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#57

I leave this chronicle as a warning to the future, if there is a future. The infection spreads across the world, corrupting all that it touches. I do not have the power or courage to stop it, I do not know if anyone does. I have seen it claim my friends and family. I shall not let it claim me. Death shall claim me: unsullied, strong, pure. The poison that I have administered is quick and painless – death before dishonour, you could say.

I have seen what the scourge has done to the world and I do not wish to become a part of it. It is no longer my world, but a mockery of all we held dear.

It started so very innocuously, as such world-altering events often do. A routine arrest in a little place you’ve probably never heard of.

OFFICER’S REPORT: August 17th.

“Vagrant; male, black. No ID at time of arrest, no name given or forthcoming from questioning. Ragged clothes, no shoes, no money at time of arrest. Vagrant was very happy, however, and very co-operative in nature. Believed to be intoxicated; perhaps deranged? (refer to psych report) When questioned about his incongruously happy state, vagrant laughed; stated ‘I got the TRUTH! You want some, man?’ Vagrant was subsequently searched again for drugs; none found. Tests inconclusive, seemed to be clean.”

How wrong they were. They just couldn’t detect it, that’s all. If they had got rid of that vagrant then, they would have saved the world.

OFFICIAL MEMO, August 21st, from the desk of Sergeant Murtagh.

“Re: Prisoner #57. No officer is allowed within 3 feet of Prisoner #57. After the severe attitude change of Officers Santos, Willoughby and Carter, we believe that #57 still has a quantity of TRUTH and is disseminating it – his continued state of happiness testifies he has enough to feed his own addiction as well as spreading it to others. If you are exposed to TRUTH, you will be dismissed as have Santos, Willoughby and Carter. This is a message for your OWN PROTECTION. Prisoner #57 is dangerous and TRUTH is dangerous.”

You see, it started to spread, like some inexorable cancer. Just as hard to stop – no cure; a suppression, a remission. But it still lay there, like a silent serpent, to lunge whenever defences were lowered. They tried to eliminate it, as I tried, but they failed, as I failed.

OFFICIAL MEMO, August 25th, from the desk of Sergeant Murtagh.

“I have interviewed Prisoner #57 and after careful deliberation I violated my own orders. Prisoner #57 has shared his TRUTH with me, it has made me so happy, it has made my life complete. All the officers I have dismissed I welcome back with open arms; I apologize, please forgive me. All of you, please visit Prisoner #57 yourselves but be quick; he will be released on the 28th. Join me in happiness!”

Thankfully, Sergeant Murtagh was quickly relieved of command by Internal Security. Some noble individual obviously reported his treasonous activities to the proper authorities. Prisoner #57 was not released as promised. When Internal Security stepped in and saw the threat to our great nation, they locked down the precinct and had their top scientists work on the nature of TRUTH. Believing TRUTH to be some viral or bacterial agent, Prisoner #57 was declared a biohazard and was sequestered away in a hermetically sealed cell. None of this took his euphoria away. This proved how dangerous TRUTH was.

PROGRESS REPORT: Special Agent Wynn.

“We have been compromised. The hermetic seals have been sabotaged; we have infiltrators within our ranks. Too many of our agents have gone rogue; colleagues whom I have depended on for years suddenly have changed their ways. A break-out by key infiltrators was attempted last night and almost succeeded. TRUTH-afflicted rogue agents seem to be particularly peaceful and non-confrontational. If they weren’t I believe we would all be dead by now.”

(This, however, was Special Agent Wynn’s last report. He is believed to have gone rogue also. Within the month all agents at the facility were TRUTH-afflicted. A new squad of Internal Security was deployed to secure Prisoner #57.)

Something had to be done. TRUTH was spreading all over the country; no one could stop its relentless advance. Entire groups of people, everywhere, without any definable connection with one another were being addicted; calling themselves “Seekers of TRUTH”. They networked; they grew in strength, an insidious infection upon our country. Fortunately wiser, rational people held the reins of power and sought to behead the viper before it could strike.

PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS: September 16th.

“Due to his treasonous activities threatening the social fabric of our fine nation, Prisoner #57 is sentenced for execution by lethal injection on October 3rd. TRUTH has been a scourge upon our streets – everywhere can be seen the happy, smiling face of the Seeker. Removing the leader of this corruptive, criminal syndicate that promotes widespread and frequent use of TRUTH should halt this terrible plague which he has unleashed upon us. Ladies and gentlemen; I promise I shall stop the spread of TRUTH by any means necessary. My government and I shall save you, loyal patriotic citizens that you are, from exposure to TRUTH. And I say to you; TRUTH has no place in this great country of ours or anywhere else in the world.”

A voice of sanity against the tide of madness.

The frequency of break-out attempts by the Seekers intensified a hundredfold. They did not succeed in Prisoner #57’s release. Political groups argued in court long and hard for his sentence to be revoked, but a presidential decree has too much weight for such insignificant attacks to make any difference. Prisoner #57 was executed at his appointed time. However the Seekers of TRUTH had gained in #57’s sacrifice the very model of a modern martyr – he went to his death with joy suffusing his features – we couldn’t take that away from him, no matter how hard we tried. I’m afraid that his rapture did make me somewhat wistful; I hoped someday I would experience such bliss, even for just a moment. But that would mean accepting TRUTH – and I did not want such taint upon my soul. I could not relate it to anything I already knew, it was so different to the established order. Perhaps I was just content with what I had, unwilling to risk my worldview by exposing myself to this TRUTH.

THE TIMES, October 27th

“Although the President expected the death of Prisoner #57 to paralyze the Seekers of TRUTH it seems that membership of this strange group is steadily increasing. Whole towns have joined this seemingly tranquil movement. Peaceful demonstrations have been held; BRING ‘TRUTH’ TO THE PEOPLE, one of their more popular slogans. It seems the death of Prisoner #57, which was intended to stop the Seekers of TRUTH has actually accelerated their cause.”

It was true. We cut the head off the snake, not knowing it was the Hydra of legend. A multitude of heads appeared; too many cells of resistance to be put down. It raced across the country like raging wildfire; it spread to all nations. We were the best hope of the world, but we could not stop the power of TRUTH.

What is TRUTH? It must be very addictive, beyond the siren’s call of heroin or cocaine, luring away even these addicts to itself. However, some have resisted its enticing seduction; they speak of such terror and agony that TRUTH has brought them, haunted night after night by tortured dreams. TRUTH seems to be a paradox, pleasure and pain hopelessly combined together.

My children, my spouse, my friends. All joined the burgeoning tide – all Seekers of TRUTH. TRUTH has taken all I held dear away from me by their willing surrender to what has possessed their souls.

I know they feel pity and sorrow for me because I have not joined them; I feel pity and sorrow for them because they have been warped and twisted to unrecognizability by TRUTH. They are no longer what they were before.

I can no longer live in a world ravaged by TRUTH.

#57

Cailean

Adelaide, Australia

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Artist's Description

This story was converted into a radio play, voice acted by several individuals and aired on Radio Adelaide some time ago. They did an amazing job with it!

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