ONE

 
 Photograph by Daniel David

Photograph by Daniel David

 
 

SOCIÉTÉ
CHAPTER: ONE


Context:

The chapters labeled ONE to EIGHT in the novel SOCIÉTÉ, compose of a parallel story to Christian Matters and Lester Rothschild’s. It reveals the consequences involved with the book’s main conflict of opening Société, as it would allow the establishment of its prototype in the heart of society. This side story speaks the mind of Rayt Vickers, a miner in a post-apocalyptic civilization where the value of free will, and the world’s humanity, has been substituted by the mechanism of the Model.

 

ONE

 

         “Heave!”

          The climax of an anthem blasted through the speakers.

          “Heave, Comrades, heave!"
          
          A note and its musical triumph merged with the State’s symphony. Again.
          
          And again. 

          Rayt Vickers smiled with accomplishment. The muscles of a thousand men stiffened and released. Each furnace, tub and cell splattered a screen of liquid fire into the air. The song ended and a roar converged on his ears. It was the men, cheering.

          “Halt all the lines!” the Model boomed through the resonance pillars. “There is less than three-quarters of earned repose.”
          
           Across the valley, the hidden sun flashed its searing glory through the oxidized clouds, emitting a constant, rusty glow. The dry gorge of the southwest was smitten by the acerbic gusts, carrying the heat of the fuming raw. Sand shuffled. Metal cranes creaked. Ashen yellow gravel rolled and murmured in protest. Rhythmical boots carried on. The men were chipper as they walked to the cool shadows of the hung, gray canvases, laughing about a new blister, or discussing a show on last night’s telex broadcast.

          “What a nice bugger we took out right now, eh?” Marlom said to Rayt’s right. He was a large fella with a boyish face—dark eyes, crooked nose and chin. “Ya still worried?” he said, watching him scratch his head. “A child of the sun, and the hair keeps eating ya?”

          Not responding and dropping his hands, Rayt Vickers felt sweat from the ambient heat smear and dilute the white paste on his cheeks and temples.

          “Oh, come on,” Marlom said with his prickly, rough voice. “You see this?” He lowered his head, a sweaty, bare cranium. “Look at the men on the line: bald, hairless likes a bunch of naked mole rats.” He laughed. “It’s only a matter of time, Comrade. The red shadow eats everything.”

          “It’s mine to keep for now, ain’t it?” Rayt asked. “I don’t want to look like you.”

          “Of course not. You ain’t such a good looking bastard.”

          “Shut up, will ya?” Rayt shook the dust off his head. “I’ve got raw all the way to my throat.” Marlom’s booming laughter only amplified.

          Rayt loved his hair. It was golden and malleable, only flattered by his dark grey eyes. He was a handsome cat; tall, svelte and confident, he guessed that would be true until the red shadow scorched all of his hair follicles. But it was just a guess. Longevity and old age were always overlooked; death had a habit of taking the ones at the mines before their skin completely deteriorated. It was the raw stingin’ back its price, as most miners called it.

          As far as the eye could see, scores of men wore the State’s white, long-sleeved overalls of the production sector, though now stained with brown-yellowish crusts. Dark, hefty boots covered their feet up to the knees, made sufficiently sturdy to withstand the corrosiveness of unrefined raw. It was a well-regarded feature, the blanching of the tips and heels. It depicted experience at the mines, or a recent bout with an unusually radioactive pocket of raw. Smirks of approval were always hidden beneath a pleased staidness. Every man drilling in the Salstad Mine bore the same condensed face, the same instinctive half-smile.

          “By the way, comrade, did you get your ticket today?” Marlom asked, getting in line for lunch to get served.

          “Like always.” Rayt grabbed his plate. “When are the results out this time?”

          Marlom’s dimples and eyes got wider as they got closer to the salty smell of a miner’s cool and ready State lunch. His mouth was watering. “At the Model’s final call.” The server gave each man an equal portion. A mixture of nutrients compressed into a thick, grey pudding with a scent less appetizing than it looked. Or tasted. “What do you reckon our chances of winning are this time around?”

          “I don’t know.” Rayt sat down on the side of a table. “I don’t care much for winning.”

          The song of repose began, powered by the tall resonance pillars scattered around the mine. The gnarly tune left Rayt itchy and impatient. The instrumental music had been part of their lives since they were old enough to reason. Like water dressed the glands, the baiting melodies caressed the ears. The constant sonatas kept a low volume, yet they remained always perceived, from homes to workplaces, from the mines to the sustenance markets. Other than the slow buzzing played at night, it was never quiet.

          “If you ask me, I don’t want to win,” Marlom went on. “I know the earth, the jaelic drills and the raw. How will I ever do anything else?”

          “You’re not going to win.” Rayt grinned at his friend’s disappointment. “The last time somebody won from the mines was forty revs ago. It’s been even longer for someone on the southwest sector. Hell, I don’t think any from Salstad.”

          The pillars echoed a note and its chorus.

          “It’s always possible, ya know. You ain’t need be sour about it.”

          “Ya, sure,” he snorted. “And I’ll be having a smoke with the damn Model.”

          He knew Marlom Bollt wasn’t the brightest bastard on the mines, but he had a good heart. His life revolved around digging, Ramona, and his two children.

          “What do ya reckon the world of yesteryear looks like?”

          “Exactly what it looked like before the War Reminiscent.”

          The same conversation was repeated each month when the lottery draws neared their end. It’d been seven hundred revs since the war, but he couldn’t remember the time advertised by the lottery as yesteryear. Rayt Vickers didn’t really care. The lottery was only there to appease the first class cities, not the ones destined for energy production.

          “I like to think they are the same as us, ya know?” Marlom scratched his scalp. “You reckon they’re different? Are there no mines, no first class cities? Na. It’s the same world. They work and they have children and they die. I bet there ain’t no difference.”

          “Then why are you scared of scoring a place? If it’s the same, then it doesn’t matter if you win, does it?”

          Marlom’s face went blank and he looked down on his meal. “Ya win, mate.” He shrugged. “That’s what matters.”

          “Do you want to leave Salstad?”

          “No,” he answered rapidly. “Do you?”

          Rayt hesitated. He didn’t have a woman and child. The State considered him smarter than most men, but it was only because he had a quick mind, not because he knew how to do anything else. He was a miner. “No, I don’t want to leave.”

          “Damn right, you don’t.” Marlom stared at Rayt’s half-finished porridge. “Are you going to finish that?”

          “It’s all yours.”

          “And a cigarette, have one I might bum off ya?”

          Nodding, Rayt shared and lit one for himself, watching the faraway mountains edging the dry, red valley. It was said the War Reminiscent had torn down the sun from the heavens, chained it behind the perpetual haze blanketing the sky. The great flashes dried up most of the Pacific; the radioactive residues sterilized a bare earth. The ensuing red shadow was murderous across the desert, it was sunlight transformed into a toxic glow by the poisoned atmosphere and the lack of ozone. A scar forcing man to adapt to his new charred and difficult environments. To survive, rather than control.

          His childhood had revolved on State administered lessons and secular position apprenticeships, some of which included what had initially made the raw the most efficient and available fuel. Driven to extinction by its own hand, mankind by virtue of technological superiority, had devised a way to transform the atomic fallout into an energy source. In a span of fifty decades, the conditions inside the Earth’s atmosphere had cut away the ocean floor, letting nuclear residue form in liquefied pressured pockets miles below the crust. A million men across the mines quarried for its extraction. The Earth once shaped diamonds, now it blessed humanity with liquid energy. After several hundred revs, the ground upon the moving was directed to endure, to attain rather than produce.

          Marlom took out a tube and began to slather the thick, white paste everywhere the red shadow could touch the skin. It would protect him from second-degree burns. Rayt watched the men around do the same. “Aren’t you going to put some on?”

          Nodding absently, he slathered some around his eyes and chin. The song ended. The men around raised their heads, the taste of silence making them uneasy.

          “Comrades of Salstad!” the Model burst through the pillars. “Get the paste, slather some haste, and get ready to raw!”

          The men cheered.

 

          Around six, the Model spoke to them again. The workday had ended and with his usual, boisterous pitch, he advised the few thousand men on Salstad to watch the telex in the tents after dinner. After that, they’d travel by bus to the outskirts of the mine and to their homes. Administered by the First Laws, the lottery was to be watched by everyone across the State’s sectors, from frontier to frontier, from individuals to first class cities.

          Rayt and Marlom sat on their usual place, the third table beside the large telex used for the conventions. It had a thin screen merged into a rock wall inside the massive tents. Like desiccated air, eagerness clung to the Salstad atmosphere as a fly would to the nourishing gruel. The miners’ eyes swerved but did not see, jaws cracked and locked in stiff, joyful anxiety. It was expected. It was the day of the lottery.

          Rayt grunted despicably. He hated everyone’s stupid, eager face when they watched the telex. Expecting something they couldn’t possibly need, something they couldn’t understand and yet they wanted. To win was as mysterious as leaving Salstad. Relocation to yesteryear would be guaranteed, but the people neither knew what it meant, nor wanted to leave. Deep down they feared the victory, treated the lottery as a magnanimous event in which they hoped to be only spectators. Salstad was their world, and everything outside was unknown. Unwanted. He loathed that feeling, and yet he shared their stance. It was a vicious cycle, seen more often with the passing revs, like a hard breeze simmering with the surrounding heat. Salient, yet too fast and gone to take notice.
          On the screen, the Model began to speak the usual announcement, words backed by conscious melodies that appealed to men almost spiritually. Trumpets, sweet violins and the cello’s embrace. Velvet anthems. The music had grown to one they couldn’t shake, couldn’t forget. It sprang like a sting beneath the skin, a hymn even Rayt could not shatter.    

          He loved the tune.

          “As it has been for the past seven centuries, the State has thrived!” announced the Model in a powerfully earnest tone. “Poverty has been abolished, liberty has not only been projected, but lived! Time and time again by the credence of the Progs, the mind of the engineers, the strength of the children of the sun.” The men hailed a deep hoo-hah. “The time has come to embrace what humanity has granted. The gift of progress, the gift of life!” Powering the faith of the masses was the Model as he had always been; black haired with a pale, chiseled look that seemed to pierce the very instincts of man. He had the debonair charisma of an aristocrat, yet spoke with the silk vivacity of an established orator. He was the noblest of beings. Taut skin, unchanging dark eyes. Rayt thought him a striking bastard that never seemed to age. That man was the Model.

          The State’s Model.

          And comrade Marlom was hypnotized.

          “Forget the War Reminiscent. We have grown—outlasted! We live as one, work as one, produce as one. Splinter any blasphemous trait within the person, for when has the individual given us any hope? The State has dealt us a new dawn. Out of the ashes of our past, we have fought and thus we live. We love life and as such, we love freedom!”

          The Model paused, letting the roars and ovations consume the time allotted. A universe of anthems and civil images backed his clout over the screen—the richness and advancement of the first class cities of San Martino and Prognatus, the functioning energy outposts of Trylica and the Asos solar basins positioned at each frontier. Amidst the pictured supremacy of the State, he emerged again like a pulsating desert prophet.

          “Men and women of reason! What are we, if not the carriers of our brothers’ weakness? The faults of our wives and daughters? The ignorance of our sons?”  The men hailed in unison, a harmonious chant for their emperor. “The State has now made available a gift—a joy! Let the lottery award a fruit once thought to be unimaginable, to receive an experience unmatched by any of today. The world of yesteryear!”

          “I love this part,” Marlom mumbled under his breath.

          “Flesh and section bears nothing without direction!” The Model, Marlom, and everyone sang together. “Mind and skin harvests nothing without a kin, self and soul grows nothing but the whole!” Rayt Vickers smiled and applauded in the mist of the unavoidable chills running down his skin. He was almost crying. The hymn repeated again.

          And again.

          After a moment, he looked down on his half-bitten tart. He’d taught himself not to listen to the names uttered at the end of the speech. They weren’t important. Hell, nothing was really important, he just cared about the unfinished digging he had behind him. His line was close to a large vein of raw and its prolific triumph. The singing had amped his nerves. Taking a deep breath, his lungs expanded. He was about to light a cig when the men’s sudden silence stopped him in his tracks. “What?” he muttered.

          Comrade Marlom was eclipsed by the Model’s bombastic voice.

          “A child of the sun! Rayt Vickers of Salstad!”

          Rayt’s heart stopped and a couple more faces turned his way.

          His world erupted in deafening cheers.

 

 

 

—Alexander Helas •