Perry sat at the bottom of the stairs in his house, his head in his hands. Mabel read state-approved literature at the kitchen table, a satisfied smirk on her face. A voice had boomed through their house intercom several minutes earlier, announcing the state’s victory over the woman who touched a zebra.
‘I wish I had been there to see it,’ said Mabel as Perry walked into the kitchen. She smiled at him between two dimpled cheeks, and toyed with her frizzy auburn hair. ‘You are so lucky that you were there, darling.’
‘Indeed I am,’ said Perry, scratching the back of his neck. He sat down at the table and helped himself to a large portion of the only food available in Borea: seaweed, oats and beans.
‘She deserved to die, of course,’ Mabel went on. ‘The humanoid society collapsed because they polluted and destroyed the natural world. That is why touching animals and plants is forbidden by the Holy State of Borea. It’s for our own good, really.’
Perry nodded, finished his meal, and excused himself to bed.
When he woke the next morning, Mabel stood by the bedroom window. Her freckled nose was highlighted by the morning sunlight streaming into the room.
‘Good morning, darling,’ she said.
‘It is a beautiful day. How blessed we are to live in Tambamba, under the Holy State of Borea. May I ask you a question?’
‘This evening, when we return from Recreation Day, would you like to copulate?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Perry. ‘I think I’m going to be quite tired.’
‘You haven’t even got out of bed yet, and you already know that you’re going to be tired? You are not worthy of the Holy State of Borea.’ Mabel stormed out of the room as Perry sighed and rolled out of bed.
‘Good morning, Perry Benson!’ greeted a voice which appeared to come from behind his mirror.
‘May we all remain loyal to the Holy State of Borea,’ he said. Turning to confront his reflection, he noticed that there appeared to be a bird’s nest on his head. Dirty blond hair stuck out in every direction, and his straggly fringe rested on his light brown eyebrows. Standing beneath the bird’s nest was a pudgy figure, not at all unhealthy or short, but could nonetheless do with losing a bit of weight.
‘Would you like to read The Borean Bible, Perry Benson?’ asked the bookshelf.
‘Yes, please.’ Three words in black lettering flashed onto the wall opposite the bed.
The Borean Bible
Surrounding the title were articles detailing worldwide happenings from the past twenty-four hours. One article showed the face of a Demiurge, while another interviewed a young girl attending her first Recreation Day.
Perry lifted his index finger and jerked it towards the first article. The writing disappeared, replaced by the enormous head of a woman with vivid pink hair and large eyebrows. She had harsh, unattractive facial features, and stared down her nose at the camera.
‘May you all remain loyal to the Holy State of Borea,’ said the woman.
‘Until the end,’ Perry muttered in response.
‘The Holy State of Borea is all powerful. The humanoids that lived hundreds of years ago destroyed the world, and we have rebuilt it. By preventing you from interfering with animals or plants in any way, we have saved you from your greatest enemy: yourselves. The humanoids destroyed the world, but the Holy State of Borea has prevented this from happening again.’
But at what cost? thought Perry.
‘Our journey is not complete. We strive to create an elite race of humans. But those with mental and physical disabilities, known as the Crolax, make this impossible. That is why, when the Holy State of Borea first came to power, we eradicated all Crolax from the planet.
‘If you, in any way, think differently to the rest of society, then hand yourself in. If you are not devoted to satisfying the Holy State of Borea, and do not agree with everything we do, then hand yourself in. Otherwise, we will find you, and we will eradicate you.
‘May you all remain loyal to the Holy State of Borea.’
The woman’s face disappeared from the wall, as Perry said: ‘Until the end.’ The familiar sensation of fear, isolation and vulnerability filled his heart. He was one of the people that Borea sought to weed out and destroy: he, according to the state, had a mental or physical disability. What other explanation was there for his disloyalty to the regime?
Perry went downstairs to eat breakfast.
‘Good morning, Perry Benson!’ said the kitchen light.
‘May we all remain loyal to the Holy State of Borea.’
After eating, he walked to the front door and stepped into a circle engraved in the floor.
Shiny metallic rods emerged from the wall. One poked at Perry’s eyes to remove residue from his previous night’s sleep, while another hovered in front of his mouth and emitted a cleansing spray. A third rod tugged at his left sock, while two others tore off his pyjama bottoms and jumper. A sixth covered his now naked body with a new set of clothes.
Finally, the rods retreated into the walls and Perry confronted his reflection in the mirror next to the front door. His shoes, trousers, and jumper were all coloured a dreary shade of grey. Above this, the red light of a recording device flashed through the skin of his neck.
Mabel appeared in the hallway and the pair left the house. They each sat in a wheelchair and were carried out of Tambamba, across a gigantic grassland.
‘Are you excited for Recreation Day, darling?’ asked Mabel.
‘Of course,’ Perry replied, without looking at his wife. Even after nine years of marriage, he failed to understand how she could adore a state that quashed her freedom. What’s more, her fervour seemed to grow stronger as each year passed.
Perry had married Mabel under unfortunate circumstances. The Holy State of Borea’s laws meant that all citizens were required to live with their parents until marriage. Perry’s hatred for his mother and father had caused him to marry at the age of eighteen, but there was no choice in whom one could marry; citizens registered their willingness, and were randomly assigned a partner.
Thankfully for Perry, the state had assigned him and Mabel accommodation in a different village to his parents. He had not seen his parents for nine years, and hoped to keep it that way. They treated him unpleasantly throughout his childhood. He did not want to see them again.
‘Look over there, darling! Look at that beautiful cheetah. And look over there! That’s an impala. Do you see it, darling? Do you see it?’
‘I see them, Mabel, and they are beautiful. Really beautiful.’
Six gigantic pyramids appeared on the horizon, bordered on all sides by an enormous black gate.
‘May we all remain loyal to the Holy State of Borea!’ screamed Mabel, throwing her head back and striking herself on the cheek. She was both worshipping Borea, yet flagellating herself for being unworthy of such an honour. Her squeals transformed into wails. Perry grimaced at her absurd reaction, but, remembering the voice recorder in his neck, he likewise started to scream.
His wheelchair stopped in front of the gate. A list of words was projected in front of his face, and he used his finger to scroll down in mid-air and push forwards on the word ‘Secular’.
‘Please identify yourself,’ said the gate.
‘My name is Perry Benson, and I am a dutiful citizen of the Holy State of Borea.’
‘Have a blessed day, Perry Benson.’
His wheelchair edged through a doorway, before navigating left towards a distant pyramid, reaching the foot of the structure, and entering.
Despite having been here before, Perry was amazed at the pyramid’s size. The roof sloped upwards from four directions to meet kilometres above in the centre, and all four walls were painted a matte black. A stage was positioned in front of the farthest wall.
Perry’s vehicle aligned itself in an engraved circle in the floor, and a podium hoisted him to the air. He stared at the back of the heads in front of him until darkness engulfed the arena and excitement infested the crowd.
Perry ducked, ready for the arena roof to cave in. Surely no structure could withstand such ferocious levels of sound. Nonetheless, he, too, yelled rapturous approval.
‘May we always serve you! May we always serve you!’ he shouted. In the wheelchair beside his, a young girl with red pigtails screeched: ‘Weed out the disabled! Weed out the disabled!’
A light shone on the stage. Two dancers pranced into view – one was a pale man, and the other a beige-skinned woman. Both were dressed in furry white gowns strapped to their chins and flowing to the floor. The figures faced each other and covered their heads with the bodice of the gown.
They danced in perfect synchrony beneath the white sheets. If one gown bowed its head, raised its knee, or pirouetted its arms, the partnering gown replicated the movement. With each step the crowd breathed a collective gasp, and several voices expressed their wonderment.
‘How do the gowns move like that?’
‘What’s causing the gowns to move?’
‘I thank the Holy State of Borea for using its technology to bless us with the wondrous self-moving gowns.’
With both dancers forgotten, the crowd was transfixed by two sheets moving of their own accord. This continued for several minutes until, high above the dancers, a baby was lowered from the ceiling.
Perry narrowed his eyes and yawned. He was too far away to be certain, but suspected that a string was attached to the baby, lowering it to the stage.
‘The beautiful, flying baby must be protected!’ roared a deep voice several rows ahead. Nearby citizens howled their approval. The baby floated onto the stage, remaining motionless as the gowns danced behind it. Finally, the dancers rolled their gowns back down their head and thousands of cries echoed through the arena. The masses had no idea where these figures had come from.
Both dancers waved and smiled at the flummoxed crowd. The magical baby floated up into the ceiling, and the performance concluded. Seconds later, two new dancers took to the stage, and the cycle repeated itself. This continued eighteen more times: each time the masses were shocked to witness two sheets moving of their own accord, a magical baby floating down from the sky, and to then learn that the dancers were hidden beneath the gowns the entire time.
Upon the conclusion of the final performance, light was restored in the arena. Many people shook their heads and widened their eyes as though emerging from a trance. Perry’s wife turned to face him.
‘The majesty of the Holy State of Borea is truly unparalleled, don’t you think?’
‘Absolutely. How do you think the magical baby lowers itself from the ceiling?’
‘Well, the Holy State of Borea has methods of achieving things that citizens could never comprehend. It is not our duty to try to understand it, darling, it is our duty to worship them for letting us glimpse their sanctity!’
‘I am fulfilled,’ said Perry.
‘I love you,’ said Mabel.
The podiums lowered, and thousands of wheelchairs left the arena into the pinkish hue of a gorgeous sunset.
A claxon reverberated across the landscape, and four words appeared in the air in front of Perry’s wheelchair.
‘The Eight Holy Laws!’ boomed a deep male voice, coming from each citizen’s wheelchair. Many people whooped and punched their fists. The lettering morphed into a longer sentence and the man read:
each citizen has the right to be implanted with a voice recorder at birth –
Citizens in every direction roared their approval. Perry cheered along with them, knowing that he must do so after each law. The voice read on:
each citizen has the right to be forbidden from interfering with nature and animals –
each citizen has the right to be implanted with a movement tracker at birth –
each citizen has the right to parent a maximum of one child –
each citizen’s child, exceeding their first, has the right to be killed at birth –
each citizen without a partner at the age of thirty has the right to be randomly assigned one –
each citizen has the right to have their life terminated at the age of sixty –
each citizen’s body has the right to be ground into dust upon death and integrated into the soil –
Perry sighed upon the conclusion of the final law, but his relief did not last long. The three sticks of bamboo depicted in the Borean state emblem appeared in the air where the laws had just been.
Perry shut his eyes and clenched his jaw. He felt scared, faint and lost. A ringing sound filled his ears and the blood rushed out of his head. His lungs swelled to twice their normal size. His muscles ached. He kept his mouth shut to not alert the voice recorder, and regained control of his body as the emblem disappeared.
‘… so that’s always an incredible moment, too. But the baby! Oh, the floating baby! Have you ever seen anything so magnificent in your entire life, darling? Of course, you haven’t. There’s absolutely nothing the Holy State of…’
Mabel had not noticed Perry’s strange behaviour. His body always reacted like this when confronted with the Borean emblem, although Perry did not know why. It reminded him that he was different from the other citizens. No one else lost their hearing or struggled to breathe when confronted with the three sticks of bamboo. Perry was alone in this abnormality. From childhood, his fear of bamboo highlighted his mental isolation, and hatred for Borea’s repressive, totalitarian rules followed thereafter.
He was still regaining his breath when his wheelchair arrived in Tambamba. Mabel greeted a neighbour across the village square, as Perry turned away, and wondered how much longer he could survive in Borea.