THE GALTON PRINCIPLE
By J Alan Erwine
This story first appeared in the March 2001 issue of Just Because
Lewis Goddard stared into his dresser mirror, pleased with what he saw. The dark gray, almost black, uniform fit him well, as it always did. The insignia of the black X on a light gray background that adorned his collar told of his special ranking among the Galton Youth, an organization of young men dedicated to maintaining the recently instituted genetics laws. He was proud to be a member, and he wanted everyone to know it. Lewis adjusted the red armband on his left upper arm. He wanted it to fit exactly as regulations required. The armband, which also bore the X insignia, was worn by all members of the Galton Youth. It told of their place in society.
Lewis pulled his holster from the bookcase, removing the revolver from the holster and stroking it. He smiled as he felt the cold iron grow warm under his touch. This was what made him powerful. Very few people in the New Society could wear guns. They were limited to the army, the Galton Youth, and the leaders. Lewis replaced the gun in the holster and put the belt on, feeling it wrap tightly around his waist like a long lost lover.
He looked down at his finely polished black boots and smiled again. He could see his reflection, even from six feet away. The boots were definitely shined according to regulations.
He left his room and walked to the spiral staircase that led to the first floor of his parents’ home, stopping at the top of the staircase where an old black and white framed poster hung. It was a man with very large sideburns dressed in early twentieth century garb. Lewis stared in reverence and then saluted the picture with great fervor.
“Our great father, Sir Francis Galton, thank you for your wisdom and guidance in saving the human race from what it could have become,” Lewis said with a reverence that would have been more appropriate in a church, if there had been any churches left. Lewis again adjusted his gunbelt and headed down the stairs and out the front door.
He’d heard that Washington D.C. hadn’t changed much in the last twenty years, at least not in its physical appearance. The great monuments had been maintained as examples of early American villainy. The only heroes left in the Society were those that had supported the eugenics movements in some way in the past, people like Sir Francis Galton, Lewis Terman, Adolf Hitler, and various twentieth century sociobiologists.
If the city hadn’t changed much in physical appearance, its society had definitely changed. As Lewis walked down the street, he dodged out of the way of hundreds of people wearing purple armbands. These were the genetically unfit. They were the people that were seen as being unsuitable for breeding. They were the sterilized. Lewis gave each of them a sneer, and if any came too close, he backed away, as if a bad genetic code could be transmitted like a virus.
Lewis picked his way through the crowd, trying not to be overwhelmed by his disgust, until he came to a building that had once housed the United States Supreme Court. A new name had been carved into the marble. It read “Genetic Court of the New Society.” Lewis climbed the steps of the building and walked through the front door, stepping through a scanner as he entered. The scanner chimed twice, calling a mechanical guard from a side passage. The guard immediately demanded Lewis’ gun.
“I’m a member of the Galton Youth. I give my gun to no one,” he said in his most authoritative voice, although his voice cracked as he said it.
“Identify yourself,” the robot commanded.
“Lewis Goddard, captain in the Galton Youth.” Lewis enjoyed saying he was a member of the Galton Youth. The power of the statement gave him an erection every time he uttered it.
“Will you agree to a retinal scan?” the robot asked in its droning mechanical voice.
“Of course,” Lewis said, bending down to look the robot in the eye.
“Identification verified,” the robot said, although it didn’t seem excited or bothered by the decision. “Proceed to Courtroom One, the vile criminals await you there.” The last was said with phony mechanical malice. Lewis wasn’t very impressed by the programmer’s work.
He walked to the courtroom, his heavy boots echoing off the walls like the pulse of some mighty monster. Two heavily armed guards saluted him as they opened the heavy oak doors of Courtroom One. An angry clamor burst through the opening doors. The courtroom was filled with people, all of whom turned to look at Lewis as he entered. For a moment, he felt fear as he saw the hatred in some of their eyes. Some part of his brain made sure to note the faces of those people for later retribution.
The prosecutor got up from his plush chair and walked back to greet Lewis. “Mr. Goddard, glad you could make it,” he said, offering his hand.
“I’m just doing my duty, sir,” he said as he noted the golden double X insignia on the man’s lapel, signifying his military rank.
“I’m General van Edwards,” the man said as he absently stroked the pencil-thin mustache above his thin pale lips. The man had a slightly stooped posture and a scar that ran a course from his left ear to his chin, reminding Lewis of the Mississippi River.
“Which battle did you fight in, sir?” Lewis asked.
“The Cleansing of the Cherokee,” the general responded with a smile. Lewis was familiar with the battle. It had been the bloodiest of all the Cleansings. Tens of thousands of Cherokee Indians that had been declared genetically inferior had been cleansed from the new nation during those glorious ten days, taking many of the “true people” with them.
“All rise,” a mechanical voice commanded from the ceiling. Lewis and General van Edwards walked forward to the prosecutor’s table. “This genetic trial is now in session. The Honorable Lord Justice Watt presiding.”
A tall, gaunt, skeleton of a man stepped through an opening panel behind the bench. The frail-looking man looked as though he was about to collapse under the weight of his scarlet robes and his pointed hat. “You may be seated,” he said in a voice that seemed to echo off the walls of the courtroom. It was a voice that seemed incongruous with the man’s emaciated face.
“Bring in the accused,” he said to a side wall which parted at his words. Two heavily armed and armored guards stepped through the opening, escorting a man and woman in shackles. The shackled people were thin from starvation torture and their faces were nothing more than a collection of swollen black and blue bruises. They tried to carry themselves with dignity, but the best they could manage was a shuffling gait. As they passed the prosecutor’s table they glared at Lewis with looks that would have frightened the Medusa. Lewis turned from their glare. The guards, who carried enough armament to stop a fleet of tanks, positioned the accused in front of the judge’s bench.
“You stand accused of one of the most heinous crimes against humanity,” the justice belowed at them with sincere anger. “You are accused of trying to procreate, even though you have been deemed unfit. You are also accused of failing to have yourselves sterilized. Bring up the witness!”
At this, Lewis stood up and sauntered up to the judge’s bench, adjusting his holster as he went. “I’m the witness, your Lord Honor. I’m Lewis Goddard, captain in the Galton Youth.”
The judge nodded at Lewis. “Present your evidence, Captain.”
“At one time, I called...the accused my best friends. Mr....I cannot utter his name, your Lord Honor, but the male accused came to me and told me that they had been making attempts at having a child. I had learned of their misfortune at being labeled genetically inferior, but I didn’t see this as a reason to terminate the friendship, only to reduce my involvement with them.” He hoped the judge wouldn’t question him on that point. He wasn’t sure how he could justify staying involved in these people’s lives. He felt like a hypocrite, but they’d been friends for years.
Lewis looked towards the judge, but didn’t look right at him. “He said he trusted me because we’d been friends for so long; so he told me of their plans. You have seen those plans, your Lord Honor, so I won’t bother repeating them. I then informed the leader of the Galton Youth, although I have to admit I was slightly reluctant. We invaded their home and found them attempting to procreate.” Lewis turned to his former friends and smiled with what he hoped was a sinister smile.
The judge glared at the accused with a horrified sneer. “This court finds the accused guilty. The penalty shall be mandatory sterilization, immediately. You will then be given the most extensive psychopharmacological treatment our scientists have designed. When it is deemed that you are chemically balanced and fit to return to society, you will be returned, but you will be returned separately and in areas away from the capital. This is this court’s ruling. We stand adjourned.” The judge then stood and walked through the opening panel behind his bench.
“But we love each other!” the woman screamed in a shrill voice that threatened to destroy everyone’s eardrums.
“This isn’t about love,” Lewis said. “This is about right and wrong and preserving society.”
The accused man started to leap for him. Lewis stepped back and drew his gun with lightning-fast reflexes, but one of the guards had already produced a stun rod and was jamming it into the man’s back. He fell limply to the ground.
“You’re fast on the draw,” a voice said from behind Lewis. He turned to face General van Edwards.
“I’m a member of the Galton Youth. We’re trained to be fast,” he said, adjusting his stance.
“Maybe so, but you’re faster than most. Can I buy you lunch, son? I think we have some things to talk about.”
“Uh, well sir, it’s a most gracious offer, but I’m afraid I can’t today. My girlfriend and I are going in for testing.”
“Planning on getting married?”
“Yes, sir. So I really need to go after I file charges. Shellie can be quite a bear when I’m late.”
“Well, good luck to you, son.”
“Luck’s not needed, sir. I have faith in Sir Galton. I know I’ll be fine.”
“Well, good luck to your girlfriend, then,” said General van Edwards, again offering his hand.
Lewis hesitantly took the hand. “Thank you, sir,” he said, trying to hide his fear. He’d been trying not to think what would happen if Shellie didn’t meet qualifications. Faith, you have to have faith, he told himself.
* * *
He met Shellie at the genetics clinic. She was dressed in her standard blue jumpsuit which hugged her figure in all the places that Lewis wanted it to hug. He took her in his arms and kissed her deeply, finding that saying he was a member of the Galton Youth wasn’t the best way to get aroused. It had been almost a week since he’d last seen Shellie and he was just starting to realize how much he’d missed her as he held her close. Her long brown hair rubbed against his face as her ample breasts rubbed against his chest. Oh, he had missed her so much.
“Lewis, you’re strangling me,” she gasped.
“Sorry, hon. I’ve missed you,” he said with a smile. “I’m sorry I’m a little late. The accused tried to attack me, so I had to stay and file charges.”
“How’d the trial go?”
“Guilty, of course. The slime bags.” He looked hesitantly at the door to the examining room. “Have you gone in yet?”
“Yeah, I just finished. They’re all set up for you as soon as you’re ready. It’s fun. They’ve got some really big needles,” she said with a laugh.
“I’m not afraid,” he said with mock heroism, even though the thought of a needly sent cold clammy hands crawling along his back.
“Mr. Goddard,” a nurse said to him. “We’re ready.”
* * *
Lewis was poked and prodded in more places than he thought he had. “I’m sure I must have two new orifices,” he said to Shellie, as he shifted in his waiting room seat.
“That’s disgusting. If you’re nervous, why don’t you just say so?”
“I’m not nervous,” he answered too quickly. “What reason would I have to be nervous?”
“Well, what do we do if---?”
“Lewis, Shellie,” a man in a long green jacket interrupted her. “Why don’t you come back to my office,” the doctor said with a smile that Lewis thought was fake.
Cold fear grasped at Lewis’ throat. They’re going to take Shellie’s ovaries. He imagined her lying naked and prone on an examining table as a doctor hacked and cut at her, sending blood flying everywhere. Shellie grabbed his hand, erasing the image from his mind. He stood on suddenly shaky legs and followed the doctor and Shellie back to the man’s office.
“Have a seat,” the man said, motioning his meaty arm towards a pair of chairs that sat across from his imitation mahogany desk. “A little information might help you understand all of this,” the doctor said. “The reason for these procedures is to test so that only genetically viable people will be able to reproduce. This is in order to maintain the genetic purity of our species. Although genetic manipulation is possible, it’s too expensive, and besides we need to reduce the population somewhat anyway.”
“With all due respect, Doctor,” Lewis interrupted. “I’m a member of the Galton Youth. I know all of this.”
“Very well,” the doctor said, although he looked disappointed at not being able to continue his speech. “Shellie, your tests have come back A+. You’re approved for reproduction. In fact, your genetic make-up is so outstanding, the government will pay you to reproduce.”
Shellie beamed ecstatically. A look of relief washed over Lewis’ features. His worst fear had been dispelled. He could finally have children with the woman he loved.
“Lewis, I’m afraid that your results came back B+. You almost made it, but your genetic make-up isn’t quite good enough to allow you to reproduce. We can set up an appointment now if you’d like, or you can go home and then get in touch with me in a few days, but you will have to be sterilized within the next week. I’m sorry.”
Lewis didn’t think the man looked very sorry. In fact, Lewis thought he could see a smug grin on the doctor’s face. Lewis felt a trembling in his stomach which slowly spread to the rest of his body. Before he could regain control, he was shaking like some kind of infant.
* * *
The next several hours were a blur for Lewis. He could remember flashes of a bus trip, walking through the rain, and coming home, but everything was disjointed. It had the surreal impression of a horrifying dream. He didn’t know how, but somehow he’d gotten home and was now lying in bed, alone, so very alone.
He slept fitfully. Tossing and turning, writhing in agony. He dreamed of great marching armies burning towns and women and children as they marched. In his dreams he saw himself being cut apart, being dissected for his organs in order to feed the genetically superior. He also dreamed of himself being shot as he tried to flee from guards. All in all, he didn’t sleep very well.
As morning came, he knew what he had to do. He had to go in that morning and face the doctor’s scalpel. It was the only thing a law-abiding citizen could do. It was much to his great surprise that he didn’t go to the doctor’s office. Instead, he found himself on a train headed west. He didn’t know where he was going, he just knew it wasn’t to the doctor’s office, and that was all that mattered.
The wide open expanse of the plains sped by him at 200 miles an hour. Colors blended together, much like his thoughts. People got on and off the train, but Lewis failed to notice any of them. As the train sped on, the greens, blues, and browns of the plains faded into blacks and grays. He was passing through Oklahoma, the site where the American Indians had made their last stand against the genetic ideals of the European invaders. They had failed. Is this foreshadowing of my own life, Lewis asked himself. For the first time in his life, Lewis allowed himself to feel sympaty for the Indians, as well as all the people that had suffered under the new regime.
The others on the train began to take on substance for him. He noticed several children playing in the innocent way in which children play. He also noticed two guards standing in the compartment. Each of them looked like they had a board shoved down their backs to keep them standing straight.
As the train approached its next stop, an old man who had been sitting next to Lewis stood to disembark. As he did, a book fell from the pocket of his large black overcoat. Lewis started to say something, but he stopped and stared in horror at the man as he saw the man was wearing a purple armband smeared with green paint. So horrified was Lewis that he couldn’t tell the man about the fallen book. Instead, he just stared at the back of the receding form.
As reality began to seep back into Lewis’ brain he picked up the book. It was one he’d only heard rumors of. He’d never expected to see an actual copy. It was The Bible.
Intrigued, he began to read through it, even though he knew it was one of the books that had been banned by the new regime. Anyone caught with one of those books could be shot on sight. The thought scared Lewis, but he couldn’t stop reading.
Sometime later, Lewis wasn’t sure how much later, a voice startled him. “Good book?”
Lewis tried to hide the book, although the action was futile. “I...I...I was just...”
“Relax,” the woman said with a warm smile. Lewis guessed that she was probably in her mid-thirties. She wore a large floppy purple hat with feathers. It was something that Lewis figured the government would have banned, but he was in the west now and the New Society wasn’t as blindly accepted here as it was in the east. “It’s all right. I’m not going to turn you over to the XX.”
“The what?” Lewis asked.
“The XX,” she said. “It’s what we call the troops. It’s a play on words. Haven’t you studied history?”
“Of course I have,” Lewis said in surprise.
“Oh, of course,” the woman said. “You’ve studied that New Society history. XX is a play on Hitler’s SS. Look it up.”
“I know what the SS was, but I don’t see the parallel.”
“Well, look it up anyway. You’ll understand.”
“I will, ma’am.”
“Oh, dear Lord, don’t call me that. I’m not some old maid. My name’s Emily,” she said, brushing long blonde curls from her eyes. “Were you a soldier before you broke the law?”
“Broke the...I didn’t break any laws!”
“Relax, kid. I told you I’m not going to turn you in. Which law did you break?”
Lewis studied her for a moment. She seemed like the type that would have been considered eccentric even by the standards of the old United States. In this society, she was like no one else he’d ever met. That was why he decided to trust her. “I was B+. I’m running.”
She whistled. “I guess if you’re going to break the law, you might as well make it one of the biggest. Where are you going now?”
“I don’t know,” he replied, looking at his scuffed boots. He knew they wouldn’t pass inspection, but then he wouldn’t pass anyway, he was, after all, a fugitive. The word seemed strange to his mind.
Without thinking, he launched into telling his whole story: the trial, Shellie, everything.
When he was finished, Emily nodded and smiled. “I’m going to Boulder. Why don’t you come with me?”
“Colorado, for God’s sake. What kind of an education does the XX give their people, anyway? Here, read this,” she said, shoving a thin book into his hands and nervously looking at the guards, who seemed uninterested in their surroundings.
Lewis took it and flipped it over to look at the cover. The title was Romeo and Juliet, another of the banned books. “That’s how love should be,” Emily said to him, leaning close to his ear. He could feel her hot breath warming his earlobe. It startled him to find that he was actually getting aroused by this older rebel. “Your precious XX doesn’t know what love really is. What’s your name?”
“Lewis Goddard,” he answered absently, as he cautiously flipped through the pages of the new book.
* * *
Lewis and Emily stepped off the train in Boulder and Lewis was startled by the view. What Emily called the Flatirons rose from the mountains like birds about to take flight. Boulder, like many places in the west, hadn’t been damaged by the Cleansing Wars. The military had done a house to house search in most of the west, rather than waging absolute warfare.
“This used to be the University of Colorado. That was before this who eugenics movement started and the Cleansings came. Now, this is where they house the condemned.” They walked for several blocks, leaving the campus behind. “Tell me, Lewis, do you still believe in the movement?”
“I don’t know,” he mumbled.
“Speak up, boy, I can’t hear you.”
“I don’t know!” he shouted. “I don’t know! I just don’t know.” He buried his face in his hands and began to cry uncontrollably.
“It’s all right, Lewis,” she said, placing her hand on the small of his back. Her touch sent sparks through Lewis’ confused systems. “This is my place,” she said, indicating a rustic Victorian home.
She led him up the front steps, which creaked and groaned under each step, threatening to break and plunge them into the darkness that lay beneath them. She keyed the front door and it opened with a creak like that of a skeletal knee joint. “I’ll have you fix that tomorrow. If you’re going to stay with me, you’re going to have to earn your keep somehow,” she said with a devilish grin.
* * *
Lewis showered and put on clean clothes. He reached for his armband and stopped. He looked at it lying on the bathroom sink. The voice of his basic training instructor echoed in his head. “Your armband is the badge that tells the world you are above them. You are superior. You are the protectors of everything great in our society.”
“Yeah, right,” Lewis said aloud as he tossed the armband into the trash can. He combed his hair meticulously, making sure that every strand was exactly where it was supposed to be. He hadn’t been this precise since his last date with Shellie. A strange smell rose up the stairs from the kitchen. It was one he didn’t recognize, even though he had quite a palate for food. He was, after all, a member of the, no, a former member of the Galton Youth. Lewis had to keep that in mind. He no longer was a member of that group. Fear suddenly grabbed at him. He wasn’t a member of any group. He didn’t belong anywhere. He bit his lower lip and finished his ritualistic dressing and started down the stairs, trying to hide his increasing fear.
When he was halfway down the stairs, he stopped and ran back up. He reached into the trash can and pulled out his armband. Picking hair off it, he placed it on his upper arm.
Emily began to smile at him, but the smile turned to a frown when she saw the armband still in place. “Dinner’s almost ready,” she said. “I hope you don’t mind tofu. I’m a vegetarian.”
“No, I don’t mind,” he said, although he thought soybean curd was something he could do without. “It smells delicious,” he said, and it wasn’t a lie; it really did smell good.
Throughout dinner Emily continued to probe Lewis, trying to learn as much as she could. Lewis didn’t think she was overstepping her boundaries though, because she gave him at least as much information as he gave her. He learned that there was a very strong movement against the government organizing itself in the mountains. He also learned that the military didn’t usually bother to enforce all the laws, except when citizens were acting suspiciously. They had too many other things to worry about, like rebellions.
“Come with me,” Emily said. Lewis followed her into a room set in the back of the house. A single lamp burned with a low-powered light bulb. Everywhere Lewis looked in the room he saw rows and rows of books. Nearly every book in the collection was from the government’s banned book list.
He stood in open-jawed amazement staring at the titles. He read some aloud. “I Ching, Stranger In A Strange Land, Custer Died For Your Sins, The Divine Comedy, For Whom The Bell Tolls. Don’t you realize how much trouble you could get in?” he asked with incredulous surprise.
“Yes, I do,” she said. “I don’t feel that my having these books is wrong. The government might say it is, but the government doesn’t control my life. Time for bed.”
Lewis looked at her in surprise, but he wasn’t sure what had surprised him.
* * *
Lewis, dressed in casual clothes and without his armband, sat in Emily’s study the next morning completely surrounded by books. He would read for ten minutes, and then run back to the shelf and grab another book. This went on for many hours before Lewis finally found himself at a loss.
“Emily!” he yelled.
“Coming,” she called back from the kitchen.
He sat waiting for her, his hands constantly twitching, but doing nothing. Finally she came into the study, drying her hands with a towel.
“What are you yelling about?”
“This is incredible!” he said, pointing at the book. :Is this really how the New Society came to power? This isn’t what they taught me.”
“Of course they didn’t. Do you think if they taught the truth, people would blindly follow like lemmings?”
Lewis stared absently at the book waiting for a reply to come to him. None did.
“You didn’t know the society assassinated key people, and placed their own in their places?”
“No,” Lewis mumbled.
“I see. Well, just remember this as you read, a lot of really good people have died at the hands of your precious New Society, and a lot more are going to die.”
Lewis looked at her, surprised by the harshness of her tone. He saw a single tear tracing a lonely trail down her cheek. “Were you married?” he asked.
Emily took a deep breath, wiping a tear from her eye as she did. “He was a city councilman and a psychologist. He didn’t believe in all of this genetic purity and genetically determined personality traits. He opposed the New Society’s ideals. Worse yet, he was a Lakota. So, when the New Society swept into Boulder, he and my three-year-old daughter were dragged from the house at five in the morning. They were taken into the street and shot in the back of the head.
Lewis stared at Emily unable to say anything. He watched as she wept, but he couldn’t move. Pangs of guilt stabbed at his stomach, but no words would come.
* * *
After absorbing as much as he could, he finally ventured outside alone to enjoy the thin high altitude air. It almost seemed to cleanse his lungs, as well as his soul, as he took it into his body. He strolled down what had once apparently been a mall, feeling the wind blowing through his uncombed hair. Now the mall was nothing more than several blocks of abandoned storefronts, with an occasional propaganda artist thrown in.
A few people walked by, but most of them averted their eyes. No one wanted to see anyone else, or to be seen by anyone else. Lewis tried his best to fit in, but he felt the accusations coming from each person’s eyes. How many of them had lost loved ones, and for what? The purification of the society? “What crap,” he muttered aloud.
As he neared the end of the mall, a soldier began to approach him. Lewis stopped in his tracks and took a step backwards. The soldier apparently saw his movement and raised his gun.
“Something wrong, kid?” the soldier asked in a voice that dripped anger like acid.
“No, sir,” said Lewis, trying to clear his throat.
“You look a little pale. Are you worried about something, kid?”
Another soldier came up behind Lewis and poked his gun into Lewis’ back. “I’m sure you won’t mind us doing a retinal scan, now, will you?” the second soldier asked.
Lewis looked around in horror. A crowd was beginning to form. Unfortunately, many of them were XX, a term he now understood. A large number of citizens had also gathered. Lewis looked down the abandoned mall and saw Emily approaching. She wasn’t hurrying, though.
“Of course I’ll take a retinal scan,” he heard himself say.
The first guard held the scanner up to his eye while the second guard held Lewis’ neck in a vice-like grip. The scanner began a shrill scream. The first guard looked at the display screen and frowned. He nodded his head to the other guard, who pushed on Lewis’s shoulders until Lewis’ knees began to give out. His legs collapsed, and he found himself on his knees.
“A traitor to the good of society,” the first guard said in a husky voice which seemed touched with humor. “Anything to say for yourself?” he asked, unstrapping his gun.
“The Society can’t last,” Lewis said, surprised at his own words. “Look at Hitler. You’ll fail. Dictatorships have always fallen.”
“That was the past,” the soldier said with a smile. “There’s no United States to interfere with what we do. You and your rebellion will die.”
Lewis looked at him defiantly, but his strength began to fail as the soldier pointed his rifle directly at Lewis’ forehead. Lewis saw that Emily had now joined the crowd. He watched as she shook her head sadly and turned away. Some of the crowd began to stir in anger, but fear kept them frozen in place. Lewis looked back at the guard and thought about begging for his life, but no words would come. The soldier drew in a deep breath. A look of compassion almost seemed to cross his face, but it was quickly replaced by a sinister grin. The soldier peered down the scope of the barrel. Lewis could see the man’s eye looking at a spot directly between Lewis’ eyes. Lewis gritted his teeth and closed his eyes, feeling his leg muscles tighten. Somehow, he knew he’d make a difference.
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