Wednesday, June 14, 2006
They never told him why he had been selected. The crisp manila envelope arrived with rest of his mail. On it cover, the envelope bore his address and, printed neatly in the corner, a small government insignia. He had noticed it as he rifled through his mail and he immediately knew what it was. There was the usual mail: a telephone bill, a pizza flyer, a bank statement, and then there was the obtrusive envelope. He thrust the other mail aside; it wasn't important now. He let the envelope sit on the table while he hunched over it, hands folded, contemplating this momentous article of mail. There it sat, in all its brownish-gold glory, waiting for his shaking hands to brandish the letter opener and release the contents. He wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead. Why was he nervous? After all, hadn't he known what was written in that fateful package the moment he saw it? He finally decided that he was nervous because he had no idea why he had been selected. He was a gainfully employed, middle-aged, passive, healthy, law-abiding citizen. He had never broken the law, never disturbed the peace, and never ever done anything remotely controversial. In fact, he rarely spoke at all and, when he did, he chose his words with a mundane precision that ensured that he had few conversations and even fewer friends. He was a careful man and he had done all he could to ensure that his life would leave the world as undisturbed as possible. For every decision he made, he had cautiously made certain that no ripple would be felt by anyone. He muttered anxiously under his breath, and suddenly wondered if this habit were the cause of his fate. No, that didn't seem possible. But why? Why had he been chosen? It was not random. They used a method, a system, to choose recipients. He picked the envelope up in tremulous hands: it was surprisingly light for such a heavy notice. He clutched the letter opener, carefully, but unsteadily, guiding across the top of the envelope. Then, as if it were ancient parchment, he gingerly plucked the sheet from the envelope. Finally, he read the words he had already knew were written there: "YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED FOR OUR POPULATION CONTAINMENT PROGRAM. PLEASE REPORT TO THE PREFECT." He sighed, glanced half-heartedly at the phone, wishing he had someone to call to answer his question: why had he been chosen?