Six simultaneous gunshots shook the concrete basement, and the sound of six bodies hitting the ground came soon after. The six men who had fired the rifles immediately set to work reloading. Two more men set to work at pulling the chains dangling from the ceiling. The chains looped into some hideous mechanism hidden inside the walls and ceiling that would the lowered platform holding the six corpses up off the floor. Two more men emerged from a dimly lit passageway, pulling a bloodied but empty wooden cart just slightly smaller than the platform. When the platform rose to an inch above the lip of the cart, the two men pulling the cart shifted the platform and titled it so that the naked bodies rolled neatly and efficiently into the cart. A few limbs hung over the side, and they could never seem to make all the bodies fit neatly inside the cart so that they didn't fall out the trip through the passageway.
Once all the corpses were as neat as they could be in the brief turnover time they were allowed, the two men lugged the cart down the dank and dark passage until they arrived at a small room with a shaft of light piercing the dark veil from above. One of the men called up, "Get it on!" Another sound was heard mumbling to himself as he lowered a noose through the hole in the ceiling. He would not last long in paradise. The Presider would learn of his insolence in due time whether the cart drivers did their civic duty or not. The two men wordlessly picked up the naked corpses of the unworthy. Neither of them handled the corpses with care; their uniforms were stained with the blood of countless other bodies. They never cleaned their uniforms as being stained with the blood of the unworthy was an honor. The Presider would know of their faithful devotion to the cause. They wrapped the noose around the corpses' necks and one by one, each corpse was hauled up through the light to be disposed of in the Field of the Unworthy in secret. There was no need to display such things to the public as these traitors did not deserve any recognition.
Meanwhile, the six men had finished reloading their rifles and stood at attention. The two men handling the chains and the platform set it down on the sloped ground and were ready for the next batch. An officer jutted his chin out and whispered, "Bring in numbers 423-98 through 423-103" to the two soldiers standing at attention near the entrance of the room. They turned on their heels and exited through a mahogany door that one would expect to herald the office of a high ranking military man or a Brother of the government. Just beyond the door, at least four dozen men, women, and children of various ages and sizes stood calmly as if they were waiting for the secretary to tell them that Mr. So-and-So would like to see them now, he's very busy so please don't take up too much of his time. Except every single one of them were naked though no one was the slight bit bothered by it. The two soldiers politely motioned for the first six: three men, a woman, a young boy, and an adolescent girl.
The three men were all in their mid-forties, clearly brothers by the facial features, and they were slightly toned from working in the farms most of their life. Their neighbors had said that they were harboring spies from the Blue Country, and the evidence in their trial was that their father had once corroborated with a suspected enemy spy before the revolution thirty years ago. No one, including the men, could combat such damning evidence of their guilt, and they were sentenced to be purged by a judge younger than they were.
The woman was withered away: white hair, gaunt features, and dull eyes. She was likely a widow like so many other women in paradise. Many of the husbands had died fighting against the Old Regime. The devils of the aristocracy, not the Presider, had taken her beloved away two years ago. They had corrupted him long after the revolution to have sympathies with the Old Regime, and while she at first did not believe her darling Boniface could be a traitor, after having the documents written by him but clearly not in his writing given to her by the police, she began to remember the tiny, almost imperceptible ways he had exhibited such corruption. Now, she knew herself to be corrupted because the Presider's men had declared her as such. Thus, she must be purged.
The young boy held his older sister's hand. They had no one else to comfort them at the end for their father had been a traitor to the cause, their mother had been corrupted by the enemy, their uncle a traitor, their aunts cavorting with the Old Regime, and their older brother attempting to flee paradise. The boy sucked on his thumb, a habit he had never seemed to completely break but one that only flared up when he was nervous. His cheeks were smudged in dirt from wiping his cheeks in the dark. The girl's lip quivered. Out of the six being called, and quite possibly the whole room of dead bodies still walking, she knew the absurdity of what Presider Hemlock was doing. She was a mistake. If only Presider Hemlock knew what was going on, she and Henry would be freed in no time. She hated being surrounded by the unworthy. All of these people were traitors. How could they make a mistake with her? She had been dutifully helping the local government as an informant and pledged her loyalty to the cause on a daily basis. Was this how it was going to end?
The six of them entered the concrete basement and were told to line up facing the wall. Traitors were not permitted to look at their honorable executioners. The old woman cried suddenly, and she spoke out, "Who will take care of my cats?" One of the soldiers nodded in the direction of the woman and responded, "We will take care of your cats. Do not worry 423-101." The old woman nodded in thanks and stood facing the wall calmly now reassured that her beloved kittens would be taken care of by the men of Presider Hemlock. Once all six persons stood up against the wall, the officer gave a small gesture and six more gunshots rang out and six more bodies hit the platform. By this time, the two men with the cart had returned, empty like before, and set to work rolling the bodies off the raised platform as the six reloaded their rifles again.
Office Charles turned to his aid and whispered, "Will we make today's deadline?"
The aid whispered back after carefully looking over the ledger in his hand, "Yes, sir. Very easily, sir. The Presider will be most pleased by how many traitors we have purged today, sir."
"Good, good. Perhaps I will be able to eat family dinner tonight. Bring in numbers 423-104 through 423-109. How is your son, Dedric?"
"He is doing well, sir. Cholera afflicted him from some time, but he recovered hardily, sir."
Officer Charles nodded as six gunshots and six bodies hit the floor followed by the jingle of the chains. "A healthy boy is what paradise needs. The world is against us, for evil waits around every corner outside of our beautiful country. We must be stalwart in our…Bring in numbers 423-110 through 423-115…we must be stalwart in our defense of the motherland. Of the cause. Of the Presider. Only he can lead us to true paradise."
The aid hesitated after scratching off another six numbers. "Sir, may I speak freely, sir?"
"Go ahead, Dedric."
"Are we not yet in paradise, sir?"
The officer sighed deeply. "Bring in numbers 423-116 through 423-121. No, Dedric, traitors obstruct our march to paradise. This is why our job here is fundamental to the livelihood of the cause. Without us, traitors would go amuck, ruining everything we hold dear and destroying the cause from the inside out. But one day, when we have purged all of them, paradise will reign supreme, and we shall be a beacon to the evils of this world. Bring in numbers 423-122 through 423-127."
Dedric nodded solemnly. "Sir, if I may be so bold as to inquire another question. Is there not a more efficient way to purge traitors?"
Office Charles looked at Dedric and raised an eyebrow. He paused a bit too long after the men had started reloading. They looked over at him, wondering what had caused a break in the march. "Bring in numbers 423-128 through 423-133. Dedric, the Presider himself gave me these orders. Are you saying the Presider does not know best?"
"No, sir! I beg forgiveness from the Presider for my weakness." Dedric trembled. "I will work until my body cannot work anymore, and then my soul shall work tirelessly in eternity for the cause!"
Office Charles nodded. "Good. We must all do our part to bring paradise to the hell that is earth."
The next day, Dedric Holcomb was charged with corruption and purged thirty-two minutes and forty-eight seconds later. His body was hauled in the cart that had been used yesterday, pulled by two different men as the previous two had been determined to be foreign spies sent to disrupt the cause. Dedric's body was hauled up through the light and place into a covered wagon with a hundred other corpses where it was driven to an out of the way pit approximately two miles wide and dumped without ceremony or acknowledgement. By the next day, Office Charles had no idea that he had ever had an aid as bright and hardworking at Allen and in fact never recalled having an aid before Allen at all. The Presider had seen Officer Charles' hard work and wished to reward him with an aid so that Office Charles would have someone to talk to as they did the honorable work of purging the traitors in the basement of the Keilone, the main office building of their beautiful capital of Junost.
Paradise would come soon. He could just feel it.