"I don't know what we are doing here anymore. Half the people I give orders to are people I arrested before." John stood looking at the other members of the council. "People are getting away with whatever they want. There is no justice being brought forth, so they have no fear. I arrest them, and then they are let free because we do not have the ability to hold them. They have to work, they know that. It is the only way that they, or any of us, are going to survive." Bored looks from the others. This was nothing new. This same problem had been plaguing them ever since their village had grown past its original members. "What I am suggesting is a different system. I know that there are some here against what I am going to suggest, but at this point I really do not think that there is any real alternative. I think that we need to instate some sort of more corporeal punishment."
"What do you mean by that?" Susan snapped. She knew exactly what he meant. Just trying to pick a fight.
"I think you all know. In a nutshell, what I mean is floggings, hangings. Publicly." Taking the bait and spelling it out for her. "Luckily, we have had no crimes to warrant anything more than this, but if we should, then capital punishment. Hangings. I don't like this any more than the rest of you. We simply have no other options. That being said, I think that it will work."
"John, you realize what it would mean if we did this, right? I mean, it would be like degrading our sense of morals in order to take a shortcut." Said Larry, who was in charge of storing and rationing foodstuffs. He wasn't against him on this matter for practical or personal reasons, so John wasn't sure if he would be able to sway him. "Do you really think that this is what we want to become? A society that punishes its members by holding them out in public and beating them, humiliating them?"
"No, Larry, I don't think that at all. Firstly, I don't think that we'll be risking our morals in order to carry out this punishment. These will be people who are perfectly deserving of it. Also, once a punishment, any punishment, is carried out, I think it will make a real difference. Right now people know that they can get away with just about anything short of murder. So they do. But if they see that people are being punished, I think that people will stop making stupid decisions. This being a public event is the part that makes it so crucial. There are what, 800 people here now?" Looking to Joan, who was in charge of all census information. She nodded affirmation. "Everyone knows everyone. The real punishment isn't going to be the physical beating. It's going to be the humiliation of having all your friends, and people you are going to be forced to be around every day see you take this punishment."
Walking down the street to his home, John was greeted by the people that he passed along the way. Will they feel the same tomorrow when they find out what I've done? It had taken a long time, but finally nine of the eleven members of the council had agreed. Only Susan and Larry had still disagreed with him. Susan, probably out of spite. Larry had begrudgingly agreed that he could think of no realistic alternative, but would not condone this one. Tomorrow, fliers would have to be printed, and posted around town. In ten days the new punishments would start.
Last Haven had had its share of problems from the start. The village had started with less than 500 people. From the very beginning, things had worked well, though. There were always problems to be worked out, but nothing had ever completely stumped the founders. While it couldn't be said that there were no civil problems, nothing major had surfaced. Everyone respected each other. That changed when outsiders started coming in. They were welcomed by the village, of course, but some had problems becoming part of the society that had been set up. It went both ways. Sometimes a newcomer would be more qualified for a job than the founder that was currently doing it. The animosity that this created was obvious. The real problem, however, was when it went the other way. Someone new coming in sometimes had no real skills. Those who had set up the village all had a place, somewhere. So newcomers would feel out of place, and feel that they weren't being treated fairly. This was not to mention personal problems that developed between people. Or that some of the founders felt that they were better than the newcomers.
The other problem was that some of the newcomers did not have the sense of loyalty and respect that the original members of Last Haven did. And if one of the original members did something wrong, the peer pressure of the group quickly corrected it. No matter whose fault it was, the current state of affairs was because of new people coming into the community. Most of them fit right in and became productive members of the community.
Almost a year. This is not our first major problem, but it will probably cause the biggest reaction. Last Haven had been formed by a group of people who had survived the epidemic. Fearing that the epidemic would be able to mutate again, the survivors had formed a village where they would be able to be self sufficient and defensible. Here they could grow food, raise animals they needed, and had water that would not be contaminated upstream. Also they were in a very defensible position, should other survivors decide to attack them. This had been one of their key concerns when they founded the village.
John had been elected sheriff by the rest of the council some months ago. Before that, there had been no need for any sort of enforcement. For a long time the only problems that he even had to deal with were people getting into fistfights, or people getting drunk and doing dumb stuff. That was it. No real crime to speak of. Then a band of newcomers had started creating problems. Once they discovered that there was no way for them to be punished, they had steadily been taking advantage of it ever since.
"Well? How'd it go?" His girlfriend Jen asked concernedly as he walked in the door. "Did they pass it?" It was obvious that she had been sitting at the kitchen table waiting for him to walk through the door.
"Ya, they passed it. Most of them agreed right off. Only Susan and Larry were against it." He looked in the cupboard for something to eat. Not finding anything, "Want to split a can of chili?"
"Ugh, anything but chili. I don't ever want to look at another can of that again."
"Fine, I'm going to bed. Got to get an early start tomorrow. First thing in the morning I've got to get notices printed up about this whole thing. Then we've got to get started on another field." Aside from being the village sheriff, John still had his original job of supervising the farming efforts. In his former life, he had been a jack of all trades sort of person. While it had always been useful to him, here in Last Haven it made him one of the more important members of the community.
Lying in bed, John wondered to himself. Would it all work out. This whole affair was small. Really small. What would happen when people started spreading out again, into the ruins of what used to be the world. What would be there to greet them? Surely there were other survivors, others who had done the same thing that had been done here in Last Haven. But all the dead people, everywhere. Millions of them. Now just corpses. Soon to be less. What would happen when people started re-inhabiting everything, finding whole cities with the remains of those who had been living there? He shuddered to think about it. All of humanity, nearly lost. At this point, it wouldn't take much to push it the rest of the way over the edge. As he drifted off to sleep, other thoughts crossed his mind. He wondered if they were going to get enough rain. If the tractor they were using would blow another bearing on this field. And he was gone.