The Greater Good

February 16, 2017

The school bell’s ring pierced the calm afternoon.  Children rushed out of the cool building into the humid May heat.  A group of boy’s, around the age of twelve,  raced straight to the soccer fields, as a group of girls took shelter in the shade of a large oak tree.  The rest of the students scattered, most following their parents’ wishes and heading straight for home.  It was a Friday afternoon, which meant the diners would usually be crowded with hoards of teenagers and the bars open all through the night, housing the reckless drunks and depressed business men, but this was no ordinary afternoon.  The children would be home by curfew and the shops closed by dusk.  Doors were to be locked and no one allowed in nor out.   The boys’ faces now glimmered with streaks of sweat, while there once white uniforms now turned green and brown from the grass and dirt they tackled each other on. High schoolers fled the street, as their last class ended.  Boys and girls walked in their groups, joking and laughing loudly, attempting to distract each other.  Others kept their eyes on the ground, secluding  themselves from the groups, wondering how tonight was going to effect them.  Confident smiles hid the angst they all shared.  Unlike the younger children, they understood what was happening tonight, and the thought of it frightened them.  As the clocks struck three, fear and dread consumed the small town.  Two hours until the broadcast, two hours until the representative.  The doors of diners, bars, salons, and butcheries all opened in unison once the clocks read quarter to five.  The open signs now turned to close, the businesses deserted as their owners headed for home. The siren on each end street blared, an ear piercing, deafening screech filled the town.  Once the noise cut off a voice could be heard on all  the intercoms, “Attention, this is just a reminder that everyone must be in their homes in ten minutes, no exceptions.  All emergency services are now temporarily unavailable, this includes hospitals.  Again, please be indoors in ten minutes, if you are outside past curfew  you will face the consequences, no questions asked.  Also, the broadcast must be watched in each home.  Thank you and I hope you all have a pleasant night.”  Each word slid off the mayors’ tongue in a scheming and malicious fashion.  He wouldn't have a bad night, he would inflict and watch as everyone else suffered, his family safe,  unharmed by the horrors the night held for all others. “Come to me Cecelia,” the mayor called to his daughter.  Ceclia danced into her father's office, spinning so he could see all flowing pink sundress from all angles.  She wore white buckled shoes and her auburn  hair pulled into a tight ponytail.  “Yes daddy?” She said in an innocent voice.  “I love you honey and you’re very lucky you were giving the life you have,” he said capturing her into a hug.  “Why am I so lucky?” She asked as confusion covered her face.  “Because you have me for a father,” The mayor says egotistically.  “What do you mean?” She asked again still unaware of what her father was getting at.  “That means traditions don’t effect you.  You will be able to grow up, and some less fortunate than you do not have this opportunity.  You won’t face death until your much older and it will be a natural one.  Days like today don't frighten  you, and you should be thankful because of that.”  “I am thankful, father.  Everyday I count my blessings because without your status acting as a protection, I would be vulnerable and scared that the act of following tradition could take my life at anytime.” Cecilia’s smile fell slowly and her face pointed the the hardwood floor.  She turned away from the mayor of the town, her father, and headed towards the door.  She then, unexpectedly  stopped in the door frame.  “Father?” “Yes?” He replied.  She turned to him and began to speak, “why must we follow tradition?  It isn’t humane to decide who lives and who dies.”  “That is where you are mistaken, daughter.  We do not continue this tradition because we are afraid to stop it.  We continue this because it's for the good of the town.  It is okay to kill a few, so the majority is safe.” The mayors mind tainted by the beliefs of the founders.  “I don't understand,” Cecilia said, still crying.  “I do not expect you to right now, you are still young.  But I promise once you mature you will see it the way I and the town see it.”  He brought her in for a hug once more, but it was cut short when the sirens rang again.  Cecilia was ushered out of the room as the live broadcast began.  Each home in the town was locked, the shades shut, and the lights dimmed.  Every family gathered together in front of the television, maybe for the last time.  “Hello citizens of Aberdale, this is your Mayor speaking to you from my very home.  This is not a bright day for anyone, it is just as hard on me as it is on you.  But we must remember as citizens, that this is our job and it is done for the greater good.  Since 1954 this town has barely scraped by.  I will not lie to you, we are economically in stable and food has always been a shortage. We all do our part and we all have our jobs.  Without another town for miles and technology unreliable, we are responsible for our own well being.  The census I was presented with showed a population of  1256.  That is  56 more than last year.  May I remind you, the more people we have the less food there is to go around.  This is why we continue this tradition, not because it is difficult to break, but because it is necessary to keep.” The town citizens grumble at this.  They can hear the undertone of lies in the mayor’s voice.  The Mayor continues, “Without this population control we would not have enough food for the survival of the town. Now before we get started I must read the conditions: Firstly, if anybody in your household is eligible, you must complete protocol, age is no exception.  Secondly, the person or people who are eligible are at the will of the residents of the household, and lastly, any household that does not follow the protocol will be punished.  As you all know the first jar has number one through ten.  I will pick one number from that jar and that number will correspond with how many birth years are chosen from the second jar.  So let us begin.”  The tension that flooded the town at that very moment was unmistakable.  Families held each other close, toddlers squirmed, trying to escape their mother’s grasps.  The mayor reached his tough, calloused hand into the first jar.  The silence that filled the town was deafening on its own.  Though silent, the screaming of emotions was audible for miles. “three, the number drawn is three,” the mayor said, his voice calm and stable.  The citizens’ eyes were glued to the screen, unwavering.  The mayor moved behind the second jar an reached in.  He counted three slips of paper then moved back into his  desk chair. “The first year, 1998,” a mother held her sobbing daughter as she heard her birth year and the father stood, his face hiding all emotion.  “The second year,  1972,” a dull cry could be heard a few houses down, as a child must prepare to say goodbye to one of their beloved parents.  “The last year….” The mayor paused as he got a tight feeling in his throat.  His steady hands became shaky and his voice unsteady as he quietly read, “2004.”  The  words “Remember, it's for the greater good” flashed across the screen, then it started.  The night was now filled with terror, sadness, and bloodshed.  “No, no, no!” A seventeen year old girl cried.  “Please don’t,  I'm your only child, don't do this, I thought you loved me.” Her sweaty, greasy blond hair fell in strands framing her face.  Her father loaded a bullet into his gun as the mother fell to the floor crying and wailing for her husband to show pity.  He shook exclaiming that it's for the greater good. The girl looked her father in the eyes as he point the pistol at her.  He turned his head at the last moment and pulled trigger.  Unwillingly, he looked back to see his daughter dead on the floor, blood surrounding her head and her eyes positioned at the ceiling, lifelessly.  More screams, gunshots, crying, and pleading filled the empty air.  A toddler gripped his mother's calf, tears streaming down the young boy’s face. “Please daddy, don't do it,” the toddler gripped tighter.  “You need to let go of me now honey,” the mother said, “it’s for the greater good,”. That was the women's last words as she took the gun from her husband  and shot herself.  The man grabbed the child and held him close as the women collapsed to the ground, the gun clattered on the linoleum floor.  The mayor sat, still as emotion flooded him.  2004 was his daughters birth year, Cecilia’s birth year.  Cecilia stood in the door frame, tears clouding her vision. “Father am I going to die?”  “No, don't say that. You are special remember, you are my daughter.” The mayor said not completely believing himself.  “But I thought it was tradition, I was born that year, that means…” “Stop,” he cut her off. “I’m the mayor, my family and I our exceptions.  No one needs to know, you aren't dying tonight”  The red light on the cameras continued to flashed.  Everything the mayor had just said was broadcasted on every Tv in the town.  People became furious.  They had just killed somebody they loved because they were told they had to.  The man who preached about how good this tradition was, was refusing to follow the tradition himself.  It was unfair and  unjust.  He was a citizen of the town just like them, he had to follow tradition too.  The citizens gathered together and rioted towards city hall.  The police backed the citizens, they had to enforce the protocol, it was their duty.  Citizens flooded the mayors home, grabbing his wife, his daughter, and the mayor himself.  They were dragged outside into the town’s center.  A man, the man with the toddler, held a microphone and exclaimed, “Mr. Mayor, you have broken protocol.  You have refused to kill your daughter who was born in the year 2004, one of the chosen years, therefore you and your family must face the consequences.” “No, no, I'm the mayor….” The man interrupted, “mayor or not you are still part of this town and members of this town were told to follow protocol, follow tradition.  My wife has killed herself because you have said it's for the greater good, and she believed you.  Now it's time for you to actually believe what you have been saying for years.”  A loud bang made the mayor cringe.  He looked over to see his wife on the ground.  The man with the microphone murdered his wife.  “You killed my wife, where are the police in this town, murder is a crime!”  “It isn't considered murder if it's for the greater good.  As you said yourself mayor a few deaths are worth it, if it helps the majority.”  With that another shot was heard.  This one sent shivers down the mayor’s spine.  Other people in the crowd screamed and the mayor stood there, his mouth hung open and his eyes filled with instant sadness and shock.  A tear escaped his eye, traveled down his cheek and dripped off his jawline.  His daughter, blood covering the pink sundress she had worn, her white laced shoes now a deep red.  She laid on the ground, still breathing, still alive.  The mayor rushed to her side, putting pressure on the wound on her stomach.  “Dad,” she said, “let go, it's only fair I die, others did and now it's my time.  I truly believe this is for the greater good and I will gladly give up my life to help the town.  Please father, let go, I’m ready.”  The mayor slowly lifted his hands, knowing there was nothing he could do to save his daughter.  She was too far gone.  Then, her eyes lost all their life and she laid there, gone to a better place.  He used his fingertips and gently closed her eye lids, than stood and faced the crowd. “We are sorry, Mr Mayor, but the rules state that the entire family must face punishment and you are the only one left.  Is there anything you’d like to say before…” The man stopped talking not wanting to say the last word.  The mayor glanced over the crowd, then reached for the microphone.  “My daughter truly believed in the greater good, so therefore I do.  I am content with my life and how lived it.  I’m sorry if I disappointed you all tonight and I hope you will remember me based on all the things I did good and not this one incident.  I am ready to join my family.”  And without a split second a man pulled the trigger, a shot rang out and the mayor fell.  The town stood silent.  So much pain, suffering, and death filled this night, and they did not know how to proceed.  Until, a child no older than eleven reached for the microphone.  The boy had messy brown hair and puffy eyes.  He spoke quietly and didn't lift his head.  “Is all this killing necessary? All the suffering? Maybe…” He stopped for minute, trying to find his wording, “sometimes traditions shouldn't be followed.”

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