He dreamed of her often.
Jake Normi often woke in the night, thinking of her, the intoxicating scent of her sweat and perfume, her words falling over him like silver rain. Then his eyes ran to his bedside table, where the PDP-69 injector waited for the morning.
“Breakfast time,” he said on an ordinary day. His two children, David and Delilah, emerged from their sleeping pods and came to the table. He pressed a button to heat the plastic package of pancakes and then pop seven onto the three plates, two for each child and three for himself.
Goodwill, he thought. Goodwill had brought peace, prosperity, and most of all, convenience, to society. He might awaken thinking of a dissident or two, but on the whole, he remaining untroubled by questions of life, meaning, and death. Goodwill took care of it all.
Minutes later he stood in front of his mirror, holding the injector. He froze as some ancestral skill — not yet degenerated in the replacement of nature with progress — alerted him to being watched. David hovered outside the door.
“Just checking to make sure you took it,” he said.
“I’m a Proconsul Exhibitor,” Jake replied evenly. “We always take our Clownium. Otherwise, we could not very well arrest those who refuse, could we?” he said, injecting the yellow, rheumy fluid into his neck.
Immediately he felt the warm swelling in his body. Goodwill, they called it, or the feeling of unity with all humanity and peace and tolerance toward all human beings. Once society had been primitive, savage even, with constant wars. Now, with Goodwill, all lived in peace, contentment, and convenience.
The children boarded the bus for school after he ensured that they, too, received their daily doses of Clownium. He drove his electric carbon-free Tesla patrol car, free of thoughts of her. She reminded him of his first wife, who was now a lesbian yoga instructor named Mack in Palm Beach.
“What have we got today?” asked Nightingale, his partner.
“Underground rebels living in a public toilet. We think it has contraband,” Jake replied as the car peeled off silently. They found a toilet at the edge of town, full of books, scientific instruments, and binoculars. “They love these,” said Jake, fingering one. “They say they want to see the real world.”
Nightingale pried open a box. “Nothing here but these,” he said, tossing a teddy bear to Jake.
“Burn it,” said Jake.
As Jake went back to the car to get the flamethrowers and Soma, Nightingale pocketed something. The rest of the day passed uneventfully.
That night, Jake prepared the children for bed, but then his iPhone chirped with a message. Puzzled, he hopped in the car and zoomed to the ruins of the old Costco.
He stepped in carefully, his martial arts training allowing him to cover three hundred and sixty degrees around him with his two Tokarev .357 automatic pistols. And then, he heard a sound. He walked silently in that direction as the sound clarified into something like weeping.
In the center of the former gifts section, Nightingale sat on a rotting armchair still marked for discount. A light on his shoulder highlighted something before him — a book! Jake felt himself tense as he saw the contraband.
“Nightingale,” he said.
“Listen to this,” his partner said.
To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds will separate between him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.
The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.
“Emerson,” said Nightingale. “There is a world out there, Normi, far beyond all that Goodwill can give us. A real life to be discovered, in nature and in our souls, maybe even with God… or the gods.”
“And yet, it will bring on conflict, the most dreaded of all things,” said Jake. “That is what Goodwill prevents.” He shot Nightingale in the face, and then called in the thoughtcrime.
On his way home he popped a dose of Soma, feeling the warmth and energy spreading through him. Equal parts heroin, methamphetamine, and psilocybin, the Soma filled him with a sense of well-being, balancing the absence of fear and trembling, two things removed by his daily dose of Clownium.
Still, the next morning he woke irritable and tired, as if doubt had entered his world. “Ridiculous poppycock,” he said, but then, his sleepy fingers dropped his daily dose of Clownium. It skittered under the toilet and fell through a gap in the wall left by the illegal alien Mexican construction workers.
He froze. He could not admit to losing a dose, nor easily request another, without leaving a paper trail that would endanger any further promotions. He would have to tough it out; he fired the injector empty, and walked out with his usual blank gaze to meet his Goodwill-enhanced children.
“You have a new partner,” said one of the Affirmative Action hires. “My name is Brent, and we already have a call, an Underground infestation in the Bowels.” The Bowels were the area outside of the city where the half-starved savage primitive dirt people lived.
They zoomed along modern freeways, past gleaming buildings, perfectly architecturally arranged to convey a sense of unity and calm. “Just like in Demolition Man,” said Brent.
“In what? One of those haram movies from the Old World?” asked Jake.
“We have to study them for enhanced interrogation techniques,” said Brent quickly.
Their vehicle stopped at a wrecked shopping mall. The uniforms hustled out two people, a man and a woman. Brent inspected the books, toys, and other non-diverse items that they had left behind. “Burn it,” he said.
“Wait, this movie is a 1984 ripoff.”
“Yeah but with elements of Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World mixed in. Burn it!”
Back at the police station, Jake reached across the table. “Maria, you need to sign this confession. You have rebelled against the Goodwill. You have asserted a lack of diversity, transgenderism, and consumer product offerings in your vision of life. You know the penalty.”
“Do you like taking it, the Clownium?” she said.
“Of course,” he answered quickly. “Clownium suppresses our doubts about a world ruled by human intentions and desires. It reduces all political questions to questions of appearance. It allows us to tolerate mediocrity without becoming enraged at the vast coordinated stupidity of everything.”
She twisted her fingers in his. “But if you could see Clown World in its pure foolishness and insanity, might you not want to live, at least in the real world a little bit?”
He pulled his hand away. “The real world brought us nothing but wars and expensive pornography. Goodwill, or the system of pluralism that allows us to tolerate the mediocrity and insanity of human groups as normal, does much better.”
Maria turned away from him. “Fine, I will sign,” she said.
On his way out, Jake waved to old Mack, the janitor, who was mopping up the floor soaked in a mixture of urine, vomit, blood, feces, semen, and Coca-Cola. “Thanks, old man,” said Jake. “We couldn’t do anything without you cleaning up after us.”
The old janitor laughed, and Jake laughed too, then signed for his new week of Clownium at the apothecary and drove home, falling asleep early and for the first time since his wife died, dreaming.
The next day Brent caught up with Jake outside the Ministry of Social Justice. “They shot her last night,” he said.
“So soon?” Jake said, but then caught himself. For several days now, he had been dropping his daily dose of Clownium into the hole in the wall. If he showed any common sense or realist logic, he would be caught. So he kept his face in the goofy bro grin that was normal and said, simply, “Far out, man.”
Later on Jake found himself raiding a compound for the Underground. In it was a book of Emerson. Jake read:
To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth becomes part of his daily food. In the presence of nature a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says–he is my creature, and maugre all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me. Not the sun or the summer alone, but every hour and season yields its tribute of delight; for every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes a different state of the mind, from breathless noon to grimmest midnight. Nature is a setting that fits equally well a comic or a mourning piece. In good health, the air is a cordial of incredible virtue. Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods, too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life is always a child. In the woods is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith.
A passing policeman noted Jake’s change in facial expression. “You look too pragmatic and insightful… have you taken your Clownium today?”
Being a level 22 cleric, Jake simply shot all of the uniforms and drove back to the office, where he logged the incident as resolved. Knowing the vast incompetence of this system, it would quickly be forgotten.
At home he prepared his nightly dose of Clownium, then dropped it down the hole in the wall.
“Looking for this?” his son David asked him, holding out a handful of Clownium tablets.
“I can explain,” said Jake. “I — I –” he stammered as Delilah appeared behind her father.
“Relax, pops,” said David. “But you have to stop explaining. People on Clownium have no common sense or ability to perceive reality. This means that for them, logic is a matter of whether or not things fall into certain approved categories. You can’t explain anything to these people. Delilah and I have been skipping our doses for weeks. Clown World is weak and ready to fall.”
Jake nodded, knowing that now he would have to do something about the Clown World that lately had simply become boring, tedious, and ugly. He would do it for Maria, who was like a Southern European version of his wife, who had been executed long ago for using logic in a discussion about emotions. And he would do it for his kids.
The next day, Jake showed up at work with two boxes. In Clown World, gifts and free stuff mean that everything stops, and so soon all of the clerics — those appointed to enforce Clownium and Goodwill — gathered around him.
“It’s an avocado chocolate cake,” he said. He was tired, having dreamt of Her the night before.
“Wow, Jake, I’ve never had one of these before!” said Brent. His eyes gleamed with idiot satisfaction.
Jake walked over to the Head Proconsul. “Sir, I have a cake for the Father,” he said, applying to gain entrance to the inner sanctum. “Of course,” said the Head Proconsul, who was not just Black, but half-Korean, a midget, transsexual, retarded, and physically disabled. “You gotta leave your gun here, though.” He opened the door.
Across the tile floor waited a bowed figure that Jake knew must be Father, the man who made videos every night praising Goodwill and expressing thankfulness for Clownium, which let them accept humanity as it is and be all one instead of constantly at war. Jake approached reverently.
“Stop right there,” said an unfamiliar voice. Armed uniforms swarmed in from all sides.
The dark figure turned around.
“Mack… the janitor?” said Jake.
“Father has not been with us for some time, so I seized control and have been making videos, since I am the lowliest man in the meritocracy and therefore, merit power. I rule Clown World from this office, and I have been watching you for some time. I know you have not been taking your Clownium. Arrest him!”
The uniforms surged at Jake from all sides. Reaching into the box of cake, he pulled out two new weapons, and began spinning, bouncing off the walls, and twerking, all while achieving a hits-to-shots-fired ratio ten thousand times better than that of the most competent war.
Soon, everyone was dead, including Mack. “Not so fast!” said Brent, charging in from a side door. “I will ascend the throne, and rule where
Louis XVIgovernment once did!”
Freezing in terror, Jake dodged and then flung the box of cake at Brent. “Aaaah, my eyes!” screamed Brent, shortly before Jake found a pistol that was still loaded and shot him.
As he exited the chamber of misrule, spattered in blood and icing, a rioting crowd was tearing down the Ministry of Social Justice and covering up the Black Lives Matter and Me Too signs with graffiti saying “get real!” and “get a life.”
The Crowd carried Jake to the front of the building where a podium had been erected from a burning police car.
“I will usher in a new age of reason based on the notion that most of us simply engage in herding behavior and sanity only comes through a diligent, spiritual study of reality,” he said.
“And free weed and porn!”
The crowd went wild. The Revolution, having been momentarily sidetracked, was back on course.