Story Sixteen – Age of Insanity
This one might spark a discussion. Just remember, never make them eat their vegetables… Seriously, just don’t do it. THIS WILL HAPPEN!
“Five days ago, in response to a video now banned in most of the world, an estimated seventy five million people brought horrible and swift violence to the streets across this nation.”
The news anchor’s sullen voice marched through the silent basement. I was lucky to have turned the volume up when I noticed the blank screen replaced with the digital signal. Keeping the TV on was an accident, more of an oversight. I didn’t care to imagine what caused the owners of the house to leave without shutting everything off. I knew why it happened. I knew what happened and I didn’t want to see it in my mind.
The sofa that had been my bed for the last three nights cast a flickering shadow against the small, high, ground-level windows. I drew their shades. Not wanting to take any more chances, I put some spare cardboard boxes against them to block the light. I did all of this to the continuing voice of the softly speaking man on the television.
“Officials have yet to confirm the supposed facts discussed in the video, which became an internet sensation, literally, overnight. But the fact seems clear that whether the entirety was true or not, Dr. Herman Teichmann’s speech effectively predicted the days following the upload. In a twist of fate, Dr. Teichmann, himself, was the first high profile victim of the phenomena when a large group of organized assailants invaded his home and that of his house keeper.”
You’re damn right I predicted it.
Within a few hours of sending the digital file, my home had been surrounded. I couldn’t count how many there were. It had to be around two hundred. How could they organize so fast? I was able to call the police for the second time that night. They weren’t smart enough to cut my phone lines. They were simple-minded, as most young people are. Their shortcomings didn’t matter. Help hadn’t arrived for Ms. Tate. It wouldn’t come for my house. The cops were dealing with the same scene, peppered throughout the city. The armies would find themselves handling even larger groups of teens and children through every state. Those were acts of violence.
This, at my house, what I could see in their faces, was revenge. I insulted them. They heard my words, found my address, called their friends and grabbed whatever objects they could fashion into weapons. Some had guns or knives. Most had more common-place dangers like bats, chains, even broken pieces of wood and I’m sure I saw some gardening supplies. I was their Dr. Frankenstein. They had come to kill my monster.
The funny thing was, my monster, what I had created, was a brief message to the people of the world. I had urged parents to watch their children closer for violent tendencies. My monster was the idea that they could kill.
It was the same monster which I wrote books about and lectured across the country. Parents didn’t like it. They didn’t like me. Their children were far from perfect, they’d admit that. But they couldn’t be killers. That’s what I’d hear from most people
Children can’t kill.
My response had always been and will always be the same.
Of course they can. They’re human.
Ms. Tate had been in ardent counterposition of my findings from the minute I chose to discuss them with her. She was a remarkably intelligent and understanding woman. She came from a lower-middle class family and while she hadn’t driven into a career one would call ‘enviable’, she saw her work as housekeeper to be just as important as mine. Without her, she would often opine, I wouldn’t be able to write a single paper, let alone find it again. I had a habit of having my organized thoughts opposed by clumsy, messy actions. She had a habit of taking my piles of loose leave scribbles and putting them in order.
I was from the other side of the tracks in my youth. I had more opportunities for what I now cringe at calling ‘greater’ paths. She opened my eyes to a more human world of enjoying what you have. She gave me a new perspective and I would jump at the chance to use that view, to ask what she thought of my theories. Those hours of calm, friendly debate never changed anything for her, though. With all her culturally charged understanding and common sense, she was the most stubborn creature I’d ever known. She was the mother of five wonderful children.
Of course, my more extreme ideas were wholly unthinkable to her. She asked me, once, why I thought every child had the capacity for murder. It was hard to put into words. Increasingly earlier diagnosis of autism and ADHD and the medications used to treat them, a rise of moral stringency in society, the focus on the total obliteration of the importance of individual merits in favor of blanket acceptance… To me, all of these were factors. Chemicals we didn’t quite understand the long term effects of were not going to simply do what they were told, especially not when their entire purpose was to change brain chemistry. That, compounded with society’s need to change human instinct to suit its ‘kinder, gentler’ image tore the natural tendencies young people have away. Apathy mixed with misunderstood angst in ways that were both hopeless for the sufferer and dangerous for the world.
When I finished telling her, she had one thing to say to me.
“Mr. Teichmann, I vote democrat. I believe that we need to work for the benefit of others. I believe we should be working towards a non-violent country.”
I smiled, trying to withhold the annoyance I was feeling. She couldn’t possibly have believed my theories were based on political ideologies. If she did, she wasn’t quite aware of my own views in that arena. As a scientist, there is little area in the right for my profession.
“Ms. Tate, I do not believe that all children have the capacity to murder. I simply want people to understand that every child has an instinct, a need, for some kind of violence. And if that instinct is agitated, we could be on the brink of disaster.”
I happened to have faith that her young people, living in the smaller house a few hundred yards from my back door were mentally sound, physically happy, and emotionally balanced. They were children to be proud of. Of course, they were still children; learning pre-adults combining experimentation with a mistake and hindsight focused procedure to life.
The two eldest, James and Cheryl, were brooding vats of teenage angst. They’d smile and wave, yes. But most of their time was hidden away in their rooms or tapping on the two old communal computers just powerful enough to handle Facebook. The middle boys, Cary and Bruce, were wild, rambunctious balls of energy. The only words I could ever use to describe them were as cliche as their favorite activity: wrestling. They idolized the burly heroes and villains tossing each other around and smashing their opponents with chairs. When they began to emulate the professional bullies, their mother put a stop to their TV privileges.
I tried to explain the nature of children to her. I tried to explain the nature of humans as a whole. No matter how many times I would lecture about the violence inherent in our survival instincts, she simply wouldn’t hear it.
Her boys were gentle. It had to be the TV. And when they began tackling each other in the yard, it had to be football. When sticks became swords and Bruce had come into his mother’s arms, crying from under a black and bloodied eye, the movies were to blame.
I was never on board with blaming the media. The idea that someone had to create a violent video game came from a place of ancient humanity shared within us all. Violence doesn’t change us from what we should be. It changes us back from what we’ve become.
My argument, in spite of my own hopes, suddenly became valid when most of her young family clubbed her to death with the controllers of the Xbox system I had bought them for christmas. I couldn’t see the youngest, Grace, from the window where I witnessed them pull their mother down and shatter her skull with the white plastic devices. I had assumed she was the first to have gone. The others often shunned her and when the true hysteria took effect, I knew there were bound to be some pack instincts kicking in. Kill the runt, she slows us down. That’s nature.
That was the point of my video.
It was when I had hung up from the emergency dispatcher that I saw the crowd around my house.
The newscaster cleared his throat. He pinched the sheet of paper on the desk. There were unshed tears in his words. He must have been a father.
“In an almost unanimous movement, the young people of this country have caused a death toll equal to their own numbers. No one was safe from the rampaging of our own children. We witnessed mass assassinations of government officials and celebrities by their own sons and daughters. For those of you who have somehow escaped this phenomena, my next words will come as a shock. Two days from the time of the video, the President’ s helicopter, carrying the entire first family, spun out of control and crashed into the washington monument. It was assumed that his daughters, already exhibiting the same psychological symptoms as the rest of the world, attacked the pilot.”
I wasn’t aware it had reached so far.
I escaped the invaders in my home by sneaking and hiding. There was an old underground tunnel that led to the guest house used by Ms. Tate. As much as I wanted to stay away from the home that held her body, I couldn’t face a horde of salivating youths, enraged and ready to kill me for my theories.
I avoided the living room, staying to the kitchen in order to be hidden from view.
I found little Grace in a cupboard. She was holding a wooden spoon in her hand, waving it in warning to me. Her eyes seemed unable to close.
She was too young to understand any pattern. She knew people were hurting other people but it was beyond her to differentiate between old and young. I talked her into relinquishing her ineffective weapon. She knew me, it helped.
We played the quiet game on our way to the garage and in the car. Not a car. For her to vote democrat, the gas-guzzling tank of an SUV she kept from the settlement of her divorce was an interesting way of helping the environment.
Her child seat was already in. They were planning on a trip to the store. Ms. Tate had told me earlier that day after my breakfast. She asked if I could keep an eye on the house. It was the reason I’d witnessed her death. I had been charged with watching her children from a distance.
I found the garage door opener clipped to the driver’s side sun-visor, I knew that once the button was pressed, I’d have little time to make it out. Absentmindedly, I pressed it anyway, even before starting the car. I was not cut out for survival.
James and Mary were still in the driveway. They’d taken out their aggressions on one of their smaller siblings, apparently slamming his head into the concrete. The other boy was running away, not wanting the same fate. I made a mental note that simple self-preservation was still in play.
The SUV growled to life a second before Mary began pounding the driver’s side window with a large rock she’d picked up outside. I told Grace to close her eyes. She did it without a reply. Mary was easy to escape. I started driving. She tried to grip the car, to stay with us but there wasn’t any strength left in her fingers after attacking with the stone.
James was a different matter. He ran out in front of the bumper, screaming, gripping the leather handle of an aluminum bat. I couldn’t tell if he was more manic than the others or only more confident in believing I’d stop.
The fragile tissues in his face exploded in blood, teeth and bone around the crack in the window his head made on impact. I checked Grace. She had her hands over her face and was loudly singing nothing in particular. Thank god.
All of it happened too quick, too fast to really keep track of. My house was gone, nearly leveled by the fires. I’m sure they never realized I escaped. I’m sure they thought I was dead. The rest of the world did.
I drove until night fell. I couldn’t count the number of houses still smoldering. The roads were lit with the fires still feeding from the piles of dead. We were attacked a few more times but nothing more than a few rocks were thrown.
Grace was asleep when I found a house worth squatting in. It looked like someone’s summer home. An old couple smiled from the picture frames around every corner. I couldn’t find a single image of a child.
I took it as a sign.
I brought Grace into the basement and that’s where we had been until the signals started again.
She sighed and turned in her sleep. The love seat wasn’t directly facing the TV, the image hadn’t startled her into the waking world as it had me. I decided not to wake her. She didn’t need to see the man trying not to weep for whatever loss he witnessed. She didn’t need to hear the words that stunned, though everyone listening knew they were inevitable.
“Yesterday, at five thirty, the Vice President, acting as Commander in Chief, ordered the military to view the children of this nation as enemy combatants. Any person under the age of eighteen seen on the streets will be identified as a danger and…”
His tears came. I switched off the set. Grace slept as soundly as she had before. I knew she was going to be more trouble than she was worth.
But she was a good kid.
Posted on 05/16/2011, in Excerpts, Freewriting, Short Stories and tagged aaron, apocalypse, armageddon, child, childhood, children, crazy, death, demented, destruction, end of the world, errant studios, fantasy, horror, hysteria, literature, madness, psycho, sci fi, shively, Story a day, suspense, thriller, writing, young. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.