The sweat had started before the officer had even opened his mouth, what if I’d forgotten someone? I ran through the list: mum, dad, Harry- they were all permanent, declared in red at the front of the book. I hadn’t visited any of the shops today, no interactions unlogged from that. I’d logged Eve in before we met, dangerous if we hadn’t, but less dangerous than forgetting. It’s easy to forget.
Grunting the officer handed my book back to me, and thrust his hand out to Eve. He hadn’t looked at her yet, obviously thought looking at Commies was beneath him, but he glanced at her now to check her against the photo, and then glanced back.
This happened a lot to Eve, the look of superiority and disinterestedness became one of leering lust. It was unlikely for it to become of admiration or infatuation. No Min saw her worthy of that, instead they desired conquest and assumed it to be her privilege to be the conquered. It’s funny how some things change, and others only embed their roots deeper. The pretty peasant girl cannot be anything but delighted to be swept off her feet by the lord’s son. He wouldn’t have to log her into a book.
It is a greater crime for us to have undocumented contact than it is for a Minister to murder a rival.
As usual we walked in silence, words may not be officially rationed, but keeping two metres apart was almost as effective.
Last year two trials had been televised back to back; the first a Commie man who had had undocumented contact with a Commie woman, they insinuated that it was an affair, but he didn’t seem the type. Something about her being a doctor and his wife being sick told me that.
Had the distance been unregulated I’m still not sure if Eve would’ve talked, being mentally conquered by someone always left her upset, angry and shaking. I was never sure which caused the shaking.
The second was of the then Minister of Loneliness who had murdered his “shadow”. He was sentenced to 6 months house arrest. The Commie man and woman were sentenced to death. I wonder if the Mins laughed.
The birds sang as we walked beneath the trees. The final evening song, almost an echo of the evensong sung behind closed doors.
Prisons have long been abolished, houses of straw when the tinder box is struck.
Eve kicked a stone into the pool. The ripples spread out, a dance of waves, transforming the mirror into a distortion.
It’s supposed to be for our own safety, the distance, the ration books. It reduces crime, increases accountability and helps the Mins track the spread of diseases.
She stopped to watch the ripples grow. The narrowness of the path forcing me to stop behind her.
I’ve always figured that the Mins socialise as much as we do, but apparently their sprawling mansions help protect the rest of society from them. It would be easy to assume the opposite.
Our shadows lengthened as she stood and watched the pool. The ripples vanished.
Police, once the tool of the wealthy to protect private property from the filthy masses, are now the tool of big businesses to protect the economy from the fallout of another rampant disease. Social distance to be observed at all times.
“Eve we have to go”, I broke the silence of the woods. I wish I didn’t have to, but the panic has started to build. We only have 15 more minutes, and Eve doesn’t have another space in her book.
The newspapers only publish the responses to any protest; there are no mass gatherings of course. They dismiss claims of oppression, and throw their metaphorical hands up in despair. “Can’t they see that this is for their own good? How else can they keep track of their husbands!” Even our anguish is at best .
Silently she turned and carried on along the path, picking her way over the sticks and brambles in the dying light. I followed in her wake.
People forget, or maybe deny, that we were the “key workers”, the field labourers, nurses and cleaners who kept society afloat. They forget that Commie once meant “community worker” and not commoner.
We emerged out of the woods, me as always three steps behind. No relief manifested with our emergence, the woods no longer seem like the place to fear.
Some stories remain unchanging, and others are merely relocated.
The wolf moves out of the wood.