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Thread: Taming Evil

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    Default Taming Evil

    [Original] [One-Shot]
    [Rated PG for potentially disturbing themes]

    This was written as coursework for my English GCSE. The task was to write a short story; no further specification was given. I'm extremely proud of how it came out, so I've decided to share it with the people on this forum. Feedback would be appreciated.

    Taming Evil

    Forget life imprisonment; forget the capital punishment debate. We, at the New Leaf Institute, deal with irredeemable criminals in a much simpler way – we redeem them. After only a few weeks in our revolutionary care, the scum of society – serial murderers, child abductors, sadistic rapists – become gentle, law abiding citizens who would never dream of causing harm. Prison overcrowding is becoming less of a problem as the evil in the population is simply seeing the light, thanks to us. The world is opening its arms to a safer, happier future…

    Peter Freeman sighed. No matter what the public were told, the truth was that the New Leaf Institute was every bit as evil as the people it converted.

    He stared at his reflection in the glass panel in front of him, hoping to convince himself that he couldn’t see through to the other side. A stocky, middle-aged, unremarkable man looked back at him with a frown. His figure was clothed in a dark green uniform decorated with a brown leaf logo on the lapel. He worked for the Institute; there was no use trying to persuade himself that he played no part in the deception.

    Peter took his gaze off his reflection and looked through the glass, his eyes finally fixing on what they had been trying to avoid. Strapped to a cold metal table in the middle of a small and utterly featureless concrete room was a boy who looked to be no older than his late teens. A tangled mass of electrodes were taped to his close-shaven scalp – and an expression of pure terror was plastered onto his face. His eyes were wild with fear; his mouth was stretched into a ghastly scream.

    The glass was soundproof for a reason.

    Realising the sympathetic but helpless expression on his face, Peter blinked and regained his composure. He wasn’t meant to feel sorry for the prisoners. No-one was.

    He turned from the window, glad that the walls on his side of the pane had been painted a more reassuring cream colour (not that the boy could see it – the glass was one-way). Standing at the far end of the room, consulting a bank of computer equipment complete with keyboards and flashing monitors, was the smartly-dressed figure of his boss. Though slightly younger than Peter, she was taller and held an air of composure and authority.

    Peter hesitated briefly before speaking to her. “Who’s this we have here?” he asked, trying to sound noncommittal, as though he saw this all the time. He did see it all the time, but this boy’s age… He was by far the youngest yet.

    There was a swish of blonde hair as the woman turned to him. “Robert Downing, eighteen,” she said, her voice impassive as it reeled off the facts. “Convicted of several persistent anti-social offences: vandalism, muggings, assault; you name it, he’s probably done it.” A flicker of confusion registered behind her pale blue eyes. “Why do you ask? You don’t normally.”

    Because it helps if I don’t see them as real people, Peter thought, but he knew that voicing it would be pointless. Out loud, he said, “He’s so young. I didn’t think he could be, you know, one of ours.”

    She chuckled, but the action seemed bland, emotionless. “Oh, he is. Reform is the only way to go for him now. You know full well that our methods are quickest.”

    Peter turned back to the wretched teenager. “But he’s just a boy,” he protested, finally allowing a hint of passion into his voice. “You can’t possibly think this is right.” He saw the boy’s – Robert’s – face contort in agony as the wires attached to his skull began to vibrate with power.

    “Continue observing, Freeman,” the woman ordered bluntly. “Inform me if anything seems to be going wrong. We cannot let him die until the extraction process is complete.”

    Peter sighed, more with frustration than anything, and forced himself to watch the torture. The most saddening thing was that he knew these moments of terror and agony would be the youth’s last. Robert Downing – the true Robert Downing, anti-social stain on society that he was – would be killed as soon as Peter’s superior was finished extracting his brainwaves.

    The tangle of wires that snaked from the boy’s head into the adjacent concrete wall pulsed softly with energy. They led through to a different part of the building where Peter knew that a foetus containing Robert’s DNA was already developing inside an artificial womb. The clone’s growth would be accelerated until it reached the age of eighteen, and all the time the foetus would be fed with Robert’s brainwaves, his memories, his very personality – everything that made him him, except for the intent to do harm. That would be deleted entirely.

    Then the new and improved Robert Downing, very much the same person but with a fresh inclination not to hurt anyone or indeed to do anything bad, ever, would be released back into society. The public would rejoice as another “ne’er-do-well” criminal turned over a new leaf. None of them would care or even know that the price was the torture and murder of this young, terrified, real boy who lay screaming into the emptiness as the electrodes sucked out his soul.

    * * *

    It was wrong. It couldn’t go on. The public had to be told.

    Peter strode purposefully down a deserted London street, fixed on the telephone box that stood on a corner. He’d taken a detour home for a reason: his mobile and landline could link him to New Leaf, but a call from a phone booth would be nigh on untraceable.

    He reached the bright red box – the one splash of colour in the otherwise dull street – and pulled the door open. As he entered, he caught movement further down the road and realised that he wasn’t completely alone. Two tall men walked side by side, both wearing long grey overcoats, both their faces cast into shadow by wide-brimmed hats.

    Peter frowned. The sky was cloudy, but it wasn’t about to rain. It wasn’t particularly cold, either. A feeling of suspicion edged its way into his mind, but he shrugged it off and turned to the receiver in the booth.

    A few seconds later, the perky female voice of a government secretary was on the end of the line. “Hello! How may I help you?”

    He took a deep breath. Time to get everything out in the open. “I have some information about the New Leaf Institute which the government may be interested in,” he said.

    The secretary paused before replying. “One moment, please.”

    Peter waited, eyeing the two men through the window of the booth apprehensively. They had stopped by a lamppost, apparently engaged in conversation. On closer inspection, he realised that their lips weren’t moving. They seemed to be waiting.

    A deep male voice sounded in his ear, giving no introduction. “What is it?”

    Put off by the sudden change of speaker, Peter hesitated. “The Institute… well, simply put, its methods are wrong. Morally.”

    “How so?” The voice had a hint of sarcasm in its tone, almost as if it was mocking him.

    “This is going to sound ridiculous, but…” Peter steeled himself, and then launched into his explanation of what the New Leaf Institute did and why it was wrong. He took care to mention the case of Robert Downing, stressing how ridiculous it was that they were now dealing with simple examples of anti-social behaviour. “I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true,” he finished, somewhat lamely.

    The speaker chuckled on the other end of the line. “We believe you,” he said. “We know. The government knows what New Leaf does, Peter Freeman.”

    Peter froze. He hadn’t told anyone his name. He shot a nervous glance at the men by the lamppost; they seemed to be looking in his direction. As he watched, they began to approach him, almost as if by chance.

    “Why do you let it go on, then?” he said into the receiver, his rising panic evident in his voice. “If you know, why don’t you tell the public?”

    “Why would we?” Now the speaker seemed confident, arrogant. “The public are happy with the results you produce. Life has never seemed safer for them. If we told them, there would be uproar, debates, protests. This world doesn’t need that kind of chaos.”

    Turning briefly to see that the two men were almost upon him, Peter spoke more fervently. “If you won’t tell them, I will. They have to be told!”

    The door of the phone booth was wrenched open. One of the men thrust Peter into a wall, jolting the receiver from his grip. He was held forcefully in place while the man’s associate drew a syringe from his pocket and pulled off the safety cap. Peter stared cross-eyed at the tiny needle in the second before it was stabbed into his neck, forcing its chemical into his bloodstream. Both men’s faces betrayed no emotion as they carried out their task.

    Now empty, the syringe withdrew from Peter’s skin, and the man released him. Suddenly feeling woozy, he slumped to the floor of the booth, seeing the fuzzy shape of the receiver dangling in front of him.

    A voice found its way through the cotton wool of his mind, distorting as his consciousness slipped away. “This world doesn’t need people like you, Peter. But soon, you won’t be this person any more.”

    * * *

    Three weeks later, Peter Freeman walked into the glass-panelled room. He took a brief look at the occupant of the adjacent cell; it was a woman in her early twenties. Unconcerned, he watched her strain against the straps holding her down.

    His boss looked up from a screen as she saw him enter. “Back from your absence, I see,” she observed.

    Peter blinked. He knew he had been absent for a few weeks, but he couldn’t quite remember what for. “Yes,” he replied, not knowing what else to say.

    “I’m sure you’ll fit in much better now that you’ve had a break,” his superior continued with a tight smile. “Everyone did, including me.”

    That didn’t really make sense. Peter began to wonder why a break would help people to fit in, but the thought sort of drifted away without going anywhere. Instead, he grasped upon a mystery much simpler and easier to think about. “You took a break from work?” If he remembered correctly, his boss had never been absent.

    She nodded, turning back to her screen. “I did. It was only a few months after I started here, so it was before you came along.”

    Of course. Peter had only been working for the New Leaf Institute for a few months, himself.

    For a minute or two, he stood silently in the room, looking around. He could remember that he worked here, under this woman, but his mind was completely blank on what exactly his job was. “What do you want me to do?” he asked eventually.

    His boss gave him a swift, unconcerned glance, barely looking up from the computer in front of her. “Your job is to observe,” she reminded him, “and to assist me with the extraction process if anything seems to be going wrong.”

    Right. That was his job. He still didn’t remember doing it, but she was his boss, so she must have been right. Placidly, he turned towards the pane of glass separating him from the convicted woman next door.

    It didn’t occur to him that anyone should feel sorry for her as she writhed and twisted in her bonds, her mouth stretched wide open in some kind of grimace. It didn’t cross his mind that there was anything wrong with removing this murderer, this child killer – whatever she was – from the world and replacing her with a fresh, harmless clone.

    People who threatened the order of society deserved it, after all.
    .: Evolution is a battle .:. Something has to lose :.
    LOST EVOLUTION
    Chapter 33: Inside has been posted.


    Foregone Conclusion
    Spinoff/prequel/backstory/thingy to Lost Evolution, written for NaNoWriMo 2010

    Three Heads Are Better Than One

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    Decided to have a look at this, and use my nitpicky-ness upon this story.

    Overall, very nice. Certainly a chilling One-shot, and very dark as well. Great use of emotion and atmosphere within that - you painted a good picture of what the process would be like. Loved the description of the person's sufferring (no, not in a 'haha I like watching others suffer' enjoyment, rather that the quality of the description was high and enjoyable to read). Reminds me of the movie 'Clockwork Orange' - simialr ideas there, only this story has a more cruel method.

    The opening scene felt a little bit off at times, but only a touch, not really noticable. However, right after the second scene started, the rest of the events in that was pretty obvious and kinda hampered the 'shock' value coming in, if you know what I mean.
    We at the New Leaf Institute deal with irredeemable criminals in a much simpler way – we redeem them
    Nitpicky, but personally would have used a comma after 'We', to slow things down.
    His eyes were wild with fear; his mouth was stretched into a ghastly scream.

    The glass was soundproof for a reason.
    Favourite part of the story. Nice separating of sentences there, quite ghastly indeed.
    He did see it all the time, but this boy’s age… He was by far the youngest yet.
    Not sure if that should be capitalised...

    Again, quite good and dark, although as I said the final outcome was a bit predictable - probably should have the 'suspicious' men and the such show up after the relevation, as it simply gave it away.
    You have right to be proud over that work mind.

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  3. #3
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    Very nice. Chilling. I couldn't find anything wrong with it, except maybe some grammer stuff that isn't required.

    I loved it. You did a great job, better than I ever could have.
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  4. #4
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    bobandbill - Thanks a lot for the review. I was beginning to think this wouldn't get any. As payment, I should probably get my backside into gear and review your most recent chapter sometime, no?
    Quote Originally Posted by bobandbill View Post
    Decided to have a look at this, and use my nitpicky-ness upon this story.

    Overall, very nice. Certainly a chilling One-shot, and very dark as well. Great use of emotion and atmosphere within that - you painted a good picture of what the process would be like. Loved the description of the person's sufferring (no, not in a 'haha I like watching others suffer' enjoyment, rather that the quality of the description was high and enjoyable to read). Reminds me of the movie 'Clockwork Orange' - simialr ideas there, only this story has a more cruel method.
    When I ran the idea past my English teacher, she also mentioned that it sounded a bit like A Clockwork Orange, even though I haven't actually read the book or seen the film. But is mine really more cruel? My teacher explained briefly what A Clockwork Orange involved, and it seems to me that those methods are more cruel as the person has to live with what they've suffered for the rest of their lives. At least the New Leaf Institute's victims get the release of death at the end. (Yes, this is me trying to defend my twisted creation. xP)

    Thanks; I think the thing I like the most about this is its atmosphere.
    The opening scene felt a little bit off at times, but only a touch, not really noticable.
    Well, the final draft has been handed in now so I can't improve it (and it's probably not allowed to get help from the Internet anyway), but I'd still be interested if you can tell me how it's off, so I can avoid doing the same thing in other writing.
    However, right after the second scene started, the rest of the events in that was pretty obvious and kinda hampered the 'shock' value coming in, if you know what I mean.
    Mmm. You have a good point there.

    I think the reason I went all "ooh suspicious creepy men" is that in English we have to analyse stuff a lot, and it's much easier during a waffley analysis to say that an author built up tension than it is to say they created a shock. So I think my English-lesson mindset was on when I wrote this.

    It's interesting, actually. Because I deliberately went to try and unnerve the readers and make them think that something's not quite right, but in doing so, I made it a little predictable. This is making me wonder whether it can actually be possible to have both suspicion and shock at the same time, or whether you have to choose one or the other.

    If the men hadn't turned up until later in the scene, then the dark atmosphere might have been lost for the first part of it. So I really don't know.

    Obviously, it's too late to change this scene now, but you've got me thinking as to whether it's worth it to go for an all-out shock factor and give up the opportunity to build up tension because of it. Or whether both are possible somehow. Thanks for bringing that up.

    (Ramble over.)
    Nitpicky, but personally would have used a comma after 'We', to slow things down.
    Before the first "We", and then another after "Institute"? Mmm, yeah, I think I'll edit that in.
    Favourite part of the story. Nice separating of sentences there, quite ghastly indeed.
    Heh, thanks. The soundproof glass line is my favourite, too.
    Not sure if that should be capitalised...
    Neither am I, so I'll leave it as it is.
    Again, quite good and dark, although as I said the final outcome was a bit predictable - probably should have the 'suspicious' men and the such show up after the relevation, as it simply gave it away.
    By revelation, do you mean the fact that the government knows what they do? If so, damn. :x I really didn't want that to be guessed.
    You have right to be proud over that work mind.
    Thanks. =D

    Zadros - Thank you for the comments. But what do you mean, grammar stuff that isn't required? Grammar's always required in my view. If you think I made a grammar mistake somewhere, fire away.
    .: Evolution is a battle .:. Something has to lose :.
    LOST EVOLUTION
    Chapter 33: Inside has been posted.


    Foregone Conclusion
    Spinoff/prequel/backstory/thingy to Lost Evolution, written for NaNoWriMo 2010

    Three Heads Are Better Than One

  5. #5
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    Reply to the reply to the review.

    When I ran the idea past my English teacher, she also mentioned that it sounded a bit like A Clockwork Orange, even though I haven't actually read the book or seen the film. But is mine really more cruel? My teacher explained briefly what A Clockwork Orange involved, and it seems to me that those methods are more cruel as the person has to live with what they've suffered for the rest of their lives. At least the New Leaf Institute's victims get the release of death at the end. (Yes, this is me trying to defend my twisted creation. xP)
    Well, maybe a bit more, though I suppose it can be taken either way. In Clockwork Orange, they mostly just sat the victim infront of a long video showing cruel things, for so long that their body basically got to the stage that they physically couldn't do such things, although the person could still want too... guess they are both very cruel methods. (why did I put a happy face for that?)
    Incidently, a future scene that I've thought up actually relates to Clockwork Orange a bit as well... only funnier.

    Well, the final draft has been handed in now so I can't improve it (and it's probably not allowed to get help from the Internet anyway), but I'd still be interested if you can tell me how it's off, so I can avoid doing the same thing in other writing.
    The pacing was just a tad off - as I mentioned it could have been just a little slower, the opening part (in italics). The shift to Peter's POV was also a little too sudden and uncomfortable - could have been done a little smoother IMO.
    Mmm. You have a good point there.

    I think the reason I went all "ooh suspicious creepy men" is that in English we have to analyse stuff a lot, and it's much easier during a waffley analysis to say that an author built up tension than it is to say they created a shock. So I think my English-lesson mindset was on when I wrote this.

    It's interesting, actually. Because I deliberately went to try and unnerve the readers and make them think that something's not quite right, but in doing so, I made it a little predictable. This is making me wonder whether it can actually be possible to have both suspicion and shock at the same time, or whether you have to choose one or the other.

    If the men hadn't turned up until later in the scene, then the dark atmosphere might have been lost for the first part of it. So I really don't know.

    Obviously, it's too late to change this scene now, but you've got me thinking as to whether it's worth it to go for an all-out shock factor and give up the opportunity to build up tension because of it. Or whether both are possible somehow. Thanks for bringing that up.

    (Ramble over.)
    Personally, I think it mightn't be bad if you try using the best of both worlds? Have an inital suspisious occurance, than have it seem normal and that the protagainst is just nervous or such. Then hit us with the fact that he had right to be suspisious as the true 'evil' as revealed. Or something like that - basically, true a little of each - some guadually hints beforehand that can be covered up, and a large shock after that.

    Neither am I, so I'll leave it as it is.
    IMO I think it isn't really... if the elispse acts as a full stop, then yes, but if it doesn't (acts like a longer comma or such), then it should follow on just as if you used a comma there.

    By revelation, do you mean the fact that the government knows what they do? If so, damn. :x I really didn't want that to be guessed.
    I guess having watched Clockwork Orange made it easier to see. Although I did half-guess that it was the case - usually governments wouldn't support something without knowing what goes on, I imagine.

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    Oh no, I didn't mean a mistake. I meant that there were alternate uses of grammar I might have used, but they don't matter.

    EDIT- Ignore me, I'm weird =)
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    Oh, wow. This reminded me of Clockwork Orange at first, but as soon as the methods were explained, it was a dead-ringer for an Icelandic book named LoveStar, a dystopian future story in which two clones of all fetuses are made and if the child turns out to be particularly unruly, it is 'rewound' by bringing the original child into a room where it is presumably killed and one of the newborn clones is given to the parents instead.

    Obviously you're not likely to have ever heard of that book, much less read it, so I'm not accusing you of anything. It was an amusing coincidence, though.

    Anyway, it was nicely written and chilling, although I have to agree about the predictability. I'm sick at the moment and have a headache, so forgive me for not scrutinizing it for mistakes.

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