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The Leader MAG
by I. W., Boston, MA
Hal got up to a ringing noise. His alarm clock. Dully, he considered the possibility of getting a new one. Impossible. NeuCredits would not cover a new one. He hurried down the creaking stairs of his apartment after throwing on a grey trenchcoat. The wooden stairs were stained a deep brown from sogginess, and a steady drip of water from the ceiling explained why.
Hal hurried out onto the street, purchasing a daily newspaper. He scanned the headlines of the thin single page. November 14th, 2175. A plane had crashed in California, costing over 1200 lives. The Leader had won a war in Korea. An editorial stated that the Leader's policies were overly controlling and subversive. Hal passed over these 100-word articles with disinterest. He started to read the editorial, but after getting through the first sentence, he felt tired and flipped over the page. He saw that Hologramic Projections had a new laser show. There was no more to the paper.
Hal felt a vague sense of dissatisfaction. Had there been a time when a newspaper was longer than a single page? No matter. He would try the laser show and hold onto the paper.
Stuffing the sheet of newspaper into his pocket, he walked across the cracked pavement to the only large building in the entire city - in fact, the only non-residential building in the city. HOLOGRAMIC PROJECTIONS read the sign in red glowing letters outside a sheer polymesh glass face, a contrast from the squat concrete housing of the rest of the city.
Hal joined the crowd streaming into the building. No one spoke. No one looked at each other. Each, of course, was clad in a drab, gray trenchcoat with a single pink patch on it. As the patch faded from red to white, ones NeuCredits depleted. If at any time one reached zero NeuCredits, an electric shock would resonate through his or her entire body, causing instant death. Already, the sheep-like mass was incurring a few casualties who fell to the ground without a cry as they passed the scanner that deducted their NeuCredits.
Hal's patch was almost fully red, yet even so it faded somewhat after passing the scanner. He followed the crowd to the plush red interior of the building. He sat down on a hard metal seat, neck craned at the domelike ceiling. Hal's mind registered nothing for ten minutes. He did not move, nor speak to the person next to him. He only sat, neck arched to the blank white ceiling.
Suddenly, the automatic doors from which the crowd still poured gave a rumble. The two massive metal doors closed, crushing one man who was blindly walking forward. He gave no scream as his body was caught between the hard steel, and no one noticed his death as the doors came to a jarring halt.
The room darkened. A colored light-show appeared on the ceiling. Pinpoints of laser light from the entire spectrum appeared, dancing and wheeling across the ceiling. There was no pattern to the concatenation of lines and dots. Each line had its own purpose, and all intermeshed into what one might almost call beauty.
Hal stared at the light. He started to contemplate how lovely the lights were, but he couldn't think. There was no necessity. His brain relaxed and, though the show left Hal with a feeling of utter satisfaction, he could not remember a single detail.
As the lights receded, a face shimmered and appeared, spanning the whole massive room in its terrifying splendor. It was the face, simply, of a man. It was not a handsome man. The brow was set too far forward, the nose was slightly bent, the small brown eyes receded into the face. But Hal could see nothing - nothing except the single overriding fact: he was the Leader.
The Leader spoke the first words Hal had heard all day. All in the room registered his words with extraordinary intensity.
"You will have no names now. Do not call yourselves by any name. Our newspaper has become unnecessary. Do not read it. Destroy any copies you may have. That is all."
The picture faded into darkness and the crowd shuffled from the room.
He thrust in his overcoat pocket for the paper. He slowly tore it up, his hands moving without any direction from the brain. He scattered the pieces on the ground. Several others in the crowd did the same.
He looked at his patch, which was turning white. Hal 9226, it said. What did that mean? He pondered that for a moment before it became too tiresome to think and his head buzzed. He followed the crowd.
He - a nameless, faceless, mindless shadow of a man - walked the streets that were silent, though they were packed with the crowd of strangers in gray.