|Oct/Nov 2010 Fiction|
The On-Location Interview:
—How did they manage it? Sticking their thumbs in the eyes of The Council like they did. Some people think The Council was asleep at the wheel, but I'm not so sure about that. How can you keep track of every fringe group that sprouts up? They're coming up like weeds nowadays, and anyway, from what I can see, these people... what do they call themselves? The Community. They had helpers: people whose job it was to keep them in the know about the rest of us. Some of these guys have been arrested, but I hear that not one of them's said a thing. If it wasn't for that girl, I don't think we'd know anything about them.
—Yeah, I had some personal experience with the family. We weren't close, but they lived nearby. I guess you could say we were neighborly. Anyway, they were never what you'd call normal. My wife used to look after their kids sometimes, and I'd go over on the odd Sunday and watch television with the father.
Not to be mean about it, but the girl, even when she was little, was pretty awful to look at. I never understood how her folks could stand it. A simple operation could've fixed her right up.
You guys in the media keep describing them as free spirits who let their child be her own person. I guess there's some truth to that. But on the other side of it, that little girl got the idea in her head that she didn't mind her condition, and she got that crazy idea from some place. Her parents must've had something to do with it. I know I'd march my kid down to the doctor's office as soon as she was old enough, and I wouldn't care if she told me she didn't want to go. That's what we parents are supposed to do. We know what our kids need even when they don't.
—No, I don't have a child. We couldn't get pregnant, but I don't think that has anything to do with anything. It's common sense. I mean, it's pretty obvious that the parents were influenced by those people.
—I didn't know anything about their involvement per se. They told me they worked as cooks for some rich people in another town. I mean, I don't like to pry and anyway who wants to talk about work when you're socializing? But it kind of makes sense to me now that I think about it. They exposed their daughter to those people and now those same people kidnapped their little girl and brainwashed her. Seems simple enough to me.
—I know the parents are denying it. How are they going to admit that they listened to those crazy people instead of following The Council's teachings? That would be ridiculous, which is what this whole mess with their daughter is: ridiculous.
A seventeen year old just doesn't decide to leave her parents to join a cult. I've heard they believe in torture up there. What seventeen year old is going to put up with that? I read on the Internet that The Council received a letter from her asking them to leave her alone. She said she finally found a home, and that those crazies on the hill accept her for who she is, defect and all. Well of course they do! They can't see her, for Christ's sake. Personally, I think the girl needs a good talking to.
—Yeah, that's what I heard. Everyone knows it. That's what people like the Milhausers did for them—they were like seeing-eye dogs or some such thing. I guess it's part of the initiation to be admitted to the group. Listen, if they want to treat themselves like that, ok, fine by me. I think it's pretty nuts, but they're adults and they can do what they want. But that young girl, she's different.
The thing I don't get, and I don't mean any disrespect here, is why The Council just doesn't let the authorities go in and get her. Today on the news, they said the girl's going to go through that ritual of theirs. I can say this honestly: if that happens, she's going to have to stay with those people for the rest of her life. If she thought she had it bad with us before, with what I hear they do to themselves, no one would be able to look at her. And there'd be no hope for her to get herself fixed later in life when she came to her senses. Doctors do some amazing things, but they're not miracle workers. This is why I'm saying that The Council needs to give the green light, and let the police go in and get her. I don't mean any disrespect, like I said before, but I just can't see what They're waiting for.
The Open Letter:
We have been here for some time already, but in these few short months we have become the boogie monsters you warn your children about when they act badly. For you, we are old and horrible because that is the only image you have been given, even if it's not an accurate one. The truth, though we imagine this is hard to hear, is that we are not so different from you. In fact, the oldest members of our community were once your elect. The most perfect of the perfect.
Perhaps we should have tried to contact you sooner. We could have tried to make you aware of who we are and why we believe what we believe. Maybe then our way of life would not surprise and offend as it does. But there were many among us who were scared that you would not understand, so in the end, we kept quiet. Now, it may be too late to make our case, but sometimes even futile acts have their place.
First and foremost, we want you to know that we are not a cult. We take issue with certain rumors that say we are violent toward each other and that we brainwash those who come to us seeking refuge. What we are is a group of people who disagree with the standards and codes that The Council requires. We have chosen, as a result, to live out our lives apart from you.
It should be said, however, that we are not, as many in the press have argued, criticizing your choice to accept The Council's positions. We do not know that we are right. We suffer no illusions of certainty. Because of this, we have never tried to convert anyone to our way of life. Our community is made up of people who have come to their own decisions.
This brings us to the Milhauser girl since she is the reason we have come to your attention, and since much of what you feel for us, no doubt, stems from our relationship with her. We believe that much of what you know about the young woman is based on lies and innuendo spread by a press whose members have not bothered to learn who she is or what she wants for her life. Because of this, it is not surprising that you are distrustful and angry when you hear about how we have taken her in.
We know that many of you think we kidnapped her and set her against her parents, but that is not the case. We must state clearly and forcefully that she came to us on her own because she views her parents as potential abusers. The imperfection in the girl's face has caused her to undergo a substantial amount of abuse at the hands of her peers. Though her parents tried to be sympathetic to her commitment not to undergo surgery, due to increased pressure from friends and family members they were attempting to force the girl's hand before she turned eighteen. We recognize why her parents had changed their minds. What parent would want a child to suffer?
At the same time, it cannot come as a shock that this young woman would want to join us. The imperfection she has, small and yet absolutely antithetical to The Council's teachings, would never have allowed her to live among you. It is true she could have had an operation to correct the imperfection, but she did not believe that this was an option for her. She decided this long before she came into contact with anyone in our community.
We realize that this may raise questions for you. If not from us, then where would a young person get such an idea? Why would she want to avoid a simple surgery that could make her fit in? Because considering the possibility of another way of life is off-limits to you, you are forced to come to the conclusion that we brainwashed her. But we believe the questions this young woman had are not that unusual. The only thing unusual about her was that she had the strength not to ignore them.
Still, we have debated among ourselves about whether or not this young woman should be allowed to take part in the Ritual of Admittance. You probably imagine that we encourage the act of mutilation because we enjoy making others suffer, but that is not it at all. Only after a long vetting process, do our initiates take their vows and commit themselves to our cause. The initiate, and only the initiate, is allowed to take this final step toward what we believe to be true sight. There is pain involved in this process, yes, but the initiate understands her pain as a reminder of what so many of you must feel when having to conform to The Council's push for perfection at all costs. You believe, as The Council teaches, that our technology has removed all obstacles to that which is ideal, but this technology has come at a price. This is why we believe that The Ritual makes us closer to you, not different from you. This is why in the end, we decided to allow Kathleen Milhauser to take her place among us.
We realize that once you read this, many of you will take up the call for violence against us. With the help of some of our friends, we have already defended ourselves from small incursions onto our land. Even now, as we write this letter, we can hear people just outside our gates screaming threats and promising to do us harm. It is unlikely that such individuals can be reasoned with. These individuals will eventually find a way in, and they will no doubt try to destroy all that we have built over the years. And still, we are not scared.
Change is inevitable, and it will come. We imagine you may not see our point immediately, but we are confident, even if our community is destroyed, that the day will come when you will see things for what they are.
The Official Statement:
The Community on the Hill, the terrorist group that has been in our headlines these past few months, has been disbanded. This morning, just after 5 am local time, a special unit of our armed forces successfully made its way into this organization's compound. Though our forces met with some resistance, it was not long before tactical units had the upper hand. Unfortunately, from preliminary reports it seems that the hundred or so core members of the group knew about the siege ahead of time and took part in a massive group suicide. Further investigation needs to be done; however, we do have confirmation that Kathleen Milhauser was among the victims.
The Council cannot begin to express the sympathy and sadness Its members feel for Kathleen's family. The purpose of this statement is simply to try and put some meaning to what otherwise would seem to be a meaningless string of events. Though this is a sad time for us all, especially the Milhausers, this tragedy can teach us a lesson if we allow ourselves to listen.
It is clear that this terrorist organization had no respect for our community, for how we have evolved and grown these last years. Their actions show no consideration for the laws by which we all live and prosper. In brief, this group stood for everything we are against. They decided to live apart from society, and in doing so, not only chose to live in isolation, but also chose to live in open rebellion of progress and equality for all.
We know that there have been rumors that some of the group's members were once part of The Council, and that they were involved in the founding of our great society, but that is simply untrue. These are merely rumors spread by individuals on the fringe who want to confuse and take advantage of young, vulnerable members of our society like Kathleen Milhauser.
The Council will not allow this kind of deception to go unanswered. It must act, as I am sure you all agree. That said, effective immediately, The Council will start mandatory counseling programs for children who, by no fault of their own, are deemed vulnerable to groups like this community. Details will follow shortly, but for now, we can say that we will need your help. We have managed to create something truly unique here, but every one of us must help make sure that The Council's teachings are observed and respected if we are to keep on the right path. With your cooperation, hateful groups like this one will never take root and never be able to take another young person away from us. With your vigilance, The Council will be able to keep us safe.
In the end, all we can say to you and to the Milhauser family, is that The Council will never forget this tragic event, and we ask the same of you. Remember this day, friends. Remember who you are and what you belong to.
Long live The Council and Its teachings. Long live our perfect society.