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Charles R. Bloomburton signed his name in boxy letters at the bottom of the entry form. He looked over the paperwork once more for a moment before handing the manila folder to the sentry on duty.

“I’ll make my rounds again in the afternoon,” he said. “She’s to be given nothing except water and sedatives for the time being. Is that understood?”

The guard nodded with a brief “Yes sir,” and Charles headed down the hall with the rest of his files neatly tucked under his arm.

As he walked past the cells of special subjects in need of attention, he was reminded of his caseload and the real gravity of his work. There was Rebecca in her eighth month of processing. Then, there was Anne, Bruce, Raj, Sasha, and so many more who had gone astray in their own ways. Anti-social tendencies was the most likely the explanation, he thought. But in fact, every case was quite different. Each cell he walked by offered a quick glimpse into their prescribed treatments from the tedious to the extreme. For a minute, he stops in front of a subject’s room, observing his progress through the peephole. Indefinitely trapped in a set of headphones, though young Leonard seemed too far gone at that moment to notice anyone, Charles made note of a few observations on his clipboard and continued on his way.

He’d concluded a while back that most of these were textbook cases. Not particularly challenging for his skill sets or worth mentioning to the other committee heads. He was confident that all of the subjects would be reformed sooner or later. But Eleana, he thought, staring down at her file. She was different: a repeat offender, troubled, rebellious, disrespectful of authority figures, even rude at times, and, most troubling, a confirmed non-conformist.

Charles returned to his office and sat down. It was modest and orderly positioned at the center of the left wing of the bureau. He had one bookshelf, a slender desk, and a mug for the tart, and a black coffee dispensed from the machine in the reception area. The wall facing his chair was entirely made up of closed circuit TV screens that he would switch on and off throughout the day to monitor his subjects. Now, Bruce was in the middle of staging some sort of protest against the guards. The video of Anne showed a woman shouting at the top of her lungs in a soundproof room. And then, there was Eleana who seemed to alternate between yelling, spitting, and sitting quietly in thought. Thirty-six different subjects acted out across each screen in his office. Thirty-six files decorated the top of Charles’ desk, but he found himself drawn to the challenge of the repeat offender (Eleana).

Dutifully, Charles consulted the binder on standard operating procedures, then he read through a guide on best practices in dealing with troubled youth. But special cases like this one required special attention. In earnest, he read through Eleana’s file in full, studying it critically, trying to discern where exactly she had gone wrong, and formulating a plan of action to set her on the correct path again.

As he scribbled across his notepad, Charles stopped so often to look at the closed circuit video of Eleana in the quiet room. The monitor would flicker and he would return to his prescribed solutions for a minute or two more. Trapped beneath every one of these rebels was an upstanding model citizen, he told himself. It was just a matter of his commitment to help them achieve just that which involves helping them see beyond their flaws to the person they should be. What was needed here, as is in so many cases, was a combination of treatments. Eleana was extreme, perhaps, but ultimately no different than his past successes. Charles picked up his phone and dialed the sentry on duty.

“Yes Sir?” The sentry answered.

“At 4:00 PM, I want Eleana moved from the quiet room to the water room,” Charles instructed. “We should begin with level six treatments as soon as possible.”

“Yes sir, Mr. Bloomburton. Right away.”


Love this story? It’s an excerpt from our amazing published micro-novel “The Conscious Objection” by S.A. Borders-Shoemaker and David Newstead.

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