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Authors: Huang Fan

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Zero and Other Fictions (23 page)

BOOK: Zero and Other Fictions
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“Who are you?”
“I thought you'd never ask,” said the face, smiling. “I am the assistant director of the Ministry of Security.”
“And what about my companions?”
“They are no longer needed by the new world; therefore they are easier to deal with.” He talked as if he were referring to something insignificant.
“Is the elimination of the steel-cutting plant true then?”
“Yes, Xi De. Do you sympathize with them?”
“They are people too.”
“Oh, you have been brainwashed by the Defend the Earth Army.”
“I wasn't brainwashed,” said Xi De, leaning forward. In all sincerity he addressed the face. “Please listen to me. This is an ancient plot.”
“What?”
“Listen closely to what I have to say, Assistant Director. Aliens from outer space have already invaded the earth, and the Supreme Committee is under their control. They are planning at this moment to eliminate all earthlings.”
But unexpectedly, the assistant director was not startled.
“Xi De, this is the grand goal of your Defend the Earth Army, right?”
“Assistant Director, you have to believe me. Please believe me before it is too late.”
The large eyes on the screen met Xi De's.
“At first we were going to let you leave with your grand and lofty ideals, because we have a certain responsibility for you.” The pair of eyes seemed to take on a look of compassion. “You are a talented, high-level professional of the new society, superior to workers and farmers …”
“Assistant Director, you must believe me.”
“No, Xi De, you have been poisoned. Although we have to take some responsibility, we have always provided you with opportunities. We allowed you to have contact with the lower class, we let you see that the Defend the Earth Army is nothing but rabble and that Du's theories are nothing more than the ravings of a lunatic. But you, you have persisted out of sheer stubbornness in intentionally ignoring how the new society operates as a whole while clinging to the parts you prefer, paying attention to a few insignificant problems. You listen to the occasional complaints in a bar and then you actually fail to observe that most people live lives of peace and serenity, and are largely free from want. You have seen the young people having fun in the park and you have seen the happy spectators at the regatta; their happiness and excitement are in no way false. You've seen all of this, but you never thought about it. Instead you intentionally exaggerate the normal job fatigue of a couple of people, you prefer to feel sorry for a few workers who lost their jobs, and you look askance at the continuous and ongoing accomplishments of civilization. So you fall under the spell of the ludicrous and laughable revolutionary theories of the Defend the Earth Army. Xi De, we are disappointed in you.”
He doesn't believe me,
sadly thought Xi De.
He doesn't believe that humanity is on the road to extinction.
“As I just said, there was originally no need to have this conversation with you. But you rebelled against the new society. With our full knowledge, we don't need to interrogate you; all we need to do is turn you over to the Bureau of Law Enforcement. But as we are responsible for you, we believe that we should give you one more chance to correct your thinking and return again to the bosom of the new society.”
“You're planning to extract the location of Defend the Earth Army headquarters from me, right?”
Xi De glanced furtively at his little finger. Perhaps suicide was the only way out.
“We've already removed the nail from your little finger.”
Goodness! It was all over now. Xi De lifted his head, his eyes sad and hopeless.
“We've known the whereabouts of the Defend the Earth Army headquarters for ages. I'll tell you the address.”
The address was correct. Xi De made no reply. He was overcome with despair.
I should have known,
thought Xi De.
They hypnotized me while I was in a stupor. This conversation is nothing but a game of cat and mouse, which they are perhaps filming for an instructional movie titled
The Awakening of a Rebel.
“Let me tell you: we are familiar with every move of the Defend the Earth Army in the mountains and the city.”
He's lying, he's reading his lines,
thought Xi De.
“You must wonder why we allow the Defend the Earth Army to exist and continue causing problems. The answer is simple. The Defend the Earth Army is a constant lure that must exist as long as humanity has not progressed to a stage of perfection, but it must exist according to our plans. We know that human beings are of two contradictory minds: on the one hand, they are obedient; on the other hand, they are rebellious. But more often than not, in a tightly structured organization, the former tends to force the latter into the background. But rebelliousness has not necessarily disappeared. In a small number of cases, this structure will make them more cautious and tricky. The tighter the organization, the more frightening the rebelliousness can become. We have always realized the seriousness of this situation; therefore, we never allow rebellion to ferment and mature. We take the initiative in a timely fashion and bring it out. This is why the Defend the Earth Army must exist. Simultaneously, we provide the Defend the Earth Army with ridiculous revolutionary ideals, such as ‘Aliens have invaded the earth, the Defend the Earth Army will rescue the earth.' Since the masses are by and large ignorant, we cannot take risks lightly. We cannot allow the Defend the Earth Army to have lofty ideals with which to attract the masses. With such ridiculous slogans, they will find it difficult to mobilize people. If they are not wholehearted believers, they are absolute unbelievers. The masses are fence-sitters, they will not go along simply on an impulse. This is why the Defend the Earth Army has been able to exist all along, to help us make the new supersede the old.”
He's lying again,
thought Xi De.
The assistant director paused for a moment and looked at Xi De, as if searching his expression.
“I'm sure you think that I am lying or trying to deceive you, right? I just told you that we have absolutely no need to have this conversation with you. We know more about what you've done and why than you do. Xi De, the tight structure of the new world is not what you or the average person imagines it to be. If you can calmly go about your business and not cause problems, the day will come when you can rise to a position like mine. At that time, you'll understand everything, including the secrets of power, the meaning of life, and the beautiful future of mankind. Xi De, assure us, the policy makers, so that we can have an easy conscience and overlook the existence of the three hundred workers from the Steel-Cutting Plant as well as your strange ideas about aliens from outer space invading the earth. It's all nonsense. In the year before you were born, the Supreme Committee announced an unprecedented plan. The plan was called Zero, and its object was to make humankind evolve into a genuinely higher species. It sounds like a legend, but has been extremely successful in the last thirty years. The plan aims to eliminate 10 percent of the inferior population every ten years. These people are short-lived and work less effectively than machines. Their greatest crime is being completely unaware that humanity is evolving. Our biochemistry labs have made surprising breakthroughs in the last few years and have figured out that humans can be made immortal, which means that the earth will be ruled by a group of carefully chosen, wise, and immortal people. And because they are immortal, there will be an unlimited amount of time for study, by which eventually society will be made classless. That will be the first truly egalitarian society in history. Humanity will sit on jeweled thrones like the gods ruling over obedient machines. No longer will we be like the lower animals, continuing to exist through subsequent generations. We will be our own descendants, an unending generation. We will be eternal like God and the new world our Heaven. We will be able to sow this happiness on less developed planets. We will become the seed carriers of the universe, driving our chariots of the sun, traveling amid the stars for all eternity.”
Xi De looked with surprise at the assistant director's face, which had grown flushed with excitement. After a while, Xi De couldn't help but ask one more question.
“But why did you come for me?”
“When you were born, our labs invented an ‘auxiliary thought device' that could be implanted in the brain. This small, unusual crystal is capable of receiving and recording information from and transmitting information to your brain. We were extremely excited about this, believing that in addition to exercising complete control over the thought of human beings in the future, we would also be able to educate them. Therefore we began by implanting the crystals in the brains of infants because there was less chance of an infant rejecting them than an adult. Soon after, however, we discovered that their effectiveness was less than we anticipated. The infants died young; you were the only exception. Ultimately, we halted the experiment. We handed you and these devices over to a group of psychologists who would conduct research dealing with the subconscious, reason, and judgment. Utilizing this auxiliary thought device, they allowed you from a very young age to experience these two contradictory frames of mind: the highly scientific civilization in which you found yourself and the old vanished world of the soul. On account of this, you naturally developed an interest in history while having doubts about the system of the new world. After you graduated and joined the Resource Analysis Bureau, the psychologists gave you a greater shock: they summoned you to read Winston's book
The True Face of the Supreme Committee.
Xi De, do you recall the three successive days of strange images? That had absolutely nothing to do with superspiritual phenomena.”
“What!” Xi De wanted to leap out of his chair, but restrained himself. He kept telling himself that all this was the dirty tricks of the aliens. The information obtained while he was under hypnosis had been used to fabricate this story. It had to be a trap laid by the aliens, a frightful and evil trap.
“Xi De,” said the assistant director in a loud voice, “don't you get it now?”
Excited, Xi De looked up at that face.
“I don't believe any of it. I don't believe a single word of what you've said.”
The room grew silent, and the face on the screen recovered its deathly gray pallor.
After a long while, the assistant director heaved a long sigh.
“Xi De, why can't I convince you?”
“You can deal with me in any number of ways, but you will never trick me.”
“So you still think I'm an alien?”
“Yes, that's exactly what you are,” Xi De suddenly shouted. “You're a disgusting alien with no shame. You plan to gradually eliminate us. You created us, you created civilization, but you have no right to destroy your creation. You can't treat us like rats in a lab—you have no right to—you can't end it like that with a pat on the backside.”
The face gradually faded away as he shouted. The wall took on its original appearance and the lights came on in the room again, as if nothing had happened. Xi De sat alone on the sofa in the middle of the empty room, holding his head and weeping. It was the heartrending wail only an organism entirely without hope could make.
27
“This is probably the last one for today,” said the guy sitting at the control panel to the guy standing next to him. “We've had to do a lot of them recently.”
The guy standing grunted as he turned to look at the tightly sealed steel-gray metallic room.
“I gotta get a new job,” said the guy sitting. “Vaporizing people every day is really boring.”
“Okay,” said the guy standing, “release the vapor and open the door.”
After the door opened, he stepped into the vaporization chamber. He came back out with a small metal tag in his hand.
“AH5481,” he read softly. “AH5481—hey, that's a central official!”
 
Translated by John Balcom
BOOK: Zero and Other Fictions
5.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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