Encore from the Archives: The Harkness Avenging Angel

{Ed. note: Originally published in 2012.}

This eight part story is set in a dystopian future where the only justice poor people receive is from rubbing a plastic statue and hoping that the angel is represented would destroy those who wronged them.

Lillian never believed in the whole Harkness thing, but she harbors a secret desire, a special revenge for herself, her son, and even her grumpy mother.

From Part I of The Harkness Avenging Angel:

(For Ray Bradbury)

By the early 22nd century, guns were ubiquitous.  Folks started getting trained on how to use them in kindergarten on account of all the drive-by shootings that took place.  As a means of defense, a gun was alright.  But it rarely worked as a means of securing justice.  Perpetrators tended to get away to parts unknown before they could be shot to death.  That’s where the Harkness Avenging Angel came in.

A Harkness Avenging Angel or a Harkness, or just HAA for short, was the major means most folks had for securing justice.  Some wore them as medallions around their necks or as rings on their fingers or even their toes, but the basic, standard issue HAA stayed in the house.  A typical Harkness was a little statue about 8”-10” tall that looked vaguely female, though some considered it androgynous.  Its winged arms stretched high over its head, making a V shape.  The eyes were represented by appropriately placed holes in his head.  Most folks had HAAs made of plastic, but a few had pewter ones.  They were more expensive, though not as pricy as the wooden ones.

This was how a Harkness worked.  When someone wronged you, which was common, you went home and either picked up your Harkness or left it sitting where it was and started rubbing it.  Some rubbed it on its midsection, others rubbed either the left or right wing.  Some rubbed both wings.  While rubbing it, you concentrated on the person who wronged you.  And then you waited.  At some point, in the middle of the night, the real Harkness Avenging Angel would come out, fly overhead, and mete out justice by means of a bright light that shone from its eyes.  It was totally random who would be avenged and where and when.  But the only way to guarantee that one day the person who wronged you would be punished was by rubbing your Harkness regularly and solemnly.

Folks don’t recall where or how the whole Harkness thing started.  History didn’t exist anymore, because it changed so much that most folks didn’t bother learning it to begin with.  So it didn’t really matter where the idea came from.  Folks just knew that it worked, sometimes.  In any case, it worked better than the criminal justice system.  By the early 22nd century, the criminal justice system worked exclusively for The Betters.  In the old days, The Betters were called corporations.  That word fell out of fashion by the mid 21st century.

“Folks,” by the way, was short for “po’folks,” which was what The Betters called those beneath them.  Folks tended to refer to each other in the same way, too, despite its derogatory undertone, or sometimes because of it, as a badge of honor.

HAAs were considered prized possessions because of their importance.  Everybody had one proudly displayed in the living room.  Everybody, that is, except Lillian.  She had one, to be sure, it just wasn’t placed on the mantle or in an alter space or anything like that.  She kept it on a side shelf in her tiny kitchen, where one would normally put a decorative vase of colored glass.  It wasn’t so much a law that required one to possess a Harkness, but if you didn’t, folks would call you stupid.  Most folks didn’t call Lillian stupid, just weird or unconventional or maybe a little crazy.

Lillian possessed a standard issue plastic Harkness, off-white and slightly yellowed from age.  It once belonged to her Great Aunt Matilda, so it was sort of a family heirloom, even if it was only a typical, cheap plastic Harkness.  That Lillian did not keep her Harkness prominently displayed in her tiny apartment annoyed her mother to no end.  She always commented on its absence from Lillian’s living room whenever she stayed for a visit.  Lillian’s mother only lived across town, but crossing town was sort of an ordeal what with all the bus hold ups and lootings and shootings.  So whenever she did visit, she tended to stay for a few days at a time to make it worth her while.  It was a little safer to travel by freeway, but she didn’t have a car.  So when she had the money saved up, she took a cab and always told the cabbie to take the freeway.  “Don’t be using those surface streets!” she always ordered.  Cabbies never needed such instructions – cabbies knew better than the take the surface streets – but they always replied respectfully, “Yes, ma’am.”  Fortunately, freeways crisscrossed all over the Flats, where folks lived, so no one ever lived that far from one, including Lillian.

So on one of her visits, as they sipped coffee in the living room of Lillian’s tiny apartment, her mother started on her usual tirade about the Harkness not being prominently displayed.  “Those BS books have a better display than your Harkness!” she complained.

“Yes, Mother,” she said.

Read the rest of the story here or by clicking the Harkness Avenging Angel link to the right under Categories.

© 2013, gar. All rights reserved.

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