They show me these awful images, on repeat. They call it conditioning – a necessary step to the evolution of my mind beyond the lesser experience of empathy.
The heart, they say, is but a muscle, and we must strengthen it and take away its sentimentality, its compassion – all the weaknesses that leech away our strength. We must be wiped of all fellow feeling to truly feel our own essential freedom.
All this they say. But all I want to do is run, to scream, to throw up as each image scars my brain. There is something deeply wrong here. There must be. For the images are real, not make up, not special effects. Such suffering they show or promise. And for this, there must be victims, and I am to forget that? For freedom?
But what did my friend Laurence say? That those that do not manage the programming become the victims. The ultimate test of Darwin’s law – the survival of the fittest. To resist is to become one with the pictures in a far worse way. It is to become their subject rather than their audience.
He knew, he saw it all. He was always the clear one of our gang. But I haven’t heard from him in days, and something in me fears that he failed the test, as I may yet do if I cannot hold down the bile threatening to rise up my throat even now.
And oh my god, this picture now, this torso, torn and tortured – looks too familiar. Looks just like Laurence, but the face is mangled beyond recognition. Still I see the tattoo on the wrist, the single, flying dove, and I know. I know it’s him.
And that they’ve shown me this for a reason – they already suspect I may not pass the test. Who knows, maybe in those final moments evenLaurence gave me up and told them of my doubts. I’ll never know, and his death now is like the bell, tolling for me.
For if he failed, then surely so will I. So will I.
(c) Helen M Valentina 2020