"Polarization...armed ideological camps...fear stalking the land a mari usque ad mare...and a gigantic political vacuum. A dictatorship? The fact that it hasn't happened here does not mean it can't happen here."
- Harry Bruce, The Toronto Star Weekly, circa 1985
"If we do not control the computer, the computer will control us."
- Cornelius Enouch Quinton, Musings on Machines, circa 2030
Set in the near future, Curfew tells the story of one woman's desperate need to escape from a computer-controlled City in order to seek help from someone--anyone--in the outside, war-scarred world.
[Currently being transferred from hard copy to computer as it was originally created on a typewriter]
The sun had just dipped its bloody orb below the horizon. The darkening streets of the City grew deathly quiet.
In the midst of the metropolis, a large and circular building stretched up towards the ever-deepening burgundy atmosphere; its stark, white metal sides gradually melded to a reddish-grey.
Through the unnatural silence of the evening came a soft, whirring noise. At street level, a section of the mighty edifice opened up like a gaping chasm, followed by the quiet purring of many magnoelectric engines. Moments later, several monocycles eased out onto the boulevard. Squadrons of six, each wit a uniformed man or woman, dispersed on patrol to various parts of the City.
A blue Siamese cat nosed its way from the slightly open door of an IntraUrban Duplex. It glanced up and down the deserted streets, sniffed the air, and wondered where all the bustling humans had so quickly disappeared. The animal finally bounded down the steps to the sidewalk.
The head of a young boy poked out from behind the door. "C'm'ere, Whisper..."
The cat turned its head and gazed nonchalantly at the seven-year-old. What did he want?
"C'mon, Whisper--you gotta come in, now!"
The boy came quickly down the steps and made for the cat. But, the animal, more agile, leapt from his reach. Determined, the boy set out after it.
At the window of the Duplex, the mouth on the terror-stricken face of the boy's mother spoke his name soundlessly. She headed for the front door.
The boy reached for the cat again and caught it. Whisper meowed annoyance and wriggled to escape.
"Peter--" The woman had now appeared on the porch.. The panic on her face belied the calm attitude with which she attempted to recall her son. She motioned with her hands for him to come to her.
"I just wanted to get Whisper--" he began.
"Come here," his mother replied sternly. Her lips trembled, her face etched with stark lines in the engulfing ruddiness of the smog-obscured setting sun.
A slight movement in the shadows across the street suddenly caught her eye. She glanced once again at her son, her eyes widening in horror. She began to sob, and fell to her knees.
"Please!" she called out. "My son got out by mistake. He didn't know--he was just trying to get his pet. We were inside! Please, don't hurt him--"
A pencil-thin beam of light flashed across the street and pierced the boy's skull. Noiselessly, his dead body toppled over.
The mother screamed. The sound rippled through the quietness of the night before it was cut short as a second ray of thermoenergy sluiced through the air. The woman's legs crumpled beneath her, and her corpse spread-eagled down the steps.
A uniformed woman with a red cowl stepped from the shadows. Infrared goggles and a filtermask covered her face, hiding her features; she also wore a navy blue, leather wraparound jacket, pants, and black boots. From a wide belt hung a long knife, a hand weapon of some sort, and a communications transceiver.
She removed the latter instrument and held it to her mouth.
Her slightly muffled voice said slowly, "One-three-nine to Computer Central. Dispatch a SaniSquad to Sector Sixteen, Quad Four."
She repeated the message, and then replaced the communicator. She knew that within minutes, a sanitation truck and crew would arrive to collect and dispose of the two bodies.
Swiftly, the squadwoman began to remove the boy's clothing. She tugged the sweater over his head and stripped off his pants and underwear. These, along with his slippers and socks, were stuffed into a bootybag the woman had brought along with her. Then she made her way to the dead mother and undid the buttons of her blouse. She removed it, then turned the body over to facilitate removal of the brassiere. She grabbed the hems of both pantyhose and skirt together and jerked them down. Once the clothing was off, the body flopped back to its original position. There was no messy blood with which to deal; the deadly wound was clean since the thermoenergy beam instantly coagulated the blood as it cut through the body.
The dead mother's clothes joined those of her son in the bag which the squadwoman then carried to her waiting monocycle.
After a momentary reflective glance back at the two naked corpses, she mounted the cycle and drove into the blackness of the night to continue her route.
Curfew had now been in effect twenty minutes and thirty-seven seconds.