You Are Free to Do What We Tell You

2 Mar

FridayFictioneers 100 word story based on the photo prompt shown below. Comment on Madison Woods’ story and others as well as links to everyone’s submission here  .

This one is a cautionary tale about where we stand now as a country and illustrates clearly your fate should you fail to recognize what’s coming and act to change it. There are two characters in this story and you have a choice to be one or the other and there is no in between. You may think this is a little extreme, but trust me, you’re mistaken. People didn’t just wake up one day to find Adolf Hitler in power. They enabled him bit by bit by failing to speak out and when they finally realized what had happened it was too late. Don’t let it happen here. Speak out now, while you still can, about the erosion of our civil liberties in the name of ‘security’. Remember the words of Benjamin Franklin who said, They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. 

Enjoy this story while the Internet is still up and running.

Aloha, D.

“I served with the 45th Infantry Division in WWII.”

The young guard cinched the straps. These seditious old fools always yammered right to the end.

“We liberated Dachau in April, ‘45’. Like this place, it started as a concentration camp for political prisoners.”

The intravenous feeds were in and the new trap door to speed up the process was ready.

“Freedom’s all just a show now, son, like costume jewelry on a worn out whore. Do you even know why you’re doing this?”

“Just following orders,” said the guard as he switched on the drug pumps.

The old man sighed.

77 Responses to “You Are Free to Do What We Tell You”

  1. Sandra March 2, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    Lovely ironic title Doug. Enjoyed this timely reminder about liberty lost.

    Mine’s at:

    • dmmacilroy March 2, 2012 at 11:34 am #

      Dear Sandra,

      Thank you, my friend. How nice for you to be able to read and comment during the daytime. For myself, it is cold and dark outside and sleep threatens. I envy you.



      • Sandra March 2, 2012 at 11:41 am #

        But in 12 hours it will be cold and dark here too Doug. And more than likely wet too … Sleep well

  2. The Lime March 2, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    Wow, Doug. Gorgeous dystopian scene. I think you nailed it this week. Everything is clear, the dialogue is lovely and precise, and I just feel like I’m watching the scene up close. Beautiful. (And haunting).

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

      Dear Lime,

      You have been consistently sweet to me with encouragement and kind comments. Can’t thank you enough, but will keep trying.



  3. Joy March 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    Agreed Doug. This is so true.

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

      Thanks Joy,

      For taking the time to visit and read and leave a bit of you with me.



  4. Mike March 2, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    A poignant tale and a great take on this week’s prompt.
    So much in so few words. I loved the analogy between the pretence of freedom and the costume jewellery on a worn out whore.
    The sigh in response to “just following orders” spoke volumes.
    Thanks for a great read Doug.

    • Jeannie March 2, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

      Whoa! This one packed a punch Doug. Very well written to my eyes and a powerful message–2 for 1! I really liked this: “Freedom’s all just a show now, son, like costume jewelry on a worn out whore. Do you even know why you’re doing this?”

      “Just following orders,”

      Excellent! There’s no YKWIM here–you told the story!!

      I said I wasn’t going to write any flash fiction stories for a while but I did! LOL

      • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

        Dear Jeannie,

        Thank you and good job on diving into the fray once more.



    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

      Dear Mike,

      I fear we’re going to have to relearn many of the lessons we pretend to know now. Lip service is the pundits coin in trade and we’ve been changed by something insidious. Keep your eyes open, friend.

      And thank you, very much, for the kind words re this story.



  5. janmorrill March 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    A very haunting take on the photo, Doug. You’re right — it’s a slippery slope to the dark place you’ve shown us, and altogether possible if we follow like sheep.

    Here’s my fluffier piece:

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

      Dear Jan,

      We are our own worst enemies. Too comfortable, too apathetic, too steeped in the new religion of entitlements.

      Keep being fluffier, Jan. This world needs your voice to help us through hard times.



  6. bridgesareforburning March 2, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    Well, I am a yammering seditious old fool, so guess to whom I relate. Not very many WWII vets are left. I’m surprised you could find one to put in your story. This is a scary story. I’m going to head to Wal-mart and buy 50,000 packages of ramen soup and a gallon of water today. If you’re wrong, you have to help me eat them. Actually, your story just sounds like an average day in Texas.

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

      Dear Ron,

      You would laugh if you knew that I added a few new boxes to my Ramen store this weekend. i’ll help you eat your supply as soon as mine runs out.

      On a more serious note; I’m sad to say that I don’t think I’m wrong.



  7. TheOthers1 March 2, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    Wow. Heavy. It doesn’t take much to start down a road like this. We are easily led sometimes. Great work with this week’s prompt. You did a much better job than I was able to. Kudos.

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

      Thanks for your comments. Did you write a story? I followed your blog and looked around. Now I’ve got to go look in the comments section of Madison’s blog. A writer’s work is never done. Let me know.



      • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

        Fools Gold! That was it. Knew I’d read it and commented. Thanks for helping me with my question. They say the mind is the second thing to go. Bad news for me. Aloha again, D.

      • TheOthers1 March 4, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

        I write on a different site. I do believe you commented on my attempt already. 🙂

  8. elmowrites March 2, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    Great take on the prompt, Doug – I was wondering how you’d manage to weave it in once I saw where the story was going. But yes, you’ve captured the characters and the situation very well in such a tiny scene.

    I’m over here:
    With a much more literal reaction to the image

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

      Dear Elmo,

      Thanks for the kind words. Food for the week from my favorite word chef.



  9. Janet March 2, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    Great writing and a great message. Reminds me of a psychology experiment where subjects were told they were “helping” with the experiment by shocking subjects in another room. Subjects kept turning up the voltage even though they were inflicting pain because they were told to do it (those getting shocked were just actors).

    Here’s mine:

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

      Dear Janet,

      And they enjoyed doing the shocking, I’m sad to say. Thanks for stopping in and leaving such a cogent note on the subject. See you next Friday!



  10. Russell March 2, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    The prologue was a great set-up for the story. I too am concerned about the erosion of liberty and government intervention. The title reminds me of the saying, “If my wife wants my opinion, she’ll tell me what it is.”

    As you would expect, I’ve taken the comedic approach.

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

      Dear Russell,

      You have a gift for humor that buoys your writing atop a tide of dark tales. Keep ’em coming. And stay concerned. They’re going to string up humorist twice as fast as Chicken Little’s like me.



  11. Craig Towsley March 2, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    Great as always Doug. Especially the costume jewelry line.

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

      Dear Craig,

      Just read your newest post. Nicely done. Thanks for visiting here.



  12. Siobhan Muir March 2, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    Something to be very aware of. I’m neither old nor a fool, but I am seditious. Harsh but good story, Doug.

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

      Seditious Siobhan,

      Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?. Congrats on Her Devoted Vampire. (that was from memory. hope I got it right.) Must feel wonderful seeing that cover and knowing your work is out there in the wild world.



  13. miq March 2, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    Wow. This was phenomenal. I love that old man was a WWII vet, it set this scene in the present or very near future. Thank you for sharing.

    Mine’s here:

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

      Dear Miq,

      Thanks for the compliment and kind words. May I say that i love you icon 9gravatar) photo? I enjoyed The Caper as well.



  14. Carlos Repuesto de la Tabla March 2, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    Dark stuff indeed, Doug. In my advanced age I often wonder whether things change essentially or just stay the same. Don’t have an answer, just wonder. We do seem to be entering a new medieval era, though, with global mega-corporations more powerful than the costume jewelry-wearing governments that provide the elaborate dog-and-pony shows that divert our attention from the real machinations. My story ( is remotely connected to yours, but not nearly as dark in the telling.

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

      Dear Carlos,

      it is only in the last twenty years that I have begun to realize that these times are no different than any other era of stability or upheaval. What is unique is that I am in th emiddle of it and i don’t like the way things are shaping up. A reckoning is coming for someone or something, and soon, i think.

      Stay sharp and keep writing, my friend.



  15. V. L. Gregory-Pohlenz March 2, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    One of my favorite Ben F. quotes. Your tale was sad but, I think, a timely warning. I, too, feel we’re allowing our freedoms to be consistently and thoroughly eroded. I fear for our children. Nicely done.


    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

      Dear V.L.,

      How did Franklin do it all? guy was amazing and prescient, too.

      Thanks for the kind words. Oh, and it’s not only our children who should be worrying….



  16. teschoenborn March 2, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    A wonderful cautionary tale. Odd that you mention Dachau, I’m reading something else on that same topic right now. Coincidence? I think not.

    Here’s mine:

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

      Thank you,

      Me, Odd? (I’m teasing. I am, though:) I appreciate you stopping in to read and say nice things. keeps me fired up.



  17. Madison Woods March 2, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    Your story is pretty timely Doug. I’m having trouble getting ultrapure helium here at work today, any helium at all really. There’s a global shortage and I’m getting the feeling that it’s just a canary in the coal mine that just keeled over.

    Very thought provocative, as your stories usually are.

    • Douglas MacIlroy March 2, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

      Dear Madison,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Did you know that your shortage is not going away? All the helium that ever was on this planet has been made already by the decay of thorium and uranium. Natural gas producers used to vent it off of the tops of their wells but now it is rarer than the finest jewels. (Ha! Like how I worked that in there?) You’d better budget for increasing costs of helium in a big way, Mads, or make plans to use Nitrogen, because Helium (no pun intended) is going up.



      • Madison Woods March 2, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

        I know – that’s what I meant by the canary keeling over. Problem is, not too many will recognize this canary for what it is since so few people need helium on a daily basis. My supervisor didn’t even believe me at first when I said I didn’t think it was an issue that would be going away. So I’m still here, waiting on a call from my supplier and hoping he can come through. Because if he doesn’t, the entire game will change for me.

  18. Susan Wenzel (@SusanWenzel) March 2, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    Dear Doug,

    First…I have to say I was transfixed with the title alone. It resonated with me and reminded me of my years in the military. Then…I read your story. No kidding…following orders regardless. This was a hard one to read. Brutal, in fact. But…that said, I enjoyed your precise writing – it was a story well told.

    ~Susan (

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

      Dear Susan,

      I would not want to be in our military anymore. Time is coming closer when they are going to have to turn their guns on Congress in order to turn this country around from th epath it is treading. Sickens me that our President has stated publicly that he will attack Iran if they develop an A-Bomb. What happened to, congress will vote to see whether they will declare war? Sound bite mentality, I guess.

      I’ve asked once before, but you were probably busy, so I’ll try again. What did you do in the Nav?

      Thanks for commenting. I love your work.



      • Susan Wenzel (@SusanWenzel) March 6, 2012 at 2:05 am #

        Dear Doug,

        You probably did ask, and I probably did not even know. I have been having the dickens of a time receiving notifications that I have replies to my posts. My email account eats them or something. I finally made a list to keep track of where I posted and am going back to check on things manually. So…I was not ignoring you – I’m apparently technically challenged which makes no sense as I worked for half my career fixing computer systems that others used to hunt submarines. I spent the other half writing tech pubs to teach people how to fix equipment used to hunt subs as well as some teaching people how to hunt subs. (I feel like I should add a winky smiley face here but I really hate those).


  19. Laura Dunlap (@auralind) March 2, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    Yes, I always test myself with this. What would I do when they come knocking on my door? Or on my neighbour’s door?
    My daughter already rates people with this, “would they be ready to help their neighbour escape, or would they hand them over?”
    The Clash had a great song with lyrics that always stuck in my heart: “When they kick out your front door How you gonna come? With your hands on your head Or on the trigger of your gun …?
    I’m not talking about freedom to own a gun. I”m talking about the freedom to live, to survive, no matter what religion or ethnic background you come from…

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

      Dear laura,

      Thank you sooooo much for the Clash song reference. Found it immediately on Google. Guns of Bristol! What a great song. It will stay with me now forever. Amazing what sharing does to each other.

      Freedom isn’t free and we’re going to have to learn that lesson all over again.



  20. andyfloodwritersblog March 2, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    Hi Doug,
    Some excellent writing from you once again. You communicate the apathy of the guard so chillingly well. The atmosphere of this piece is tangible and you handle a number of very heavy issues in a very succinct way. You must have gone to quite a dark place to write this and you take us along with you. Some food for thought here. This one will stay with me for a while.

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

      Thanks Andy,

      This story kind of poured out of me when I saw thos gaudy, showy gems in the photo prompt. I think the sacrifices of my father’s generation and those of the founding fathers are being taken for granted and even used in ways they were never intended.. Eat lots of this type of food for thought. We need informed citizens at the helm in these trying times.



  21. niiko47 March 2, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure about the ‘prologue’ to the story proper, but after reading the story itself I was left with a strange sense of emptiness and sadness, which I attribute to the fantastic writing. Now the prologue makes perfect sense.
    It’s really very horrifying how ‘following orders’ can be used as an excuse for so many atrocities, when all it may take is for somebody to use their own judgment and stand up for what’s right.

  22. a.m. murphy March 2, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

    I wonder where that trap door went to. Not describing what “the process” is leaves a nice vacancy in the reader’s mind.

    • dmmacilroy March 3, 2012 at 12:00 am #

      Dear A.M.,

      The process is the execution of those that speak out about the erosion of freedom (Investigate NDAA if you think it’s not happening) and the trap door leads to a dump truck that will take the bodies to mass graves.

      I am the last person you would ever expect to write a story like this. I know that sounds strange since I did write the story, but I don’t know how else to convince you that what I wrote about has happened before and is happening now. Slowly, slowly, but it is. Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut and you’ll see it take place right before your eyes.

      (Try protesting the coming undeclared war with Iran and see where that gets you. Tell the President, “Hey, what about the Constitution?” and watch your life turn suddenly Kafkaesque.)

      Sorry to wax melodramatic but someone has to say it. Hell, keep your eyes on me and see if I stay on the radar screen for long. Be an interesting litmus test, eh?

      Good luck,


  23. susielindau March 3, 2012 at 12:19 am #

    Very powerful in the words that you chose and the symbolism of the jewels. Pretty heavy for a man living in the islands!
    Most excellent~

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

      Dear Susie,

      I may have escaped to the islands but the challenges for our nation are the same. (Just better weather here and harder to starve:)

      Thanks for stopping in and commenting.



  24. littlewonder2 March 3, 2012 at 1:32 am #

    Subtle connection to the picture. I like that; I usually try to use every detail possible and incorporate it all. Does that make me too literal? I can’t decide.

    • dmmacilroy March 3, 2012 at 2:02 am #

      Dear Ashley,

      I will admit to using what I perceived to be costume jewelry to build my bully pulpit, but since I worked them in there smoothly I can slip by under the radar, kind of. As to you being too literal I’d say no, not, not even. The prompt based 100 word story is a delightful exercise is conception, construction and conciseness. I think that whatever you run up the flagpole should be saluted for how well it tells the story you create.

      I’m in my garage working on a project and listening to Eric Clapton. Hand greasy, typing hunt and peck. Will get to your story when I arrive at the summit tonight. Thanks for your patience.



  25. Lora Mitchell March 3, 2012 at 1:37 am #

    First of all, thanks for providing the prologue. This is heavy and frightening. I’m a child of the ’50’s and unfortunately, it’s true. I see our God-given freedoms being squeezed and choked every day. I hate to get political but here I go. Not to mention names, but a popular pro-American/pro-freedom, honest TV host was forced off the air and driven out-of-town because of his predictions and warnings. He not only opened my eyes, he turned my head around 180 degrees. I was naive, blind, dogmatic and biased until I started listening to him. So far, every one of his predictions has proven to be true. Thank you for your brave story. For something simple, here’s mine:

    • dmmacilroy March 3, 2012 at 2:06 am #

      Dear Lora,

      Keep Judge Napolitano’s spirit, bravery and message in mind as we move forward. It’s going to take some major wake up calls and calling but I think the citizens of this country will rise up in righteous anger should the government take things much further. I appreciate your taking the time to write a comment from your heart. I’m at if you ever want to talk about it. I’m not crazy, just seen too much to ignore.



      • Quill Shiv March 3, 2012 at 3:12 pm #


        This is a monumental achievement. There is so much truth in these 100 words, and set in fiction, they are more easily taken to heart than a lecture (and haven’t we ALL tried that approach?)

        I’d encourage you to try to have this published somewhere as is. I can’t think of a place off the top of my head, but there are plenty of places that would be interested in this sort of piece, I’m sure!

        My link is here:

      • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 7:48 am #

        Dear Rinn,

        Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment. I am heartened to read that this piece struck a chord with many readers. I appreciate the suggestion to have it published. Though I wouldn’t know how to go about that I have been hearing more and more about flash fiction publication sites. I guess I’ll have to look into that. Thanks for the push!



      • Quill Shiv March 4, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

        Any time, Doug! You are far too talented to just post online. Get your work into circulation!

  26. parul March 4, 2012 at 6:29 am #

    Amazing where you turned the photo prompt!
    If I have to choose one character, I think I am a the old man in this story.
    Left a lot to ponder.
    I am going to give this a few more moments before leaving the page.

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 7:22 am #

      Dearest Parul,

      Thank you for your heartfelt comments. I’m glad you identify most with the old warrior. The other isn’t where I’d like my mindset to gravitate to. We must stay brave and not be confused by the flag waving jingoists among us. Slippery slope coming.



      • parul March 4, 2012 at 7:30 am #

        And I forgot to mention before, love the title of this post!

  27. Atiya March 4, 2012 at 7:13 am #

    Oh my Doug that was powerful. Having just got out the service, I understand both point of views completely. What gets me are two things. the complete lack of emotion from the guard, I imagine there isn’t much there for him/her, and the sigh. With the sigh I feel so much impatience, frustration, and regret all in one four letter word. Thank you Doug.

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2012 at 7:19 am #

      Dear Atiya,

      Thank you for your kind comments. Being old and having seen history cycle there and back again, all the old warrior/citizen could do was sigh. The lessons are going to have to be relearned by new generations. Human beings are so strange.

      Welcome aboard. I look forward to reading more of your writing on Friday (and all days) via your blog.



  28. Stacey March 4, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

    Interesting – the piece inspired you in a very different way to what I was expecting!

  29. ted March 5, 2012 at 2:44 am #

    Very imaginative take on that photo… I’m impressed.

    • dmmacilroy March 5, 2012 at 4:11 am #

      Dear Ted,

      Thank you for adding your voice to the mix and for the kind word re my story. (See you next Friday?)



  30. Judee March 5, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    Didn’t I comment on this? I could have sworn, but I guess not, sorry – it’s very powerful and tragic. “Just following orders” how blindly people say that. Well done!

    • dmmacilroy March 5, 2012 at 11:56 am #

      Dear Judee,

      Thanks for checking up on yourself! I’m glad you stopped in to read and comment. Scary times coming, my friend. keep your eys open and don’t fail to question authority.



  31. Joanna K Neilson March 6, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    Really liked this and have been trying to find the right words! Trying to remember what author this reminds me of, closest obvious ones are Philip K Dick, Kafka or Orwell. It’s a scary and very possible dystopia you’ve summed up most effectively. This short piece is a healthy reminder of how quickly liberty slides away from us, if we let it…leaving us at the hands of society’s more dead eyed youth. I appreciated how it gets a bigger message out of the image.

    • dmmacilroy March 6, 2012 at 11:53 am #

      Dear Joanna,

      Thank you for seeing. And as for the comparisons to those illustrious authors I can only put my forehead to the floor and repeat; thank you.

      This piece scares the hell out of me, too, because I believe we’re headed that way. Faux News, NDAA, Eric Holder saying it’s legal to kill Americans without due process as long as it is determined (by the Executive Branch) that the person in question represents an immediate threat to (whom?).

      Thanks for stopping in and commenting. i appreciate it very much,



  32. Carol H. Rives March 6, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    This well-written post should make everyone that reads it stop and reflect. The “Just following orders” line took my breath.

    By the way, Doug, thanks for following my blog!

    • dmmacilroy March 7, 2012 at 6:36 am #

      Dear Carol,

      The pleasure is mine (re following your blog). Thanks for stopping in and leaving your kind words. I appreciate them very much.



  33. rochellewisoff December 30, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    Dear Doug,

    Strange to come back to this time in Friday Fictioneers when I was yet to be a part and see familiar names who were then strangers…including you. You were then, are now and continue to be one of the most amazing members of this group. What great fortune is mine to have met you.
    In light of what I wrote this morning, the reference to Dachau is chilling. DMVYLI



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