by David Hamilton
It’s simply fact: they’re compulsively dramatic. We heard sirens when they were still minutes away. Bathroom window, drainpipe, Sarie gone. I was pyjama-clad in bed by the time they smashed in.
‘Timothy Preston, under the Ethical Citizenship Act you are required to voluntarily accept State Custody.’
I volunteered, and went with them secretly frantic to know how Sarie had fared.
‘Anyone pulled in,’ I had been told, ‘is taken to the Counselling Lounge. After that, it’s back to your cell. If you’re just a random-selected victim of showboating, you stew there a week before you’re released. You know you’re there for serious probing if you’re recalled for a second Counselling Lounge session.’
‘Have the sofa, Tim, you’re entitled to feel comfortable in your local Counselling Lounge. Your accommodation okay?’
‘A bit chilly. And the meals seem small.’
‘Cold air helps us avoid contamination via the air conditioning unit. You weighed in two kilos over yu-har.’
‘EWHA. Ethical weight for height and age.’
‘Let’s start with your Induction Portfolio. Hmm! Pensioner’s Winter Fuel Allowance sacrificed to contribute to Street Lighting. Voluntary duty with local Refuse and Trash Squad. Credit balance with Voluntary Income Levy enrolment. This is an excellent prole, Tim. Remarkably commendable citizenship! Anything you want to tell us?’
‘Senior Counsellor. Are you sure there’s nothing?’
‘Yes, Senior Counsellor.’
‘There must be some reason for your voluntary presence in a Citizen Redemption Centre. Here’s an idea! Go back to your cosy guest suite and think deeply.’
Quick exchanges through hissing shower water is the only communication among ourselves we Voluntary Guests get.
‘Anyone new in heard anything from Europe?’
‘Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany have been consolidated into the Mid-Europe Ethical Federation. Spain and Portugal are now the Iberian Ethical Reformation. France is in limbo.’
‘Balkans, Baltics, Scandinavia, Low Countries – still holding out.’
My second day, at midnight, I was recalled to Counselling Lounge. A second session, just as I’d been warned about. I went, fearing the summons meant they knew I’d sheltered Sarie.
The visit was brief, then I was shivering in a dim street with steel gates clanging shut behind me.
Murky figures hustle me to deeper shadows. A gently-draped blanket quells my tremors. I gratefully sip brandy. Hearing crackles of static I joke, ‘Portable radio? Beware, I’m a perfect citizen obliged to report banned activities.’
‘Quiet, you marvellous old reprobate, I’m tuning in…’
The radio squawk-whispers, ‘…Voice Of Freedom. The organization Armed Nomads Giving England Loyal Support has announced its reconnaissance flier, South African Lieutenant-Commander Sarie Bezuidenhout, downed over England, has evaded capture by so-called New English Ethical State and, aided by English underground, has reached her base in Norway. United States Congress has unanimously approved free issue of military supply to ANGELS, which is staffed by volunteers from English-speaking nations…’
‘What happened in there, Tim?’
‘Second call to Counselling Lounge was a false alarm. They only raided me because their computer suggested I’m too good to be true. They couldn’t fault me, though. Just said they’d watch me carefully in future.’
David Hamilton’s firm belief is, a story must entertain both writer and reader. Apologies for when I please only myself.
Another of David’s stories, Wagner in the Marsh, appears in Didcot Writers’ anthology of pieces on the theme of music, Compositions, available to buy here. [if this link isn’t live, check out our Publications page from the menu]
Our Reader said:
A whole new world and its passionate causes condensed into a few words.