Punishment by Jose Diaz


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SUMMARY: A man wakes in a distant future to a surprising new reality.


"Watch out for his nose!" a man looking over a woman's shoulder said over the buzzing sound of a laser-thing, which the woman was applying to a sleeping man's face.

"Anything done to his nose would be an improvement," the woman said.

"These people were ugly," the man agreed.

The woman couldn't seem to be able to hide the revulsion she felt when she was forced to touch the pasty skin with the stubble growing out of it. "How would you like to have had facial hair," she added, turning her head up to look at the man standing behind her.

"Facial hair?" the man said. "Hair at all..."

The woman applied the laser-thing with remarkable skill and the stubble seemed to dissolve as the laser touched it. When the woman finally shut off the instrument only a square little patch of hair beneath the nose remained.

"What do you think?" the woman asked looking at the immobile face she had just "shaved". She removed plastic gloves which she discarded into a vacuum-thing that sucked them into oblivion.

"I really don't know. I didn't study them as well as you did. It does look like the picture; but, don't forget, I'm only the answering man," the man said. "How long before he wakes?"

"Any time now," the woman replied.

Moments later, the sleeping man's nose twitched and his right hand came up to scratch it. His eyes opened. "Where am I?" he asked.

"It would be hard for you to understand," the answering man answered.

The former sleeping man's eyes turned to the source of the voice. "Let me try," he requested.

"No, you wouldn't understand," the answering man asserted.

"Shouldn't I be speaking German?" the former sleeping man asked.

"No, everyone speaks English," the answering man replied. "We made English the universal language over three hundred years ago."

The former sleeping man made a wry face and said, "I should be dead . . . why am I not dead?"

"You've been resuscitated," the answering man replied.

"Then, that means that 'The Cause' triumphed after all," the former sleeping man said.

"What cause?" the answering man asked.

"Well, that explains why German isn't the universal language," the former sleeping man said. "I think I'd rather be dead."

"Wouldn't you like to live forever?" the answering man said. "We conquered death, you know."

"I don't know if I'd like to live forever," the former sleeping man replied.

"I'm afraid that you have no choice," the answering man said. "Today we made you immortal."

"Well, what's done is done," the former sleeping man said. "What's in the agenda for tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow you start a life sentence for crimes against humanity," the answering man said.