ERASURE… Today’s Prison HyperShort by Ethan Lawrence #hypershort #shortstory #story #sciencefiction #future #prison


Today’s HyperShort comes from the Courtroom of Darkness… Prepare to be erased.

ERASURE by Ethan Lawrence

The judge clears his throat and continues, “Case #1202.  Tommy James Rexton.”

A tall, unctuous man strides forward.  He preens confidently for a man on Death Row.  “You have been found guilty of seven counts of murder.  Your sentence is death.”

I, and most of the room, begin to simmer with audible discontent.  We are disgusted with his crime but equally with what we know will be the form of execution.

“Considering the severity of your crime, you are offered no choice in your execution.”  This is what I, and the gallery, both feared and expected.  “I order death from category E.”  Somehow these words sound less insidious than the proper name.  There is only one type of death in this category.  It’s called Erasure.

This murderer Rexton must have seen it coming.  For the most heinous crimes, Erasure is a popular choice among judges.  But no convict selects Erasure.  Across species and across cultures, the psychological barriers to Erasure are universal.  Erasure means you will have never existed.  Well, for all intents, anyway.  What Erasure really amounts to, what it proves, is that you were never born.  Government operatives, or executioners, go back in time and plant a microscopic weapon inside you.  Not at the time of your birth, but at the moment you reach maturity around twelve years of age.  The universe will not abide paradoxes, but it is surprisingly resilient.  A change here or there may make little difference in the long run.  But it’s what makes time travel possible, and Erasure too.

The weapon is insidiously clever.  It includes a built-in trigger with an extremely high probability of killing you moment to moment.  But you keep beating the odds so long as your actions in the past benefit the present.  The moment they don’t, the moment the universe can tolerate your absence from the timeline, you are dead.

Erasure is the ultimate insult added to the ultimate injury.

The killer Rexton didn’t choose it, but he has come to terms with it.  He stands patiently waiting to be Erased.  To have been Erased.  And when he is, the universe will forget him – most of him.  From birth until sometime after his twelfth birthday, he will exist.  But some or most or all of his adulthood will unexist.  And where does that leave the gallery and me viewing his Erasure?  In a state of profound discomfort.  It’s true that Rexton might begin to convulse and bleed out before our eyes.  Perhaps he was too important to die before this moment.  But this rarely happens, and the gallery knows it.  Instead, people look at the clock, and at the people sitting next to them, and at the judge.   Everyone is hoping to survive a minor bump in the timeline.  But like a patient who has just been given an anesthetic, there is no way to stave off the effect.  Like it or not, fight it or not by concentrating very hard on the revolting Rexton, history will change and we won’t remember a damn thing about it.

With the case closed, the judge performs the task he does before the start of every new case.  He opens up the execution register, sealed safely in the time-proof vault.  And he reads the name of the most recently Erased prisoner.  He clears his throat and says, “The last convict was #1202, Tommy James Rexton.”  Everyone stands in momentary disbelief and disorientation.  None of us remember what just happened.  Nobody remembers a man named Rexton.  We understand what must have just happened.  And we wonder what else has changed to the timeline.

I look and see my wife in the gallery, and I wonder if she was there before – before this now Erased Rexton changed our timeline.  I shake my head in an attempt to clean the thoughts from my mind.  But nothing has changed for me.  I’m still who I am.

My number will be called next.


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