A collision pulled Jacob Boone out of his dreamless slumber. Darkness cloaked his bedroom until the door flew open from having been kicked. Four figures carrying rifles with flashlights clipped to their barrels entered his room. They directed their lights at his face, blinding him. He covered his eyes with his hands to protect them, allowing his visitors to surround him.
"Stand up and keep your hands above your head!"
Jacob nodded. Without opening his eyes, he raised his hands in the air and crawled out of bed. One of his guests spun him around and forced his hands behind his back. Cold steel clamped onto the skin of Jacob's wrists. The restraints stopped short of cutting off the circulation to his hands. Jacob was made to turn around again and decided to open his eyes to see how bad things really were.
At some point the lights to his room had been turned on. The federal police had decided to pay him a visit. A fifth guest entered the room unarmed. Jacob spotted a silver star on the vest of the deputy moving to stand in front of him. He would be addressing an officer.
The officer cracked his knuckles as he stared Jacob down. "You have ten seconds, Jacob Boone. Where is it?"
Jacob blinked rapidly. It was a technique he had discovered long ago that helped him escape nightmares. "Do you see my dresser over there?" Jacob motioned towards it with his head, still blinking. "Take out the second one down from the top. It's taped underneath the drawer."
The officer removed the drawer in question and set it down on Jacob's bed. His underwear was as open to judgement as he would be in a few days if he didn't wake up. The officer flipped the drawer over. A piece of paper and a pen were secured by two strands of tape pressing against the wood on the bottom of the drawer.
Jacob tried to escape what he still hoped was a bad dream by blinking one final time while the officer carefully removed the two items from the drawer. He could hear his heart beating audibly in his ears. The officer took a moment to examine the evidence. Nobody but Jacob had seen the words that were written on the page. His first critic rolled his eyes and shook his head.
The officer held the piece of paper in front of Jacob's face. "Do you think this is funny?"
He had prepared his response for the scenario he currently faced when it had been a faint possibility at best. "It's not supposed to be funny. It's supposed to be uplifting."
The officer backhanded him across the face. He would have fallen into his bed, but the deputy holding his arm kept him from losing his balance.
"Is that uplifting?" the officer demanded.
Jacob could see how the officer had arrived at that conclusion. Antagonizing him would prove to be painful, so Jacob settled on the answer he believed he should give. "No."
"Tell me. What's so bad about being an electrician? I sure wish I would have been given that job at the lottery on the day I turned sixteen. For one thing, your line of work is a lot less dangerous than mine. Don't tell me you thought it wasn't fair."
Jacob jerked, startled by the implication that he didn't feel the government had been good to him. "No, it was absolutely fair. I. . ." Telling the truth was preferable to lying. He'd be hurt less for being honest. Jacob made himself look the officer in the eyes. "I didn't feel fulfilled. I wanted to create something."
"Then why didn't you start a family?"
"I've been trying to do that. I'm almost officially someone's companion."
Not that it mattered any longer. The moment Sarah learned why he had been arrested would be the last time she thought of him.
"Sounds like it was little more than a side project. You've been applying to be considered for the opportunity to switch careers and become an artist for the last five years. Can't you take a hint?"
"I didn't want to give up."
The officer waved the piece of paper in front of Jacob's face. "You must not have any idea how carefully artists are watched. There's a reason there are so few of them." He gave the items he had confiscated to a deputy who placed them in plastic bags. "You have committed a violent act against a woman, which is a felony. You have abused your privilege to literacy, which is another felony. I'm tempted to add inflicting psychological damage on an officer of the government to that list, but you have been cooperative, so that would not be fair."
Jacob could feel tears forming in his eyes. He had to hold them back for just a little longer.
"Why did you keep it?" the officer demanded. "You would not have been able to submit it as proof that it would be in the best interest of society for the government to allow you to become an artist. If by some miracle you were granted the chance to switch careers to an artist, you would have immediately lost it the second you showed this to your editors. Anyone else would have destroyed this after they had finished it."
Jacob smiled at the absurdity of his answer. "It seemed like it would be a waste. I was proud of it. I am ready to explain why, if you will hear me out."
"Save it. I don't want to know how anyone could be proud of something so obscene." The officer turned to the individual who had collected the evidence. "See if he has anything else in here that we should be concerned about." After receiving a salute from the deputy he had addressed, the officer turned his attention back to Jacob. "Let's go for a walk."
Sarah was away on business, so Jacob did not have to worry about enduring her judgement as he was escorted through her apartment. Guilt replaced the fear of shame. If the police found anything out of the ordinary in Sarah's possession, it would be his fault for calling attention to her. He was certain she had nothing to hide, but the government could be picky. On his way out, he noticed mud on the carpet. The police had to have soiled their boots on purpose before their arrival.
The stifling summer heat waited for him outside. Jacob lived on the top floor of the community condominium Sarah had been assigned to. There were plenty of neighbors left for him to pass. They watched in horrified disbelief from their doorways as Jacob walked by in handcuffs surrounded by four deputies, one of whom prodded him forward by the barrel of a rifle against his back. Jacob kept his head down in shame, unable to do anything but submit to his fate. At least nobody could have claimed to have seen it coming since he had kept his dream of switching careers to himself.
He scrambled to predict what would happen to him as he was led down a flight of stairs. This would end in one of two ways. If he was not considered fit for reeducation, the government would dispose of him with a lethal injection. Those incapable of restraining themselves from thinking in a manner contrary to the healthy development of the government did not normally take well to being taught how to function like an ideal citizen.
Yet removing him from society would be a waste. He had never run into trouble with the law prior to his first offense. His employer often applauded him for the dedication he gave to his job. Many of the bonuses went to him. If not for all the work he had put in, he never would have been allowed to be considered a potential romantic partner by someone as amazing as Sarah. She made up for all the pain.
Or at least she had.
A judge would not be so quick to get rid of him once they figured out how useful he could still be to society. Hopefully. It was a nice thought. He had made up plenty of fantasies before getting caught that involved forgiveness if never being noticed seemed too unlikely to entertain. Lying to himself wasn't going to keep him alive. Begging the judge to spare him seemed far more likely than being pardoned.
There would be plenty of time to wonder how he could make the best of his situation when they locked him in his cell. For now, he tried to admire the garden the tenants had cultivated on the ground floor. Green grass and flowers were luxuries. Land, especially if fertile, was a privilege. If allowed to remain alive once everything was finished, he would not be able to come back to his old address. A lonely, decrepit hovel awaited him.
Five police vans were parked close to each other in the lot beyond the front lawn. Apprehending him had been a top priority. While the officer opened the back of a van, Jacob took one last look at the top floor. A few people looked down at him with assorted expressions, but Sarah was not among them. He noticed two individuals scurrying towards Sarah's apartment. One looked a lot like her. He had never seen the man the woman was with before. Before he could take a closer look and confirm if he was indeed seeing his former companion with someone else, he was ushered forward by the stock of a rifle.
Jacob struggled to get into the back of the van, even with help from a deputy. Once everybody was inside, the officer shut the door, ending Jacob's old life.