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I Bid Genocide

Bo lives and works close to Amsterdam. Bo is the first Dutch author to have been published in F&SF, Clarkesworld, and Analog. Her sf novel "The Wan" was published by Pink Narcissus Press.

When not writing, she knits, reads, and gardens, preferably all three at the same time. For more about her work, you can visit https://www.boukjebalder.nl or find Bo on Facebook. Story Comments: This story was created from a blend of surprise at all the reality TV we get, and the spate of disinformation that's also flooding the internet. Apparently the human brain yearns for real people and real emotion, and at the same time it is capable of accepting twenty pieces of nonsense before breakfast. This seemed like the perfect conflict for my unreal version of a reality show.

***Editor's Note: Mature story, dealing with mature, disturbing themes***
Ebba Molina chews her lip in the Forever or Gone contestants' booth, watching the opening bids of the opposing team.
"Mx. Ozturk from Izmir, what do you bid?" The game show host asks, glittering his reflective teeth at the camera. He's a gruesomely well-preserved movie star called Jude.
The woman from Izmir smiles and twirls her long black hair. "I bid the 1915 misunderstanding."
The crowd buzzes, while they read the background summary provided by the show. "Also known as the Armenian genocide, folks! Turkey bids on permanent removal from our collective memory, while the opposing team will seek acknowledgement from Turkey and permanent attribution to the Human Memory Forever," Mx. Law crows.
It's a super risky bid. Even Ebba, in her final year at high school, has heard of this. It's too late for the Holocaust, that's been voted in, but the Western block has had to give in on the Nanking Massacre. Ebba can think these words, as her flesh and blood memory hasn't been elided, but her memory software is unable to transcribe it and shows asterisks. If she thinks those words too often, she'll get a warning. A favorite childhood memory of hers will be on the line.
Not that she has many. That's why she's here. Her team needed something personal and painful to bid against the Turks. Ebba has a doozy, as the whole world knows. Even if her mother denies everything. She's never believed Ebba.
Her mother is sure to be watching, she loves these personal bid shows, physicals most of all. Arca Molina applauds at personal loss, her favorite being a hand or foot. Ebba knows there are worse shows, but she hasn't been allowed to watch them. Hah. While Mom watched her shows, her father did worse things to Ebba's little brother than even those shows are allowed to broadcast.
The door of her cubicle opens. "Now, Mx. Molina!" a harried assistant says, already turning away.
Ebba gets up. Her legs wobble. She'll never be welcome back home either case. But piece of mind is worth everything. Even her mother's approval.
She's shuttled from assistant to assistant like a water bucket on a fire line, hurried, yet careful not to slosh her.
A drum roll starts up. Her stomach dances a lively tango. A gentle but inexorable push sails her onto the stage. She's almost blinded by the bright lights, but three rehearsals and the instructions in her ear help her go on. "Two steps forward, little bit to the left, there's your station. Stay standing, be ready to give Jude a shake."
A silhouette forms against the lights, dissolving into Jude the movie star, who looks a lot wrinklier and scarier close up. "Smile!" he says and stretches his lips wider. Ebba wonders whose they'd been.
"Greatest audience in the world, this is Ebba Molina, for team Never Forget, and here is her bid!"
Ebba leans closer to the mic. She's so glad she can't see the audience. "I bid... I bid the murder of my little brother. My father killed him."
The audience oohs and ahs. It's not news to them, but seeing the victims' faces react live to the footage is what makes this show tick. On Ebba's little eye screen photos of Fer are displayed, of her mother and father, of Fer and herself. The compilation ends with the little white coffin, tilting precariously as it's carried down the aisle because Ebba insisted on taking a corner.
The camera in front of her face blinks, to warn her she's still on the air. Why?
The big screen over the stage now shows her own home's front door. One of Jude's assistants knocks. Ebba's mother opens. She's already looking shocked and confused. She must have been watching the show. She always watches.
"Mx. Lopez, you are on Forever or Gone: What do you say to your daughter's bid? How did you feel when your husband abused your son?"
Her mother's face turns gray with anger. Her hand kneads her floral housedress to death. "It's not true. I would have known. You can't say things like that. My husband would never do that to Fer, he didn't. He was no kiddy fiddler! That girl is lying."
Ebba's face freezes. Trust her mother to make an already unbearable situation worse. She hadn't wanted to call attention to the other horrible things her father did, just the murder. Could her mother never get anything right?
The famous human rights lawyer on Ebba's team, the one that has been married to a movie star(not Jude though), turns her magnificent eyes on Ebba, flicks her a smile with the tiniest of quirks at the corner of her mouth, then turns her head so Ebba sees only impeccable grey waves of hair.
Ebba has just handed her team the win, the almost-smile from Mx. Famous Lawyer says enough. The Turkish lady across the stage throws her a murderous look. The Armenian Massacre is assured a place in Human Memory Forever.
The voting is only a formality.
Ebba accepts cool hand touches from her team and the Host. Her own shocked face, superimposed on her mother's, is plastered all over the stage, on every monitor and phone. The viewers know it's the last time they will ever see it. Ebba knows this too, an bears the final seconds of the world's scrutiny before her father's crimes are erased from memory forever.
She can go to college now. In time, she and her mother and Fer will be forgotten. The world will forget what her father did.
If only she could.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

Author Comments

This story was created from a blend of surprise at all the reality TV we get, and the spate of disinformation that's also flooding the internet. Apparently the human brain yearns for real people and real emotion, and at the same time it is capable of accepting twenty pieces of nonsense before breakfast. This seemed like the perfect conflict for my unreal version of a reality show.

- Bo Balder
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