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The International Writers Magazine: Possession

Standing at the Feet of Giants
Michael Hardie

‘THANK 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 don’t 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 couldn’t 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 blanket.

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 can’t really put a job title on what Archaenon make you do. Once you’re a sentinel you don’t work for them, you are them. There’s no going back either, unless they say so. You have no opinion or decisions and do what you’re told to, when you’re 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 don’t fall into their bad books for whatever reason, or lack of one. Doesn’t 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 can’t afford to harbour. The only goods we’re allowed to purchase with whatever money we can scrape together is food, always cold, packaged tasteless food.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom this side of the crooked, bastardised fence though. I’d 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 didn’t 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 yesterday’s 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 road’s 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 don’t 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 they’re 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.

© Michael Hardie November 2008
mick_of_methley at

Michael is studying creative writing at the Univesity of Portsmouth

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