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A Step Too Far

When society forgets the middle, the middle becomes the end.

Photo by Ali Arif Soydaş on Unsplash

In my hands I held a glass tablet. It displayed the face of the man we were about to arrest. Blue writing surrounded him, notes on the allegations against him, details about him, the recently acquired warrant tucked neatly down in the corner.

The van’s engine purred as we came to a stop outside the target's house. The sliding doors opened and my fellow officers and I poured out like wasps from the nest. It was a run-down street on the outskirts of Manchester, old and unloved. The target’s home was a small semi-detached beige council house. These sorts of houses hadn’t updated in more than eighty years, easily; they had been left behind in the 21st century, like so many other parts of the country; they weren't needed, they were out of date; only the most desperate resided here, or those most desperate to hide. The street itself was almost deserted, save for a few cats and the occasional on looker, waiting with anticipated glee for us to burst through the shit-stained front door.

I wasn't a front line officer. I was a Senior Equalities Enforcement Agent with the powers of arrest and detainment by all means necessary. The officers holding the miniaturised electric battering ram were younger, stronger, and more enthusiastic than I to be responsible for the arrest. Back in my prime, my younger years, I would be holding the ram—breaking the door and storming the building. But now I was older and wiser, still capable, but with a new wave of patience that had served me well.

The target was an social media user, a self-proclaimed activist. Suspected of abusing universal internet access and the anonymity provided to spout hatred and bigotry. But we had tracked him down, as we always do. I would not be the officer making the arrest; I would, however, be responsible for the investigative work to follow. Intelligence had suggested that the suspect held a stockpile of propaganda: ridiculous and ancient laws and rights, evidence of a so-called original version of "rights to free speech." Free speech is at the heart of society. This society champions free speech. People like him, men like him, choose to abuse it, however, championing past interpretations as if they still fit with the modern world. We are too advanced, too developed for simpleton hate preachers. They should have all died off around the same time as religion did, but they always seem to cling on, like lice to the scalp, constantly reproducing, desperately attempting to grow their following of the hate gospel.

There's a sharp crackling bang; the door is no longer attached to its hinges. Instead it lies dead in the hallway, its rippled and chipped brown paint surface now serving as a doormat mat for the heavy boots of justice and dignity as they trampled on it, filing in to the small building and separating in every direction into every room. I heard the shouting and screaming. These "activists" always act so tough online, so sure behind their glass screen, but when you drag them by their hair to a pair of shiny cuffs, they cry and bawl like disgruntled children smacked hard by the palm of reality.

As I neared the entrance, the odour of male secretion and hygiene deprivation greeted me first; a fairly expected wave of unpleasantness always accompanied the rats. Second, a young officer covered in black clothing and shiney plastic armour stood to a rigid attention before me.

“The target has been arrested, Sir; there have been three confessions of guilt, each recorded by multiple officers.”

I nodded and the officer hurried from my presence; a young man who looked like he was built to handle bear fighting rather than policing read the overweight bigot his rights. The man struggled lightly, seemingly semi-aware that fighting would do no good, still the deep-routed instinctual urges to rebel took hold of his flailing legs.

“All I did was give an opinion!” he wailed as he was forced to his knees.

“Yeah,” I chuckled, “the wrong opinion.”

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A Step Too Far
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