It was all done in the name of security, of course. My security, your security, national security … it hardly made any difference which. Smoking was banned from public places. Motorcyclists had to wear helmets. Drivers were required to wear seat belts. Airline passengers couldn't carry nail clippers. Pregnant women weren't allowed to drink. Hardware clerks had to submit to random drug testing.
Some of these laws made sense, of course. Others did not. But they all added momentum to the slow erosion of liberty, and then to the rapid erosion of liberty, and then to the redefinition of liberty as a threat to Our Way of Life. Everyone was required to carry ID cards with their gene-print and retina scan. Contact sports were banned. Distressing news was kept out of the media. Walls were built at every border. International travel was halted. Government finkware was installed in all new computers.
The day dawned when everyone's existence was finally safe. Free of danger, violence, sex, or human contact. Free of hate or envy or jealousy or lust or even love. Nothing new or unexpected ever happened. One day was much the same as another.
It was like being swaddled in enormous clouds of cotton candy. We none of us could feel a thing. We all watched a lot of television.
Then came the announcement that amniotic tanks were being prepared for every citizen. Afloat in the salt-water medium of our prebirths, we would be fed, nourished, and encouraged to regress into timeless dreams of simple being.
You wouldn't think that there'd've been enough spunk left in the population for a rebellion. We were soft and coddled. But it turned out that we were all just waiting for an excuse. We were a heap of tinder yearning for the match.
It wasn't an easy thing, the Uprising. It cost many of us dearly. It cost me a hand and the hearing in one ear. But it was worth it. I lead a real life now. I have a wife and children and when I get up in the morning, I can never be sure what's going to happen, for good or for ill.
That's the way I like it, too.
The other day my five-year-old son fell and scraped his knee and came crying for me to fix it. I washed it gently with soap and warm water. Then, prior to putting on the band-aid, I got out the bottle of iodine.
"This is going to sting," I told him. "But it's good for you."
© 2002 by Michael Swanwick and SCIFI.COM.