A small, unassuming, harmless little man.
An obsolete man.
That was all it took for the world of Bridget McClay to be thrown into upheaval.
A broadcast, like so many before it, of an execution. A broadcast that she had sat through like the dozens that were shown night after night.
But this one had been...different. Where the others she could listen to without care, sometimes leaving the television on only for background noise, this one; the death of a man named Wordsworth, had been so arresting that she had been unable to look away.
The state made no mistakes and yet it's own representative, the one who had condemned that tiny man to his death, had declared 'in the name of God'.
Yet if there was no God, as the state had clearly proven, then his statement was contradictory to the facts, wasn't it?
But the state was infallible. They reminded everyone of this daily...that's what she had been taught. The state made no mistakes and the very notion that it could was preposterous!
The evidence was there. The proof had been broadcast. The state was infallible but had appointed a fallible man to power? How did that happen?
These thoughts planted doubt in her heart. An unfamiliar and altogether unwelcome emotion.
Yesterday all was right with the world. The state reigned supreme with the best interests of the world at it's core, the obsolete had to be eliminated and the state was infallible with it's decisions.
Today...today the world as she knew it had been turned on it's head. The state had contradicted the edict it had set forth, the obsolete man had spoken words from a book that had sung to a long dormant part of her soul and soothed it like a balm on a burn, and the very highest representative of the very thing she placed all of her faith in had crumbled.
Nothing made sense anymore.
Yesterday she doubted nothing; today she doubted everything.
Surely the words and deeds of one man, the words of one tiny man who stood eclipsed by the shadow of the entire government, couldn't make the entire universe as she had known it crumble.
But such words! Such honest, earnest, powerful and passionate words! Why did they cause such a stirring in her chest? Why did they cause a yearning for something more when she had always thought there was nothing else the world had to give?
Was this the first step in her becoming obsolete? To see the state make a mistake and to feel a fluttering in her soul where there hadn't been one before?
Would they know when they saw her? Would the tainting of that raw emotion from the man called Wordsworth be visible on her? Would they read the uncertainty in her heart where unshakeable loyalty used to reside?
Surely they would. The state proclaimed to know everything. To be rulers over all men for their own good.
Surely they would be able to smell it on her. Smell the tender beginnings of her misgivings about the omnipotence of the state.
It must be apparent, she thought with a shudder. She certainly sensed it in others she met on the street. Those who looked troubled by the broadcast of the night before. Those who stared at her with the vacant look of someone whose thoughts were jumbled and far away and frighteningly confusing.
There was terror there too, beneath the doubt and confusion. The terror mirrored in their faces that which she felt in her own mind that perhaps this was the way one became obsolete.
But that too made no sense. How could she be deemed obsolete for her thoughts? Were not her thoughts hers and hers alone, safe from the jurisdiction of the state?
Why did she feel fear of the things that bounded around in her own head? Why did she feel undeniable horror that if it was found out that she was doubting the sovereignty of the state she would be put to death?
The state executed those who were no longer useful; those who made the body weak with their differences and frailties. The terminally ill, the aged, those who spoke out of turn and denied that 'Yes, sir' and 'No, sir' were the only words in the common man's vocabulary?
How long would it be before she outlived her usefulness? How long before she became the old and the sick and the dying?
How long before they came for her?
It was a fear that haunted her day and night as she worked and followed orders and stayed hidden in her room afterwards. She was unable to face the uncertainty she felt written on the faces of all those she met.
She turned the scene played last night on her television over in her head again and again, clinging not to the assurances of the chancellor that the state was strong and had no fear, but instead to the small, unassuming man who faced his death with dignity and surety and...faith.
That was what had struck her so painfully like a blow to the chest. His unshakable faith.
If he was so wrong and the state so correct, why was the chancellor the one to crumble and the librarian the one to stand firm? Why was the small man the one to keep his spirit intact when that of the almighty establishment plummeted so severely?
More executions followed in the weeks after Wordsworth, as they always had, but more of them were unwilling to falter and be broken by the state. More and more they faced their own demise with stiff upper lips and bravery and quotes of the little man Wordsworth from a book none of them had laid eyes on because it was a forbidden text. Each of them added to his strengthening legacy with words of passion that touched her the way his had.
It was shocking really how quickly and efficiently a resistance formed. It was shocking that she found herself counted among them.
More shocking still was how quickly the state had fallen. Fallen so swiftly that it was a testament to the resilience of the human spirit; that underlying need for freedom that resided in them all that allowed them to break through the oppression in a single night.
The state was quickly replaced, not by another government, but instead by a group of the survivors; idealists who followed the example of one small, timid but strong, seemingly insignificant man; a symbol of all that mankind should aspire to be.
In the years that followed, there were stories told of a great and powerful government that had never made a mistake; that had never erred in the eyes of it's subjects until it made the greatest blunder of all.
For the greatest mistake that any establishment can make, regardless of their core of belief, is that of creating a martyr.
A/N: After watching "The Obsolete Man" I was so moved that I just couldn't leave the thing alone and had to write what happened after the ending of the episode. Guess I'm a sucker for happy endings and 'down with the man' attitudes.
Shh...don't tell anyone, I'm supposed to be all hardcore, jaded and cynical and not with a soft goopy center of idealism and hope. T'would ruin my reputation if it got around.