Dave Sunbeam skidded his bike into the rack, threw the lock between the steel rods designed for that purpose, and hustled into the cafeteria. Despite having made it to his junior year of high school, he still found himself rushing in every morning to complete the stuff he should have done last night.
It was not fair, he mused as he broke out his notebooks, pens, and books. There were so many things to do that were fun and interesting, like the treehouse he had been making last night, and school was just so… rote. They memorized things, 99% of which they would never use again.
He asked his Dad about that one. “Dad, do you ever use anything you learned in school?”
“Oh, sure, yeah,” his father said in his slow midwestern drawl. “Reading, mathematics, some algebra, a little bit of calculus, and some history. But that’s it. The rest is just to keep you off the streets.”
These thoughts brought him little comfort as he filled out a worksheet on the use of symbols in politics. As he wrapped up, a crash told him that Bill Peacelove had arrived, on his skateboard and moving fast as usual. “What’s up, my nilla?”
“Typical Thursday,” grunted Dave. “Four classes to sleep through, lunch, and a couple study periods. I’m going to see if I can get out early and go down to the swamp. Last time we were there, we found some old rifles with Max’s new rare earth magnet. That is, if I make it there without getting beaten up by some jock or busted for sleeping in class.” Bill and Dave had bonded on an idea early on, which was that people needed to be excellent to each other like the famous Bill and Ted had encouraged. All the rules, hierarchies, and hip kids made this impossible, and Dave just wanted the world to relax.
Bill nodded rhythmically as he usually did, then gestured for Dave to lean in. “I hear we got a purge coming,” he whispered.
“A purge?” said Dave, too loudly, and Bill shushed him. “Next two weeks.”
During his first period class, as the droning scrolled past his semiconscious mind, Dave tossed around the concept of the purge. It was like most really puzzling things merely an impression, since no one he knew had actually seen one. Playground lore, office gossip, and clandestine box wine talk from the mothers had convinced him that there was such a thing, but he knew he would never hear about it in the news. All he had to make it tangible were a few newsletters.
“Rumors of the purge first reached my ears last winter when it seemed like suddenly, attendance was down at our local high school. When I asked, the principal claimed that the numbers were higher than ever, but I saw fewer cars in the lot and even a shortage of faces in the administrative corridor. It seemed only an oddity until I was walking my dog later that night, and saw on the community corkboard what looked like an unending series of missing person reports. Out of curiosity, I called the police and asked about five of them. In each case, the police claimed to have received no report of this person missing and yet, here on the wall, there were pictures and phone numbers for dozens if not hundreds of people who had apparently vanished into thin air on Tuesday the fourth of April at Millville High School.”
Lore held that the purge would be signaled by a sudden lack of police, anywhere. It would get very still. Then, men in black military gear would rappel down from the ceiling, and take away innocent victims who would never be seen again.
“They take all the dumb kids,” Bill had said when they were vaping an illicit mango THC cart in the abandoned house between the suburbs and the Outer Ghetto. “The tards, the gang-bangers, the bald kids with cancer, the fatties, fundies, meth addicts, sluts, and greasers who always gets in fights. They just take ’em, and then no one hears from them again. Their parents go to report them missing and the police say they will look into it, but you never hear back. It’s a special department that just answers the phone with lies and so you give up after a few months. Their social security numbers just get deleted, man. It’s some scary business.”
All of this came back to his mind as Dave sat in the classroom smelling of soap, pencil shavings, cologne, flatulence, and the weird powdered stuff the custodial staff used to pick up vomit. He wished they would purge the school itself, and let him go do interesting things. As he had these thoughts, he became aware of an intense silence and looked up.
“Well?” the teacher was saying. “Did you space out again, Dave?”
The bell rang. As he left, one of the football players whacked Dave on the back of the head and then shrugged at his blazing eyes of resentment. “Sucks to be a wimp, eh?”
Crestfallen, Dave began packing up his books. One of the stoners ate a Cheeto off the floor after dusting it off, and then the Down’s syndrome kid defecated violently and noisily in his pants. Dave inched out of the classroom as the teacher phoned the office for a clean-up.
That night in bed, he dreamed of two worlds. One was ruled by wolves, and the people there learned to scurry up trees whenever they sensed a predator. These people were tall, intelligent, and kind. The other world was ruled by bunny rabbits, and the people there became like them, vegetarian, squat, and prone to frequent rutting. They were not intelligent, and while not unkind, were apathetic and watched complacently while bad things happened, forgetting quickly and hopping off for more greens.
Walking to school the next day, Dave reflected that like what he was taught at school, much of what humans discussed was next to useless. What good was freedom when it extended to idiots, too? It just made the good people into janitors cleaning up for the foolish. Jobs and school would be better without idiots. It was at that point that Dave formulated his life philosophy, which basically stated two things:
Approaching the side door of school, Dave noticed something that he could only categorize as different. There was still a lot of activity, but it was muted, almost like a martial arts discipline. People took the fewest steps possible to achieve something well and did not make many dramatic hand gestures or exclamations. The noise level was lower. It also smelled less like vomit.
Bill slid into the booth beside him. “Dude, it happened.”
“What?” said Dave.
“You know,” said Bill, then dropped his voice. “It. The purge. You see any hipsters, jocks, tards, droolers, sluts, prom queens, meth-heads, or goobers around?”
Class zipped by, mainly because they could cover the material in a half hour and then do some reading. Dave ended the day with no homework. No one hit him on the head, and people were generally friendly and accepting of him. It seemed that he had been wrong: instead of relaxing, the world needed to get a lot more serious, because when you lose the idiots, life gets excellent fast.