LEADERS - not followers

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fourth Millennium (3)


2 Permission Granted (cont.)

“I have become increasingly anxious to get my quest under way, as this year, 2999, especially, has progressed.
Nightingale, my ‘accomplice’ has also displayed similar anxiety.

The time is now!
So it is written; so shall it be done.

This entry, possibly my final one, shall describe my environment, in anticipation of the events, the adventures, I am about to embark upon with my most trusted companion, Nightingale.
Events and adventures that may change, forever, our philosophies; all in fact, that we have come to regard as ‘normal’; from our surroundings, to our lifestyles, to our very perceptions.
Nightingale and I are ready, after years of careful preparation and consideration, to face the challenge, and its consequences, whatever they may be.

Here is written, my contribution to history, for the understanding of future generations; dated 30.12. 2999.

7.00 am. I awake, to the tones of the National Anthem; ‘Brave Nation, Brave World’; broadcast over the domestic sound system, a micro device, with audio outlets implanted into the walls of each room.
Instructions, advice and warnings, are delivered in hourly bulletins, from the ‘Voice of the Nation’ studios, inside the local government headquarters.
These continue throughout the day, until 7.00 pm, when the National Anthem is played once more, to indicate the close of transmission.
I visit the cleanroom and take an electro statically charged body sweep.
Standing naked, beneath the orange beam that emanates from the wall fixture; the appliance removes all dirt, as well as unwanted facial hair, in a matter of seconds.

7.15 am. I join my family; my parents, for breakfast; a bowl of Fibrotins; a cereal containing the optimum daily intake of dietary fibre and vitamins; and a glass of Procarb; a meal in liquid form that contains all the dietary requirements, to set me up for the day.

7.30 am. A short walk to Attire, and my job, as a quality control inspector, at the garment factory.
A superfluous position; all items are of identical standard, and there is never more than a 0% rejection rate.

11.30 am. Break for lunch, and social interaction.
Lunch is two portions of Sustocrisp biscuits, containing minerals as well as other dietary supplements.
As a rule, I participate in the Suggestions Forum, in which new ideas, for improvements to working conditions, are invited to be voiced.
However, agreement, as always, is reached, without exception; that satisfactory conditions prevail, and the ‘Any New Business’ function is as superfluous as my own position.

12.30 am. I attend the local Education Complex, to deliver my presentation to the students; a recruitment drive, offering secure employment and a steady income at Attire.
This presentation is always eagerly anticipated by the students, even though their studies include handicrafts, as well as the 3 L’s: Listening, Looking, and Language.

1.30 pm. The afternoon shift, back at work, ending at 3.30, with collection of wages, paid daily.
Payment is made in the form of cash; 5 tokens per day.
10 tokens paid on Saturday; the end of the working week.
A total of 35 tokens per week is adequate for our day-to-day requirements of food and clothing.

4.00 pm. I return home, to a home-cooked meal of locally reared and grown, high protein, low fat, cholesterol-free chicken, and HiVit vegetables.
Preparation takes seconds, under the portable electrostatic cleansing device, similar to that used in the cleanroom.
Cooking, again, is completed in a matter of seconds, utilising the microwave appliance.

4.15 pm. Home maintenance tasks are undertaken.
The settings on the climate control apparatus are modified, using the optimiser on the hand-held controller.
Energy for this, and all appliances, is supplied by the micro solar cells, implanted into the Carbolite roof.
This year, we find that the volatile nature of the weather, and the exceptional severity of winter, have combined, to render this function a requirement, at more frequent intervals, than in previous years.
My mother attends to the laundry; a similar exercise to taking a sweep, or preparing raw food.
This function occupies a little over two minutes of her time.

5.00 pm. Leisure Time; consists of conversation with my parents, and discussions regarding the day’s activities; basically repeating the previous day’s conversation, with the addition of only minor, seasonal references to weather related observations.
Also reminders of the daily, Voice of the Nation broadcasts, in case any new instructions, or warnings, were missed.

7.00 pm. The family stands for ‘Brave Nation, Brave World’, before my parents retire, for the evening.
At this point, I usually visit my friend, Nightingale, unless he decides to come over and visit me.
Our conversations revolve around preparations for our quest, and take place out of earshot of my parents, who are either sleeping, or remain awake, behind the closed door of their soundproof bedroom.

9.30 pm. Later, on rare occasions; our conversation draws to a close, and we express our mutual ‘good-night’s’.

So ends my description of a typical day in my life. The theme of repetition is constant, as there are very rarely any distractions to disrupt events; other than the increasingly minor, amendments to the Voice of the Nation transmissions.
It is a tried and trusted formula they use, which ensures that the indisputable paranoia of the ‘authorities’, are not transmitted, like some virulent ailment, to the collective consciousness of the general population.
They may appear to be sitting pretty right now, but they may just have an uncontrollable fire to contend with, once Nightingale and I have returned from our quest.
Let’s hope this will be a fire that cannot be extinguished, and that it eventually engulfs the ‘authorities’ in a blaze of eternal flames; while leaving the remainder of us, to experience, for the first time in our lives, that unknown pleasure, and as far as we do know, unpredictable, but enjoyably so, factor; choice.”

Starling reflected on the incident that had allowed him to include in his entry, mention of his plan to commence their quest.

During one of their evening discussion sessions, Nightingale had announced that he’d been in contact with his uncle, Mallard.
“I have some good news, and some bad news, Starling, regarding our quest.”
“Well, tell me both, Nightingale. So far, it’s nothing more than a plan; an ambition. Any news is welcome.”
“OK, but remember; I’m just acting as the messenger-boy…
Now…you remember I told you about my uncle…Mallard?”
“Oh yes, I remember.” Starling became excited.
“Well…it turns out he’s…not the…actual, er…contact…with ‘them’…after all.” Nightingale paused, waiting for Starling’s response.
“But he knows someone who is…doesn’t he?” Starling queried, reasonably.
“Oh, yes!” Nightingale sounded relieved at Starlings reaction. “But…in order to meet with the real contact…and he’s only a stepping-stone, in the process of actually making contact…we have to travel…to another Sector…” Nightingale’s hesitant delivery, served as a plea for help, from his friend, Starling.
“Obviously travel permission will be difficult to obtain,” Starling began, “but let’s remain positive, and assume for the moment, that it’s possible…Continue please, Nightingale.”
“Mallard said that if we can find a way of getting to Sector 4735, then he can arrange for his brother-in-law; a guy named Birch, to meet us, and point us in the right direction.”
Starling thought for several minutes, before verbally assessing Nightingale’s news.
“We’ve known all along that we will have to use all our powers of analytical thought, imagination and invention, to stand any chance of achieving our aim. Why should the first part be any different; any easier, than the rest? It’s just the first of many challenges and…by all accounts…if those accounts are to be believed; they will become increasingly difficult. There is no point in kidding ourselves that it’s going to be a formality, so let’s approach the practical in the same way we’ve always approached the theory…with determination to succeed.”
“I honestly thought you’d be disappointed. I was actually quite nervous about telling you,” Nightingale admitted.
“Quite the contrary, Nightingale, we’re one step; albeit a very small step, closer to actually putting our plan into action. I’m excited…nervous too…but can’t you see? The door has been opened; all we have to do is walk through it; and beyond it, we now know for sure…there are others! Where they lead to…only time will tell.
You’ve supplied the motive, Nightingale…and we already know we only have one method available to us…Let’s see if I can provide the opportunity”

Starling was nothing if not resourceful, and left no stone unturned in his meticulous preparations for the commencement of his mission. He devised a foolproof plan, to ensure official recognition, and therefore, acceptance of, even assistance in his expedition.
He applied for, and received the necessary authorisation to leave his district, under the pretence of conducting essential, official business, in his newly adopted and self-appointed role as Community Spokesperson. He was to meet with a fellow representative, from Sector 4735, in order that they could implement certain communication techniques.
He had further strengthened his application by stating that these techniques would ensure that everyone received the same message from official briefs. In this way reducing the number of occasions on which travel to discuss such preventable matters, would be required.
The permission was, in fact, a mere formality. So few people ever actually required, or even qualified for a travel pass, that in truth, the local authorities had no procedure for declining an application. As they were mere minnows in the ocean of bureaucracy, they were expected to conduct their own affairs, proactively, without ever seeking the aid or advice of higher authorities.
As a fortuitous condition, which was attached to the ‘permission to travel’ authorisation, it was also a stipulation that any traveller should be accompanied ‘by a person of sound mind, and high moral standing’. Initially, Starling thought that this clause may rule out the inclusion of Nightingale as his travelling companion. However, for similar reasons that led to his own undisputed permission, Starling encountered no obstruction to his nomination of Nightingale as the man for the job.
A further, highly fortuitous consequence of his application was the inclusion of an extremely generous cash allowance, to cover ‘essential’ expenses, while on official government business.
As was the case with everything else, the government officials were so far removed; so far out of touch with the ‘real world’, that they had no idea, no concern that this amount was far in excess of what any single person, working in any profession, could ever expect to receive, even as an annual salary. Not that it would have made any difference, even if they did know. Government Officials, which was what Starling was, as far as they, or anyone else were concerned, were entitled to much more than the ‘Riff Raff’ could expect to receive. ‘Riff Raff’ was a term that was applied to anyone who didn’t work directly for the government, whether they were a farm labourer or a brain surgeon.
The fact that Starling was himself, a mere employee, in a clothing factory was never taken into account, despite the fact that he only fulfilled his official, government duties, on an unpaid, strictly voluntary basis. This was unbeknown to the local authorities; they had neither the intelligence, nor the inclination, to question the authority of anyone so clearly qualified. In reality, they wouldn’t even be aware of any procedure to deal with anyone who falsely claimed to be something he was not.
In their eyes, both Starling and Nightingale were their equals; perhaps even their superiors; untouchable by the harsh rules that applied to the, essentially honest ‘Riff Raff’.
Official permission to travel was granted the same day Starling made his ‘diary’ entry.
A local government official, sporting a lapel badge, depicting a tree that he explained was a poor likeness of a Chestnut; clearly his name, and clearly a name from a different Sector, handed over the permission disc; a five-sided coin that acted as both ticket and confirmation of permission to travel. He had also given Starling a bulky envelope, containing the cash; the princely sum of two thousand tokens. Starling slipped the hefty envelope into the inside, self-healing lining of his attaché case.
“The buses are parked in the compound, just behind this office. All you need to do is tell the attendant what time you wish to leave, and he’ll make one available for you. I’m sure you’ve got bags to collect, and of course, your travelling companion has to be picked up. Let the attendant know all your details, and he’ll arrange it all…Are you leaving today, or tomorrow?” The official smiled, revealing a set of perfect teeth, as white as the snow which continued to fall outside.
“Can we expect any delays, due to the inclement weather?” Starling wanted to know.
“Don’t worry; all paths are thoroughly cleared, in every direction; traffic or no traffic. The journey time, from here, to Sector 4735, is exactly three hours and thirty six seconds, if you go direct; guaranteed.”
“In that case, I’ll let the attendant know of my intention to travel tomorrow, December 31st”
“Very well, sir, that will be fine. Have yourself a happy New Year, and give my regards to my old friend, Maple, the gentleman you’ll be meeting with, after the holiday. Hope it all comes to a satisfactory conclusion.”
“So do I, and thanks very much; I will. Happy New Year to you and yours, too.”

Copyright © Stanislaw Skibinski

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Click Fourth Millennium (4) to read on