The Greater Good, a short story by Séimí Mac Aindreasa at Spillwords.com
DALL-E

The Greater Good

The Greater Good

written by: Séimí Mac Aindreasa

@SeimimacA

 

Change is never easy, nor should it ever be so. In order for a nation to change for the good, change must be difficult, or else it means nothing. Sacrifices are virtues, to be welcomed and endured, for the good of all.
– President Landis, inaugural speech, Nation Day, 4th of May, 2029.

 

The day that changed my life began with pancakes, coffee and a kiss from my husband, Peter.

Upon arriving at work, I found a parcel at my desk, addressed to me, stamped with a government seal. In large, red letters beneath my name, were the words: PLEASE READ OFFICIAL EMAIL BEFORE OPENING. I checked my inbox and there it was, an email marked, URGENT: FOR THE ATTENTION OF PP B. BLASCO. I initially supposed it to be yet another edict, reminding me of my duties to the government as a PP–Primary Provider for my family. I delayed opening it, instead deciding to go to the coffee station for my usual double shot of Espresso. It was only when I heard the shocked gasps and cries of my colleagues as they took their seats and checked their correspondence, before opening similar packages, that I began to suspect it was something much more serious.

I walked slowly back to my cubicle, glancing nervously at men and women around me: some sobbing uncontrollably; some consoling others; some just sitting, grey faced and in shock. I sat down and picked up the small, white package. It felt light – lighter than I had expected. Shaking it gently provided no rattle, nor any indication of what it might contain. I looked again at the title of the email. Nothing about it seemed any different from the dozens of communications we received every month from the government, urging us to remain productive and to adhere to the basic rules. Yet, hearing the wails and cries around me, I knew the contents of this mail were different. I clicked on the tab.

 

Dear Citizen,

As you know, your government has long strived to provide you and your loved ones with a stable and prosperous life. We maintain your services and amenities to the highest standard, providing accessible healthcare and educational facilities for all. We have reduced crime to its lowest levels since the cessation of hostilities within our great nation. We give you a voice, and encourage you to use that voice, should you so desire. All our citizens are protected by an army, consisting solely of volunteers, who man our borders and provide support at times of national crisis.

Citizen, such a crisis has reached our shores today, but no army can–nor should–be used to resolve this most serious of problems. Only you can.

As you know, following the Food Riots of 2028, your government decided, guided by advice from our most prominent and productive citizens, to set a population limit within our borders. It was agreed our great country could produce enough food and resources to comfortably sustain a fixed number of people. Your government generously allowed for an ‘overspill’ of up to 1 million extra dependants, with the stipulation that, should we exceed 1 million, the 43rd Amendment, the Extraordinary National Population Limitation Act, would be enacted to bring the nation’s numbers back down to within manageable parameters.

Only once before has this Act been activated: in 2035.

Now, 35 years later, we find our overspill to not only have reached the 1 million limit, but also to have exceeded it by a further 200,000. These are unacceptable levels, putting the government, and therefore its citizens, under tremendous strain.

Such are the numbers, it has been decided the army should not be made responsible for bringing the population back under control. This duty, it has been decided, shall be passed on to the people. To you.

Using hospital, bank, and work records, we have determined which families would be best suited to incur these measures for the good of their fellow citizens. As a family of six (2 adults and 4 children), it has been decided that it would be fair and reasonable for you to select two members for voluntary euthanisation. As the Primary Provider (PP) for your family, you, of course, are exempt from selection; your skills are far too valuable to our society to be lost as a consequence of this Act. However, you may choose any two of the remainder of your family unit for this programme.

In addition to this email, you will have received a package from the government. It contains two hypodermic vials, each containing a small, but lethal dose of a fast-acting neurotoxin. The drug will take effect almost immediately, and your loved ones should feel no pain.

We recommend you administer the drug whilst the subject is asleep to avoid undue emotional distress as well as spare other family members any possible upset. Once the procedure has been carried out, contact the number at the top of this email, whereupon a removal team will be dispatched to discretely cleanse the area.

Please be aware of the following guidelines:

THIS IS A MANDATORY EDICT. IF YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN FOR THIS INITIATIVE, THERE IS NO APPEALS PROCEDURE, NOR WILL THERE BE ANY OVERTURNING OF THE DECISION.

FAILURE TO COMPLY WITHIN THE NEXT 48 HOURS WILL RESULT IN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS SELECTING AN ADDITIONAL MEMBER, CHOSEN AT RANDOM, FROM YOUR FAMILY UNIT.

ANY ATTEMPT TO TAMPER WITH, OR IN ANY WAY HAMPER THIS PROCESS, WILL BE DEALT WITH SEVERELY AND COULD RESULT IN INCARCERATION FOR THE PP INVOLVED, FURTHER RESULTING IN ANY REMAINING FAMILY MEMBERS BEING SEPARATED AND RELOCATED TO MORE PRODUCTIVE LOCATIONS.

We understand this may be a difficult decision for you to make, but trust that your dedication to the wellbeing of our nation, and the desire to see your fellow citizens flourish, will carry you throughout the process.

Removal units will be on standby in your area from 6pm tonight.

YOU ARE REMINDED THAT THIS IS A WORKDAY, AND YOU ARE EXPECTED TO REMAIN AT YOUR PLACE OF WORK AS PER YOUR CONTRACTED HOURS, UNLESS PREVIOUSLY AGREED WITH MANAGEMENT.

Your country thanks you.

 

I sat for ten minutes, staring at the email. Willing my hands to stop shaking, I tore open the package, and found a Styrofoam box, containing two small, hypodermic packs. They each contained a tiny amount of a translucent, green liquid. The end, for two of my family, right there in my hand.

My mind raced. Could I take the family and run? Where? The authorities would track our chips and have us within the hour. Appeal was out of the question. I briefly considered taking both doses myself, but I would just be condemning my loved ones: two, or even three, to death, the rest to separation.

“Bella?” My name, softly spoken, jolted me back to reality.

“Bella?” Sam, my department manager, was ashen faced as he addressed me. “I…I…” The pain in his eyes tore at my heart. Sam and his wife had three small children, all under the age of five.

“Two…I have to…I have to give them two…”

Sam staggered slowly to his office, closing the door quietly behind him.

Think, Bella! Think! I looked at the growing chaos around me. People hugged each other and sobbed. Others yelled at the air, whilst others sat quietly, holding themselves, eyes fixed on flickering screens. One woman stood, back straight and eyes blank. She gathered her bag and coat and walked towards the door to the street. I almost laughed as I thought, “She’ll be in trouble, leaving early like that!”

I had to get home to see my family, even if for the last time. I pulled on my jacket and scarf, and rushed to Sam’s office, pushing aside a couple who were holding each other and crying uncontrollably.

Shoving open the door, I yelled, “Sam! I need to go home, right now! This is too big! Sam, I – Sam?”

Sam lay back in his chair, eyes staring vacantly at the ceiling, mouth hanging open. Two small needles hung from a vein in his arm.

“Oh, Sam…”

Such a waste. His family, condemned to death.

The realisation of what I could do hit me so hard I felt it rip into my mind. Everything suddenly became crystal clear. I turned and ran from the office, leaving Sam’s door wide open for everyone to see the folly of his actions.

The streets were packed with people crying, running, reeling and staggering in their grief as I shouldered my way through to the car park. I drove cautiously on the freeway home lest anyone decide to end their own personal turmoil via automobile.

My mind was still and calm as I pulled into the driveway. Walking into the house, Peter met me at the doorway, a frightened look on his face.

“Bella, I saw on the news! What are we going to do?” Behind him, Elsa, Vincent, and Lawrence watched, confused. Baby Jane was no doubt sleeping.

“Don’t worry, darling, I know what to do,” I said, soothingly. “Let’s make some coffee and we’ll talk about it.”

We went into the kitchen, ushering the children into the TV room to watch the Children’s Channel.

Peter filled the kettle and got cups from the cupboard, all the while stammering nervously.

“How can they do this? Again? How is it fair? Why do we allow them to get away with it? They can’t possibly ask us to make a decision like this! I think we-“

The look of shock on his face as I jabbed the needle into his neck lasted only a second or two before his eyes glazed over and he crumpled to the floor. I stared at him for a moment before calling Elsa to me. After I administered the second dose to her, it was only a matter of briefly separating the twins before dispatching them using my scarf. Jane was the most difficult, but the pillow obscured her face, and I stayed strong. The government would not ask me to make such a difficult decision again: a family was all for one and one for all. Or all, or none.

After it was done, I called the number and stood in front of the house, waiting.

***

That was three years ago. The government reached their acceptable quota and order was eventually restored. I was initially arrested, but the appeal denied in the original email was granted to me afterwards. I explained my reasoning and – well, here I am.

I saved the email I was sent by the government. It’s on my desktop.

 

Citizen Blasco,

Your actions on July 18th of this year, whilst considered unorthodox, were deemed to be logical and in keeping with the spirit of the 43rd Amendment.

Your reasoning that, by volunteering your entire family along with the unnecessary (and illegal) actions of your former manager, PP Samuel Chaney, you showed not only your loyalty to the administrative government, but also your suitability to a position of greater responsibility, and it was met with approval at the highest level.

We therefore have no hesitation in offering you the position of manager of your division, recently vacated by the aforementioned Mr. Chaney.

We thank you for your service and shall watch your future with considerable interest.

 

Things were difficult at the beginning, but now I’ve met someone new. Christopher is very sweet, and we are talking about starting a family of our own.

I do think of Peter and the children, often.

But I console myself in the knowledge that some things must be done, for the greater good.

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