But, I’m going to talk about it anyway because I have a fragile ego and it makes me feel extremely important for these kinds of things to be said to me.
So, in “The Purge” all crime is legal for twelve or so hours. As far as I have been able to research, that’s the whole idea. Here’s why no one stole that idea from me, though: That is a pretty common idea.
Here’s how I personally got the idea for “Run, Run Judy.”
I was sitting around at work. A guy who sits next to me started talking about how much he hates his neighbor and wishes that he could just legally go crazy and murder him with no consequences. I say that’s not very healthy. He says “Don’t you wish you could do that sometimes?”
I think “Of course” followed shortly by “Oh, that’s pretty interesting.”
At the same time that happened, I was reading Cory Doctorow’s “Little Brother” which is about a police-state that uses super-surveillance. And there was a story on the internet about a fourteen year old girl who had posted “slutty” pictures and therefore “deserved” to be preyed upon. And it also got me thinking about Foucault’s essay on Panopticism that I read forever ago in college.
Unless “The Purge” features some kind of surveillance element and bits about what it means to “be seen being good” vs. “being good” I think what happened was that the guy who wrote the Purge just had an experience like mine.
Although, again, it does make me feel extremely important.
Here’s the first party of “Run, Run Judy.”
**UPDATE: Trigger Warning for Sexual Assault. One of the reasons I didn’t “republish” this on my old website is because I was very not proud of the way I handled rape in this story.
Run, Run Judy
“Who can tell me what Panopticism means?”
Mr. Larson had a mustache like a dirty brown push broom. When he smiled, as he nervously did now, it looked like the push broom had snapped in half trying to sweep the tragedy of his yellow teeth out of his mouth.
Judy winced as he worked his lips, smearing the teeth with saliva.
“Does anyone know?”
Mr. Larson’s ugly mustache contorted, this time in something that looked like the precursor to mania. She wondered if he’d drawn a short straw or if he was merely expected to give this talk in his role as the history teacher. Whatever the case, Judy couldn’t stand to look at those teeth for another second.
She chose instead to stare at the intercom over Mr. Larson’s head.
“Let’s… let’s try this another way.” Mr. Larson swallowed, flashing his nervous smile.
Still staring at the intercom, Judy’s nose shriveled in distaste. His teeth were like the porcelain in an uncleaned urinal.
“Who… who can tell me why we have… Lights Out?”
It was as if the last two words had been ripped from his throat. He was starting to sweat. Judy also noticed his eyes kept going to the clock in the back of the classroom.
Judy figured his mistake was that he was trying to talk about Lights Out like it was just some history lesson. But Lights Out wasn’t about history. Lights Out was about evil. Horrible, rotten, stinking, putrid evil. Mr. Larson was making himself sick trying to put a shine job on it.
Judy glanced over at Elisha Powell who was rubbing her chest and wincing. Elisha still wasn’t fully recovered from her mastectomy. Her parents should have scheduled it earlier. Now it was too late and she would have to face Lights Out at less than full strength. Judy shook her head in bewilderment.
How the fuck do you not plan for something you see coming sixteen years away?
Mr. Larson had apparently decided it was easier to speak if he stared at his shoes.
“Panopticism is… it’s all the cameras everywhere. Well, I suppose that’s a simplification… but Panopticism means being watched all the time. It means there’s no such thing as privacy,” Mr. Larson realized he’d made another mistake. “Does… anyone know what privacy was?”
Judy knew. Though from the reactions of the other students, she figured she might have been the only one. Privacy was an old archaic word, representing a concept that was now unthinkable.
Privacy was other people not being able to look at you naked any time they wanted. Privacy was not being sent videos of boys masturbating while they murmured your name into their pillow. Privacy was going into a room by yourself and crying without anyone being able to see.
It must have been wonderful.
When no hands went up, Mr. Larson took a moment to dab the sweat on his forehead with a handkerchief. He scanned the classroom. Their eyes connected for a moment.
Mr. Larson flinched.
Creep, Judy thought.
“Privacy was when people had secrets from one another.” Mr. Larson swallowed again, realizing he had used another archaic word. “Secrets are events that occur… Off the Record.”
That got a few raised eyebrows. No one in the classroom had ever done anything Off the Record before. On the Record was a common enough phrase. People said it to seal promises and the like. But Off the Record… that was intriguing.
You’re wrong, Judy thought. Privacy was more than that.
“The world has been On the Record for over sixty years now. No one chose it. There was no action of government. There was no vote. Total Panopticism… that is to say, being watched by everyone… was an inevitable extension of technology and economics. But still… here we are.” Mr. Larson gestured at all of the cameras in the room. Most were too small to see, of course, and they were everywhere, on just about everything that was manufactured… but he chose to wave at the intercom over his shoulder anyway.
Every classroom had an intercom. Intercoms represented Complete Coverage. Judy favored the intercom with a scowl.
Mr. Larson had failed to mention that the most important part of Panopticism was knowing that someone else was watching.
Jennifer Lawrence asked a question about how things could ever happen Off the Record, if the Record was Infallible? Infallibility was one of the pillars of Complete Coverage that everyone learned about before they could read.
Jennifer Lawrence seemed awful dumb for someone who had been smart enough to get her mastectomy six months ago. Maybe her parents were the smart ones and had known she would need time to recover.
Judy’s own budding breasts remained embarrassingly ample, which was why she tended to have her arms crossed over them more often than not.
“Well… let’s see. What’s the best way to answer that?” Just for a moment, Mr. Larson had been fine, as if discussing any other history lesson but now that he’d come straight up against Lights Out again the nervousness was back.
“As you know, at first we reaped enormous benefits from the Panoptic Model. It almost totally destroyed the need for a legal system. It made corruption virtually impossible….”
Come on! Say it! Stop focusing on all the good and tell them what happened!
“After the first ten years of Complete Coverage, violent crime rates dropped to less than one percent of what they had been… except… there was one significant drawback….” Mr. Larson was really sweating now. “I don’t suppose anyone here knows-”
“Suicide,” blurted Judy..
The eyes of the class swiveled to her. She felt like they were staring at her breasts and her face flushed. It took a concentrated effort not to shift her arms.
“All the crime stopped but the suicide rate jumped to twenty-percent,” she mumbled.
Mr. Larson’s face reddened. He was struggling with tears. Lights Out affected everything, but speaking of it was taboo. It was like standing at the Thanksgiving dinner table and shouting curses at the top of your lungs. This talk was the only time it was ever spoken of in any official capacity.
“Judy is correct. While the Panoptic model stopped almost all crime it also increased… I’m afraid the polite phrase is ‘self-termination’ Judy.” Mr. Larson forced a grin. Judy wished she had a pipe wrench so she could swing it at his jaw.
“Lights Out wasn’t seen as a solution early on, of course. It evolved quite naturally. You see… the cameras,” Mr. Larson waved at the intercom again, “create a sense of pressure. It makes us feel bottled up even if we’re not aware of it. Although Complete Coverage has numerous benefits, human nature rebels against it.”
Judy turned to look at an empty desk. Ian McCaskill used to sit there. Until the video surfaced of him wearing his mother’s underwear. Stupid kid thought he was too unpopular to be Searched. He should have known no one is too unpopular to be Searched.
“Ten years after Complete Coverage a section of Chicago suffered a system-wide power and information outage. All the cameras in the east side were off for almost twelve hours.”
Now we get to it. Tell us Mr. Larson. Tell us the truth about the human fucking race!
“By that time termination was unheard of, but thirty-three people were terminated that night….” Mr. Larson had finally managed to sweat through his shirt.
“There were also a number of other crimes like forced-copulation and other types of lesser body-violation. At first the wave of violence was seen as a tragedy, a form of group madness, however in the aftermath it was noticed that….”
“No one involved in the Power Outage committed suicide,” said Judy.
That’s us. That’s people. We need to do bad things just to live.
Mr. Larson’s hands trembled. Everyone tried to pretend Lights Out never happened. Everyone tried to pretend the world was a polite and wonderful place where no crimes could ever be committed because people were good. Lights Out told a different story. Lights Out said that being watched and being good were two very different things.
“Judy is once again correct… even if her… verbiage is a little out-of-date. The results were confirmed in a few other isolated incidents that mirrored the first outage. Five years after the first data black out…” Mr. Larson started to cough until his eyes were red and full of tears, “There was a nation-wide outage lasting six hours.”
And what happened, you apologist fuck? What happened when all the cameras were shut off?
“There were thirty-thousand terminations, over three-hundred thousand forced-copulations and millions of lesser forms of body-violation. Afterward, the self-termination rates plummeted across the nation. Lights Out therefore… after a few more large power outages… became a national custom.”
Bet you don’t say anything about there being no police response! Bet you don’t say anything about how no one gets punished because I bet I’m the only one here that knows there used to be police!
“There were modifications to be made before Lights Out reached full acceptance. Firearms, of course, had to be done away with. As with most other weapons. You’ve probably all seen them in movies.” Mr. Larson, hands still shaking, mimed a few shots with a gun.
No one laughed.
“Explosives are also controlled as there is too much possibility for damage to the infrastructure otherwise. And… it was also necessary that young children be protected, which is why we’re having this conversation.”
Judy had read that during the first Lights Out, over five hundred mothers had murdered their children. Most of them had been infants or toddlers. Kids who cried all night.
“During Lights out, there is only one place where Coverage still exists. There is still Coverage in ‘Safety Boxes’ where children remain until they reach the age of sixteen. When you go home today, you will find that your Safety Boxes have been removed.”
The age of majority was supposed to be sixteen. However, they’d changed it later to be your sophomore year of high school. That’s when the suicide rates spiked. Shame. Judy was still only fifteen.
Mr. Larson raised his hands when he saw the classroom tense.
“Now don’t panic! The terminations were only a major issue during the first few years. Less than a thousand across the entire nation are terminated during each Lights Out. Most people pass the time away in their homes with the door locked.”
Judy noticed Mr. Larson didn’t say anything about rape, or forced-copulation as he styled it. There may not have been that many murders, but rape ruled during Lights Out.
Rape was why Elisha was still hugging her chest and why Jennifer Lawrence had had her tits cut off six months ago. Rape was why all the girls had their hair cut short and ugly in the last few weeks. The way people thought now if a girl looked nice during Lights Out she was asking to be raped.
“I imagine your parents will all have some tips for you. And now… I believe our time is done.” Mr. Larson practically fainted with relief when the bell rang.
All the other children headed to the school buses. All except Judy.
She went for a run.
Judy’s tits didn’t bounce when she ran. She’d gone through three dozen sports bras finding the perfect one that kept them from jumping up in her face. Even so, men watched her when she passed, an ancient hunger in deep in their eyes.
Judy flipped them the bird.
Perverts, Judy thought. I ought to do a Search and send a video of you looking to your wife.
A girl with no tits was the norm and no girl except Judy wore tight clothes where anyone could see. All kinds of papers had been written about how this would one day change the standards of what was considered attractive but the men Judy ran passed told another story.
Judy ignored them.
She didn’t run any faster than was needed to get her blood pumping. She’d need her speed and stamina for tonight. This was just a warm-up. A way to get herself physically and emotionally prepared for the nightmare that was to come. She let herself look at the community.
The more forward thinking adults were putting their cars up on blocks and removing the tires. Judy’s neighbor buried his tires in his backyard every year. No chance of the car being stolen that way.
Others were checking the bars on their windows. Window bars came out every year like Christmas lights. They couldn’t stop a whole mob of men, but if you’d done like you were supposed to and not made any enemies they didn’t have to.
On the enemy front, Judy saw housewives going from house to house, handing out cookies in a last ditch effort to generate good will.
Judy passed a couple who were filling water buckets in case of a fire. Waste of time. All building materials had been fireproofed for the last forty years. It was made a priority after the Great Fire of Phoenix during the second national Lights Out.
They should have done what their neighbors were doing. The father and son just happened to be playing baseball.. with aluminum bats. The mother just happened to be cutting back some hedges… with a machete. The daughter just happened to be breaking up concrete with a crowbar. It sent a strong message. A good message. They would be safe during Lights Out.
Judy had no intention of hiding indoors. Her breasts were full. Her hair was long. She was beautiful. Her beauty was a sin against Lights Out and tonight the mob would come to punish her. No fortress would stop them. They would chase her.
They came for old Mr. Harlow’s Sports Car. It was the only nice thing he had, but it was nicer than what everyone else had so they smashed it all to bits. She was like the sports car. They would come for tonight.
Judy let loose a burst of speed.
Let them chase.
In another few years, Judy would be on the Olympic team. There were a lot of women runners now. As fast as any man. That was another unforeseen benefit of Lights Out. Women were getting faster every year.
Judy sneered at a few more men.
I’ll run you all into the fucking ground, she thought.
Dad made a light dinner of chicken and vegetables. It was good, but Judy only ate half. Eating slowed her down.
“Tell me about mom,” Judy said, putting her dinner napkin on top of her plate.
Dad sighed, drumming his fingers on his stomach. His plate was empty. Dad had put on a lot of weight since Judy was a little. He told her that was because Mom was the one that used to get after him about eating right.
Her father looked at her with kind brown eyes. He was a sweet man. Too sweet for the world he lived in.
“Your mom was beautiful, smart, and-”
“Tell me about how she died,” Judy interjected.
Dad’s face fell. He pushed his chair back from the dining room table and stared at a picture of the family on the mantle. He lifted it and ran his fingers across the frame lovingly. It had been taken just after Judy had been born. They hadn’t even been married a full year.
“You know I don’t like talking about that, Judith.”
“Tell me so I don’t stop running when my legs get tired.”
Dad closed his eyes. There were no sobs. It had been too long ago to even seem real anymore.
“It was Lights Out. You were just a baby in the Safety Box. Some men broke into the house and raped her. When they were done, one of them slit her throat.”
Judy didn’t ask her father what he’d been doing during that time. When she had been old enough, she’d run a search and seen video of him bloody and scarred the second the cameras came back on. The men who’d killed her mother hadn’t got to her without a fight.
I’m so proud of you for that, Dad. I’m so proud you fought when they came for her.
“And that’s why you taught me to run,” said Judy.
They repeated this ritual often. Judy was the one who instigated. It helped her when her lungs burned so much she wanted to throw up, or when her legs quivered from strained.
Dad nodded. “That’s why I taught you to run.”
She walked over to a wall where her trophies were kept. Lots of pictures of her with first place medals around her neck. Her dad was holding a stopwatch in all of them.
“Am I fast enough, Dad?”
“You’re the fastest, Judy.”
Judy took her plate to the kitchen and shoveled the remains of dinner into the garbage disposal. She ran upstairs and changed into her tight running clothes. She re-checked the weather report to confirm there would be no rain. Then she got the knife from off her nightstand and strapped it to her hip.
“Drive me out to the forest now?” she asked.
Her father looked at the door, frowning.
How long have we been planning, Dad?
“It’s early yet. Why not wait a couple hours?” The color was starting to run from his face. Judy could tell he was rethinking the whole plan. Thinking there might be some way to fortify the house and protect her with only a few hours left.
The only way I’ll be safe is if I’m alone, Dad. We both know that.
Judy kissed his cheek.
“You can’t protect me. A mob of them will come tonight and your only hope is to leave all the doors open so they can see that I’m not here.”
They’d both known running was the only way for years.
“Take me to the park now.”
“You’ve been there a thousand times. Ever since you were little.”
But people need to see me there. They need to see me there through all the cameras before Lights Out so they know better than to come for you.
“I just want to make sure nothing’s changed.”
“Wait an hour?” her father pleaded, putting an arm over her shoulder.
“Fine,” said Judy, “one hour.”
“Take a blanket, for Chrissakes!”
Dad waived a blue flannel blanket but Judy kept on walking. She’d be warm enough when the running started and she had no intention of sleeping any time during the night.
“You’re gonna freeze to death out here, Judith!”
Once Judy crested the hill, she climbed atop a picnic table and shouted goodbye. Her father lowered the blanket in defeat. She could hear him cursing as he changed gears and drove off.
Judy watched the car drive away until it was only a trail of dust off somewhere in the distance.
He’ll be safe. Anyone out to get her would have already done a search and tracked her progress to the park.
She watched the sun sink down toward the horizon. Lights Out started at sundown. It ended at sunup. All Judy had to do was keep her eyes open. If someone wanted to chase her, there was a forest for her to play hide and seek all night. A forest she knew so well there were maps of it on her feet, separate from her brain.
Judy took the knife out of its sheathe on her hip. It was a boning knife from a high-end kitchen set and the closest thing she had to a combat weapon. She spent an hour sharpening it as the sun went down.
She hoped people were watching through the cameras.
She hoped she gave them second thoughts.
The city lights burned in the distance, still bright even under the sun. Then some time later the sun disappeared and the city lights went off. Darkness smothered the world like a blanket.
Judy fought off the need to tremble. There were no cameras in her head. The fear could be her secret if she kept it there.
The park was an hour away from anywhere else.
That’s why they’d chosen it. That’s why her father had picked it out off the map. The further away it was, the more time people would have to spend chasing her. An hour there… and hopefully an hour back if they didn’t want anyone to suspect where they had been.
Two hours gone from the night.
Judy walked in a short circle on the hilltop, keeping her eyes peeled open. If they came, they’d have to come from the road. She would let them get halfway up the hill, to make sure they exhausted themselves, and then she would run out to the forest and lose them. Just like she’d planned.
She tried not to look at the dark city. She swore, even though she knew it was impossible, that she could hear screams coming from that direction.
I should have had my tits cut off. I should have lit my hair on fire and poured acid on my face.
She realized her breathing was getting out of control, so she forced it to slow. Judy resisted the urge to press the glow button on her watch to check the time. She couldn’t run the risk of ruining her night vision.
She kept running through her strategies.
Up the hill. Let them get half way up the hill. Up the hill. Halfway up the hill.
If she ran before then, they’d just skirt off the side, and her advantage would be gone. If she ran out into the woods right away, they might be able to band together and search in some logical fashion.
She’d planned it for years, but it now seemed like the most insane strategy in the history of the world. Half the hill was too damn close.
Halfway up the hill. Halfway up the hill.
Judy wished there was some kind of training for waiting in suspense.
Headlights blared into existence from beyond the curve of the road.
Judy’s mouth went dry. Her heart hammered. They were coming.
Am I a runner? If I’m a runner then why do my knees feel so weak? Why do I feel like I’m going to faint?
Another pair of headlights followed the first. Then another. Judy’s hand went to the knife. She couldn’t breathe. Three cars in all.
Oh God! Oh God! They’re going to work together! They’re going to surround me and then they’re going to hold me down and…
She bit her tongue. She clenched her fists.
“I am fast,” Judy said to the air.
“I am a runner.”
The headlights of another car, more distant than the first three appeared. Judy started to cry. Couldn’t help it. There were no sobs, but try as she might she could not stop the tears coming from her eyes. She forced her breathing to stay even. Forced her hand to say on the knife at her hip. The tears though, continued.
Four cars! Jesus Christ we never figured on four cars!
“I am the fastest.”
The first group of three cars was nearing the parking lot. Judy jogged in place. She closed her eyes and counted to ten. The first group of cars had parked. The fourth was still in pursuit. Speeding.
Judy flinched when the car doors slammed open. There was only a sliver of moonlight to see by.
“We’re coming for you, Judy! We’re gonna fuck you in every hole you got!” Judy couldn’t recognize the voice. Other boys whooped and shouted in approval. Someone laid claim to her asshole.
I am going to die.
“If one of them takes out their penis, I will cut it off and throw it at the others.”
Judy forced herself to count. Sixteen. Some boys and some men by the look. And more to come in the fourth car.
The group advanced. Some were holding rope. Others were holding bats and clubs. All of them wore masks of one kind or another.
“We’re gonna hold you down, Judy. Then we’re going to tie you up and fuck you till your pussy breaks,” it was an ugly voice. A voice no one would use if they thought someone else was watching.
They weren’t to the hill yet. Judy held her feet firm. Forced her breath to flow evenly. Half of running was breathing.
Even as her lungs pumped smoothly she wanted to shit. Wanted to piss. But she held firm.
“I’m gonna fuck you like I own you, Judy.”
“I’m going to make you all mine, Judy. You and them big ol’ tits of yous.”
Someone made a slurping noise. Someone else laughed.
“It won’t be so bad, Judy! I bet you like it after the first couple of throws!”
They were at the base of the hill now. It took all of her willpower not to take out her knife and throw it at the nearest assailant in some mad animal assertion of her territory
Why hadn’t she thought to stack rocks? Maybe she should have brought a slingshot? Why hadn’t she brought a fucking slingshot? How could she have been so stupid?
“Gonna fuck you Judy! We’re gonna fuck you in half!”
They were going to rape her. They were all going to rape her. She should have prepared for a fight. Running? That was idiocy.
Her breath continued as regular as the tides.
“I am fast. I am a runner. I am the fastest,” Judy whispered it like a prayer. She no longer had any idea whether or not she was fast. It was only a hope now.
They were a quarter of the way up the hill. All sixteen of them. They only had to come up a little bit more. Just a little bit more and she could do something other than stand there. Stand there breathing like an idiot.
They were shouting. It looked like they were running except their feet seemed to fall in slow motion. Judy couldn’t hear what they were saying over the pounding of her heart.
The fourth car pulled into the lot. Only one person in it.
God she needed to piss.
They came onward slowly. Still more slowly. How could they move so slowly when their legs pumped like that? She would be dead of old age long before they ever raped her.
One of them stepped on a branch and it snapped. Judy had put it there earlier to mark halfway.
The world suddenly started to rush by. The men weren’t walking. They were charging. And she was still standing there breathing.
“If one of you takes out your dick, I’ll cut it off and throw it at the others!” Judy shouted.
She turned. She ran. Faster than she ever had. Faster than she knew she could. And still her legs brought on the speed. Bountiful reserves of energy opened to her.
“Catch that fucking whore!”
A baseball bat landed miles away behind her. They couldn’t even throw anything as fast as she was running. She passed into the treeline. The voices faded.
Judy spared one last look over her shoulder. The headlights of yet another car appeared around the bend in the road.
Five Cars! I am going to die I am going to die. I am going to…
“I… am… the… fastest!”
The forest was hers. She would face them there.