I abandoned my interlocutor to his merriment, and left the offices of the Vocabulary Pope as quickly as I could. I needed a long hot drink of Radox and a nice warm bath of Horlicks, wherein I could ponder my fate. I paused outside the Papal Offices rethinking my last sentence. Something in it hadn't sounded right.
The streets outside the Papal Offices were almost empty, and there was no sign of the meme Police, for which I was grateful. They were one of the levels of the Papal Enforcers, and had the job of stamping out memes before they could take hold in a majority of the population. This was just one way in which the Vocabulary Pope maintained his stranglehold on the language. They generally acted quickly and swiftly, and the Vocabulary Pope dispensed justice to the meme-creators, but occasionally a meme would spread faster than expected and the full might of the meme Police would be deployed. The aftermath of the great lolcats purge had been particularly bloody.
There was a woman across the street wearing a deVerbaliser; a grey steel torc around her neck that plugged into her spine via two thin, lethally sharp tines. Complex natural language processing software housed within the body of the torc analysed everything she said and if she used a word that the Vocabulary Pope had forbidden it would deliver an electric shock. The strength of the shock would depend on how many times she'd already tried to use it, and the severity of the punishment meted out by His Eminence. She was twitching as she walked down the street, and it was clear that whatever had been forbidden to her was a word she longed to use.
The deVerbalisers were severe, but far from the worst thing that the Vocabulary Pope could do. I'd seen people wearing disemVowellers before now, torcs similar to the deVerbaliser but that shocked the wearer when they used any word containing the forbidden vowel. The circumlocutions that this sometimes produced in order to describe something were impressive, and were reported on in the light entertainment section of many newspapers.
I walked off, avoiding the woman wearing the deVerbaliser. There are people who find it funny to try to get the wearer to say the forbidden word, but I'm not one of them. Home was a bus-ride away, and I dislike public transport. Everyone using it seems paranoid that the person next to them will turn out to be a meme-Police officer in plain clothes.
I reached the bus stop, and noted from the digital display that I would only be waiting two minutes for it to arrive. There was no-one else at the bus-stop, so I watched leaves falling from the trees across the road while I waited. When the bus arrived, I already had my pass out and was standing poised to board.
The bus doors hissed open like Ourboros yawning, and a young girl was thrown off past me. I caught a brief glimpse of large brown eyes and a dirty, tear-streaked face before she hit the floor of the bus shelter with a sound like a sack of potatoes being dropped from a third-floor window. Looking at the bus I saw two meme Police Officers disembarking, and while one strode over to the girl with heavy footsteps, the other seized me one-handed by the throat.