Product of Society

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Planting the Seeds

"Even in the grave, all is not lost." - Edgar Allan Poe

“Shit! Jackson, get everybody up here!” The man who watched Ivan the Terrible fall to the floor called to his fleet. There would be no talking to Mister Terrible, no arrest. He was quite dead.

“Goddamn it! That’s him alright. Damn it! They wanted him brought in alive.” Another special ops guy voiced his frustration as the hallway began to fill with men wearing dark uniforms and brandishing impressive firearms.

“Not much I could do about it, sir. The little prick blew his fuckin’ brains all over the room.”

“Search him. Search everything!” The only find that seemed significant was a small flash drive attached to a note beside the body. ‘P.O.S.’ was written across the black plastic in bright red Sharpie. Jackson, a tall, muscular, and not very bright man, began to read the note.

“Please attempt to read the contents of this file with great and unbiased consideration. None of my actions were without purpose. People deserve to know that I am not the monster that I was made out to be. Simply look and you shall see. Everything happened for a reason.

  • Ivan”

“What a fuckin’ whack-job. Send it to evidence.”

Dee Gaggles sat at the table in the apartment where she and Khloris now lived, a newspaper open in her hand. She knew he would be on the front cover. She was right. There he was.

“Ivan the Terrible, the atrocious murderer, commits suicide in the aftermath of his final massacre. Authorities claim that the killer’s final victim was his very own father. Nothing unusual was found at the scene. Ivan, twenty-two, shot himself with a .38 caliber revolver after killing Josef F. Peters, forty-three, with the same weapon. The monster is finally dead.” A flush of rose-colored rage fell over Dee’s normally pale face.

“Those bastards didn’t report the flash drive. They didn’t say anything about his story!”

“You thought they would?” Khloras walked into the room.

“I suppose not, but I will say something about it. I’ll make sure they see.” She held out her own copy of the flash drive. Ivan remembered to send her one, too.

“An excellent decision,” a voice spoke in her ears. She nearly fell out of her chair.

“What? What is it?” Khloras fumbled around, unsure of what to do.

“I thought…I thought I heard something.” She lifted her glass of chardonnay to her lips, drinking it all within a few seconds. Gulp, gulp, gulpity-gulp.

“You certainly did hear something.” The voice in her head spoke again. “Make sure of it, Dee. Make sure that they see.” Then it was gone.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

“Police! Open the door!”

“God damn it.” A month had passed since Ivan’s death, and Dee Gaggles made sure that the book made it into the public eye. The seeds of revolution had now been planted through self-publishing. “For freedom!” She had cheered when the e-book first appeared online. She slowly opened the front door of her apartment. She expected the worst, and she was right. The worst had come.

“Dee Gaggles, you are under arrest for allegedly aiding and abetting the late Ivan the Terrible, and for conspiring with him. Have you anything to say?” There were four of them, three men and a woman.

“You can destroy my body, but you shall not have my soul.”

“You’re coming with us, you conniving bitch! You’re screwed, little lady! You’re as screwed as a filthy rich whore.”

“You know not what you do, sir, but I am not Christ. I will not forgive you. I am unwilling be crucified by you and your masters.” She leveled a Beretta 9mm pistol at the officers.

Shpow! Shpow! Shpow! Dee Gaggles and one of her assailants fell into the doorway, dead…lifeless. Her now forest-green hair was drenched in blood. The color combination was suggestive of Christmastime, sort of like Mal with his neon green hair and red gauges. The last living member of the original Products of Society was alive no more.

“You’re upset,” the voice spoke to Khloris. He sat alone in his apartment wishing that they would’ve spared his beloved heroine and took him instead, but he knew couldn’t have happened. They devour whatever they’re told does not belong, whatever doesn’t measure up to the culture’s version of moral righteousness.

“What? Who are you? No shit, I’m upset. My fiancé is fucking dead!”

“Listen to me, Khloris. Do something productive with your pain. She was a Product of Society, forged in the fires of hate and persecution, pushed to the point of being willing to retaliate. She was willing to stand against all odds. Let her death become what pushes you. Let her spirit be your driving force. Now is the time for transformation, for Khloris is dying. They’ve taken everything from you. You’ve been destroyed, friend, but now is the time to be reborn.”

“Anna, whatever shall we do with our horrid little belligerent dunce of a child?” Ten years had passed since the death of Ivan the Terrible. Anna was now a mother of seven. Her eldest child, Christian, was fifteen years old. She was only eighteen when he was born.

Earnest Eckleman, Anna’s husband, had become the priest of the Crucifixion Cathedral, the church where Anna and her brother had been briefly reunited on that strange and fateful day. Her ‘horrid little belligerent dunce of a child’ effortlessly maintained a 4.3 grade point average at Pinewood High. However, he questioned his parents’ faith, hence the unmerited title.

“I don’t know, I just don’t know!” Anna screeched in dismay. “You’re the man! You’re the God-appointed supreme overlord of the household. My say doesn’t count anyway! I’m just a ‘help meet’. You are man! God says that you must make the decisions.” She was dead serious. Poor Anna, hers was a sad predicament. A decade had gone by, so many expected society to have already progressed beyond conversations such as this one. Some things prove to be quite resistant to change.

“Maybe we should ark our neighbors, Anthony and Cindy.” Earnest had an idea. “Anthony has always seemed like a wise and God-fearing man to me. He may know what to do about our tainted young child.” In addition to being an agnostic…gasp!... young Christian also recently came out to his parents as both pansexual and gender nonconforming…double gasp!...

“So you want to have sex with pans? Like pots and pans? Really?” Earnest was confused. The only thing he knew about gender was how to uphold patriarchy. Christian explained that he was attracted to personalities, regardless of sex or gender. Earnest and Anna naïvely told him that these were one and the same. Although bisexual and pansexual mean somewhat different things (bisexuals tend to prefer men and women specifically, while pansexuals are also attracted to transsexuals and other untraditionally gendered people), his parents finally determining that he was bi seemed to be about as close as he could expect them to get.

“Gender nonconforming?!” Earnest screamed in outrage. “You have a penis, son! That means your gender is male! You have no choice in the matter!”

“And you’re certainly not bisexual,” Anna added. “You had a girlfriend just last year, against our wishes! You’re going to die of STDs! You probably already have premaritalsexia! All of the unwed sexually experienced heathens have it!” Somehow she thought that this was an actual disease.

Christian tediously explained that sex is biological, determined by hormones and genitals at birth. Gender is a social construct, including guidelines for how the sexes are supposed to behave within the culture…all of that stupid shit about blue lawn mowers for boys and pink oven mitts for girls. Anna and Earnest simply bellowed “thou art grounded, heathen!” and sent him to his room, unable to understand how their Christian could be practically in league with Satan himself…

It is unbelievably unsettling how pervasive ignorance, intolerance and outright bigotry can be. Christian’s experiences at Pinewood had been fairly similar. He didn’t play sports. He didn’t pretend that he had lost his virginity to a supermodel on a luxury yacht in the Caribbean at age eleven. He didn’t objectify women, and didn’t even claim to have mastered every position in the Kama Sutra by age twelve with his ‘fifteen inch long’ penis.

These traits made him very different from most of the other boys, so they usually avoided him. He dyed his hair blue once, so many of his teachers now suspected his morals to be unacceptable. This was unquestionably confirmed when he was caught smoking a cigarette…gasp!...with Jenny Calisco on the school green. Tsk, tsk. Even his parents now seemed to wish that they would’ve had an abortion. “It’s okay to abort a demon,” he imagined them saying.

“Why do you stand for this abuse?” A voice that Christian had never heard before spoke from somewhere deep inside his mind. He was sitting in his room at the far end of the hall downstairs, and had just finished playing a piece on his beloved violin. It was Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp minor, one of his favorites. Music took him to a magical place that was beyond anything he had ever achieved by other means. He dreamed of one day attending Julliard and playing for a crowd of thousands of admiring concert-goers. He would even compose a symphony of his own.

“You will attend seminary and become a leader in the church! God has told me that this is His will for your life, my son.” Of course Earnest would say something like this. He believed that his desires and the will of God were eternally one and the same, and seemed to have convinced his faithful congregation of the same bullshit. The fact that Earnest would resort to manipulating the spiritual beliefs of so many to get what he wanted was truly disgusting.

Christian thought that if God did exist, which he was unsure of, He would consider Earnest’s career to be one of blasphemy. Blasphemy! Blasphemy! The word had been screamed in his face many times, often by his parents. They were in the kitchen talking to Anthony and Cindy Anderson on the phone.

“That should scare the authority-questioning faggot right out of him!” Faggot… so that is how Anna and Earnest saw him. Earnest should have been the priest of some radical right wing gay-bashing white supremacist hate group. He would fit in with them perfectly. On second thought, maybe he was that already.

Christian’s computer was online and he was surfing the web. Surfing the web, he imagined someone trying to ride a surfboard down a huge spider web. It was a strange thought. It probably wouldn’t work out very well. Anyway…‘Can humans live forever? Research suggests that the first immortals are already walking among us.’ It was an ad on the e-book website that he had pulled up on the screen. Christian loved to read. Apart from playing the violin, it was probably his favorite pastime.

He scrolled and scrolled through list after list of books, hoping that he would hit the booklover’s jackpot and stumble across something truly fascinating. His hope was to immerse himself in the world of a story and leave the reality that was eating him alive behind, if only for a moment. He had learned to do this quite expertly. Product of Society, one of the novels on the list was titled. That sounded interesting. Click. He began to read the introduction by the author, Ivan the Terrible. Wasn’t that the name of a serial killer? Maybe he had found his prize.

“I was not what I was made out to be. None of us were, but those in power have practiced framing revolutionaries in a negative light for millennia. They’ve grown quite adept at this. We were twenty-second century men and women living in the twenty-first. They were not yet ready for us. They hated us for our difference. They couldn’t understand us, so they demonized us. They said we were ‘diseased’ and told us that they possessed the cure. It was horrifying, all of the lies and brutality…but they were afraid. They were afraid of us. They were afraid of me.

My murders were not simply murders, and some of them knew this. I attacked the posterchildren of their overbearing regimes. I touched their untouchables. I broke links in their diabolical chain. I killed the ones who they protected, because they deserved to die. The institutions must be changed, or we the people will soon be robbed of the last of our rights. Then we will have none at all.” Christian could relate to this all too well. He would be dumbfounded if he ever discovered that this man was his own uncle, none other than the brother of his mother.

…Soon they will come for me, just as they came for the others. There seems to be no atrocity that those in power won’t commit just to keep things from changing, and the deviants are the first to feel the brunt of their methods. Many value the preservation of their false realities over the pursuit of truth because fantasy is often easier to swallow. Maybe you are reading this very page in an attempt to escape to an imaginary place yourself, a fantasy of my creation. If so, you may be disappointed. I strive to shed light on reality rather than farther obscuring it…” Who was this person? Who was Ivan the Terrible? Christian wanted to know.

“…If you are an outcast, I urge you to ask yourself why that might be. Is there something truly ‘wrong’ with you? I would like you to consider the probability that there is not. There is probably something unique about you.

“Do not allow them to destroy the fabric of your being. Do not let them murder your soul. It is far better to be killed fighting for freedom than to go through life as a marionette, a puppet, a thing that you only pretend to be because you’re expected to be it. You can live a non-life as a slave or you can take your freedom. If you want it you must take it, for it will not be given.

“Fight for a recognized differentiation between ‘different’ and ‘wrong’. Fight those who see them as synonymous. Let your pain fuel your fire and do something productive with it.” Outside of Christian’s home, at the entrance to his neighborhood, the Tranquility Acres sign still stood gleaming in the hot midsummer sun.

“Yes, military school would be a lovely choice for our boy! I think I shall call them tomorrow.” Earnest agreed with Anthony while Christian sent out an array of S.O.S. messages online. History has a way of repeating itself.

Christian felt as if he were hovering over the neighborhood on a cloud, able to see exactly what the place truly was. The houses were all the same, like a basic rigid digital program. He scanned through the pages of Product of Society, feeling more like one of them with every word that trickled its way into his mind.

“Do not be scared into submission by the powerful and intolerant. Kill us, although they will try, we will be us when we die. We will be unaltered. We will be unchanged. We shall not repent of that which should not and does not require repentance. We will be stigma blind in the way that some are color blind. We will not allow them to make us believe that divergence is something in need of being ‘cured’ or ‘corrected’.”

Christian wished that he could have met them all in person, but he could still hear their voices. Being able to see their ideas realized in print was almost like being able to talk to them in person. They were still leading the way into the future. They weren’t really so dead after all, as long as there were still those amongst the living who would keep the dream alive. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Christian’s door flew open forcefully. Earnest…

“Tomorrow morning I am calling a school that our glorious neighbor Anthony has recommended. It is a military school. We’ll be sending you there as soon as possible. They’ll beat you into submission. That is what you need, you little faggot. You’re an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. You must be cleansed of your afflictions!” Some things just never seem to change. Christian’s mind began to race. Would he be able to escape?

His violin soon began to play such a marvelously miserable melody that even Chopin might have been brought to tears by the tones emanating from the strings. Why did things have to be this way? Why did Ivan the Terrible have to be so right?

“What will you do now, child? You are weak. You’re giving your free will and individuality over to those who do not deserve to possess it, for they are not you. Don’t you see? You’re prostituting your distinctiveness away. It’s time to take yourself back, is it not? Is life as something fake worth living to you? Is it really?” Christian heard a low voice talking in his head for the first time.

Though a bit caught off guard by the unexpected voice, he decided that a life of servitude would be worse than death. He would take his freedom back or he would die trying, just like those who came before him. He continued reading through the book. His hope for a world in which he could be free to be different was starting to grow, if only slightly. Most things must start out small. Did Anna agree that he should be sent off to military school? Of course she did. She had to agree with all of Earnest’s decisions. God said so, or some shit like that.

“They came for us. We knew they would. One by one we fell, but only in a traditional sense. We lived. We saw things wilder than their wildest dreams, and were awake for the experience. We knew what it meant to be free in spite of our persecution. One day they will allow us to live. This is the great hope.”

How could Christian escape? Would he run away like Ivan had? Maybe he would just forget himself completely instead. Maybe he would sell his soul and give up the person he was inside so that he could be accepted. Maybe he would get in the car and ride off to the institution that would beat the ‘belligerent faggot’ out of him and turn him into whatever the others were. Maybe he would become aggressive and close-minded like they wanted him to be, then cover it up by preaching a philosophy hidden under a veil of ‘kindness’ like his father did. Maybe he would manipulate a congregation into doing his bidding.

In exchange for his individuality they would reward him with acceptance, social status, and probably money too. He would be given means. Wasn’t that the only thing that people were admired for, befriended for, loved for? Simply their status, their net worth, how much shit they could buy? No…those who would want Christian simply for those kinds of things meant absolutely nothing to him. They had sold their souls to the powers that be already.

So there. It was decided. If he did that, if he sold his free will to be free of maltreatment, he would become completely and totally meaningless to himself. He would prefer death over doing away with his meaning. He was like Ivan after all.

“They see only what they want to see, child.” S. whispered again. That’s why they’ll never see you as you are. They are blind to that which threatens their security. Reality is ignored in the name of comfort.” Christian turned his gaze back toward the screen.

“Existence flows more fluidly than the water in the sea, see? What is and what is not…these are quite impossible to determine. Are you awake or are you dreaming? How do you know? If the answer comes quite easily then you probably aren’t thinking. You can say that if you drop something then it will fall, perhaps, but what if someone is there to catch it?

“There is no black and white. ‘Should’ and ‘should not’ are matters of opinion. Yet like Socrates, John Lennon, and a list so long that it would fill a novel by itself, those who show others that existence is relative and that nothing is known are hunted. They are killed by those who believe that their preferences constitute objectivity. They are destroyed by those who believe that their own way is the only way that is right.” Yes, he was sure of it. Christian had found his people.

“Filthy hedonists! Abominable agnostics!” That’s what Earnest would say. “And we all know that ‘agnostic’ means ‘ignoramus’!” Poor, poor Earnest. He had misplaced his copy of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary years ago and had finally forgotten words’ actual definitions.

Christian began to plan the magical escape from his current enslavement and morbid mediocrity. Soon it would be time for his journey to begin. He had reached the end of his predecessor’s story. Following the last page was a note that Dee Gaggles had decided to include in the book at the last minute, one that Ivan sent her along with the flash drive.

“To Dee Gaggles, and any and all future Products of Society,

This is it, friends. My mark on the earth has been made. I was born a blank canvas, as were you, and then they covered me in paint…what an odd choice of colors it was. To the surprise of the artists, their dreadful painting learned how to paint back. I fashioned my own reality. I spoke my own ideas. I painted with fervent action. We all did. We planted seeds that shall, with a bit of luck, grow and blossom into a new world. One might say that the current regime bludgeoned our dream away, perhaps, but is this true? Maybe…but maybe not.

“You see, whoever you are, you are reading these words with your own eyes. We have been found. It is you who has found us. We are no longer amongst the living, yet right at this very instant you listen to us speak. Your individuality lies in jeopardy just as ours did, but in death our words live on. Do not forget them. Have the Products of Society been defeated? There is certainly a way to determine the answer to that.

“What will you do, you who have read the words on these pages, you who have been stirred by them, you who can relate…? Will you sit on the sidelines as they run you over and force you to adapt? Surely some of you will, and if this is the only action that our story inspires then we are defeated indeed. If that is all that comes of our efforts then they have won, and it truly was all in vain.

“But listen when I tell you that this is not the only possible outcome of our plight. There is another, far greater possibility…a new generation of revolutionaries may emerge. Your numbers will be greater than were ours. You will overcome those who ignorantly seek to label, condemn, enslave and destroy you. You will see the dream realized. You will be able to do what those before you could not. Yours and mine is an uphill battle. We are the underdogs in the fight. But if we do not take action, we are left with only lives that Dee, Veia, I and the others would’ve never been willing or able to endure.

“What happens next? Will the Products of Society rise like the phoenix from the ashes, like David charging toward Goliath? Will you give your soul to those who only care about how much they can control you and profit off of you? Or will you say ‘enough!’, and refuse to accept the stigmatization that they vomit down upon you so liberally. Will you fight, no matter the cost, for your right to experience existence as a free willed person? I certainly do not know the answer to these questions. Only you do. You will answer them in time.

“Now I must go and meet my destiny, a destiny which I have made for myself, a destiny that was not preordained. Goodbye and good luck, friends. I shall be with you in body no longer, but I am forever with you in spirit.

Stand up and carry on.

  • Ivan the Terrible”

And finally Christian knew what he would do.

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