"The little guy tried to warn us, that's all I'm saying," he said.
"Yeah man, I hear you." I said for the twentieth time.
The guy standing next to me has been prattling on like this for the better part of an hour now. He's probably nervous or scared, and who can blame him? It's not like we're waiting in line to get on a roller coaster right now.
"Appointment 642, the doctor will see you now. 642, the doctor will see you now." A mechanical-sounding voice droned over the loudspeaker.
"This ain't right, it just ain't right!" he whimpered.
Christ, he's really starting to lose his nerve now. He's not alone, either. All I have to do is turn my head slightly in either direction to see that there are hundreds just like him. Some of them are shaking and twitching, others are muttering to themselves, and even more are crying and sniveling like a bunch of little kids who are lining up to get a booster shot.
"Why didn't we just listen to him? He warned us! HE SAID THIS WOULD HAPPEN!" the guy screeched, "Why didn't we just listen?"
"How should I know? Do you think I can read minds or something?" I retorted. This guy is really starting to get on my nerves.
"He came from another planet, for Christ's sake!" he yelped, "His flying saucer landed in D.C. and everything! Then the guy stepped out and said 'I have come to warn you of a crisis of monstrous proportions. It is not a war or natural disaster that I speak of, but a crisis with your planet's exponentially growing population.'"
Wow, this guy must have really paid attention to all of those news bulletins. But then again, I bet we all did. It's not every day that an alien from outer space comes down to earth in a flying saucer to let us know about our imminent doom. It's an ever rarer event for a bunch of confused Americans to sit still and be open to it.
"He was only trying to help us out, you know!" he continued, "He showed us video simulations of what would happen, he offered us special pills, all out of the goodness of his peaceful little alien heart."
"Yeah, he was a pretty standup Martian." I agreed.
"That's right, he was!" the guy rambled, "And what do we do to thank him? We blow his brains out and blow up his ship! WHY?"
Why did this guy pick me to talk to? Why not the guy on his left?
"Appointment 648, the doctor will see you now. 648, the doctor will see you now."
Christ, this is taking forever.
"We shouldn't have killed him like that, we should've listened," he stuttered, "why do we Americans always have to do that stupid shoot first, ask questions later macho crap?"
This guy may be annoying as all get out, but he's got a point. The minute those chest-beating, skin-headed, yahoos assassinated Ktulu or whatever that poor little Martian called himself was the minute that things really started to go down the tubes. I was eight years old when Ktulu got shot, but I can still remember it like it happened just last week.
I just got off the school hovercraft and started my routine walk home from the craft stop. Usually, the neighborhood would show some signs of life, but that day it was really quiet. When I walked into the house, I was greeted by my dad, who seemed to be glued to the couch in front of the news again like he always was.
"Hey Mick, come here a minute. You've got to see this," my dad called.
I walked into the living room and looked to see what my dad thought was so great. I remember that the words "MARTIAN MENACE EXTERMINATED" were flashing in big, bold letters across the screen while Bill O'Reily III and that decrepit old windbag Neil Cavuto were talking in circles about how great it was that Ktulu was dead. I think one of them even referred to the anonymous murderers as "true patriots".
"That's right, son," my dad said, "Those guys saved our country from being dominated by some little green men from Mars. They really stopped this country from going to Hell."
I suppose that my dad was right in a way. The country didn't go straight down the tubes; it just began an agonizingly slow descent. Ten years have passed since that day, and with each passing year, the United States government started to realize how right Ktulu really was. Americans started reproducing at rates that hadn't been seen since the baby-boom generation. It got so bad that the hospitals didn't have enough rooms and doctors for all the mothers in labor. So the population was getting out of control, just like Ktulu said.
With the population increasing more and more each day, the resources were next to go. The farmers couldn't keep their crop sizes up with the rising demand for fruits and vegetables. Pigs, cows, and chickens were added to the endangered species list within two years since so many people wanted their meat for dinner. It didn't stop at food, either. Just last year, the environmental agency declared that the United States was officially out of coal, and that we were scraping the bottom of the barrel as far as crude oil was concerned. I think the price for oil is up to seven hundred dollars per barrel now. So our resources were drastically decreasing, just like Ktulu said.
This left the government officials with their backs against the wall. They started passing new pieces of legislation at record rates. One brought back ration books and a strict new set of laws for preserving food. Another forbade the driving and ownership of cars to conserve what precious little fuel we have left. These, however, were nothing compared to their final piece of legislation: Public Ordinance 1965.
It seems fitting that the government chose to name this ordinance after the year that the history books say was the height of the hippie free love movement…almost too fitting. For Public Ordinance 1965 dealt with the final problem facing the United States: overpopulation. This new law stated that all males between the ages of eighteen and forty-four were required to get a specific medical procedure.
"Appointment 660, the doctor will see you now. 660, the doctor will see you now."
"Oh my god…" the guy next to me choked, "this can't be happening…"
I looked over to see that the guy was nervously holding his government-issued appointment ticket. The only thing I could see on his is the appointment number: 663.
"Would you calm down already?" I snapped, "I'm almost up, too, you know."
I reached into my pocket and fished out my own appointment ticket. I got it in the mail the day I turned eighteen, just like most of the other guys in line with me. Printed across the top in soulless writing is "Public Ordinance 1965". Under that my name, age, and date of appointment are shown along with my appointment number: 666. How fitting. What a great sense of humor our government has.
"Appointment 663, the doctor will see you now. 663, the doctor will see you now."
"NO!" the guy screamed.
Christ, he's really lost it now. His face turned bright red and tears started to stream down his face.
"This can't be happening!" he whimpered, "I've gotta get out of here!"
I reached over to stop him, but I'm no match for the potent mix of adrenaline and fear that the guy's got running through his veins. Before I had enough time to blink, four burly security guards come thundering out of the door to my left.
"There he goes, get him!" one of them barked.
"Hey you, halt!" another commanded.
There was no way that he was going to stop now. Now his reason has left him, just like those "true patriots" that got the country into this mess. The four guards rush after their escaping political prisoner, quickly overtaking him like four lions clad in black suits surrounding a scared, panicking gazelle. Two of the storm troopers took out the guy's knees while the third held him down, allowing the fourth to sedate him with the zap of his stun gun.
The head guard put a finger to his ear. "All right doctor, we've got him."
With a quick nod to his comrades, they lifted up the limp, twitching body of their sedated prey. As they pass, one of them poked me on the shoulder.
"I hope you weren't entertaining any ideas of escaping like your buddy," he spat.
"Wouldn't dream of it, sir," I muttered.
"Good, 'cause I can tell you from experience that the whole blasted ordeal goes a heck of a lot faster if you don't fight it," the guard explained.
I gulped and nodded, looking at my appointment ticket again. I glanced once more at the second line, mouthing it to myself. "Deal, Michael C. Age 18. Appointment #666. 6/6/2065." Now only two more panicked men stood between me and the cold, mysterious doctor's office. I looked over and noticed that my hands were shaking. Christ, now I'm starting to lose it.
"Appointment 665, the doctor will see you now. 665, the doctor will see you now."
When did they call in 664? My legs started to feel weak and I could feel my eyes darting around, looking at the blank white walls of the hospital waiting room.
"Steady, Mick, steady," I whispered to myself, "You don't want to end up like that annoying little crybaby from before, do you?"
Why isn't this working? Why didn't the government ever tell us what this "medical procedure" was supposed to be like? Not knowing is the worst torture of all in this situation. What are they going to do? Give me some magic shot or neuter me like some mutt? I have to know. This is killing me.
"Hey man, what do they do to you in there?" I asked the guard standing by the door.
"Why, you scared or something?" the guard quipped.
"Of course I am!" I wailed, "Wouldn't you be? I'm eighteen years old and for all I know they're going to castrate me in there!"
"Hey! Calm down, kid," The guard said, "you're making a scene. Look, I can't just tell you what goes on in there, I don't even remember myself. They knock you out with some medical anesthesia before they do anything. I don't know for sure what the treatment does, but I can tell you that they don't fix you like some dog."
"OK," I drone, "OK, thanks."
"Just relax, it'll be over before you know it," The guard concluded, giving me a pat on the shoulder.
I feel sick. They had better give me some really good anesthesia in there. I don't want to feel anything.
"Appointment 666, the doctor will see you now. Appointment 666, the doctor will see you now."
I gulped. This ain't right, it just ain't right.
"You're up, kid," the guard said, "don't worry, you won't feel a thing."
I walked up like a mindless zombie through the doorway and down the hall, where a very young, tired-looking nurse greeted me with a sympathetic smile.
"Michael Deal?" she asked.
I nodded and moaned.
"Come with me," she instructed.
We began our death march down the hallway. As we walked, she said things that I'm sure were intended to comfort me and soothe my nerves, but I didn't hear them. My mind was going a mile a minute. Why couldn't those hippies just keep it in their pants? Why didn't we listen to Ktulu? If we hadn't followed in the footsteps of those hippies one hundred years ago, I wouldn't be in this mess.
"OK, Michael, here we are," the nurse said, opening the door, "don't worry, you won't feel a thing."
I nodded and moaned again as I entered the cold, sterile room.
"Ah, Mr. Deal, good to see you," the doctor said. What a patronizing jerk. I bet he's still untouched down there.
The doctor grabbed a fresh syringe and filled it with a clear liquid.
"This is just some local anesthetic," the doctor explained, "it'll knock you right out, just like you're going to sleep. Trust me, you won't feel a thing."
The doctor then grabbed my left arm and tapped up one of my veins. After a quick dab of an alcohol swab, he plunged the syringe into my arm. I started feeling sleepy in a matter of seconds.
"Nighty-night, Michael," the doctor muttered, "this'll be over before you know it."
This ain't right, it just ain't right…