Welcome to another Friday Freewrite. Some days I just need to sit down and write. Some Fridays I share what I’ve written with you.
When the metallic doors slid closed, I turned my attention to the flecked carpet at my feet and closed my eyes.
“In praise of my holy Chancellor, I dedicate this day and all my accomplishments to Him and recognize His constant benevolent presence in my life,” I whispered, the importance of the words weighing heavily on my tongue as I spoke them in my croaky morning voice. I respected those words. I trusted in them.
As I finished my daily Assertion, I looked up from the floor and took a sip of my coffee, obediently seeing to my own needs only after acknowledging the Chancellor.
Tipping the sleek cup back, I smiled at the prospect of soothing my dry throat with a swallow of rich coffee. But the scalding liquid was still too hot. Frantically, I gulped it down to relieve myself of the searing pain but it was too late. Along with the boiling broth I swallowed, the outer layer of the skin that had once lined my throat slithered down my gullet. I grimaced. The pain in my eyes was hidden behind squinted lids.
Pick something else. Focus on something other than the pain. I forced my eyes open and looked around for a distraction.
The landscape of my morning commute hadn’t changed in years and I found myself staring back at the same four walls I had been subject to every morning for the past eight years. In front of me was a wall made entirely of smooth metal, perforated only by the slightest of vertical lines running right down the middle. When the shuttle reached the next floor, the line would widen, forcing the pocket doors aside and creating an entrance for others to board the upward-bound car. But until the doors opened on the thirtieth floor, the floor my office was on, I would remain inside the box, staring back at my distorted reflection in the burnished silver.
Directly centered on the other walls of my box were three technical frames, each depicting the same image: the realistic bust of a man in an olive double-breasted coat. His jet-black hair was oiled into a side part and his teeth glistened like polished fangs. Our Chancellor protected us. Like a lion.
I only glanced at his hungry, high-resolution smile on occasion, however. I supported our leader devoutly, I had to, but whenever I stared at his visage for too long, his vicious smile would somehow wind its way into my nightmares. I shivered as I looked at it, the heat from my coffee mishap already gone.
In the shuttle, my thoughts were accompanied, just like they were every day, by a looped recording of the Chancellor’s latest victory speech. As his words echoed through the small car, the digital bust nodded ever so slightly and smiled into the space, scanning to lend everyone a smile. DigiFrames like these adorned the entire city these days. They were the latest advancement in mass media broadcasting, a technology another department of my company had proudly designed a couple of years back. They had cost three times the price of a regular PhotoFrame to construct, but the city stopped at no expense to show their love for our leader.
Today, the steam from my coffee wavered in front of the Chancellor’s face, streaking his famous mug with a trio of fragmented lines. The collapsible tin I held in my right hand warmed my fingers as it released its vapor into the air. Soon, the shuttle was filled with the scent of gently burnt chestnuts and a plant I once remember my great grandmother calling Mint. Whatever Mint was, it didn’t grow here anymore. Not since the Infestation had stripped our land all those years ago.
Since then, the Department of Synthetic Nourishment had taken over what was left of our city, popping up departments in high-rises scattered throughout the entire district. There the world’s scientists had gathered, working to generate a species of sustainable crops that would help save the human race.
I remember sitting on the musty carpet in my great grandmother’s living room back when SynthNour had first made headlines with their initial round of successful test crops. I used to run my stubby little fingers through the fibers on the floor, inhaling the rich scent of the past as the stiff carpet released a distinct muskiness into the room. I would pretend the carpet fibers were the blades of grass my great grandmother talked about in her stories. Her parlor had been full of relics from a time before the Infestation and SynthNour. Yellowed papers hung from the walls, recalling field notes from adventure travels. Fuzzy-edged photos of Sunday hilltop picnics stood propped up against empty deep green vases. There were pressed flowers, secured safely between pieces of thick glass, their petals dulled but their color still more remarkable than anything I could see from my smoggy apartment window in the Industrial Sector.
I remembered the day the glass broke and I watched the boots of a city guard squadron trample into my favorite place from beneath the shelter of a warm oak coffee table. The men from Protection Services had come and taken my frightened great grandmother away, leaving me alone in her house, surrounded by pictures scattered on the floor and frames shattered into a million pieces. When they were gone and I had no one left to care for me, I had crawled out from beneath the table. Blades of sharp glass cut gashes into my bare feet. I remember fumbling for a pair of shoes and wandering out through the open door.
Since that day, I’d never gone back to that room or revisited the memories it held. I didn’t even know if the relics were still there or if they had been scavenged by stragglers and sold.
In the shuttle, I watched as the digits ticked from 29 to 30 and the doors prepared to open with a distant hum. I took my last moment of privacy before the day began to cough the extra skin free from my throat and swallow it down. Then the doors parted and the Chancellor’s six screen eyes watched me step out of the shuttle and onto SynthNour’s floor.