Sometimes my short stories get aspirations beyond their word count, and decide they want to be novels. I have to be quite firm and tell them they’re not long enough, but they argue they’re too big to become a single post. 😁
This is the reason this week’s offering is in two parts. What do you think? Do you find it irritating not to have the complete story, or does it encourage you to come back to read the ending?
I was not looking forward to the day I reached my stipulated retirement age of 45, when, as was the custom, I would need to make space in the workplace for the younger generation. A call from a colleague had resurrected my uncertainties.
‘Hi. How are you? I just wanted to wish you Happy R day. I had the notice saying yours is coming up soon.’
‘In a couple of weeks’ time. You’ve still got a few years to go, haven’t you?’
‘Yes, mine’s not for a while. I assume you’ll get the usual notification, even though you’ll no longer be on the employed list. I’m not sure how that works, but presumably the information department will have everything logged. Are you looking forward to it?’
‘I’m not sure. I discovered that only a century age people were expected to work until at least 65, and many carried on until much later to earn “money” to support themselves in later life.’
‘The things you know! I suppose that’s from all the research you do into ancient times. It must have been hard to have old people around once their brain had gone; what use could they be? If they gave out credits for all those extra years, the system would have been bankrupt. Anyway, I’d better get on. My stipulated break period is over. Good luck.’
‘Yes, thanks for the Vid. Nice to hear from you.’
‘Just be careful. You don’t want them thinking you’re one of those mercenaries, and have all your credits wiped out because of your hobby.’
‘You know me better than that. Thanks again. Bye.’
My mind drifted off to consider the changes I would have to make as the big day approached. As I had consistently worked in authorised jobs, I would automatically receive care credits once I reached my R-date. Basic necessities would be covered by the state, but it would feel odd not earning. Although I didn’t totally agree with the revolutionaries, who had only succeeded in placing themselves in the lower R credits bracket, I couldn’t help wondering if there wasn’t some sense in their beliefs.
Surely there was some merit in experience, which was made redundant after R-day, even if I wasn’t brave enough to voice my thoughts out loud. Freedom of speech might be written into the constitution, but it wasn’t advisable to upset the authorities if you wanted to have a comfortable life.
‘You will shortly be reaching your R date. Congratulations. This is to advise you of the procedures to be followed, and what to expect following your withdrawal from the employment category. Detailed notes relating to your new sub-class are attached. Please follow the instructions carefully. Thank you for your past contribution to the greater good.’
Although it wasn’t compulsory, it would be a black mark on my record if I didn’t sign up for the post R day rehabilitation seminar, and I didn’t want my number on the watched list. An unexpected call from a previous associate added to my confused thoughts.
‘Hello. It’s L26 here. Long time, no contact. I heard about your forthcoming R day. How are you coping?’
‘Oh, Hi L. It all feels a bit strange at the moment. But you probably felt like that when you had yours. Last year wasn’t it?’
‘Yes, ten months ago, to be exact. That was really the reason for the Vid. I wonder if I can offer you a bit of advice?’
‘Sure. I’d appreciate it. I’m not quite sure if I’m pleased or scared at the moment. It’s going to be all new territory for me.’
I had heard of a few people who had tried to rebel, and L26 was one of them. He had always pushed the boundaries to challenge authority, and I guessed he was going to come up with some suggestions that I knew it would be safer to ignore.
‘Well, you might be surprised but I’ve changed my attitude. Perhaps it’s just old age, but I learnt the hard way, and don’t want you making the same mistakes. When I didn’t get any strong reprimands for my, shall we say nudges, I assumed they hadn’t been noted, or were not important enough. I was wrong.
‘When it came to my R day, somehow my file got lost. My work credits stopped but my care credits never arrived. I thought it was just one of those things, but I had kept in contact with a few others who had the same ideals as me, and they all told the same story. The ones who followed the rules didn’t have any problem. I know for a fact my submissions were very carefully vetted, whereas the ones who toed the line were rubber stamped. It was only ideas bearing my number which were examined in so much detail. So just take care. Keep out of anything subversive and you’ll be fine. Good Luck.’
‘Thank for the advice L, good luck to you too.’
As expected, in the weeks before R day, my communication box was full to overflowing with suggested music, films, and hobbies; all very relevant, and carefully tailored to my monitored, investigated history, but they gave me a sudden surge of rebellion. I was entering a new era and didn’t want to stagnate, even if I had reached ‘that’ age. I had seen friends, a few years older than me, change from vibrant personalities to semi-senile within a matter of months after reaching R age.
Maybe the governors were right. Perhaps when you reached that milestone your faculties disintegrated, and you began to live in a twilight world, where you thought you could still be useful, but it was all in your mind. The thought scared me, but I assumed all post R people went through this trauma. That could be why it was so important to attend the seminars.
The big day arrived.
I was now officially post R. In case I was in any doubt, this was confirmed by the amount of information I received the following day, confirming my new status. The correct procedure was to read and immediately acknowledge the various transmissions, but it was all a bit overwhelming. I felt like treating it as non-priority, and neglecting it in favour of my personal research into ancient history.
Fleetingly I wondered whether the tracking of my interest would affect my R rating, but when I received no warnings, I assumed this was not an unusual course of action for new Rs, and there was leeway while I adjusted. Logging into the Post R courses, I completed the appropriate responses, and gradually the number of new items in my info box declined. Before long they trailed off completely, and time hung heavily on my hands. I missed the companionship and debates of my working life, and began contacting old friends and acquaintances, in the hope they would not have forgotten me.
‘Hello. It’s V847 here. I thought I’d just give you a quick call to see how you are. How’s the project going? Have you made any headway?’
‘Oh Hello. Er…. Yes, I’m fine. You’re an R now, aren’t you?’
‘Well, yes. But we worked so closely together I was interested in how things were progressing.’
‘Sorry. Busy. You know how it is. Nice to hear from you. Bye.’
I tried again with a couple of others, all with the same result, although some were not so polite. Eventually I received a yellow warning, suggesting it was not advisable to disturb workers during their employment hours. In all my working life, I had only ever received one yellow warning, and even that had been downgraded to a blue once I had explained the circumstances.
In desperation, I looked up several post R contacts, but although they responded they had nothing to say, as their lives were now boring and repetitive. Was it true that once you reached that age you were on the downward slope, or was it that with no interest in life you disintegrated? The anger and frustration took over. I didn’t want to become a mercenary, but I still felt I had a lot of life left in me.
The olden days fascinated me, and I began to spend more and more time investigating the topic, although I did worry about how it would be perceived by the powers tracking my every move. At first there was no problem, but as I delved deeper I found my investigations were constantly frustrated by the message ‘Access denied. Restricted content.’ The days turned into weeks and months and I accepted my lot, and turned into the model post R citizen.
One day, quite by chance, I was browsing an innocuous subject, idly following related links, until I ended up at a site which I assumed would be restricted. Pop up warnings appeared, and being a good citizen my immediate instinct was to delete. For some reason my finger hit the accept button and I was transported into a new world.
‘Warning. This site is not on the approved list, you proceed at your own risk. Consider your options carefully before continuing.’
Intrigued, I pressed continue. The hosts explained that, so far, their technology had enabled them to be invisible to the governors, although there was no guarantee this would last. Here were people after my own heart. They too believed post R citizens had a lot to offer, and that enforced brain redundancy, and lack of stimulation, negated intelligence cells that still had much to offer.
Guilt kicked in and I didn’t confirm my acceptance for my details to be registered. I was too wary of preserving my anonymity from the undesirable list. Instead I quickly exited the site, and tried to delete my cache. For a few days I panicked, waiting for the reprimand to appear, showing that the powers-that-be had noted my involvement in an unregistered site.
Although no rebukes appeared, it was nearly a month before I plucked up the courage to track down the network again. One visit could be passed off as an accident but two would seem deliberate. Was it worth the risk?
More next week.
© Voinks January 2019
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