiful citizens to enjoy a meaningful civil life!”

The wind had stopped. The man looked at Finnegan and then glanced at the gun, unnervingly calm. The unexpected reaction shocked Finnegan and he froze momentarily. He gathered his wits again. His finger suspended over the trigger, trembling…

… and stopped.

There was an abrupt clatter as the Ruger fell ineptly to the ground..

“Soon all our citizens will enjoy a life free from anger, aggression, frustration, and fear! Violence, bloodshed, and terror will be a thing of the past!” He reached his fists up and peered towards the heavens.

Finnegan trembled, frozen in confusion, like a deer in headlights. He struggled to move, but he felt as though his entire body was tied down to the ground, and his mind in invisible shackles. His mind writhed back and forth, trying to gain control. “Why can’t I move?” he thought, disoriented and furious.

And then something changed.

“Why... am I even here?” he wondered distantly, an answer seeming to echo in the depths of his mind, but too far away to hear.

“Phew! Good thing the remote BCI worked,” Finnegan heard a composed and cursory voice say behind him. With some effort, he cocked his head around, eyes wide, mouth drooping. There were three men with sunglasses and suits on, calm as the clear sky above, slowly approaching him.

“Still in experimental stages but it did its job today. How did he even get the main implant out?” One asked, in a drabbly, curious voice.

“Who knows how they do it? Our technologists will figure it out soon enough though,” was the casual reply.

The man at the front door, eyes and mouth slightly agape, face unshaven, his bangs grazing his eyebrows, gave Finnegan a dead, pitying look. He gingerly shoved his keys in his pocket, and sidestepped Finnegan, walking breezily out of his home.

Finnegan peered deep into the house. There she was, his beloved wife. At the end of the hallway, she was somehow hazy and distant, as though swimming through the air. But he could hear her, her voice carrying over the current of air.

“It’s alright honey. Come back home. It’s okay.”

The men behind him didn’t approach any further, much less apprehend him. They didn’t even have weapons raised. Instead, they waited and watched, observing him like he was a pigeon in a laboratory experiment. Eventually, Finnegan turned to him, his wife’s violator, and simply looked — or more like gawked — at him. His mind and heart were racing, but — looking at the weapon still lifeless on the ground — he couldn’t bring himself to follow through. His mind was as rigid as his muscles, and the best he could afford was a weakly defiant grunt before giving in.

Almost apologetically, and turned around in the other direction, in a disgruntled surrender, and headed home.

rocket crux 2 75

About the Author

Brian Connelly lives in Austin, Texas, and works in higher education.

He began writing this year after a 20-year hiatus and thus far has stories that will be published in Down in the Dirt and Academy of the Heart and Mind in the near future.

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The AntiSF Radio Show

antipod-show-50Our weekly podcast features the stories from recently published issues, often narrated by the authors themselves.

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