Martial law would remain in effect until thirty days after the next Tolling. For now, the government was choosing a light touch. Habeus corpus would not be suspended, but "peacekeeping" forces would remain deployed acting primarily as additional reinforcements for the police. There would, however, be a mandatory curfew, and the right to assembly was temporarily eliminated. Groups of more than five people would be dispersed. Any individual or group found outside after curfew would be detained and questioned. Consequences ranged from a fine to imprisonment.
Mitch was most concerned with a piece of news that was basically glossed over, probably due to the fact that telling the story was almost a violation of the new stricture it was covering. Stories deemed excessively inflammatory and likely to cause unrest would be prohibited. Phrasing it that way it seemed practically innocuous, but what it boiled down to was a violation of the freedom of the press: read a breach of the first amendment. Essentially, the media had to get approval from the military before running any story that may be controversial.
An informed populace is essential to maintaining the balance between citizen and government. Without free access to information, the government could easily control the narrative to fit its desires. Without the free press, Nixon would have served his term out, Vietnam would be remembered as a glorious victory over communism, no one would have ever known that Iraq didn't actually have weapons of mass destruction.
Without a free press, even a democratically elected government can become totalitarian. Even overly biased news that puts ratings above accuracy and social media that is programmed to show you only things you will "like" are so dangerous. Fox News and MSNBC, Facebook and Twitter; all of these portray a limited view of reality as seen through a single lens. Fox from the perspective of the right, MSNBC through the lens of the left, Facebook and Twitter through an algorithmically generated parody of the user's own worldview.
Impartiality used to be the responsibility of the journalists, but now it fell upon the citizen to seek out and evaluate multiple opposing viewpoints which, let's be honest, the majority of American's were not willing to do.
All of this pointed to a rather perilous period ahead. It might all be in the name of maintaining peace now, but how long before it turned to propagandizing, disinformation, and perspective programming?
Mitch couldn't do anything about that, although it concerned him greatly. His real debate was: should he tell the anyone that a person could actively affect their score? Should he go public on the benefits of acupressure and acupuncture? Show his formation and explain the exposure meditation cycle?
If he gave away the secrets he had been holding, and the higher rated people started using his techniques, he would always be behind; perpetually be on the bottom of the proverbial totem pole. Society was hanging on for now, but what would happen during the next Tollings, particularly when new stages are reached? If modern society collapsed and they reverted to the might makes right, only what you can keep is yours, style of living, his training methods would be the only thing that might give him an advantage.
At the same time, thousands, if not millions, of lives might be saved if he were to get the message out. Half of the work was already done. The general public already believed what the scores meant; all he would have to do would be to tell his personal story, the changes in his own score and the probable, if unproven, benefits of his training techniques.
Mitch looked up the number for the local branches of the national news chains. He took out his cellphone and set it next to him. He stared at the computer screen. He kept staring.
Unable to sit still anymore he stood and started pacing about his apartment. Selfishness or righteousness? People always liked to think that what benefited the majority benefited all, but was this really the case? There would inevitably be a fringe that would be left behind. Social systems helped a great many people but were never enough to eliminate poverty. Standardized testing created a baseline for all people to be measured against, but negatively impacted those with test anxiety or those who didn't test well for other reasons.
Sharing his knowledge would reduce deaths now, but would increase the gap between the weak and the strong making it easier for strong to impose their will upon the weak.
Not sharing the skills he had acquired would make him the greatest mass murderer of all time. Nearly six hundred million people stood to lose their lives at the next Tolling. Even if his knowledge could only save a quarter of those, that still would put a death toll at his feet of around one-hundred-fifty million. That number would put both Mao and Stalin to shame, and all he would have to do is nothing.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Shut up, Edmund.
The image three unfamiliar people formed in Mitch's mind. A young boy, an adolescent girl, and woman in her late twenties or early thirties. The boy and the girl both began to glow in his mind's eye and vanished in the fashion of the Tolling. The woman's wrists started to bleed and didn't stop until she became ghostly pale and also disappeared. The image tore violently at his heart to the point that he had trouble breathing. His victims.
Heaving breaths in and out, trying to control it and failing, Mitch became light headed and collapsed on his side. Gasping he crawled aimlessly across the floor one hand clutching his heart, the other scrabbling on the floor looking for anything to hold on to. The image of the woman and children replayed again and again in his mind now accompanied by an endless crowd of disappearing people and the wreckage of the souls they left behind; families and loved ones choosing to join them rather than exist in the empty chaos that remained. He could viscerally feel the ripples of destruction coursing through all of the lives it touched.
Curling in upon himself Mitch began to shiver and shake. So many, so much ruin. So much pain. Mitch vomited sideways onto the floor and passed out.
- Indiana, USA
Bio: I've been a reader since I can remember. I remember reading late into the night using just the light I could get from cracking my bedroom door to the hallway, much to my parents frustration I'm sure. Animorphs, Where the Red Fern Grows, Call of the Wild, Ender's Game, Dune, The Wheel of Time and many more than I can name here all defined my childhood. To a certain point I remember the stories from the books I read better than my actual youth. Recently I felt a strong desire to write something. To pour out a bit of what I have built up over the years. I had always had a kind of formless "one day" kind of desire to write, but this was different: persistent. Thus is born my first fiction, Rescendence, begun some random weekday night when an extra nightcap gave me the courage to finally put fingers to keys and see what happened. This is my first serious attempt at writing anything, and is proving more exciting and more difficult than I anticipated. I hope that through it all I can give you, dear reader, something that you enjoy and can look forward to.