Lawful Order

by Zedidiah Word

"We were just following orders."

The two career officers studied one another and nodded imperceptibly. They climbed back into the truck after dumping the biomedical cargo off at the disposal unit.  They proceeded slowly down the empty urban streets. The curfew was still in effect from 1900 to 0700 every day. Anyone outside during that time was considered an enemy of the state and could legally be engaged.

They received an alert on their screen and drove silently to the next target.

They found the apartment complex and parked in front of the main office. The landlord was waiting and wordlessly walked them toward apartment 156. The building had probably been a motel originally and later converted to longer term living spaces for "low-rent" tenants. Muffled televisions could be heard behind each door, drowning out the crunch of their boots as they walked past. A few curtains were pulled back slightly revealing wide-eyed children.

At apartment 156, one officer placed a device just above the door handle, while the other reviewed the screen. It showed there were three targets inside oblivious to what waited outside. The officer nearest the door motioned to the landlord who silently unlocked it.

A recorded voice began blaring on a loop, "Police! Halt! Police! Do not resist!"

The screen showed the targets scrambling together further away from the door. The officers rushed inside and grabbed the two men who were shielding a toddler. Without putting up any resistance, they were bound and scanned. Warrants returned for Unlawful Family Arrangement, a class A felony. The third target, a two-year old child, did not make a sound as the men were dragged outside and placed facedown on the curb outside of the apartment.

One officer grabbed the child and carried her to the Child Protective Services van which had just arrived.

"You're late," he said as he scanned the child, handed her off and returned to his partner.

By the time he returned, the jury had already reached a decision via the mandatory Trial App that came with every smartphone. As the officers placed the two men into the back of the truck, the verdict and sentence were issued and repeated aloud in stereo by the officers' radios.

"The court finds you guilty of the crime of Unlawful Family Arrangement. Under the Family Protection Act, the mandatorily imposed sentence is a minimum of 5 years imprisonment, up to and including a maximum penalty of life imprisonment without parole. Because you avoided arrest and did not turn yourself in voluntarily when summoned, the Criminal Punishment Act increases said penalties to a minimum of 20 years imprisonment, up to and including the maximum penalty of death. The court finds that you willfully and knowingly evaded arrest and believes you would recidivate if released from prison. Therefore, the court sentences you to death. Your automatic appeal is pending. Please standby."


Terry had to work late and barely made it home before curfew. When she heard the phone alert, she sighed heavily before looking at the glowing screen, thinking it was work again. The preview message read, "You have been selected to perform your constitutional duty by serving on an appellate jury. Please log-in to review..."

She swiped the notice away and opened the Trial App.

"You have one pending appellate decision."

She clicked and read the charge of Unlawful Family Arrangement.

"Freaks," she thought to herself and clicked "Uphold Decision" without reviewing the evidence. She set her phone down on the couch and sighed heavily before picking it back up to check her social media feed.

Indie-folk musician, and infrequent alarmist author, Zedidiah Word released his debut solo album in 2013. When he is not rambling dissociatively on Twitter, he is lazily putting the finishing touches on his sophomore effort. Similar to a Sunday morning creeping like a nun, Zedidiah Word is a fan of The Beatles and poorly executed allegorical anthologies and has lived in Denton, TX for one duodecennium, give or take a half-year. You can find him on Twitter: @ZedidiahWord or on his Bandcamp page.