Peace For All

The Copia family had just been chosen by the Random Name Generator in the Population Control Subdivision of the Census Bureau for the third consecutive year, rendering Lara and Jackie childless once again. They sat together in silence on the couch facing the dormant Videoscreen. From above, they could hear three sets of legs pounding on the floor in the midst of some sort of child's game. Jackie put his right arm around his wife's shoulders and said, "So, you want to try again?"


Lara comprehended nothing of what was just said. Slowly, though, the magnitude of his words clawed its way through the loose gravel that was the sound of the happy pitter-pattering of the Lucas boys upstairs, poking its head through to her consciousness. "Try again?" Her gaze shifted from millions of miles away to the begging-for-mercy look on her husband's face. "Try again? What, so 'if at first you don't succeed?' Fuck you, Jackie! No I don't want to 'try again'!" Lowering her voice to her lap, she added, "What's the point?"

Lara was tired of all the forlorn looks from all the mothers who got to keep their children. The stares that bled, "That poor woman, she must be cursed." It only got worse when she found herself confronted with a gentle rubbing of the back by that insufferable Mrs. Dorman. She lost her first child, so she knew the extent of the pain that Lara was going through. But, she didn't know the vice-grip of two. She didn't know the futility of three. She didn't know the shadowy specter of infertility looming on the horizon right next to the once-warm crib, forever emptied by the cold steel of systematic bureaucratic injustice.

Lara curled herself into the tightest ball she could comfortably rest as, allowing Jackie to only place his hand on her left ankle. In her head, she asked herself over and over again as she dissolved into sleep, "What did I do to deserve this?"


Jackie kept asking himself over and over, "What are the odds they pick 'Copia' three years in a row?"

The prospect of having children didn't turn him off like it did the other fathers he was friends with. All they seemed to think about was the additional financial burden, not to mention the extra cumbersome taxation per child. Then again, in spite of all the 16-hour workdays (made necessary by the employment laws stating that, once married, only the men were allowed to work, to ensure enough employment for as many families as possible), in spite of the declarations of, "Jackie, I'd never say this in front of Lara, but you're the luckiest son of a bitch I know," Jackie knew that they'd never trade in their little Darwinist Status Symbols. While he may not have had to worry about making ends meet, the realization was starting to set in that he would have to worry about the end of the Copia name, and the disgrace that would follow.


Every Incline Year, those with uncommon surnames hoped and prayed that Smith or Jackson or James or Johnson or Jones was called. Depending on the influx of birthed infants over the last year, that determined how many needed to be destroyed to keep the population at a Constant/Decline level. Constant in that no growth was allowed; Decline in that the natural and accidental deaths over the years had been bringing population levels steadily, albeit slowly, downward. So, if more people died than were born in any given year, none of the infants required extermination. However, in the Incline Years, the head of the PCSCB, John Reering, selected surnames from the Random Name Generator until enough of the population had been chosen to bring levels back to Constant. Anyone with the selected surnames who birthed a child within the last twelve months felt the pinch of the forced downsizing.

The names, selected in secret at a ceremony of top public officials, were given to the Population Police for administration. The Population Police, scouring the country in their Incinerator Trucks - looking like oversized trash-collectors - wasted no time quibbling with pleading, crying, infuriated parents. No substitutions permitted.

And yet, every year they saw fathers screaming, "Take me instead!" as they were restrained at gunpoint, watching their squealing newborns whistling and writhing down the incinerator chute. While the initial impact of eliminating the procreating capabilities of an already-fertile father sounded like viable logic, it would do very little to shed the burden of a society overrun with humanity; not to mention the age difference between parent and child. The stark truth remained: adults were sooner to die of natural causes.

So sayeth the law of the land, the good book: "The Art of Living."


"Nobody said World Peace would come without a price." That's how the author of "The Art of Living," Samuel Goodman opened his landmark opus. Read and accepted by a select number of the world's top leaders as the only true gospel upon its initial release, a coalition of the world's biggest and best armies united to bring about Samuel Goodman's unique Vision. World Peace through Perpetual War. Of course, "Perpetual War" turned out to be 31 years of bloody fighting, flippant genocide, and uncompromised conviction. Anything short of total victory, any semblance of weakness through the dirty hands of conditional release, would not be tolerated. Millions died, millions more converted through various "humane" techniques, but eventually all conformed to The Vision, and World Peace was instilled.

A decade later, the Population Problem came to the forefront as a matter of international scrutiny. The death of unmitigated violence created the expansive growth of all the nations' peoples. From the Mother of Invention, a solution presented itself.


Subsequent volumes of "The Art of Living" touted the notion of population control through calculated and random infanticide as the only solution for both prolonged World Peace and the continued comfortable existence of the human race. Released every two years, or whenever a major revelation in philosophical thought (exclusively controlled by the government, in the Independent Thinking Branch of the Department of Status Quo, where potential instigators of revolt outbreaks were brainstormed on a daily basis as a means of preventative maintenance to the ways that might endanger World Peace) presented itself, requiring immediate attention and defaming. "The Art of Living" landed in each home's mail bin like a phone book, free for all to learn from and reacquaint.

With every child that was taken from Lara, she spent the following month in exile in what would have been the baby's bedroom, re-reading "The Art of Living" all the way through. She did so to remind herself that her sacrifice helped keep the world a peaceful and comfortable place. Once this line of thinking sunk into her consciousness, she would emerge ready to once again undertake in the act of pregnancy.

This time, however, Lara finished "The Art of Living" with one word in mind.


"Bullshit! It's complete and total bullshit!" Jackie couldn't understand his wife's line of thinking.

"Are you sure you read it correctly?" Lara looked at her husband like he just said 'Gullible' wasn't in the Dictionary.

"What are you talking about? How else could I read it?" Jackie shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't know, but how else could it explain this outburst of yours?" Lara paced quickly back and forth twice before throwing "The Art of Living" through the window. It landed on Mrs. Dorman's azaleas three stories below. "Are you crazy? Go get that!"

Jackie stood up to look out the hole created just above where his head was. "Fuck you! That book is bullshit and I aim to tell anyone who'll listen!" Jackie skipped over to his wife and clamped onto both of her shoulders, shaking her violently.

"No you won't! You'll do no such thing! Now, go down to the 18th floor and ask Mrs. Dorman for our book back. Tell her ... tell her you thought you saw a giant spider. She'll believe that, she's nuts about -" Lara jerked herself out of her husband's grip.

"No. You do it if you want your precious book." Jackie slapped Lara across the face, leaving his red handprint in its place. "Fucker!" Jackie stood silent in shock at what he'd did, as his wife crept slowly away, never leaving his sight. "Do you know what your fucking book would say about that? You're lucky I don't report you for Emergency Reprogramming!"

"I ... I'm sorry." Lara slapped at him repeatedly as he closed in for an apologetic embrace.

"Get away from me! I want nothing to do with you ... or that book ... or this whole fucking Vision."

Lara locked herself in the baby's room. She refused to reemerge for the next three months.


"Hi honey, welcome back." Jackie muted the News of the Hour on the Videoscreen and followed his wife with his gaze as she plopped down on the chair in the corner of the room. His unwavering sweetness was helpless to penetrate her rampaging icy exterior. "Feeling better?"

Lara grunted in response, staring at the silent vision of strangling poverty overseas. Underneath, the News of the Hour had a caption which read, "Starvation Crisis: 2057." The scrolling text underneath read, "65 days without food. Executions for cannibal gangs begin on Monday. Country's leaders feared dead inside rubble of destroyed embassy." Jackie saw he wasn't going to get any companionship from his wife, so he unmuted the Videoscreen.

"... a special trip by U.S. Ambassador for World Peace, Franklin Goodman - son to famed architect of the World Peace Movement and author of the seminal text outlining The Vision, Samuel Goodman. This will be Ambassador Goodman's third trip to this poverty-plagued region of South America in the last year. We're hearing reports that Samuel Goodman himself, now 87 years old and under constant supervision from doctors and security professionals, is planning on making an appearance - and possibly a speech - to help raise the spirits of this downtrodden area. For more on this, we go to special World Peace senior correspondent ..."


For the first time in a little over four months, Jackie felt what it was like to have his wife sleep by his side. Lara had her back to him, though she didn't intend to sleep very well. Jackie rolled over to face her, draping his left arm around her midsection. Slowly, he moved his hand underneath her nightshirt, making his way to her left breast. Lara's body stiffened momentarily, then relaxed in disgust. Jackie kissed the back of Lara's neck and she could feel that he'd already reached full arousal. In what he felt was his most seductive voice, Jackie breathed into her ear, "So, what do you say? Wanna give it another shot?" Jackie's hand moved down to his wife's crotch and slid his middle fingers between her thighs.

"I can't," Lara said, clutching onto those first tears with all the might her eyelids could extend.

"Yes you can," Jackie said as he rolled Lara onto her back, removing the covers. "You just have to believe -"

"I haven't had my period since the baby was born. I'm barren. I can't have any more children!" Lara covered her body and rolled back away from her husband.

Jackie lay there, stupefied. He wished he wasn't still aroused, but the time spent without his wife left him thirsting for the touch of a woman. He silently excused himself to finish his business in the bathroom.


"It's been such a long time, I'm glad to see you're well again." Mrs. Dorman was riding down the elevator to meet her family in the lobby. "Where are you off to?"

"Doctor's," Lara muttered. Mrs. Dorman said Lara looked well, but she most certainly did not. A week's worth of sobbing, no more than two baths in that period and a brief, but effective bout with the sauce ensured Mrs. Dorman was simply being polite.

"Oh dear," she said, fumbling with her purse handles. "I hope it didn't flare up again."

Lara thought about letting that one go by, but curiosity got the better of her. She had to know what excuse her husband was giving people to explain her prolonged absence.

"You know," Mrs. Dorman replied, unaware, "Your ... condition." She whispered this last bit like she thought its outright declaration might cause said condition to spread to her.

"Mrs. Dorman," Lara said, irritated with the whole process, her husband, her present company, the slowness of this elevator. "I had no condition. What did my husband say I had?"

"Oh, well, uhh, he said you'd developed spots on your ..." Mrs. Dorman proceeded to answer with her eyes as she brought them down to peek at the clothed area representing Lara's vaginal region. "And that was why you two weren't trying to have kids yet. You must know, Lara, that the whole building is praying for you two. I just know God will look down kindly on you after such heartbreaking hardships you've endured." Mrs. Dorman smiled sympathetically, reaching out and taking hold of Lara's marriage hand with both of hers. "Did you get the cookies I sent?"

Lara smiled that of someone who'd just discovered the patch of wool covering her eyes. She assertively retracted her hand from Mrs. Dorman's clutches. "No, no I didn't. And the joke's on you," Lara said as the elevator doors opened into the lobby where Mrs. Dorman's eldest son and her two church-bound grandchildren sat ever so well-behaved. For everyone to clearly hear, Lara said, "You and my lying, cheating scumbag of a husband. Your fucking God has seen fit to not only murder three of my children, but render my loins completely fucking useless. And you, and your fucking family and your fucking cookies can go to hell!" Lara closed the door after Mrs. Dorman stepped off, effectively canceling her trip to the doctor's.


The subsequent weeks of solitude saw Lara leave the baby's room in somewhat better spirits. She even felt like she could resume doing some of the homemaking duties she'd left for her husband all these months. However, when she passed by the entryway into the living room, she saw that it would have to wait. Lara entered into the room with both men - talking calmly - suddenly silencing themselves upon noticing her presence. They both stared at her.

"Father Bravermann, what are you doing here?" Lara knew home-visits were exceedingly rare for people of the church, with parishes so few and far between and congregations so very large. She also knew that his being here spelled doom for her.

"Mrs. Copia, please sit with us," Father Bravermann said, looking none too pleased to be in this position at this time.

Instinctively, Lara sat beside her husband, clutching him around his right arm. Stoic, Jackie never let his gaze intrude upon his wife's apprehensive exterior.

"Mrs. Copia," (heartbeat accelerated, eyes unblinking) "your husband and I" (instant glaze of cold sweat protruding the skin ducts, breathing shortened) "feel it's in your best interests,"


It all went black.


Lara never could recall what was said after that. She assumed she would've put up a verbal struggle, then foolishly pled with her husband - perhaps even going so far as to attempt sexual gratification right there in front of the Man of God. Lara could hardly remember how childish and reprehensible she used to behave like before The Cleansing. Too many wasted hours on crying and blaspheming.

She was better now, though. Lara and Jackie, in fact, had never been happier. They never let a day pass where they didn't mention in the most effusive ways how much they loved each other. No longer did she fret about her egg-less womb. No longer did he quietly complain about the elimination of his family name. No more bouts with solitude or depression. No more thoughts or council sought on the possibility of divorce, remarriage. No more emotional outbursts against loved ones. No more lustful animal yearnings into the realm of the Heathens.

Peace within the Copia family had finally been attained.