Basic Needs

I awoke comfortably to the sunlight and went to the kitchen to make my breakfast. The
designated food delivery had arrived on time, just as it always did. I followed one of the
suggested balanced menus attached with today's delivery, and then went to work, just as I did
every day. As a member of local law enforcement, my job is to see that all citizens have all
their basic needs taken care of and that all deviants are kept off the streets. I was raised
to believe in the basics: job, family, adequate sleep and a well-balanced meal, and I thought
that's all there was to life, day in and day out. That is, until I witnessed my first suicide.

"Looks like we have a jumper," one of the other officers said to me, as I approached the scene
ringed with yellow tape. Officer 287, the badge read. I studied the body as the other
citizens of the city went about their lives, minding their own business as they flowed past. I
pushed back the hair from the woman's face, and gasped.

"She's so young. She can't be more than a few years out of school."

"Yep. Twenty-two, according to the fingerprint files. This citizen had low application marks
in school, as well as low grades in all the main subjects: math, science, history. Worked at
the convenience store around the corner. Low citizenship marks there too; boss cited lack of

"But I thought jumpers all had some sort of needs crisis. She had a job, a house, adequate
food, access to non-fictional materials should she want to improve herself, and since she
scored low in her companionship needs she wasn't assigned a lover, nor did she request one.
What could she possibly be missing?"

The officer shrugged. "I suspect we'll find more once we visit the citizen's assigned living

The landowner was more than happy to let us in, and told us that the woman had never called
with repair requests or complaints about the condition of her apartment, so there was little
cause to know her. Officer 287 turned on the light and gasped. I looked into the room over
the landowner's shoulder. The apartment was one room, with a wall of windows over to the left.
Aside from a bed and a computer workstation in the back, the rest of the apartment was full of
forbidden materials.

"Music, art, movies, fictional stories, paintings, sculptures, photos not used for historical
record..." I said, looking over the piles. I had never seen such a collection outside of
storage houses of materials slated for destruction.

"Obviously, this individual was stockpiling nonessentials with the intent to distribute. No
wonder citizenship marks were low. The arts distract us from our duties, encourage sloth, and
give citizens a false sense of reality. The poor soul must have stolen these items, and then
realized the error in it, but was unable to return them honorably for some reason."

"She didn't take these from a storage house. All of these items are new," I said, looking at
them more closely.

"That's not possible. All the so-called Underground Artists have been sent to reform camps.
There are no individuals to supply..."

"She wasn't supplied. She...created...these."

"All of them?" Officer 287 said incredulously, looking around at the piles up to the ceiling.

"Yes," I said, looking at the signature on the bottom of one of the paintings.

"The citizen left a final testament," another officer (519 I believe) said, looking at the

"Let's see what this misguided menace to society has to say," Officer 287 said.

The video came on. The girl looked only slightly more alive in the video than she did lying
out on the street. She pushed her hair back out of her eyes and began. "Welcome to my lair,"
she began, indicating the piles behind her.

"Such as it is. Almost everything you see around you is illegal," she said, with a wry smile.

"I know a crime as heinous as creation won't earn me many memorials, but ever since I could
remember, that's all I wanted to do. I spent all the time I could spare, and some I couldn't."

Officer 519 let out a snort and a headshake. "I tried to ignore the feeling, but it wouldn't
leave me alone. I know that you, like the rest of society, have deemed what you see around you
nonessential, even dangerous, items that serve none of society's needs. Well, they were a need
for me," she said, raising her head defiantly and causing an indignant gasp from Officer 287.

She continued, "I didn't intend to corrupt anyone else, since it was only a need of mine, from
what I could tell. As long as I was creating, I was happy. I was fulfilled. Well, a few
weeks ago, my well of creativity dried up. I couldn't create anymore; it was as though
everything I needed to say had been said. And I realized, that I needed to share what I had
made. It was the only way I could truly share myself, become the citizen I wanted to be. But
no one was interested in what I had to show them. Everyone was afraid of getting behind on
what they should be doing that they couldn't spare a moment for me. So..."

She looked behind her, and indicated all the objects with a sweep of her arm. "I leave you
everything I am. Do whatever you want with it; it's not really important now."

The screen went dark. The other two officers looked at me. "Bag this stuff and get rid of
it," Officer 519 said, as they left.

I diligently set about my task; putting everything into boxes marked "destroy". But something
was nagging at the back of my mind. The woman had expressed her abominations as a need, as
"everything that I am." What sort of madwoman could find a need in such things? I was struck
by my curiosity, my need to understand. I picked up one of her "music" disks and placed it
into her daily history-recording unit. Sounds like I had never heard flowed out. I was
appalled at first, but only at first. I kept packing as I listened. The spots of sound all
blended. They had a mathematical quality to them, and when they blended they created a kind of
purity that transcended anything basic. I listened to another, and another. I stopped packing
and just listened. She had spoken truth. They were her soul, and the need came with every
sound, every word. They said more than that dry tape she had left for us had. I took the time
to look at each item as I put it away. Some of them had meaning to me, others didn't, but they
all spoke of the soul that created them.

I looked again at the letters forming the word "destroy" on each box. I felt a hollow,
something unanswered. I was struck with the need to speak to an Artist, and quickly, before
they all disappeared. Any citizen that could not be reformed within a certain number of years
was put to death, "to ease their suffering," or so the lawmakers said. There had been a time
when that had made sense to me. I went to the nearest reform camp and asked for an Artist I
remembered vaguely from the news. He was brought out to me.

"Have you a pardon, Officer?" he asked.


"Then I have nothing to say to you."

"One of your own killed herself the other day," I called after him.

He turned and said, "That should please you."

"Actually, it doesn't. I don't quite know why."

He stepped close to me. "You've seen her work, haven't you?"

"I don't know that I would call it work, but..."

"But you have seen it."


"And you found meaning in it."


"And the meaning you found will be wiped out as though it never were, and the woman died
without ever knowing that her needs meant something to someone else," he said quietly.

That was it. That was the wrong. "This can't happen," I said firmly.

The Artist nodded, once. I left the camp.

I went to the daily meeting of the City Justices and presented my petition to be heard. I had
the right to present without an approved writ, as a law enforcement officer, but it was still
an irregular procedure.

I stood up in front of them, nervously licking my lips. "I would like to request that a
collection of created materials be preserved," I said. There was a murmur throughout the hall.

"Created materials are illegal, officer," one of the justices said, about to bring down the
gavel and disallow my speech.

"I'm aware of that, but let me explain on behalf of the deceased." The justice nodded. "The
artist was a below average citizen; poor school grades, low paying job, low marks for
citizenship. But perhaps this was because there was no correct placement possible for this

"There is a place for every individual in this society."

"A place, perhaps even a good place but not the right place. This woman expressed in her last
statement that her vulgarities came out of a need."

The justice laughed. "Obviously this citizen was disturbed. There will always be individuals
in a society that we simply cannot help, no matter how much we give them. We're fortunate this
citizen ended life before corrupting others, so the state does not have to spend throw good
money after bad holding and attempting fruitlessly to rehabilitate, like we have had to do with
so many of these so called Artists. The order to destroy stands, Officer. We thank you for
your time." The gavel came down.

I returned to the camp.

"You're just in time. Another two hours and you wouldn't have been able to speak to me," the
Artist said.

"I spoke to the council."


"I have just a few more items to pack, then they'll be taken to the storage house."

"Did you really expect any different?"

"No. But somehow, I kept hoping against hope."

He smiled. "There's hope for you yet, Officer." I looked at him curiously. "Optimism.
Seeing things as they could be, and working to make them what is. The mark of a true artist,"
he continued.

I shook my head. "I'm no artist. I can't create."

"Well, then, save a few of hers. Use them to inspire someone who can. You wouldn't let the
need of a citizen go unfulfilled, would you? Officer?"

I gave him a half smile, then slid him a sheet of paper. "I can't stop what will happen in two
hours' time, but I'd like something of yours to keep as well." He nodded, and began to draw.

I stayed for the end. It seemed the right thing to do. Afterward, I finished packing the
woman's creations into the boxes marked "destroy," saving a few little ones that I especially
liked. When I got home, I set them at my workstation. I finished my work for the day, and
looked over the creations when I was through, studying every line, every tone, and every word.
Then, I carefully got out a piece of paper and started to draw. It was very crude, but I felt
a great satisfaction once I finished.

"I have created," I said to myself, proudly. And so I understood.