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The Non-Conformity Chronicles

Chapter 30 - A Day in the Life of a Happy Man

Chapter 30 - A Day in the Life of a Happy Man

"Discouraged and dispirited slaves do not make a society healthy or wealthy. The poorest member of a freedom paradigm society has access to more wealth than the richest member of a control paradigm society." - From The Non-Conformist Training Manual

         Charlie Smith was a happy man. That is, he was, until he contracted the virus. Gone are the days of blissful uniformity, going to work every day doing the same task in the same job, coming home at night and enjoying the same delightful meal, playing the same game with the same dog, and performing the same evening rituals with the same woman.

         It happened so fast that he didn't know what happened at first. First, there was the fever. He lay in bed weak, helpless, sweating, and often delirious for days. When it finally broke, he felt a deep calming peace and a sense of soul shattering terror confusingly woven together. Both feelings were so new to him that he didn't know how to react to either of them. He had no previous experiences to compare this with.

         Slowly, he began to observe and take stock of the new world around him. The people and the physical environment looked different. They lacked the luster that they had, or was it that he simply saw them differently. On his way to work, he suddenly found it boring and uninteresting. He walked past his employer's building looking intently at everything that he had never seen before. He walked on into the park. The sky was an unusual blue, and the birds . . . they sang so . . . beautifully. He became so absorbed in the reverie of feeling what came from the trees, grass, and . . . the flowers. "My God! The flowers!" he thought to himself. "They are so exquisitely beautiful! Why have I never noticed them before?"

         Then he looked around and noticed that there were other people in the park as well. They were lying on the grass, smelling the flowers, climbing trees, and lying on their backs staring at the sky. Charlie had been to the park many times before. Then everyone moved purposefully and always stayed on the well groomed paths. But now . . . ?

         As day turned to night, he thought with long hesitation that he should be going home. Slowly, as the moon rose, he walked back to his home. He was greeted by an impatient dog who whined persistently at him as if to say, "You're late. You were supposed to play with me at 5:30 pm. Now I am late for my chow appointment!"

         An anxious and worried wife came to the door. "What happened?" she demanded. "You didn't show up at work today! There is a missing person report out on you! You should go to the COMM terminal and report in immediately!"

         "Why?" he asked.

         She looked at him in disbelief. "Are you still ill?"

         "No," he replied.

         "Then why didn't you report to work?"

         He looked at her and said, "What happened when I didn't show up?"

         "The automation functions took over and compensated for your absence!" she replied.

         "So what is the point? Everything still happens even if I am not there. I am not really needed for my service. What's worse, I've been doing the same function for nine years. I'm bored. I want a new experience," he replied.

         She looked at him in shock. "You can't mean that! You sound like a non-conformist!" she gasped in horror.

         "What is wrong with non-conformity? It might be fun," he replied.

         She sat down in a chair faint with shock.

         "I'm hungry. What's for dinner?" he asked.

         "It is Thursday. We always have standard meal KP-32A on Thursday," she replied, clearly running on autopilot.

         "Not again! I want something different," he replied as he walked to the COMM terminal. "Access nutrition and food selection files and my nutritional history files." he commanded. "Plan a nutritionally balanced meal that I have not experienced before. Emphasize culinary sophistication and peak flavor experience."

         The terminal hesitated for a moment then displayed a combination of foods with instructions for obtaining and preparing them. "This is what I want for dinner!" he said and walked into his bedroom.

         She looked at the terminal in horror. "No way!" she yelled back at him. "We've never had any of this stuff before!"

         He walked past the dog who had progressed from a distressed whine to a polite growl. He was still demanding to be played with, and he was now really late for his chow appointment.

         He walked up to his COMM terminal and said, "Access my professional work files and the Central Employment Assignment files. I request a leave of absence with full pay for an indefinite period of time."

         The terminal paused for an unusually long time and finally replied, "you are directed to meet with your Psycho in his office at 0700 hours tomorrow morning."

         "Why?" he queried.

         "You are exhibiting abnormal behavior that is uncharacteristic of your history profile. Your behavior requires diagnosis and treatment."

         "Very well," he said and signed off the terminal.

         He walked back into the kitchen. The dog growled again, less politely this time . . . and even barked . . . TWICE!! His wife was staring at him with hurt teary eyes and a red face. The bland KP-32A meal was cold. "I'm going for a walk," he said and left.

         An inner voice told him that going to see his Psycho was a bad idea. He had never experienced an inner voice before but decided that it felt right. He headed back toward the park. He was still hungry and wondered where he could find food. When he entered the park, his questions were answered. A most odd group of people was sitting under the moonlight in a circle sharing the strangest looking collection of foodstuffs and talking to each other. They all had one thing in common. They were all recovered 'victims' of the pandemic.

         One man was walking around with a blindfold on. "I can actually . . . see . . . without using my eyes," he said cheerfully. "Here you try it!" Charlie tried it. He could not 'see' exactly but did 'feel' the presence of other people and objects and managed to avoid colliding with them. A young woman informed him that she could communicate with thoughts rather than words. She gestured toward a man and woman sitting in the grass looking into each other's eyes. "That's what they are doing," he felt the thoughts form in his mind. Then he looked into her eyes . . . and discovered . . . another dimension of the human experience.

         Nearly a week passed. Charlie was beginning to make connections. He had obtained a new identity . . . and a new card. He had the invisible tattoo removed from his forehead with a laser scalpel. He even found his way to the twentieth century delicatessen. With the growing turmoil from the pandemic, the assorted processing centers that formed the Central Accounting Network were seriously overtaxed and had no spare resources to devote to locating tardy workers, students, and public servants.

         It was in the twentieth century delicatessen that he and most of his new companions heard the Dr. Julius Axelrod's announcement on the COMM terminal.

         The audience was stunned. A comprehension of what had happened to them swept slowly through the crowd. Everyone realized that they had suddenly become something that they had not been but should have been. Discovering what that was and cultivating it to its maximum development was now their singular lifetime pursuit and there was no room for conformity.

         Every available COMM terminal was put to immediate use. The Central Accounting network became so overloaded that some local servers collapsed and had to reboot periodically.

         Shortly, the delicatessen was invaded by a group of young students who announced, "There is a pandemic party on block 23! We've got five infected people who are contagious! If you haven't caught it yet, you can hang around and get reprogrammed before you are rounded up and vaccinated!"

         In the background, a COMM terminal was replaying a message from the Center for Disease Control ordering all citizens to report to a Central Clinic for immunization against the terrible viral pandemic that was causing so much fuss and bother.

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