A Bright Tomorrow For The 22nd State
By Jake E. Sampson
‘Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add but when there is no longer anything to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness.’
Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944) French aviator and writer
‘Non quomodo Deus voluit.’
I write to you, whoever you might be, asking for your forgiveness, the mistakes of an entire generation will fall unto you. Know that our ignorance and pride were our undoing, as thirteen years ago Humanity plunged itself into a world of delusional ‘perfection’.
My name is Richard Callahan. My story starts, well, much like any other; I was born December 8th 1991, in central Chicago, my mother passed away a few years later from a pulmonary embolism, my father raised my brother and I alone. His strict catholic methods were tough, and at the age of 12, I ran away from home. I ran for as long as my body would allow, through the city until I collapsed under a shelter, I remember the rain more than anything; I could hear it, talking to me. I spent three nights under that shelter, stealing scraps and begging for food. Until one day a policeman stopped and handed out twenty dollars. I looked up; the officer smiled and placed his hand on my shoulder. I was stunned by his kindness; he led me to his patrol car and drove me back to my father. As I returned home my father wept with joy, the first and last time I ever saw my father cry. Things were different from then on; my father smiled more, he appreciated every day as if it were his last. My brother and I would play in the back yard while he read passages of the bible in peace. Inspired by the kindness shown by that police officer I joined the Chicago police department. I graduated in August 2013, my Brother and father attended, I’ve never seen a man more proud than my father on that day.
I patrolled on the streets of Chicago for four years, and that’s when it happened. On January 2017, a revolutionary form of gene therapy became open to the world; scientists could artificially acquire the DNA of a fetus and remove all of the impurities; cancer, Huntington’s disease, asthma. Any faulty gene could be removed, but it didn’t stop there. Later that month the government announced the introduction of a completely ‘reformed’ human being, the first of the ‘Puritans’ was born. A completely artificial human being, devoid of any and all diseases and emotion. These ‘people’ were built from scratch, using genetic ‘markers’ and ‘guidelines’ to allow scientists to program and design the human body with excruciating detail. The media loved it, The Perfect Human, was the headline on every major news channel. Before long there were over a thousand Puritans in the United States alone. They had been assigned to work as agents in the CIA and FBI, before long every major civil servant was a Puritan. In February 2020, the Puritans began to replace police officers; entire precincts converted overnight, pockets of ‘imperfect’ precincts remained, for now. With the full integration of the Puritans now in effect, the entire economic class system split into two, one known as the ‘Puritan State’ and the other the ‘Imperfect district’ the lower west section of Chicago remained within the confines of the ‘Imperfect district’, this, my precinct.
‘Non quomodo Deus voluit.’
Memoires Of The Immaculate.
April 16th 2030 Lower-West Chicago.
I woke up earlier than usual; the sound of traffic I guess. I had the tail end of a dream in my head, I could just remember the sound of voices, and they kept saying the same thing over and over, imperfect, imperfect. Perhaps it was the universe trying to tell me to quit, maybe I should; in six months our district will be converted into a Puritan State, completing the ‘purification’ of Chicago. The government offered us jobs as prison guards or if we seem unsuitable, retirement. What kind of a choice is that?
I perform the usual ‘breakfast to go’ routine, scantily buttered toast and piping hot coffee in my flask. I’d grown sick of the taste of coffee long ago, the charred tongue left in its wake never appealed to me either, but I am a creature of habit. I headed down the usual flights of stairs, out of my adequate apartment building and across to my adequate car. As usual I checked my watch before setting off, eight-thirty exactly. It takes exactly thirty-five minutes to drive across town to the precinct, with only LEFM radio for company. I drive the same route every day, past the same buildings at the same speed, and yet, I never tire of it.
I pull up to the precinct at exactly nine-fifteen, same as always. There was the usual crowd of degenerates waiting to be processed; mostly addicts caught dealing or purse snatching. I walk, at pace, to my office, my name above the door, Detective Richard Callahan. I push open the door to reveal the cleanest office in the history of policing, aside from the usual coffee stains on the desk. Hanging my jacket on the door and casting my brief case on my desk I could now begin my day.
The majority of my detective work consisted of interviewing scumbag addicts or serial sex offenders. Quite frankly it was easy work, they always confessed, anything for a roof over their heads. Today was no exception; I had three files on my desk, which meant three desperate souls looking for a way out; even with capital punishment reinstated, seems they’d prefer lethal injection to a life on the streets. I can’t say that I blame them; the decaying streets of the Imperfect Districts were ungodly. It was the ragged end of the human era, before long Puritans would outnumber us, and then, who knows what would happen. I flipped open the first file.
Last Name: Crosby.
First Name: Edward
Genetic class: Imperfect
Known Offences: Attempted suicide, assault of an officer of the law, attempted murder, vagrancy.
Another attempted suicide, how can we blame them? I grabbed my flask and placed the folder under my arm. It was time to meet Mr. Crosby. The long steel corridors of the precinct echoed the story of a hundred thousand men and women, fighting for justice and order, if only they could see the world now. I reached interview room 12, Crosby’s current home away from home. As I entered the room the two officers on guard nodded and left to wait outside. I sat opposite Crosby and pertained to read his file. Edward Crosby was a thin malnourished man with dirty clothes and cold empty eyes, his yellow fingernails and bleached hair caught my eye.
“How are you, Edward?” I smiled.
Edward’s eyes could not meet mine. He scratched at his skin and stuttered out every sentence almost whispering.
“I-I’m n-not well.” Edward clutched his handcuffs. “I n-n-need help.”
“I realize that Edward, but we need to understand what’s been going on with you before we can decide how to help you.”
Edward nodded and placed his head into his hands.
“Now, Edward it says here, that you tried to kill yourself, why was that?”
Edward became more and more erratic as the interview went on.
“I-I just wanted to get away from it all, I-I can’t cope.”
“It’s ok Edward, we’re here to help.” I sipped my coffee. “Now Edward, it also says here that you tried to assault and kill an officer of the law, is that correct? Because if it is, Edward, then that is punishable by death.”
Edward smiled, almost laughing.
“H-He promised t-that you’d kill me i-if I did it. Y-You know; killed a Puritan.”
I was stopped in my tracks, double-checking what I had heard my mind began to race.
“It didn’t mention anything about you trying to kill a Puritan, Edward there are no Puritan’s in this district.”
“I-I went to the P-P-Puritan state in n-north Chicago. H-He showed me t-the way.”
My temper flared.
“Who showed you?”
“T-The Hunched Man.” Edward began to laugh. “H-He told me what to do, a-and in exchange you’d sentence me to d-death, and s-stop the pain.”
Edward’s cackling dismissed any credibility in his story, but I needed to be sure. How could he have gotten past the border? Who was the hunched man?
“Edward, listen to me very carefully. If this is true, then there is nothing I can do to help you. Wait here.” I stood up grabbed my flask and marched out of the interview room.
I needed to get a straight fix on what exactly happened. It said on the file that Officer Daniels brought Edward in; maybe he would have some answers. Chances are he would be at his desk filling out paperwork. I headed up the stairs to the second level; Daniels desk was just opposite the stairwell. As I reached the top of the stairs I could hear voices, cold calculative voices, they sounded lifeless and disturbing. I approached the office pen to see three white armored men, tall, at least seven to eight feet tall; their faces were strangely devoid of any recognizable features, and their shaved hair a pale white, their physique was something to marvel in broad muscular bodies. The central of the three was talking to Officer Daniels.
“Officer Daniels, this cannot go unnoted, we need to know exactly how this perpetrator infiltrated the boarder.” The cold logic behind the voice chilled me.
“We’ve searched the entire perimeter and there is no way he could have gotten in.”
The tall figure thought for a moment before responding.
“You understand of course, he attempted to eliminate a Puritan; Mr. Crosby was fortunate to escape with his life.”
Daniels placed his head into his hands.
“Ok I’ll send another team to patrol, but Crosby stays here”
“That is not possible, he committed a felony within the Puritan state, he is to be taken with us and processed. Unless you would like to be charged with obstruction of justice?”
Daniels chuckled for a moment, before pushing a heaped report towards the tall figure.
“Take him, won’t be long before you have this precinct anyway.”
The figure picked up the file and proceeded towards the stairwell.
“I’m glad that you pertain wisdom, Officer.” The figure and his accomplices walked quickly and without hesitation, making eye contact with me for a brief moment, before heading down the stairs.
I dashed around the corner and marched up to Daniels desk.
“They can’t take him, I’m not done with him.”
“Damn it Detective, don’t you think I know that?” Daniels ran his hands through his hair.
“Did he really try to kill a Puritan?”
“Yes, he stabbed one in the arm.” Daniels sighed. “Before screaming, ‘kill me, kill me’.”
“God damn it.” I sipped once more from my flask. “He mentioned something about the ‘Hunched Man’, do you know anything about that?”
“He mentioned it in the car when we caught him trying to get back into the district. I wouldn’t pay too much attention, he’s an addict.”
“An addict that managed to breach Puritan security. Doesn’t that call for a more thorough investigation?”
Daniels stood up, his temper splayed.
‘It’s a Puritan issue now; they’ve got Crosby, and any evidence we could collect. It’s a closed case.”
The cold hand of the Puritan had begun to surface, with only six months remaining until the merger, it was getting harder and harder to find reasons to carry on. Every other case we get is carted off to Puritan investigators, who analyze all logical possibilities and then execute the ‘imperfect’ responsible. Any excuse to put one of us down. Half of the detectives in this precinct had already taken to drinking or headed out west to the Slum State. Damn, what could possess a man enough to force him out into the Slum State, a mass of derelict cities and ramshackle slums, stretching from Oregon to L.A to Houston, making it the largest and most dangerous of the three states of America. On the other hand, a man could escape from the ever-closing hand of the ‘perfect’; they would never venture out into the wastes. Still it seemed even Daniels had enough of the day-to-day routine; Catch a criminal, hold him in a cell for a couple of hours and wait for the white armored angels to arrive and cart him off to the other side of the border. It was the slow demise of the organic; soon every police officer in here would be made redundant overnight, without so much as a grumble. In nine years the Puritan state had grown out from Washington and spread almost halfway across the continent. I remember the day the first batch of Puritans emerged from that laboratory in D.C., I remember the parades, I even remember President Larsson’s speech about ‘keeping humanity in the loop’, some promise. A year after ‘Institution Day’ President Larsson and the White House staff handed control of the state to the Puritan council; this is where the fire started.
I headed back down to my dingy musky office and placed my head in my hands. Unmotivated, surrounded by equally uninspired police officers, all playing delivery boy for the Puritans. I couldn’t just let my livelihood go like this. Forced retirement in Minnesota, or guard duty, which would you pick?
I sat and watched the clock hands drift for longer than any sane person would, all the while filling out ‘transition’ forms for prisoners being shipped over to the Puritan state.
“Bullshit.” I whispered to my self.
At long last the day draws to a close. I sip the remainder of my cold coffee and slump over to my thick brown jacket. Closing time was bar time. There are many places that degraded after the genetic segregation: schools, hospitals, grocery stores and worse of all, bars. Luckily for me I knew how to handle myself, and at a confident six-foot, I wasn’t much of a victim.
I could hear the music from down the street, heavy drums, and that distinct smell of piss soaked carpet. Yes, I felt more human here than anywhere else in all Chicago. I entered my usual spot, couldn’t tell you what it was called; the sign rusted away long before I graced that fine establishment. I walked in to find the same cluster of drunks, in the same corner drinking the same old shit, day in, day out. The bar tender rarely spoke, except for the odd ‘thanks’ and ‘that’ll be three dollars’. And so I paid my three dollars and sat with my whisky on the same stool as the night before. I sat there for a good two hours before drinking my whisky down in one; I couldn’t shake the Crosby incident from the forefront of my mind, and amalgamated with, as per usual, the ever-looming Puritan merger that would render all of us obsolete. Three double whiskeys later, I decided it was time for me to wander back to my utilitarian hovel and try to sleep.
The streets changed face at night, all manner of addicts and prostitutes emerge, each more helpless than the next. I managed to deter most would-be muggers with my height and physique. And yet I could feel them staring at me, analyzing me, seeing which pocket I kept my wallet in. It drove a biting sensation up my spine, when a blood-chilling scream emanated from behind me. I turned for a second to check it wasn’t someone charging for me. Instead what I saw changed me completely. Three hooded men had pinned one of the venomous prostitutes down and began searching her for money.
“Where’s the money!” One of the men screamed, brandishing a knife.
“I don’t have any, Ryker looks after it for us.”
“Bullshit! Where is it? We don’t have time for your shit!”
One of the other men struck the woman with a metal bar forcing her head to collide with the concrete floor. Blood poured from the wound in her head.
“Fuck this! Take her behind the dumpster man.”
The three men carried her off into the adjacent alleyway. All the while I remained still, -in part- allowing it to happen. My mind had solidified; if I saved her what good would it do? Everyone down here is looking for away out, if I had arrested the three men, three more would take their place tomorrow. We were trying to wash the streets when it’s constantly raining blood. We really were obsolete. The woman’s faint screams eventually ceased, a cold and sickening feeling erupted in my stomach. I had embraced the inevitable.
I woke with a start. The pattering of the rain on the windows affirmed my return to the real world, my head still spinning with images; the tail ends of another vivid dream. I can never remember every detail; only shattered fragments seem to stick. I remember blinding lights, and cold metal floors. I’m trapped in some square cell trying to get out, and then, the door opens, and I wake up. A shadowy depression lingers as I shake the remnants of the dream from my mind. I clamber to my feet, I stare across to the clock to see the hand just pass one p.m.
“Shit, I’m late”
I scrambled to my closet and threw on one of many sets of identical clothing, fighting through the usual hangover to leave for work. In the back of my mind I wondered, why I felt it necessary to rush; the worst they could do is fire me a few months earlier than planned. I left the apartment a good four hours later than expected; a situation like this would usually call for panicking and a prepared apology for the Chief. But instead I felt an overwhelming abundance of calm and a complete lack of direction. Fifteen officers and three detectives had walked out of the precinct since the Puritan merger announcement, and I too had finally succumbed to the ever-pressing notion that they just don’t give a fuck. I sat in my car motionless, forced to breaking point by a routine imposed by the ‘powers that be’. I needed a release, a chance to escape; the rules and regulations of the Puritan state have stifled me for long enough. I had questions that I wanted answering, I wasn’t about to endure my forced retirement with out tying up every loose end I could think of; I started with the Edward Crosby incident.
A smile drew out across my face, the first time I had smiled in years, I started the engine and drove. I needed a decent lead to follow, seeing as Mr. Crosby himself had probably been executed and processed into some form of recyclable material. I needed to follow up on the ‘Hunched man’ that he mentioned. If this 'Hunched man' had managed to sneak Edward over the border, chances are he would have some answers. But where to start?
I drove for just under an hour when my P.D.A alerted me to a message. I reached into my jacket pocket and read the message allowed.
Message Received – Chief Corbin Goodwill, Chicago Police Dept.
“Detective Callahan, this is Chief Goodwill, I’ve just been informed that you have not reported for duty today, nor have you reported a reason for your absence. Failure to report for duty tomorrow will result in disciplinary action. I trust I will speak with you tomorrow. End message.”
Goodwin’s lack of charisma never ceased to amaze me. After dismissing the Chiefs futile threat, I proceeded into the deprived slum that had manifested in downtown Chicago. Over the past few months there had been increased reports of a criminal gang organizing and implementing raids on addict hideouts. The Chicago police department had a thick file on this gang, secured from an anonymous source. I had spotted a few references to a man named ‘Ryker’ within the file, and having heard that poor forsaken prostitute claim that Ryker had ‘managed’ her money, I began my search for information there.
I didn’t sleep for three days, instead I remained slumped in my car waiting and watching the rat-like residents of the slums. I parked under one of the many shattered street lamps that littered the streets, the back seats of my car filled with discarded coffee cups and food packaging. I had watched the slums for days, studied the routines. I had even tailed a drug runner to some kind of underground drug den, just south of where I was parked. I felt a sense of accomplishment as I noted the den’s location on my torn map, for a moment, and then the dampening realization that my G21 Glock wouldn’t be enough to hold off an entire gang if discussions went sour. I had no choice; I needed to make some kind of progress.
And then as if on cue a rusted car pulled up just across the street, it ground to a halt for a moment, before three dark figures emerged from the vehicle. The shortest of the three scanned the street and locked into eye contact with me. He stared for a moment, his small beady eyes squinting off into the darkness. The two taller men indicated to the squinting rat, motioning towards the den I had inspected earlier. The shorter man disregarded me and headed off towards the rundown apartment building.
I waited for the men to disappear into the darkness. I gulped the remainder of my coffee and quickly emerged from my car. My heart pounding, I pulled the ice-cold pistol from my side and moved towards the building. I tried to make sense of all I had seen over the past few days; the prostitute killing, the drug runners, Edward Crosby, none of it added up but there was an inconclusive connection that had led me to this godforsaken pit. I steadied my mind and crouched behind a disused car; the entrance to the den was in plain sight. I must have been desperate, walking into one of the largest drug dens in Chicago, with both my badge and firearm. I couldn’t risk it, I removed the badge and held it in my hand and smiled, all fragments of ‘honor’ and ‘duty’ that the badge had represented died with the appointment of the Puritan state. As the badge slipped through my hands, I could feel the years of constraint and frustration slip from my shoulders. I had stepped into a whole new world. Wiping the tears from my eyes, I stood up, stuffing the pistol into my back pocket.
A gang of ramshackle thugs guarded the entrance of the den, as I approached one of the thug leapt into action and headed straight for me.
“What the hell are you doing man?” Within seconds I was surrounded. “Don’t you know it’s dangerous at night?”
The gang joked and teased until I placed my hands in the air and smiled.
“I’m looking to score, are you the ones to help me out or not?”
The gang fell silent; they changed behavior almost instantly and began to search me.
“He’s got a Glock.”
“Put it with the rest.” Another grunted. “Now, follow us.”
With a sharp push from behind I was led into the bowels of the den. The smell of damp rotten wood forced me back into the barrel of the thug’s shotgun.
I had made some reckless mistakes in my career, but walking into a drug den at gunpoint had to be the stupidest. This fact became all too apparent, as I ventured into the heart of the dilapidated building. The piles of debris and waste littering every corner, the carpet squelching with every step and the smell of burning chemicals painted a vivid and gruesome story. As I embraced the horror of the den I was shoved violently into a large room, the lights were dim and the darkness was scattered with shadowy figures that watched my every move, I began to map out my surroundings, counting possible exit routs; all of which were covered with countless figures in the dark.
“You want to buy drugs from me?” a loud voice emerged from the shadows.
I looked frantically for the source until the small figure from the disused car emerged from the shadows. His face was contorted, his eyes squinting, calculating, no doubt, how much of a threat I was.
“Yeah, I heard you’re the one to see.” I held a calm front, but the sweat forming on my brow said otherwise.
The small man took a step forward and chuckled to himself before signaling two armed figures to take aim.
“Why are you here?” The squinted dwarf stepped forward.
A nervous laugh escaped as I scrambled to gain control of the situation.
“I’m here to buy some Ice”
“Bullshit, you’re no addict. And if you’re looking to take up a new found hobby? You sure as hell picked a bad time to do so.”
More shadowy thugs joined the potential firing squad, forcing the smile to drop from my face.
“I’m going to ask you a question, to which I already know the answer. Are you prepared to answer correctly?” A grin stretched across the drug lord’s face.
“Ask your damn question.” Check mate.
“Are you not, an officer of the law?” He began to pace. “And, therefore, are you not here to bust us and our entire operation single handedly?”
I paused for a moment, scanning the growing horde of thugs that enveloped the space around me. I swallowed hard and wiped the sweat from my brow, there was no clean way out of this place.
Suddenly the squinted man burst into laughter. He motioned the horde to lower their weapons.
“Hell, I don’t care if you’re the Puritan chairman himself. You want to buy from me? Go ahead.” The chuckling stopped and a sinister frown appeared on his face. “But know this, you’re in my house, and your life is in my hands, so try to stay on my more virtuous side.”
A sigh of relief, I calmed myself once again and forced another smile.
“I also hear you deal in information?” My suspicions grew; is he the hunched man? Have I struck an ounce of luck?
“Information? Now that, is only useful to two kinds of people; a man with a grudge or a cop. which demographic do you fit into?”
Whoever this drug lord was, he must have been, once, an educated man. I decided to try my hand besting his own game.
“I recently resigned from the Chicago police department, I was a detective and I’m looking for ‘the Hunched man’. Now seeing as you fit the description, I’m guessing you’re the guy who sent Edward Crosby to his death?
The atmosphere in the room suddenly turned sour, the, now, juddering drug lord motioned once more to his thugs.
“What did you say?” His face a pulsating red. “What did you fucking say?”
“You’re the Hunched man, you must be.”
“Don’t you dare call me that.” The shrunken man spat with fury. “Some fucking detective you are. Dwayne, put one in his leg”
Before I could turn to react, a scorching pain in my left thigh sent me cascading to the ground. As I fell I could see a tall figure with a silenced pistol gripped in his hand.
“You came here looking for that deformed son of a bitch? And then had the fucking balls to tell me I ‘fit your description’?”
My leg singed with insufferable agony. I rolled onto my back and forced the words through my screams of pain.
“I want to know how Edward Crosby got across the border, that’s all.” I clutched my leg and tried to focus on the squinted man.”
“Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t have the slightest clue who Edward fucking Crosby is, nor do I give a shit. Now you’ve got twelve seconds to tell me who you think I am, if you guess correctly? I’ll let you leave with your single wound. Guess incorrectly? And you’ll have to give me a name to mark on my wall over here.”
The Shrunken man’s finger pointed to a large poorly lit wall with countless names carved into the metal. No doubt a list of the many who have missed payments or pissed off the wrong guy. In this case I had pissed off the wrong guy.
“Time’s up!” The drug lord crouched over me. “Well, care to take another guess?”
I had only one name in my head.
“R-Ryker?” My leg continued to bleed uncontrollably.
The Shrunken man rose up and smiled.
“Say it again, for all of my loyal subjects to hear?”
“Ryker!” I screamed in agony.
“Don’t you forget it.” Ryker smiled and perched on a disused table. “It seems there are quite a few people looking for our little deformed friend huh?”
“How does he get over the border?” I dragged my self in to an upright position.
“I don’t know, but I do know that a lot of addicts go to see him, and never come back.” Ryker lit a cigarette. “Tell me this, why would an ex-detective give two shits about the Hunched man?”
“In less than six months the Puritan state merger will engulf all of Chicago, including my precinct. The Puritans have been carting off witnesses and perpetrators for months, I wanted to get to the bottom of it before I was sent off to one of the forced retirement districts.”
Ryker stubbed his cigarette out. His face contorted with consideration.
“That’s a rumor spread by you pigs, to keep us in line and force us into the wastes.”
“No, it isn’t they’re going to purge this entire city.”
Ryker stood up and headed off into the darkness.
“I don’t have time for your bullshit, but I am a man of my word, well, sort of. Shoot him and dump him on the streets.“
The tall dark pistol-wielding figure stood over me, placing his boot onto my chest. I closed my eyes expecting the worst. Before another searing pain in my shoulder forced me to squeal in agony. After a minute the pain clouded and my eyes went dark.