The Law of Equality — Short Story

Short story based on a prompt by Soulcandy for The Library of Things

Source (CC0)

“Tell us, sir. Why did you send this letter?” A man in a black suit, sitting in the middle of a group of five, serious looking people, held up some pieces of paper. They were slightly wrinkled from being read so often.

Henry looked down at his hands, willing them to stop fidgeting. “It felt like the right thing to do.”

The committee members looked at the small man sitting on a chair that was obviously too tall for him. His feet were hanging freely, like of a little child. He was obviously trying really hard. But the more he tried, the more he sweated.

“You know we are here to just confirm everything. No decision will be made here, today. We just want to ask you some questions.”

Henry nodded. “Absolutely. I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”

“Then tell us please, why you felt it was the right thing to do? What made it the right thing?”

Henry shifted slightly on his chair. If it weren’t for the fact that there were five pairs of eyes focused on him, that had been trained to scrutinize candidates thoroughly, nobody would have noticed. But these were professionals. One of them made a note. Put his finger to the screen laying in front of him, quickly.

Henry however, also noticed things. He might look stupid, but that was just the nerves talking. The tick on that screen meant something. He just didn’t know what.

“It is time to act. To do something. No longer stand on the side while people having opinions shout their way into making a reality that I don’t want to be a part of. Perhaps you’d like me to say that I want to make a difference. But actually I don’t want to be one of those who shout, who consider their opinion more important than the others. To have an opinion, and then to step back to listen to other people. That is my gift.”

The man in the black suit looked down at the pieces of paper in front of him, moving his left index finger over the letters. Tracing the meaning of words that went beyond his understanding. Deliberation. Understanding. Listening.

“I see. It’s highly uncommon, you see. A handwritten letter like this. And you’re not even old. Perhaps you’re even too young to be taken serious at all. But then a letter like this. With big words. On paper. Such a waste of resources. What kind of pen did you use?”

“An old fountain pen, sir. My father’s. He taught me to use it himself, when I was a child. Told me that skills are important.”

The man nodded. “You seem a great applicant. But unfortunately we cannot condone this behavior. You might not want to be part of it, but reality is reality. We expect more of citizens, especially when they apply to be a member of the High Council.”

The man paused, to see if the man was understanding what he was being told. It wasn’t always clear to people why they were being rejected, and to avoid too many questions and complaints afterwards, this part of the committee’s task was important. Perhaps it was even the only important thing they did.

“As you know, the Leader has been so great to waive all the requirements for membership to the High Council. Everyone is equal in His Eyes, praised be His Name. But that doesn’t mean we can accept just any applicant.”

Henry shook his head. “So I’m rejected because I used a handwritten letter to express my availability?”

The man in the black suit pressed a button that was hidden under his desk, which alerted the hosts to prepare for the next applicant to be made ready to come in.

“No, sir. You are rejected because we rejected you.”

Henry stood up, unaware that his hands were forming a fist. “But why?”

The man in the black suit looked at his fellow committee members, who were all quietly shaking their head, looking at him with eyes pleading to make this swift.

“Because, that is our job. Goodbye.”

Henry nodded, finally understanding he was not going to change anything. The Law on Equality was vital for the well-being of the nation, he understood that. And he was just as equal as the next applicant. To expect anything else, for the committee not to follow the law, was silly. What had he been thinking?

“Goodbye. Sorry for my outburst. I understand now.”

The man was taken aback. “What do you understand?”

Henry smiled, as he picked up his briefcase.

“That we are all equally rejected, sir.”