It was Thursday, I think. Perhaps it was Friday. My meal, two slices of bread, a block of cheese and some corned beef, bland and stale. The air, a musty and suffocating thickness, not real. The broadcaster on the radio told me that it was Friday the fourth. I should also remain alert for sporadic showers and to listen out for the Siren. Thank you, broadcaster, I shall do that, because without you I would not remember to be careful of rain or the possible threat of bombs, thank you very much. How absurd.
I received a letter yesterday detailing my collection into the Service:
3rd January, 2019
You have been selected to serve our nation. In this dire time of need, we ask you to remain steadfast and true as our great nation ploughs on through, whilst so many others fall.
A transport will be at your nearest Locale Point at 07h00 on Saturday, 5th January. Whilst enrolment is strictly voluntary, any soldiers not doing their service will be subject to questioning – for the safety of the nation. Please find the enclosed information leaflet for further information.
You are making your nation very proud,
The letter bore the Buckingham Palace stamp, in bold blood red at the top of the yellow parchment. It showed the kings crest, complete with lion, dragon and shield, yet I felt nothing when I stared at the crest. I felt no pride. I felt nothing when I first read the letter and I feel nothing when I read it again now. What will come, will come and all the rest of the other shit that follows. I have no power to change my fate, the little power I have remains in verbosity and structure of my diary entries, which I scribble down upon scratchy, recycled paper. I traded a quarter loaf of bread for this diary with a market man. Its cover is hard, brown and slightly faded and it has an earthly smell to it. I feel drawn to it, so drawn as to give up half a week’s worth of bread. But, that is done now and I – my alarm interrupted my thought; it was seven o’clock and got up. I had to go meet a man for nine o’clock about some pencils.
After getting the pencils, I went to queue for my rations at the collection point near Constitution Hill, its roadside littered with the debris of street furniture and the tarmac was uneven and interspersed with potholes all along the way. Poole used to be such a lovely place but now the buildings that had once lined the street are either dilapidated or in ruins and play shelter to men, women and children turned to a life of addiction. The men who own these buildings take advantage of those who have little to no money and promise them food, shelter and a little money if they help run the ‘Playhouses’, as they are called. Then, when a person is in with the Playhouses, it is only a matter of time before they start spending the little money they have on drugs and become addicted, helpless to their needs and go to many a great length in order to get their next hit. Men, women and children from all walks of background end up in the Playhouses, some once rich, some once famous, some once normal. Now, they all are the same. They skulk through the broken rooms of their Playhouses, the roofing punctured from previous bombings and the floors and walls damp with rain and the residue from the sweat of the many bodies lying inside; their muscle tissue wasting off the bone, their teeth rotting and their eyes bulging forth from their sunken faces. Each a mind trapped in itself and unaware of the world. I hate them for it.
From the queue I surveyed a Playhouse. It had a yellowish stain to its walls—perhaps it had once been a bright sun kissed yellow, a home to a young and enthusiastic family, middle class and perfect. Outside the Playhouse, their stood eight people, as I recall. Six of which were lined up and two men walked slowly up the line, scrutinising the stock. One of the two men was the customer, the other the Sir, the man who owned the Playhouse. The other six consisted of three male and female stock; each a pair of a particular age group, children, teenagers and young adults. The customer selected his favourite, a young girl of around nine years old from the litter, and shook hands with the Sir who turned to young girl but there was something wrong. The Sir said something to the girl and she hesitated for a moment for shaking her head, shifting her weight on either foot, to and fro. Menacingly, the Sir bent over the girl and pointed an angry finger at her nose and after a brief moment the girl still refused and appeared to have started to cry. Steadily, the Sir straitened up and looked over his shoulder, checking us all in the ration line, he knew he had an audience and lavished in it as he turned and struck the girls cheek with the back of his hand. There were short gasps audible from people around me in the ration queue. I looked to the Rose Guards who were dotted along the street, but they merely did not notice, or pretended to at least; another product to be bought and sold by the Sirs, or the next highest bidder. The girl gingerly put a hand to her face and began to quietly sob into her hand as she was led into the house by the Sir and closed followed by her paying customer. Before he entered the house, the customer stopped and looked around and his stare seemed to linger on me for a moment. At the time I could not place where I had seen him before, but now I remember. He lives in the same block of flats that I live in now. He does not live on my floor, but he is a neighbour and I saw him enter that Playhouse. I think I spoke to him once; we were in the lift of our flat building and made small talk about the weather. People do worse, I suppose, but still, it’s not right. She was rather young.
But this happens all over now, I am told, not just here, in Poole, but everywhere. The Rose fight the war and lets the Sirs get on with their business, the people, just as long as the Sirs do not interfere with the Rose’s business, the war. I continued to watch the yellowish Playhouse and felt a sharp jab in my right shoulder. I turned my head to find a syringe placed firmly into my arm and looked up to see a bored looking man, a little older than myself staring at me with a strange complacency. My brain was dumb for a second as I gathered my wits, then the man spoke for me,
‘What’s with the needle?’, he mocked
‘Yes, of course, what’s with the fucking needle you moron!’ I retorted,
‘Ah. Well, yes, alright. You are now a member of a dying community’
‘Well there is a war on, you idiot. Why did you stab me with this needle you’ – I took out the needle and turned it around to find it inscribed with a message. I looked up at the man, confused.
‘Read it’ he said, simply. I read the note, scrawled in a black biro along a strip of a paper that read, simply ‘Welcome to the world of HIV’. For a moment I was stunned, I looked up and the man was gone from sight. I looked round to the person behind me in the queue who pretended to be oblivious to my presence. I span on my heel, and broke into a cold sweat as I searched for a medic base, there was none. The hospital, however was just over the hill and still had most of its wards open, most of which were largely undamaged by shrapnel. I leapt into a run, and raced in the direction of the hospital, ignoring the hungry looks I received from the Sirs as I passed various Playhouses.
I reached the top of the hill and paused to catch my breath, the hospital in sight now, about seven hundred metres down the hill. My heart hammered, unfit for such excursion and my mind raced, frantically trying to process what had just happened. Then, as I was slopping down the hill, the Siren broke out of the rustle street. Everything around me appeared to be snapped into an air of urgency as people all shot inside for shelter from the incoming threat of bombs, the rumble of planes, allied or enemy shot overhead and from nowhere tanks and trucks appeared, loaded with troops and anti-aircraft weaponry. Then in an instant, the tanks and trucks before me exploded, hit by an enemy bomb. The blast sent me flying and I hit my head on a wall on the far side of the pavement. I tried to rouse my senses, my vision blurred and my ears were occupied by a ringing swan song. I shook my head in an attempt to clear my facilities yet, alas, this only worsened the matter. The last thing I remember before closing my eyes was a feeling of movement, followed by a sinking weightlessness and great flashes of orange and red. Then, the world turned black.