Published on September 6th, 2012 | by The Alchemist12
Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Alchemist’s corner. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.
But before we begin, I’d like to thank you all for reading the FIST (Owó Èsé) experiment while it ran here for 15 weeks. Unfortunately, no one won the prize put up by our sponsors - TALION capital and consulting by offering a correct guess as to the title characters name before the final episode. A pity. However, I hope you enjoyed reading FIST and also asked yourself some of the questions it was meant to provoke, especially about Loyalty and Sacrifice.
The theme for today is - Guilt and you are treated to yet another story from the fascinating mind of Nafisat Bello – whom I introduced just before FIST launched.
Consider Guilt. What is it? Is it something others assign to you in a court of law? Or something you take upon yourself through your conscience? Is it a burden of the soul or a series of biochemical reactions in your brain? Something more? Something less? What do you think?
Read. Share your thoughts. See you on the other side.
The one they called the Executioner, but who wasn’t (not really – because his job was just to walk into the room, load the gun and place it on the table), walked in then and did his job.
Veiled barbarism, Mrs. Biodun thought. Interrupting the jargon-spewing young man who had been introduced as her handler, she said solemnly, ‘My son will not succumb to this. My son is a good man.’
The young man watched her silently for some time before saying, ‘Bad people also survive this.’ She locked eyes with him and gave him an evil look.
‘I’m sorry, Mrs. Biodun,’ he continued, ‘But this isn’t a battle between good and bad. Nobody is judging his entire life.’
Shogo was lying on the camp bed in the room behind the screen. He was in brown overalls; still unconscious. In some places, notably religious institutions, what happens in the room is viewed as suicide; a sort of state-sanctioned suicide, and consequently it is condemned. In others, it is the purest form of justice. The motto is: your conscience is your only judge.
‘When he wakes. . .’
‘I don’t want to know.’
‘You said you wanted a handler. You said you wanted things explained. Do you want me to leave now?’
She wiped her eyes.
‘Mrs Biodun. . .’
She sat back on the cushion and heaved a sigh.
‘. . . Do you want me to leave?’
She shook her head.
‘Is there something else you want to know?’
‘But you can’t know that.’
‘I know that. I gave birth to him. I raised him.’
The young man leaned back into his chair and folded his arms.
‘But at that moment when he murdered the. . .’
‘Yes. Allegedly. You weren’t with him then. You cannot know.’
‘Shogo is a good man. He has always been good since he was a little child.’
‘He won’t remember that. Any memories outside the range of roughly 8pm-5am, February 13 will be beyond his reach.’
‘So you’ve damaged him?’
‘He’ll be fixed. It’s only a temporary closing of memory banks and the prevention of neural inhibitions.’
‘He won’t kill himself, I swear to you.’
‘Yes. If he’s innocent, he won’t. If he’s not, there’s no trace of serotonin to hold him back when guilt overcomes him.’
Mrs. Biodun suddenly smiled, as if savoring the taste of a vital secret. The young man smiled back in a whatever-it-is-you-think-you-know-is-useless manner. Quietly, she let out what she suspected, with the shaky hope that it trumped his knowledge. ‘You’ve closed his memories. He won’t remember how to use a gun. He won’t even remember what a gun is.’
The handler didn’t react. But in his eyes, instead of defeat, she detected sympathy, which worried her.
‘His implicit memory is fine. Those are near impossible to close,’ he finally said. He looked back at the screen. ‘I’m sorry Mrs Biodun, but he’ll remember how to use a gun.’ He stood up. ‘Here’s a thought: he may actually be innocent.’ He left her tapping her feet and walked over to the screen.
‘Evil! All of you!’
‘Ma…’ the lady by the window said, ‘Please, if you still want to witness this, you have to behave.’
The other lady present, the one by the intercom, whom Mrs Biodun assumed was the Inquisitor, gave an order for silence. Shogo was awake.
Mrs Biodun’s first impulse was to look into the room, which she could comfortably see from where she sat. Nevertheless, she stood. Her second impulse was to pray. But her brain won’t stop processing the fact that she was having a fever. Her third impulse was to play a game.
There is a thing she has with the Universe: if she wants something terribly, in order to get it, she begins to desire the opposite. Her self-inflicted curse is to never consciously want what she needs. She began to steer away from the thought that Shogo would survive. But this was her son; she couldn’t wish him ill and trust that the Universe would do what it always did. So she tried to play the role of the neutral observer.
She summoned her senses. She noticed, for example, that the colour of the wall was ash; the young man, who’d been her handler was wearing a blue stripped shirt. Good, she thought. She was doing great. But that is a way with sight; it is easy to control what you see, all you have to do is turn your head or close your eyes. Sound on the other hand. . .
‘What do you remember?’ The Inquisitor was asking.
Shogo was already weeping. His whimpering filtered through the speakers. When his mother looked into the room again, he was sitting on the floor, and was already clutching the gun. It wasn’t a good sign.
Her handler had pointed that out: if they start weeping immediately and are quick to go for the gun, it rarely turns out well.
‘Who’re you?’ Shogo cried.
‘I’m the one you can talk to,’ the Inquisitor was saying, her voice was soft and reassuring. ‘I know you want to talk. Talk to me Shogo. What do you remember?’
He pointed the gun to his head, and wailed, ‘No!’
The system had started out by providing ropes to the accused, but witnesses had reported being traumatized. There had been a poll, after which the ropes went out, and in came the guns. Though, from where she was, Mrs. Biodun didn’t see the difference.
‘Don’t you want to talk about it?’ The Inquisitor said.
‘Why this wasting of time?’ Mrs. Biodun shouted. She sat back and sighed. ‘For goodness’ sake!’
Only the lady by the window stared back at her.
She flirted with the idea of doing something radical. Something like smashing the glass screen. Or failing that, smashing the back of someone’s head. That was when Shogo started his confession. Between whimpers, he said things, then he would pause and scream ‘No!’ The soft voice urged him on.
I should go, Mrs Biodun thought. She stood up and started to leave, tears welling up behind her eyes. On her way downstairs, she caught her brain anticipating the sound that would eventually come from the room, and she quickly began the other ritual she performed for distraction when things were not going her way: she counted her remaining blessings.