“That must’ve been a doozy,” said Mrs. Bergeron to her son Melvin. “I think your ears are bleeding a little.”
Of course Melvin couldn’t hear her until the ringing subsided, but he could see that she was doing her best to show compassion.
“I’m ok, Ma. Gosh, that was a doozy.”
“That’s what I said,” she repeated. “Must’ve been a doozy.”
“What must’ve been?”
“I can’t remember,” she answered, shrugging as she had done so many times before. Being precisely at the National average level of intelligence, she didn’t need to wear a Brain Handicapper like her slightly-above-average-intelligence sons. So she could only guess what the loud disruptions sounded like–that is, on days when she could hold a thought for longer than 60 seconds.
“What was I just talking about?” Melvin asked, dabbing a drop of blood from the Handicapper earpiece. “Something about life and… and death.”
“Don’t strain yourself too much, son.”
But Melvin wasn’t listening to her. He was hot on the trail of his last thought, a thought that lately had become so pervasive that even the Handicapper couldn’t knock it completely out of his head. “Yes, death I think. And the idea that death renders all of this suffering unnecessary. Unnecessary and… Pointless, really.”
“Here, son. You missed a spot. Let me clean that for you,” she said as she absent-mindedly removed the Handicapper from her son’s head. This, of course, sent an immediate alarm signal to the Department of Handicapper Affairs. But as long as the Handicapper was placed back on his head within 30 seconds, the Mind Police wouldn’t be sent to their address.
While Mrs. Bergeron cleaned the blood off the earpiece, Melvin rubbed his ears and continued thinking aloud. “And if something is pointless, then it makes sense that the act of doing it should cease, right?”
“Mm hmm. There, all clean! Here, put this back on, son.”
But Melvin held up his hand in a sudden defiant gesture, almost threatening. “Wait, Ma. Let me sort this out a second…”
Through the earpiece could be heard the next Brain Handicapper signal, something like a jackhammer being dropped from a great height. Melvin didn’t even flinch. Even if the Handicapper were fitted tightly on his head per regulations, his train of thought was so powerful at this point that nothing could stop it. Meanwhile the 30 second alarm turned red on his Handicapper, indicating that he was in serious violation of the Law. The Mind Police would be there in under a minute, as quickly as the elevators would get them up to the 23rd floor.
But Melvin didn’t need a minute. He didn’t even need to finish his sentence or even say goodbye to his mother. His brain had finally made the connection that it had been struggling to make ever since he had been fitted with the Handicapper. And that singular, beautiful thought–the one which the Law had fought to suppress for centuries–took hold and raged to life within young Melvin’s mind.
Before leaping to his feet, bounding to the window and hurling himself through it in one fantastic motion, Melvin said only this: “The answer! So simple!”
Thirty seconds later the Mind Police crashed through the door and found Mrs. Bergeron, dazed, in the middle of the floor. For a brief moment, her face contorted into a look of profound understanding and sadness, and then it went blank again.
“Oh my,” she said to the visitors. “You must be the window repairmen. It seems there’s a draft.”