The Police

Her parents named her Despair.
She never forgave them.

Her worn black combat boots thudded across the wet tarmac. She looked around, her eyes skimming across the dilapidated buildings, the smoke toppling into the sky, the police patrolling the streets—

The police.

When Despair was a child she had always had this wonderful idea of the police – they were heroes. They saved lives. They helped make the world a better place. But the police weren’t like that, not now. Just the sight of them marching by, with their black clothes and guns and shiny police badges, was enough to send civilians running back into their houses. If they were lucky enough to have houses.

Despair looked down as she passed a group of police smoking on a street corner. Letting her short, damp hair hide her face, she sped up until she was alone again. Then she looked up and sighed; it had seemed like such a noble cause, when it had first started. The world was overpopulated, unorganized – the crime rate had skyrocketed. And all they were doing was helping.

It was a simple concept: when you were born, you weren’t given a name, but a number. That number was entered into The Computer, along with your fingerprints and all your other identifying markers. Then The Computer would determine what career you would go into, and you would be taken to School, educated solely for whatever occupation you had been given. You received a badge stating your profession that you had to wear at all times. Then, when you were old enough, you were sent wherever you were needed, and you worked. Everyone was paid the same amount, everyone worked the same long hours, and no one ever quit. There were curfews and rations and very strict laws.

And at first it had worked. The police were put in place to make sure everyone followed the rules, and things began to run smoothly. But there’s something that happens, Despair mused, when you treat people like that. After the system had been in place for a while, the government and the police had, perhaps just to justify their actions, begun to think of civilians as nothing more than animals.

Despair wrapped her arms around herself, ducking her head against the rain. She remembered when she had learned everything about The Computer, about what it did and how it worked; about how babies were just given numbers and taken away from their parents as soon as they were born. No one had names or families except people in the government or the police, the select few who were very very rich, very very powerful, and very very lucky. Anyone else who wanted to escape, who wanted to keep their children, had to go underground. Families were rare and illegal.

Despair sighed, pausing in the middle of the street and looking around. It was quiet – there were no sounds except the rain and the creaking of old metal hinges in an abandoned house.

She pulled out a cigarette and groaned in frustration as her lighter slipped out of her wet fingers. It clattered across the street, landing at the feet of a boy.

Despair blinked. He was very young, no more than four or five, and he didn’t have a badge. He was small and skinny and dressed in rags, but when he smiled at her his whole face lit up.

“Here,” he said, picking up the lighter and handing it to her.

Despair took it slowly. “Thanks.”

“That’s pretty,” the boy said, watching in wonder as she lit her cigarette. “What is it?”

“A lighter,” Despair murmured. Her eyes flickered up and down the little boy. “Don’t you have somewhere you need to be?”

His eyebrows pulled together, as though he was straining to remember something. “No,” he finally said. “I’m just waiting here for Mama, she went to get bread and—”


Despair almost dropped her lighter again as the shriek rang out, shattering the air. A woman ran out of the shadows and fell to her knees next to the little boy.

“What did I tell you?” she cried, grabbing him roughly. “What did I tell you to do if one of them ever saw you?” Tears were dripping down her cheeks, and as her eyes flickered to Despair – taking in her black uniform, her gun, and her shiny police badge – terror crossed her face. She hugged the boy closer. “I told you to pretend. I told you to tell them you lost your badge and don’t know how to get back to school. You don’t ever tell them you have a mama, not ever!”

The boy was crying now, hiding his face on his mother’s shoulder. She looked up at Despair, wrapping her arms tightly around her son.

“Please,” she whispered, “please. Don’t take my baby away.”

Despair looked at them, huddled together on the wet ground. She knew what she was supposed to do in situations like this – she would radio for backup. More police would be there in seconds. The boy would be entered into The Computer and put into School. And the woman…

Despair shut her eyes. Her fingers toyed with the radio on her belt; she slowly unclipped it and brought it to her mouth. A sob escaped the woman’s throat. There was panic on her face, but she didn’t beg, she didn’t fight. She just spoke one word.


And Despair stopped. Because she didn’t know why. All her life she had been raised to believe that the police were good. That civilians were bad. That she had a duty to the world, and as long as she did what she was told then she was one of The Good Guys.

A tear slid down her face as she went against everything she had ever been told. Slipping the radio back onto her belt, she walked rapidly away, leaving the stunned woman crouched on the street.

“Go home quickly,” she said, not looking back. “They’ll be patrolling this street soon.”

She walked as fast as she could, her brain running over everything she’d ever learned, questioning it, really questioning it, for the first time in her life. With each step she took she sobbed harder, until she finally reached the docks and collapsed.

She had no idea how long she sat there by the water. When she had finally cried herself out she realized the decision had been made, even though she hadn’t meant to make it.

She crawled to the edge of the dock. Pulling off her police badge, she dropped it into the water. Then went her radio, and her gun. She emptied her pockets, dropping anything that identified her as who she was. Then she gasped, lunging forward as her lighter slipped into the water.

She watched as it sank, then laughed slightly.

“Oh well,” she murmured, throwing her cigarettes in too. “I’ve been meaning to quit anyway.”


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. brachs
    Dec 26, 2010 @ 05:53:50

    Really moving stuff well done, bravo!


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