Nineteen Ninety Nine
by Jen Dorman
I sat, glancing around the bare white walls of the cell,
while the sound of the lights hummed incessantly in my ears. There
were three of us in the room, sitting directly underneath four large
telescreens while members of the I.B.O.P. scrutinized our every
I took a deep breath as I looked around again. We were all in
for the same reason: for breaking the rules of the International
Baccalaureate Organization (or, as most of us called, the I.B.O.).
From the way the boy to my left sighed, I could only assume he had
committed some small infraction. Misquoted someone most likely, maybe
footnoted something wrong. The other, a girl, couldn't keep her eyes
from flitting about the room. It suggested that she had committed one
of the most heinous crimes of all: independent thought. Oh sure, the
I.B.O. pretended to encourage it, but every time anyone said anything
worth merit, they disappeared. Rarely were they seen again, and if by
some miraculous chance they were, they weren't the same. The I.B.O.
had changed them, from sharing independent thoughts to spouting I.B.
propoganda. And the thought that they had uttered? In most cases, the
idea appeared weeks later in a textbook, claimed by the I.B.O. Some
who remembered the person questioned the organization. They
were "adjusted" as well. No one ever questioned the I.B.O.
I fidgetted uncomfortably on the wooden benches lining the
wall, flinching as the telescreens bade me be still. I was tempted to
argue back, but I kept silent, knowing as soon as I opened my mouth
my punishment in Room 001 would increase. The only thing anybody knew
about that room was that people died in there, but even that was only
I found a semi-comfortable position and sighed heavily. I
wasn't sure how long I had been in the cell, but my stomach made a
point of informing me quite often that it hadn't had a meal for some
I looked up. It had been whispered so quietly that at first I
had wondered if I had just imagined it. A gesture from the girl
caught my eye, and I ever so slowly shifted around to see her.
"What are you in for?" she whispered again, nervously
glancing at the telescreen.
"I insulted the I.B.O. and the I.B.O.P. caught me within the
day," I replied.
"Rebecca!" the telescreen yelled. "2310 Brendon R! No talking
in the cell!"
A few minutes passed in silence before the girl asked, "I.B.O.P?
"International Baccalaureate Organization Police," I whispered
back. "They keep order in Western."
"You're a Westerner?" the boy spoke up.
"Yeah," I replied. "Aren't you?"
"2310 Brendon R! No talking!"
The boy looked around. "I'm from Diefenbaker."
We both turned to the girl. "Churchill," she sighed.
"What are you guys in for?" I asked dismally, making a face
at the telescreen and having it scream back at me. I smiled. It
really didn't matter what I did now. I wouldn't be the same person
when I left. No one ever was.
"I made a mistake in my English oral commentary," the boy
told us. "I said Donne was a Jacobean poet but I really meant to say
Metaphysical. I even had it in my notes! The Police didn't believe me
and I ended up here."
"I had an independent thought," the girl smiled sadly. "I was
naive enough to explain myself when I suggested a change in the von
Schlieffen plan and how it might have won the war for Germany. If you
get out, you should see it appearing in the textbooks very soon.
That, and I had a life this weekend."
We all stopped, waiting for the telescreens to tell us to be
silent. Instead, the door to the cell opened and a man flanked by two
guards pointed to the boy.
"Room 001," he growled as he motioned to the guards. They
instantly went over and picked the boy up. He didn't struggle, but
looked sadly at us. I nodded a silent good luck to him while the girl
looked away. The door slammed shut and echoed against the cold, hard
I stood up and stretched, receiving another round of
complaints from the screens before sitting back down, closer to the
"What's your name?" she asked. "I mean, if we ever get out of
this, I'd like to know."
"Rebecca Brendon," I smiled. "Everyone calls me Becky."
"Taylor Madison," she replied as we shook hands.
"2310 Brendon R and 6734 Madison T!" the screens cried. "No
"What should it matter?" she asked. "We're as good as dead
"No questioning of the I.B.O.P.'s orders at anytime!" the
We spent the next ten minutes in silence. Maybe it was more
than that, but neither of us could tell. My stomach made another
growl of protest as the door opened again. It was another man with
two guards, and this time he pointed to me.
"You. Come with me."
I stood, partly out of shock. "Me?"
"Come with me," he repeated with the same tone. He signaled
to the guards to take me, but I waved them off, following without a
struggle. I knew better than to struggle. Like talking back, it got
me more punishment. I was starting to regret having made that face at
The metal door slammed shut as we started down the hall. We
had barely gone three feet when I felt a sharp pain in the back of my
head. It was only for an instant, but then it died as everything went
I squinted into the bright lights high above my head as I
started to wake up. At first I thought I was back in the cell until a
voice beside me said, "Good, she's waking up."
The voice sounded strangely familiar and I strained to see
who it was.
"Do you recognize me, Rebecca?" he asked.
"You're the kid from Diefenbaker," I replied hoarsely.
"And a member of the inner party of the I.B.O.," he smiled.
He looked much older, as if deep creases had appeared in his face.
"Then what were you doing in the cell?"
"Obtaining your confessions," he told me as I heard my voice
being played in the background somewhere.
"I insulted the I.B.O. and the I.B.O.P. caught me within the
He looked down at me. "Do you deny the fact that you insulted
I tried to shrug but straps around my arms, legs and waist
prevented me. "Sure, I'll deny it."
I felt a pain go through me, and it seemed as though my head
was going to explode.
As it subsided, he said, "See Rebecca? I can make this painful if you
are difficult with me."
"What was that?" I managed to gasp.
"I.B. calculus," he grinned. "Or more precisely, the stress you
experience going through that course."
The worst of the pain was over, but there still remained a
dull throbbing in my temples.
"So again. Do you deny the fact that you insulted the I.B.O.?"
"No," I whispered.
"What, in fact, did you say about us?"
"Don't you have that recorded too?"
Another surge of pain. I squirmed under the straps pinning me
to the table but it was no use. I couldn't get away from it. Finally,
"What did you say, Rebecca?" he asked.
"I said that the I.B.O. was useless," I gasped, tears forming
in my eyes.
"And why is that?"
"It doesn't get you anywhere," I replied bitterly. "You do
all this extra work and for what? Be exempt from one or two
university courses, but only if you're doing the work at the higher
level. And . . . and are we supposed to be smarter in the end? Half
the time we go so fast that we forget specific concepts and by the
end, a student who isn't in the I.B. programme usually knows more."
He regarded my statement, mumbling to himself. He looked up
at me and asked, "So, what do you believe to be the mission of the
"To offer a challenging course to students and to ensure a
similar ciriculum for those who travel the world."
Again the pain. It was much worse than the other two. As it
ended, I decided he had switched the course to higher level biology.
"Where in the world did you get an idea like that?" he
asked. "The I.B.O. is here to challenge no one. We are here to
control today's youth so that we are able to gain power in the
"I . . . I don't understand," I stuttered, frowning.
"People are so desperate to get sixes and sevens on their
I.B. tests that they will do what ever we say," he explained. "That
and most I.B. students can't stand getting less that eighty percent
on anything they do. We bog them down with so much work that they
don't have time to realize we are instilling our principles in them
"So that's why the people who are found without homework
disappear," I gasped.
"Precisely," he replied with a smile. "Now, what do you think
of the I.B.O.?"
"I think it sucks."
I paused, waiting for more biology stress to flood my brain.
Instead, the boy chuckled.
"I used to say that too," he told me. "But that was before
the I.B.O. showed me that I was quite wrong."
I stared at him, feeling the tears well up again. I knew he
was convinced that the I.B.O. could change me, no matter what I did.
I was convinced that I could stay the same, despite the rumours that
persisted about Room 001.
The torture of the various stresses continued for days,
weeks, maybe even months. And ever so slowy, I came to understand how
what I had said about the I.B.O. was incorrect. The I.B.O. did
actually offer the advanced course work, but with it was their hidden
principles. They were merely looking out for us, trying to prepare us
for the real world. Their world.
They allowed me to go back to the cell and gave me a bed of
sorts to sleep on. Every once in a while, I saw Taylor, who still
believed her statement about the von Schlieffen plan was accurate. I
wondered how she could be so strong to the I.B.O., but they were
wearing her down nevertheless. Everytime I saw her, she was slipping
something about the I.B. propoganda into her speech, though she
didn't realize it.
The only thing I had left to experience during my stay was
Room 001. I had managed to avoid it, because frankly, I didn't know
what got people sent there. Then it happened. Another few people had
been shoved into my cell and I had nodded another good luck to one of
the sorry prisoners. Almost instantly the boy came to the door.
"Brendon," he said. "Room 001."
To my surprise, the room was crowded with people, all sitting
at desks that were in perfectly straight rows. I glanced at the
sheets on one of the desks as I was pushed past. They were I.B.
tests. Hundreds if not thousands of tests, ready for each individual
to write. And the catch? Once you received a mark of seven you could
He sat me down at a desk and said, "Start writing. You keep
writing them until we decide you've earned a seven." He paused. "You
remember what I said about the sixes and sevens?"
"About how desperate the people were?" I asked.
He nodded. "You'll be desperate too, Rebecca."
More time passed, and I wanted more and more to be done with
the exams. So much, in fact, that I started to do what they told me.
I wanted so desperately to please them, to get out. Every waking
minute I spent writing, sometimes even rewriting the tests, hoping I
would be free. Even when I slept, the exams haunted me. The mistakes
that had kept me from getting sevens invaded my dreams, as well as
nightmares of half filled in answer bubbles screaming at me to be
completely filled with a No. 2 pencil.
I waited nervously as they marked my latest test, fidgetting
around in my seat. They handed it back to me face down and I was
almost afraid to look at it. I picked up the paper and stared at the
mark of seven occupying the top corner of the test. I felt a
tremendous relief as if all of my hard work had payed off. The
rumours were right. You did die in Room 001, but after it you were
pure again. You were the person you were supposed to be. I had won
the victory over myself. I loved the I.B.O.
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