November 02, 2004

Chapter 1

It was, on reflection, not the perfect day to die. Certain not the perfect day for everybody in the whole world to die, and he had to work hard with his unInhibited mind to keep on the reflective aspect, to avoid the blatant philosophical fallacy of focusing on the transient now, or the non-existent tomorrow.

That is not to say it had not been a fun day. Far from it! It was not everyday that one can discover the universe of possibilities opened the moment you pop off that little band. It is decidedly unusual too to uncover one's latent prophetic powers. And it was totally unexpected to be gifted with the vision of coming judgement by angels in white latex.

He had certainly taken advantage of things however he could. By late morning he had bedded his wife, expressing a sense of total devotion that felt more genuine that for decades. And then he had toured the brothels of the crimson light districts, happily putting off payment until 'tomorrow'. By noon, he had eaten supper at the most expensive restaurants in town, announcing his retirement in no uncertain terms over crunchy lobster. And now, in a winter's afternoon just before the fall of night, he had the perfect view of the coming apocalypse. It did not pique him that he had not delivered any warning – his confidence was absolute that nothing could be done, so he might as well enjoy himself.

Ultimately, nothing mattered any more. But he had expected something a little more portentous, perhaps. A little rain, some earnest gloom. But instead, it was merely a sunny pre-dusk in the park he lay in, and the children around him were mindless in their play. A little birdsong from gnarled foliage, and the rustling of wind on long grass. A football flew past, rebounded, and rolled beneath him.

He kicked it back. An act of altruism, and he was filled with the immense pleasure of exemption from an infinity of possible hells. Something to look forward to, perhaps, when it is all done. For now, he tried to lie back, orientating himself across the damp boards so that he was cradled between the two armrests. It took a fair bit of squirming before he was almost comfortable, and the blueness of the sky was really too bright to be healthy. But squeezing his tear-filled eyes, he could just see the Wall and he watched the clouds skip around its heights. Some caught alight, torched briefly by the afternoon sun, whilst others vanished into the shade-collected night. He realised that he had never seen the Wall in this way, never watched its barrier transgressed by things that simply did not care.

What would become of the Wall, when the end comes? Would it still stand, guarding one barren devastation from another? Would it be shattered too, its mission finally aborted, the horrors it hid unleashed for one last infinitesimal moment of triumph? He shook, terrified by the possible absence of its familiar shadow, saw the monsters that dwelt on the Other Side as though the mile high length of dark opaqueness had become suddenly transparent. No, he told himself, the Wall must hold. Sanity was too precious to be so exposed.

It was quieter now. The park had emptied, and he was alone. He waited. Any moment now.

There was no time now to consult a watch, only to breathe slowly and wait. Any moment and he should see the little white and red line begin, the start of the trajectory that led to terminus. Driven by the sword hand of gravity, any moment and it would slide between the scrapped hulk of ancient satellites, and plunge into the atmosphere. A missile of iron and rock, it would burn like a new star, and the Earth, wounded, would bleed sparks of fire. It would be silent, surpassing the fanfares which heralded its arrival, without voice and without reason. Birds it would vaporise, and the mighty winds would be ripped aside like a veil. Perhaps, across the nation, men would see their doom. Perhaps they would point, scream a little, and shed those few last liquid tears, grieving for the future which will not come. It's unfair, they would complain. Should not they have been told? Should not they have been given time to prepare?

He laughed a little at this. They would have known themselves, if only they had listened to him, if only they had not dumped him into a dead-end job, with a wife for whom it was always "not tonight, honey." They would have known if they had the wisdom, nay, the genius as he had to remove the little cranial bands which regulated thought. But instead, they had whimpered, predicted insanity as a result. He shook his head and laughed harder. Was this insanity? No, only thought too broad, too golden in its profundity for their worthless little minds.

He had stood up. He was shaking with wordless rage. He kicked at the bench until the wood splintered and broke, until there was only left the metal frames, the skeleton of an inanimate object killed. A way off, he could see figures moving. Perhaps they would fine him. Perhaps, they would ask him to go to court, tomorrow. Suppressing the giggles, he bent down and sat upon the grass.

Which way would the asteroid come? South, from behind the Wall, appearing only at the last minute, so that he would only feel the heat of the blast and the cold of death, the boom of its arrival coming an instant too late? No, it must come from the North, from amongst the jungle of glass and coffee machines. So that at last, the swathe of dead land in the shade would see a new day, so that at last he could see the dark bulk of the Wall in unrelenting red. Perhaps there is truth, hidden in that darkness. Perhaps God had written his word there, where none had thought to look.

But boy did cataclysm take its time! He paced impatiently, stamping, humming, glancing constantly upwards. A quick watch check assured him that he had gotten it right, but the line of red was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps his clock ran slow. Perhaps this moment was frozen forever, so that the end approached and never arrived. He groaned, and someone shouted behind him.

"I'm sorry about the bench!" He shouted back.

But it seemed they were not so easily discouraged. Without prompting, they had charged towards him through the grassy lawn. Closer, he could see how they wore uniforms, how they carried batons and sprays in their hands. He began to understand their voices.

"Calm down, Mr Collins…"

"We are here to help…"

He backed away, moving behind the bench, wishing for the heavens to hurry up, to smite it all and be finished with it.

But it did not come, and the sky remained as clear as ever. Quietly, one of the men shifted to his side, preparing to flank him. He turned and moved to maintain the distance, but the men simply moved faster, mumbling still their nonsensical chants.

"Frank, you are very confused… I know this is very confusing for you, but you need to come with us…"

"You've been off the Inhibitor, Mr Collins. Your mind is not working right. Listen to us, Mr Collins."

"... We don't want a hurt you."

And then they charged.

*

He was lying on a bed, lights streaming backward in front of him, his eyes burning from the incapacitating spray. Around him, the busy buzz of a hospital, the beeping of life support machines and padding of feet on cold tiles. His body ached, but he was strapped down. The weight of the world pressed down on him, the end had finally come. He felt an urge to scream.

He did.

Someone barked a rapid order, and all was dark again.

*

He rubbed at his head, but that did not remove the numbness he felt within. He blinked, but that did not change the muted lights of the room, where the woman dressed in grey looked at him with cold disapproval.

"Welcome back, Frank Collins."

"I don't understand." He felt like someone else was speaking, and had to touch his face to realise it has his mouth which was moving.

"Just teething troubles," she said, reassuringly. "My name is Janice Pennington."

"Do I know you?"

"Not really. I am here to evaluate certain factors and provide advice. Some guidance. You are aware, perhaps, that you have been off the inhibitor for 24 hours. And not for the first time. I have on record an incident from 30 years ago, when you were twelve years of age. But that is not relevant. What I must communicate to you is the seriousness of the current predicament."

"I…"

He understood, of course. But a quiet, reasonable voice inside his head told him that he didn't. Since after all, he had lapsed only so recently, and so sat in this chair, cradling his head in his hand and looking afraid.

Janice continued. "The inhibitor, Frank, is what holds our society together. It is a matter of fact that humans, in their natural states, cannot live together. Their emotions, whilst beautiful in its way, lead to destruction. War, religion, oppression and hatred: all are results. The inhibitor is what facilitates our freedom. It is the voice of reason in the chaos; it lets us see the logic where it may be hard to grasp. This is life; this is our Inhibited, liberated society. There has not been a murder for eight decades, a theft for sixty years. No, the Inhibitor does not control the mind. It is more than that."

It is part of the mind. A person without an inhibitor is not sane. Cannot be sane.

"I hope you learned your lesson," she said. "We were all greatly entertained by your antics, but we hope we do not have to deal with you again. Understood?"

He nodded. She smiled.

"We've found you a new job too. Apparently, you are paranoid and volatile, perfect for Wall duty. It's well paid, and pretty secure as a job. We will after all always need someone to defend our freedom. Do you want to take it?"

He nodded again.

*

The cream door creaked softly, and swung open. He stood in the doorway, noting the darkness and silence within.

"I'm home," he announced.

A large step and he stood in the pine floorboard of the landing, half treading on the pile of unread mail. It was the 2nd, he was gone almost a month, and his wife had not been processing the post. A sullen weight moved over him, and he shrugged it off. Stretching tired limbs, he put his coat onto a waiting hook, and kicked his shoes into a corner.

Through the door, and he was in the living room. Flicking on the lights, he saw the potted plant which had died, whose leaves were pale yellow, so dry that they crumbled when he touched them, falling into dust which gather on the ground with the rest. Each step brought up a little of the grey, and he resisted the urge to cough. Against the wall were dark patches from where furniture had gone. On the glass coffee table, he found a letter.

"Dear Frank,

I've had enough. I really can't take it any more. The neighbours look at us as though we are mad, and I'm always afraid that you'll lapse and do it all again. I'm sorry, it isn't that I don't love you, but it just can't work. So I have left. Please don't try to find me.

Sincerely,
Kyra"

He would not try to find her, he told himself. He did not care.

He switched off the lights.


- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. This is very good!! Is this the story you are doing for your 'novel in a month' thing?

    02 Nov 2004, 09:37

  2. Peter Murphy

    Wild! Keep it up!

    02 Nov 2004, 20:10


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