Author : Ian Hill

The dense battalion of grey-clothed workers strode through the militant capital, their stiff legs rising and falling in finely tuned unison. Their perfectly timed footsteps echoed around the dark square like gunshots, deafeningly loud compared to the enveloping layers of oppressive silence that hung like a pall over the rest of the city.

A taskforce of bright-faced officers marched at the head of the contingent, proudly holding red flags that displayed the royal standard of their glorious nation. Crows watched from dirty rooftops as the tight ranks marched toward the central meeting point.

The crowd spanned throughout most of the city, its fringes filling alleyways and distant streets. Everyone stood on the tips of their toes, trying to catch a glimpse of the raised metal stage. A man clad in a black uniform waited expectantly behind the monolithic podium, his sharp blue eyes gazing out at the blank-faced people before him.

Eventually, the battalions converged and blended into the crowd. Biting wind passed through shattered windows and shook loose power lines. The man on the stage stood backlit by the imposing capital building. Red banners torn at the bottom hung from the stone façade, billowing slightly. All was silent as the marching ceased.

The man smiled and leaned forward, placing his gloved hands on the podium’s edges. He brought his quivering mouth closer to the cylindrical microphone and spoke. “Amongst you is a dissenter.”

The words boomed throughout the city, echoing ominously and stirring birds from their perches. His voice was deep and rich, revealing a hint of sarcasm intermingled with patronizing spite. The peoples’ glassy eyes twitched slightly as they digested the foreign information. Their ears rang with omnipresent tinnitus as silence returned.

“In your pockets you will find the key to weeding out this pest.” the man continued as he glanced around at the numerous pale people. A brief flash of worrying consciousness flicked across a few of their faces.

After a brief period of hesitation there was a soft shuffling as everyone reached into the pocket of their working pants to retrieve a yellow capsule. They gazed down at the small pill in their hands, head cocked to the side curiously.

“Think about the greater good.” the man said sweetly, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

As a single unit the mass of selfsame people placed their palms to their mouths and swallowed the pill. Their eyes dimmed further as they all collapsed to the ground, their limbs splaying outwards and becoming intertwined with others. It was as if a virulent plague was sweeping through the populace, poisoning and killing the people in one fell swoop.

The man at the podium squinted and glanced all around the fallen crowd, searching for the standing dissenter. He frowned and straightened his back. After a few more moments of half-hearted search he shrugged inwardly. “Better safe than sorry.”

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