“Please take a seat.”
Delilah sat, facing the tribunal. Her three judges studied her, sly intelligence in their eyes.
“Delilah Thompson has asked to transfer out of her Society,” stated the center judge. His nameplate read Bailey. “Let the questioning begin.”
The tribunal examined her. Delilah met each gaze. The lady on the left, Sherman, wrote something.
“What does the symbol on your arm mean?”
Delilah glanced at the rose-and-thorns tattoo. “Pain is necessary.”
“You have recently come to believe that?”
“I have begun to understand it.”
The third judge shuffled through papers. “Your view of self began to shift six months ago. Is that correct?”
“I don’t know. Before that. I didn’t act on it at first. It was…hard.”
“It’s meant to be hard.” The tribunal spoke as three mouths with one thought; Delilah stopped trying to assign names and personalities to each judge. “The purpose of the Societies is to promote peace through uniformity. What is your opinion of the Societies?”
“They are what they are.”
“We do not believe you mean that. Let us look at the data.”
“What data is that?”
They read the list. “Female. Eighteen. Well-off, well-dressed, studious, socially conscious, involved in the community and the church, very much the norm for the Society chosen for you. Recent additions of leather, heavy make-up, tattoos, loud music. All very much within the norms for your age.”
“I don’t fit in. I need a new Society.”
“You misunderstand. Pure uniformity is undesirable. It must have its flaws. You are a predicted aberration. Spice in the recipe, so to speak. You will conform soon enough. It is the natural progression.”“I want moved. Somewhere else—less safe, more wild.”
“How many sexual partners have you had?”
“That’s none of your business.”
“It is, in fact. Everything is our business. As far as we are able to discover, you are still a virgin. No evidence even of a boyfriend. You do not drink. You show no evidence of self-mutilation or self-medication. You have not even broken curfew. That, in fact, is why we even bothered holding this hearing. Your outward appearance has changed, but your basic actions have not, despite your demand for a change of Society. Why is this?”
“It’s not safe here. When I’m somewhere else—”
“Rebellion is about what you cannot have. You are not rebelling. You are doing something else. What is it?”
Delilah remained silent. The tribunal waited. Delilah knew now they were not going to be fooled by her acting, but she dared not tell the truth. But she could tell part of the truth.
“You said aberrations make a Society healthy,” she said.
“Aberrations are necessary for a Society to continue in an orderly manner.”
“I’ll be that aberration. Send me to a Society full of rebellion.”
The three judges looked at each other. “Let us see if we understand. You are pretending to rebel so that you can be sent to a Society unlike yours…so that you can rebel by conforming to your societal rules?”
“Let’s say that’s true.”
“You have nothing to gain. You will be ostracized in a new Society, if not persecuted in worse ways. Do you seek pain? Your files show no signs of masochism.”
“This is what I want. Is there any reason to refuse me?” She was beginning to get angry with this endless questioning.
“You are too innocent. The matrix of your Society revolves around kindness, vague religiosity, and mutual reinforcement of good feelings. The Society you are requesting is motivated by lust, greed, envy, and violence. They will destroy you.”
“Let them destroy me. Just send me. I can’t stay here. I…I just can’t. What I want to do I can’t do here. I can’t do it here.”
They were going to ask what it was she couldn’t do, and she was trying to invent an answer they would accept, when the female judge made a strange sound of realization.
“She is a fanatic.” The other two judges looked from the female to Delilah. “She actually believes.”
The tribunal nodded in understanding.
“Well played, girl. Most times, the wanna-be missionaries come in guns blazing, threaten us with divine retribution or righteous anger, and we have to refuse the transfer, just as we are now going to refuse yours.” The tribunal smiled smugly. “It’s best if we keep you here. In another Society, your sudden desire to really do what your religion teaches might truly blossom, and nothing destroys the balance we’ve created like a fanatic invested in her version of reality. No, here, with all the others who go through the cultural motions of church, you’ll be just fine. And this brief—and to you, intense, no doubt—desire to, shall I say, ‘be all things to all people,’ will fade away.
“Trust me, a few more years, and you’ll slide right in, comfortable and satisfied.”