Short Story: Utopia

“I heard the God-King doesn’t have to eat.”

“I heard he likes to eat, but he doesn’t do it so we’ll all have more food.”

“I heard he blesses the farms each day so we always have enough food,” the first voice said.

“But if he’s all-powerful, couldn’t he just bless it once and be done?” this was the second voice again. “Or maybe just create some food out of nothing?”

“I’ve heard some rumors that say there’s plenty of food outside Utopia.”

“That’s unbeliever talk.”

“Well, then it can’t be true.”

The two voices stopped for a moment. The conversation had reached dangerous territory.

The speakers were on the grimy streets of the city-state Utopia, in line for their ration supply. Traditionally, this consisted of old bread and a bit of meat of questionable origins. Or at least, it would be questionable. But no one questioned. If it looked like…well it was really best not to ask questions. It was traditional, it was meat and that’s all that mattered.

All around them were massive flat-panel displays, all playing different videos, but with one thing in common: each screen somehow showcased the God-King and his infinite wisdom. In fact, in Utopia it was considered illegal not to capitalize some words; so legally speaking it was Infinite Wisdom. Or the full legal term: Infinite Wisdom of the Ages No Matter How Stupid It Seems at First.

The line of people was long. It always seemed to be long. A meandering line of grungy people filled with the absolute knowledge that they were blessed by the current physical incarnation of their omnipotent and omniscient God-King.

The line shuffled forward a few inches. In Utopia, they weren’t called inches. They were called God Toes. Or sometimes the formal “God Toes of the Definitely No Athlete’s Foot,” although it was difficult to pluralize as it was never very clear if it stayed foot or became feet or possibly foots.

The first voice began again, “Do you ever wonder what life is like outside the walls? I’ve heard rumors.”

“I’ve never seen evidence of any life outside the walls,” the second responded.

“But have you looked outside the walls?”

“No, but the God-King says there’s nothing out there, so there must not be.”

“The Unbelievers say there are other nations out there, some hundreds of times bigger than ours.”

“If they say it, then it isn’t true.”

“But we could just sneak up and look.”

“The punishment for looking outside the walls is being burned to death by the God-King’s flaming wrath”

“But have you ever even seen the God-King do anything miraculous that they say he does?”

“Well no, but he says that he does it…so it must be true.”

Much farther ahead in the line (in fact based on current rates and line length approximately 5 years further), shouting started. Although our two conversationalists were too far back to see what was going on.

“I wonder what’s happening?”

“I hope there’s enough food!”

“The God-King always provides enough food for true believers.”

This stopped talking again. Probably because there never seemed to be enough food for anyone.

The ruckus grew louder and soon they saw men and women running away from the food center. This seemed like good news to the people in the line, although perhaps a bit worrisome.

“Bless the God-King! We might get to the food center today!”

“But wait isn’t he God? Wouldn’t he be blessing himself? Does he need to be blessed?

“Possibly if he sneezes.”

“The God-King doesn’t sneeze! He’s perfect!”

“Well, how do you know sneezing isn’t perfect?”

A woman ran up holding a bleeding child. She pressed a bit of cloth to the wound, trying to staunch the flow.

“What happened?!”

“The Holy Guard! They ran out of rations at the food center and they started attacking us when we demanded something to eat!”

“That’s horrible! The God-King save us!”

“Couldn’t he just have made this not happen to begin with?” the second voice asked.

She ran off as bells tolled everywhere in the city.

The bells were a common occurrence. They were a signal to the people of Utopia that the Holy News Network was about to release a statement. Everyone had to watch the broadcasts on penalty of death, although with the transmission coming out of every electronic device in Utopia, it was very hard to ignore.

“Rumors of food shortages are spreading throughout the nation. Do not be alarmed! There is plenty of food to be had at the food center. Unbelievers are starting misinformation campaigns and in some cases even carrying out violent attacks on the citizens of Utopia. Do not fall for their evil lies. The sacrifice of our fellow citizens and the blessings of the God-King make certain that there is always enough food”

“Oh well, that’s good then. The God-King provides.”

“Terrorists attacked that poor woman’s kid.”

“Maybe she attacked her own kid for cover?”

“What if her kid is actually a terrorist?”

“We should call the Holy Guard and report her.”

They didn’t call anyone. It was best to avoid talking to the guard when possible. People that talked to the Guard usually weren’t seen again.

The line shifted quickly forward for a bit. Filling in the spaces abandoned by terrorists, no doubt.

“I heard the lines are only this long because terrorists get back in line for food right after they are fed.”

“Well, it takes so long to get to the front you have to keep standing in line.”

“That’s terrorist talk. Fill your heart with the God-King and he will sustain you.”

“Well, I see you standing in line, don’t I?”

“I have a medical condition though. It makes me need food to survive.”

The line shuffled forward again. The noise from the front of the line seemed to be growing louder by the minute.

A man came down the line. He stopped every few feet and spoke. Eventually, he reached our two speakers and said, “There was plenty of food in the center, but the Holy Guard are taking it to their headquarters!”

“What, why?” one of the two asked.

“They say they work harder than the rest of us and need more food.”

The man continued down the queue.

The two stood in line anyway. There was nothing else to do but hope things would change by the time they got to the front. The line took so long normally that entire regimes could change by the time they got to the food center.

The bells tolled again. This time louder and for much longer. This meant that the God-King himself was about to make a statement. Everyone excitedly turned to watch.

The screens all went black for a moment, and then the God-King faded into view. He was overweight, which was one of many ways you could be sure he was a god. Only a god could manage to be overweight without eating any food.

“Citizens of Utopia. There are forces allied against us that are beyond your comprehension. Unbelievers. Terrorists. People who hate you and hate me. The Holy Guard is the last line of defense against lawlessness. Against anarchy. Against death. We need them. I need them. For your safety. For my safety. For the good of all.

“They are beyond reproach. Any rumors that you have heard are just that – rumors. The Holy Guard would never do anything without my approval. Do not listen to rumors. Listen to me.

“I provide you with food. I provide you with everything. I flew to the reaches of space and stopped an asteroid from destroying us all. I blast our enemies with the power of my mind.

“I am the God-King and I have spoken. Thank you for your sacrifice”

The broadcast ended and the screens all returned to normal.

“That horrible man, accusing the Holy Guard of taking extra food.”

“Wait, why does the Holy Guard need to protect the God-King?”

“Because by ignoring his own physical self he can devote himself fully to us.”

“But couldn’t he just make himself impervious to everything? I mean..he is all powerful.”

“Of course he could. But he doesn’t want to lord his superiority over us.”

“But I mean, it’s right there in the name ‘God-King’ it doesn’t really seem very humble.”

“Why does a god need to be humble? Seems like if anyone gets to be a bit cocky it would be someone who’s all powerful”

“Well, that makes sense.”

“Also I think you are forgetting one of his titles. Is he not known as God-King the Most Humble in the Universe?”

“Oh, that’s true! So he must be humble.”

They stood patiently in line for a few more minutes. There wasn’t really much choice. The line continued moving at a much quicker pace than normal. They were close enough now that certain things started to become more apparent.

For one, it certainly seemed like more people were entering the facility than were coming out.

“Where do you think all the people are going? Think they’re letting them out the back way?”

“Must be. Where else could they be going?”

The bells rang again, signaling another HNN broadcast.

“Citizens of Utopia. Over the last few years, we have been toiling away in secret to create a new underground facility that will allow for increased food production right underneath the food center. Any shortages that might have happened in the past are no longer a worry. We can produce more food and refill the food center almost immediately. Many members of the populace are being selected to join us in this exciting new project. If you should happen to notice anyone who is seemingly missing, they are almost definitely at the food production facility.”

They looked at each other.

“Well, I guess that explains that. I bet you have to be really devout to work there. Maybe they’ll let me in.”

Some time later they found themselves entering the food center.

One of the Holy Guard stopped the two and motioned them into a shorter second line that led to a closed doorway.

“What’s this line for?”

“Special consideration for the new food production project.”

“Will we get fed there? I mean we just stood in line for ages and now we don’t get to pick up any rations?”

“You won’t need to worry about food.”

One by one the people in the shorter line were led through a door that locked with a heavy thud. There were no windows, but it was just possible to see a table and chairs inside before the door slammed shut each time.

Our two leaned against the wall and waited for their turn. There was a lot of waiting in Utopia. According to the Holy News Network, this was so that they could learn Infinite Patience of the Most Devout.

It quickly became apparent that absolutely no one who entered the room came back out.

“Must not be very selective, seems like everyone is getting in.”

“The God-King loves all of us equally.”

“What? Even unbelievers and terrorists?”

“Of course. He loves them and forgives them.”

“Then why do the Guard kill them?”

“They die for their sins so that we might live with ours.”

“But….that doesn’t even make any sense.”

“That’s because you aren’t a god. Now hush before we aren’t selected”

A few minutes later, the pair were allowed into the room together.

A lone Holy Guard sat, his helmet off, resting on the table. He smiled at them as they entered the room.

One wall was lined with monitors. In Utopia, there might not be enough food, but there were always at least 3 or 4 displays around to show you the wonders and joys of the God-King and his perfection.

In the back wall was another heavy door.

“Ah, sit down please.”

They sat.

“Now if you would be so kind as to watch this brief video, please.”

One of the screens lit up, and our heroes recognized themselves. This video was from the line outside. They watched and squirmed in their seats.

“We didn’t mean anything by it.”

“We would never truly question the God-King.”

The Guard smiled and said, “Relax. It’s okay to question things. We all question things now and again. As long as we devote ourselves fully to the God-King, all is for-”

His next words were cut off by Holy Bells of the Holy News Network.

“Any rumors about missing people are simply that: rumors. The people of Utopia are our most valuable resource, besides the God-King of course. The fake information is getting silly now. Though the new food production facility has just opened, we are already seeing a dramatic increase in the amount of food available, especially meat. So let’s all join together in harmony and make Utopia even more perfect.”

One of the two said, “ Don’t say it.”

“But-”

“Don’t say it”

The Guard smiled and said, “No really, whatever you want to say. The God-King forgives all.”

“Well, like…if the God-King is perfect and Utopia is perfect…how can it be more perfect? Perfect means it’s as good as it can possibly get right? So how can it be more perfect? And for that matter…what kind of food can we grow underground? Mushrooms I guess but other than that, it really doesn’t sound very perfect. Now a series of elevated beds ABOVE Utopia, now that seems like we could probably utilize the limited, yet perfect size of our city-state to perfectly grow more perfect vegetables. And furthermore, how is food production going up alread-”

The Guard raised a hand to stop the verbal onslaught.

“It is quite clear that we need you in foods. The God-King has led you to us on this glorious day.”

The looked at each other and smiled.

“See, the God-King works in mysterious ways.”

“Is being mysterious perfect?”

“That’s one of the great mysteries of the God-King.”

The Guard waved at the displays and said, “Now if you would watch this brief orientation video.”

The God-King faded into view again.

“Do I not keep the moons from falling on us when they get sleepy? Do I not travel through time to oversee the birth of my own reincarnated self and then fade into the aether rather than die? Do I not make my face less beautiful so that you won’t be blinded when you see it?

“These are the things I do for you, my people.”

“But nothing I do for you can compare to the sacrifice you are making for us today. Thank you.”

The video ended.

“I don’t want to tell the God-King his business, but working in food production is a pretty cushy job. No worries, we won’t let you down.”

The Guard smiled again, “Good, I am glad you feel that way. I’m certain that what you provide us will be delicious and filling. Now if you will both step right through here. Just follow the hallway to the end. Someone will take care of you there.”

They heard the whirring of machinery and grinding noises. There was also the unmistakable sound of someone screaming, but that kind of thing was easier to tune out than you would think. After a while, anything can become normal.

The hall opened into a larger room. Heavy machinery and pipes lined the walls. Two of the Holy Guard stood next to an escalator that led downward. The lighting on the escalator was bad, and it was impossible to see the other end.

One of the Guard’s said, “Were you selected for food production?”

“Oh yes absolutely.”

“Are you sure you are up for the sacrifice?”

“Certainly, although I feel like making use of rooftop gardens could really work a lot better than-”

The Guard said, “Oh yeah, I can see you are exactly what we’re looking for. Step on the escalator please, and don’t worry about the machines. They will get pretty close to you on the way down, but it’s perfectly normal.”

The two stepped onto the escalator.

“Thank you for your sacrifice.”

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