In the mists of memory

I was just a child when the world almost ended.  My recall of the events is fuzzy to say the least.  As the years pass, I find my memory wandering even more and I am not sure of what was real anymore.  So I am writing this down, somewhere private and hidden, so that if I start to forget, I can remind myself of how things are and of how they used to be.

In the early days, my parents had joined the streams of people heading south to the capital.  It was safe there, we had been told.  I remember very little of the journey other than a hunger that was never satisfied.  We ate at night, whatever we had carried with us, all the while surrounded by large groups of people for safety.  In the morning, some of those people were no longer there and we knew they had been taken.  My father told me that we should always be grateful that it happened to someone else and not us.  My mother stayed silent but I knew that she was horrified.

Arriving at the gates to the capital, the newly erected walls stretched to the sky, sealing the people off from the horror outside.  Days we queued to get inside.  Each and every person was checked for signs of infection before they were allowed inside.  Always a small group at a time, as if there was no rush.  I saw people go mad in that queue.  Fighting for scraps of food or position.  My father kept us safe though, his build giving the impression that he could handle himself.  Luckily nobody tested that theory.

Inside the city was in stark contrast to outside.  There was light everywhere, glinting off the shiny buildings and making everything feel familiar and safe.  I waited for my parents to get through the checkpoint, sitting in a waiting area with other children.  Friendships were made and lost as eventually we were re-united one by one with our families. I was one of the lucky ones, my parents got in.

Then we were allocated living quarters in the newly constructed part of the city.  My mother kept saying that the government must have known the disaster was coming.  How else would they have had all this ready, she whispered to my father.  The wall, the houses and the screening.  He just told her to accept it.  This was not the time for questions.  Conditions were basic but this was surely temporary.

It wasn’t.

As the years passed, I was moved to a more child friendly part of the city.  My parents were sad but strangely I felt excitement.  This was an adventure of the kind I used to read about while my parents went out to work.  I boarded the train, telling them that I would return soon with tales of my travels.  I waved once and then did not look back as the train pulled away.

I never saw them again.

My daily routine was established back then.  Rise from my bunk, eat the allocated food in a canteen with others of my age while the large Television showed what life was like outside the walls.  Packs of mutated beings, scavenging for scraps.  Killing any and everything they came across.  Occasionally our army would rescue survivors and we got to watch the whole operation live as we ate.

It never occurred to me then that the camera placement was a little bit too convenient.  You don’t.  It is far easier to believe what you see and hear.  The plague had made the rest of the country a wasteland and we were safe here.  Conditions were harsh in the city but the alternative was worse.

Of course I know different now.

Routine goes on and on

The pills keep the world in black and white. That is what they were designed to do and they are really good at their job.

For most people anyway.

However, there are times when the colours slip through for a moment and I can see the world the way it is supposed to be. There is clarity and beauty and it makes me remember.

This is not allowed anymore and so I do not mention it to anyone.

The same goes for the people in the glass. They are still there, staring at us, judging us. Every time I take the train, I can see them. Everyone must be able to but nobody talks about them either. It is easier that way.

I get up each morning at the allotted time. Prepare for the day ahead and take my pill. Years of taking them has made me almost immune to the nausea now. I go and stand with the other commuters and wait for a train that is never on time but is also never late. It can’t be late because that would indicate that things are not working properly. That just does not happen anymore.

Inevitably I end up standing as the train trundles towards the job sector, seats already full by the time I get on. Everyone looks down, either at their phones or the daily newspaper. I mostly do the same but I cannot help myself at times and I have to check. My eyes flick towards the windows and I wait for the light outside to show them to me. Exact duplicates of the people on the train but in colour and angry. So, so angry.

Others must see them too but it only takes a suspicion and you are taken away for therapy. Those that do come back are never the same. See that happen enough times and you quickly learn to shut yourself off from the world. Give the impression that you are in your own little world. They never check those people. We are quiet, we do not question and we are pliant. That is how you get on today.

I get off with the crowds of people and make my way to my job. The one that was allocated to me and the one that will decide when I am no longer wanted. I wonder if the glass people are still there, trapped in the train windows or if they are walking along beside us. Still watching, still judging.

Still angry.

Confessions of an IT fixer

“My husband says that we have been infected by one of those Russian virus things.”

Svetlanas rough accent cut through the silence that hung as we watched her computer screen fill up with porn pop ups.  We both knew she was lying but I am a professional.  I was not even going to ask her if her name was really Svetlana.  There are not many Aberdonians with such exotic sounding names and of those that exist, I am pretty sure that she was not one of them.

“He spends so much time on this bloody thing, checking football results and international politics, that I sometimes thing he should have married it.”  Her laugh sounded nervous.

I smiled at her and moved the mouse to start the cleaning process.  She politely asked if I wanted a cup of tea, her eyes glinting in that strange middle aged way.

So I set about dithering in ham (technical term) and realigning the TDS Flange (Old School Technical term), she busied herself in the kitchen.  It was a normal day for a freelance IT fixer.

Or at least that was how it started out.

“Ooh how clumsy,” her broken glass words brought me out of the Working focus I was in.  Looking up her white half cotton, half something else blouse was now soaking and see through.  “I somehow managed to spill all this warm soapy water all over myself,” she added.

Gallantly I stood up and went to her assistance, much like the knights of old did.  As I helped her unbutton her garment I became aware that she was not wearing any underwear, which struck me as strange as her house was not particularly warm.

At this point dear reader, I must admit that I am a man and as such, there are things that I have almost no control over.

(Although I have more control over these than most)

“So any chance of that cup of tea?”  Her sighs of delight filled the room.

Later as I licked the cream off of my fingers, I felt I had to compliment Svetlana on her excellent choice of cake.  Not Marksies sadly but it was tasty nonetheless.  I made a mental note to check the box before I left.

Svetlana sat in front of her now working computer, her face a strange mixture of relief and confusion.  I could see by the tears forming in her eyes, that I had got her out of a jam.  Part of the job is what I would have told her.  Had she asked.

“So that is everything working for you now.  I would tell your husband that the Russians wont be attacking him again.”  I started packing my bag and folded the payment she had left me, into my high quality leather wallet.  As I turned to go, she spoke a phrase that would change my life forever.

“So do you fancy a shag?”

I paused and looked at my very exclusive and not cheap watch.  I charged by the hour and she had at least 20 minutes of my time that she had already paid for.

“Yeah Alright.”

That was my first mistake.

The stupidity of idiots

It wasn’t the fact that he was browsing a website of brown, slip on boat shoes at 8.30 in the morning.

It was not even the way he looked at his watch with such a flourish of noise and movement, purely because he wanted people to see what brand was on his wrist.

Nor the fact that he had dressed himself in clothes that had come straight from the pages of whatever style magazine he had been told he should read. Sitting with his legs crossed, all the time looking to see who was looking at him.

No, none of those reasons was why I hated him.

It was the casual way he finished his takeaway coffee and dropped it on the floor of the train carraige for someone else to clean away that did that.

The moment has been prepared for

“It’s Time.”

I turned from the screen and looked at the speaker.  A man, much like myself, but far more mysterious looking. He was stood in the shadows but I could still see the white light that flared off of his body.

Looking back to my screen, I realise that I will never finish this.  Halfheartedly I ask for more time but I know that will not happen.

There was so much I wanted to do.  So many places I wanted to go.  Yet time, for all its man made construction, just ran out for me.

Smiling, I look at the text on the screen and the unfinished sentence that will be my last act.  My finger hovers over the full stop key.

“You have to go,” he speaks again, “You have to join the others.”

Sighing, I remove my hand from the keyboard and stand up.  Let what is on screen be my legacy.  The man approaches me and surrounds me in his brilliant White light.

As my consciousness merges with the others, I can already hear the clicking of the keys as someone else starts to type.  All is as it should be.

It feels warm.

It feels like home.

 

Whispers in the night

It had started slow.  The odd phrase spoken at a volume that only the subconscious brain could hear.  Little changes made to the bio software we all have.  The main aim was to not arouse too much suspicion.  Our devices had already been accused of listening in to all conversations, a rumour we put paid to quickly.  They were of course, but we had developed clever enough systems that we could hide this in plain sight.

Our first task was to make our device desirable.  Many years of experience combined to make a visually pleasing case.  The innards specifications had been sketched out at the devices inception and it was only a short time from conception to full production.  Price was a keypoint.  We wanted it to be affordable but only to certain economic groups.

It was all part of the plan.

After launch we showed the world what wonders it could perform.  Want to watch a specific programme on your TV?  It searched the internet and streamed directly to it.  Commercial free and with no buffering.  Want to order your food shopping?  Just read out your list and it made sure that it was delivered to your residence at a time and date that was suitable to you.

Weather?  News?  Sport?  A particular book?  Music?  It gave you what you wanted, when you wanted.  We had exploited a loophole that allowed it to bypass any particular countries copyright restrictions.  It did not physically store anything that could be prosecuted down the line.  A solution for a more connected world was how we marketed it and it was successful.

Revenue streams were secured before it went on sale.  Subscriptions were no longer a requirement.  The device seemed too good to be true to some people.

Of course it was.

Once we had reached our target numbers, the second stage went into action.  The small suggestions of what to buy, when and where to get it from.  I was surprised by how effective this all was.  Our cut of each transaction, though initially seeming ridiculously small, soon mounted up to a substantive regular income.  Many of our financial backers urged us to go further.  To influence programme choices and even voting intentions.  However we had never intended to go that far.  We had developed this for financial gain only.

At least that was what I believed.  Turns out that I was not involved at the highest level of decision making after all.  By the time I found out the devices true intention, we had millions of units in homes all across the world.  They no longer depended on the houses own internet connection and power supply.  A self-sufficiency had been built in under the guise of portability and they became so powerful that a single device, while restricted to receiving requests from the house it was based in, could broadcast and listen over several hundred square metres.  Unhindered by walls or geography.

So now every night, I lie awake, sobbing for the part I have played in all of this.  The world has become one huge corporate machine and there is nothing anyone can do.

Don’t speak

Don’t Sleep

That is the only advice I have.

 

Starlight and Clouds in the mind

It had been a little over three months since I had found out that the Society was trying to murder me.

They had been very careful going about this but while I may not be the brightest bulb in the box, I do notice things.  Things that others would casually ignore.

It started small.  A chance conversation had brought up the subject of one of the society members wife.  I knew that he had a girlfriend that he had recently met and had, to my knowledge, never been married before.  Being the sort of chap who played with a straight edge, I knew that he would not have had a woman on the side.  He was lying.  I dismissed it as bravado in front of fellow members and gave it no further thought.

A few days later, I noticed that my usual chair had been moved to the other side of the room.  Bloody cleaners, I muttered as I started to shift it back.  One of the staff immediately asked what I was doing.  I am a polite man and was very pleased with myself that I did not raise my voice when explaining the situation.  He shook his head and said that my chair had always been there and that the fixed fireplace proved that it could never have been in the other corner of the room.  Looking over at the grand structure, I nodded and bluffed it away by saying that I had not woken up fully yet.  Sitting down I was handed my newspaper by him (the wrong one but discretion prevented me from pointing this out) and my drink order was taken.  At least they had got that right.

Over the coming weeks, this sort of thing kept happening.  On one memorable occasion, my chair was back in its original place and the fireplace was no more.  When I did speak up about these changes, I was told that I was forgetting things again.

Again!

That was when it all fell into place.  I had thought I was perhaps losing my mind but it was much more subtle than that.  They wanted me to think that.  Old Carruthers had taken his own life the other week for that exact reason.  He could not face life not knowing what was real or not.  I asked after him shortly after his death only to be told by a steward that there had never been a Carruthers in the society.

Unlike the poor chap, I am made of sterner stuff.  I had been to the funeral.  They could not drive me into the grave so easily.  I began to document every change, no matter how minor it was.  Notebooks filled rapidly and it became harder to secrete them around my lodgings in the society building.  So I began to write them in code.  A shorthand that only I would be able to decipher.  That way if they were inevitably found, they would be dismissed as gibberish.

I dared not share my findings with anyone.  No matter who approached me with similar tales, I could not trust anyone anymore.  This was my burden and I could not take being distracted by anyone.

When my wallet went missing and was found in the fridge, I played the sad old man card to perfection.  Oh how forgetful of me, I half sobbed.  The stewards assured me that it was nothing and to not worry about it.  Little did they know.  I had seen one of them lift it from my smoking jacket not ten minutes earlier.  I knew what their game was.  Back in the safety of my room, I checked its contents.  Everything was in its place but I ripped the material apart anyway, looking for the hidden tracker or bug that must have been placed.

I found nothing.

They had gotten incredibly inventive, I had to give them credit for that.  To be on the safe side, I threw the destroyed wallet out of my window.  To no-ones surprise, it ended up back in my inside pocket the following day.  Repaired as if it was new.  But it wasn’t.  I would recognise my old wallet anywhere.

So as they grew more desperate to finish me off, I responded with my own cunning.  my notebooks had now taken over the entire floor of my room.  I had stopped hiding them in a fit of bravado a few nights back and by the time that had passed, it was too late to care anymore.

Carruthers whispered to me one day at dinner, that I was not seeming myself.  I ignored the dead man and continued eating.  They could not fool me.

They would not fool me.

Any day now, I would expose them for what they are.

Any day.