Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Traffic Stop (Flash Fiction)

It was the dead of winter. My boyfriend and I were trying to escape.
      He drove erratically to avoid the Peacekeepers. It was the exact thing that would attract them. I shrank into the passenger side door and spoke into my watch. “But I love him,” I said. I stole a glance at Owen to make sure he didn’t overhear. 
After a brief pause Heather’s voice sounded in my ear. “Yeah, okay Emma, but you’ve been off your neutralizer pills for a few months now, they’re going to detect it.”
I closed my eyes, sucked some air in, and released. My heart rate variability monitor levels were on par with the effects of the drugs. “I’m good,” I said.
Heather sighed. “Okay, but…”
Owen cursed as his wheel seized-up. He tried to steer straight but the car parked itself on the side of the road. A Peacekeeping patrol appeared behind us, lights flashing. A recollection from what seemed like a previous life flashed through my mind. I performed a breathing exercise to keep calm, something I didn’t have to do when I was on neutralizer. Owen did the same.
“Step out of your vehicle,” came an automated voice from the Peacekeeper’s vehicle to our embedded earpieces. 
Owen took a deep breath, brushed his long dirty-blond hair back, and stepped out. I followed suit. A blast of cold air hit me as I stood, but I ignored it. I concentrated on being numb to everything, as Neutralizer would have made me. 
“What’s going on?” Heather asked, but the communication was cut off before I could respond. 
A Peacekeeper emerged from his vehicle, calibrating his body scanner. He was chubby with a blank stare visible through his visor. It was a line of work that didn’t require a lot of thought, just rote procedure. 
“Our system indicates a driving routine that doesn’t match the mean,” the hefty Peacekeeper said. “This gives me probable cause to scan you for non-compliance.”
I pushed air out of my lungs and went to my happy place, but not too happy, the scanners would detect that. The due-process the officer followed gave horrific law a procedural elegance that improved compliance levels. 
“Yes sir,” Owen said. “We are fully compliant, as your scan will show.” 
I glanced at him, a huge risk. He was concentrating on his breathing. The Peacekeeper approached Owen first, presumably because he spoke-up, and slowly passed his scanner up and down his body. He checked the results and made his way toward me. I pushed panic out and sucked life-affirming air in. The peacekeeper smelled of processed feed, a mass produced nutrient dense food compliant with all government recommendations. The scanner moved up and down, then paused near my heart. 
“What?” I asked. 
The peacekeeper lifted the visor from his helmet. His skin was pasty white and the flesh around his eyes was inflamed. “You have a right to remain silent,” he began.
“What?” I asked again. “What did I do?”
He raised his hand to silence me. “I’m about to tell you,” he said with whiny authority. “I’ve seen this scan signature before, a long time ago.” He looked over at Owen, then back to me. “It’s him, isn’t it?”
“What’s him?” I asked, fear creeping up my throat. On his uniform were sewn on fabric pieces that represented medals of valor. One of them was particularly malevolent, a symbol of true dedication to the law awarded when a peacekeeper enforces the law with an immediate family member. 
“You’re in love with him,” he said, eyes watering from cold air slapping his face. 
I glanced at Owen. The officer’s scanner climbed towards my head. Owen’s face was wrought with anxiety now, and I smiled at him, bracing for the inevitable. 
“It’s been so long since I’ve seen this,” the officer said, water now leaking from his eyes. “I just..” He grabbed his gun from his holster and thrust it into my mid-section. His chapped lips formed the words, “I want what you have. Help me.” 
My eyes widened. I wasn’t sure what to do. It was a passing desperation, a cry for something that even dopamine blocking agents couldn't stop.
“You’re off your nuetralizer, aren’t you?” he asked. “That’s immediate death. I am duty bound. But..”
More water leaked from his eyes. “You don’t have to do it,” I said, feeling the hard end of the gun against my abs. “You don’t have to enforce.” My own tears began accumulating. 
“You want to know when I saw this last?” he asked, referring to the results of the scan.
“Yeah, yes,” I said with all the confidence I could muster. 
Tears streamed down his face now. His inflamed eyes narrowed and his tone changed to one of angry finality. “My daughter.”
Pain ripped through me and the sound of the gun rang in my ears. As I fell Owen screamed and scrambled around the front of the vehicle. I hit the ground and the world began to fade. Another shot rang out. I closed my eyes to embrace sleep as the pain subsided. The most concentrated and pleasurable pain I’d ever felt. Pain that was absent from most of my life. Dopamine was released into my body and I exalted in it as sleep finally overtook me. 

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