Genre-Bending the United States Census: Undefined-Fighting Census Listers

Last week, I demonstrated genre-twisting even the most unlikely subjects by getting a suspense plot out of the United States Census. This week, the genre-jump is going to be a bit more extreme.

Once, there was a country, not too different from any of the ones we inhabit. Except for one major point. In its beginning, it had been created, not by spreading people out through existing land as most countries are, but from a vast source of potential known as the Undefined. But the Undefined does not like to be defined, and constantly tries to reclaim whatever parts of it are given form and identity.

When the Founders first came upon the Undefined, they brought with them their own source of power; a mystical force known only as Title 13. With it, they brought forth land and people, and gave them names and addresses. Through it, they sealed the Undefined away from what was now defined, preventing it from reclaiming what it had lost. Now, it holds the records of all who are under its protection, continuing to let them keep their form.

But records go out of date, and those who govern cannot take the time and do not have the involvement to re-count every head themselves. More importantly, with these gaps in the records, the Undefined can seep through, and reclaim its territory by preventing things from being properly recorded.

Who, then, can go forth and record those who need to be recorded? Who has what it takes to save the day?

Citizens. With. Attitude.

They come from all races, genders, and walks of life. There have been teachers, writers, mortgage industry refugees; plumbers, actors, builders; soldiers, used car salesmen—even bloggers. The one thing they have in common is answering the call, to record and recover their country and its people before they can be returned to the Undefined. Wielding the power of Title 13, they go out to fulfill their duty: the Census.

But if it were just counting heads, that would be too easy, wouldn’t it? The system may allow them to avoid some of the standard hazards mundane listers like me would have dealt with, but with the greater urgency of their mission comes greater opposition. Animals and humans alike might be tainted by the Undefined through their ignorance. And then there are greater foes: the mighty Hose, the Lotus-Eating Grannies, the Killer Caves and, worst of all in its improbability, the Dread Marina.

As if that isn’t enough, there remains one great weakness of Title 13. It is a force of knowledge and of awareness—but if one is aware that it is the only thing keeping one’s existence from returning to the Undefined, and does not swear to serve it, that person will surely return to his or her original state. As a result, confidentiality is paramount.

Do you have what it takes to be a Lister?

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