Elizabeth Reaume

The Plan by Academy Monthly

The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal under the rule of Diana Moon Glampers, the handicapper general.

George and Hazel were watching television. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence; however, George’s intelligence was above average so he had to wear a handicap radio in his ear at all times. Thanks to the work of the handicapper general, they, along with everyone else, were perfectly equal.

The ballerinas on their screen were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot and their faces were masked so that no one seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel bad about themselves. They were no better than everyone else and they were perfectly equal.

A ballerina stepped in to read an announcement and immediately had to apologize for her luminous voice, which was clearly above average. She continued her announcement in a grackle squawk announcing, “Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen, has just escaped from jail where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, is under-handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous. If you see this boy do not try to reason with him.”

Just then there was the shriek of a door being torn from its hinges replaced by Harrison Bergeron proclaiming, “I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once! I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!” The crowd watched on as Harrison tore off his handicaps. Underneath lay a man that would have awed Thor, god of thunder.

“Now I shall select my Empress!” he declared, looking down over his new subjects. A ballerina arose and glided towards Harrison who stripped off her handicaps revealing a blindingly beautiful Empress. The Emperor and Empress sprang into the air and remained suspended in air where they kissed each other. Harrison, having abnormal intelligence, anticipated that someone was on their way to attempt to defeat him and floated back to the ground with his Empress by his side. There they stood, ready when Diana Moon Glampers entered the studio, intending to kill Harrison and his hopes of a revolt. Harrison, predicting this, launched himself at her and, after a brief, fruitless resistance from Diana Moon Glampers, he came out on top, Emperor of the United States.

He faced the cameras and proclaimed, “I, Harrison Bergeron, have just defeated the Handicapper General. You are now able to remove your handicaps that have limited you your whole lives.” A collective sigh of content could almost be heard as the citizens of the United States released the burdens that had been weighing them down both mentally and physically.

* * *

In their home, George turned to Hazel, expecting her to be rejoicing with him; instead she was silent, wearing a grim expression.  

“Aren’t you happy, we’re free!” George asked.

“I was always happy, I was content with our sameness...” Hazel trailed off as she lost track of what she was saying. A video appeared on their screen of Harrison standing in the center of the studio, cloaked in deep purple, with his wife beside him draped in billowing white cloth. He began by outlining his rule in a strong voice saying, “Welcome. First of all, everyone who did not have a handicap, please report to the old handicap offices to be fitted for boosters, a new product that helps ordinarily average people better assimilate into our new society. Second, I encourage everyone to join me at my new offices to receive your new placement in this society. You will work alongside others in your trade that have been assigned based on their abilities. You will finally be able to live up to your greatest potential and realize, as I have, that handicaps don’t make for the perfect world. Instead, the perfect world is one where people are completing their roles for the betterment of this society and one of happiness through fulfillment and order. If you abide by my rules, this state will flourish. If not, it will disintegrate back into the dark ages.”

Within a short period of time all were assigned to their proper roles in the machine of society and they were beginning to become accustomed to and content with their new life. Harrison himself, having moved into his new office and role of emperor, was enjoying his newfound power. But, his desire for power and the sense of accomplishment that comes with it was far from over. He began to spend his time locked in his study, dreaming up ways he could gain more power and spread his ideas throughout his kingdom. When he finally emerged, he had compiled his ideas into a little book called The Plan and he demanded that people buy many copies of it so that they must cherish his brilliant ideas for the betterment of society. Some people, now able to think without interruption, began to see the flaws in Harrison’s seemingly perfect society, and argued that it was just like the handicap ages. They couldn’t truly be free because they were all assigned to their jobs and told what to think. Harrison, realizing that his people were beginning to turn on him, went back into his study. This time, when he emerged, he cradled his newest, greatest invention that would bring order to his society once and for all: a memory-erasing pill that would erase everyone's memory of the past ages and fill people’s memories with only basic concepts such as their name, and how to function as a human being. Harrison ordered everyone in his kingdom to take the pill and, after he made sure everyone had done so, he and his Empress took the pill together.

When they woke up, Harrison and his Empress noticed a note on their table stating that they were the rulers of the United States. They gazed over their kingdom, thinking about how they would govern their people. Suddenly, Harrison had an idea: what if there was a way he could ensure that no one was better than anyone else in any way and that they were all perfectly equal.