I, Public Enemy


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Jeremy Ng is a Master of Fine Arts student from the Academy of Film, Hong Kong Baptist University. His previous work, FBD-L-073, won the First Prize (Postgraduate Category) of the 15th English Short  [+]

Image of Fall 2020
Image of Short Fiction
Long story short, I became Public Enemy Number One.

The last 24 hours had been surreal. I, a 22-year-old college student, was declared by the state as the “the most vicious vermin ever encroached in the territory”. My friends and I were playing Among Us, the famed online multiplayer social deduction game popularized by the pandemic, when they made the announcement.

“Yeah, you do look ‘sus’(picious)”, said Red, my dear compatriot and partner in crime.

“Who else would they go for? You should be honored.” Purple was always the positive type.

“Oh, you guys were talking about them? I thought we were talking about our last round.” Sometimes I wish I could be as oblivious as Yellow, or pretend to be so.

“Doesn’t matter,” my voice finally went through their speaker. “Guess I’m getting voted out in both cases.”

I suppose they were right, though. I should be honored. The youngest enemy of the state. Times’ Person of the Year. Leader of the global resistance against authoritarianism. These titles would have made a hell of a resume, if I am ever applying for a real job like the ones my peers are applying to. What should I call myself, though? Professional Freedom Fighter? Urban Warfare Specialist? Social Movement Campaigner? I suppose the closest title I could come up with that fits the norm of this society is “politician”, except that I seldom talk and always do.

“How about a revolutionist? That sounds alright.” Red always knew the right word.

“Uh-uh. Back-stabber is more appropriate, given the situation.” Again, Purple was correct.

“Hehe, I see what you did there.” For once, Yellow followed.

“I’m not a revolutionist.” That’s what I tell the people all the time. “I never intended to start one.”

“Well, it is kind of late to say that, isn’t it?”

A moment of silence befall the four remaining players of this round, who, for the past two minutes, were trying to figure out which one of them were the imposter pretending to be a crewmate. The crewmates win if they manage to find out the imposter, otherwise the imposter would keep “back-stabbing” crewmates until they all die, in which case the imposter wins. The silence was short-lived, for the ringtone of my phone began feeding sound waves into my microphone. My fellow players knew what that was about.

“You gonna pick that up?” Red muttered.

I glanced towards the screen of my phone. “Nah, I have nothing else to tell the press. This particular journalist is pretty cute, though. I think we are about the same age.”

“Nice. I, too, hope a cute journalist would call me in the middle of the night.” I was not kidding when I say the “P” of Purple stands for “positivity”. “It could very well be your last chance to have any fun, just saying.”

“Oh, I want to have fun!” Yellow yelled.

I heard Red and Purple simultaneously sighed. I can’t tell whether they were directed towards Yellow or me. “Either way, we could still finish this round.”

The rest of the group responded unanimously and I was summarily voted as the imposter, ending the round with crewmates as the winners. For someone who plans and executes schemes against the government, I was surprisingly bad at this game.

“Good game, fellas.” I congratulated them. “Most fun I had in awhile.”

“Likewise, my friend. Take care now. Send them our regards.”

“If they ever ask you where you receive your ‘training’ from, don’t forget to give us the credits!”

“Are you going to prison?”

Finally, the elephant surfaced. I had imagined countless ways how this day would come. And for many more times, I thought that day had come. But I suppose they were indeed the better player. First they came for my comrades, then they came for my friends. Finally, I found myself surrounded by enemies, alone. My former allies had accused me as “traitor”; my family discarded me; and the ones whom I fought for are nowhere to be seen. Deception, alienation, destruction. Divide and conquer, the standard procedure. They left me alive, just to see me crumble under my own weight. By the time I do so, they will have their corpse: here lies the Public Enemy Number One and his failed ideologies. A 22-year-old college student with decent grades and his pursuit of justice and democracy.

The phone has subsided. Perhaps she, too, had given up. I scrolled through my contacts and pressed a button. Soon, a familiar voice came through.

“Hello?”

“Dad, it’s me.”

“Ah. So I have heard.”

Silence befall again with no ringtone to break it this time. Only the sound of breath and heartbeat reaches to the other end of the phone.Yet, it was oddly satisfying for me and I suppose he didn’t mind either.

“How’s mom?”

“She’s fine.”

“I see.”

“Are you...”

I gently tapped on the phone, reminding him of the presence of an invisible third party.

“I’m fine. Send mom my regards.”

“Sure.”

As I was about to hang up, he slipped in a few last words.

“And..., son?”

“...Yes, dad?”

“Remember what I taught you.”

“Of course.”

I hung up the phone. I remember what he taught me in a time when he would still call me his son. The clock ticked and I awaited the inevitable to come. I was expecting that was my last call, but I’m gladly proven wrong. It seemed either she was one extremely persistent journalist or really interested to talk to me.

“Where are you?”

“Home.”

“You need to go! They...”

“I know.” Never in my life had I sounded so calm and relaxed in the presence of a girl. “I’m ready.”

“You don’t understand! The movement needs you...”

“Hey, hey. Do you want a story?”

“What story?”

“A long one. How I became Public Enemy Number One.”

“It’s no time for jokes...”

“You will need to buy me a drink, though. When I get out.”

“...How about a date?”

“A date, it is.”

Cars with black-clad men had arrived. I opened the door and walked towards the end of this chapter.
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