Crimes We Commit in the Future

Privately, we worried. There’s no way to be sure what we would do, how far we could be pushed. It made us question ourselves, examine what desperation could make us do.

Crimes We Commit in the Future
Photo by Lianhao Qu / Unsplash

by Robert Bangert

The Future Crimes Division is the greatest innovation in public safety since the advent of video surveillance, according to the FBI. It’s a camera pointing at the future, recording what will happen before it occurs.

“Cops don’t prevent crime,” we used to say, “they just show up after it’s done.” Now we don’t know what to say.

They won’t explain how the technology works. In the Congressional hearings they claim it would present a national security risk to publicize it, and you wouldn’t want to compromise our national security, would you Congressman?

“If you don’t commit a crime you have nothing to worry about,” a particularly vile Senator spat into his microphone.

But privately, we worried. There’s no way to be sure what we would do, how far we could be pushed. It made us question ourselves, examine what desperation could make us do.

“Our society is full of criminals waiting to happen,” The FBI Director said at his press conference. “We don’t know why, and that’s not our priority. We just want to stop them before they get the chance.”

“Fucking fascist,” Damien said, slamming his laptop shut and cutting off the the live stream. “It’s all fake anyway. AI generated.”

“How can we prove it?”

“How can they prove it?”

Less than a week after the Future Crimes Division was announced, another Black man was killed by the police. They said he matched the profile of a robbery that had not yet taken place. He was walking home from his job as a night security guard, earbuds obscuring the sound of the cop yelling for him to stop walking. When he raised his arm to take one earbud out, they caught a glimpse of his work-issued firearm tucked into his belt and emptied their clips into his back.

The protests were swift. The next day there were demonstrations in the street, a March on the White House planned for that weekend. We prepared for the protests the same way we prepared for others—long sleeves and pants covering our tattoos, sunglasses, face masks to protect against viruses and drone footage of the crowd. We turned off our phones at home so they couldn’t be tracked. We were careful.

Damien and I met at a protest during the first pandemic, after George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were killed. I was a volunteer medic and found him in the street after a pair of cops shot him with pepper spray and rubber bullets at close range. A journalist got a picture of me pouring water into his burning red eyes. It was framed in our living room.

After the first week of protests, people started to disappear. Activists we followed on Twitter had their accounts deactivated, and the next day we learned of their arrests. They were all charged with future crimes, the details of which were confidential to avoid copycats.

“How can someone copy something that hasn’t happened?”

Now the protests were about hundreds, thousands of Black men, women, even children arrested for alleged crimes they didn’t commit, or, according to the prosecutor, hadn’t committed yet. When they were gone, they didn’t come back. Damien couldn’t sleep. Sometimes I walked in the room and found him with his eyes full of tears, but he wouldn’t let them fall. He held them against his irises like rippled glass, a barrier between his eyes and everything he had to see. I wanted to rinse them clean, but nothing in my kit could heal him. 

“This is scary,” I confessed after receiving a text that one of our friends had been detained.

“They’ll get me before they come for you,” he said, tapping his skin. We both knew it was true. “If I’m still here, you’re safe.” He meant in my whiteness I was safe from their false charges, and while that was true too it didn’t make me feel safer. The real danger to me was being without him. 

When they pounded on the door, it was the closest Damien looked to calm, to certainty, in weeks. “We have a warrant for your arrest for crimes committed in the future,” they shouted through bursts of banging.

“He didn’t do anything!” I protested.

“He will,” the cop said, tightening the cuffs around his wrists and jerking him toward the open door.

They took him. There was no future I wanted to live anymore. I fantasized about killing myself, killing them, killing anyone involved with the past or present of this farce.

In court, they charged him with inciting violence and assaulting an officer. The video footage they showed that day was dated for two weeks later. It looked like a drone recording of a protest. In one clip he spit blood in the face of a cop who had just struck him. Behind him, someone my height, size, and complexion dropped a sign that read “WHO DECIDES WHAT HAPPENS IN THE FUTURE?” and ran to help him.

“Thank god we got him in time,” the judge said at his sentencing.

Now, a few days later, the pounding on the door startles me, but it isn’t a surprise. I expected them sooner or later. I wonder what their images will show, which of my revenge fantasies my future self had enacted. I hope they’re the more gruesome ones. I hope in some alternate future the judge and his family are in pain, that the cops are dead. I hope the FBI building is a smoldering pile of rubble. I won’t know for sure until they play it in court and I can watch myself do it. Whatever it was, I know I did it. Or will do it. The order doesn’t matter to me anymore. After they took him away, it might as well have already been done. 

There’s nothing to do but wait for them to knock down the door and drag me away. The future already happened, and nothing will change it now.

Robert (Bobby) Bangert is a writer from Washington, DC. When he’s not writing he works as a social worker.