FlashFiction: Clockworks (Edited)

It isn’t a glamorous job. Most people don’t know it exists. Those who do? Well, they were probably feeling guilty and making wild guesses or they worked for The Committee’s Corruption Termination Department, too.

I sat at the target’s kitchen table with him while he gulped bourbon and babbled. “It’s a different place now, I tell you. There was a time when being free meant something real.” He couldn’t look me in the eye. They never could. “The warmongers turned this great world into a repressed, paranoid optical illusion of itself! We can’t even talk about different ideas or reminisce about old times now. And this?” He stabbed a finger at the thin booklet on the table. “A little story I wrote of the country in its former glory is so dangerous to merit this?” He waved his bourbon glass and his voice rose, nearly breaking.

I heard this sort of thing all the time. No idea where he got the ideas of a former glory or a current paranoia. He was younger than I. Our country runs like clockwork, all the necessary pieces fitting together perfectly. He couldn’t remember a different world any more than I. Something corrupted him. He then produced material intended to corrupt others with that booklet. Insidious stuff. Unacceptable.

Unacceptable and irrelevant. I was there to do a job. I was just another piece in the clockworks of our world.

“The world hasn’t changed, you have.” I placed the sonic pistol on the table between us. “And you no longer fit in.”

Some of my colleagues did the termination themselves. I am old fashioned. I like to make the target accept it and do it personally. I grabbed the bottle of bourbon and refilled his glass.

It took the rest of the bottle before he grabbed the sonic pistol and growled, aiming it at me. I smiled at him. “You don’t know much about those, do you?” His eyes narrowed as I leaned in and pressed my forehead against the weapon. “The pistol is set for your DNA. Once fired, no matter the direction, it will only damage you.” His shoulders dropped and his head fell forward. I heard a muffled whimper. I sat back. He did not let go of the weapon. Almost there.

One of the nice things about sonic pistols is the lack of mess. When the target was terminated, I left everything in place except the booklet. I sealed it at the site and turned it in when I recorded my report in Headquarters. It would be added to the corrupting materials already removed from the site.

Waiting for me was my next assignment, the data regarding another citizen trying to jam society’s progress by not fitting into the clockworks. I didn’t read the details of the corruption. I never did. It is a simple job. It is a simple life. No point in making things complicated.

When I was a kid, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told them I wanted to be alive. So far, so good.

(Hat tip to @CliffordFryman and @LukeRomyn for inspiring lines used as prompts as noted in the original post. This is a much needed edit of the original story.)

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