‘You are bewitched!’
The words hit her like rocks. She actually recoils, as if she is feeling the pain.
‘There is only one way we can save you. There are some lovely people who will deal with you. I will send for someone to transport you.’
She looks down and shields herself from everything around her. She wonders why she couldn’t just have left it. She closes her eyes, hoping to fall asleep, so that she can shut herself away from all this.
‘Are you going to speak to me?’
‘Why are you doing this?’
‘You are a witch. You must not ask questions! That’s what we ask you.’ The psychiatrist, who she has just met, stoops down to meet her gaze. ‘But it’s ok. You’ll be cured. Then you can go back home.’
She cheers up slightly, while annoyed at the patronising demeanour of her interrogator. ‘Ok. That’s good.’
However, I’m still somewhat suspicious....
‘That’s enough. Wait here.’
The suspicion still lingers. The sense of hope is gradually fading, while time passes. She closes her eyes once more, but she knows there will be no time to sleep. She is halfway there when she feels them lift her, before transporting her to what seems like just another destination in a seemingly impossible quest. But she senses that, this time, everything will be ok: she will return home and can finally get on with her life.
‘Here’ says Mrs. Evans ‘is the point where will attack.’
She is pointing to the area just north of Caen, in France.
‘Once we take over, we have a base in Europe. It will also provide people for the army. From there, we will split the army into two regiments: one will go south-west, towards Rennes. The other south-east, in the direction of Paris. If the government finds out, it is likely that they will escape further south, so this must all be done quickly and insidiously. Once you have completed this mission, I will advise you again.’
She is facing Jason Bennett, who has just been made Chief of Defence Staff. He seems very emaciated: she never knew that army duty took it out of you that much. There is also a pallor and lethargy around him that suggest anemia. At this point she realises that it is nothing to do with what he’s been doing. She wonders if she can bring herself to ask Simon what exactly he has done to Jason. She gasps, on realisation that this is why he has been reluctant for her to move in until very recently.
‘Are you ok?’
Jason looks over to one side of the room, then the other.
She leans closer to him. ‘I think I know what’s been happening. You can tell me anything.’
He hesitates, while his breathing grows quicker. ‘I just lived there for a while, that’s all. The place where you now live. Don’t worry about it. Everything’s fine.’ He shudders at the thought of what will happen if she tells.
‘I don’t think it is, is it?’ She is now adamant to confront her husband.
‘Please don’t talk to him about it!’ He exclaims, desperately, before clinging on to her. ‘I’ll have to leave the country! I just want to do this job!’
She sighs. In a way, she is not surprised that this would happen. ‘There’s a trapdoor which I’ve noticed. Has he been keeping you there?’
‘Don’t tell!’ He continues clinging to her. ‘Whatever you do, don’t tell!’
‘It’s ok. I won’t. Now you’re here, I’m fine for you to do your job.’ She is not sure which to be angrier about: the fact that he has been doing this, or the fact that he could not even summon the courage to let her know. ‘But I’d like to know why.’
‘He didn’t want me telling people about...the....’
‘The what? What exactly?’
‘He killed someone’ Jason blurts out. ‘he killed the Chancellor.’
She relaxes. ‘Don’t worry. It happens all the time. He killed Reeves in front of me.’
‘Don’t worry. I won’t tell him.’ She opts to carry on with the briefing to distract him. ‘Now, as I was going to say...’
‘That’s fine!’ She raises her hands up in mild annoyance. ‘Back to the briefing! Here is the map, on which I have drawn the plan. Show that to the generals, and they will enact it. And, one more thing: there are to be no atrocities. There is much more in the way of reporting over there: if anyone finds out, our reputation will be tarnished. You shall enact the plan as soon as possible. Agreed?’
Jason nods. ‘Agreed.’
Mary blows a sigh of relief. ‘Well done.’ She wonders whether she is saying this to Jason or herself.
When Jason is gone, she looks over to the telephone on the corner of the table. She has the numbers of the mayors written down on the notepad in front of her. She wonders whether to save them in the phone’s memory, before getting lost in a daydream about how they created phones so you can save numbers. This had previously been possible on mobile phones but, somehow, they adapted it to include landline telephones. She imagines a group of people in a laboratory, tweaking an SIM card. Perhaps it was adapted from this, before being transferred to landline. However, the daydream flashes to another laboratory where, now, a relatively large oblong card is having various cylindrical metal objects put on it, before being decorated with spirals.
She snaps back out of the daydream, takes the telephone nearer to her, and lifts up the receiver. She decides against saving the numbers, deciding that they will not be needed again. Her fingers press against the buttons, in the manner of a traditional phone.
‘Yes?’ The Mayor of London answers. He looks out of the window, thinking how strange it must have been for there to be all those wires put in place, just so that someone can make a call.
‘Hello.’ Mary wonders what to say next.
‘Hello. And who is this?’
‘I’m Mary Evans, wife of Simon. The PM.’
His eyes light up. ‘Ah, yes, of course! It was a pleasure to meet you at that speech! And how is the lady today?’
She frowns without really knowing why. ‘When did I meet you exactly?’
‘Well, you were there, were you not? What can I do for you?’
You didn’t meet me, you were just there, you little creep.
‘I’ll tell you what you can do.’ She says, barely concealing her annoyance. ‘You can build some new statues. The PM wants three of them built in London. You go and find a place for them.’
‘But, honey, no can do. There isn’t space....’
‘Either you have those statues built or we find a new mayor. Which do you prefer?’
‘Uh... you just can’t do that.’
‘Yes, we can. Go and knock down some houses or something. Or some offices. Or maybe build on a park. It doesn’t matter so long as you build them. We’ll be checking that it’s done. If construction hadn’t begun within a month, you’re fired.’
She hangs up, before deciding whether to phone or to write a letter. The phone rings again. She lifts up the receiver.
‘I’ll report you for this, I’ll....’
‘Fuck off!’ she exclaims, before putting the receiver to the touchpad. She decides that she will write letters to the mayors of Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool. The first thing to do will be to cease all communication between the government and the mayor: that will require a series of chain letters to each MP, instructing them to follow the procedure that was outlined to her. The next is to decide who will write the article in The Truth. Maybe it could be in the name of Henry Reeves? After all, no-one will know. Demote him to articles, and make someone else the Minister for People. Or perhaps Stant could do it? Where is Stant now? Once again, she lifts the receiver and begins dancing with her fingers.
There is a pause before someone answers. ‘Hello?’
‘Hello, this is Mary Evans. Wife of the PM...’
‘Oh, uh, hello. What do you want?’
‘Would you be willing to write an article for The Truth?’
‘Depends how much I get paid.’ Yawns Stant. ‘Oh ok, I suppose I’ll do it. Got time on my hands. What do I need to do?’
‘Could you say that the Mayor of London has agreed to build three new statues of the PM? Actually, don’t say it’s the PM. Say it’s someone who contributed something. Actually, no, wait. He should be so popular by now after that speech, people may actually want a statue of him. The next thing to put in is that they will all be built within a month. Can you do that?’
‘Of course. How exactly did he agree to it?’
‘He decided it was the best option.’
‘Ok. I’ll put that in. Never made it to the speech. Was it cool?’
‘He got everyone on our side, just as I knew he would.’ she gushes, admiringly. ‘Bet you couldn’t do that, could you? You’re just a bottom feeder, Stant, let’s be honest.’
Although he can feel the rage building inside him, he changes the subject: ‘Haven’t seen Reeves for a while. What’s he up to?’
‘He’s his usual self. Last saw him in the theatre.’ She puts her hand to her mouth, hoping that she hadn’t give away too much. ‘He’s been on holiday, so that’s why you haven’t seen him about.’
‘Ok, cool. Well, I hope he has a good one.’
She tries desperately to stifle a snigger.
‘Are you going to write the article or are you going to bore me? Get on with it, you little jerk.’
‘Ok.’ He says, feebly. ‘I will.’
‘Bye bye.’ She hangs up, then drops to a whisper. ‘Wanker.’
She puts her head in her hands. ‘I really hope they know what they’re doing.’ she says to herself.
I wake up to find myself staring at this piercing light, which seems to invade all my senses. I cannot move, and it seems like my breath is gradually subsiding to the point of no return. Something splashes over me: I don’t know what it is, but I am awaked immediately. Suddenly, I remember why I’m here. At this point I realise something fundamental: I will be the last person left in my family. I was asleep while they cut the tubes. All I can manage is mild annoyance. I didn’t want this to happen, but I am so used to things that I don’t like happening that it doesn’t really matter anymore. What’s the point of caring about something that you can do nothing about? I feel something pierce my arm. My eyes suddenly shut, and my breathing grows slower and shallower.
I find myself dreaming about rows of humanoid forms hanging from a moving belt, cascading towards a gate which opens and closes alternately, staying open for around three seconds. Suddenly I find myself on the belt: the cavern in front of me becomes closer and closer......
Suddenly, my doppelganger appears before me and I rush towards it with all the aggression in my system, before I realise that we are heading in the same direction. I try to stop, but I realise only too soon that I have just run into it: it disappears. At this point, I become aware that it is now part of me...
I wake up abruptly, sweating, shaking and crying out for help. Something collides with me: I find myself touching the area where it happened, which turns out to be my nose. I keep on flailing round, maniacally. Something pierces my arm again. I now know that my nose is broken: my first fracture while under this roof. I hear muttering, followed by another piercing.
I wake up to find myself back in my cell. I am now sure that I will have to die to escape.
Julie is in her bedroom in the former office block in Maple Road. She has just logged on for her daily Internet allowance. The first thing she has decided on is to find out what has just happened to her. She types two words into FindIt: ‘Compulsory’ and ‘operations’. Following this, she presses return.
Immediately, the screen on the NL Browser version 5.0 changes.
‘This page is not available. Click on Back to go back.’
She sighs, and rolls her eyes. She deletes the words and types in ‘NL services’. She clicks on the first link, which is made up of exactly the same words.
‘Hello, and welcome to the NL services website. Which service do you require?
News Work Health Finance Study Fun Housing Crime Environment’
After some deliberation, she decides to click on the link for ‘Health’.
There are a number of options on this page: An online health test, information about various topics such as alcohol, other drugs, smoking, obesity and diet, a mental health section, a list of government books and latest topics. However, she cannot find anything about the operations. Her stomach is sore, and she is becoming concerned. In despair, she wonders if she can phone the doctor. She makes her way over to the telephone, which is on a small table near to the bed. She is just about to dial the number, when she realises something of grave importance: she is calling out-of-hours, so it will not be possible. She gets up and paces around the room, frantically. There is a loud knock on the door. She keeps on pacing around, hoping the person on the other end of it will go away. There is another knock. She continues to form the spiral around the room.
‘You’re going to give yourself up’.
She doesn’t even notice. She keeps on and on and on. Finally, she reclines on the bed, but her mind is still forming that spiral that cannot be altered. There really seems like nothing she can do about the situation. Suddenly, the door bursts open.
‘That’s it. Not only did you breach the order but you ignored our call. You’re under arrest.’
‘And what am I supposed to have done?’
‘No questions. There’s space at the HMP but only for mental health patients and... workers. Are you willing to acquire a mental health condition to go there?’
‘Well, you’ll have to be executed then.’
She is left speechless. No-one told her it’ll be like this.
‘Aren’t you going to say something?’
She just stares at the person in front of her in disbelief. She’s heard of people being arrested for seemingly minor incidents, but she never realised that this would happen.
‘It was just a joke. You’re under house arrest, ok?
‘What does that mean?’
‘No questions. Just stay here. Goodbye.’
‘But...how long for?’
She sighs, despondently. Suddenly, she can hear something like glass smashing from below.
‘Another burglary: I can’t be bothered to deal with it. All their fault for living here. Anyway, I’m going now. Stay here, ok?’
‘It is our destiny on Earth to act in the name of the Lords who created us. And they mean for us to go that place elsewhere we will offer us a refuge from all the problems that face us here on Earth.
The first part of the destiny is to act in righteousness. If an act seems wrong to you, bear in mind that you are doing that in a good cause. The Lords would be proud of you if you did such a thing, for you are serving that purpose.
The second part of the destiny is that you will be kind and helpful to anyone who matters. Shower them with affection, share your wealth with them, keep them involved in a meaningful structure, and cherish them for who they are. Be aware that there are people who choose not to follow the destiny set for you, or perhaps those who have not been blessed with a route into the galaxy that beckons at the end of the tunnel. These people cannot know why we must show such kindness, and as a result they cannot feel its benefits.
The third part of the destiny is you will avoid the unearthing of secrets. This would lead to upset at first, and eventually to unrest. We must keep a positive ethos on Earth, so that we can be rewarded in the galaxy. Honesty was a concept invented by those who wish these secrets to spread, thus leading to the dissolution of society. If anyone encourages you to take this policy, they will not be going to the galaxy, and are exempt from the destiny, so do not follow their example.
The fourth part of the destiny is that you must follow the only path chosen for you. Do not give into temptation and follow your path, as that leads you to the depths of the Great Abyss. The same applies for following the path of others. They are wicked tempters, sent from that place to deter you from the path that is correct. For this reason, they also have no right to be on Earth, and their annihilation is essential to preserve the fate of the believers.’
He clenches his fists, infuriated at the idea that he would be led from the destination that awaits him at the end of his life. A customer enters. He looks up. A woman, 5’8’’ or so, blonde hair which falls to her shoulders. She seems very refreshed, as if she has been in a sauna. She walks over to the counter and picks up a copy of The Truth . He is aching to carry on reading his copy of Your Fate, the book issued by the government to inform people about the currently nameless religion that has spread throughout the land. However, he knows he will not have the time.
‘Very. If only I had known all this before.’
‘I’m still not very convinced that the Earth was created from asteroid matter by one of these Lords. And why are they are not named? It all seems new as well, which is suspicious. Apparently, it has spread from London, but I’m beginning to wonder who implemented it and why....’
He gets lost in the words, before something suddenly registers.
‘Heretic!’ he shouts. ‘You are not welcome in this shop!’
‘You can’t stop me buying a paper.’ She complains.
‘Yes I can! I just won’t serve you! You must not even stay here!’
She’s personally seen him take something from one of those people with the marks. Will it teach him a lesson if she makes away without paying? She decides to ask him something first:
‘Where else can I go?’
‘No questions! Just go! Scram!’
She quickly tucks the newspaper under her jacket, and walks over to the door. ‘Byyeee!’ she calls to him, teasingly. As she gets out, she feels slightly guilty, but acknowledges that it would be difficult to buy the newspaper elsewhere. Remembering the time when she had her handbag stolen, she also realises that it is unlikely she will be arrested for shoplifting. The police have other priorities these days.
‘Here you go. Take it.’
She is with the same guard who she met last time. He is, in fact, the only one in the apartment. He is holding two blue pills, in an oblong shape. She looks at them, before switching her gaze upwards to meet his eyes. After a few seconds, she immediately shifts back to the pills. She examines them, suspiciously.
She leans back slightly, closes her mouth and shakes her head.
‘I’m not asking, I’m telling.’
She slowly reaches over and extracts them from his hand. She holds them in between her fingers, studying them.
‘JUST TAKE IT!’
As fast as lightning, the pills go from hand to mouth, to throat. She gulps. The guard watches her, tittering. She retches at the thought of what they might do to her; she wonders if she can vomit them out? She looks over to the guard. She quickly gets up and walks to the door. She is just about to turn the handle when she realises he is behind her. She finds herself on the receiving end of a rugby tackle.
‘I’m going to stay here with you until you finish those pills.’
‘You are under arrest on suspicion of heresy and theft. You must not ask any questions. You have committed both a grade A and grade C offence. As you have committed a grade A offence, you will be sentenced to execution as of today, without interrogation.’
Out of the corner of her eye, she sees someone taking a loaf of bread out of a NL Supermarket bag being carried by a passer-by. ‘Look!’ she exclaims, pointing towards the scene.
‘Are you trying to distract us? You can’t delay the inevitable, so don’t bother.’
A sharp, piercing scream rises from the depths of the lungs, fills her throat and shoots out of her mouth, penetrating the immediate vicinity around her with visceral force. The three guards cover their ears, letting go of her, but she is too involved in the storm to notice anything around her. Just when she realises the escape route, they grab hold of her again. She finds herself marched through the streets. Looking around her, she sees the usual: people trying to get to the shops, people going home, people exploring, bloody corpses, hands, feet, heads, hearts, genitals, livers strewn around near the walls, some of them on bonfires taking place near the market.
She finds herself thinking back to the time when this would have shocked her. It all seems so difficult to imagine, and yet that’s precisely what life used to be like. The thing which is most puzzling is why none of this ever appears on the television and the newspapers: after all, it is there. Perhaps they don’t want anyone knowing? And why is there only one newspaper? And, yet, everywhere else there is so much to choose from, it is overwhelming; it’s just that all of it is NL. It all seems like the perfect balance of public and private ownership, but she is beginning to wonder at what cost. And, most of all, she is starting to question what she has been taught.
As she rests herself on the platform, she wonders where she’ll be going to, but she has no time to find out the answer.
‘Where did you get this from?’ he asks, pointing to the bottle of cola before her.
‘I bought it from a supermarket.’ She thinks of saying something, but decides against it.
He takes it and holds it up, examining it closer. ‘This is a black market item. That is a Grade C offence. As you are already under house arrest, it will be topped up to four years.’
So what? This system is impossible.
‘Now, have some more pills.’ She reaches over, anxiously. ‘Hey, not so fast. Just relax.’
‘You bastard! You know I need those pills!’
‘You swore while a guard is present. That is a grade C offence, so you are now under six years house arrest.’
She grabs his wrist in desperation, hands shaking uncontrollably.
‘We make them up as we go along.’ He comments. He places the magic receptacles on her tongue. They dissolve immediately. ‘Isn’t that brilliant?’
‘I don’t care! I want the pills!’ Her whole body is shaking now. He stabilises her neck so that she can swallow what now remains of the pills.
‘They’re going into your system. I can tell you anything now, can’t I, and you won’t even care, because all you want is your little pills. I bought that bottle of cola for you: had to smuggle it in all the way from the airport, but it was worth it, wasn’t it?’
‘Thank you. Thank you so much.’
‘Here.’ He takes out a copy of Your Fate, which he has been concealing under his uniform. ‘This is yours. It will help you understand why you are here and what to do.’
He makes his way off before she even has a chance to return it, but she wouldn’t even want to. Eagerly, she examines the book: it is a hardback, with a mysterious, wonderful view of the cosmos on it. The words of the title are written on it dark, red letters. She turns the cover. On the first page is a series of reviews by people she hasn’t heard of, though they must be fairly well-known, otherwise they wouldn’t be in here: Andrew Burnham, Tim Anderson, Simon Holmes. They seem to waxing lyrical about the book: who are they? Perhaps they are religious figures? There is also a review from The Truth newspaper. She wonders what happened to The Chronicle. It seems that none of the newspapers can compete. Perhaps they are back again, though.
The following page simply reads ‘Your Fate’ in roughly size 14 sans serif font of some kind. She turns the page with great anticipation. She can barely endure the table of contents, but she has a brief look at it. The anticipation is now overwhelming. She decides to start with the first part of the book: ‘In the Beginning’ on page 5.
There seems to be a new woman at this place: I’ve seen her in the courtyard. She already seems to have the mark on her: that seems to be something they give non-slaves as well. Apparently, it’s something to do with their not being recognised as citizens.
I tried to make eye contact with her, but I was made to go back to the cell. They’ve been trying to prevent us communicating nonverbally, because a number of friendships have been formed between slaves. What they don’t know is that we talk to each other in the corridors, just before we go to sleep. It’s not just casual chat but a way to discuss our plans of how to get out of here. I’ve been meaning to so for long, but now I’m serious, and I know I’m not the only one. It’s strange how you think about something and you realise that other people around you have been thinking exactly the same thing.
The plan is that next time we are summoned out for our tasks, we form a mass exodus and just go for it, get out of there. Sure, they’ll shoot at us. But we don’t care about that anymore. We know that we’ll never be free, and we’d rather risk death than stay imprisoned. If we’re lucky, we’ll finally be away and then we can set about the process of reclaiming society. We can also find out why this all had to happen. Besides, we’re not safe here.
The only thing is that I’m going to have leave some good friends behind, and some friends who I have yet to make. I’m assuming that my life is already over, and I’m wondering where I’m going to. They’ve tried to get us to believe in this galaxy far away. A few of us resisted: what a waste of time. They just ended up in the maximum security area. I just lied to them; told them that I’d be willing to serve the purpose of this panel of lords. They haven’t even named them. I’m now bound by the principles of Your Fate, but that is only official. They can break our bodies, shatter our wills, manipulate us and coerce us, but they can’t change what’s inside us.