The Job Fair

Posted: August 19, 2012 in Dystopia
Tags: , , ,

I could tell by the knock on the door that it was the end. Three firm strikes against my door, followed by a pause, then three more. They might as well have been blows against me. “Perhaps this was for the best,” I thought to myself. I had nothing left. I spent most of what little money I had to smuggle my family out of the country, and the rest I gave to my wife. Dollars still meant something in the world. They were the only virtue America had left, and I knew Maria and the kids would need every last dime to make some kind of life for themselves.

They knocked again. There was no longer any point in waiting. I had nothing. I was nothing. Poverty had taken everything from me, and now it was about to take my soul as well.

I got up and unlocked the door. An officer stood in front of me, dressed in black riot gear. The visor of his helmet was raised. At least I could see his face, which showed some sympathy to contrast his heavily armed partner who stood off to his side, his rifle at the ready. I suppose I couldn’t blame them. They were just doing their job, and after the Great Unrest last year, I don’t blame them for protecting themselves. But they had nothing to fear from me. I was tired. I was tired of hiding, tired of struggling, and tired of worrying.

Diego Herrera?” The officer said, cautiously.

Yes?” I knew what the next words out of his mouth would be. I had been expecting this for quite some time. I was only relieved that Maria and the kids were safely out of the reach of the authorities.

Mr. Herrera, we are serving you with a Writ of Indenture.” He handed me a folded length of paper with the Seal of the Republic, his other hand nervously fingered a weapon holstered at his side “Please, come with us, sir.”

I didn’t need to look at the writ. The National Collection Bureau had been hounding me for some time. My wages had been garnished, my few assets impounded. All I had left was my person, and now they were impounding that too. All I could do was surrender. The officer bound my hands together, and pressed me against the wall. He placed a piece of metal against the back of my neck, and I felt a sharp, burning pain.

Suspect #160778 secured and tagged.” He pulled me back from the wall and led me down the hallway and out of the apartment building. I was now the property of the Treasury Department.

Agents swarmed the apartment complex. They always came in force to sweep areas with high concentrations of poverty. The local police would block the roads, then heavily armed security teams would tag the unemployed, the unemployable, and those of us who lived with too much debt. We were rounded up and removed. And at the end of it all, a politician would give a speech on a local news outlet about how this sweep was another battle in the war on poverty. The Republic eliminated poverty by erasing the statistics.

The officers herded me towards a waiting bus with other victims of the sweep. Red and blue lights danced from the roofs of the police cars, whirling with the shadows that hid among the apartment buildings. It was a dizzying dance that praised the fear of authority. The flashing lights spoke for the armed men in their black armor who prodded us with their steel baton towards a waiting police bus: “We are in control. Do not resist.”

I didn’t resist, I didn’t protest. There was no point. The Republic took this war seriously, and despite all the claims to the contrary, I was the enemy. The poor were a nagging reminder of their blind visions, false myths, and failed policies.

A woman yelled behind me. “We have rights!”

I turned around and saw a mob of officers tackle her. It was Salome; she never knew when to shut up. She was always agitating on behalf of our rights and dignity, as if anyone cared. Rights and dignity were the relics of the past. Now, they were a commodity, just like everything else. And we, being poor, couldn’t afford them. Salome struggled briefly until one of them zapped her with an electric prod. They quickly hog-tied her and carried her by her ankles to a nearby van. She would not be joining us.

An officer shoved me with the butt of his rifle. “You want to join your friend, parasite?” He shoved me again, his voice cackled with contempt. “Keep moving, or I’ll move you.”

I continued towards the bus, where a waiting Treasury agent scanned the bar-codes that had been printed on the back of our necks.

Herrera, Diego. Case #160778. Your plea?”

Guilty.” I said. There was no sense hiding it. I was poor.

Case #160778,” he spoke to another agent at his side who recorded his words on a tablet. “Defendant plead guilty as charged. Assigned to NorStar Industries. Case closed.”

I got on the bus with the others who plead guilty. Those who didn’t were led away by a security team. What good would it do? What justice could they afford? No one ever one an appeal. Their crime was being poor, and the state had all the proof they needed; the poor had nothing. I found a seat on the bus and sat down next to a man I didn’t know.

You live in 2C, right?” he asked.

I nodded.

I thought so. I remember seeing you around. Where’d you get assigned?”

NorStar Industries.” I said.

His face fell. I knew what he was thinking. I felt the same thing when I heard it myself: It was a death sentence.

Damn, I’m sorry, man. I got United Waste and Recycling, and I thought that was bad.”

I shrugged.

You got family?” he asked.

I nodded. “But they’re safe. I got them out to Argentina.”

That’s good. NorStar, man. I’ll pray for you.”

Thanks.”

He looked out the window and shifted his body away from me, like I had some disease. We all had the same disease, but we all had different prognoses: some of use would work until their debts were repaid. Others would simply serve their time in debtor prisons. And some of us—the truly untouchable—would fight in the wars waged for the profit of companies like NorStar Industries. The Republic had finally discovered how to make war profitable by outsourcing it to security firms. War had become a revenue stream, and the shareholders of NorStar, Xenon, and Guardian became very, very wealthy and powerful. They used the Debtor Acts to staff their private armies with the poor who were unable to pay off their debts, and the Republic could wage endless wars in whatever name they chose without a blink of concern or a single tear of conscience. The Republic waged its war on poverty by waging war.

The bus finally pulled away to take us to a Distribution Center, from where I would be sent to one of NorStar’s training schools. And from there I would be sent to Mali, Pakistan, or Chicago to fight and die so that NorStar’s CEO could by a sixth house. Maria would become a widow and my children would grow up without their father. But at least they would be safe.

THE END

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