Tomorrow is April 4th, 2156. It is a typical, brisk day, where the soft wind brushes your hair like a cold fan in a small room. Spring is here again, the season of growth and development, where anticipation for the summer begins and the year begins anew. However, there is something different than similar days in years past. Tomorrow should have been my 61st opening day of the game I love. I cannot say its true name, for as we are told, it is illegal. Our Game, as I’d learned to call it, was banned indefinitely around the turn of the 22nd century. I was six years old, and I would never go to another opening game again.
Nearly sixty years ago, the government deemed leisure activity to be, as they stated, “unbecoming of a truly utopian society.” Sports and games ceased, and all equipment found would be destroyed. After several months, anyone found with any sort of memorabilia or equipment would be court-martialed. In fact, it is illegal to even write this, but as I tell myself, it is necessary to continue the legacy of Our Game.
Each day, I lower myself into the cellar and pull out a hidden crate from the corner of the room. In it, lies several old bats, which are slightly too heavy, a ball which at this point is becoming more and more lob-sided through the years, and a glove that I’ve done my best to maintain in a remotely playable shape.
Every morning we are forced to march a parade, I suppose for no other reason than to assert our allegiance to our utopia and manipulate normality of these events to the participants. When the parade is finished, I break the law by running home, weary of the gleaming alloy cars which dart in and out of streets in search of Injustice. Walking and running on the streets is unbecoming of a truly utopian society. You see, I am unique. I was born, I believe, with a developing mind, which is unusual. I manipulate them, by keeping illegal equipment from Our Game and running and many other things, things which nearly all citizens have readily given up. I am different, and yet I am the same.
The wall of my cellar, a concrete mass which appears to me like a smaller, grayer Green Monster, repels my throws like a rubber sheet. I cannot move around like I once did, but my throws are just as hard and my defense has only improved. If Our Game was still played, I could coach a team of impenetrable defenseman. Give my players a wall, and they wouldn’t miss a ground ball for the rest of their careers. I read somewhere a coach or scout, I cannot remember which, back in the golden age of Our Game used to actively promote the use of a practice wall. As far as I’ve ever known, which in this society is incidentally very little, professionals rarely utilized this tool.
Even still, each day I improve my skills and keep my eyes sharp. Every throw is a crime, every catch a greater crime, as I did have the choice to let the ball roll to a stop and repent my misdeed of throwing it to begin with. Call me a Lawbreaker, for I catch every goddamn ball I throw.
All I wish is to share this feeling for Our Game with another one of us, but like I said, I’m unique. There may be other citizens who, like me, secretly enjoy quick flashes of enjoyment from the smell of the glove to their faces or relish in the sound of a ball hitting against the sharp wall not unlike the crack of the bat to the ball used to sound. And if these people do exist, we do share another thing in common: a deep fear of being known.
If the surreptitiousness of my misdeeds are discovered, my equipment will be destroyed and my love will be gone. And thus my love for Our Game, like the love for all things now illegal, remains hidden. This is a shame, for even in the futuristic, lifeless setting of this utopian land, the affirmation that Our Game is meant to be played in the daylight, remains as pure as the game itself.
Like any right-minded adult male, a rarity in this society, my greatest wish is to pass along my love for Our Game to a descendent or someone to keep the relationship between man and the game as strong as I had left it. Alas, with utopia, descendents, or any kind of grouping you might classify as a family does not exist. We are all in one, and one in all. We are told that there is no great man, but that of We. That phrase is repeated in monotonic repetition during the morning public demonstrations.
Thus, I am no more a father or grandfather to one citizen than another. As a right-minded adult male, this poses a problem: to whom, therefore, do I share my love of life (a characteristic which belongs to perhaps none other here but myself) and Our Game? For over fifty years I throw the ball against the distinct mark on the wall which has steadily grown darker over time to myself, but what if there were someone else?
What if I were able to play a makeshift game of catch with another citizen while perhaps sharing stories? What if I were able to teach a child how to make a proper sacrifice bunt? Never before have I been able to really use this bat, for a bat in a basement is about as useless as a catcher using a piece of cardboard to shield his face from an oncoming pitch. I’ve never once truly pitched a ball or swung a bat, or at least done so in a contextually satisfying manner.
A million practice swings could never compare to being able to stare down the pitcher as he motions into his wind-up, stepping out in front of me with my right foot and twisting my wrists and hips around with my body, making perfectly-timed contact with the ball, watching it fly from my bat like a spring and pushing my body forward and throwing myself towards first base like a sprinter motioning to the golden tape of success.
I’m a lefty, which, as you’d guess, is unbecoming of a utopian society. We are all to be the same. We are all to be right-handers. Occasionally, you’ll see someone reach for a door handle with their left hand subconsciously. I watch and smile to myself, knowing they are a southpaw at heart but either don’t realize it or have spent their lives pretending to be right-handed. It depresses me, though by utopian standards I should feel emotionally no different than any other citizen.
It is Our Game, I’ve grown to realize, which has inevitably separated me intellectually from the other citizens. It is a game which teaches the rise and fall of human emotion, a trait which completely lacks from our society. Nothing else in this current world engraves any power of success and failure, etching our lives with truth, love, mutual disappointments, and satisfaction.
We are vague, unrecognizable machines attempted to perfect and replicate generations of the past, sans life or purpose. I am an anachronism, thinking things no mortal on this planet dares to think, acting out dreams which contradict the very meaning of our significance. What else could have given me self-worth other than fielding automated ground balls or squaring up for a pretend bunt? In this world, we are all the same, our value and worth no greater or worse than any other. It is Our Game which distances me from the rest. I possess a vision and meaning which no other identifiable citizen owns. Our Game is my life blood, and to others it is unfamiliar, or at best a distant memory of a now unplayable phenomenon. It is hell.
As the years pass, I grow older, slower. A thought creeps to my consciousness like a base-runner shifting his momentum towards second, creeping off the bag, creating an undesirable sensation for the opposing hurler. At what point will I become too feeble to continue to perform my daily crime? It is the one task which differs me from the rest, which gives my life any special meaning, even if its significance only relays to my own psyche.
Suddenly, as if I’m a pitcher reacting to a ball being hit sharply back at me, I know exactly my calling. No longer can I continue to hide in the secrecy of my basement. The setting of my game is a direct representation of what Our Game has come to mean in this society—cold, lifeless, void of purpose. I must reach out to the world. I may be the only one who thinks these thoughts, who lives with meaning, who finds comfort in anything. It is a characteristic I feel called to share with the world, if I have to commit deadly sin trying. It is of greater importance than anything I could dare imagine.
The future of Our Game rests in perhaps only my hand, but that is merely a microcosm of what I’ve come to realize, a small representation of the only thing which distances true happiness and the kind utopian societies attempt to guarantee to its inhabitants. I am forced to save the power of rationalization, of emotion, of intellectuality, of characteristics of humans of a former time. It is up to me, quite possibly the only citizen left with the ability to think critically. It is my calling. It is no longer about the future of Our Game, but that of life and the world to come.
Instinctively, I knew where to start walking that night. I darted behind houses, trees, anything to shield my presence from the gleaming alloy cars which cruise the streets searching for utopian undesirables: me. Of course, I could have obeyed the Law by driving. This calling, however, depended on the power of individuality and rebellion. Thus, I walk, surreptitiously hiding from the gleaming alloy cars in pursuit of the destined green field of my mind.
In generations past, it was a magnificent stadium, encompassing thousands of hearty fans in its inviting metal structure. Now, however, it was merely an abandoned, dirt-covered field, sitting on the outskirts of town, forcibly distanced from our society. Looking at it, I imagine the ballpark being torn down, stripped of its life. I vision the grass being cut up, rolled into inanimate swaths, and trucked away. Evil is the only thought which encircles my consciousness.
What is left is a dark, empty, field. I feel no love, no emotion. It is as if, by staring at the deep abyss which lies before me, my mind slowly transitions itself from my unique personification to that a lifeless drone. When they took away the stadium of Our Game, our individuality and humanity went with it. We became what they wished for us. And slowly, as I watched the dirt rustle in the wind, I too fulfilled that destiny. That night, I committed one of the deadliest sins of all—a solitary tear rolled down across my face, like a ball tumbling through an infield as pristine as Our Game has ever concocted.
The next morning, after returning home from our daily manipulation, I lowered myself into the basement and pulled out the familiar crate of life. For many minutes, I stared blankly at the worn equipment, pondering the significance of their presence. I felt the length of the bat, unchanged since its creation, the ball whose motion has captivated my imagination since my first throw, the glove which for sixty-one years has captured ground-balls perfectly and I imagine could last for another sixty-one years if need be.
I pull out the ball and bat, and without thinking I force myself back upstairs. It is the first time in more than six decades they have abandoned the secrecy of my underground concrete surface. I look outside, where I see a gleaming alloy car in the distance moving in my direction. Stepping onto the fresh, cool grass, the ball is softly tossed into the sky as I raise my bat, and in one fluent motion, the very swing I’ve performed millions of times as practice, it connects with the ball. The sound of the bat on the ball is indescribable, more beautiful than any other noise a human has dared to hear. The now distant sphere continues to move swiftly through the air, surprised at its ease, as it drives itself into the front windshield of the gleaming alloy car. I throw the bat behind me, and instinctively I begin running towards the remote field of the past. As the gleaming alloy car surrounds me, I dive into the dirt head-first, throwing my arms around land, which, unbeknownst to anyone else, began to carry the faint aroma of Our Game about it.