Perry did not sleep in his bed that night. He sat in the kitchen, wondering why he was so afraid of bamboo, and how much longer he could hide this abnormality. His fear had existed since early childhood, but he had trained himself to shut his eyes and mouth whenever the state emblem appeared. His lapse in concentration, earlier that evening, brought it all rushing back. He was isolated from the rest of the world. He wanted to get out.
Mabel babbled the next morning as the Bensons headed to work. They arrived at the Eradiction factory twenty minutes later.
As an Eradict, Perry’s job was to destroy evidence that the humanoids ever existed. While the Demiurge openly referred to this former society in speeches made on Recreation Day and in The Borean Bible, they wanted all items proving their existence to be demolished. Therefore, Eradicts spent their days reviewing items from the humanoids, explaining why those objects were evil, and destroying them.
Perry doubted that this monotonous process was truly necessary. When the Holy State of Borea took power centuries ago, he felt convinced that all items from the humanoids had been destroyed. Why eradicate cities and countries, but not the objects that existed within them? Surely, he thought, the items he was employed to destroy were fake replicas. In his mind, Eradict factories only existed to keep Borean citizens busy, and make them feel valuable in erasing the humanoids from existence.
‘Here we are, darling,’ said Mabel as the pair arrived at the factory. It was an enormous building with hundreds of windows spaced along the front wall.
‘Please identify yourself,’ demanded a voice coming from the black entrance doors.
‘May we all remain loyal to the Holy State of Borea.’
Perry entered. The entire factory consisted of one hall. Throughout the room were thousands of citizens seated at rectangular desks. Each workstation had a huge shoot above it that dropped objects in front of the citizen.
Perry’s vehicle pulled up at a desk. In the wheelchair beside his was a pencil-like woman, prattling about something known as a ‘fiction book’.
‘… children were often distracted for this reason. By idolising make-believe stories and characters that did not exist, they were unable to focus their efforts on …’
To Perry’s left, meanwhile, a muscular man with short brown hair grunted and snorted as he tore apart something known as a ‘cushion’.
A stringy, glistening silver ornament landed on Perry’s desk.
‘This is an ornament known by the humanoids as ‘tinsel’,’ said Perry. ‘They used it to decorate trees placed inside their houses. Tinsel is an extremely evil object because it encourages the cutting down of trees, which is a disgraceful thing to do. The humanoids particularly used tinsel at a period known as ‘Christmas’, during which they celebrated the birth of a holy child born to save the world. This, too, makes tinsel an object of pure evil, as the only holy thing in the world is the Holy State of Borea.’
‘Thank you, Perry Benson,’ said a voice hidden inside his desk. ‘Please dispose of the object.’
Perry increased the volume of his grunts as he gashed at the tinsel with his hands, giving the impression of someone determined to destroy the anti-state poison. In reality, his zeal stemmed from anger at the Demiurge, rather than the humanoids – channelling his frustrations in this way made the job more tolerable.
‘Thank you, Perry Benson. You have successfully destroyed the tinsel. Please wait for your next assignment.’
The desk surface opened and the tinsel fell inside.
‘Good morning, fellow citizen!’ said the pencil-like woman on Perry’s right. ‘My name is Eliza. What is yours?’
‘Good morning. My name is Perry.’
‘I feel obliged by the Holy State of Borea to say, Perry, that your destruction of the tinsel was truly awe-inspiring. You are quite the specimen!’
‘Thank you. It is my honour to rid the Holy State of Borea of all evidence of the humanoids. You, too, destroyed your fiction book most admirably.’
‘A specimen like yourself must produce a ripe offspring,’ continued Eliza, narrowing her eyes. ‘Do you have a child?’
‘No, not yet. My wife and I shall copulate tonight, to satisfy the Holy State of Borea.’
‘You are a magnificent specimen, and I’m sure that you will nourish the state soon.’
Perry forced a smile and thanked her, while wishing that she would stop calling him a specimen. An oval-shaped ball fell onto his desk and he raised his voice towards the shoot.
‘This is an object known by the humanoids as a ‘rugby ball’. It was an extremely evil creation, used for a recreational game known as ‘rugby’. This wicked object encouraged humanoids to partake in recreational physical activity, and therefore spend less time preserving the natural world. That’s why the rugby ball was one of the evillest objects ever created.’
As Perry destroyed the ball, the muscular man to his left spoke up: ‘You’re very dedicated, aren’t you, sir?’
‘I live to serve the Holy State of Borea.’
‘My name is Britton,’ said the man, staring around the hall. ‘It’s magnificent, isn’t it? Have you ever thought about the magnitude of what the Holy State of Borea is achieving? I mean, a factory such as this would have been unprecedented under the humanoids – they seemed to spend all their time lounging around and destroying the natural world. This quantity of people would only have been seen together at recreational events, nowhere else. Even this conversation would have been unlikely, as the humanoids only spoke about matters concerning the destruction of the natural world. Fascinating, to think how citizens have evolved under the Holy State of Borea. How grateful we all must be!’
He spread his arms wide above his head and looked up to the roof of the factory.
‘Yes, indeed,’ Perry muttered.
Various objects fell on Perry’s desk as the day wore on: a book titled ‘Alice in Wonderland’; a DVD player; a pile of glue; and many objects besides. At the end of the day, Perry waved to Eliza and Britton.
‘Goodbye. May we all remain loyal to the Holy State of Borea.’
‘Until the end!’ Eliza and Britton called back together.
Perry’s wheelchair emerged beneath a grey, gloomy sky. Clouds smothered the setting sun, casting the region into darkness and rinsing Perry in showers of rain. When he arrived in Tambamba, he took no notice of his surroundings, but instead cringed at the declaration of a woman seated in the wheelchair behind his.
‘What a delightful deluge of rain to wash away the sins of the humanoids!’
Perry arrived at his house grateful to be sheltered from the rain outside. His gratitude was replaced by confusion, however, as he discovered two, rather than one, wheelchairs waiting outside the house.
‘May we all remain loyal to the Holy State of Borea,’ he said, rising from his vehicle.
Once indoors, the metallic rods changed his clothes.
‘Up here, darling!’
She sounded happy, which was not a good sign. Perry climbed the stairs and saw a small man standing by the toilet. He wore a trench coat hanging down to the floor, hovering just above a pair of well-polished shoes. His dark hair was pushed back to reveal an enormous forehead and his eyes were angry and alert. A notebook rested in his hand.
‘May we all remain loyal to the Holy State of Borea,’ said Perry.
‘Until the end.’
‘He is here for our bi-annual Stabilising, darling!’ said Mabel, skipping out of the bedroom and throwing her arms around her husband’s neck. ‘Isn’t that wonderful?’
‘It is my job to reassure the state of your unwavering loyalty to the regime, Perry Benson,’ said the Stabiliser. ‘This is a compulsory process for all citizens.”
‘We understand, of course!’ assured Mabel.
The man turned back and pressed his nose against the toilet seat for several seconds. ‘Seems to be in order. What did you think of the Secular dancing on Recreation Day, Perry Benson?’
‘Magnificent,’ Perry replied.
The man marched through the hallway and stepped downstairs. The Bensons followed, sitting at the kitchen table as the Stabiliser scribbled something in his notebook.
‘Can I help at all?’ asked Perry, feeling disconcerted.
‘No. Let us begin.’ As the man said so, Perry squirmed in his chair – the state emblem, with its three sticks of bamboo, was printed on the back of the notebook. He jumped up from the table and stumbled out of the room, choking and coughing as he fell down at the bottom of the staircase. His lungs squeezed together and his head span. The entire world shrunk, and only Perry and the state emblem remained. He sat down on the floor and restored himself to calmness, before trudging back to the kitchen several minutes later.
‘Is everything all right?’ asked the Stabiliser. Perry’s wife glowered.
‘Yes, fine,’ said Perry, feigning a smile. ‘I just felt overwhelmed by the majesty of the Holy State of Borea.’
‘Quite natural,’ said the Stabiliser, surveying Perry up and down. ‘Well then, to pay homage to the Holy State of Borea to which we all serve, let us begin. I feel no need to hear the confession from your wife, Perry Benson, for she shows the utmost reverence for the Holy State of Borea. I do, however, have great interest in hearing your own confession. Please go ahead. I shall be watching closely.’
Perry took a deep breath before speaking.
‘My name is Perry Benson. I live under the Holy State of Borea, in a village called Tambamba. The Holy State of Borea was founded long ago, before anyone can remember. Religious worship, homosexuality and headwear are three examples of forbidden practices in the Holy State of Borea.
‘There are two reasons for which a citizen may leave their house: to work, or to attend Recreation Day.’
The Stabiliser scribbled in his notebook.
‘Occupation takes place in the Holy State of Borea every day between Thursday and Tuesday. The Holy State of Borea may use any method necessary to monitor and ensure a citizen’s loyalty to the regime.’
A smile lingered across the Stabiliser’s bottom lip as he stopped writing.
‘If an individual is unmarried at the age of thirty, the Holy State of Borea will randomly assign them a partner with whom they must co-exist. Once married, two individuals may never terminate their marriage. Parents are only permitted to bear one child, and they have a choice of twelve male names and twelve female names to which they may assign their child.’
The glinting smile vanished from the Stabiliser’s face and was replaced by a definite frown. He glared at Perry and scribbled in his notebook. Perry glanced over at his wife, who looked irate. Had he said something wrong?
‘Two individuals are eligible to marry if they are aged within three years of –’
‘What is a disability?’ cut in the Stabiliser, glaring at Perry.
‘Something that makes a citizen act out against the state. Having a mental or physical disability is the ultimate evil.’
‘When may those with disabilities be allowed to live in the Holy State of Borea?’
‘Never. It is for everyone’s safety that they are removed from existence.’
The man stopped scribbling and put his notebook away. Perry’s confession was over.
‘Well then,’ snarled the Stabiliser, ‘everything appears to be in order. I shall be leaving. Keep up your dutiful service.’
There was no emotion in these final words, and the Stabiliser marched past Perry and out of the house before he had the chance to wish him a good evening. Mabel stormed from the room.
What had Perry said to make the Stabiliser doubt him? He tried to think, and recalled a negative reaction following his statement that ‘parents are only permitted to bear one child’.
Of course, it was obvious: he used the word only. He must not imply that any law is a negative thing, or that Borean parents were somehow limited.
The state would now be monitoring him. If he wanted to continue living in Borea, he must be sure not to misspeak again. But Perry was unbothered by this, and found himself resenting the world in which he was forced to live.
He hated that the Demiurge killed its citizens for being born with a disability, tracked and listened to everything he did, and arrested people just for stroking an animal.
Did he really care if his disloyalty was discovered? Did he care if they locked him up, or worse? His life was a prison sentence, and he did not want to continue existing under the pretence of being free. Borea confined him to a labyrinth of suffering and repression and pain.
‘I demand that you copulate with me!’ screamed Mabel, reappearing in the kitchen. ‘Now!’
Perry gulped, pressed his lips together, and nodded. As he walked upstairs and entered the bedroom, the lights in the house dimmed. Repetitive, methodical music drummed throughout the room. The music was easily recognisable: ‘Yearn at the lightest day’, a song performed in the singing arena at Recreation Day.
“When the Holy State first came to be…”
Perry’s wife sang along to the music. Light exposed every spotless corner of the room.
“… Borea sets me free!”
Mabel undressed. Each string of fibre loosened from her waist and slid down her body, like a snake shedding its skin.
“If ever a Crolax comes near me…’
No more clothing touched his wife’s skin. Her naked body blurred until only a series of circles and rectangles stood opposite Perry. He looked down to see that his clothes had also been removed. The drum beat louder. The glaring light sharpened.
“… Bestowed upon a tree!”
His wife slithered into the far corner of the bed, hazy and blurred yet indisputably gesturing for him to come closer. His feet stepped one in front of the other as the rain spattered outside.
“If the Crolax ever tries to flee …”
Two rectangles pointed upwards in front of him, parallel to one another. He moved his body in between them, obedient and dutiful.
“… Batter it on the knee!”
Blinding light burned against the walls and a misty white took over the room. Soundless grunts coursed through the walls of the building, but Perry shut his eyes. A pained sound came from his mouth.
The bed shook against his body. The water hammering against the window merged with his own imagination. He heard an animalistic squeal. Finally, the muffled white eased against his eyelids, and he saw two rectangles contracting against the bed, moving away from his body.
Applause filled the room. The sound of Borean citizens whooping and cheering could be heard. The light sharpened throughout the room until Perry was finally in control of his senses. He shut his eyes, pulled away from the bed, and crawled across the floor. It did not matter where he was going – he just wanted to be away from his wife.
Perry knew, now, that it would require sacrifice to be elevated above the labyrinth of Borean life. He picked up his clothes and slipped them back over his body. On the other side of the room, serene against the bed, Mabel’s naked body sat upright against the frame.
‘You would really be better off grunting a bit more quietly during copulation; I couldn’t hear the holy state music. Although, I was honoured by how quickly you shut your eyes during the proceedings. The Holy State of Borea tells its citizens to close their eyes and envisage the state emblem during copulation, and you did so right away!’
Perry felt himself wretch, and ran from the room.
‘How was your day, Perry Benson?’ said the staircase bannister.
‘Shut up,’ he mumbled, racing across to a mirror in the hallway and facing his sweating reflection. He could not take it anymore. He shut his eyes and thought of a happier place, but none came to mind. Only the outline of bamboo was visible, etched against his eyelids. His heart pulsed through his chest. His blood pounded through his veins. He could not hide his abnormality any longer. He could not hide that he was different from everyone else.
The sound of footsteps drew closer as Mabel got out of bed. Perry pushed back his fringe and took a deep breath. It was irrational, and he was going to die, but there was only one thing he could do.
‘I do hereby denounce the Holy State of Borea.’