THE ONE PERCENT
Written by S. A. Tameez
2120, 90 years after the world turned to hell.
Through the ages, as humans, we had measured ourselves as a superior species. A dominant class that conquered the earth and humbled all else that existed into submission. There was no land nor sea that man had not voyaged and mastered. Even the heavens were not free from our presence.
Our intellect granted us the leverage over the earth. Our capability to communicate, predict and learn, awarded us sovereignty. Even the burliest beasts that roamed this earth were no match for man’s tenacity and wit. Except, this did not come without a cost, a cost that, those of sound mind would agree, far out-weighed its recompenses. Our immeasurable brilliance induced a state of severe arrogance. We rendered ourselves as unconquerable.
Our intellect had transformed from our greatest strength to our greatest weakness – a tragedy only visible to those that contemplated with both mind and heart.
Nature – a remarkable phenomenon – once considered as something sacred, perhaps even a representation of all that was good. An organic process where reasoning was non-existent. Organisms madly producing offspring in an unquantifiable measure.
The truth, however, was that the natural world brought with it absolute chaos. The sprouting of wild animals and uncontrollable diseases. Humans who had minds soaked in malevolence and animosity towards all else that existed. It was these very corrupted minds, consumed by wickedness, which gave rise to anarchy. It was these minds that caused tyranny and bloodshed. It was these minds that forced humans to overthrow nature’s poor selection process and to begin a new type of selection. A superior mode of recognising the spoiled before they gained an opening to wreak havoc. It was a means of creating a perfect world within an atmosphere of imperfection.
SELECTIVE – The New World Selection Program.
CITY OF ARCADIA – YEAR 2120
Her eyes locked on to the twenty-year-old, fair skinned girl staring back in the mirror. Her eyeliner was showing signs of smudging. Sold to her as one of those smudge free ones by the pretty lady at the cosmetics shop. She began questioning why she even bothered putting it on in the first place, especially today.
She took a deep breath. Grabbed her long, brown hair, tying it tightly behind her head. It was a shame as she had spent the last fifteen-minutes styling it. Her hair naturally curled and with the length, it was now, it was a forest.
Her strawberry lips quivered, “get a hold of yourself, Anna. It’s going to be okay; everything’s going to be fine.” The woman staring back was the one person that she could never lie to. She knew her secrets and inner fears. She knew the truth.
She had forgotten what sleep felt like. Her stomach churned. Eating properly was out of the question. She turned the tap and let the water gush. She had washed her hands three times and was about to do it the fourth. Perhaps her OCD was coming back, or maybe it was her excuse for staying in the bathroom a little longer. Not ready to leave and face the inevitable. Hiding in the bathroom, however, was not an option. Not today.
She often found herself standing outside of her body and staring at herself. This happened more frequently when she did things that her inner-self disagreed with. A dispute that she failed to understand and would fight not to let emerge into the world of prying eyes. A secret hidden so far in the depths of her mind that unless it surfaced itself, she would be unable to find it. An inner battle between logic and her conscience. Something no one else would understand nor would it lead to anything good.
She was startled by a bang on the door. She turned off the tap and remained silent. Fear and guilt rippled through her. Intoxicated with thoughts that were not to be thought. Feelings that were not to be felt. Unforgivable.
“Anna,” a man’s voice emerged from behind the door. “You OK in there? You’ve been in there a long time.”
“I… I’m fine,” she responded. “I’ll be out in just a minute.” The tap was back on.
“Good. I was beginning to think that you had fallen asleep.” The man chuckled. “You didn’t fall asleep in there… did you?” His voice raised over the flowing water.
“Of course, not.” Anna smiled and then shook her head. He always had a way of making her smile, even when she really didn’t want to. Perhaps that’s why she loved him so much. His voice was soothing. He had a sedative effect. Not just on Anna but on everyone around him.
“OK, well, I’ll get the kettle on but I warn you now if I come back and hear snoring, then there’ll be no biscuits for you!”
“Ha-ha, very funny.” Anna remarked, “I know you’ve eaten all the biscuits already.”
The man coughed lightly, “I… you, OK fine, you’re right! I’ll quickly run to the shop and get us some more.”
“No,” Anna sighed, “Leave it. We’re going to be late.” They both fell silent. Anna didn’t want to think about what was about to happen. She knew that David was feeling the same. That’s why he ate all the biscuits. He doesn’t normally have anything more than his piping hot cup of tea in the mornings, and he didn’t like biscuits. Especially, not the ginger ones that Anna had been having recently to stop herself from feeling sick. He was a comfort eater. The moment he got worried or anxious, he would be munching on something. Not that it showed. He never missed the gym and worked out every day to keep his muscular physique in perfect form. Anna was the opposite. In times when she needed comfort, the last thing she could do was eat. She did, however, find comfort in walking but it had to be alone, with no distractions. She would use that time to think and watch the world as it went by. And that was the closest she got to physical exercise these days. Enormous difference from a year ago, when she ran seven-miles a day, practised jujitsu for an hour every other day and hit the weights gym three times a week.
“Anna, listen… Things are going to be fine. I know it.”
You keep telling yourself that! Anna thought but dared not say.
“You’re just gonna have to trust me on this one,” David added.
“On second thought,” Anna said, perking up her tone to disguise her crackling voice. “We have a got a few minutes and biscuits do sound good.”
“OK cool. Any preferences? Not more of those ginger ones! I mean, you don’t need them anymore, do you?
“No… erm, just pick any. Honestly, I don’t mind.”
Maybe just another few minutes in solitude would be enough for her to get herself together. It must have been obvious that she just wanted to be alone and didn’t want to have any serious conversations. The last few days consisted of longer walks than usual, cleaning of the apartment was done twice in one day, and trips to the bathroom were frequent and lengthy.
She felt sorry for David. It must be like being married to a ghost. He didn’t deserve it. But there were far more pressing issues that were clogging her mind. Issues that David, being both a man and an Arcadiapolis special agent, would never understand. He was no ordinary official either; he was regarded as one of the best serving agents in the Arcadiapolis specials unit. He was always the first one in and the last one out. Anna sometimes felt like he cared about his position more than he did her. Not that she minded – she knew that it was because of people like David, that the world that they lived in was kept safe. And feeling safe in strange times was important. He made her feel safe; it was one of the things that attracted her to him.
Not even he could make her feel safe now. No one could.
ARCADIAPOLIS COURT OF LAW
A low-spirited hall bursting with emptiness. A tall, brown bench fixed into the ground. Three shrivelled, old men seated behind. They wore long, black cloaks and sat expressionlessly. Their miserable pale faces mimicked the room’s dull atmosphere seamlessly.
An unusual aroma voyaged through the hall. It wasn’t pleasant, nor unpleasant, just unusual. The swaying lights from burning wall torches were casting dancing shadows around the hall.
A small cloud of dust puffed as the huge doors of the room opened. Two men, wearing black clothes, entered. Both, with their gazes, lowered. Anna and David followed behind. Their eyes also pointing to the ground. Anna could feel the warmth of David’s hand next to hers. She wanted to hold it or even grab his arm but it would be inappropriate and could give away her insubordinate thoughts.
“Annabelle, David…” the old man sitting in the middle called. “You are early. We still have some things to take care of before we come to you.” His deep, croaky voice echoed harrowingly. “Take a seat in the back until we have finished.”
Anna nodded. They headed to the back of the hall. Loud whispering emerged from the three men. They were in dispute.
The man then spoke again, this time louder, “David and Annabelle are two of the finest, most trustworthy people I have ever known. Do not let their age fool you into assuming that they do not possess great strength and wisdom.” He then paused briefly, “Anything discussed here can be discussed in their presence, for I do not doubt that these two loyal, admirable officers will be the future leaders of Arcadiapolis. And fine leaders they will be.”
Anna could see the proud look that David had on his face from the corner of her eye. So, he should. He earned it. He deserved it. She, on the hand, was still desperately fighting to keep from breaking down. Her legs were shaking uncontrollably.
“It’s OK,” David whispered, then gently held her hand. The walk to the back of the hall felt never-ending. Anna held David’s hand tighter in fear of falling.
There was more loud whispering and shuffling of paper. The man spoke again, “the party representing M-Corp step forward.” He addressed the two men dressed in black. The man on the right stepped forward but remained silent, his head lowered, careful in not making eye contact. A sign of disrespect.
“We have looked through your proposal and rationale. Have you anything to add?”
“Yes, my lord,” the man responded in a sharp tone.
“Very well. You have three-minutes.”
“Thank you. But because of the obviousness of what we are proposing, I will need less than sixty-seconds—”
“This court does not have the patience for your rhetoric or wit!” The man interrupted, “Bring forth your case. The clock is ticking.”
“Of course, my lord.” He said in a more humbled tone. “Now, everyone is aware that the free world rebels are a threat to our society. They have proved this time and time again. Just last week ago a group of the savages attempted to breach the walls. They have grown in number, and I fear that it is only a matter of time before they become strong enough, if they haven’t already, to infiltrate our defences.
Our plea is for you to grant us permission to invade the Northern sectors and bring down the enemy before they gain even more strength.
This is in the interest of us all.
M-Corp has already devised plans, which I believe you have in front of you.” He pointed at the paper on the desk. “These are strategic plans of how to penetrate their areas and bring them down before it is too late.
“These are remarkable plans.” The man flicked through the paper. “Your spies have done well.”
“Thank you, my lord.”
“Do you have anything else to add?”
“Nothing except a request that you consider the importance of the situation with urgency. My lord.”
“Ok… does the party representing the Peace for All campaign have anything to bring forward?”
The man stood on the left stepped forward.
“Very well. You have three-minutes.”
“Thank you. My lord, I beg that you study cautiously the repercussion of what M-Corp is advocating. It has been many years since Arcadiapolis, and the Freeworld Rebels have crossed paths. A handful of rebels seeking to breach the walls is hardly a cause to go to war. Do you not think?
M-Corp is good at scare mongering – their very livelihood is dependent on how well they can intensify this cloud of simulated fear that, unnecessarily… unjustly, looms over us. Their pretentious valour is nothing more than a means to fill the linings of their pockets.
We all know that war is a profitable business.
The truth is that they have no real knowledge of a threat or planned attack from the rebels. The Free World Resistance is an easy enemy, easy to defeat. A quick win!
And, conveniently, M-Corp have failed to mention their concealed plot to pillaging materials and resources from the Free-world.”
The man paused for a moment.
“We are at peace with the outside world, and I humbly ask you not to allow M-Corp to initiate a conflict that is unnecessary and will ultimately cause pointless bloodshed. Thank you, my lord.”
The loud whispering and shuffling of paper emerged again. It went on longer than before and began to sound like bickering before coming to a sudden silence.
“After much thought and discussion, we have decided that although we understand that there is a threat from the Free World Rebels and they are a clear enemy, an invasion would not be the answer, at present. M-Corp has worked endlessly in helping maintain the security of the people of Arcadiapolis. The court does not deem them to have ulterior motives. We will increase their funding for expansion in their security presence. However, going out to the Northern Sector to engage in battle is unquestionably out of the equation.”
“My lord, I think that—”
“Silence!” the man yelled. His terrifying voice made the M-Corp representative step back.
“Our verdict is final.”
The M-Corp representative nodded and lowered his gaze.
“Now, you two may leave. You’ve wasted enough of our time already!”
Anna had been in this room a million times but never had it felt so daunting. It was cold. Darker than usual.
“I think it’s us next.” David whispered, “It’s going to be fine.”
Wish he’d stop saying that. She thought. Consumed by nerves. This was it. Make or break.
“Annabelle and David.” the loud voice echoed. They walked to the bench. Eyes still lowered. Both their shoes were glimmering. Polished vigorously. Last night’s late OCD session. Anna’s heart was pounding so loud that she was sure that they could all hear it. Small beads of sweat formed above her upper lip. She wanted to wipe it but would just draw attention to herself. The wrong kind of attention. She had already reacted enough.
“Now, this is about your new-born.” The man in the middle said. “You, over all people, are well acquainted with the fact that the Selective program does not make errors. Would you agree?”
They both nodded. David with conviction, Annabelle more robotically.
“Good. In my hands are the results and the final verdict.”
I wish he would just hurry up – this is torture. He didn’t hurry. There was more shuffling of paper, and they began whispering again. What are they discussing? I mean, the whole point of Selective was that human intervention was not necessary. Anna’s face drained of its colour.
“David, Annabelle, I am shocked at the results. I really didn’t expect this… But it is what it is.” He paused briefly and then said the words that would change Anna’s world forever, “Your new-born fell below the ten-percent mark.”
The room suddenly lost its equilibrium. The walls caved in. Anna’s lungs began rejecting air. Her heartbeat battered her brain.
“H… How much lower?” Anna stuttered. There was a brief silence. This was exactly what she feared. Nine-months of carrying him, talking to him, sharing thoughts with him. She already knew him and he wasn’t that, he couldn’t be.
“He fell below… one-percent.”
“What!” She yelled, “It can’t be. There must be some sort of mistake.”
David subtly grabbed hold of her hand. It didn’t feel like a supporting hold, more like a ‘shut up’ hold.
“Anna, you, above most people, know that Selective does not make mistakes. It is due to its incredible accuracy that we have refreshed our society, our way of life. It is free from errors.” He paused for a moment and then added, “I know this is hard. It couldn’t have been an easy nine-months, but you should, in a way, rejoice. A few days of mourning is nothing compared to a lifetime of torment. Would you not agree?”
David’s grip tightened.
“Y… Yes, my lord.” Anna muttered reluctantly, “Of course.”
“Good. Now, the paperwork is done and—”
“Can we request a retest?” Anna interrupted. She could feel the sweat from David’s palm and his grip suddenly loosened. Almost like he was implying, you’re on your now! But she was past caring. She knew that interrupting the judges was worse than making direct eye contact. The height of disrespect. But she would deal with the repercussions.
“I could not believe the results either when I first saw them.” the judge said. “As it was the offspring of such a noble couple, I took the liberty of requesting a further three re-tests of the brain’s algorithms. The result came back the same every time. I assure you, there is no mistake.” She could feel his eyes piercing into her. “Now, as I was saying, the paperwork has been completed, and the baby will be transported to the Selective Sleep Centre this afternoon, where he will be gently and painlessly put to sleep. For the betterment of our society and the betterment of his soul. May he rest in peace.”
Anna could feel her eyes welling up but fought hard to stop the tears from streaming.
“Is there anything you would like to add or say?” His tone suggested that he required no further comments.
“No. My lord.” David said confidently.
“Yes,” Anna said, now in a more composed tone.
“I would like to see my baby. I would like to say goodbye.”
There was a short pause before the two judges on either side leaned in and began whispering loudly, “this is outrageous!” one of them said, “Surely, we can’t allow this!” the other remarked.
“You are both right.” The middle judge said, “She has formed an emotional attachment to the baby.”
“This dangerous!” the judge on the left said.
“Indeed.” the middle judge said. “We have considered your request,” Short pause, “And we think it is in your best interests that you do not have any further contact with the baby.”
Anna wanted to scream.
“It seems as though you did not follow instructions on how to train yourself to detach your emotions from your off spring. Did you attend the seminars?”
“Yes,” she responded. They were a load of rubbish. Throughout the pregnancy, she attended all the stupid courses, and it was those very courses that helped her realise how screwed up the world really was. And the worst part was that she was a major part in enforcing its inhumane laws and policies. What a fool she had been.
How could she detach herself from something that was growing inside her? It was part of her. At first, she hated the thoughts – evil whispers from the devil himself. But soon she embraced them. She realised it was her internal monologue. Knowing what is wrong and what is right was part of her being human. Something that people of this modern world had completely forgotten. She couldn’t rely on this machine to tell her who lives or who dies. The machine didn’t understand emotions or feelings. It had no right.
“Well, I hope that David will help coach you through any difficulties that you are experiencing.”
“I will do my best, my lord,” David said with his back straight and chest out.
Still sucking up. Bootlicker!
“Good. Now, I think that is all for today.”
“What the hell is wrong with you!?” David whispered as they stepped outside into the corridor.
“What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with you!?” She responded. “I mean really? It doesn’t bother you at all?”
“Hey, listen to me!” He looked around to make sure one was listening, “I am upset. Of course, I am! But the way you behaved in there… I mean have you lost your mind!”
“Maybe I have!” she said and then stormed off through the corridor to the exit.
“Anna!” David shouted, “Come on, this is ridiculous. You’re just going to walk away. We need to talk about this.”
“I’m done talking.” She said and left the building.
Anna walked the busy streets with no clear direction. She felt like she had been hit by a train.
“It’s a beautiful day.” I hologram appeared outside a Chino’s Restraint as she walked past. If it weren’t for the robotic voice, she would have been fooled into thinking it was a real person – that’s how good they had become. “Why not make it even better by dining at Chino’s today. Would you like to view the menu?”
“Take a hike!”
“I hope you enjoy the rest of your day madam.”
Traffic in the sky was as bad as on the road. Everyone was in a rush to go somewhere. Except her.
“Remember to keep our streets clean by using this mobile recycle bin.” The shining metal waste bin repeated regularly. She looked around. All she could see was grey. The ground was grey. Tall, metallic grey buildings. Grey robots on wheels that cleaned the grey roads.
The world had lost its colour.
She sat on the bench opposite an entertainment park. A large area with various virtual reality terminals for kids to log into. An escape from physical reality. The irony is that the real world felt far more unreal than the clever virtual ones available.
She drifted off into a daydream and visualised her baby boy. Maybe his eyes are a bright blue like hers, or perhaps they’re a deep green like David’s. Secretly, she wished they’d be David’s. She could get lost in his eyes.
Every day for the last nine-months, she imagined what their boy would like. Brown hair, a small cute nose and a dimple on his chin. She often dreamt about them walking together, playing together. Their perfect family. Him growing up to be just like David. Brave and strong.
A tear rolled down her cheek. She wiped it and then stared at her finger as if she hadn’t seen a tear in a long time. She imagined all the women that had been going through this over the years. She hated herself for not caring about them or their babies.
Some babies were not suitable for this perfect world. Disposed of like a defective product.
She understood now. She cared now.
Her wrist began to vibrate. It was her wrist phone. A thin, black device strapped around her wrist like a python strangling a small animal.
She wanted to decline the call but perhaps to hear his voice might be the very thing that she needed.
“Answer.” she instructed the wrist phone.
“Hello, Anna,” David said. A small, green hologram of David formed on her wrist. “Where are you? I am worried about you.” His image flickered a few times.
“Don’t worry about me… I just need to be alone for a while.”
“I think being alone is the last thing you need. I can come pick you up, and we can go somewhere to talk. There’s that new restaurant that’s opened in town. Chino’s. I know you’ve wanted to go. Maybe we can check it out… What do you think?”
“Not right now. Maybe later.”
“Look, I know you’re upset but you heard Judge Banks, we have saved ourselves a lot of heartache.”
There was no point in arguing with him. He was completely indoctrinated by the system. Sold on all the garbage that they force-fed everyone. Nonsense that she had believed for many years.
“Yes, you’re right,” Anna said.
“You know that Selective is 100% accurate. It doesn’t make errors or bad judgements like we do. It uses complex algorithms and mathematics.”
“It’s actually 99% accurate. Not 100%.” She had a feeling that she was going to regret opening her mouth.
“What are you implying? That this baby is the one-percent?” There was a brief, uncomfortable pause. “Look, I know that you’re feeling emotional right now but try to use your brain.”
That’s the problem. The brain fails to see what the heart sees.
“What if he is… you know, the one-percent?” Anna said. Unable to stop herself from talking. Knowing that this type of question could land her in a heap of trouble.
“Are you serious?” His tone changed. “Think of your life, your career… my career!”
“You’re right. I’m sorry. Let’s just forget about it.”
Not sure why I even bothered talking to him about it. I knew he wouldn’t understand.
“That’s my girl. Now, where are you? I’ll come get you.”
“It’s fine. I don’t mind walking back.”
“No. I insist.”
“I’m on a bench at the Central Park.”
“Great. Wait right there. I’m on my way!” Soon as he hung up, her wrist began to vibrate again.
Answer or decline?
Should I, shouldn’t I? I could do with a friend right now.
“Anna, I don’t know what you’ve done, but you’re in a load of trouble,” Alesha said.
“What’d you mean?”
“I mean, they just put out a warrant for your immediate arrest. Red One!”
“Red One? That’s terrorism.”
“Yes. Yes, it is. I am glad you remember something from Law College.”
“Oh my God! David, I just told him where I was. He knew… He’s coming to take me in, isn’t he?”
“I’m not sure… What are you going to do?”
“I have no idea. But I need to get out of here.”
“Anna, they’ve cancelled your account. You’re not going to be able even to access your house, car or anything.”
“Thanks for the heads up!”
“Anna, be careful.”
“I will.” She cancelled the call and ran out of the park. Her account being blocked meant that she couldn’t use it to even pay for a cab. A person’s entire life was on that account. The lifeline. It functioned as ID, passport, bank card, driving licence – everything! Cancelling that is like cancelling someone’s entire existence.
A black cab hovered just above the floor close by. It was about to take to the sky. She removed her gun from the holster. A black hand gun that fired deadly electric currents. A taser on steroids. A standard weapon that all officers carried. She stood in the road and pointed it at the cab. She held her officer badge up.
“Stop the vehicle now!” She commanded, “I am commandeering this vehicle.”
“What!” The driver said looking puzzled. “Point-five crime rate in this city and my car gets commandeered! You sure I can’t just can’t give you a ride somewhere?”
“No.” She marched towards the vehicle, “Now get out before I shoot you!” She pointed the gun at his face.
“OK… OK, take it easy.” He got out and stood on the pavement. She got in and pressed the button for the door to close.
“Hey, take it easy with her…” the man yelled. “That’s my baby!”
“She’ll be okay. Which is more than I can say for you if you don’t back off!”
“Hello, Officer Jenkins.” The onboard computer detected her as she hovered her hand in front of the ignition sensor. She looked at the wrist. A black tattooed barcode. Standard protocol for all residents of the city. Access to the Lifeline account.
“Why is the engine not starting?” she shouted. She waved her hand at the sensor again.
These things can usually detect you from a mile!
“I am afraid you do not have the relevant clearance to operate this cab.” The computerised voice spoke.
I am an officer of Arcadiapolis – I have got clearance to commandeer any vehicle! There must be some mistake.
The windscreen that acted as a large computer screen turned from a sharp blue to dark red. The doors automatically locked.
“What the hell is going on?”
“My onboard system has been alerted that you are currently wanted by the Arcadiapolis Police. The vehicle has gone into lock down, and the police have been notified of your location.”
“Thanks a lot!”
“You are welcome.”
“That was sarcasm, tin head!”
“I do not compute. Police units are on route. You can speak to an officer regarding your sarcasm query. I am sure they would be happy to help.
For something that doesn’t compute sarcasm, it sounded damn sarcastic.
“How long before the Police get here?”
“Damn it!” Now way out.