He awakes feeling rested, something that is a quite new sensation, in as long as he can remember. He knows it is still early but can tell through his closed eyelids that a gentle dawn is breaking. He doesn’t wish to open his eyes; ahead there is much to enjoy, to savour, to linger over.
As much as he wants to enjoy these new sensations, he finds he cannot stop his mind from taking him back. Back to the day entered The Building.
He had been early for his appointment that Spring morning not wishing to incur any censure that might add to his plight.
Sensing his unique metabolic patterns and DNA, the great doors swing open as he approaches The Building. Once inside the vast marbled hall he can see further doors opening, their frame pulsing with a red light. He walks quickly across and through the doors, entering a long corridor along which the same red light pulses, but now along the floor in a flow of successive arrows. After following the arrows the full length of the corridor, large doors again open and the arrows continue, leading him down a series of steps into a vast, empty auditorium. At the end of the arrows is a red circle facing the raised row of places that must be for the judges.
When he stands in the circle, a blue light from the high ceiling illuminates a central throne-like seat he finds himself facing. He waits but no-one comes.
The lights in the auditorium slowly dim, leaving the red circle upon which he stands now a steady red glow. As he looks up, the throne is more intensely illuminated still. The effect is that of being suspended in a vast empty universe of absolute darkness.
“Number 897428P”, a deep computer-generated voice booms out, “you have been found guilty of thought and speech contrary to the beliefs of the Great Book of Truths.”
His shoulders slump, his knees buckle.
“It is the correct and incontestable decision of the Elders of the Great Awakening, that you are removed from this benign and bountiful country, stripped of your citizen’s rights and benefits. Your ‘social credits’ have been erased and you will be banished to ‘other places’ for re-education.”
He raises his head, his face now as pale as a corpse and peers into the darkened universe, as if pleading to a higher being. A sudden whirring noise beneath his feet brings his head down.
“Do not move!” The voice booms out once more.
He disappears as the red circle sinks into the depths beneath the floor and to the fate awaiting him.
He remembers nothing more of that day, nor of the days that follow and he deduces that he has been drugged in some way for the processing and journey.
He turns over in his bed, his thoughts drifting to the countryside, the mountains looming up all around. Summer flowers flourish everywhere, the smell enchanting. He looks towards the path that meanders across the fields and decides that, today, he will not go into the mountains but follow the path down towards the lake that lays below. As he walks along he gazes at the cows and sheep in the fields, waving back at the happy country folk he meets along the way.
As the lake comes into view he sees the sunlight sparkling on the water, a slight breeze rippling the surface. His face lifts to feel the warmth and he decides he will swim from the little beach he has now reached.
He takes off his clothes, makes a neat little pile and walks slowly into the water. If one of the country folk come along they would see a man delighting in the simple pleasures of nature. Would be able to imagine the sensations of the warm water silkily kissing his skin.
He smiles, he has escaped. He is in a bucolic paradise. He has everything he now wants and needs. He lives in a little cottage with a sylphlike farmer’s daughter. He knows that after his swim, she will have his simple lunch of dark bread and rich cheese waiting for him. And after they have eaten, she will clear away the dishes and holding out her hand she will lead him into their large bed that awaits them in the back of the cottage. There he will take her into his arms and caress her silken skin and together…
A klaxon blares.
Around him a cacophony of noise erupts as the inhabitants of the squalid hut rush to make the deadline for roll call.
Yes, he had escaped. For a few precious moments. He can escape whenever he wants, whenever time and his mind permits. But until that moment when death finally grants him true release, he knows he must physically submit to the strictures of life as a banished one; one who must spend the rest of his days in re-education and harsh work.