The air as calm and there was an eerie silence as I crossed the field, all I could hear was the snow and the grass below it crunching under my boots. I carried firewood on my back that caused me to bend forward slightly. I wasn't quite old enough to have that constant stooping that you could see in the elderly that had worked hard their whole lives.
The elderly are precious few now. We venerate them, even if they are senile and don't know. They are the only ones we exempt from the work that has to be done. Even the children are sent to glean the fields of the crops missed by the machines and farmers. Except the lucky children who are smart or beautiful and are sent to the cities.
We sit quietly in dark rooms each evening, listening to the radio for the sound of Dear Leader's voice as he tells us how we have failed him this day. We know we are not worthy, that we are not one of the “great people” of society. We feel shame that we are “losers” and kept outside of the cities.
We light the candle above the radio, it illuminates the likeness of Dear Leader that is on our wall with his loose orange skin. Similar images are on every wall across the whole nation. An abode without such an image is sacrilegious and must be condemned. We strive to for his approval as all must do.
Even though life is a daily struggle for everyone not worthy to enter the fabulous cities, we value time with our loved ones. We might not be great people, but we are not disloyal to kin. Sometimes families break up due to fighting and petty squabbles, most of us find this sad, but we understand that reality is hard for everyone.
Twice a year we are forced to pay tax to the state. It is a very expensive thing to operate such a vast and wonderful government. Dear Leader tells us that he brought forth bigger, better, gold-plated government. He says the government takes and grabs everything it can, but that the people must also pay their part.
Once upon a time we were a prosperous society. You can see this in the ruins and the rusting hulks of vehicles. Millions of them. Ordinary people could afford cars, homes with electricity and more kinds of food that we have ever seen. We aren't supposed to remember, we aren't supposed to see the hulks of homes that were far larger than ours but only one family lived in.
We aren't supposed to look at the old publications that get dug up from time to time. One of the ones I saw had advertising for a food store, so many foods. I do not understand how such a thing is possible, and even though I shouldn't talk about it, I envy it.
We must not speak of these things openly. The punishments are unspeakable. Dear Leader always warns that those who cross him are “going to have a problem.”
We are to look up to those who are wealthier than us, for wealth is good. There is a man in our village that owns a working electric toaster oven. There is almost never any electricity to use the device, but the device is more valuable than anything else villagers own.
Of course we all know the truth, though it must be denied. Once the poorest were wealthier than us, they owned countless devices we would never understand. I just do not understand how we have come to live like this.
We are told about the history and how Dear Leader saved us from foreign exploitation by carrying out trade wars and real wars. The war in the middle east, he explains, was a war for resources. It was necessary. A million of our people died trying to “make them pay”. Others say Dear Leader had sent armies to steal resources from other countries.
We must disbelieve these kinds of things. These are dangerous thoughts. There is no profit in trying to find out what the truth of this is. We must not question Dear Leader. After all, Dear Leader takes the smart and beautiful children to the cities where they live so well. Their parents will cry when they are taken away, but this is normal. They are taken to a better life.
My wife already had the cook pot prepared when I arrive. I drop my load next to this before going inside. I open the door. It falls inward. One of the cloths I used to tie it to the frame has worked loose. I'll have to tie it again.
“Miss Argyle is not doing so well.” My wife tells me as she tries to get a fire started. “She's lived on nothing but boiled grass for two months. She doesn't even take kind gifts, she gave it to others if someone gave her food.”
I nod, but my jaw tightens. I feel anger at the situation, I am powerless to help myself much less others but it grates on me. Wild cabbage, onions and turnips go into the stew for dinner. Why is the world this way? Why does everyone seem so helpless?
Dear Leader explained that his predecessors had messed everything up. He talked about a mortgage crisis and other things we couldn't understand. We know that Dear Leader is a good leader because he tells us that he is. He would never lie to us.
We must believe this. It is dangerous not to. People can disappear when they question his words.
The other day I was digging up roots and I came across some kind of paper from the old times. The letters looked different, but I was able to read what was legible. I knew I shouldn't read it, I shouldn't want to read it, for it is a crime and punishable.
Something about a trade conflict with a country called China breaking out into real battles as Dear Leader was said to berate the wife of China's leader as an “ugly bag-lady”. I'm not surprised to see this, or that his real name is used, but the date on the paper causes concern.
Why was Dear Leader older then than now? The papers said that he was over seventy years old then, older than poor Miss Argyle. He would be about a hundred and fifty years old now. This was just not possible. I know the cities have hospitals and great wealth, but money could not make you younger and healthier.
Rumors spread in the dark. Lies, people make up insane lies to try to make sense of their world. If they are right then Dear Leader is wrong, then he tells lies. We must not believe that. We cannot afford to believe that Dear Leader is harvesting cells from healthy children to prolong his life. He calls them “the best children”, he wouldn't harm them, would be?
It is true that these children are never heard from again, but they have better things to do. They are in the cities, when we could never through the walls. They are in the cities where wealth and power are in control.
We must believe Dear Leader.
Anything else is too scary to contemplate.
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