by Tom Wigmore
In Free London, 2088, Dr. Edwin Harris, a chipper for the government, sparks a revolution.
The fortnight of leave was over. Edwin reached the EHATS in the pouring rain, clutching his umbrella in fear of it being blown away in the screaming wind. Upon entering the double doors, the same serviceman who saw him the few days before ran to his aid. He looked at Edwin, smiled hugely, winked and held his hand out for the dripping umbrella.
“Good morning Dr. Harris! The Executive greets you, as do I, S17-Z4! Would you like me to hold your umbrella for you today?” The man was frustratingly chirpy, but Edwin liked his attitude.
“Hello, S17. Of course, thank you very much, I should be out around five tonight. Would that be okay?”
“Of course, Dr. Harris! I shall hold them for you until half five, if necessary! Anything for a man with a sense of humour such as yourself!” Edwin smiled.
“Just call me Edwin. I’ll see you at five!”
He rounded the corner from the glass elevator to his office, pushing the mahogany doors open, eager to be working once more. Sat in the secretarial seat was his tall assistant, A6. She smiled hugely at him, and stood up. Her brunette hair swayed slightly beneath the shoulders as she walked over to him, the pinstripe suit clinging to her shapely figure. Edwin smiled back as she hugged him; he tried to awkwardly hug back, holding the briefcase full of altered chips. She broke off him and looked him straight in the eyes.
“I was so sorry to hear of your wife’s death, doctor,” A6 began, but Edwin stopped her with a raised hand.
“Don’t be, she was a traitor, you must have heard in the news.” Edwin’s heart burned upon saying this, but the façade had to be kept up of a subdued widower to the traitor wife. A6’s eyebrows rose, but she continued.
“Even so, doctor, death is no’ somethin’ to be pleased abou’. I hope you’re alrigh’, though you’s do appear so.” With this, she turned on her heel and sat down in her spot once more, resuming position, tapping the desk. An image was projected onto the wall at the touch of the desk, showing emails for Edwin.
“You have four’een emails before you’s go into surgery today, doctor,” A6 said, “and then you have the projec’ed target of four’undred for today.” Edwin just smiled at her, told her thank-you, and walked into his office, closing the door behind him. The smile and colour drained from his face. Four hundred? He had enough chips to last him a quarter of that, maybe less including any mistakes he may have made. He started to panic, taking two hysteroids to calm him. He breathed deeply, and sat in his chair. He may get away with being slightly off his mark work-wise, but if he began to get anxious they wouldn’t let him near the chipping room, and the plan would be ruined. He tapped his desk, his fingers logging him in. The emails from A6’s projection shot onto the empty wall, showing compassion and throwing questions of his emotions towards his traitor wife. He ignored them all, excluding the one from Commander Susa. He spoke, and the words appeared on the reply:
thank you for your sympathies commander stop
i am well and ready for work to continue stop
should i come to the meeting we previously arranged for the 16th stop
doctor harris end
Edwin tapped the desk, and the email whisked away. As he stood and began to change his suit to a more suitable chipping wear, a response from Susa came on screen. He called out: “Read.” and the message was read aloud by the computer:
do you even need to ask that doctor harris stop
of course you do meet me in my office in your lunch hour stop
commander susa end
The man sighed. He turned off his desk with a quick push of the button on the side, picking up the full briefcase as he went. Edwin left the office now dressed in lab-coat, white trousers and hard-wearing, rubber-soled boots to prevent electrocution. He passed A6, who said something in the way of wishing him well, but Edwin did not hear her. He just waved with his right hand and eased the door open with his left, exiting the office with a heavy heart.
The chu-dunk of the chipper was a sound that Edwin despised. It almost burned his thoughts to be sticking a once-lethal chip into another’s body. Sometimes, when Edwin felt particularly tetchy, he would dream of sticking one into the Executive’s neck, with a triple dose of Nulibertasium.
Chu-dunk. This one will live in a society of monitored, but free, thought. Her mind would be read, but she would be free. She could think all he could think, without a care in the world. She will age, and by twelve she will be genetically ready for donation, and thus, the legacy will continue. She looked like she could be a banker. Edwin wrote ‘F10-Z12’ on the tag hanging from the tranquil child’s umbilical cord, and pushed a green button by his left leg. The child’s eyes were jolted open by the burst of energy pulsing through her slight figure, activating the chip. Her cries were heard as she was whisked away by an expressionless nurse with a permanent smile, and the next child was placed in front of him. This time it was a boy. Shaking, Edwin brought the chipper to the top of the boy’s neck. He pulled the trigger.
Chu-dunk. This boy would have a free mind. At twelve, the child would donate, and his legacy would be born into a world of revolution. The government couldn’t touch him now. His genetics suggested he would be a veterinarian, working with the animals that accompanied the Constructions, however useless they were. Edwin wrote ‘V3-Z2’ on the tag hanging from the steady child’s umbilical cord, and pushed the green button by his left leg. The child yelped as the energy ripped through his slenderness. His cries were still heard even as he was whisked away by the same expressionless nurse with the permanent smile. In all his working years, Edwin had never bothered to learn his name, and he felt so guilty. He was freer than him. Another child was placed in front of him, a girl with jet-black hair. Once more, the chipper was brought to the top of her neck. He pulled the trigger.
Chu-dunk. Chu-dunk. Chuuuuuuuh-dunk.
No chip left the chamber. Edwin looked startled. That was the last of the altered chips. He had none left.
“Here’s another batch of chips, Dr. Harris!” The expressionless nurse with the permanent smile grinned at him, holding a box marked for this week. Edwin backed away, dropping the chipper.
“Who are you?” He stammered, his voice failing to reach above a whisper.
“Why, I’m N2-Z4, Dr. Harris, you know that!” He still smiled on, though he looked confused, as though in a dazed stupor. He stepped towards Edwin, hands slightly outstretched to touch him. Edwin grabbed his wrist, staring straight at him.
“You have to listen to me, N2. You have to! You’re… not… free!” He screamed at him. “The Party, my wife, the whole lot of it, it’s rubbish! Tripe! Utter nonsense! Those bastards stole her from me! You’ve all got chips, and they’ll kill you! Down with the Executive! Down with the Executive!” He ranted on, screaming, his voice reaching the floor above. He screamed and screamed, crying out for Martha, and the nurse looked on at him, clarity forming in his eyes.
“I’m not… free?” He looked around, at his arms; his feet; his surroundings. “I’m not free?” In but an instant he fell to the floor, his body convulsing. His eyelids flickered, his fingers twitched. His head snapped back and forth, and Edwin screamed, also falling to the floor. Two guards ran into the room, grabbing N2 quickly by the limbs and removing his trembling form from the room. Edwin reached out and screamed after the Construction, before a shot of tranquiliser flew from behind him, knocking the thrice-broken man into unconsciousness.
Edwin woke up with his face pressed against something hard. His lips failed him, his words of desperation he so desperately wished to voice stuck in his throat and made him cough. His spittle seeped out of his open mouth and soaked his cheek and the rough floor he lay on. His head ached, his neck burned, his arms and legs felt like knives were through them. His eyes failed to open, no matter how much he willed them to. It was like he was in coma; bound by a failing body whilst his mind raced on.
His ears popped. Edwin cried out, hearing something other than the sounds of his frantic breathing. He started to get feeling back into his limbs, and he flung his arms forwards along the rough-skinned floor. It was a carpet, but his arm was so numb is felt like needles pricking his skin. He cried out once more, a word forming in his calls: “Help.”
Edwin lifted his head a fraction off the floor, his eyes opening slightly. His stuck lashes shaded the view he saw, but he could make out a short figure, dressed all in black. He began to cry; he did not know the figure, but he knew he would not be welcome. He did not understand what he had done; the last thing he remembered was the sound of the chipper, a fallen man and an endless rage.
“Dr. Harris. It is good to see you.” Edwin’s heart was dunked in a bucket of ice. His tears began to stain his view. He knew he knew this office. The all-in-black figure, now crouched to Edwin’s height, looked him in his eyes and laughed. Her face became clear; Commander Susa was watching his slow downfall.
“Please… help me,” he slurred, knowing it was all in vain. He now felt how he lay; his back was arched towards the ceiling, he was resting on his knees, with his head pushed cheek first against the floor. His arms were flailing, and his left foot was twitching uncontrollably. But his head was clear, his mind was set.
“I’m not going to help you, Dr. Harris,” the Commander said, a sneer perceptible in her voice. The oriental woman was intimidating, powerful and terrifying, and she commanded respect. Edwin despised Susa beyond measure. “I will, however, allow O3-Z5 lift you into a more comfortable position.” She beckoned to someone behind Edwin, who felt a strong grip ruthlessly pull him upright to sit on a prepared bench. His eyes snapped open as he had feelings of vertigo, and as if instantaneous, he could move again. His body throbbed beyond measure, but he could move. He worked his mouth, with his jaw acting as a jaw should. He stared deep at Susa, who had now stood upright and turned away from the fallen man.
“Do you know why you are here, Dr. Harris?” Susa said, contemplating the gloomy view from outside the window. It was a drab office, Edwin noted, with few personal effects. It was an office by name and by nature; simple and purposeful. He glanced around the room, too late to see Susa nod once, still staring out the window. The Construction behind Edwin smacked the back of his head with force. Edwin flew forwards; he was an older man, this beating was something that someone of his age could not take as well. He choked on his breath, spitting up on the floor.
“I said, Dr. Harris, do you know why you’re here?”
“Because some son-of-a-bitch dragged me here.” Edwin didn’t know where this rage was coming from. He did not see what he’d done to deserve this, or see why he could be persecuted in this way. Susa smirked at his response, and looked around at her victim.
“You’re quite right, Dr. Harris, some son-of-a-bitch did drag you here. But that’s the cause as to why you’re here. I want the reason. So. I ask again. Do you know why you’re here, Dr. Harris?” Edwin chuckled, with blood spitting through his teeth.
“No, I don’t,” he said through bloody laughter. Susa did not laugh back, becoming the cold-hearted, callous persona she had perfected. Edwin was left to writhe on the floor for a bit, coughing in his own gore, before being hauled back up by 03-Z5 once more.
“Well, I’m about to tell you, Dr. Harris,” Susa said, turning back to the grim. “Unfortunately sir, you’ve had a minor display of anti-revolutionary tactics.” Edwin looked at her. He couldn’t tell what she knew. He swallowed slowly, taking a deep breath.
“Anti-revolutionary? Commander, I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t play coy with me, Dr. Harris, I can see through that disguise as if it were glass. Yes, anti-revolutionary. You have been stealing and altering chips. We found a broken microchip in your briefcase when we raided your office.” Edwin acted distressed, but inside he knew that Grace was safe. His cohort was alive, at least for now.
“You found that, then?” He smiled briefly, and got a blow to the head for his quip.
“Yes, Dr. Harris. But understand this. We see that you have been going through a… ah… difficult time at home, and feel that your drive and passion can be otherwise diverted to work. That is why we are forgiving you of your crime.”
It was as though Commander Susa had just claimed she was joining Edwin’s cause. The man coughed, cleared his throat of blood once more and looked at her, incredulous. Susa just smiled at him, an evil glint in her eye.
“Yes, Dr. Harris. We feel, as the EHATS, that this is but a momentary slip-up, which could in fact be very beneficial in your advancement as an employee for us. By removing this from your system, you will be now a more valuable person to us.” Susa saw the lack of recognition in Edwin’s face, so she sighed. “Please, O3-Z5, you have been excellent help. If you could please vacate the room. I will yell if I need your assistance, but Edwin is in no state to attack me.” O3 nodded, and the henchman left the room. As the door shut quietly, Susa sat down in her chair, sighing and her stern expression being replaced by one of calm.
“Do you smoke, Dr. Harris? No, I suppose you never have. I’m one of the lucky ones; I have connections.” The Commander offered one to the confused man, who just stared at it, shocked. Susa shrugged.
“Well, if you don’t mind, I need one, after today,” she lit hers and took a long drag, gasping with delight, “dear ‘Xec, that’s good.” She looked over at Edwin, who was the most silent he’d been since he’d entered the room. “Why so perplexed, Dr. Harris? Have you never seen a woman relaxed before?”
“What’s happening here, Commander?” Edwin stuttered, still spitting some blood, confused at the sight before him. Susa chuckled – she chuckled.
“I am allowed to unwind sometimes, Dr. Harris. Cigarettes are my unwinding. I’d suggest you take one, they’re quite good.” She offered him the box once more, but still Edwin refused, this time shaking his head. “I suppose you don’t know what you’re missing, and you’re quite perplexed.”
“What’s…going…on.” Edwin became more forceful in his tone, losing any sense of respect for power. He had no limitations anymore; he was but the hollow shell of the man who married Martha, one who had a goal and aimed to find his way there, till the end. His eye had started to bruise over. Susa smiled at him.
“I’m here to help you, Dr. Harris,” she began, taking a lengthy pull of smoke as she stood up, “help you find your way. I was once like you, I lost my way. I understand, Dr. Harris. I truly do. Yet it is not the way. It is by design that you shall fall in line for the National Freedom Party, whether or not it is what you want. The Executive watches down on us and He makes it so that we live at peace. A little discomfort, here and there, for those True Conceptions amongst us, is something that we as a nation will endure. For the future, Dr. Harris. You don’t want to ruin the future, do you? How quite selfish of you to believe so. No, it is for the good of the people, the good of the Party, and the good of you that we forget this little issue of yours, Dr. Harris, and go back to how it once was. Enjoying our life, free from worry. Because after all, isn’t that what life is all about?”
Edwin had been ordered to take the day, and was escorted out by 03-Z5 and another smiling henchman. He passed the security desk, and the serviceman stood up, flapping the umbrella in the air that had been left with him.
“Dr. Harris! Your umbrella!” Edwin turned slightly, and waved towards S17-Z4, who started to walk towards him. The guards moved quicker, lightly pushing against Edwin’s shoulders. S17 sped up to try and catch up with them, speaking louder to attract the guards’ attentions. “Dr. Harris! I refuse to let you leave without your umbrella!” O3 grunted at the other guard shepherding Edwin out, who turned, baton outstretched. Edwin looked around quickly, his eyes just glimpsing the smile finally fade from S17’s face. His face was pushed by the guard round to face the double doors, just as his serviceman’s screams filled the room, and the smacking of the rod hit solid bone. The doors shut, and all that could be heard were the sounds of cars, rain, and innocent people walking. Edwin was thrust forward by O3, but he kept his balance. He looked stony-faced at the guard, who sneered at him. He was the first Construction he’d seen without a perpetual smile.
The second guard walked out of the doors, baton tinged scarlet, dented umbrella in hand.
“Your umbrella, Dr. Harris.” The henchman threw it towards him, and it fell at Edwin’s feet in the damp. He crouched down and picked it up, to see the O3 turning around and walking away with his guard colleague, laughing between them.
Edwin jumped off the train before it had stopped. His face hurt beyond measure, with bruising and cuts still raw, but he bit through the pain, and used it to fuel his anger. He reached the towering pine door with the pediments and crashed in, seeing Grace sitting by the fire, rubbing odd-smelling oil into her abdomen. She sat up, adjusted her shirt, and smiled at him.
“Edwin! Why are you here? We scheduled a meeting in a week’s time to discuss the process of rebellion! You are incredibly early, and distracting from my being alone.” Edwin breathlessly apologised, but she did not appear unhappy about him being there. She shook her head, and gestured to the opposite seat by the fire.
“We’ve been had, Grace. Well, I’ve been found out.” The woman looked shocked.
“I… snapped. We ran out of altered chips, the projected target was too high, it was an accident. And now… well… I’m free of charges. And,” he gesticulated to her, “don’t panic, they don’t know about you.” She sighed with relief.
“But you are not in trouble?” Grace asked, worry in her eyes.
“The Commander let me off of this little issue. I’ve been allowed to walk free.” Edwin stood up from the chair and pulled his professor by the arm. “Come with me.” And he led her to the bedroom.
The final time between Edwin and Grace was cold and calculated. Edwin eased off of her and padded naked to the bathroom, rubbing his neck slightly as the slightest twinge of pain rose to his forehead. The woman was left panting, lying on the bed. Edwin stared at himself in the bathroom mirror, a glint in his eye. He plucked his toothbrush from the bowl and began to brush his teeth, walking out of the bathroom. Grace was pulling on her unflattering robe, smiling.
“Edwin, I have something to say to you.”
“I have no time, Grace. I need to go, I need to think.” Edwin lifted up his trousers and tugged on his shirt, ignoring the woman padding around him.
“Well you can ponder here! I have the fire, beverages, everything you need to relax. Now come on, Edwin dear, sit down with me.” She reached for his arm, and Edwin edged away, grabbing his shoes off the floor.
“I have to go.” Grace looked on at him, forlorn. A single tear formed in her eye, but Edwin turned before he could see it and opened the door. “I’ll be back soon; I just have to go do something.”
“Edwin.” There was a crack in Grace’s voice that made the man stop. He turned and looked at her. She was rubbing her belly. He looked at her, emotionless.
“I’ll be back tomorrow. I’ll need more of that passion then.” His shoes were now on, and he stepped out the open door into the gloom.
Edwin sat in the seat looking across the Marshes of Kessex, license at the ready for the train guard. The gloom appeared grimier than was usual, with the clouds lower and an aura of despondency shrouding the train’s windows. Edwin sat still, listening to the noise of the four Constructions sitting on the other side, wittering to one another about nothing. It was like a dull drone to him; he’d become so used to their speech he tended to lose concentration. But today was different; Edwin felt different. His hearing focused.
“…so someone’s been found?”
“Yeah, somethin’ about anti-gov’ment revolution!”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to be a part of that, not me!”
“No, absolutely not! It’s a wonder she ever got away with it!”
“Them True Conceptions, ‘ey! Always gettin’ in trouble!” One of the girls pulled out a touchtab.
“Ah, here’s the livestream! Hang on, here’s the ticker… Grace… Lowell… and there she is…”
Edwin wouldn’t let the girl finish. He sprinted across the carriage, knocking the train guard onto the floor. He reached for the touchtab and yanked it out of the Construction’s hands, ignoring her irritated yelps. There, on the raised screen was Grace, pulled out of her house by her hair. Her belongings were being thrown out of the windows. The kettle was thrown at the disgraced professor’s head. The announcer spoke over the video feed.
“What we’re seeing here J1, is an ex-professor from the London School of New-Age Developments, Miss Grace Lowell. As an anti-government thinker, she has been conspiring against the National Freedom Party and the Executive! The gall of it!” Grace was thrown to the floor, and a guard held a piece of wood torn from the mantelpiece. Carving with a knife, he wrote a message and handed it to Grace. It read:
A PREGNANT WHORE
Grace was made to hold the board as her hair was sliced off with the same carving knife, and the commentators continued relentlessly.
“It’s no surprise that such an event would happen; the True Conceptions are becoming restless as of late, J1. Ah, the guards are beginning to leave the house. I think we all know what is coming next, and that will be one for quite a spectacle!”
Edwin shook his head in disbelief. The Constructions were now tugging on his arm, begging him to give the touchtab back. The camera focused on Grace’s beaten and bruised face as she was pulled away, and thrown into her house once more. The final guard threw a kick at her fallen body, before pouring the dregs of a fuel canister over Grace’s groin and stomach, shirt ripped open. He exited the room, shut the wooden door, latched it shut, and threw in a match through the open window. In an instant, the shack was engulfed in flames, and the rain could not stop it. It raged on, raged on. Edwin thought he could hear screaming. He threw the touchtab down and stepped away. The revolution must continue. A tiny twinge hit his forehead, and he turned away just as the announcer concluded:
“And that’s it for today, J1. Of course, ‘S’s and ‘O’s are scouring the nation, trying to find the father, and when we know, you’ll know. This has been J5, reporting for The Free News, back to you.”
Martha was dead. Grace was, now, dead. Even S17 was dead. There was only one person he could trust, only one left to trust. He would have to be careful.
He ended the call with A6-Z4 before she had a chance to argue with what he’d asked. Edwin just sat, swivelling in his chair, running his puckered fingers through his unruly hair, now greys far outweighing the browns. He waited. He found a specific grey, one that was particularly bothering him. He yanked it out, wincing slightly, intensely staring at it. His chair was at a steady spin now; not too fast as to make him dizzy, but fast enough to make the hair fly out of his fingers. He waited.
It took A6 longer than Edwin originally anticipated. A whole hour passed before the Construction appeared on his doorstep, touching the doorbell. He scowled out the peephole, and saw the ever-smiling face of his brunette secretary, clutching the notepad he’d requested she bring. He held his pencil with all his hand could muster, wary of the almost-broken lead. Edwin opened the door with his unoccupied hand, ushering the Construction in before she could say anything.
“Come in! Come in, quickly. I said quickly, girl!” She stepped in, still confused. Edwin shut the door, and, resting against it, he gasped loudly, relieved.
“I don’ quite understand, Dr. Harris…” A6 stammered, still smiling uncomfortably. He shook his head and waved his hands nonchalantly.
“Of course you don’t, I haven’t explained it to you yet. Now! To your education! But first, a drink? A wise woman once told me that drink before a speech is good. Or was it after? I don’t remember. Still! A drink!” His thoughts were as erratic as a baby watching television. He couldn’t focus on a single thing before his mind selected another thing to focus on. He was lost in a world of revolution and hope and Martha.
“I’m alrigh’, ta doctor. But please, fill me in, ‘cause I’m very lost righ’ now.”
“Of course. Please, take a seat.” The man gestured to the sofa, the place Martha had died. The wax from the candles had never fully come out, and so a red stain etched in a jagged pattern around where Martha lay dying. A6 either didn’t notice or was too polite to say anything, because she sat down without complaint, still clutching her notepad. Edwin scampered out with his hair flying, to grab a glass of water for the girl. By the time he arrived back in the room, A6 had taken her shoes off and placed them besides the table, and her jacket was laid aside. Edwin sat in his chair, shoes still on, pencil in hand, twirling it between them. A6 coughed slightly, took a sip of water, and sat back into the sofa.
“Alright,” Edwin began, stopping the twirling and carefully passed it over to the waiting woman, “the reason I called you here. I… have been doing some things. Things that would be deemed uncomfortable to the detriment of the people, the Party, and to the EHATS.”
“Are you talkin’ ‘bout the chippin’ issue, doctor?”
“Excuse me?” Edwin was taken aback. What did she, or more importantly, other people, know?
“Well, as I’m sure y’know, bein’ tha’ you were the cause of it, doctor! The chips tha’ were changed, the Constructions tha’ were chipped wrong, the Construction you killed, it’s been all around a’work! Now, I’m sure I don’ judge your life decisions, Dr. Harris, but you’ve cert’nly put me in a predicamen’!”
“I’m sorry. Repeat that. Killed?” Edwin began twirling the pencil in his hand, his eyes not moving from A6’s face.
“Yes, one of the older nurses… N2, I think ‘is name was! O’course, there’re lots’ve stories with lots’ve things to say tha’s far from the truth; tha’s it, I jus’ wan’ to hear the truth, sir!” Edwin was shocked. N2. He was the nurse who fell. Edwin hadn’t touched him, he’d backed away. He knew he had, he knew. If only he could remember… but he’d been too silent for too long.
“The truth. The… truth.”
“From the beginnin’, if possible, doctor!” Edwin handed her the pencil, to which she grabbed and began writing as her superior spoke. He told her of Martha, her death, why she died, what she died for. He reminisced over his life gone by, of his teachings under Grace herself. How they’d met, had sex, and developed passion. How he infiltrated his work, how he missed his wife. The chips, the Valemorium and Nulibertasium, the plans. The nurse – the nurse, he’d been one of the early Constructions, he had a deadly chip! – how Susa sympathised. But Martha, ultimately, came overall.
His wife. Her revolution. His spark.
A6 sat, stunned. Halfway through she’d stopped writing, just listening to the broken man pour his heart out, her notepad a canvas for his thoughts. She began to listen, to understand, to hope with him. This man who’d been her manager was more complex than that; he was a visionary. He’d helped his wife die to fuel something she’d devised. He’d been the start of something greater than anything could be before. He was the spark. She was one of the men born unto trouble. He was correct. The revolution must occur. Down with the Executive.
Three stabs of pain shot from the back of her neck to her forehead, and suddenly, she collapsed. Her writhing body squirmed on the red stain, her eyes closed, her face calm, but her body agonised. Edwin sat, staring, shaking his head. She was the same as the others; not strong enough to live. Only he could survive. She thrashed and twisted, turned and trembled, kicking the discarded water across the living room. And then, she stopped. She lay, as though asleep. She was alive; she was breathing, yet she was tranquil. As though at peace. Edwin looked at her sleeping body, perplexed.
“A6?” Her eyes fluttered, as though she’d just been woken from a long sleep, and they fully opened. Edwin jumped back; her irises no longer existed, her pupils had expanded and taken over the eyes. It was though she looked through, rather than at, and had lost all sense of personality. She sat upright, smiled, and looked through Edwin. Her charming accent had vanished.
“Good afternoon sir. The Executive blesses you. I must go back to work, for my legacy must continue.” She placed on her shoes, and stood, leaving the written notepad on the table. A6 grabbed her jacket and walked in a struggled fashion, as though something was battling with her limbs. Edwin just watched her leave, making no effort to help her or see her out. He was the only one. He could be the only one. A6 left the house, and the door closed on Edwin’s hope.
With a touch, cold water began to fill the bath. Edwin stripped down to nothing and stood, watching the tub rise. The lights were off and the door was closed, leaving him in total darkness. He lit one candle and rested it on the rim, letting the water’s reflection bounce off the fire, casting ominous glows on the wall. Edwin gasped. It was clear now.
He raced down to the cellar, still wearing nothing. There, in a pile, was discarded paint, left over from when the Party regulated house freedom. He chose a crimson red and dashed back upstairs, where the water was almost full. Ignoring the liquid, he wrenched open the can, cutting his finger on the sharp sides. His passion took over as he stirred the paint with his finger, his eyes crazed. Edwin pulled his now-dripping finger out, and started tracing the reflections with his fingers. A pattern began forming on the wall, one he could never have imagined before. His fingers drew, and a picture arose. His wall was his canvas. His legacy was strewn across it: his wife, her death; his professor, her death; his secretary, her Wipe. He stood back and looked at his handiwork just as the water began to spill over the edges onto his bare feet. His drawings made sense. The lines, the circles, the ever-changing spirals of discontent. They would remain ever-steady spirals of discontent. He looked at his handiwork, smiled to himself, and sat calmly in the bath. He did not care the water was spilling over the floor. He did not care that the water was still running. He did not care that it was freezing. He realised his despair. He was the only one who could survive such a revolution; it was clear from everyone else who had passed by. Only he could live, and therefore the revolution was doomed. He had to die, by his own hand. A slight pain shot to his forehead, and he rubbed his neck, thinking nothing of it. Edwin smiled. He was ready. He stood quickly, and stepped, dripping into the puddles of water forming on his floor.
In big, red, cluttered letters above the spirals, Edwin painted:
Down with the Executive
Down with the Party
Down with Me
The sun had been up for an hour when Commander Susa, O3-Z5 and two other ‘O’s appeared at Edwin’s doorstep. Susa knocked once. A minute passed, with no answer. She knocked again, more rigorously. Still no response. She nodded at O3 and his guards and stepped back. The three guards grunted, and piled into the door frame. The door ripped off its hinges, revealing a saturated carpet and dripping ceiling. Water was flowing down the stairs, tinged red, and Edwin’s belongings were floating in small corners of the room.
“Dr. Harris!” Susa screamed upstairs, but there was once more, no response. She started making her way upstairs, careful where to stand in case the flooring became weak. The guards began to walk with her, but she held out her hand to halt them..
“No. Weight is everything, ‘O’s, and I’m much lighter than the three of you. I shall just check the parameters.” She reached the top of the stairs, a wash of water sweeping over her practical shoes. She saw the source; as expected, the bathroom. She stepped carefully, listening to the creaks and looking for cracks. With every step, the floor ached, begged to blow. But Susa was light enough to ease her way across.
The bathroom was a swamp of products and boggy, red water. It had been paint from a discarded can that had tinted the water, which allowed Susa to relax very briefly. But when presented with an empty bathtub, water still flowing from the tap, and the ghoulish message on the wall, she panicked.
“He’s not here!” She called, terror setting in. “Find him! Now!”
Edwin stood on his pedestal, eyes shut. He heard only the sound of the easing rain, some of the first spots of sun peeking through the clouds in years. He kept a complacent face, though he had to keep spitting liquid out of his mouth due to the bitter taste. His head doused, his body soaked, his naked body on protest. People had begun to gather; he heard them talking about him. He had no banners, no signs. He had just himself, all to show. His lighter stayed in his dry hand, lit. He opened his eyes, hearing a commotion beneath him. There was a crowd of about five hundred people, True Conceptions and Constructions alike. A news drone was flying overhead, recording his protest. He still stood, silent. A large white van pulled up aside the pedestal, and out jumped thirty men, a mix of ‘O’s and ‘S’s, clutching large rifles and surrounding the base. Edwin just ignored them, looking onto the horizon. One ‘S’ began speaking on a megaphone, ordering the crowd back, before turning his attention to Edwin.
“Sir, put the lighter down, step down off the pedestal and let us take you to a safe place.” Edwin looked down at him.
“Sir, I’ll have you know I am perfectly safe up here. I am in total control of my safety; only you stand in my way.” There was a low murmur from the crowd, a mixture of assent and disproval.
“Let me rephrase myself then, sir. If you do not step down, we will have to remove you with force, lethal or otherwise.” Edwin just smiled at him.
“I’m not leaving here. You know this, I know this. I dictate when I leave.” The S stood up straight, and coughed lightly.
“Okay men. When you are ready. Ready!” The men stood in a circle, surrounding the pedestal. “Aim!” The Constructions targeted Edwin. The man closed his eyes.
“Stop now!” Commander Susa burst through the crowd, eyes wide, followed by three guards. “Dr. Harris, please. We discussed this before. A slight mishap in the system, something we can work on, right, Dr. Harris?” Edwin looked at her, calm, at peace.
“I am the father of the unborn child of Grace Lowell. I am the father of this… revolution. We, as men, are born unto trouble. We are under the… ah… freedom… of this government. We are bound by the laws of the land, and I cannot adhere to rules any longer. I was the spark that flew upwards. And now I must fizzle out.”
He held the lighter high in the air above his head. The guards aimed once more, and the man with the megaphone just stared on.
“For Martha. Down with the Executive.”
A sharp stab of pain shot to his forehead from his neck as he dropped the lighter. The man with the megaphone shouted: “Fire!”, and the men let fly. The gasoline on his body exploded into flame, as bullets riddled his body. The crowd gasped, and some began to charge the pedestal, being held back. The body tumbled to the base of the pedestal, burning, ripped apart and dead in mind. Edwin Harris, the father of the revolution. The revolution died with him.
Not much had changed after the death of the traitor man. He had no funeral, as there was no body to bury. What was left of him was burnt once more, and his ashes scattered over the grave of Martha, his traitor wife. The media bounded over this story; the naked crazed man whose wife was also a conspirator, both True Conceptions, both irresponsible and irrefutable reasons for Constructions to take over. The few Constructions affected by Edwin’s protest usually Wiped within a few days of the event, becoming sycophants for the government. Those True Conceptions who saw and agreed with the protest stayed silent, in respect to Edwin’s death; he began a silent protest, they would finish it.
His house was burnt down to prevent those who aimed to seek out the home of the most-successful traitor in National Freedom Party history. Edwin’s secretary was subjected to torture to discover the secrets of his life; yet she knew nothing. Her glazed eyes just stared through the interrogator, insisting she get back to work.
Outside of Free London, life continued. It was as if a man and his wife had never conspired against the sanctity of the Executive. Edwin Harris was removed from EHATS history and from press releases. His life was slowly forgotten, and the world’s life moved on. Time continued, and still, to this day, goes on, undisturbed in Constructed Peace.
END OF NOVELLA