Author : Cael Majin
C’s hands are buried to the forearms beneath titanium straps, pressing the so tightly that C can feel the small capillaries that have already burst under the restraints, and will form bruises.
It asks again. “What is your identification?”
A grin, although there’s tired sweat stinging C’s eyes. “Come now, chancellor, we’ve been through this.”
“We will,” says the man – god, the man, and clinging so tightly to it – to the left of the processing robot, speaking over it, “continue to go through it until you admit to your crime. State your identification.”
“Can’t do that.”
Chancellor Sutton is tired of this game, leaning through the crackling field of static – it’s attuned not to harm him, he with his microchipped arms – and grasps C’s face in one warm hand. “You have been incarcerated,” he says. “You will never, ever be released from here. When your accomplices are found, they will be put to death. You have no cause, you are no valiant renegade. Tell me your name.”
“I have no name.” The restraints make it hard to shrug. “My friends call me C, and you can too, if you want. Let’s be friends.”
“What is your identification?” The screen asks again, ready with its brands.
“What is does this movement even stand for?” Sutton, bless him, genuinely doesn’t understand. “You admit you are human. Why will you not accept rehabilitation?”
C smiles. It burns a little. “Because I am human. So are you, chancellor. You’re human, no matter how many chips and labels and monikers you parade around to insist you’re not.”
“People have titles. It is the way society is run.”
“It’s still stupid. I have no name. I don’t want one.”
“You have no race? No culture, no ethnicity?”
“Would I be more or less human if I did?”
The processing screen hums quietly behind him. Sutton tilts C’s face, examining the scarred throat and arms. He just looks bemused. “Your surgeon is skilled, at any rate,” he says at length. “The entire medical staff couldn’t make out your gender.”
“Don’t have one of those, either.”
A moment passes, and C can see the confusion and revulsion so thick it’s almost a colour in the air. The metal-pressed bruises throb.
“Human,” C continues evenly, making sure the smile stays, “is something outside of identification tags. I won’t take your brands. I am not a number. I am not an American or a Russian or a man or a woman or a Jew or a member of the working class. I am human.”
Sutton’s frustration resurfaces. “You are a freak. You’ve mutilated yourself.”
“Drives you batty, doesn’t it?”
A cursor blinks on the screen, awaiting input in the form of the string of numbers that used to be tattooed onto C’s neck. It was scraped off; there’s a scar there now. Without it, C can’t even be catalogued into the proper prison cell.
“There’ll be more like me soon, chancellor. People are getting sick of this mass-produced inside-the-box shit.”
“They,” says Sutton icily, “will be executed just like you will be. Make your peace with God. I’d say you have about four hours.”
“Oh, I’m not religious,” C calls cheerfully as the chancellor exits the holding cell.
“What is your identification?” the screen inquires once more before the man snaps it off.
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows