International Writers Magazine: Possession
at the Feet of Giants
you kindly, good Sir, I call after the man walking past me,
with his suit neatly pressed and eyes firmly blinkered. I conjure
as much synthetic gratitude as I possibly can for the well-travelled
50p coin he flung at me. I do it out of instinct more than anything;
I dont even fix my eyes on him for too long, for I know he
will have ignored my response. Hell, he might have even convinced
himself he accidentally dropped the loose change, and couldnt
bear to come near me to retrieve it. Pride and fear can make a man
think that way.
I sit for a while,
coin betwixt my forefinger and thumb, idly gazing at the knowing glint
it gives off. Is it aware, sat here under this dank, god-awful overpass,
the extremities it drives good men to? While I ponder that one, my hand
starts to get cold from the draught and I retract it under my plaid
I look out onto the road leading out of the tunnel, joining up with
the congested inner-city dual carriageway; lined with offices
all owned by Archaenon, obviously in the harsh, brisk morning
air. The man who so bashfully showed me his pity in the form of a pentagonal
slither of metal is making his way toward the oversized glass entrance
of one particular skyscraper.
Another Archaenon sentinel being robbed of his fingerprints,
I utter to myself. They refer to them as sentinels because you cant
really put a job title on what Archaenon make you do. Once youre
a sentinel you dont work for them, you are them. Theres
no going back either, unless they say so. You have no opinion or decisions
and do what youre told to, when youre told it. They own
everything about you and everything you produce, family included. But
they look after you, provide everything you and your dearly beloved
could need, so long as you dont fall into their bad books for
whatever reason, or lack of one. Doesnt sound too appealing though,
does it? Why would anyone choose to hand over the lease to their life
like that? The only reason anyone does is because their only other option
is to become an Archaenon dissident, like me. And trust me; there are
no perks to that job. We are swept aside and kept there for as long
as we can survive.
So that is what we do. Well, as much as I say "we", the numbers
of surviving dissidents dwindle all the time. Even if there were more
than another five dissidents in this city besides me, contacting them
would be almost impossible and pointless. With no rights to possessions,
electronic communication is impossible and with no rights to ownership,
finding a refuge is a luxurious thought you cant afford to harbour.
The only goods were allowed to purchase with whatever money we
can scrape together is food, always cold, packaged tasteless food.
But it isnt all doom and gloom this side of the crooked, bastardised
fence though. Id much rather be hungry, cold and free than a prisoner
in the world of a sentinel. One particular sentinel showed me the other
side of the grass once, and through his eyes it certainly didnt
seem too green. It will have been the best part of five years ago now,
but as long as the situation in this brutal country remains the same,
it will seem as clear as yesterdays mundane events in my memory.
He had just stumbled to where I sat, under my same old plaid blanket,
bearded and gaunt as ever. He had desperation in his eyes; they focussed
on me as he blithely as he weaved senselessly across the roads
traffic. He collapsed in a heap down next to me, remaining voiceless
as he removed his tie and ground it into the sodden pavement with the
heel of his Armani. He turned to me, looking at me through dead eyes,
before proceeding to pour out the whole vile story. That was the first
time a sentinel ever spoke to me. He spoke just like any regular dissident,
I dont know why, but I just pictured him sounding far less human;
it was haunting to hear the emotion in his voice.
"So your family...?"
"Dead, they killed them all."
"Everyone? My merciless God, they truly are heartless bastards."
"I was surplus to requirements. They always tell you
that you pay the penalty when you betray them, but I did nothing, they
turned their back on me. They say poverty is a disease, and they are
the only cure, but theyre vermin, leeching on honest and innocent
people simply trying to feed their family..." And with that he
stood up, placed a five pound note in my hand and bolted away, back
into the oncoming traffic. The only sentinel ever to speak to me, and
until today, the only one to ever give me money.
Hardie November 2008
mick_of_methley at hotmail.co.uk
Michael is studying creative writing at the Univesity of Portsmouth
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