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The Hidden Truth

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This short story is set in a nightmarish Dystopian world where people have been stripped of their identities. It is told through the experience of the protagonist Shahid Ali. It explores how he strugg

Shahid Ali
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Chapter 1

The year is 2050, (or I think it is), as years of lies have distorted fact from fiction. How the world came to see such a time is beyond me. Even now I sometimes play upon the idea that I am living in some sort of twisted nightmare, hoping that I will wake up the next day finding it was only a dream. But no such comfort comes as I wake up to the same, dull and shallow routine every day. If someone from the past were to look at today’s London their eyes would turn away in fear, for London (is it even London) is now a barren wasteland full of pockets of radiation. No longer is the iconic Big Ben standing, if such a monument can be erased from existence then what is to become of humanity. Indeed, this much is certain that some catastrophic event led to the world which I see before my weary eyes; however I cannot put my mind to its exact nature. Maybe it was a war on a scale unimaginable, maybe a devastating natural disaster; I suppose I will never know.

My name is Shahid Ali, or I think it is as my memory seems to be fading every passing day. I hold onto this name as it gives me some comfort that I have not totally lost my mind in this nightmarish world which seems to close me on all sides. For you see people have been stripped of their identities, no longer do we call each other by names, but instead by numbers ( I myself am number 84). Not only this but pretty much everything has been abolished, replaced by some twisted subversion of reality. All religion has been abolished (I can’t even remember what religion I belonged to, that is if I ever did), education has been abolished, all monetary systems have been abolished among other things I struggle to remember. Education has been replaced with ‘The Law of Life’, there is now a single global bank making use of a single electronic currency known as credit chips. Even more horrifically there is now a global, unified religion (how can such a thing be called religion) under a global ‘church’.

You may ask how is all this possible, if you ever get to read this, what’s the word, oh yes diary that’s what it used to be called. Maybe one day you will find out and I hope it is not too late as I still believe there is hope, however little it might be. I hear a bell ringing and it is time for my morning exercise, known as the ‘Morning Prayer’. I sometimes wonder prayer to whom and for what purpose; it seems only the devil seems to respond. I get out of my shabby single bed which creaks under my weight; lifting the miserably thin duvet off me I get changed. My ‘uniform’as it is known is universally worn among the workers, it consists of a bleak, grey overall and thick, black unforgiving shoes which ache my poor feet.

Looking in the mirror I see myself, looking like a skeleton with a thin layer of skin over it. I can almost see my soul leaking out of it as I put on those dastardly uncomfortable shoes. Putting on my glasses over my thin nose the room which I am assigned to becomes more visibly sharper. It is room 10 situated within apartment 50 which is in turn situated within block 450. The feeling that enters my consciousness is that is it is very much like an inter dimensional prison, you come out of your bed which is like a grave holding you down and you step into the frying pan.

Out of the frying pan and into the belly of the beast I was to dive. We are given a monthly fixed amount of credits on our credit chips so one has to carefully ration (as though holding a mug of volcanic lava while simultaneously walking on a tightrope). If you run out of these credits then it is tough luck as you will have to wait until next month’s allowance. Having almost used up most of my credits, of which there are a total of 500, I decided it would be wise not to spend my remaining 50 for today. The thought of going to work on an empty stomach was not an appealing one, but then again I did not have much choice. What is even more frustrating is that you are not allowed to store credits for the following month as they must all be used within the month they are given. So if you have remaining credits that you have not used they will be lost upon entering the next month. This ensures that no one can amass a ‘fortune’of credits even though if someone were to do so it would make no difference upon their petty existence.

Walking to the sink which looked like it would collapse any moment I took hold of the toothpaste tube and squeezed what remaining paste there was. Brushing my awfully stained teeth I looked at myself in the mirror, what I saw was not a reflection of myself but a remnant of a long lost being. I was lost and there was nothing I could do about it. Brushing my hair I noticed how terribly thin it had become and feeling that each strand of hair was on its last legs. I no longer felt like a human being but a machine programmed to do the same things again, again and again. This was routine.

“84!” called a harsh voice of a woman who seemed to penetrate my very being as I looked around the cold, white room. This was one of many of the Instructors of our excruciatingly painful Morning Prayer. Opening my flimsy door I noticed the Eye move rapidly, I was being watched. All workers are monitored day in day out; the Eye is one of many apparatuses used. It is a small, circular, black device which tracks your every movement, even when you are sleeping. If ever it catches any suspicious activity (such as reading, praying, writing, even something you may say in your sleep), you are instantly taken by an Enforcer to one of many ‘purification chambers’. Within this chamber you are subject to the most painful physical and mental torture, until you submit in body and soul to the will of The Committee.

Even now I haven’t the slightest clue as to what The Committee is, or if it even exists for that matter. All I know is that we must submit to its will and in doing so accept it as our saviour. I suppose this ‘Committee’is in a way our government, a global one world government. It has replaced the governments of the past which no longer exist and exerts total domination over every single human being alive or dead. After the brief stare down by the eye I walked past the other identical rooms inhabited by other poor souls.

“84”whispered another voice for we are not allowed to talk to one another, only during the ‘Holy Communion’which is a gathering of sorts where we exalt the magnificence of The Committee. It was my ‘neighbour’, 83, a short, squatty man who appeared to have no neck as his head appeared to have been knocked into his body by a sledgehammer. Well at least I have held on to my sense of humour, I thought to myself as he came up to me. “How are you doing old chap?”said he and I replied with a simple “fine”for even words can betray you in this gruelling, hellish world. He carried on for some time muttering about how we should be grateful to The Committee for having saved us from the greatest disaster in humankind’s history and a load of other nonsense. As he did so his chin, or should I say chins, wobbled up and down like a piece of jelly. As we approached the exercise ground, Ground 25, he mumbled “ready for another day’s hard work?” again I replied with a simple “yes”.

As we walked off to our designated exercise spots, he’s being spot 14 and mine being 15, I compared myself to him and was relieved that not all was lost. At least I still had my senses about and still remembered my name. I presumed from our brief encounter that 83 didn’t know his real name or that he did not even know he was human for that matter. The Instructor began issuing commands and my body instinctively followed, stretching my arms into the air I wished that I could join the stars somewhere high up above me. Bending down my whole skeleton seemed to be creaking as if it would snap in an instant.

After this ordeal was over it was time to start work. I worked for what was called the ‘Truth Sector’ which involved me correcting false information so that it would in some way or another benefit The Committee. My office was situated in Work Block 17 which was about half a mile away. So of I went taking my usual path amongst the ancient corpses of vehicles and decayed buildings. Of course I had to wear a radiation suit as the path was littered with invisible pools of radiation.

The sun never shone, it tried to but could not as there was a veil of foggy darkness that seemed to envelope the atmosphere. It was as if nights dark wings would never go. Walking past abandoned buildings I tried to imagine how life once was, surely it was not always like this. I walked past a couple of people who all seemed to be absorbed in their own nightmares. As I approached Block 17 an ‘Angel’ flew over me, stopped and scrutinised me for a couple of seconds before moving on to haunt another. These so called Angels are flying menaces, resembling a large sinister eye. They are one of the grotesque machinations of The Committee, which like the Eyes constantly monitor all individuals.

Block 17 was no different to Block 450 within which my room was situated. It was all the same, glum, downtrodden and awfully bleak. Its towering dark walls loomed over me and I shuddered as the cold wind of winter (it was always winter) pierced my heart. The wind carried with it such a chill that it would wither the soul and freeze the blood. I stepped towards the Enforcer, all very routine as he scanned me with the Lie Detector. The Lie Detector is a curious little device that shows all your hidden thoughts. I heaved a heavy sigh of relief as I passed the lie detector, for now. How long will it be until the protective barriers of my consciousness fall apart, how long can I keep this up?

The Enforcer scanned my electronic identification card and said in a soulless voice “84 you may pass”. And so I entered the oppressive Block 17 making my way towards Office 23 where I carried out my work. My office was a small, square room and just like my room had cold, white walls. There was a single light source, a circular bulb which was hanging loosely from the ceiling. Flicking the switch on the wall the light bulb flickered momentarily as though it were struggling against the darkness. Eventually it steadied itself and I approached my desk. It was a small wooden desk; the drawers were empty as the world in which I lived and showed no signs of individuality. My chair was equally bland, it was a simple office chair and its colour seemed to have washed away over the course of time.

Sitting down I booted up my work computer and entered my identification number. This was in no way a personal computer; in fact it was the most impersonal piece of technology I had ever laid hands on. You simply entered your identification number, did your assignments (of which I had 3 to complete today) and simply logged back off. The desktop was of a plain black colour and there was only one icon, which took you to your assignments. So I clicked on the assignments icon which displayed another black window with three lines of white text. You simply clicked on an assignment with the ‘mouse’, where this peculiar word came from I cannot remember. Once an assignment was complete and altered so that it benefitted The Committee you simply moved on to the next assignment.

My first assignment involved me tampering with the historical context of a war. It was named ‘World War 3’ and this name struck me somewhere in the back of my mind but like many things that have come to pass, it no longer existed within my memory which seemed to be evaporating from my skull. I was good at my work as I carefully manipulated words to suit the needs of The Committee. I was to show the greatness of The Committee in this assignment and how it saved the world from this terrible war. And so I wrote something along the lines of ‘at a time when all hope was lost, when the world was in ruins The Committee saved all humanity from its doom’. It was our saviour, our knight in shining armour. The second assignment was named ‘Qualities of The Committee’ and involved me listing things such as the benevolence and mercy of The Committee. This was all nonsense of course and I believed none of it, not a single letter.

Finally the third assignment was named ‘Paradise’ and it was the most bizarre and peculiar assignment I had ever come across. This assignment involved me outlining how the world we live in today is our ‘Paradise’ or more precisely our reward for showing unwavering faith and commitment to the cause of The Committee. It disgusts me how people swallow up this nonsense like machines that simply follow orders. They have thrown away their humanity for an empty, cold world and nothingness.

My work was finished for today and I logged off from my work computer. I still had some time left before the second bell would ring and so I secretly made my way to my usual pastime spot, a deserted and hauntingly desolate park. This was the only place where I felt truly secure; it provided a momentary escape from the nightmare which never ended. It was almost like a museum exhibition, a tear in the fabric of time which I entered to ease my deteriorating mind. The now deserted swings and the other children’s pastimes which escaped my mind echoed mournfully. Apparitions of faceless children appeared and one stepped towards me. It appeared to be reaching towards me with its hand and as I reached out to take hold of it, it dissolved before my eyes. The effect of the illusion was dissolved in the blink of an eye as the second bell rang, signalling that it was time to go to my room.

The illusion had provided some relief for my ailing mind and body as I felt reinvigorated. Getting up I noticed the tear had closed as I was instantaneously transported back to my unrelenting, melancholy nightmare. Remembering that my black, ball-point pen was very low on ink I made my way to the Ghost Town wherein was a very old stationary store. I made haste as two Angels flew by in their usual intimidating manner.

The atmosphere changed in an instant as I entered the Ghost Town, it was like one of those black and white pictures of old. Buildings were peppered with bullet holes here and there and there was not a single soul in sight. The stationary store was not far and as I hurried of towards it the buildings seemed to be crying. The windows appeared as eyes and the doors as mouths, almost like ghostly Halloween masks, which reminded me it was Halloween but I had no way to be sure as time had become convoluted. The stationary shop was a timid little building where I regularly made my secret trips.

As I approached the door I thought I heard something, turning around I saw an Overseer and my blood ran cold. Luckily there was ample cover amid the wreckages of vehicles so I ducked behind a crumbling car. Overseers are humanoid hybrids of human flesh and robotic souls, more precisely androids powered by ‘Mother’ which is the supercomputer artificial intelligence. This artificial intelligence controls the Eyes, the Angels and the terrifying Overseers.

As the Overseer moved towards the vehicle my soul shrunk to the very deep recesses within my body, this unholy union of flesh and steel was something I could not imagine even in my worst nightmares. What was worse it was identical in appearance to a human being, the only thing that marked it out as non-human were its pair of shining red eyes. They were like a twin pair of searchlights constantly on the move. To my relief something else had caught the Overseers attention as I stealthily crept into the stationary store. If I had been found by the Overseer I would surely have been annihililated by its plasma rifle which fires beams of blue plasma. This is because Ghost Towns are strictly off limits to workers as they rouse ‘false memories’.

I stood still wanting to become a ghost. When will this nightmare end?

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