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The Executioner's Hammer (Part Two) This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.


“You see, Leo, the Grand Assembly is dead wrong. There is no such thing as immaculacy--no such thing! Dressing people in black jumpsuits doesn’t create perfection! Asexuality doesn’t create perfection! Killing the bums and the drunks and the idiots and the crazies and the jobless and the dreamers and the poor and the deformed and the disabled does not, cannot, will not create PERFECTION!

“Our society, Leopold, is fake. Color is banned. Emotion is banned. Living is banned!

“But just because they’ve banned it doesn’t mean they can stop it. Look--listen. I love you, Leopold Harris. I love you with all of my feeble old heart. You are my grandson--you are my flesh and blood. On top of that, you’re a charming little boy and I love you.

“…Do you see, Leo? It’s as simple as that. When you feel the way for someone that I do for you, it is love. Love. Do you understand?” Leopold could hardly fathom the concept his grandfather was babbling on about, but he had nodded anyhow.

“I certainly hope that you do--or will, in time. Love is difficult to explain, but easily comprehended.

“There are many different kinds of love as well. I love you in a familial sense--we are family.”--Here he noticed the bemused expression on the face of his grandson--“But I suppose that is a foreign concept to you as well. Damned shame.

“Well, if I can hope to clarify anything, I should probably try to explain the love of women again, as I can almost guarantee no one else in your life will want to help you understand. You see, Leopold, a woman’s love is a man’s greatest treasure--the feminine beauty, also, be it internal or external.

“I should throw this bit in here as well--hate, on the other hand, is the complete opposite of love. You could say your brothers and sisters hate color; our society hates imperfection; and so on.

“And fear is when you hate so much it becomes scary and frightens you. And confusion is when you do not understand--and I would imagine you are extremely confused now.

“…You know so little… You are so little… It’s almost tragic. I don’t know what else to say.

“Please, Leopold. If anything should be taken from this conversation, it is this: love, son--that is the greatest joy of all men. Not wealth, not material possessions, not fame…

“You know… I believe in you, son. I believe that you will know it when you feel it--if they ever let you feel it. You see, it‘s all--” It was here that Harris’ father had intervened, entering the house and subsequently realizing the blasphemy being spewed by his own father. The Guard had been called for, and had responded with superhuman efficiency, as expected, carting the old man away, presumably to the Board of Immaculacy building for trial, and, eventually, execution.

As he was forced out of the small apartment, he put up quite a fight for a frail old man. They managed to haul his wheelchair through the doorway, but he had successfully locked his wrinkled hands around a piece of steel doorframe, clinging to it desperately with what little scraps of clout he had. He screamed to the young Harris, “Leopold! Remember my words! Remember my stories! Remember how it used to be! Remember love! Hate! Emotions, Leopold! Imperfection! Remember the feelings, the sensations--please, Leopold, for the love of God--REMEMBER!” An adhesive band was swiftly applied and quickly adhered to his mouth. The last thing Harris was able to recollect from that day was the final fight of his grandfather, eyes bulging in fear, head secured to the back of his cold, steel wheelchair, face contorted in wild anger, feeble hands groping for the throats of the Immaculate Guard. The door had slammed closed, and Harris had been alone.

To his young mind, his grandfather’s final speech bore little meaning--however, he never forgot his words. During the hearing of Lola Pratt, they, buried deep in the lowest chasms of his subconscious, floated into his mind, flooding his conscious thought with irrational feeling. He had wondered--was this an example of his grandfather’s wonderful “women”?--was her external beauty linked to the “greatest joy of all men”?--was this, this… odd attraction the splendid thing he had described--the “love”?

Marx, still faithfully sitting by his pupil’s side (a position that he would honor until the two thousandth hearing), quickly noted the quivering lip of awestruck Harris, the blank, yet somehow focused look in his eye--of random fixation--of animal lust.

From the founding day of the Board of Immaculacy, a list of edicts that would later be known as the True Virtues was formulated and, from then on, strictly followed--and topping this series of necessary behaviors was that of complete and utter chastity. Here, Marx sat dumbly, watching his most promising pupil drown in immorality. Harris had felt his cheeks warming and head throbbing strangely as he gazed at the object of his sudden affection--and, faithfully remembering the True Virtues, grabbed for a cool glass of water and quickly drank. The humiliating reddening and dreadful, lust-borne heat drained out of his face--he appeared perfectly normal to the other faces, the other eyes. But Marx had seen.

Harris abruptly forgot his illogical love, returning to his old, acceptable self, and delivered the verdict, A4. Drunken, crying Lola was led away, another dreg of society successfully deleted.

After the hearing, as Harris very much anticipated, Marx approached him. However, the accuracy of his prediction ended there--instead of losing his rank and, perhaps, his life, as he had expected, Harris was greeted warmly, Marx patting his back rather than stabbing it. The elder man had leaned close to him and breathed a few words into his ear, a statement of consolation imperceptible to any passerby.

“…You‘re safe, Harris…” He withdrew his hand and smiled. Harris, pleasantly surprised, shyly returned the friendly gesticulation.

“Damned fine job, there, Harris!” a boisterous, middle-aged Grand Assembly member, who had been present during the trial, exclaimed, racing over to congratulate him. Harris responded timidly, and Marx quickly faded away into the passing crowd, allowing the younger man to enjoy his reward.

He had received the secretary--a dressed and painted robot--the following week. He had named her Lola.

The next twenty years had been a blur for Harris--thousands of faceless undesirables--awful bums and derelicts, the lazing unemployeds and the hopeless dreamers, drunks and prostitutes (all considered “treasonous to the True Virtues” or “obsolete” by the Grand Assembly)--thousands of tedious trials, thousands of pleas and subsequent executions, of kitschy, garish gifts sent to him in hopes of pardons for various people, of crying families when, each time, he refused, of approving glances and pats on the back, of rewards, rewards, rewards--the same song and dance, each and every day, over and over again.

Harris had tolerated it, as he supposed he was obligated, but more often than not found himself wondering why--why he must fall in line with the Preferred System of the United State, why he must obey and respect the True Virtues, why imperfection and deviation--Hell, individuality--necessitated execution. Though he had grown and matured and lived in this world of purification and obsolesce, his grandfather’s words had never left him--and because of the oddball thoughts they inspired, he felt as though he, contemplating and even, on occasion, agreeing with them, could never be truly considered “normal.”

But what was “normal”? And what was “Immaculacy” or “True Virtue”? And what was “love” and “hate” and “fear” and--

“…Harris?”--“passion” and even “memory” and “emotion” and--

“Harris!” He was brusquely thrown back into the present--his own trial, heard by his own mentor, Marx.

“Harris!” he boomed again. The younger man began to nod rapidly.

“Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! Yes, sir!” he replied. Marx was frowning.

“The review of your file has been completed, as you may… or may not already be aware. We now wish to state the charges. Shall we proceed, Mister Harris?” Harris nodded again.

“Very well… Leopold Nathaniel Harris, Identification 627-4454-0892... You have been accused of treason, treason against the True Virtues of Immaculacy!

“Why, may you ask? Do you remember yesterday’s hearing, Mister Harris?” He tried to recollect Wednesday’s events but could to no avail.

“That’s all right, old chum--don’t strain yourself. I would be quite surprised if you remembered anyhow.

“You were hearing a case, Harris--Form A223-9898-4587. Of course, the form identification will not assist your memory, but perhaps this bit of information might--it was a young woman‘s trial, old friend, and her name was Lola Brown.”

Harris’ face fell.

“But what led to your own indictment? You were acting quite strangely during the case--after perusing her file, you began babbling incoherently about the most frivolous of things… and no one knew why, Harris.

“I thought, perhaps, that your subconscious linked this woman to one from years and years ago… but of course, that is only an assumption. It would possibly explain this disturbance and the outrageous assertions you made in that trance-like state, however, as I and all of the other Assembly members know how you lusted after that ugly PIQ.” So he hadn’t kept his promise--Harris, though slightly upset, was not horribly surprised. Anything to incriminate an undesirable.

“You were blathering on and on about… oh, Hell, I don’t even remember… silly things like… love, and laughter, and “the greatest joy of all men”…”--he frowned disgustedly--“but whatever it was, it gave us reason to believe that you were suffering from psychopathic tendencies…

“And, Mister Harris, you do remember the seventy-eighth True Virtue, I can assume? I certainly hope you would, as it is what landed you in this predicament. I shall read it aloud for the benefit of the Grand Assembly.

“…In order to reach Immaculacy, we must purge our society of its blemishes, its lowers and lessers, among these being derelicts, the diseased, the far-advanced in age, the uneducated, the unemployed, the hopeless romantics and helpless dreamers, and the delusional insane… And we strongly believe, Mister Harris, that you fall into that last category.

“I shall continue… And those found to be of these dregs, that meet the criteria (provided in the Book of Purification) shall be aptly put to death, as there is nothing on this Earth that may rescue them from their own undesirability…

“Well…You may plead if you wish, Mister Harris, but as you know…” Marx glanced at him shrewdly, “It will not do you much good.

“Proceed, if you must.”

Harris sat, completely still, perched on the edge of his cold metal chair. There was nothing he could say or do to alter the unchangeable verdict. He was destined for execution.

“You b*****d…” he muttered, surprised by his own words. Marx looked down at him, amusedly.

“What was that, Mister Harris?” He received no response. “You’ll have to speak up if you wish to make your plea. After all, we can’t hardly hear you from up--”

“You b*****d!” Harris shouted. His old mentor--his old friend--merely laughed.

“Call me what you will, Harris,” the elder man said slyly, grinning wolfishly at his suffering counterpart, the alleged turncoat, the newest PIQ, “But I am the elite--and the elite are certainly not b******s.” He continued to chuckle at the newest object of society’s ostracism, Leopold Harris.

A strange, alien sensation overcame him just then, prompted by Marx‘s taunting jibes--his face was reddening, his blood, seeming to boil--he wished to scream and shout… but could not understand why. He had never felt this way before--this… this redness. No other term seemed fit to describe it, for the moment.

He again wondered, a stream of thoughts running rampant through his mind: What am I doing? What am I feeling? I am red. I feel red. But how can I feel a color? And what is color? What is FEELING, for God’s sake? And what inside of me has sparked such a reaction? Why haven’t I felt it before? How do I know what it is? What is this? What?--What--?

Realization struck.

He mumbled incoherently, catching again the attention of Grand Chairman Marx.

“And what was that, my dear Mister Harris?”

Harris, smiling viciously, malice in his eyes, gazed up at the elder man and cried out his discovery.

“HATE!” he shouted, pointing at the startled Marx, “I… I… HATE YOU! It is… It is HATE! I understand!” He rejoiced, finally able to comprehend his grandfather’s last words.

“…What?” sputtered Marx, who had taken a sip of his water prior to Harris’ outburst and had subsequently choked.

“Emotion! I understand emotion!” Harris laughed, “I understand hate! Anger! And… and LOVE!” Realization struck again, another wonderful lightening bolt in his brain. “I hate you, Marx! But I loved Lola! I love Lola! Lola was beautiful--beauty! Yes! Yes!

“And… To love her, to know that she knew I loved her, and to have her love me too… well, would have been… wonderful--the best, the--the greatest joy!” As he rapidly discovered these hidden truths, he lifted his head skyward and cried out, “Oh, Grandfather! I understand now--I understand!”

Marx, wanting to witness no more of the horrifyingly defiant spectacle, called for the Guard.

“This!” thundered Harris, throwing his hands into the air, “This is the True Virtue! Love is the True Virtue! THIS is true enlightenment!” Marx scrambled and, shaking, somehow managed to stand. Desiring nothing more than to rid himself of Harris, he began to bang his gavel violently against the counter, shouting for assistance.

“Guard! Hurry! Take this man away! Execute him! He’s ill, he’s, he’s mindless--he’s--he’s insane! I want him away, now! Kill the crazy b*****d!” A cluster of burly men rushed at the cheering Harris and effortlessly pulled him from the room. The steel door slammed shut. After the echo had subsided, the chamber once more returned to its previously state of eerily complete silence.

Marx, again, took his seat, slightly shaken, but grasped for his glass of water, drank, and quickly recovered.

“Now then,” he began, reshuffling his disheveled stack of papers, “Onto the next hearing--Form B69-6757-5687. Lobby for execution. Person In Question: Charleston, Lewis, Identification Number 484-7863-1232...”

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