The hardest thing for a new author is to get published for the first time, in particular with short stories as there are so few outlets for them. But unperturbed last year I attempted to get a couple of shorts published with a few magazines, if nothing else i got nice rejection emails, even if some of them took months to get back to me. Better to be rejected than ignored, is my philosophical opinion on this and with hundreds ( possably thousands) of shorts been sent to the very few publishers of anthology magazines the chances of not been rejected are slim at best. Of course it could be its just a rubbish story badly written and not worth there time. So I will publish it here for no other reason that don’t intend to submit it anywhere else and I have move on some what. Trying to get a novel published is some what harder. For those of a mind however here is the story I did not get published. (note short stories are notoriously difficult to get right , so this may not be )
by Mark Hayes
Every fourth year on the anniversary of my birth I perform my public duty and visit a Rawls booth. There is no law stating I am required to this. There is no obligation on anyone of us to perform this task, but we each do so at some fixed point in our lives. Above the booths is the legend ‘A choice which is not made freely is no choice at all’. We all make the choice, as we have since the beginning of the neo-reformation. The choice to exercise our political will.
At first, or so I am told, It was compulsory. An act force upon us by the state, enforced so those who doubted Rawls wisdom would see they were in error. The histories tell us there were outcries and demonstrations. Something called the army was used to make people join the lines at the booths. In these enlightened days it has become simply a compulsion. A duty which we all feel to each other, for we live in the grace the booths have allowed us.
The booths designed by professor Cymene, whose statue stands in the public park which was once called parliament square. The marble carved with a look of serenity which is a reflection of the legacy his work has granted us. The booths themselves are named for a long dead social scientist who in bygone days proposed an experiment of the mind. A thought experiment, for the technology to achieve his aim would never come to pass in his own time. It was nothing more than a hypothetical set of circumstances, constructed to put forward his political idealism. While respected in his field he was never to gain the fame of others of his ilk. His idea’s seemed too abstract, too simplistic, lacking the innate Germanic fury of Marx, or progressive French charm of Rousseau. Rawls ideas were considered worthy but the impossibility of putting his experiment into praise consigning him a footnote in the annuals of academia. That was of course until Cymene invented the booths which could apply Rawls principals, and then his fame eclipsed all the others.
Entering the booth itself is a thing I find most hateful. On an intellectual level I understand its reason for existing, I understand what it is that it does to me. But going through the process itself makes my skin crawl. They teach us about them when we are young in simplistic terms. We are told it unburdens us for a short time, so we may choose what is right. Childhood naivety makes the process quick and easy. I think this is because while we are still growing into who we shall be, changing so rapidly, it seems more natural to us.
As we grow older, and with it more assured of the self, they have to go into the details to give us a fuller understanding. The process feels more like losing something once you understand there is something to lose. Rather than a putting aside of self, it feels like having something stripped away. A peeling of the image we have constructed around ourselves to tell us who we are. To be willing to subject those hollow egos we have so lovingly built to the machine we have to understand the why as well as the how. We need to understand how things were without Rawls principals governing our lives. We need to accept the good that they do to allow ourselves to be subjected to Cymene’s machine. So it can apply them to us even for a short time. Without that acceptance we would fight against the processes, struggle against the stripping away, making it so much harder upon us.
On entering the booth, I am first immersed in total darkness. All light and sound from beyond the booth is extinguished. I am isolated form the world, placed apart for everything beyond. After long moments of this small pinpricks of lights start to flash in the air around me. A swelling of sound fills the air, surrounding me with discordant cords, too basic to be called music. I am disorientated, confused, distance becomes imperceptible. The sounds echo around me but indistinct, there could be words buried within the sounds or music with harmonies and counterpoints, poetry of verse and credence or the cries of wounded animals and the sound of the wind blowing through abandoned halls. In these moments I feel placed beyond, in a primal place, like a return to the womb. These moments are without time, or progression, they are just a holding state, moments of preparation before the true process begins.
When the true process of the machine finally begins and I panic as I always do. Fighting against it, despite knowing intellectually there is neither point nor need. Knowing this makes no difference. While I agree with the principals involved. I still hate the feeling of their application. The primal id deep within me rebels against it, this slow surrender of self, this stripping away of identity. These little agonies of that self being pulled apart, each little part of me that is stripped away feels a wrenching of my personality, leaving small chasms in the whole. Some, those given to melodrama, have called it the stripping of the soul. I do not consign myself to such melodramas for all I understand their argument. But despite this I fight it anyway, on the most basic of levels, while I accept it on cerebral one. It is required after all, for how else could I make choices without the objectivity which only Cymene’s machine can bring.
What the machine subtracts is the knowing of me, but only the knowing of me. After a few moments within its embrace I no longer know my position in the world, such unimportant matters as if I am a member of the rich or one of the poor. I lose the memory of my job, or if I even have one. My understanding of these concepts remains but I no longer know the status given to me in society by wealth. Am I a wage slave working forty grinning hours a week to pay the rent or a high rolling investor in businesses with expense accounts and sharp suits? Do I live in a mansion or a council tenancy or am I homeless perhaps? I could be any of these things. How could I choose ethically about such matters of taxation, or social welfare while thinking only of how it would affect me? In unknowing I am free to choose for the better for all.
The machine progresses, beginning to strip me back further to the core. I am fighting it less now, having lost something of self already there is less urge to cling to what remains. Soon while I understand the genders, I no longer associate myself with male or female. While understanding all aspects of sexuality, I no longer know if I am straight or gay. I could be bisexual perhaps or asexual or anything else for that matter. I have all knowledge of these things and what it is to be them, but no longer the knowledge of my own sexuality, or how my own could bend my view on all others.
Concepts such as religion and faith I understand, but if I have sure a faith myself I no longer remember. This is not to say the machine strips belief from me, nothing so crude and debase as that. The beliefs I have remain but are suppressed within me, put to one side for this short time. Instead it places me in a frame of reference where I can accept all faiths and simultaneously none at the same time. Placing me in a state where I am intrinsically neutral to such concepts. If there is a god, how could he object to such a state of grace?
The machine has no mirrors or reflective surfaces, not that they would matter as it first dampens down, and then fully removes my perceptions of self. While understanding of such concepts of race, of skin colour, of ethnicity remain. I soon have no more idea of my own than I do if my gender. Soon after this I am lifted and held in a stream of null, weightless, and unbound by gravity. My senses undergoing deprivation within the machine; I float in a state of null. No influence from beyond can reach me and I have no will for them to do so.
More of my self is stripped back until the I in the machine, the I that I have become, no longer knows if I am able bodied or disabled, if I am thin or fat, athletic or a coach potatoes. It takes all this from my awareness, while leaving the knowledge of these concepts whole. Other things of the I are taken. I understand the need of society to raise its children; I understand the concepts of parenthood. Why some chose it and others do not, but not if I am a parent or would chose to be. The machine takes from me all these things. Until while I understand concepts of everything, I know my own place in none of them. Here in this place, in this machine, I am a person, just a person, in as simple a form as can be. Not black or white, rich or poor, male or female, gay or straight, or any of the other endless combinations of definitions that separate us out from each other. I am just a person, a singular representative of humanities whole. A singular id, just one of the collective of us, and now, at last, I can vote.
The questions stream across the darkness before me. Projections or a non-reflective terminal screen, I know not. In this state, stripped to the core of my humanity, one of the us, I answer them. All these questions once the realm of Politian’s, elected by proxy to run our lives. How should we be taxed? How should we live? Should there be tolerance of all? Should the sexes be equal? Should each have domain over their own body? Abortion? Contraception? Religious freedom? Freedom of expression? Rights? Health care? And a hundred more. All the questions summed up as ‘What kind of society do we want to live in?’ and I answer them in the state of the us. The state of the everyone.
The concept of the machine is simple. Within it we vote honestly and fairly, strip away of all the things which would once have made us vote according to our own selfishness and preconceptions. In the machine the only stake we hold is the one of the universal person, the everyone personified. Only then can we choose the society we truly wish to be in. This is Cymene’s machine, this is Rawls principal in action, and this is how we achieved utopia. I vote, as we all vote.
Afterwards I am returned from the universal us to the singular of me. I am all the things that define me once more. And can take my place again within the society of us. This is how we ended the tyranny of the individual. However we survived before the machine as a species is something beyond me.
There are those, those who remain beyond the machine, who would claim the me that entered the machine is changed when I leave it. The cynics who believe the machine programs us to accept this utopia. That it changes us in subtle ways so we accept the machine as a savior of our society. That to do otherwise would be wrong no matter how the laws it has created affect us as individuals. These voices of dissent are few and the peace we live in is a tribute to Rawls in that they are allowed a voice. Allowed by the society of the us to cling to their old ways. They make speeches, write political blogs, call in to talk shows and decry the Rawls conspiracy. Such voices of dissent seldom last however. For in time they too must enter a booth to vote. It is there duty after all. How else could they exercise political will?
Afterwards they always state publicly how wrong they were to distrust the machine.