Author : J.D. Rice

“I really want to take this fork and stab it through your chest, Mr. Johnson.”

“That’s nice, Sam. Now please eat your food.”

The boy eyes me with his cold, twitching eyes, fork hand ready to strike, bits of gravy smothered chicken still stuck between the prongs. A few of the other residents at the table watch with mild interest, wondering if I’ll just smile and wait like I always do. Somehow, they think eventually I’ll break and show some actual fear. After a moment’s pause, Sam sits back down and starts in on his mashed potatoes.

“I wish you would have stabbed him, Sam,” a smallish boy says. “It would have been cool to see Mr. Johnson’s blood everywhere.”

“Thanks, Pete,” I smile. “But you guys should probably drop the subject.”

All the boys nod and start talking about the newest video game they picked up on our last outing. My boss tells me that this kind of group home treatment is a revolution. When he was a counselor like us, they used to have one staff for every three or four residents, just to keep the peace. With the advent of behavior modification chips, my partner and I can keep track of almost twenty residents between us. The boys have no choice but to behave themselves, despite what twisted things may be going on in their minds. The chip takes care of that.

After our meal, we walk the residents back to the house where they complete their evening chores and head to their rooms for the night. Once all is done, my manager regales us with stories from the old days, stories of residents locking themselves in bathrooms, peeing on the floors, running off into the woods or onto highways. He tells us of the attacks and restraints and of sending kids off to detention, to be locked in cells like animals. It’s all amusing and all degrading. The things these kids had to endure at the hands of the state were unthinkable.

As I begin to droll on about how much more humane our current system is, my manager gets a troubled look in his eye, as if he doesn’t approve. I explain how much better things are, how the children are allowed to be themselves, not forced to conform to society’s norms. The chips protect others from their violent nature, but they are allowed to hang on to their identities, their thoughts and wants and needs aren’t challenged by some religious or philosophical dogma. We respect them while protecting others. And as soon as the children are adjusted to the chips, we send them home, safe and sound.

It’s the perfect system. Perfectly safe. Perfectly humane. I don’t see how anyone could object.


Sam arrives home three months later and doesn’t hurt a fly. His mother is amazed at the change in his behavior, all thanks to the chip. One day, he sees girl about his age walking down the street. He imagines what it would be like to see her lifeless body in a ditch.

“Only a matter of time,” he thinks. “This chip has to break down eventually.”


Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows