I’ve been thinking about the character I developed for one of Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenges. Unnamed, yet to be gendered, only known as a Closer in a semi-dystopia who takes care of killing off the useless human trash, I haven’t been able to get him/her out of my head. (I do suggest you read the original first here, as I think it will make a lot more sense. )
In fact the whole world of this character is interesting, and I’m finding I’m discovering it as I write. I don’t have a plan, or plot chart, or character sketch thats all filled in. This next section tells a lot more about the society, with less plot. I wonder if I’ll figure him/her out as I write, maybe this will become something of a regular thing.
The things that made me come back to it include:
1. Writing without dialogue. All the reader knows is what is told by the narrator, and this maniac doesn’t care to describe things about other people, that don’t really matter. So how do you create real plot with a character who doesn’t truly interact with others?
2. The psuedo-dystopic society…could there be parts that actually work? What tropes have we seen before that end up being the downfall of the society? How can I rework these? Is every society doomed to fail?
3. Can a murderer really regulate her/his behaviour? Can a government control people like that? How did this murderer get into the position where’s s/he’s allowed to kill? What the background story? Is it important?
While I wrestle with these questions let me know what parts about the following bore you, where it drags, whats right, whats repetitive, what’s not quite connecting and what you want to know more about. Definitely Looking for Feedback.
Pt II : Upon Leaving her Armchair
I pack up my syringe, fill out the paper work, and call the Bodysnatchers to pick Thomas up. They’re actually called Cleaners, but I think nicknames are always more fun. It pisses them off, these necrocollectors. No one asks what happens to the body after they take it away. I assume it’s disgusting as to keep that certain population appeased. It’s in this ten-minute wait for them, that I break as many rules as I can.
As a Closer, I’m supposed to set up, ignore, and kill the person in a sort-of humanely way. I think I’m the best one of the three. I don’t tease the soon-to-be dead, or let them go on-and-on revisiting the life they’re leaving. I’m efficient. If the system is about best use of time and people, which really means money, then I offer the most valuable service. But breaking little rules doesn’t hurt.
I’m not supposed to collect things from my kills, but honestly – if the Education department thinks I’m a sociopath, with psychotic fixations on watching eyes go from shiny to dead, then they should also know that I’m going to 1)break as many rules as I can, and 2) mementos are just part of the MO. I toed the line for my first three deaths, but I left feeling so unsatisfied. And now I barely remember what they felt like. I want to relive each death, a weird preparation for my own, I’m sure.
While I wait for the Meatfuckers, I wander through Thomas’ house, trying to find a keepsake, and making a mental inventory of the things worth selling on the black markets. So much for equality, even useless, condemned criminals have things they shouldn’t. How the Catalogers missed it, I’m not quite sure. A brass-faced cuckoo clock.
There are two major problems with owning such an item: One, the clock shouts in the face of Counters, that how they determine time to be spent is irrelevant; that you can’t trust them with time; and that you are keeping track of their time. Two, brass is the new gold, the new currency. It’s less obvious, and sturdier to use. Gold is for the government, brass for the people. A friend told me is a way of snubbing the government, taking something less valuable for the rich and purposely making it more valuable for the masses. Which is why the government would hate the fact that such an artifact exists, and is dangerous to keep in your home. Most people wouldn’t, but maybe Thomas was a sociopath, or one of those time-rebels who try to make plans with market-traders to take down the Man.
I don’t get the desire to take out the government. Our time is controlled, yes, but we all find ways to steal back parts of it. Clocks have not been banned, but they are no longer sold, made, or kept as focal points in houses. Our cell phones vibrate when we are supposed to move on to the next thing; every minute is accounted for. Time really is money in this place. It’s a pitiful rework of Orwell’s Telescreens. It’s also sort of okay that way, as long as we are on time – not too slow, nor too efficient – and do what we are told, there’s no need to monitor us. Action matters, thought does not. They’ve made it so there’s no time to act on thought. Which is of course ludicrous, but when the most evil thing I can think of when I’ve been purposely too efficient is to steal a clock for black-market trade, then I wonder if they really do have it right. It’s not about perfect control, or a corruptionless society, it’s about power. They accept that it’s safer if people still sort-of feel like themselves, but to have no time to really do much about it. This way, there’s one place to monitor, plans require people to talk, so they monitor where they meet. They are smarter than Orwell, and don’t make people feel like they are being watched. Time controlled, sure, because everyone will find their little ways of stealing bits of it here and there, but when they know they are being watched, that’s when people get angry. So don’t let them know, don’t make it obvious – only do it in the places that its really needed – where groups of rule-breakers meet. The markets.
I always bring a larger than necessary bag for my equipment, but this clock is making it burst at the seams. I drape my coat over it to try hide some of the bulk. I walk out as the Rigor-rubbers just arrive, give them a dashing smile and witty comment about the foggy day, and nonchalantly getthehellouttathere. If any one group is going to report me, it’s them. Like if they catch enough other people pulling illegal shit, it’ll make up for their deadflesh obsessions.
I drive up to little house on a lot of land, it was on my way into HQ anyway. It’s a farmers house. Because his time is always in the fields, he doesn’t need much house space. It also means that it’s the perfect place for the Market, as trinkets are hid between rows of corn, under thorny berry bushes, and no uniform is going to go in deep enough to find anything. Actually, it’s quite possible the farmer is a uniform. I think it’d be smart – report those who don’t try to make trades, they are the real plotters. There’s always talk at the market about revolt, but as long as talk is happening, action is not. When the chatter stops, that’s when something’s coming.
The Farmer is swearing at his tractor 300 meters infield. I slam the car door, he slams the tractor hood down, and comes in.
He would never meet me out in the field, he doesn’t trust that my job fills my needs. Its riskier that we’ll get caught this close to a house or barn where I’m sure there’s surveillance, but if he’s really a uni it doesn’t matter. I’m hoping that someone has requested a private Closing, this clock should be valuable enough for that. I don’t know that it’s enough for a hit-closing, suicides are easier to mimic, and both the closer and closee agree that the outcome should happen. Murders, well, they’re harder. But way more fun. There’s not subtle way to hint to the Farmer that this is what I’m looking for, so its good that he assumes I’m always on the hunt.
He likes the clock, but I don’t know if his nerves are excitement over the clock, or out of fear that I’m here. He’s still nervous about the last paid-for Close, which was over a year ago, with no complications. His words fall out of his mouth, like someone falling down the stairs, all mixed up, broken with little puffs and groans of pain. He wants to hire me. To take out someone in the Creative department. His wife. So he is a uniform. Only top-ranking uni’s get wives from the Creative department. Sex is allowed, children are allowed, but if you’re in the Creative department you get to not only pick how your kid is going to turn out, and what kind of uniform they are going to wear, but you also get to keep it.