Last week there was some considerable controversy in the publishing world that I lurk in when a new app called “CleanRead” came out. It’s now been pulled, in no small part because what it was doing was almost certainly illegal and a violation of copyright, but also in large part because of the backlash against it by authors, readers, and pretty much everyone who didn’t think that its (possibly) noble intent was in fact terribly off the rails and ill advised.
Our demighod Chuck Wendig was one of those objecting vociferously, so it’s only just that our weekly Flash Fiction Challenge is to write 2,000 or so words about filth. Sex. Profanity. Perversion. As well as the counterpoints of Censorship and Totalitarianism if you so wish.
As for me, as I’ve mentioned , March sort of clobbered me heavily about the head and shoulders, today hasn’t been any better (trying to finalize our income taxes), and it’s almost 2230 PDT. Chuck (or someone much like him) has said that when you’re exhausted, when the last thing you want to do is write, when you would do anything to just say “screw it!” and head for bed — then you must write.
But they didn’t say anything about editing, so fasten your seat belts, this could get interesting.
“We can’t print this,” Carol said, tossing the manuscript back across the desk toward me. “You know that.”
“I know that you were going to say that,” I said, picking it up and tossing it back. “And once again I know that you’re wrong.”
Carol didn’t touch the document, just leaned back in her chair, tilted her head back, and reached up to start messaging the bridge of her nose.
“Laurie, we’ve had this discussion at least a dozen times before. If we print a book like this, we get shut down. If we get shut down, all of us lose our jobs. Some of us, such as you the writer and me the editor, would have a tough time ever getting another job in this field. We’ll end up washing dishes at McDonalds for minimum wage, which will lead to drinking heavily, which will lead to pot, cocaine, meth, and heroin, which will leave us dying alone and unloved in a seedy, filthy, and disgusting opium den in Chinatown. I hate washing dishes, so we are not going to publish this.”
“First of all, McDonalds doesn’t have dishwashers, everything’s served on paper and Styrofoam. Do a little fact checking. Secondly, we’re writers, we already drink heavily and make far less than minimum wage. It’s in the job description. Thirdly, it’s absolutely critical that these ideas be out there. If we let the Church ignore its own laws and go off shredding the Constitution at will just because the Synod orders them to, then the world will never know the truth about the prison we’ve allowed to be created around us.”
“We’re back to the Constitution, eh?” Carol asked. “Have you finally considered my suggestion to publish this as a poorly written and dull fantasy or science fiction tome?”
“Don’t start with me on that, you know better!” Laurie was having a tough time keeping her temper. She took a moment to take a breath and let her blood pressure and adrenaline levels drop a bit. “You’ve seen my research, you know how thorough it is. You’ve seen the original documents. I don’t understand how you can continue to deny what I’ve discovered.”
“I’ve seen your stuff, but I’ve also seen how it could all be fake. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. You don’t have it. Face it, if what you say is true, why hasn’t anyone anywhere ever found out about it before? Why do you think that you’re the only one given the True Word that proves everything we know to be wrong?”
“I’m not the first, I’m just the only one who hasn’t been caught before getting this far. I’ve told you about all of the people I’ve found evidence of who were following the same research before simply disappearing without a trace. That’s why I told you to keep this so secret!”
“Paranoia doesn’t become you,” Carol said. “You really want to stick by this story? You honestly want me to think the story you have here is history, not fantasy?”
“Yes, I do. It makes sense. The evidence is all there.”
“So the world used to be cooler and covered in a million times more plants than it is today?”
“Trillions, not millions, but yes. Then we fucked it up.”
Carol sat up straight and leaned across the desk, her gaze intense. “You will not use that kind of language in my presence! I for one have no intention of burning in hell for all of eternity because of you and your foolish obsessions! Is that clear?”
Laurie returned Carol’s glare with a look of pity. “Carol, use your head. Think. You’re not going to hell. Or heaven. All that they’ve taught all of us for our entire lives is a lie!”
“George Washington, a lie? Thomas Jefferson, a lie? The Founding Fathers? The Constitution? The very basis of our society, the foundation which has allowed us to survive on this harsh planet, all of that’s a lie?”
“No, there’s plenty of truth there. The lies are all based on truths. But at the core are fantastic lies, huge falsehoods that they have to keep covering up with even bigger lies and even more bullshit!”
“Call it whatever you want, but it’s all a lie! We didn’t come here from some other planet and get saved by the Founding Fathers who bestowed upon us their blessed Constitution, showing us how to create a society based on laws from the Bible!
“We have always lived here! The world was green and healthy and there were billions of people on it, not thousands! It wasn’t always hot and stormy and dusty, there were places where there would actually be ice falling from the sky! The Constitution was written by people about allowing the people to decide what was best for everyone, not an addendum to the Bible giving unlimited power to the Church!”
Laurie’s voice had risen to an alarming level. As she realized it and settled back in her chair, Carol sat calmly looking at her.
The door behind Laurie opened to allow two large, hooded figures to enter. Quickly they grabbed Laurie and tried to hold onto her as she started flailing.
“You bitch!” screamed Laurie. “Of all the people to betray me, you were the last one who would! How could you do this? You’re my sister!”
One of the hooded men finally got his hand over Laurie’s mouth to muffle her screams. In his hand was a small cloth soaked with something pungent. Whatever it was, Laurie went limp within seconds. The second man slipped a hood over her head and tied her wrists and ankles.
“You’ll take care of her, won’t you?” Carol asked. “She needs help, she’s not in her head at all.”
“We’ll take care of her,” a deep man’s voice said from under one of the hoods. “You won’t have to worry about her ever again.”
“Thank, God!” Carol said. “I just had to do it. I had to call you before she did something that would irreparably condemn her soul to hell. Didn’t I?”
“You did well,” the voice said. “Your reward will be found in Heaven, as the Constitution has promised.”
The man slipped Laurie over his shoulder and carried her limp body out. As the door closed behind them, Carol heard the bells start to ring and she started her evening prayers. As the Founding Fathers wished for her to.