The street lights slowly blink on, as I do my homework in my residential unit. I wait for #1138 to arrive. As if Accelerated Global & Diversity Class (AGDC) homework was not hard enough, my burnt arm begins to throb uncomfortably again. I limp (due to my broken kneecap) over to the unit’s QuickAid kit and apply new bandages to my arm, and for good measure, I change the dressing to the now infected acid wound that covers the left side of my face. I have had to deal with this since numbers 1507, 4617, and 2045 cornered me in our school’s Chem Lab (at least they cleaned up after themselves this time) two days ago. I would have gone straight to the Community hospital afterward, but my school had a mandatory presentation from the Tolerance Police, and I have not had any time since. Just as I am about to head back to the desk, I hear a polite knock on the door.
“Come in, #1138,” I call. We have never spoken before, but it is considered tactless (even illegal if we had laws) to refuse someone’s invitation, lest one offends them. All I know about her is that like me, she is one of the few people to score a perfect 900 on the BRE. Unlike me, she chooses to spend all of her free time at community service projects and has many friends.
“Thanks, #1701, and how did you know it was me?” she enters, replying with a little more confidence.
“My Fellow Residents never knock, and I am not expecting anyone,” I respond offhandedly as I find a chair for her. I notice that she has been to the cosmetic center recently. Her hair is a bright orange with one side cropped short, and her olive skin has taken a distinctive blue sheen. It is the current trend for showing that one is “different”. She takes a seat while staring at me peculiarly.
“Not to offend,” she begins, “but is it true that you, #1701, eschew friendships of any kind? I mean it’s good that you don’t make exceptions at (that would hardly be nice to everyone else!) but it must get tiring to express your individuality that way,”
“Actually, that was rather offensive,” I feel my face reddening, but I look up from the desk and see that her facial expression has changed from one of curiosity to mollification and embarrassment. I cut her off as she begins to apologize excessively. “But I don’t care. If we were allowed to be as offensive as we liked without worrying about the Tolerance Police, I bet we all could get a lot more done,” I shove her my homework. She is a year older, so homework help was a convenient excuse to have her come over. Her expression, which had so quickly changed from to curiosity to shame now melts to one of discomfort and nervousness. Her face clouds over and she looks away from me. It is unheard of to question an institution as benevolent as the Tolerance Police!
As she looks over my answers, she smiles and begins to laugh.
“#1701, I don’t understand. You’re at the top of your class, these questions should be easy for you,” She looks up to see my blank expression and continues, “I’ll do the first one for you, ‘How was the invention of airplanes by Our Society a technological advance that allowed us to win the Second World War single-handedly?’ Simple, with airplanes, we were able to support our ground troops and ships. It gave us light, but powerful reinforcements which other nations did not possess at the time. You can elaborate,” I stare at her smiling face in disbelief.
“What you just said is simply incorrect,” I begin. “It’s an established fact that airplanes were invented much earlier. Furthermore, Our Society was not the only nation to possess airplanes in the Second World War, you could go downtown to the Community museum to see that. Finally, we certainly did not win that war ourselves. That’s hubris we can not afford as a nation.”
As if physically shocked by the harshness of my words, she sits straight up in her seat and glares at me.
“#1701, how could you say something as awful as that? That was incredibly offensive and I don’t underst-”
“I think you understand plenty. And stop calling me #1701! No one ever got offended by a name. You are intelligent enough to know that what you said is a contradiction. I just hoped that I was not the only one who could admit it to myself”
All pretenses of being polite fade. The girl shoots up from her seat.
“You are being unpatriotic, intolerant, and bigoted. You are not being a Good Citizen, and I feel it’s my civic duty to report what you have said to the Tolerance Police” She tries to break away, but I grab her arm and prevent her from reaching the unit’s door. She may be older than me, but she has never had to fight for her safety.
“Hear me out, because you’re just as bad as me if you leave,” I do not wait before I continue. “Tell me, what’s your definition of a bully?”
“Someone who forces their will on others, making the person do or not do what they otherwise wouldn’t” she retorts easily enough, glaring at my hand which is still preventing her from retreating.
“Right,” I respond. The acid wound throbs uncomfortably, “And our government tries to prevent bullies as much as possible by allowing everyone their own voice, right?”
“Of course, so I don’t see why you-”
“But by definition, the allowance for one voice is the suppression of another. Don’t you see that everyone thinks and acts uniformly? Look at what happened to me, I refused to stand up during our ‘Optional Required Pledge of Tolerance’ and I got beaten up. Think about it, the slogan of the Tolerance Police is literally ‘We don’t tolerate intolerance.’ Now that sounds a lot like your definition of bullying, don’t you think?”
I see that she has stopped struggling. We stare at each other.
“I guess I see where you’re coming from,” More silence follows. I loosen my grip on her arm. She makes no move to the door. “I, mean… I guess I agree with the number thing at least.” She then whispers, as if afraid to say it even to herself, “I hate being called #1138,”
“What would you rather be called?” I ask.
Before she can respond, a sharp knock sounds twice on the door. I shuffle over, only to see that the locked door swings open. In front of me are a man and woman of about equal height. Both are wearing government mandated coats.
“Hello, we are from the Tolerance Police. We are just here to do a random inspection,” I turn to see the girl looks concerned, rather than excited as she should have been. The woman takes my arm in an iron grip and leads me to the central hallway outside of my unit.
“Wait!” myy friend calls, “If she goes, take me, too.” The man, who was just about to give her a drug which I recognized would induce temporary amnesia very quickly, looks puzzled, but the woman goes in again and grabs my friend.
“Trust me, we are going to have much fun working together,” the woman says to us as I feel a sharp sting on the back of my neck. I turn to see the man inject a needle into my friend’s neck as well. The fiery pain spreads down my spine, my vision blurs, and I stumble to the ground.
“Help, I can’t mo-” my friend gasps before she to collapses. I stare back helplessly. I can not move my mouth to talk back. The two agents of the tolerance police stand over us with blank expressions. Shortly after I feel my arms stiffen, and I sense that my legs are going numb. Seconds later I black out.