THE FOURTH MILLENNIUM
4 New Year
Frustratingly for both men, there followed two days of virtual inactivity, with regard to their quest. Realisation was mutually acknowledged that, although the ‘holiday’ justified their visit to Sector 4735, it also hindered somewhat, their hidden agenda; their real purpose for undertaking this expedition.
As a result, Starling and Nightingale were subjected to an increased awareness of the sluggishness of the passage of time. During what would, in ‘normal’ circumstances, be a period of relative excitement, in which their restricted freedom of movement would seem more relaxed, they had to endure the tedium of indolence.
Once they’d become accustomed to long periods of idleness, frustration had been replaced by a sense of resignation to the fact that Time, which was clearly not going to be the governing factor in their quest, was after all, on their side.
Starling realised that they were, in effect, attempting to manipulate what was, fundamentally, a process. As such it would have to be allowed to run its course. At the same time, he believed that it was a course that had been contrived to suit the ambitions of people now long dead; therefore it no longer had any relevance. Even if the ‘authorities’ had failed to acknowledge, or fully understand the properties of the evolution of sequential developments, they would, eventually, have to succumb to the consequences of the legacy they had inherited from their predecessors. Unknown to Starling or anyone else, history had dictated, on numerous occasions, that this was an indisputable outcome of any situation; fabricated, conceived or imposed by man, or naturally occurring. Just as day follows night; sunshine follows rain; reason and logic would surely follow the irrational imposition of the detrimental syndrome of pettiness and despotic-minded control of thought, word and deed.
Starling utilised some of this time reflecting on his strategy for achieving the acquiescence of the local ‘authorities’, to his request to travel at this time.
In order to gain initial acceptance of his travel requirement, and engage in the ‘official’ aspects of his jaunt, Starling had covered all the angles.
During his preliminary interview with Sector 401 officials, he had supported his application for the travel permits, with a concise, but carefully worded speech.
He had presented an emotionally charged and dramatically delivered, petition for reason and prudence.
“A new year; I’m urging, yearning for a new start; especially for this millennium year.
It may be complacency, or it may be that people find the official diction of the directives, too complex, or perhaps ambiguous in interpretation, to convey the precise sentiment of the communications.
My heartfelt desire is to witness an end to all the unnecessary misunderstandings, and the avoidable consequences of the confusion this can often create.”
Despite the ostensibly liberated open-mindedness of the occasion of the new millennium, the surveillance of public activity was heightened furtively, exponentially.
The New Year holiday meant a vastly increased presence of the, nowadays, seldom seen, uniformed ‘Service Personnel’; essentially, the Secret Police. This mysterious group of ideologically engineered government devotees would emerge from their shadowy existence, in an extrovert display of solidarity. It served as an intimidating, rather sinister reminder, that despite the relative satisfaction of the general population; any acts, or even thoughts of dissent, towards the ruling administration, could, and would be dealt with, in the form of a massive and brutal, rapid response.
Within the grounds of the sprawling, government complex of Sector 4735, and strictly ‘off limits’ to the ‘Riff Raff’, was housed the anonymous, district headquarters of the Department of Social Correction. This facility, a network of several thousand dwellings, which appeared outwardly identical to the everyday domestic neighbourhoods of the district, was home to this Response Unit. The buildings were, in fact, their barracks. Each structure accommodated twenty men, or one Company, in a cramped living space, containing only beds, and lockers for their uniforms. They possessed no ‘personal effects’.
On the inside, these single-roomed dormitories, with no internal party walls, resembled primitive hospital wards. The clinical atmosphere and anti-septic smell associated with infirmaries, was replaced by the equally intimidating air that characterises the harsh regime of any brutal, criminal correctional facility.
The largely unpopulated, central portion of the no-go zone was, in fact reserved for this very purpose.
Although dissenters had become increasingly subdued, and their message viewed with increasing scepticism, as time had softened attitudes towards the ‘authorities’, the ‘prisons’ were still substantially populated. The ‘authorities’ would deny the existence of these people, or places, if the subject was ever mentioned, but local officials had been heard to refer to their inmates as the ‘unconstitutional element’ In reality, they were largely, ‘token’ prisoners; absconded during the infrequent ‘Service Raids’ which were carried out to serve as an additional, though basically unnecessary, reminder that order would prevail, and no displays of opposition would be tolerated.
The complex, and the knowledge of what it stood for, was an unfortunate feature of many Sectors.
Starling watched impassively as the seemingly endless procession of gaily festooned floats, passed by the front of the house, on their day-long circuit of the Sector. The march was accompanied by the incessant performance of ‘Brave Nation, Brave World’, that was broadcast continuously. It was delivered thunderously, from each passing float, as well as from both the interior and exterior walls of each individual building. It was literally impossible to escape the thud of the refrain of the National Anthem. Even the hourly propaganda bulletins had been suspended, to accommodate these renditions, for the duration of the ‘holiday’, which had commenced at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, and continued for a full twenty four hours when the ‘holiday’ came to an abrupt end.
The one hundred thousand ‘Service Personnel’, sombrely clad in the plain grey tunics and slacks that formed their undecorated ‘uniforms’, goose-stepped, with clenched fist to chest. A single Company acted as ‘escort’ to each of the five thousand floats.
To be continued
Copyright © Stanislaw Skibinski
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