A Modern Day Rip
As in a dream, Guy
Williamson found himself standing inside a sterile white hospital room with
absolutely no recollection as to how he had gotten there. A soft humming sound,
punctuated by regular beeps and clicks, permeated the room, sounds of the
machines that were attached via rubber, plastic, and metal umbilical cords
to the slumbering figure in the lone bed. Guy sensed that he knew where he
was, yet he had never seen this place before. As he realized something familiar
about the bedridden mans face the door swung open and two doctors walked
into the room. Guy stuttered and searched for some explanation as to why he
was there, but the men totally ignored him.
"The S-3 has
decided to terminate his life support systems," the doctor with the clipboard
"Its just as well," added the other doctor, "twenty years
is a very long time to keep someone alive, especially someone of this ones
"Oh, you know
this patients personal history?" queried Clipboard.
"Yea, he was
one of those terroristic biker people who clashed with the government back
in the turn of the century. You remember, the people who rode motorcycles
who refused to accept the S-3's 9-11 directive."
"Oh yea, I remember
when all that came down," said Clipboard. "They actually believed
in the old archaic U.S. Constitution and that the people were wise enough
to govern themselves." Clipboard made a hmmff sound and then added, "What
a scary concept, imagine what kind of shape this world would be in had they
had their way."
"No kidding," said the other, "now look at him, a victim of
his own risky behavior, laying here frozen in time for the last twenty years."
clipboard, "all this time weve had a terrorist laying up here and
we could have been charging admission to the JSMs (Junior Safety Monitors)."
Both men laughed at this. The doctor hung the clipboard at the foot of the
bed and both men turned to leave, totally ignoring Guy as they exited the
room. As the door slowly closed he heard one of them say, "Can you imagine
actually wearing real leather." The echoes of their footsteps faded down
the hall and with the closure of the door Guy found himself alone again with
the machines. By some mysterious dream-state Guy realized that he was outside
of his body looking at his final few hours.
Several minutes later
the door swung open and Clipboard walked in followed by a man and a woman
and a small boy. The small boy, who appeared to be six or seven years old,
looked like Guys son Rob. Then Guy realized that the man, who appeared
to be in his thirties, was Rob and that the young lady was probably Robs
wife and the boy their son. Clipboard told Rob that he was sorry about the
decision and asked Rob if he was going to be OK. Rob slowly nodded his head.
The small boy and his mother went over to the comatose body, gave it a hasty
kiss on its pale bearded face and then quietly left the room.
to have a moment alone with my father before you shut his life support systems
down," Rob told the doctor.
"Sure, take all
the time you need," the doctor said and then left the room.
After a long silence
Rob began, "Dad, I hope you can forgive me for not putting up a fight
about this, but even were you to have lived to this point you wouldnt
like it these days. As a matter of fact, because of the 9-11 Directive you
would probably be in a federal reformatory." Rob put the lifeless hand
of his fathers into both of his hands. "Things are so different
today than when you were around. I remember the runs, your friends, the motorcycles,
how you and Mom used to go riding." Rob lowered his head towards the
floor. "Shes on the other side, waiting for you," he said
in a whisper. "She died in the reformatory," he said as he broke
down and sobbed. "I miss you Dad, and I wish you guys could have prevailed
against ...." Rob broke down again and wept for several minutes. After
a while he regained his composure, stood up and said, "I love you Dad."
Then he left the room.
A team of doctors
and nurses stormed into the room and methodically started unplugging the machines.
Behind them came three people dressed in green pushing a gurney that carried
a body bag. "So this was it," Guy thought, "this is how Im
going to go." Guy watched as a doctor approached the bed with a stethoscope.
The room got darker and darker and Guys field of vision got narrower
and narrower, until....
Guy weakly sat up
in bed and opened his eyes. He gradually beheld a room full of doctors and
nurses. One of the nurses screamed and a doctor with a stethoscope in his
hand jumped away from the bed so fast that he knocked over a light. Guy looked
at the stunned people who were staring at him with wide open mouths and unbelieving
eyes, and said in a weak voice, "Wheres my motorcycle?"
As you might imagine,
the news of the modern day "Rip Van Winkle" went around the world
like a lightning clap. Guy Williamson was an overnight scientific anomaly.
After being introduced to his daughter-in-law, Dianne, his grandson, Billy,
and being reintroduced to Rob, the doctors decided that it would be in the
best interest of the patient and of science if he first went through rigorous
physical and "re-adaptation" therapy before being released from
the hospital. This was understandable, since after twenty years of nonuse
it would take time to rebuild his body. Finally, after what seemed like years
in time to Guy, he was allowed to go live with his son.
The first thing that
Guy noticed when his son opened the door to his car was that there wasnt
a steering wheel or any other visible controls, such as brake and gas pedals.
When he asked about this Rob said, "Several years ago the government
said they were freeing the people of the dangerous responsibility of
driving on the roads, so the S-3 computers were put in control.
that the interior of the car was like one big soft cushion, with little "air
bag" signs everywhere. As the doors closed and locked everyone was automatically
harnessed into their seats and he was surprised when four helmets came out
of a compartment over their heads. His sons family happily put the helmets
on without a thought.
"You mean to
tell me that you have to wear helmets?" Guy asked in a loud voice.
"You HAVE to
wear one or you will pay 600 dollars and go to the reformatory," little
Billys helmet-muffled voice blurted out matter of factly. There was
something about his tone of voice and attitude that made Guy feel uncomfortable.
S-3 law Dad, and theres nothing we can do about it, so please, just
put it on," Rob said in an urgent and somewhat nervous helmet-muffled
gonna wear the damn thing," Guy angrily replied. Little Billy pulled
out what Guy later learned was called an
and typed in several sentences. Guy noticed Rob and Dianne share a worried
"Dad, the car
wont go anywhere unless you put on the helmet, we have no choice, its
programmed that way," Rob insisted. Just then a buzzer went off and several
red lights in the car started flashing. "Check your seatbelts and fasten
your helmets," a very annoying electronic voice kept repeating. Finally,
after Guy put on his helmet, the persistent safety reminders stopped. Rob
punched a button and the car took off. Electric, Guy thought to himself, noticing
that once it entered the IHS (Intelligent Highway System) the car never went
over 55 mphs.
"You still have
to drive at 55?" he tried to ask Rob, but Rob couldnt hear him
because of the big full-faced helmet. After learning how to turn on his helmet-phone
he repeated the question.
"Yes we do,"
Rob replied. "The S-3 Commission determined that 55 was the safest speed
to travel and every thing has been programmed for that speed."
"And where safety
is concerned nobody has the power to choose," little Billy blurted out.
thought people would be flying their own shuttle crafts or whatever and zooming
around at a couple hundred miles per hour by now," Guy mumbled. He noticed
that all of the cars on the IHS looked exactly the same and that they all
traveled at the same pace, as if they were hooked together. "Just what
is this S-3 stuff everyone keeps talking about?" Guy asked.
"It stands for
a Safe and Secure Society," little Billy proclaimed, as if
he had just answered a question that any three-year-old should know. Billy
then recited, in what sounded to Guy like the voice of a seven-year-old brain-washed
robot: "Safety is my choice, safety is my voice, if I am not safe, then
I am not free, I will report every violation, that I see."
Billy turned to his
parents and, with obvious pride, said, "I got 100 safety points for reporting
Mr. Hamilton yesterday." Guy detected an uneasy nervousness in the way
Rob and Dianne looked at each other. There was something about the way little
Billy took pride in snitching on a neighbor that reminded Guy of the Hitler
youth movement. For some reason Guy felt like he needed to change the subject.
"Well son, I
sure would like to smoke a cigarette, its been over twenty years since
I quit, ya know," Guy chuckled, but nobody else caught the joke. "No,
seriously," he continued, "can we stop somewhere, or, er, program
the car to go to a convenient store and pick up a pack of smokes?" Little
Billy typed several more sentences into his pad then returned it to his pocket.
shuffled his feet and looked at the passing landscape through the 2 inch thick
tempered glass window, "they outlawed tobacco not too long after you
went into your comma.
"Hmmm, that really
dont surprise me," Guy said, "I can remember when the tobacco
people sold out, right before..." Guy drifted off in thought and then
suggested they stop somewhere and get a "good ole greasy chili cheeseburger
and some fries." Little Billy sat up as if something had poked him in
the back, pulled out the electronic notepad and started typing into it. Again,
his parents shared the worried look.
"We studied about
those unhealthy and unsafe foods in school," Billy quipped, carefully
putting the electronic device back into his pocket.
Guy exclaimed, "what do people eat these days?"
"We eat veggie
yum-yum sticks," volunteered little Billy. "Here, want one?"
He produced what looked like a hard green hot dog wrapped in plastic and held
it up to his grandpa."
"Ah, no thanks"
said Guy, "Ill wait for some real food."
"That is real
food and its what we have to eat these days," Dianne said. "What
you called fast foods, and all unhealthy foods, for that matter,
were outlawed about ten years ago," Dianne continued, dreamily remembering
cake and ice-cream from her early childhood. "The government determined
that obesity was a disease, so the S-3 took over the food processing industry,
shut down or converted all of the fast food restaurants, and determined what
was best for our diets." Then, as if in apology she added, "Youll
get used to them."
healthy, nutritious, disease free, and therefore safe," little Billy
"You sound like
a broken record," Guy said jokingly to Billy. This drew blank expressions
from everyone, and Guy realized the irony of what he had just said and let
Dianne added, "Havent
you noticed that there are no over-weight people?"
"If you get over-weight
you have to pay a bunch of money and go to the fat-farm, thats why I
reported Mr. Hamilton," little Billy interrupted. Once again Guy noticed
Rob and Dianne share the nervous look.
"What do the
bikes look like these days son?" Guy eagerly asked. "Any old knuckles,
pans, or shovels still putting around?"
Rob looked down at
his steel toed shoesthe kind Guy would later find out everyone was required
to wearand softly said, "They dont allow people to ride motorcycles
anymore Dad. The S-3 determined they were too dangerous, unsafe, and costly
to society, plus they could be used in terrorist attacks. They were outlawed
a few years after 'September Eleven.'" Rob told Guy about the World Trade
Center bombings and how the government had used that as an excuse to pass
a multitude of new laws called The 'S-11 Directives' designed to protect the
public against terrorism. Rob went on, "They also did away with snowmobiling,
snow and water skiing, scuba diving, parachuting, mountain climbing,.....
all because people were getting injured and killed and becoming burdens on
societyso they said."
Guy felt like hed
just been hit with a ton of bricks. Surly his son was just kidding him. How
could things change so much in a mere twenty years?
"Because of the
9-11 Directive they confiscated most of your friends motorcycles,"
Rob went on, "along with all guns and weapons of every kind."
"They even outlawed most amateur sports because of injuries. No more
school dances, or swing sets, swimming pools, bicycles....."
Little Billy loudly
interrupted, "My teacher says that it doesnt make a bit of sense
to play something if its unsafe!"
"People arent allowed to work on their own vehicles, or even mow
their own grass, or change a burned out light bulb in their house, which I
think is really stupid," Rob said, trying to ignore the baleful look
Billy gave him for saying something that might be worth reporting.
Finally, after what
turned out to be a five hour drive and five battery charge-stops, they arrived
at Robs house. Dianne tried to get Billy to race her to the front door,
but he set her straight about the no running safety rule.
Rob grabbed Guy by the arm and directed him towards the garage. "Dad,
now that Billy isnt around I can talk to you."
"What is it with
that boy," Guy said, "if youd have carried on like that when
you were his age Id have given you ole hickory. Remember him?"
"Thats just it Dad," Rob replied, "we arent allowed
to discipline our own children these days. If we try to reprimand them or
interfere with their required JSM training they are conditioned
to push a button on their satellite-linked e-pad, which stays with them night
and day. If the children feel threatened they push a button and a SSM (Senior
Safety Monitor) is sent to the home. If the SSM deems it necessary, one or
both of the parents are sent to a reformatory."
Guy said, "theyre using the children, and safety, to control...."
"Shhhh," Rob put his finger to his lips, "don't even let them
hear you mention the word 'God.'"
"I gotta show
you something," Rob said. He grabbed Guys arm and pulled him inside
the garage where the car was parked. Rob looked out the garage door towards
the house to make sure that the two men were alone, then he went to the back
of the building and pulled a panel off of the wall revealing a secret compartment.
A glint of metal reflected back out of the hidden room and gradually the shape
of a motorcycle took form. Guy felt tears welling up in his eyes. It was his
old bike, covered in twenty years of dust. He turned and hugged his son.
Out of the corner of his eye Guy detected movement and saw little Billy standing
just inside of the door, e-pad in hand. "Ive notified my SSM,"
the little boy said with an accomplished gleam in his eyes. "You know
that motorcycles are against the law, and that I had to report you both."
Then, in the proudest JSM trained voice that the little boy could muster he
chanted, "Safety is my choice, safety is my voice, if I am not safe,
then I am not free, I will report every violation that I see." The little
JSM stood there with his hands on his hips, as if hed caught the worlds
two worst criminal terrorists.
Off in the distance
Guy could hear sirens coming closer and closer. He realized that he could
not live in this world where everything was "safe." He wanted to
run, he wanted to scream, he wanted to get on his bike and ride.... The sirens
got closer and closer, until they were upon him.
Guy opened his eyes
and realized that he was soaked with sweat, and that he was laying in bed
next to his wife Linda. He got up and went across the hall and looked into
Robs room. His little boy was sleeping soundly. He then looked out the
window and saw his motorcycle waiting for him in the driveway, right where
he had left it the night before. It had all been a bad dream. He went into
the kitchen, picked up the phone and dialed one of his friends. "Hey
Jess," he said in an enthusiastic tone, "yea, I know what time it
is, but this is important. I wanted to talk to you about starting a new ABATE
chapter down here. Yea, I know youve been trying to get me involved
for a long time, and, well, lets just say Ive finally come to
my senses. Lets get everybody together today, you know, family thing.
See you over at Mike's around two, OK?"