Both John and Suzanna sat there in silence after hearing those words. Their eyes were brimming with tears. Their emotions were at an exploding point. What a journey Chester had been on. It was a complete miracle they were all now sitting there together. ‘You are so brave!’ Suzanna looked proud.
She then went on to narrate what happened with them to help him catch up on how life had been for the people outside the camp. She informed him of the family switching - about the very special family who had sacrificed their position for them. ‘Unbelievable! Amazing! And so kind of them!’ The realisation dawned a minute later. The man he replaced! This must have been his family! They all cried at the strangers’ generosity and goodness of heart. They owed them an unpayable debt! And a one in a million chance that this could have happened!
‘4556…What a man!’ Chester mused. ‘He was ill, old and gave up his life for us! Let’s not call him 4556. Let’s call him Joseph, after my Father. Thank the heavens for Joseph.’
Suzanna then proudly let him know how much John had been developing since he had gone. Her voice grew morose, however, when she came to the wider issues such as the lack of community spirit, happiness, freedom and the deconstruction of individualism.
The family was now back together. They all embraced their new life with gratitude for everything. Suzanna kept the house and the gardens immaculate. Chester worked in the local Imperia rations shop and John kept himself busy with his studies.
The shop in which Chester worked was dark, dingy, and military in style – typical of the Imperia. He didn’t like work very much – well not at all actually – the shop was also riddled with cameras and listening devices. However, Chester needed to work there to keep up the act, and he liked the security the job brought to the family. He also had the free time whenever he was at home. Chester and indeed the whole family had an ineffable and unshakable sense of gratitude at every moment.
The house was out of the way in the countryside, away from prying eyes and listening devices. The family could go days without seeing another soul. They were very happy in this new idyllic set-up for a number of years.
The situation for others, however, was growing impossibly bleak. People just walked around with their heads down. There was no socialising. People barely spoke anymore. You could see people beginning to crack and looking ready to explode at any point. This was no way of life and everyone knew it.
This cauldron of a society all came to a boiling point one day. Chester had gone to work as on any other day. He was in the shop for a few hours before a man came in and started yelling. He was shouting at a few of the others who were in the shop. Everyone began to hide and move away from him. He continued shouting at them; trying to get some life out of them. He seemed frustrated at what people had become, ‘What’s the point? What’s the point?’ he kept yelling. ‘What are we all doing walking around aimlessly like zombies?’ Chester became increasingly worried about the man but wanted to avoid any trouble. The man then started throwing things and targeted Chester. Despite understanding the man’s intentions, Chester let the objects hit his face. The cameras began to zoom in on both the man and Chester. Chester tried to remain calm, but he wanted to help the man. He was throwing tins of food at his head and body, cutting his face and breaking his skin.
‘SSSSSHHHHhhhhhhh!’ Chester eventually murmured.
‘They’re watching!’ He continued in a stern voice.
The man turned slightly and looked directly at Chester ‘Oh I know…they’re always watching!’ he said with a crazed look in his eyes, the look of a wild, rabid dog.
The man went on to question why Chester was not doing anything. ‘Because I have seen what these people can do and you will live a worse life and experience more pain if you question them.’ ‘Who the hell are you?’ the man raged. As soon as he heard this, one of the men in the shop jumped out from hiding and ran out of the shop. ‘Now you’ve done it!’ Chester said as he too ran out of the shop. The man must have been an Imperia spy! Not to mention the cameras! Had he said too much? Chester ran all the way home and told his family what had happened! They all panicked!
It had taken a good hour or so for Chester to run home. He was physically knackered and had only been back a short while before a smartly dressed man walked up the driveway. ‘The same man from the test room!’ Chester recognised him. ‘That’s him! The man from the test!’ Suzanna screamed and dropped to her knees. The man walked up the driveway. He was carrying something and scattering them all over the lawns as he walked closer. As the man approached them, he saw what it was. ‘It’s my old photographs,’ Chester said. ‘They know!’ The dread was palpable in his voice.
As they moved to the back of the house to escape hastily, they saw that they were completely surrounded by Imperia guards carrying huge automatic rifles.
They closed in and the family dropped to the floor, embracing each other and crying.
The door burst open, and they pulled all of them outside on to the garden lawn. They all knelt and their hands were tied behind their backs. More photos were scattered around Chester.
‘We know who you are, Chester!’ The smartly dressed man said. ’You have failed your test. We had expected to put you to good use. A powerful mind such as yours could have definitely come in handy – if, of course, you had been willing to change. It seems as if you have not changed at all. Your test never did end that day and the family, the man, the guard were all acting. You did well but not well enough. We created you. You are we and we are you. You just couldn’t help believing you were special and couldn’t help stepping in to help your fellow man.
‘You knew the rules, and we informed you of the consequences. You were granted freedom but you never respected it. We gave it to you, and now we are taking it away’
As he said this, the Imperia guard stepped forward pulled a gun from his pocket. In a robotic voice, he questioned: ‘Any last words?’
The truth is, there is something special about humanity…a higher power…a belief we all share… a belief in the power of love. This is something that you can never take away; if you cannot grasp that this is where our true power lies, then you are the ones who have failed and nothing good can ever come from what you teach.’
After this, the fatal bullet passed through Chester’s head. He slowly fell forwards and his legs kicked out. They cut the ties between his hands and his arms fell out on either side to form a perfect cross. He lay there, surrounded by his photographs and pink blossom leaves. I’d like to think that on his way up to the clouds, he clicked a photograph, because in that moment, everything in the frame would have been black and white except for the pink blossoms strewn around him. For everything else had been carved by humans and had led down an unnatural descend. When his lifeless body landed on the ground, the earth felt still. Time stopped, and all was calm. It seemed that although this final moment was out of his hands, it was in some ways a fitting tribute. A tribute to the power of the individual and the power of the story – for this will always be talked about. For this is John, his son, talking to you now and the one who penned this narrative. My Father’s story will live on as I tell my children of it and they will tell theirs – for if we don’t continue to talk about all the great individuals who helped to shape us, then they end up dying twice.
We managed to survive that day my Mum and I. We were placed under heavy surveillance for a number of years. The world did begin to open up more however as those in power saw the need to consult the individual brilliance of others. It opened up but not too much as humans had seen the potential for creating the path to their own destruction. Lessons were learnt about society and harmony. This being said there is always more to learn on both sides. As society may be the hand that feeds you, it may control how much food is in that hand, it may help to create your sense of self but although it may continually try it cannot fully define what it means to be human nor can it contain the complexity of our individual character nor limit the universal power of our spirit.
As such we need to open up the world to each other, teaching love and not hate, wisdom as well as intelligence, guidance as well as direction, compassion as well as passion, empathy as well as understanding, hope as well as prophecies, we will see that we are the masters of our collective identity – society is ours, and we are the sum of all its parts. Let’s not create an antagonism between the mother, society, and the child, the individual. For a society built upon lies, deceit and greed creates disillusions and injustices. Noticeable injustices create a tinderbox ready to ignite at any point all it takes is that individual spark.
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