This story has been inspired by both my personal experiences having Asperger's Syndrome and what I see as a form of discrimination which has always been around, even if not seen to the same degree as it is shown here. As a result, some of the things I write about in this story will be very controversial and difficult to read at times. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them via reviews or PMs. I hope you'll all enjoy this story and get some important lessons out of it.
The best moments of Vincent's life were those between five in the afternoon and seven in the evening, when he was permitted to leave Governor Powell's residence in City Hall and explore as much of the city of Elms as he wanted; moments made all the more important by the fact that this was only time in which he was permitted to go out at all.
These moments were usually spent walking through a beautiful old park where the trees appeared to be as big as the city of Elms' largest skyscrapers, birds flew around freely in all directions, and empty playgrounds set up for school children, who usually came into the park in the mornings in order to get their required thirty minutes of exercise. But best of all, no other people were within sight, which allowed Vincent to have tranquility for at least a while.
Perhaps the reason why such places were empty was because the people of Elms were heavily confined to staying indoors. Adults spend most of their days sitting in a desk for six hours straight, with tasks ranging from coming up with the perfect programming code to keep every computer in the small country running to designing models to further advance a product which every professional at Elms already owned and used nearly every moment of their busy days, to typing up long reports meant to assists those in charge of technology, which were often up to fifty pages long. As a result, free time often meant playing with large tablets which were originally designed to prepare children for their future careers (and they still were to certain degrees), but were now mainly used by people of all ages to remain idle through chat rooms and games while sitting around in their chambers or living rooms after a long day of work or school.
Due to how common these routines were, those who did go outside would see Vincent as quite unusual, not just because he was wandering around the park alone, but also because he was a short, bulky, brown-skinned man in a shabby coat, which would have alarmed many of the competent citizens of Elms on account of how they were required to obtain a sharp, clean, and fit appearance at all times. In most cases, if a person remained on their own in the same manner as Vincent was right now, looking very untidy and without another person by their side, they would either be ignored at best or fully ostracized as being antisocial at worse. However, there seemed to be slight exceptions for those who were older or in bad health. Since remaining competent was one of the people's highest values, anything which was done to prevent further decline was strongly encouraged, even if it meant a slight break from the usual accepted norms. In the best case scenario, they might think Vincent was one of these people.
But if they had started speaking to Vincent and noticed how he stuttered when speaking, the way he would go from staring at the ground while speaking one minute and then staring directly at the person whom he was speaking to in that way which made some people uncomfortable, or how he often liked rambling on about something which fascinated him but bored the living daylights out of others, what he would be facing was much worse than simply being avoided or called a name. He could find himself beaten, being spat upon, or getting hurtled with abusive insults, which always went something like this:
"Go back home where you belong, you disgusting spaz!"
"Why the government insists of keeping degenerates like yourself alive and living amongst the competent is beyond me. If it was up to me, your kind should either never be born or get banished into the wilderness to live amongst animals as soon as your lack of abilities are detected."
"What makes you think you should walk around and talk to us if you know how incompetent you are?"
To make matters worse, this didn't just happen to someone who communicated in what was deemed a strange manner. Incidents like this also occurred with those in wheelchairs who went out for a stroll alongside their aides, the mentally challenged who just didn't know any better than to just start laughing and running around in the same carefree manner as children, or those who were blind and walked around with sunglasses and a cane. All those deemed incompetent suffered the same manner of discrimination in Elms, regardless of how high functioning they were or whether they were institutionalized in one of the homes for the incompetent or had been taken in by a competent citizen, living and working for them while receiving a limited degree of independence, just as Vincent was.
In many ways, Vincent considered himself to be one of the lucky ones. Many of the disabled who had been taken from their families as children and placed in a home usually grew up never knowing where they came from, with the more limited individuals often fully convinced by the caretakers that they'd been born in the same place they'd been living in for so long. However, Vincent had never been one of the people who'd cease to seek information upon being told to "just forget it because you won't understand", developing a habit of sneaking into rooms and offices to look into anything which the caretakers at the home might be trying to hide from him. As a matter of fact, the exact reason why Governor Powell had taken him in at the age of ten was because of how he had such a strong level of curiosity that he'd become fully capable of seeking desired information using the limited resources which were available to him.
Upon looking through an old filing cabinet (computers and tablets were not allowed in the homes due to fears that the more high functioning residents would learn to use them and gain access to knowledge only meant for competent citizens) in the desk of Ms. Kendell, owner of The Kendell Home for the Incompetent, when he was only eight years old, Vincent had been able to find out that his full name was Vincent Juan Perez, and that his mother had been Mariana Fernandez Perez, an assistant historian at the Elms History Museum, and Carlos Robert Perez, who was an advertising designer. Since they weren't associated with either the STEM or the political fields, they didn't earn as much money as other professionals in Elms did, but still made enough to have a comfortable life, even though they lacked much of the luxuries enjoyed by those in other professions.
Vincent had been born on November 5th, and upon going through the long series of physical examinations which were mandatory for all newborns, he'd been declared a "competent infant", and therefore, had been permitted to live with his parents during the first three years of his life. This, however, was the situation with half of the incompetents, many of whom would be given this label between the ages of three to five during another period of mandatory examinations, which were done at the time children were supposed to be prepared to start school. According to the records, he'd been able to achieve milestones such as crawling, walking, and toilet training at around the same time as most competent infants did, and his mother and father had taken a year off from working in order to look after him, as was required by law in Elms due to studies conducted by developmental psychologist Jordan Harrison over a century ago, in which he was successfully able to prove that infants who had both parents remaining with them throughout their first year of life were twice as likely to become successful in their chosen professions.
However, shortly after he started learning to walk, his parents started noticing that Vincent was displaying some unusual behaviors. For instance, it seemed physically impossible for him to look at them directly in the eye when they spoke to him. Instead, he always seemed to keep his eyes at ground level, as if even early on he was afraid of facing judgement and rejection from his own family. Also, he fidgeted more than the average toddler, with his hands playing around with everything from small balls and spoons to his own hair or pieces of string hanging from an old shirt. It was this behavior that seemed to draw the most attention at first, starting when Mariana's employer noticed Vincent continually rubbing his fingers around a toy car and had asked if she'd considered early disciplining techniques to decrease the boy's inappropriate behavior. Mariana was said to have just muttered a vague excuse and then taken Vincent away from the museum's main hall as quickly as possible.
He also had frequent tantrums related to overstimulation. If the roaring of an electric car passed by the house, Vincent would start screaming and kicking the floor as hard as he could while keeping his hands glued to his ears until it was gone. If Mariana or Carlos were preparing something with the blender in the kitchen or vacuuming around the house, Vincent would either have to stay outside with one of his parents or be placed in a room where the noise was dim, because if he remained close to where such loud domestic activities took place, he would not only wail and kick around, but also attempt to stop the noise by knocking the equipment down with a strength which scared his parents so much.
To make matters worse, he wasn't capable of uttering a single word. If Mariana held up a digital flashcard using the baby tablets which both showed the word "mom" and had it said out loud by a pleasant female voice designed to sound like a prototypical mother, he'd just continue staring at the carpet with that seemingly disinterested expression on his face. If Carlos asked him to repeat a couple of simple words he'd just said to him, Vincent would turn his glance towards the button of his overalls and start playing with it a little too eagerly. If the boy ever attempted to speak at all, he would make a dreadful noise which sounded like the combination of a chuckle and the groaning of a sick animal, something which Mariana and Carlos both found to be extremely painful to listen to, to the point of almost ceasing to go on with the speech lessons. However, they reluctantly continued them due to their fears of what would happen if he failed to learn to talk sooner or later, but Vincent still didn't learn to speak until he was three years old and living in the Kendell Home for the Incompetent.
This was all the information which was included about both Vincent's early symptoms and his life with his parents. After that, it only said that Vincent's condition was discovered at the age of three after a psychologist came over to his home and examined him against the will of his parents. He'd been immediately declared incompetent after being given the diagnosis of ASD, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, and had been taken to the Kendell Home for the Incompetent only three days later, where he lived for the next seven years. How his parents had reacted to having their son taken away was not included in this report.
Then, at the age of ten, Isabella Powell, who was then an influential member of Elms' Department of Public Relations when she was only twenty- one, discovered him as he was secretly rearranging a set of books on the shelves located in one of the psychologist's rooms. He'd been able to arrange them in perfect alphabetical order based on the author's last names, and upon being asked by Powell if he'd looked through any of the books, he gave a detailed summary of nine of the twenty books. If he had been a competent, such a number would have provoked a disapproving glare from an adult with so much authority, but given his condition and how well he knew the content of the books, Powell was left speechless by Vincent's abilities.
She'd then made a deal with Kendell, offering over a thousand dollars for addition staff and supplies in exchange for becoming Vincent's guardian and having him earn his keep as a servant. The deal was made, and from that point on, Vincent lived and worked with her. He started by taking charge of maintaining hardcopy versions of her files in her office and typing out reports for her, and later, when she became governor of Elms six years ago (he had been twenty-one at the time, the same age as Powell had been when she'd taken him in), he also started performing major research for all her proposals and laws. Amongst his other tasks included informing Powell on any local news she may have not heard about, bringing her refreshments and coffee (he wasn't allowed to do actual cooking though), assisting her husband Kevin, who served as Elms' head of the Department of Public Relations, and helping take care of their daughter, Melanie, who was now three years old.
So, did he consider himself satisfied with his circumstances? Was having a job with somewhat major responsibilities and a home outside of an institution worth it if he was still a second class citizen who couldn't do things like own a home, run his own finances, or even go out for a brief promenade without being given a specific time to leave and come back? Could someone whom others couldn't look at without shuddering due to how his back was always hunched, with his eyes looking anywhere other than directly into their own faces and his fingers were always twitching around for no reason even be considered as fortunate in any way? Despite all this, Vincent knew this was the best situation life could ever offer him. As long as the people of Elms kept up with their prejudices and shamed those who weren't capable of being on top of everything, from academia to social skills and from current technology to poise, the best the disabled could do was adapt to their circumstances and do the best they could to get by. There really was no other way around.
And then, just as he was reflecting on this, he found himself almost walking right in the way of an average height, brown skinned woman dressed in the light blue pants suit which was associated with those in the lower professions. She was carrying what appeared to be a large bundle in her arms, and appeared to be trembling a little too much, even though it was only slightly chilly outside.
"Oh, no!" the woman exclaimed, looking horrified to have come across him.
"Pa- pardon me," Vincent said nervously, with his flat, quivering voice coming across very clearly. "I wa- wasn't watching where I was going." He had grown used to getting these kinds of reactions from people over the years, yet it never failed to embarrass him. Despite what some residents of Elms might have convinced themselves of, disabilities were not contagious.
But the woman didn't seem to be concerned about his unusual behaviors. Instead, her attention was more drawn towards the large bundle in her arms, and she was looking at it with one of the saddest expressions Vincent had ever seen in a woman's eyes. As the bundle started moving around, followed by, to the horror of the woman, a small cry of, "Ma, Ma!" that Vincent realized that this must be a baby she was holding, and of course, one who was old enough to start talking. Unusual, considering the fact that most parents stopped bundling up their babies once they started learning to both walk and talk. The only explanation for this would that…
"I don't care," the woman said with that frightened expression still on her face. "Just don't tell anybody about my baby girl. That's all I ask of you."
"But wo-would you mind te-telling me why? I promise not to let anyone else know what's going on with her if that's what you'd like me to do," Vincent responded, managing to let that last sentence come across without too much of a struggle.
The woman looked at him in a suspicious manner for a while. Then, her face appeared to soften a little, and she said, "If you really want to know, then just see her for yourself, and notice what she can't do."
She then turned the baby towards Vincent. The baby kept saying "Ma, ma!" in what appeared to be a very cheerful manner, despite the fact that she was no longer facing her mother. Also, upon looking at her, Vincent noticed that her eyes appeared to have a blank expression, like someone who was zoned out or startled.
"Now touch her," the woman demanded.
Vincent reluctantly placed his large hand around the baby's small one, and it started thumbing through his hand in a very rough manner, as if intent on making a close examination of it. This is what finally provoked a reaction in the baby's face, as she started to softly wail and cry out, "No! No, ma! Ma! No!", all while waving her free hand in the air in a desperate manner.
"So, I guess this means…" Vincent started.
"That she can't see. Yes, that's what's wrong with her, if it wasn't already obvious to you," the woman finished for him.