Fiction

Disturbances

Anti-Life

How is it anti-life?

The teeth are perfectly straight and they are white and bright no matter how old the smile.

The house is neat and tidy as if it’s being staged for sale. The colours are neutral: nothing colourful, nothing overwhelming, nothing indicating any sign of life.

There are no old books. They’re all new and besides we can read on our phones.

Nothing is made because it can all be sourced from outside and it’s cheap so why would you bother to lift a hand?

Perfect bodies, young bodies, no signs of illness, the dead moved to the fringes and they can be forgotten once there.

Upward, upward, improving, this is no time for rest.

Instructions are from the TV: how to eat, how to date, how to sing, how to mate.

The more we act like each other, the more we understand each other, the less likely we are to be left out.

All emotions medicated: nothing too exciting, nothing too upsetting, nothing too stressful and if in doubt, source some pills, a glass of water... forget, forget.

Nothing is created. It is planned, it is organised. Above all, go ahead and play because no one takes life seriously anyway.

 

$12 for Lettuce

The price of lettuce was $3 (a good crop, no natural events) but then rose to $5 (cost of fuel, inflation) before rocketing to an unprecedented $7 (a war overseas, shortage of pesticides, global trade blockades, disagreements with allies) before hitting $10 (yes, $10, you heard right, because of the floods, fires, drought), and now that it’s $12 they’ve stopped selling lettuce and replaced it with faux lettuce (aka cabbage or leaves that look a lot like grass), we’ve given up and decided we’ll just do without.

 

Exit: Church Street

The car hit the concrete barrier because the driver did not want to pay the toll. All 90 kilometres of momentum came to a crushing, grinding halt but first, the somersault of the car, the flame beneath the bonnet, the explosion that made the other drivers hit their brakes, causing a domino pile-up.

A child in a car going the opposite way said the car looked like a turtle on its back.

The clean-up crew said this crash wasn’t so bad. The last one involved 32 cars, 50 injured, 11 counted dead.

With brooms they swept the motorway. Glass, metal, scraps of flesh, some dark substance poked at, muttered over, yes, better send it to the lab.

Putting down her binoculars, she scratched another mark on the wall. This past month, there had been 13 accidents and there was still a week to go. If the trend continued to track as per the past three weeks, this would be the deadliest month yet. So many pointless accidents, so many deaths and injuries and destruction, and all because of a desire to funnel cars onto a motorway that none of them could anymore afford.

 

The Breaks

The biggest prison break yet. A million-plus prisoners on the run. They’d been spotted by the police leaving the city in streams. Helicopters watched them and reported what was happening on the roads but were powerless to do anything but report the facts with the aerial footage, documentary style.

This break had been predicted. The statisticians had been lately sounding the alarm. The graphs show an upward linear trend. Week in, week out, the breakers have increased in numbers and we predict that soon there will be a tipping point and security services will be overrun.

Doomsday prophecies. Ignore them. Heed not these alarms. These city folk are docile and security has been tightened and large numbers of police are rostered for the surge anticipated at weekend time. Keep a calm head, switch off the news, no need for alarm.

But this break. A million. There was a rumour that the police commissioner had asked: How do you expect us to deal with a break of that scale?

And those who stood back behind the fences to witness the break differed in the accounts of what they saw.

Think of a mass migration of a four-footed beast. They weren’t strolling. This had the feel of a stampede.

That is one testimony. Here’s another.

Vermin flushed out, vermin on the run. They have no right to leave so many broken promises in their wake.

And another (for the flavour).

It was symphonic: waves, rhythms, relentless movement, they were marching to an unheard beat.

And those in the know, those in control, knew the damage had been done. Millions on the run. They had zero hope of rounding up this diffuse herd, of shackling and tasering them so that by Monday they were an obedient bunch.

So the damage control, so the reports that this had been planned, so the phrase “the loosing” bandied around. This loosing was planned but we failed to put enough control measures in place.

Quietly, between you and me, this break was so great that there weren’t enough inhabitants left for a repeat of this scale. The next one will be modest in comparison when Friday shows its face again.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on October 29, 2022 as "Disturbances".

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