She never knew what it truly felt like to agonize over a decision until now. Life or death? It seemed like the simplest of questions but at its core a twisted quandary. Life for her meant the death of others, people dear to her. There was the also grim alternative which was equally daunting.
“Why can’t you we pretend this didn’t happen?” Avril said to the man standing ominously in front of her. “I promise I won’t tell anyone. I didn’t see anything. Please don’t make me choose,” she begged as she nervously balled her hands into fists.
“You’ve passed into The Order of the knowing. The Order requires that its members remain controlled and in check. We don’t prevent anyone from entering but neither do we encourage or even disclose it’s existence,” said the man. “Knowledge of The Order cannot be unlearned and as such it’s members must sacrifice to retain the knowledge. You must choose,” he said, the words echoing in the hall. “You must choose!”
Hoping for a loophole or any kind of alternative she continued to beg him, “Is there anything I can do, anything at all? I can’t choose. I won’t choose. I didn’t realize the consequences of learning.” She squatted down to the ground, put her arms around her legs, and began to sob all the while shaking her head no.
The man slowly walked to the other side of the dimly lit room and gently touched something on the wall. The entire wall flashed to life, it was actually a huge screen and it brightened the entire space. On it was her life spelled out in excruciating detail. Photos, videos, emails, tweets, private writings … everything was there. “How did they get all of this,” she thought to herself. It didn’t seem practical or even possible. It didn’t seem legal or moral.
She nearly leapt off the floor and screamed at him “Where did you get all of this? What right do you have with this information? These are my private moments and thoughts, you have no right …”
He cut her off, “No right? No right? We never asked you to save your information online. We never forced you to share everything you were doing.” He was now walking toward her pointing his finger at her his voice getting louder. “Privacy isn’t a right when it comes to electronic media. What we have is nothing more than what you’ve chosen to save electronically, everything you’ve ever chosen to save. Your privacy is only as real as your ability to defend and protect it.”
He was now standing directly in front of her. His presence was foreboding and she could now feel the heat of his breath on her face. The room suddenly felt cold or perhaps it was just Avril entering shock. How could she have not seen this coming? Why had she exposed everything she had ever thought and felt? Every relationship she had ever had, every idea or nugget of indiscretion. Why?
“But this doesn’t really show anything,” she said. “All you have is a bunch of random electronic noise stolen from me.”
He chuckled and turned away from her. Suddenly he made a small wave like gesture into the air with his hand. On the screen a majority of the information faded and to the front came the truth. She knew it was there she just didn’t know how they captured it or how they weeded through all of the other noise to find it.
“Do you think we’d collect the information without having a means to use it?” he said as he turned again slowly. Now grinning at her he continued, “Do you think we don’t know the path required to discover The Order? While not all paths begin the same their journey has much in common. Your path while longer than most has brought you here. You must now choose.”
“Why?” she stammered. “Why must I really decide?”
“If you didn’t choose then how would we control the information? How would we prevent you from telling people about The Order? The only reason that society has existed as long as it has is because of The Order. The Order ensures there is the haves and have nots. The Order ensures there is a ladder to climb, a bottom to hit, a middle to become comfortable within. Without The Order society would recede into chaos, uncontrolled entropy that would throw us into the Stone Age again.”
He was now smiling at her as he said “You do understand the why, I know you do. You must now decide. You choose to die and they all live, everyone you know and love, no one the wiser. Or …” he paused. “Or you choose to live. Your silence about The Order protects them but even the smallest blip,” he waved back at the wall and the path glowed brighter still. “Even the slightest hint that you’re sharing information about The Order or the path and they all die, everyone.”
He sighed and then glared at her. “I will ask you one more time,” he said. ”Avril what is your choice, Life or Death?”
“You’re asking me to choose between freedom of life OR the freedom of speech?” she said. “That hardly seems like what our forefathers had in mind does it? One or the other but not both?”
He responded quickly and concisely, “You’re free to speak to anyone else within The Order about it or anything else. What you’re not free to do however is destroy those rights you hold dear by speaking of The Order to others. Doing so puts at risk that Constitution we all hold so sacred.”
She knew then that she had only one option. “I choose Life,” she said as she swiftly turned and walked out of the room. She could hear the man talking to her as she left but it was fading into the background. Already she was devising a plan to expose the truth behind The Order, information needs to be free.
They knew she’d try, everyone does on their path within The Order. What they didn’t know was the depths she’d go to destroy them. Their over emphasis and dependance on modern electronic communications to monitor people meant they had lost touch more traditional means of misdirection and subversion.
Word Count: 1056