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June 28th, 2020
“You’ve been arrested for an improper thought that you had at 12:17.”
Lucilius blinked, looking at the masked official, and then looked around for a clock. He didn’t even realize it was already past noon. There was no clock around, and it didn’t matter anyhow. He squinted, his brow knit in confusion and effort to remember, as though something horrible were there in memory. But it was already absurd. How could he have any idea which thought it was if he didn’t even really know what time it was. Lucilius looked back up at the masked official.
“What was it?”
“Due to it’s improper nature, it is illegal to utter the thought.”
“But I don’t remember having an improper thought.”
“Memory of an improper thought has no influence on it’s propriety.”
“So you are arresting me for having a thought that I can’t even remember having?”
“You are being arrested for an improper thought.”
“This is dumb, you can’t even tell me what it was or why it was improper?”
“Careful, your speech is bordering on the realm of impropriety.”
“Well what’s it matter now if I’m already arrested for a bad thought?”
“That is an improper and illegal question.”
“So does that mean I’m like… double arrested?”
“The full force of the law will be brought upon you when it is made aware of your crimes.”
“It? Like, the law? When the law is made aware of my crimes.”
“Yes, the law.”
“Well the law just a set of rules, it has no consciousness. And the law is expressed through individuals like you, officers and officials who are tasked with carrying out the law.”
“Yes, this is correct.”
“So isn’t the law already aware of my crimes because you’re aware of them?”
“Judge and jury shall decide your fate.”
“Praise be the system, at last.”
The official began to motion Lucilius toward the vehicle that would whisk Lucilius away for his arraignment. But after a step, Lucilius grew rigid, turning to the official.
“May I ask you a question?”
Seeing that Lucilius was otherwise compliant, and that he presented no real risk, the official decided to entertain it.
“Yes, but anything you say may be held against you in the court of law.”
“Sure, sure, I’m all for it,” Lucilius said. “I’m just wondering, how would I have avoided the improper thought?”
The mask worn by the official remained blank. Lucilius leaned in slightly and squinted as if he might be able to see through the mask. After a moment the mask jolted back, as though finally noticing how close Lucilius was. Lucilius also moved back, startled.
“What were you thinking?” Lucilius asked.
“It’s time to go,” the official said.
“You weren’t.. having an improper thought were you?” Lucilius teased.
“Your question borders on treason.”
“Well, I prefer to keep interesting neighbors. But before we move on, I have on more question, simple, harmless, I promise. I’m really just interested in being a good citizen, and who better to show me the way than the law as embodied by you good sir?”
The flattery seemed to work as the official hesitated.
“What blasphemous question do you have now?”
“Well, I’m just wondering how you avoid having improper thoughts. You for example, are clearly an upstanding citizen as you’re so well acquainted with the law that you essentially are the law. Anyway, my question is, how do you predict your next thought in order to know whether it’s improper or not?”
There was only silence from the masked official.
“Can you predict your next thought?” Lucilius prodded a little more. “Wouldn’t that be necessary in order to avoid an improper thought? The only thing that enables a person to get out of the way of a speeding car is to see it coming and move out of the way before it actually gets to you. But with thoughts, do you ever really see them coming? Don’t they just happen, like unannounced guests barging into your house?”
The masked helmet of the official tilted off slightly, as though the mind encased beneath were considering something.
“To predict a thought is to actually have the thought. So how do you get out of the way of an improper one?”
Lucilius watched the silent mask.
“You… didn’t just have an improper thought, did you?”
“No! Absolutely not.”
Lucilius raised his open hands. “Sorry, sorry, I was just wondering. . . . But, how do you know you’re not about to have one?”
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