Well the competition is over and winners emailed for details. Here’s the song that inspired this book, many years ago. Way back then I was disappointed to keep hearing the overture but not the rest of the story. In the end I decided I’d just have to write it myself.
This part of the story is proving difficult. Most of it takes place in 10538’s dreams as he recovers long-blanked memories. It spans several chapters but it has to happen gradually because if all those memories come back in one go… well, you’ll see.
This is a short one so it won’t take long. I’ll have to consider adding the short story ‘Santa is Coming’ somewhere in the book, perhaps as another chapter, in case nobody can figure out what’s happening here.
Panoptica: Chapter 11
It was dark and it was light. He was caged and free. Warm and cold, soft and hard. It all seemed the same.
A twisted, burned tree held five stumps of a badger in smoke. A train clickety-clacked through a bus that had to run to work. Street police tasered a ghosthunter who was clamped to a table. Screens of barcodes without people, white void of people without barcodes.
10538 drifted in a world of chaos. His mind, lost, took every thought and linked them at random because nothing else worked. There were walls he could not cross, nor see over. His thoughts bounced off them, his dreams tried to make sense of what they had.
Something picked at him. Crows or maybe rats. Winged rats or toothed crows. They tore his skin looking for silicon treats. Demons ripped open his chest and played with his heart.
In Pensionville he was happy with no reason to be. Manicured lawns and washing an immobile car every week. He cut the lawn with scissors to make the delight last longer. His neighbours smiled all the time, displaying teeth of impossible perfection and size.
Dark clouds gathered overhead. The red eyes and jingling bells came to his sight and ears. Send not to ask for whom the bells jingle… but they were not coming for him.
His real eyes opened to see a fat man bent over him in a cage. The fat man’s eyes went wide and he stepped back. 10538 sat up and smiled. “Santa is coming,” he said. Then he lay down and returned to his dream world.
His smiling Pensionville neighbours gathered around him and he marvelled at their dentistry. It looked like flames. Their mouths were on fire. Their mouths, shining teeth of fire, opened wider.
There was a ghost, a terrorist, a runner. A tree that never went away even though it was burned. A train with windows only on the inside. A bus he ran for and almost died for. A grey room. A light room. A window. No window. Retirement. Fire. Those in Pensionville never get to see the news.
The walls in his mind collapsed.
10538 opened his eyes and screamed.
The fat man from his dreams pinned him down on a soft bed. Something burned in his forehead. Wires stroked his face. 10538 writhed against the fat man and the pain.
“Sedate the bugger.” Fat man shouted to someone out of sight. “This is worse than I expected.”
10538’s mind screamed of betrayal and friendship and of TV and truth. Outside and inside. Windows that were not windows. Runners and ghosts. The bus. The train. Guilty even when proven innocent. Comfort and pain. Silence and noise. The horror of the creche he grew in. The deadly life of the Ferals. It flooded in, unhindered. All the horrors of reality, all the memories blanked out by Comfortable Compliant Conformity for all 10538’s life. All of it, in an instant.
“Shut her down. She can’t take it.”
Something hard and plastic covered his mouth and nose. The words from the pinched mouth of the fat man followed 10538 into the darkness.