The first chapter of The Fourth Millennium
For SUNDAY SCRIBBLINGS 131, FORBIDDEN
THE FOURTH MILLENNIUM
1 Uncertain Times
“A hundred years from now, we’ll all be dead.
A hundred years ago, we didn’t exist.
Time is precious; it only lasts while it happens.
Beyond the ‘here and now’, time is gone; forever.
This is not because we only live for ‘the moment’.
Times have changed.
Things have changed.
Everything has changed.
The year is 2999; today is the last day of the year, New Year’s Eve, 31st December.
Tomorrow, it will be not only the start of a new year, not only of a new century, but also of a new millennium; the start of the fourth millennium.
That’s three behind us already.
Doesn’t time fly?
But what of the three thousand years that have passed?
Three thousand years since what?
Have there only been three thousand years since the beginning of time?
Does anyone know?
Does anyone care?
No-one will tell us.”
All mention, all recollection, all recordings of the past, have been outlawed.
People are no longer even permitted to keep diaries.
We have to rely on our memories, in order to look back on events, but even then, it is expressly forbidden to discuss former times with anybody.
History is a thing of the past; literally.
It was outlawed in the ‘Purges’ of the 2800’s; so ‘They’ say. But who are ‘they’? No-one even officially knows.
If anybody ever admitted to knowing ‘them’, or even of ‘them’, there would be no end of trouble.
‘They’ tell us that old men used to relate stories from their youth; pass them on to their children and their grand-children, in order that the youngsters could learn from the mistakes of the old, and build on their successes.
These days, nobody even possesses a photograph.
All recording equipment; all images; still, or moving; all audio files, and even written accounts of events, were abolished; destroyed, and subsequently, outlawed, during the ‘Purges’; so ‘They’ say.
A few examples survived, but these are as rare as the truth about the existence of ‘them’, in these times of uncertainty. Anyone who wants to find out who ‘They’ are faces an uphill struggle.
In addition to this it is necessary to know, or at least be conscious of the existence of, certain people who do not ‘officially’ exist.
The surviving examples, artefacts from our past are, allegedly, the closely guarded, secret property of the enigmatic sect, or cult, commonly referred to as ‘They’.
As such, they re not made freely, openly available to the general public.
It is precisely for this reason that they are particularly challenging to obtain, or even learn of.
In order even to get to talk to somebody who might know of somebody, there are a significant number of qualifying factors.
Having satisfied any and all requirements, your enquiry may lead to the discovery of somebody who may have heard of somebody; who may, just possibly, be able to put you in touch with somebody.
Yet another ‘person unknown’; for the right price, among other requirements, might be responsive to an enquiry, and perhaps even be aware of, a method of transport to convey you to the place, if indeed, such a place even exists, where ‘They’, whoever ‘They’ are, might reside; or not.
It would obviously depend on who you are, where you come from, who you know, and just how good you are at following instructions, as well as clues.
Because, once you get ‘There’, you’re very much on your own.
You have to be very determined, very intuitive, and very patient, as well as prosperous, if you genuinely desire to meet ‘them’; whatever your motives may be, for actually making contact.”
At twenty four years of age, Starling considered himself a suitably motivated, determined, intuitive and patient person. All his life he’d harboured, in his imagination, ideas of how things might have been; once upon a time, and privately questioned the order of things; the impositions that had clearly led to the apathetic attitudes of most of his acquaintances.
He even questioned the validity of his own name.
Why did all of his family members possess the same title? How come everyone else in his district was also named after a species of bird?
He had heard, from somebody who had privately claimed to have known someone, ‘a friend of a friend’, who had been in contact with ‘them’, that ‘traditional’ names had also been abolished during the ‘Purges’. Now everyone, from the same family, or bloodline, was known by their ‘new family name’, and they were identified according to their area of origin, by generic designation. In each area, or district, everyone was named in line with a similar reference point.
Only the number, which appeared on their official identification documents; the only documents they were permitted to possess, distinguished them from the other members of the same family.
Starling’s full title was, Starling 40157; 401, after his name, being his area, or Sector code; 57, the number of births in his family, since the inception of the ruling.
Starling 40157 had always believed there was at least, some truth in his friend’s claim. He found it difficult to imagine that his parents, or anyone else, for that matter, lacked the originality to tackle the simple and undemanding chore, of presenting their child, with a unique identity.
How inappropriate, that word ‘chore’. He had often reprimanded himself for referring to this; in his own mind, essential parental function, as a chore, and endeavoured to be more considerate, more appropriate, in his future choice of expression. It was, he felt, a labour of love, and every parent’s fundamental duty, to recognise each of their own offspring as an individual. Furthermore, Starling felt; it was every child’s right, to be granted this small, yet significant, gift of respect.
“Just like it used to be,” Nightingale 40141 would comment, whenever they were able to converse confidentially.
Nightingale, who was the individual who had claimed knowledge of contact with ‘them’, was also Starling’s most trusted companion; indeed his only trusted companion. The fact that Nightingale was two years Starling’s senior, in terms of age at least did not affect the esteem in which they held one another. However, Nightingale was not the quickest witted person Starling had ever known, which meant that, in reality, it was the more rational Starling who assumed the position of superiority in their joint activities.
Starling and Nightingale were able to speak freely with one another, whenever circumstance, or opportunity permitted, which was not very often. Nevertheless, they had formulated their own theories regarding the issues that they felt were unjust and unreasonable. More than that; they had pledged to untangle at least some of the mysteries that haunted their energetic imaginations.
As soon as they were able, they would commence their quest for ‘them’, and attempt to discover some of the solutions to the conundrum; some of the answers they craved. It was their sincere hope, that in this way, they would be able to enlighten, not only themselves, but the entire population.
It was a dream, a vision they had shared for a number of years. They believed that the knowledge they sought was available; somewhere. All the stories they had heard about ‘them’ couldn’t be entirely fictitious; they had to be at least based on fact. After all, there’s no smoke without fire. Even if the smoke is so dense, the flames are undetectable; it doesn’t mean they are non-existent.
They were in no hurry to begin their quest. They knew that certain restrictions, applying to their freedom of movement, for one thing, would prevent them from taking any action until they were fully prepared for the task. They were also well aware that the consequences of such an exploit, were not only extremely severe, but that the action itself, involved an expedition that was, potentially fraught with hazardous incidents. Besides, the one thing they were in severe shortage of was hard cash; something they would require in copious amounts, in order to even contemplate a serious challenge to the numerous difficulties which so clearly lay ahead.
A further requirement would be the familiarity with, and acquaintance of, a third party; somebody who was completely reliable; somebody in whom they could place their unconditional faith. This person, if he or she existed, would have to reciprocate their trust in an entirely discreet manner, and would be somebody who was not inclined to ask too many questions. This particular individual would also need to know, without doubt, where to begin making contact with the characters who would lead them towards their ultimate goal.
The quest had been in the research and development stage, for a number of years, but little by little, the preparations that had been painstakingly made, were beginning to bear fruit. By this time, they represented an almost feasible plan of action.
Once Nightingale had actually put some serious thought into the matter, he realised that both questions; that of money, and that of a discreet and reliable go-between, were by no means insurmountable obstacles.
He realised that his father, who was much younger than Starling’s father; just forty eight, and therefore, still in employment, as, ironically, a teacher, had managed to save, two tokens for every single day he had worked. Having worked for the past twenty five years, he now had a stash, in excess of fifteen thousand tokens. He kept this money, in a Carbolite container, under his bed.
All Nightingale needed was his father’s key, but with or without it, he decided, he could take the money, container and all, and work out a method of unlocking it at a later date, if need be.
As for a trustworthy contact with, or at least lead to, ‘them’, he need look no further than his uncle, on his mother’s side, Mallard; the person who had himself, allegedly, been in contact with, ‘them’.
He put his ideas to Starling, who wondered why these connections to their quest, had not been established much earlier. Of course both suggestions were valid contributions to their cause; their quest, and as such, should be put into action forthwith.
Copyright © Stanislaw Skibinski
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