I write from the bowels of hell. Splinters of the fading sun fall through from a grate resting by the pavement. Sometimes the wall scrapings catch a taste of the world outside. It’s havoc on your fingernails, though. Occasionally I catch the scent of the flowers; the pedestrian feet ignore us. They’ve buried us down here. We are the shunned, selected as example to the rest.
There are 30 of us to the cell. The feeding trough is beginning to overflow. If nothing else, we know they have no shortage of water here to spray us with. A cleaning is inevitable. They need to ensure sanitation. Jimmy overheard one of the guards – we can’t be recycled for the next parade if we rot.
We gathered like pigeons, in the park. Limbs flittering, eye-mouths jabbering like moths in the lustre of the tree-shattered sunlight. The camerapeople skittered like spiders, clutching their eyes, loins hungry for the spectacle.
‘Please move back. A parade will be coming through. These orders are to guarantee your safety.’
The official gestured with open palm for the enthusiastic to stay behind the barricade.
There were amplified voices, warnings from the speaker:
‘Today presents the beginning of public order, and the end of public safety. To mark this occasion…a parade.’
As the machines arrived, there came the strained screaming of bagpipes. We were children in the meadow, gaping mouths and skirt-tugging roustabouts for an execution. As the authorities began barking their orders, the police cars rolled in from behind. The trap was complete. Lured by the promise of entertainment, comfortable in our submission to power, celebrating the dissolution of our freedom as the guns began to fire. We became the art.
They chose a few at first. With small fisted weapons, a casual demonstration. They were no more than officious men with water pistols. We laughed.
But as the crowd swelled in the square, soon we were outnumbered. We laughed again as they leapt on a poor fellow, tearing the paper heart from his chest. ‘He’s a lucky one’, spake the barrister’s wife. ‘Caught in the camera eye, he’ll make the papers.’
The cannon was unveiled and water thrust into the air. The remnants of public safety dissolved. Too late, we acknowledged the sacrifice we had made. The trade-off, as the same tools we commissioned to ensure our safety had been employed, refashioned, for public order. But where did the line ever lie? As ever, we were happy to sacrifice, to let go of the ignominious struggle of servitude in catering to our personal desires. Only the criminal need be afraid in the name of public security. Alienation leads to political pessimism, they say. You’ll become a lonely sap, a hiding homebody, paranoid and awkward.
They handed us questionnaires.
The state is currently undertaking a survey into the psychic life of its citizens, in order to determine how much repression will be needed in the coming months and years. We already have your details on file..
‘We don’t need government’, they reminded us. ”We are government.’
We cheered as the cannon was deployed, oblivious to our participation in the dissolution of our individuation. No less than promised. The cannon shot about the clearing, searing the spectators. We laughed as several of us were caught in the spray.
‘MOVE!’ they screamed.
They rolled over the baker’s son. Flattened him into the grass. By that stage he was no more than a pixel in their presentation.
When the field was littered with the dead, they left. But the bastards had laid mines in the grass. As the field cleared, the children emerged, twitching like coked up rabbits, bounding into the fray like deer, no.. as crows. For they danced among the corpses, performing cartwheels of carnivorous exaltation as the warning cannons left behind showered anyone who came too close to the killing field. But see, even the children volunteered.
The crowd began to disperse, many no more enlightened than when they had arrived. Somewhat wet, somewhat damaged, still oblivious. We were taken by public spectacle, enraptured and grateful as public safety was transmuted into public order. The primacy of ‘private’ was lost. We studied the surveys which queried us on our habits and preferences. ‘If you could be insignificant, in what manner would you prefer to be humiliated?’
‘On a scale of 1 to 30, how much life dissatisfaction powers your drive to self-medicate with state-sanctioned substance abuse?’
It was our answers that delivered us. But once we’re paper we’ll be perfect.
For crucial information on the dangers posed by the unrestrained individual please approach Officers Amy Spiers and Catherine Ryan.
The Minister for Public Order insists your safety is their prime concern, this seditious nonsense was entirely unauthorised and shall be invalidated at the meeting of Cabinet. We thank you for your participation in democracy.