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The Society was wonderful. It had very few diseases that were incurable, and visitations to the doctors each month kept infectious diseases from forming an epidemic. The Society was formed when, in 2386 A.D., there was an enormous influenza outbreak. There was limited human contact in the Society for fear of The Next Big One.
Garry Johnson was a member of the Society. He was on his way to his monthly doctor’s appointment in a cab. There wasn’t much of an opportunity to talk to the driver though, as the thick glass pane prevented talk as well as preventing germs from spreading.
He looked out the window; saw the tall, glass and steel buildings reaching for the sky with their double set of doors, the inner one for entering the establishment, the outer one for entering the disinfecting room. The buildings went by quickly, a blink of an eye and gone, the next ones made of blue glass, somewhat squatter, entering the doctor’s part of the city. It was one of the smaller ones, but one used most often. The cab went rushing in the alleys between the blue glass buildings, and then he arrived.
As soon as he went into the waiting room, he saw only one other person in the powder blue chairs.
Garry introduced himself to the man, who was quite busily yawning, trying not to fall asleep.
“Hello, I’m Garry. What’s your name?” Garry said.
The other person almost glared at him, seeming to be on edge.
“My name is Harold,” he said, not even trying to hide his distaste.
He really doesn’t have to be so rude, Garry thought. I was just asking his name.
About ten minutes after he signed in, the doctor came and got Harold. Another five minutes after that Garry almost fell asleep, but the doctor then left the checkup room without Harold. He went back to his office, and nobody else entered or exited the checkup room. The doctor then exited the office and walked over to Garry.
“Ah, Garry is it?” the doctor said, almost tripping in his haste to say the words. “I’m Dr. Miller and I believe you are next.”
“Oh, I’m not sure, what about the other person, umm, Harold? He hasn’t left yet,” Garry said.
“You must have dozed off, since he left fifteen minutes ago.”
It seemed Dr. Miller was nervous, stumbling around his words as if he was worried about something, mumbling, seemingly hiding some fact, but why would he, and what would he? He seemed distracted, wide eyed, almost crying, almost like he was having a nervous breakdown.
“Anyway, let me check my chart…” Dr. Miller said. “I see you’re due for… Seasonal flu shots and a refill for sleeping pills.”
Garry followed Dr. Miller into the room while he thought about what happened. He was absolutely sure he didn’t doze off, and when he checked the clock, it confirmed that Harold couldn’t have left 15 minutes ago, since that was only five minutes after he arrived.
When he entered the checkup room, Harold definitely wasn’t there, only examination equipment. The doctor quickly had him lie down on the bed and left the room to start the disease scans. When he came back, he gave Garry the shot, and then gave him a prescription for a refill of sleeping pills. It was all over in about five minutes, and Garry went back home in a cab.
After a couple of days, Garry went to talk to his friend, Michael Smith, who Garry hadn’t seen in awhile. Mike lived in the green glass part of the city, the sales quarter. Mike worked as a grocer. Garry took a cab, and nearly lost his lunch. The cab driver was insane! He took the sharpest turns, almost breaking off the entire back part of his cab. After being shaken around, Garry knocked on the outer door of Mike’s house, which let him through, and then he was disinfected using a quick-dry spray.
“Hey, Garry!” Michael said. “How are you? Haven’t seen you in weeks!”
“I’m great, man. Just had to do some overtime for awhile,” Garry said.
“Ooh, I get you. Got an extra big electric bill last month for no reason,” said Michael.
“I did too. Weird. Must’ve been some computer system failure. Anyway, I have to tell you about my doctor’s appointment. It was really odd,” Garry said. “I saw a guy go into the doctor’s checkup room when- Why is your cat staring at me?”
Michael turned to look at his cat. “Dunno. Seems to do it to everybody.”
“Oh. Well, anyway I saw a guy go into the doctor’s room; I think his name was… Harold. Anyway, he didn’t come out after that. When I asked the doctor about it, he acted really funny. He frightened me a bit and I think he might’ve, y’know… killed him,” Garry whispered at the very last part.
Michael started laughing hard enough to have tears come out of his eyes. “You think… He killed him?” Michael had another spurt of laughing. “He’s a doctor! He’s supposed to cure people, not kill them!”
Garry shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Yeah well, that’s what it seemed like to me.”
”Subject 783 registering suspicion for a second time. Might have actual information from unknown source, perhaps Dr. Miller. Be on standby for injection.”
Garry and Michael spun around, both looking for the cause of the sound. It had seemed to be coming from the cat, but that’s impossible. Cats can’t speak.
The sound comes again, but this time Garry and Michael couldn’t hear it. “Idiot! You set it to speak out THROUGH THE OBSERVATION MECHANISM!”
“Weird… I must be hearing things,” Garry said “I thought I heard something speak…”
“Me too,” Michael said.
There was a muffled thump from overhead, and a man’s voice screaming, “WE CAN’T AFFORD IT!”
“Must’ve been your neighbors. Maybe you should file a complaint,” said Garry.
“They’ll just yell about how can I file a complaint against them and I’m the one playing the music so loud. Unfortunately for them, I don’t even have a stereo. Or speakers of any kind. Or even earplugs, unfortunately, or I wouldn’t have to hear them all the time,” said Michael.
They both started laughing, while a voice in a completely different place, a darkened one aglow with the pale light of governmental computer monitors said into a microphone linked to a radio, “Subject 783 may think nothing of own perspective on Subject 376’s injection. Keep Subject 783’s injection on standby and silence Dr. Miller. He may be disturbed by the criminal injection. This may make him liable to commit suicide. We may be able to use this to our own advantage.”
A voice responded from the radio, saying "Yessir, Miller will be our first priority, and we’ll get an injection space on standby, not be sloppy like was done with Subject 376."
Garry had decided to skip his next doctor’s appointment when he met Laura. He had met her at work; she was a new employee from New York. She had gotten kicked out of her job there from cuts, had to move here. It was simple to move in the Society, passage was free in-country; jobs were given by the government, who rushed the approval process. Her only open space in her calendar to go to a restaurant was when he had his doctor’s appointment. He decided to go to Vilardi’s, one of the prominent Italian restaurants in town, but also slightly on the expensive side.
On the day of the date, he dressed up in his best clothes, had a shower and got ready. He went to Vilardi’s in a cab. Vilardi’s was in the red part of the city, the food quarter. He arrived, got sprayed, went in. The reservation was for seven o’ clock and he arrived several minutes early. Laura arrived on time and he went with her to the table. He was somewhat awkward, but he soon got over that. The date was going well until the alarm went off. It was a blaring siren; people in the restaurant jumped almost into the air and covered their ears, wincing.
“What’s going on?” Laura asked, surprised.
“I have no idea,” Garry replied.
The waiter came over, looked at a photo, and looked back up. “Hey, you, we’re going to need you to leave and get into the back of the ambulance waiting outside immediately.”
“But-,” Garry said.
“Immediately,” the waiter interrupted him.
“Sorry Laura, I’ll get this cleared up,” Garry said. “I’ll call you when this is all over.”
When he hadn’t show up for his doctor’s appointment, Dr. Waterman, Dr. Miller’s replacement after he hung himself, had called into the government offices and told them of Garry’s absence. Arrangements were made. When Subject 783 (otherwise known as Civilian Garry Johnson) paid with his credit card for a cab, the Government tracked it. Vilardi’s was called, sent a photo over fax of the person, and was told that he might be contagious. The staffer pulled the sickness alarm, everybody was forced to leave the building, it was disinfected, and Garry was hustled into a cell in the back of an ambulance.
“What in the world is going on?” Garry asked. “I haven’t done anything wrong!”
“You have missed your doctor’s appointment. I apologize, but it’s regulations to check you for sickness when you do so,” a doctor replied. “You also have to be heavily disinfected, given several shots, and a whole lot of unnecessary things. I swear these rules were made centuries ago.”
“Well, why’d the whole alarm thing go around? You could have just called me, asked me to leave,” said Garry.
The paramedic shrugged. “I told you, these rules were made centuries ago,” he said.
When they got to the hospital, Garry went through some heavy disinfecting procedures, and then put into a room to wait for a doctor. After a couple of minutes, a person who introduced himself as Dr. Waterman entered.
“I’m going to have to give you one big cocktail of drugs. Just hold still. This won’t hurt a lot,” Dr. Waterman said.
As soon as he injected the drugs, Garry began to think the world a bit out of focus. After ten seconds, he was dead.
Dr. Waterman sighed, relieved. Sometimes the bodies put up a resistance to the drugs. It was awful watching people die over the period of five minutes, screaming in pain the whole while. He took the body over to the trash disposal. It folded out to reveal a greater space. He dropped it down and heard the whoosh! as the flames burned the body into ashes.
Michael got up the day after the incident to find a message on his answering machine. Garry’s voice came through the speakers on it saying “I’m sorry about this being quick, but I got fired from my job. I’ve looked for a new job, but the closest one is in California, and I probably won’t be able to keep in touch, it’s fifty hours a week. It pays pretty well though, so I’ll be fine. Bye, Mike, hope you have a great life.”
The surveillance man relaxed when Mike accepted the recording. He thought it was a tough thing, getting the voice just right, took a lot of time too. He really wished that this whole incident hadn’t happened, so tough to cover it up, have to make sure people don’t have doubts…
Meanwhile, Laura was also getting up to find a call on her answering machine. It said “I’m sorry about yesterday; it’s just that I missed my doctor’s appointment to see you. They were forced, under the protocols, to do all of those unnecessary things. I also got kicked out of my job and have to move to California to find a new one. I won’t be able to see you, I’m sorry.”