Be Fit or Be Fined
by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
Magga assisted her children with the breakfast, and had for herself some sour milk with bananas, which she dined on in the company of the children. That kept her going almost till noon. Then her lack of sleep told on her, and her coworkers thought she was coming down with the flu.
“No, I just had this horrible nightmare last night and couldn’t sleep,” said Magga.
“Why? Did you have indigestion?” someone asked.
“If you had indigestion you must have been eating something you shouldn’t have. Have you been indulging in something illegal? Coffee maybe?” asked old Runni.
“Coffee?” asked Magga surprised.
“What is coffee?” someone asked.
“A narcotic substance,” said Runni. “It is said that unscrupulous characters grow it in their garages beneath stolen heat-lamps, and concoct from it a brew that they then imbibe to liven themselves up.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?”
“And illegal,” said Runni.
“Fuss,” said someone and shook his head.
“I am not imbibing some illegal broth,” said Magga, half-annoyed. “I just slept bad because of scary stories that my friend told me yesterday.”
“And what did she tell you?”
“None of your business,” said Magga.
Magga used the noon break to go and renew her gym card.
“People who renew the card use the card, people who use the card renew the card,” she sang to herself as she skipped to the Institution for Public Health to renew her card, so the authority could keep tabs on whether she did her exercises like a good subject.
“People who let others have their card can misplace their card, and will then receive a double fine because they are not just cheating themselves but also the whole of society,” she sang.
The Institution for Public Health was run with funds to spare from fines on lazy people.
Magga ambled in. She had a seat in the waiting room, and immediately attracted attention. Her eyes drooped, and she leaned a bit to one side.
“Are you all right?” asked an attendant that came walking fast.
“Sure, sure, just a little sleepy,” said Magga.
“Quick, let’s take her to get checked!”
Magga got a lift to the hospital, where she was stripped naked, scanned and X-rayed. Then she got poked with pins and asked to stick out her tongue.
“You are all right,” said the doctor finally.
“I could have told you that myself,” said Magga calmly.
“Those nightmares, why do you think you had them?” asked the doctor.
“My friend told me horror stories, and they kept me awake,” said Magga.
“Tell your friend to not scare you so much in the future,” said the doctor.
Magga smiled. “Can I maybe get dressed now?”
“If you want,” said the doctor and left.
Magga got dressed and hitched a lift back, now with a note from the doctor confirming her good health. After that it only took fifteen minutes for her to get a new card, and she walked back to work to get that confirmed and documented.
She showed her boss the files concerning her trip to the hospital when he asked her what she’d been doing away for so long. He was happy to hear that she was so healthy, but asked her to renew her card after work in the future, to avoid such troubles.
In all other respects, the day went on as usual: she went to the gym, fetched the kids, shopped for food and then went directly home to eat. She managed to read a couple of positive and constructive poems to her children before she went to sleep, then completely exhausted.
And she slept tight.
When she woke up, she was cold. She huddled and started wondering what had happened to her bedspread. When she opened her eyes, she discovered that she was under the open sky. It took her a moment to process that there was something not quite right about that, but when it quickly filtered through the she was indeed outdoors, her heart began to beat faster.
She looked around. It was a blasted wasteland, covered in rocks and moss as far as the eye could see in all directions. Within reach was a pole, five meters high, and on top of it some unrecognizeable device. Around the pole were four other persons, two women and two men. One of the women was still asleep, two were roaming around them looking confused, and the other man was sitting and staring at her.
“Where are we?” she asked the staring man.
He just shook his head.
“Well then,” a mighty voice boomed. It came from the device atop the pole. “It is nice that you should wake up right now. I expect that you are hungry. There is a bit of food for you in the pocket of the pants you’re wearing.”
Magga checked the pocket. She was unfamiliar with the clothes she found herself wearing. They were just simple ordinary grey pyjamas, exactly the sort she didn’t have, and they had pockets, and in one pocket there was indeed something. It was some strange matter wrapped in paper.
“Eat that, you idiots,” the voice toned from the pole. “It is chocolate; you’ll need it.”
Magga had never heard that word before but bit into it out of curiosity. It was so sweet it almost made her puke, but she could get it down with an effort.
“This is sugar! Are we to be poisoned?” one of them who was already standing nagged at the speaker on the pole.
“All right,” the voice began again after a few moments, “I won’t lie to you. You will all die today.”
They all jumped in their skin.
“Those of you who have children, know that your children will be taken care of by suitable foster parents. They have been told that you contracted the bacteria and died suddenly and have been burned to prevent infection.”
They looked at each other.
“Shocking, isn’t it?” said the pole, “Oh well, you have fifteen minutes to run. It’s your choice which direction you go, or whether you run at all. Those who choose to run do, however, tend to live longer than those who do not. That is all. Goodbye.”
And with that the pole fell silent.
They stood there aroundt he pole, bewildered, staring confusedly at one another without knowing what to do. The man who had been staring at Magga ran away at full speed.
“We should just stay here,” said Magga. The others nodded.
And they waited, and they looked around worried and wondered what cruel joke was being played on them. They peered into the distance to see where they could run to but saw nothing but some shrubs in the far distance and, beyond that, the horizon.
“We’re on top of a mountain,” someone said. Magga looked around. It was a woman, about ten years younger then herself.
“Look! See!” said the other woman and pointed. “Someone is coming.”
They all looked where she was pointing. It was no mistaking it: some men were approaching.
“Maybe they have come to take us off of this mountain,” said the remaining man in the group.
They all smiled at the thought. The men advanced rapidly, as their stride was long. They were also smiling to their ears.
“Kobbi, They’re sill waiting at the pole, you owe me a thousand!” one announced loudly.
“Hey, they were five, and there are only four by the pole,” Kobbi answered.
“A majority is by the pole; you lose.”
The men came closer. There were eight of them, with backpacks and other indeteminable devices. One of them looked Magga in the eyes and said, “They almost always wait at the pole, like lambs who don’t know what is about to happen to them.”
Magga didnt know what that referred to, but there was something about how those men behaved that unnerved her.
The man drew from his pocket a peculiar implement that Magga had never seen before, holding it before her so she could see it better. He grinned.
“Never seen one of these?” he asked, “you are peculiar people. This is a knife. But you don’t use these, do you? You just tear your vegetables by hand, don’t you? The fish comes pre-cut, so do the bread and the bananas.”
“We use a banana-cutter,” said Magga.
The man mulled that word over for a moment. Had obviously never heard it before.
“Yes...” then he looked her in the eyes again, and said in a spirited tone, “Are you sure you don’t want to run?”
Magga thought about it, but then said yes. The man tilted his head and shrugged.
It was then that Magga was stabbed and disembowelled. She could hear the screams of her companions when they met the same fate. She could feel it when he started cutting off her legs but then passed out.
She no longer felt anything when her carcass was hanged up on the pole to drain all her blood, or when she got parted and her bits and pieces either buried at the spot or bagged.
Her parts were split between four men, who each went their own way with them. The thighs went home with a man named Tryggvi.
His wife was happy to see him. “How did the hunting trip go?” she asked.
“It went without incident,” said Tryggvi.
“Have you vented your murderous urges?”
“If I was always so overcome with murderous urges, as you call them, I’d try to get a job making fuel oil; then I’d get to kill someone every day,” said Tryggvi. He slammed his bags on the kitchen table, “I got thigh, like you asked for.”
The wife was happy to hear that, and she cooked the thighs the next day, and the family happily ate them with some browned potatoes and washed them down with cola-flavored carbonated soda.
Copyright © 2018 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson