Spook-ular values: A Halloween parable
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.