A Short Story by T. S. Dickson
I was in the mall on Sunday. We still go to the malls and parks and other public places, even after all this time. I don’t know why, when you consider the risks, but humans are creatures of habit, I guess. Whatever the reason, I found myself in the mall on a Sunday, and it was as crowded as it ever gets these days when the bell rang. A low, moaning boom, mournful and deeply resonant. We all stopped and looked around. I could hear the doors closing, the great metal gates sealing off the ways out of the building. I thought to myself, Oh God, not now. Please, not now. Was I about to be one of the ones to die?
“May I have your attention, please,” the voice spoke out of the air, polite and strangely friendly. “May I have your attention, please? There has been a detection. There has been a detection. A member terrorist has fled lawful pursuit and entered this building. As we cannot identify who this person is, all citizens in the area are under Temporary Condemnation. Please form an orderly line. A savior team will arrive shortly. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
Temporary Condemnation? How temporary was it for those selected? Oh God, please not me, not now, I thought to myself. Was this the moment I had trained for? Did I have the nerve to act?
There was a flash of light in the center of the mall, and the savior team arrived on the raised platform near the fountain, where just a month before Santa Claus had been sitting children on his lap. There were twelve of them: six humans and six of Them. The humans spread out, all smiles and very politely as they helped the crowd form up into a single line around the platform and fountain. One of the men reached me, gently taking me by the elbow and guiding me behind a white-haired man in a leather jacket.
“Here you go, citizen. Nothing to worry about. It is all just routine,” he said with a smile and then moved on helping others into line behind me.
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