The Dying Line

Dylan looked around at the thousands of faces surrounding him in the line. The chain link fences that forced them into single file lines burned under the sun that sat at its highest point in the day. Only thin strips of cloth tied from one fence to another by those that had walked before them provided a little relief from the sun. The line shifted at a slow but steady pace toward the gleaming silver building ahead. Dylan counted the two hundred doors leading into the massive building hours ago. He had counted them several times since to keep his mind busy as the murmuring of the crowd grew louder the closer it got to the building. “What a day, eh Mack?” the man behind him said as he looked up. “They had to pick the hottest day of the year for this. The least they could have done was given us a little more air conditioning, right?” “I don’t know,” Dylan shrugged as his eyes fell on a sign that had been mounted to the top of the fence. YOU ARE HERE FOR THE WORLD. THE WORLD SALUTES YOUR SACRIFICE. “That’s a nice touch,” the man said following his gaze. “Not like we have much of a choice, though. As if they would let us turn around now. The name’s Jack by the way. What’s yours?” “Dylan.” “It’s nice to meet you, Dylan,” Jack said, extending his hand. Dylan took it and gave a half-hearted shake as his attention turned to the building that drew closer with each step. “What do you think it’ll be like? You know, in there,” Jack asked. “I’m trying not to think about it,” Dylan said. “You weren’t one of the volunteers then?” “No. I got the notice yesterday,” Dylan said. “I’m a volunteer,” Jack said, pushing out his chest. “Doing my duty for the people and whatnot. Not a lot of use for a guy like me, I suppose. I used to sell drugs to people a few years back. I was caught and gave it up. Recognized the error of my ways and all that. When I heard about this on the news, I thought, I should do that. I ain’t doing nobody any favors kicking around taking up space. “That’s nice,” Dylan said, his attention on counting the line of people in front of him. “Did they have to get you to bring you, or did you come yourself?” Jack asked. “I came myself. On one of the shuttles. Didn’t see much of a point in trying to run.” “Yeah, I heard a bunch of people tried to run last week. All of them got mowed down by the army at the border. Nasty death that is,” Jack said, looking to the people in the other lines. “You think any of them are praying? “I don’t know.” “I already did my praying,” Jack said, winking at Dylan. “Figured it’d be better to pray and have no one hear me than to not pray and piss off some big guy upstairs, you know?” “You’re probably right,” Dylan said as he counted the last person to the front of the line. “You counting the people in front of us?” Dylan nodded. “How many you think there are?” “362. 360. 357. 355-” “Going alright, I assume,” Jack said as another sign came into view mounted to the fence. KEEP MOVING FORWARD PLEASE “Can I ask you a question, Jack?” Dylan said. “Don’t see why not seeing as it looks like we’re in this together.” “I know what they said in the letter, but why do you think they are doing this?” “Well, based on my understanding, which isn’t much mind you, I think they are doing it because there’s too many of us here, you know? I don’t recall the exact number, but I think the last one I heard was near eleven billion of us here on this little planet. Seems like a bit much to me.” “You think that this will make things better?” Dylan asked. “Absolutely!” Jack replied, nearly jumping. “Think about it. We either volunteer or get citations to come down to places like this all over the world and bring the population down to a manageable level, say one billion. Then they cap the birth rates and the world recovers.” “Are they really doing this all over the world?” “For sure! India and China started it first. Last week I heard they had come down to less than half their population. Making really good progress with it.” “What’s the plan after it’s done? The world goes back to normal?” Dylan asked. “From what those news people said, everyone left is getting moved to somewhere in Asia. They get free land and housing and get to be of use to their local communities. Gives people a purpose.” “Why move everyone?” “All the scientists and whatnot said that to move forward, we have to do away with the things that separate us. They said that after this is done there won’t be any countries or borders or anything. Just people living in one part of the world working together to make things better for everyone,” Jack said, practically beaming. “145 left,” Dylan said. “You want quiet?” Jack asked. “I can shut up.” “No, you’re fine. I just wish that there was music or something. Something that we could enjoy for the last few minutes of our lives,” Dylan said. “I could see how that would be nice, but I assume that it could give some folks reasons to fight it. Remind them of the things they want to be around for.” “I suppose that’s fair,” Dylan said, nodding in agreement. Dylan continued walking forward as Jack made observations and comments about society and the great things that were happening. The more Jack talked, the calmer Dylan felt as the doorway came into view. From where he walked the people at the front simply vanished into darkness as they stepped inside. The darkness didn’t grow any brighter as he came up to the doorway. He stopped walking for a moment and listened. No sound came from the opening. Not the steps of the person that had entered before him, not the sound of machinery. “What do you think happens in there?” Dylan said, turning to Jack. “I’m trying not to think about it,” Jack replied with a wink. “Do you think it’ll hurt?” Dylan asked. “Going in?”  “I think it’ll be okay,” Jack said, patting him on the shoulder. “It’ll all be okay in the end.”

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