Shuffle, up, shuffle.
“Three teal, seven harlequin, ten spotted mauve… one spiderling.”
“Gimme your ration card!”
“I… I… I… I… here…”
Mumble mutterings, “three teal, seven… spotted mauve. There ain’t no spiderlings on this here card!” Eyes ablaze and as meat.
“Please, for my… back, the pain.”
Slam down hard.
“Everyone gets their fair share. Nothing more. Always less. Nothing more. Next!”
Twenty coloured pills danced down his fingertips and I quickly picked them up as they bounced once, twice. Never let them more that thrice. Or pop! All over the counter. And no more. Always less.
The ration dispenser flicked my card at me. It twanged laminatedly against my forehead and landed on my gloved palm. I tucked it back into my pocket; card and pills packed safely. No one dares traverse the insides of another’s pants these days.
They say everything’s contagious.
It is the year of our Lord, 2100, June twelfth, eight fifteen post meridian and I am cold. Our lady is but a bloated memory floating blue across our minds. Occasionally bubbling speech as the fish pick at the fraying edges of her silks.
Our Lord said it was a slow and painful way to go. Held under in those cold waters. Her carcass a barge on the river, pulsing through the city’s ventricles as if she were still alive. A constant reminder to swallow, wake up, work, sleep, swallow, wake up, work, sleep.
Even the higher classes were not immune.
Pretty soon we will have another Lady. And no one will remember the last. And no one will dare utter her name if remember they do. And Our Lord will have to teach us our sins. Again.
It is the year of Our Lord 2100. It is June twelfth, nine fifty one post meridian. I have never been to the edge, where one day meets the next, where past meets future. Where the spiderlings take you.
I have just swallowed my last harlequin. Tomorrow will be another waiting in line for…
Shuffle, up, shuffle.
“Three teal…” I replayed what I said every Friday in this hall, in this factory, in this hole of a dispensary. The frail and insane lined the walk, begging for pills. Armless, legless, syphilitic sores across every inch of uncovered skin.
One must walk straight lined, following each halogen flickering to the doorway. Never flinch, never look into their eyes, never for one second think a thought of pity or it’s down the lane-another meal for the cold and rotting. Next week a different face standing in the line for your three teal, seven harlequin…
The state forsakes those who wrong the state. They must be taught to live with their sins. The guards across the way do not care much. Never look them in the eyes either. They do deals-easy to sway when a share of a ration came into the deal and a bit of some hand action down below. Never trust the guards; they come equipped with their own state issued rubber gloves.
You enter through the dregs and you exit out the front in sunshine. This was propaganda. The state provides for those that keep their faith in the state. This was mind control.
It is the year of our Lord 2100, June nineteenth, eight forty-five post meridian, I still have yet to see the edge. They say it is like all of the beauties in one shining light. All the pills, all the hot food and drink and all the clean bodies to lie with. And all these bodies are fresh-with not a disease. And they never complain. And they let you do anything.
Someone once said to me it is heaven. I know not what this word means. It must be a forbidden word. Tonight an old man was dragged outside the drinking mess and clubbed in a side street. For saying it. Drunkenly. Much too loudly.
After the screams had died and the foot falls echoed no more, I climbed up the stairs. Saw the red river rushing from him. His eyes could no longer see me and he breathed out a last ‘heaven’ as I found his ration card, foolishly left in his front pocket. And ran for my room.
11D. Northbound. Chaste Province.
I lovingly finger the edges of his ration card, safely next to my own. Try not to disturb the sores. They’ve stopped bleeding, for now.
It would have to be in the next province. And a disguise. His ration card reads ‘Three teal, seven harlequin, ten spotted mauve, one spiderling’.
I would get to see heaven.