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The International Writers Magazine
: It's all in the mind

The Fall of the Human Spirit
Joshua A. Lineberry

The lights were blinding.
I can do this, Alejandro thought to himself. The human spirit must be capable of anything.

"He can’t do it." Two men in black suits stood in the control room, overlooking the gymnasium. Great white lights, suspended high above the room, illuminated a single figure atop an elevated platform in the gymnasium. Alejandro was nervous, visibly shaken. His dark hair dripped with sweat. His brown eyes were fixed upon a single goal, which was thirty feet from where he stood. It was another platform, higher and very far away. Alejandro clenched his hands into fists.
"He isn’t ready," said one of the black suited men, peering out the glass windows of the control room. "He will fall."
"Give him time," said the other. His voice was deeper, and his skin was dark like the room.
"Anymore time given will be time wasted."
"Have faith in humanity, Carl. You are foolish to underestimate our abilities."
"Oh, believe me. I have no doubts about us. It's him I’m worried about."
The man with lighter skin wore sun glasses, even in the dark. They were actually reading glasses. They were used to monitor Alejandro’s heart rate, anxiety levels, brain activity, and other various health-related categories.
"Is he going to jump or what?" The man in the sun glasses seemed frustrated.
"You are one of the most impatient people I know, Carl." The dark-skinned man stated, sitting down in a nearby leather chair. Brandon was his name. He had first met Alejandro years ago, when he was seven years younger. To the day.
Carl suddenly threw his fist at the glass, giving a grunt when the two met. The glass was several inches thick. Practically impenetrable. But Carl had only meant to relieve his frustration. "It’s been hours, Brandon," Carl fidgeted with his sun glasses.
"No," Brandon seemed thoughtful, "It’s been years."
"It’ll be decades if we keep sitting here," Carl murmured. He stared at a few sheets of paper on a desk near the window.
"Alejandro Soto," Carl read the subject’s name, which was in black ink upon the top sheet of paper on the desk. "Born: April 17th, 2153," Carl smirked, "Died: Standing on the gymnasium platform." Brandon offered no reply. He didn’t look at Alejandro any longer.
"You act as if you don’t care," Carl kept on talking, "As if you’d stay here forever if he didn’t jump."

Suddenly, without warning, Alejandro gave a shout that echoed throughout the gymnasium. Carl whirled around and pressed his face and fingers against the window glass. Brandon leapt from where he was seated. They watched carefully as Alejandro began to rise into the air. Higher and higher he went.
A determined scowl was etched across Alejandro’s face. 'The human spirit must be capable of anything', he said to himself. He continued rising into the air. He had never jumped so high before. His concentration hadn’t failed him. He was going to make it. Alejandro outstretched his arms to catch the ledge of the other platform. His fingers were extended as far as they would reach. They are watching me, Alejandro thought. Soon, they will know.

Carl and Brandon watched as Alejandro fell, several feet from his expected destination, into a defeated heap upon the matted Gymnasium floor. "15 feet," Carl read the data his sun glasses had collected, "We waited three hours to see him fail."
"He is hurt," Brandon said as women in white uniforms rushed to Alejandro’s aid. "They usually are," Carl replied. He looked at his watch, "Ten o’clock."
"I’m going to go see him," Brandon said. "It’s the least I can do. I had assured him of success."
Carl shrugged, "Whatever. I’ll be in the lobby." Brandon straightened his coat and strode through the control room’s exit. Two metal doors slid open to allow him to leave.

Alejandro felt himself being lifted onto a table with white sheets. He tried to open his eyes. They wouldn’t cooperate. How uncomfortable! Alejandro had lost his self control.
The human spirit must be capable of anything. Alejandro remembered the words of his teacher, the meager Mister Toro. He didn’t recall what Mister Toro had said afterwards. There was always something that followed those words. It was the punch line, Alejandro was sure. He had only remembered the first part, because it sounded so appropriate.
With newfound psychic and strength enhancing powers, humanity was more potent that it had ever been before. Only individualistic principles were taught. Machines were looked down upon. They were used only for what men and women could not do themselves. And, it seemed that list was getting smaller each day.

Mister Toro had taught Alejandro the principles of self -determinism. It was a new ideology, replacing what it had formerly defined. There was a call for humanity to take care of itself. Each person was responsible for fulfilling his or her own potential. Everyone could succeed. But Alejandro had fallen.
"I am sorry, Alejandro," said a deep, bass voice.
Alejandro’s eyes slowly opened. It was some time later. Alejandro tried to sit up, but he had been bound to the top of a cold, metal plated table. "Relax, Alejandro," said the voice. It was Brandon, but Alejandro could not turn his head to see. They had met years ago and had talked a few times since, but neither knew the other well enough to recognize the person by voice alone.
"What’s going on?" Alejandro asked. His voice was tinged with fear. "You fell," Brandon replied, bleakly. "Why am I being held here?" Alejandro’s voice became increasingly hostile, "You have no right to hold me here!"
Brandon shook his head. Slowly, he stood and took a few steps towards the metal table so that Alejandro could see his face. Alejandro’s eyes widened as he recognized a man from his past. "You’re the recruiter," Alejandro gasped.
"Relax, Alejandro. I have a lot to say," Brandon swallowed and straightened his coat. "You have failed your test. The test can only be taken once. There are no second chances." Alejandro’s face creased in confusion. "Forget what you have been told during your training," Brandon said quickly, "They may have told you that the test would be given multiple times. They may have told you a lot of things. But forget it, okay?" Alejandro nodded, nervously.
"When you fail," Brandon grimaced, "It’s over. Everything ends, get it? Those preaching the doctrines of Individualism and self-determinism pack up their suitcases and take the first flight home. They stop observing you. They stop teaching you." Brandon sighed, "You’ve been given up on. Don’t look at me that way, Alejandro. Don’t look at me like I’m a bad person. I’m not. I wanted you to win, Alejandro. But you didn’t. And there’s nothing left for me to do now but to show you the reality of your situation."
"When do I get to go home?" Alejandro asked, "If I’ve failed, I want to go back to my life."
"Your life is over," Brandon said bluntly, "There is no life but preparation for your test. When you fail, it’s over. Those who’ve passed move on and are accepted into society. But those like you disappear. They go away."
"I want to go home," Alejandro’s voice was shaking. Brandon returned to his chair away from the metal table and rested his arms against his knees. He sighed again. "We can’t let you leave."
Alejandro cried out, thrashing about. It was no use. His restraints could not be broken, especially by those who couldn’t even pass their tests. Brandon sat in his chair and said nothing. Eventually, Alejandro gave up. His tired arms fell at his sides and he leaned his head back in failure.
Finally, Brandon broke the silence.
"It’s a trainer’s job to prepare you for the test. Sometimes they must weave in a few falsehoods to hook the youths, Alejandro. There is no bridge for those who fail. There was once something we called low class. But they were sad souls. They were perpetual failures at everything they tried in life. As a result, their existence only was felt by the crimes they committed or the drugs they championed. Can you believe it, Alejandro? Would you want your children to succumb to the temptations of self-defeating drugs? Neither did we.
We wanted bright futures for our sons and daughters, separate from those that would bring them down. Separate from those that would steal what they have rightfully earned and supply what would be their destruction. Poverty has always been the seed of all things terrible in civilization, Alejandro. Surely, you were taught that in your training."
"Have they told you of the American dream, Alejandro? This dream is for the number capable of passing the test. All others that fall must be removed from society, lest they corrupt what we intend to create. It will take time. So far, we’ve had mixed results. But utopias aren’t built overnight, Alejandro. They are groomed to mature over time, just like those that take the test. Think of the stock market. Some can’t measure up. We understand. But you must also understand why we cannot allow you into our world. You don’t see it now, Alejandro, but there would be nothing for you if you remained here."
"We are taking the next step forward into a glorious future. Humanity is evolving. If you and the others that fail were allowed to continue in society, it would stall our development. It's people like you who brought our civilization to the brink of self-destruction. Thousands of intellectuals have mulled over possible solutions to this problem for centuries. People began pointing to low-income families. There was a war on poverty. Social programs were tried. But none of it worked. Crime continued to rise. Did you know that, during this time, we had a murder rate of almost 20%? 20%! Armed robberies, theft, and rapes were on the rise as well. I’m sure you can guess who was at the center of these problems. Those poor souls whose lives were so pitiful that they had to steal from and ravage others were everywhere. Even worse, they had a tendency to breed rapidly. Something had to be done."
"Then, it became painfully obvious. To create a perfect picture, you must remove blemishes. You are a blemish, Alejandro. A failure. You’ve failed today, once, and will fail again many times if we allow you to continue onward. Scientists have said that 5 out of every 10 infants will someday fail their tests. 7 years ago, you were summoned to this facility to begin training for your test just like everyone else your age. You were taught the same material as those who have passed the test. You were given the same training. But, unlike half the others, you failed."

Brandon stood slowly, straightening his coat once more. "I’m sorry, Alejandro. I really am. I’ve followed your progress. I wanted you to succeed. But there’s nothing more I can do for you. Think of these last moments as your contribution to a higher cause. Remember, it’s for a greater good." Brandon stared at Alejandro, inviting a response. He waited for some sort of closure. He longed for an answer that would relieve the guilt that weighed his heart. Then, Alejandro crushed his hopes. Twisting about, Alejandro shouted, "I want to go home!"
Brandon exited the Texas Training facility with his head hanging low. Carl stood waiting, his hands shoved in his pockets. "No luck, huh?" Carl prodded. Brandon said nothing, but continued walking. Carl followed.
"What’s for breakfast today?" Brandon said finally, "I think we should try something new."
"New?" Carl laughed, "And pass up those all-American slices of sausage? Those world famous pancakes? Freshly squeezed orange juice?" They were nearing the parking lot now. "Yeah, I guess you’re right," Brandon gave in. "Course I’m right," Carl shot back. For a moment, Carl stared back at the facility. "Another day, another dollar," he grinned.

Inside the facility, women in white uniforms were preparing an IV for Alejandro. Terrified, Alejandro could no longer fight to break free. He laid there, limp. He thought of his home. It seemed so long ago. His mother’s face had seemed so hopeful when he left for Texas. He had been so sure he would pass the test.
The human spirit must be capable of anything, Alejandro considered the words of Mister Toro once more. What had come next? Then, he remembered. Even its own destruction.
Alejandro began to cry.
© Joshua A. Lineberry

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