the holoscreens were projecting frightening images at an alarming rate. these teenagers were having some incomprehensible thoughts. william hated that he was required by law to monitor every synapse firing across their developing brains.
being an adolescent in 2045 hadn’t changed much from when william was young; the only real difference was this mind reading component. he knew as a teen that the technology would be developed in his lifetime, though he had no idea it would horrify him as much as it did, it was a ‘be careful what you wish for’ scenario.
on the one hand the benefits were numerous: from understanding a baby’s needs to assisting a casualty of an accident out of their catatonic state among countless others.
the flaws were obvious. there is no longer such a thing as privacy. orwell was wrong about the year but not about the circumstances. incredible abuses of power took place. only those of a certain authority were permitted to receive mental transmissions and some used it to exploit those considered to be inferior to them.
the holoscreen reproductions wouldn’t have been so damaging if william had felt supported when passing on information about one of the more gruesome conceptions. his line manager would not allow him to explain anything, nor would he listen after having asked a question. it made for incredibly difficult communication; often it meant lack there of in the communication department.
in his experience of teaching moral philosophy, the topics covered meant that his impression of their inner most thoughts were being displayed. since the world government’s decision to outlaw religion it was dropped from the curriculum and made for more strange thinking to view as there became a repression of sorts in those kids that had residually religious parents and grandparents.
he enjoyed on some level that he had much more to observe and analyse than his colleagues that taught maths or geography. he had seen it all, from romantic interest fantasies to visual allegations of maltreatment to filthy dungeon nightmares complete with cockroaches, maggots, spiders and scorpions among other beasties.
the problem was his state of limbo; torn between caring about the kids and the disgust he felt toward their sickening notions displayed for only william to see. it took getting used to and he had to temper his reactions so the other youth present wouldn’t see his fear, discomfort or even delight at witnessing something incredibly captivating on one of those screens.
he had been at it for years, this observation and analysis. it wasn’t until a strange new student arrived that this already bizarre present had been turned upside down, something impossible to imagine prior to this encounter.
the boy was tall and wide, built like a refrigerator. he seemed calm and amenable at first. he entered the class complete with transfer slip as evidence from the front office.
he asked where he was to sit, politely, and william told him he should sit next to the person his instinct told him was the most trustworthy. this statement and the new boy’s lumbering movement set a number of telescreens into action. some students projected images of themselves at their best, while others had clearly resigned themselves to being their own naturally deceitful selves.
what struck william was that this boy’s brain had not projected anything. puzzled, he didn’t yet know this boy’s name or why he couldn’t see the boy’s outrospective thoughts.
the boy sat down next to steven. not the best choice.
william asked him his name and the boy said it was adam. class rounded off as normal, some interesting last minute thoughts about the activities and discussions.
william asked adam to remain behind. the boy seemed confused; possibly at being asked to remain behind after his first lesson.
in that moment, william was thrown off his game. what would he say to this boy? why had he even asked him back? he could have easily looked into the matter and spoken to this brute force later.
he played it cool and rifled through files in his brain storage compartment marked moral philosophy. he told the boy that because he had arrived late, he would have to catch up on the reading. he asked the boy if he was set up to the school’s system and ready to receive files from brain wave to brain wave. again, the boy’s face squeezed in confusion.
‘at my last school i used my wrist port to accept transfers from my teachers.’
‘looks to me like you’re out of the new technological loop. what school have you come from?’
‘green ridge. you might not know it. it is about 6 hours hover drive from here.’
william knew the school, all right. it was for high risk adolescents. their success rate had gone up in the past few decades, though 9% was not something they could be too proud of considering it took the better half of a century to jump 4%. it was a place for those poor souls that had the displeasure of living through cumulative disadvantage hell from conception. they were the world’s future paedophiles, murderers and drug addicts.
still lost in thought, he wondered which notch of the success continuum adam would find himself etched. his mind was reeling with the possibilities circling his brain like vultures circling their next meal. was he abused? was he neglected? only time would tell.
‘let’s head over to the admin office so we can get the necessary paperwork in order.’
the boy didn’t say much; quiet and stoic seeming. they walked together, no words were spoken. the teacher remained quiet because he thought the boy would appreciate the silence. he was quiet and composed but thinking quick as a flash.
william didn’t eat that night. he drank a whole week’s beer ration instead. he added a great deal of free association writing, if you could call it that in this day and age, to his thought journal. and the questions:
were his holoscreen graphic records sealed?
would the images be too frightening for anyone to witness?
was there another reason he was blocked from receiving adam’s thought projections?
would he ever see into this boy’s mind?
was there anything he could do to help?
the next day william’s hangover was debilitating. he drank copious amounts of coffee and ate a number of greasy and sugary items to get himself back on track.
the drunken hunger was not the only symptom. he definitely had the hangover paranoia. he had the sinking feeling that his affliction was much deeper than the alcohol, that he was anticipating impending doom.
adam and steven’s moral philosophy group met last period. william was dreading it, odd as it was his favourite class. he couldn’t stop thinking about the disturbance in his body, swimming among his red and white blood cells like eels exploring his organs. the hope was the the lesson would hurry past, incident free.
they were all talking. he waited. he wasn’t going to talk over them and soon they would notice he was expecting their attention. it took 6 or 7 minutes but they noticed.
‘right class. how many of you have done the reading?’
three hands out of a possible twenty went up. excuses and alibis displayed on the remaining screens.
‘in my day you’d have to use your brain. now you people just have to download a file.’
william paused. silence.
‘it takes two seconds to receive the homework and you couldn’t be bothered. well today i’m not going to be bothered.’ he felt guilty after that last line and knew his harsh reactions was directly related to his current predicament. however, there was no turning back.
‘you will take the two seconds now and accept the reading. after that you will upload your responses to the class file. no less than one thousand words.’
students began to protest. a sea of words, impossible to navigate.
he left the room, student comments and questions ignored.
child protection was no longer an issue because the world government had decided that anyone over the age of six was responsible for their actions. these kids were in their teens and if anything should happen, william was not to be held accountable.
he didn’t even consider that anything could go wrong.
once william went out of the room, the students were silent for a time. after they realised he was not coming back they went back to their version of normal. the three that had done the homework were busy working away while the rest of the class got up to varying stages of no good. kids were tipping on chairs, sitting on tables, running around, shouting, gossiping, drumming on desks, rifling through william’s things and a few left the room.
apart from the new boy, adam, they all knew their teacher was in one of those weird moods when he couldn’t handle them. this wasn’t the first time they had witnessed his weird behaviour. unconsciously they all realised he was human and capable of demonstrating that through occasional breakdowns.
through the noise, chat and disruptive conduct around him, adam sat silently. staring into space, no one noticed. it was as if he wasn’t there and had never existed. another student, jonathan, sat down at the out of place piano and began to play soft, comforting notes that went unnoticed.
adam stood up and walked toward candice. she was splayed out on the desk with her hands behind her in support while her legs swung back and forth over the edge. it happened as if both slowed down and sped up by a video recorder. an impossibility a reality.
candice looked in his eyes, vacant and withdrawn. she quietly mouthed ‘what the fuck?’ to herself.
before she could react, adam pulled a knife out of somewhere and plunged it into her thigh, slicing her femeral artery open. blood poured out over her. adam walked back to his spot, blood dripping along the floor all the way, and sat down.
other young people in the vicinity did not notice at first. jonathan continued to play the piano while all of the varied activities carried on uninterrupted. candice didn’t make a noise audible above the level of the other racket.
sarah observed first. her eyes catching candice’s weakened state, she followed visually the blood trail which led to adam. instantly cold, pale and clammy, sarah rose to her feet and slowly exited the room. she did not want to be seen in amongst the busy teens. she was scared but conscious that she must remain calm.
she found william and at first could not speak. this surprised her in light of the urgency of the situation.
‘what is it, sarah?’ he asked with an angered tone.
william looked closer and realised the girl was disturbed. her holoscreen displayed the very thing she could not say.
‘sit down.’ he motioned to a chair. ‘i will get security involved.’
he ran out of the humanities office and toward the security station. in retrospect, he realised he could have called over to them without leaving sarah via the magic of his thinking machine. the trouble was that he was incapable of thinking clearly on this particular day.
‘there has been a murder in my classroom.’ his voice was shaky. ‘the assailant was last seen sitting calmly, holding the knife.’
security personnel said nothing before reacting.
william began to worry and wonder what would become of him. why did he allow this strange boy to get under his skin? he had lost all of his faculties to the drink and had put his most amazing pupils at risk as a result. legally he was not accountable. adam was. but morally…