Incredulity. (Flash fiction)

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The craft gleamed, rainbows of colour scintillating back and forth as Jasper took his seat. Beside him his peers chatted excitedly. He heard a subdued whoosh as trees and meadows sped by beneath at alarming speed as they headed north toward the wastelands.
He’d heard of them, everyone had, yet the notion seemed somehow unreal, the lush vegetation below giving lie to the notion. They said his ancestors made them, that they had never healed; a legacy of hate and greed. Each year graduation students would visit to see for themselves. Now it was his turn.
Nothing could prepare him. Description paled in comparison. Death as far as the eye could see. Dark silhouettes cluttered the skyline where people once lived in tiny cages, huge walls of cells, deserted, abandoned, falling in decay. No trace of green remained; the vital earth lay grey and haggard. No birds flew, and without their songs it was strangely silent.
A feeling of horror struck his soul. What must it have been like to live imprisoned in these walls, like ant colonies, but people teaming forth? He could not imagine such a thing. No wonder they turned to greed and hate, no wonder they destroyed themselves, he thought. Losing touch with all that was human, the nature that surrounded him every day, they had become perverted.
He’d heard of their strange system of commerce, where man competed against his fellow man for power and an archaic medium called “money”. Why should someone want more than their needs? Why would they fight and die for greed (especially not their own)? How were the people manipulated into agreeing that some were more deserving than others? How could some have squandered the earth’s resources living with the knowledge that others died every day of neglect and starvation? How could they have destroyed everything?
He still could not believe it, it staggered his comprehension. Only the tall sentinels rising from the debris below gave credence to the truth. Tears slowly edged down his face, his initial anger replaced by pity.

Two thousand and 84

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airship

“What is freedom?” she asked.
“It’s more than an absence of imperial domination,” he explained, eyes glowing in the dim lit cell.
“It’s something you must have inside, in your head, before you can live it, before you can give it to others. Some people think they are free, but they are the most bound of all, they are not even free in their thoughts.”
“Those that do the bidding of the masters?” she glanced down at the plastic cuffs securing her hands to the bench.
“Yes,” he whispered.
“Was I free before they captured me?”
“No, for you were bound by fear of them. That is not freedom.”
“Where you ever free?”
“Yes, for a while I was, free of fear and free of them. I lived on an air ship. I hid in clouds and scattered pamphlets … I was free like the birds till they shot me down.”
“That’s why they hate you so much.”
He smiled, “Yes. You see even they are not free, their greed and hate confines them even as these bars confine us.
“They want you to join them.”
“I know. That’s why they put you here to entrap me.”
“Me! I would never do that!” He smiled slowly.
“You already have.”
“How?”
“Before I had no one, they had no leverage. They want me to appear to join them so the truth will be disproved.”
“The truth in the pamphlets?
“Yes. I could not bare them to hurt you and they will if I don’t join them.”
“You cannot give in,” her lip quivered, eyes darting. She knew what they might do.
“There is a way, maybe, we could both be free. She looked up into his eyes and he gently kissed her. It was not like the possessive kiss of the masters, but soft, loving and she treasured it. Leaning forward he whispered in her ear.

*

“Only if she is with me!” he demanded. “I don’t trust you.”
“As you will… It makes no difference,” the voice was oily as he ordered fresh clothes for the girl also. Their ploy had worked…

*

A few hours later they stood on the balcony ready to address media cameras and the surging crowd below.
“Are you ready?” he whispered. She nodded imperceptibly. Stepping forward towards the microphone they clasped hands.
“Freedom!” he yelled as in unison they sprang forward vaulting the low stone masonry edging the gallery.
There was no airship to receive them, but the clouds looked on above in understanding, below the crowd murmured in ugly dissent.