Here, down in the Hive, when the news broke, people were, as was to be expected, up in arms. A contract had been awarded to XNexSt. It was for a system for monitoring citizens which would also create a unified registry system for the identification and targeting of deviants — you know, those who are threats to society, those who do not belong to civil groups, those who refuse to belong to communities, those who refuse to get jobs like the rest of us, those who refuse to play by the norms that were so clearly laid out for our collective good, you know, groups representing low proclivity to consume.

These deviants, of course, are also those who do not belong to the clearly defined minorities, defined around gender, colour, sexual orientations, allergies – peanuts, lactose intolerance, etc – and who do not perform well on our happiness indexes. The system was meant to identify these deviants and dispose of them. Everyone must belong to a minority. And everyone must demonstrate that they are happy. Otherwise, the system cannot assign a value to them. 

We were outraged. The proposal was to monitor all Internet activity, perform a deviance survey based on a deviant activities scorecard and then, based on the score, link each of the eyes on screen – or EoS – and the deviance score to a national identification card for easy targeting and for initiating logging out and cancellation. Best ways to figure out the deviants — they were the ones who didn’t forward our manufactured outrageous comments on social media so as to make those ideas mainstream and viable. People who didn’t do that just didn’t fit in.

C+ | RM Naeem (ink and acrylic)
C+ | RM Naeem (ink and acrylic)

Disposal was to be done through mobile disposal units — much like the garbage trucks that prowl through cities every night. In this case, after the deviating EoSs log out, they die as a result of a deep sensation of depression which would cause either a stroke or a haemorrhage — or both. After this, disposal teams would move in, unlock the codes on the computerised lock systems on apartment doors and houses — since now every single home conforms to this building standard. The disposal teams would pick up the bodies and throw them into the garbage truck to be taken to a disposal site for instant incineration. 

Our people were horrified when this news broke. No attention to detail at all! In comparison, our entire proposal was so much better! Much more cost efficient. Of course, it was. We were the ones who had designed and implemented the happiness index monitoring system. Hello! An efficient measure of success linked to each bank account: happiness. And the social media comment forwarding thing. Our proposal for monitoring was just as elegant and relevant. A much more sure-fire way of logging out, without any risk of failure.

A two-step approach — if step one, which resembled XNexSt’s approach, failed, step two would kick in. In this phase, an added dose of subliminal messaging would persuade the EoS to click on the firearm and on the body bag facsimile option and then walk out of their dwellings to a point of pick up, PoP. Then on the sighting of the approaching disposal truck, the EoS would get into the body bag and shoot himself.

Plus our proposal used garbage trucks which had built-in functions for separating bones, blood and flesh. We had pilot tested the process in several locations when the opportunity had presented itself. And another one was coming up. Soft drinks are not the only product testing that follow our troops! Hello?! Our system took the waste product and immediately disposed of it by incineration, creating fuel for heating while the rest of the waste product was turned to compost for organic farms. It contributed to a green economy.

As we noted in our proposal, our firm was 100 per cent minority-owned and run. Our happiness index was well off the charts: in the top one per cent of the top quintile. It was an airtight case. So for this to have gone to someone else — was a travesty. We are planning a strong protest. Such injustice has to be resisted.

This article was published as part of a special editorial project '2016 In Broad Strokes' for the Herald's Annual 2017 issue. To read more subscribe to the Herald in print.

The writer is a novelist and short story writer with four published books.

The artist is a graduate of the National College of Arts, Lahore.