Spook-ular val­ues: A Hal­loween para­ble

Sherbrooke Record - - FRONT PAGE - Ross Mur­ray

It started with a body on a bus. This was fol­lowed by a sec­ond body on a bus. The in­ter­val be­tween the dis­cov­er­ies was so brief that it felt like it couldn’t be a co­in­ci­dence, though it proved to be so. Still, there was no get­ting over the pub­lic per­cep­tion that there was now an epi­demic of bod­ies on buses.

What trig­gered the great out­cry, how­ever, was that in both cases the bod­ies on the buses had gone undis­cov­ered for hours, rid­ing back and forth along the line in their re­spec­tive cities. Peo­ple thought they were asleep. Peo­ple had sat right be­side the dead bod­ies on the bus! It was shock­ing. It was out­ra­geous.

“Peo­ple should be able to in­ter­act freely in pub­lic spa­ces, par­tic­u­larly pub­licly funded places, without fear­ing that the per­son next to them is dead,” the pun­dits de­clared in fraught, alarmist tones. “What the dead do in their own homes is their own busi­ness, but they gave up the right to govern­ment ser­vices when they gave up breath­ing.”

The pun­dits were joined by a groundswell of peo­ple on the right who mut­tered (mostly on­line) about se­cu­rity threats, com­mu­nity val­ues, odours. The dead had to be stopped, they stressed, be­fore our schools and hos­pi­tals were filled with corpses.

“I have noth­ing against the dead, but…” they wrote.

Or: “Some of my best friends are dead, but…”

Or: “No heart­beat? No ser­vice!”

Or: “The prob­lem with the dead is you can never tell what they’re think­ing.”

Look­ing to score po­lit­i­cal points with the liv­ing, the govern­ment rushed for­ward Bill 666: “An act to fos­ter ad­her­ence to State non-mor­tal­ity.” The act de­clared that no one could give or re­ceive govern­ment ser­vices if they hap­pened to be dead.

Crit­ics on the left were ap­palled. They ar­gued that the de­ceased were be­ing un­fairly per­se­cuted. The chances of a dead per­son re­ceiv­ing ser­vices were ex­tremely low, they pointed out, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing how dif­fi­cult it was to re­ceive ser­vices even among the liv­ing.

And given how few doc­u­mented cases there were of the dead de­mand­ing ser­vices, crit­ics de­scribed the law as overkill. “One rot­ten body doesn’t spoil the bunch,” they claimed.

De­spite these mis­giv­ings, Bill 666 went into ef­fect, and though the govern­ment had hoped that act­ing de­ci­sively would bury this con­tro­versy, the pub­lic failed to be sat­is­fied. Not con­tent to ban the dead from pub­lic ser­vices, peo­ple be­gan tar­get­ing the sick and the el­derly who seemed in­clined to die.

Pro­tes­tors marched out­side hos­pi­tals to stop the crit­i­cally ill (or “would-be dead,” as they were called) from re­ceiv­ing the ser­vices they needed in or­der to stop be­ing crit­i­cally ill. As a re­sult, many of these pa­tients died, prov­ing the pro­tes­tors’ point.

The pub­lic also fret­ted about the par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble be­ing in­doc­tri­nated by the dead. There were re­ports of mobs at­tack­ing black-clad teens read­ing Thir­teen Rea­sons Why.

The law, how­ever, was ef­fec­tive; by no means did the dead re­ceive any ser­vices dur­ing this time.

Nonethe­less, there were those who con­tin­ued speak­ing up for the dead, telling their sto­ries, which, frankly, weren’t that in­ter­est­ing. There was a wave of on­line ac­tivism with the hash­tag #dead­lives­mat­ter. Peo­ple called on the dead to stop tak­ing this mat­ter ly­ing down.

“It is time,” the sym­pa­thetic liv­ing called out, “for the dead to rise up! Rise up! Rise up!”

So the dead did.

Out of their graves, the dead emerged – an­gry, frus­trated, de­com­pos­ing. They took to the streets, re­mind­ing some peo­ple of that Michael Jack­son video, but with poorer spe­cial ef­fects.

As one, they marched (stag­gered, oozed) to the govern­ment leg­is­la­ture, where a mega­phone was com­man­deered, and one among the dead came for­ward, lifted it to his frayed lips and, as a hush fell over the hordes, made his de­mands:

“NNNGGARRBHH GLLRRRRR NNNNGGG!!! BLLGGGHHUURR MMMNNMMGNHH! Nicolas CAGE!”

This last part is con­tro­ver­sial. No one could say for sure that the spokesman for the dead had said “Nicolas Cage,” but the dead had the liv­ing out­num­bered, and, for lack of a bet­ter op­tion, Nicolas Cage was sum­moned.

The dead quickly de­voured Nicolas Cage, which was un­der­stand­able.

In the en­su­ing ram­page, the right con­tended that they had seen this com­ing, that the dead couldn’t be trusted, while the left pointed out that none of this would have hap­pened if the dead hadn’t been dis­en­fran­chised, not to men­tion dis­em­bow­eled.

But it was all moot, as the dead quickly dec­i­mated the liv­ing un­til they were all, in­deed, the dead.

Tak­ing over the leg­is­la­ture, the dead im­me­di­ately re­pealed Bill 666, and three cheers went up – “nnggh-ng­ghh GRRNARRGHH! nnggh-ng­ghh GRRNARRGHH! nnggh-ng­ghh GRRNARRGHH!” – as they cel­e­brated their equal­ity un­der the law and their full ac­cess to govern­ment ser­vices.

Al­though it still takes for­ever to get a fam­ily doc­tor.

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