For the Appalling Stories series, entertainment is paramount. Yes, we intend to push back against left-wing agitprop infesting genre fiction, but if it’s a boring story, or, worse yet, right-wing agitprop masquerading as genre fiction, it wouldn’t fit. For my story Deprogram in Appalling Stories 2, I wanted to extend the craziness of multiple genders and the criminalizing of traditional morals to the next level, positing a future that hinted of Dystopia without bludgeoning the reader with details. Here’s an excerpt:
After a final glance at the security monitor, Grayson got up from his desk, left his office, and waited in the reception area for his new clients. They hadn’t signed the contract, but he knew with perfect certitude that by the end of the meeting they would leave his office scared, hopeful, and lighter by $250,000. They always did.
Smoothing his necktie, Grayson played his favorite pre-meeting game: which spouse would open the door first? Definitely Evelyn. Pat was still transitioning, and the male-to-female types tended to go overboard with the wilting flower routine until they worked out the hormonal quirks and relational friction. If he was wrong, he’d do leg day twice this week. If he was right, he’d treat himself to an extra shot of—
The door opened and Evelyn walked in, followed by her wife. Both medium-sized, average-looking types; the security monitor’s shitty resolution hadn’t picked up the lipstick on Pat’s teeth or Evelyn’s puffy eyes.
“Good morning,” Grayson said with a relieved smile, keeping his hands where they could see them. “I checked each of your ProReg profiles ten minutes ago. I take it you both still prefer to be referred to as Ms. for the purposes of this meeting? I apologize if I’ve made an offensive assumption.”
Evelyn smiled and nodded. “Yes, that’s right. But please, call me Evelyn.”
“Of course,” Grayson said. “Pleased to meet you.” He turned to Pat, eyebrows lifted in polite expectation.
“Ms. Papasian-Smith,” Pat said. She clutched her Nouveau Spade purse in a tight grip, but he noticed that her right hand twitched on meeting him: suppressing the handshake habit she’d acquired in decades of being—no, living as a man.
Keeping his expression bland, Grayson bobbed his head. “A pleasure. Please, call me Grayson or Mr. Dahab. Or even ‘hey, you’; whatever suits.” He didn’t wait to see their reaction to the weak joke as he led the way to his office. “Please have a seat. Would either of you like coffee or water?”
Nodding at their demurrals, he seated himself behind the desk and steepled his fingers. “We need to get something out of the way: there won’t be any monitors or recordings during this meeting, due to the…sensitive nature of what we’re about to discuss. With that in mind, I understand that you’re putting yourselves in some danger by consenting to being alone with me. I was born and continue to identify as male and cis, as you’ve no doubt seen from my ProReg profile. If that makes you feel unsafe, we can stop the meeting right now and you’re free to leave with no hard feelings. Is that all right?”
Evelyn looked at Pat, who made a show of thinking about it before nodding. “Yes. That’ll be fine.”
“Good,” Grayson said, folding his hands. “I got the broa—er, the less-detailed story in your email. Can you tell me a little more so we can decide what our next steps might be?”
As Evelyn opened her mouth to speak, Pat leaned forward and barked, “What’s your success rate? How can we be sure we’ll…I mean, our daughter, she…” Her mouth pursed into a glistening red asshole shape, and as she reached into her purse for a Kleenex, sobbing, Evelyn grimaced and patted at her shoulder.
Grayson turned, opened the mini-fridge, and pulled out a bottle of water, which he placed on the desk within both women’s reach. “I understand how difficult this can be,” he said, once Pat’s storm of crying had blown over. “However, I should probably warn you that what you—what we’re dealing with is extremely dangerous. These terrorists…these…cultists, they’ve mastered the art of brainwashing. I can’t deprogram someone with a snap of my fingers. It’s a long and difficult process, and at the end, sometimes I don’t succeed.”
Evelyn’s head snapped up. “What happens then?”
“I call the police, who’ll take her away.”
“Oh, Gaia,” Pat sobbed, and dabbed at the corners of her eyes.
Blinking, Evelyn said, “But we wouldn’t tell—“
“I can’t take that chance,” Grayson said, lifting his hand. “If your daughter’s really caught up in this, and from what you told me in the email I’m sure she is, then she’s joined an organization that bombs hospitals, shoots schools, and burns down shopping malls. The WLA makes the freedom fighter 9/11 terrorists look like Outdoor Scouts selling cookies. We could all be sent away for the rest of our lives if we’re caught aiding and abetting even one of these WLA types. Or worse.” He tapped his index finger against his forehead.
Evelyn covered her mouth and looked away.
Voice soft, he added, “But Ms. Papasian-Smith asked a good question. My deprogramming success rate. It currently stands at ninety percent. Nine out of every ten kids. That’s good odds. And I can guarantee that there’s nothing I won’t do to save your daughter from these monsters.”
Glancing at her wife, who shredded a damp tissue and stared into her lap, Evelyn said, “Okay. What do you need to know?”
For the rest of Deprogram, as well as several other short stories on subjects ranging from satire to science fiction, check out Appalling Stories 2: More Appalling Tales of Social Injustice.