2 Bad Pages a Day
Published in

2 Bad Pages a Day

Against The Tide

#2badpagesaday (3)

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

He woke with a start.

He should not have been asleep. Waking up was not a scheduled part of a workday. And every day was a workday until the targets were met.

The targets were never met.

That’s just the way it was.

Targets … tantilisingly out of reach. The tangible disappointment of the Committee passed on through the obvious disappointment of the Overseer, disappointment which manifested itself in the gut-wrenching hollowness in the pit of Tide’s stomach. The disappointment ebbed and flowed, like the tide, but it was ever-present.

Disappointed. His befuddled brain shared his remembrance of the Overseer’s words, “We don’t think your heart is in it, Tide”.

That ache in his heart.

“We’re watching you”.

Waking. At work. This is not good.

Instinctively, his eyes slid up the white wall of the Office, one of 500 rooms set aside for those, like Tide, who are trusted with the Sorting. Long rooms, desks one behind the other, 13 Citizen Servants in each one. At the far end, a raised room, glass-fronted with a balcony in front of it. Here, the Archivists do their work.

He raised his eyes cautiously, expecting the all-seeing eye of the camera to be pointed in his direction, marking his indiscretion with its disapproving lens. He expected to see a stirring upstairs, a movement towards him, the Summons.

And, yet.

Calm, save for the hand raised at Desk 7. Saved by the hand raised at Desk 7.

Tide’s heart pounded. He placed his hand subconsciously upon it, feeling the thump of fright. Pressing his hand against the breast pocket of his work suit. Feeling his heart.

And, feeling something else altogether {what’s this? Paper? Card?}

His eyes are focused on the raised hand ahead of him, flicking quickly to the camera, which was steadfastly fixed on the same spot, beaming images to the Watchers. Alerts flashing. Fingers flying across a keyboard. Corresponding alerts flashing in the Overseers office. An Investigator Robot sliding silently across polished marble tiles.

Tide’s hand brushes against the rough material, fingertips sliding into the pocket. They close on the edge of the card, easing it surreptitiously onto the top of the pile of matching cards in front of him.


Except …

A handwritten addition. When had he last seen handwriting? Year 2, perhaps. Handwriting. An elegant hand; cursive.

Two words.

Just two.

He read them. And, again. A third time, the letters blurring as he examined them closely. For a moment he forgot the camera, forgot Desk 7, forgot the Targets, and the Archive, and the Rules. For a moment, Remembrance stole his attention. Two words. Handwritten. Hand-delivered?

Just two words.

Be Ready

“Desk 13 …

Tide …

Tide … pay attention.”

Jolted back into the present time. Suddenly self-conscious. The voice booming from the balcony in front of him, the copper-coloured loudhailer magnifying the Archivist’s frustration.

“Tide, move forward one desk”

Saved, again. Desk 7 has been building towards this moment. Targets reached. Attainment. Advancement. From Citizen Servant to Citizen Supervisor. A carousel of moves radiate from such moments. Rewards for identifying transgressing Citizens. One hundred red dots. One hundred Citizens labelled by Desk 7. The man in the grey suit is standing next to the Investigator Robot, being led forward, to an early finish, a new apartment in a block closer to the Administrative Centre, rewards for his contribution.

Five attentive Citizens have already moved forward, taking their places at the desk that had previously sat immediately in front of them.

One Citizen [recalcitrant][check his personnel file] holding everything up.

“Tide, move immediately to Desk 12”, the voice boomed.

“Replacement to Desk 13, Replacement to Desk 13”.

Tide is standing in front of his new workstation, surprised by the rapid turn of events, astonished by his good fortune … suddenly aware of two things. One, the pile of cards in front of him is significantly smaller than the pile he left behind on Desk 13. He’ll be finished on time this evening, he thinks, smiling inwardly. Two, oh, shit, the handwritten note. The cursive script. The mysterious message. Left. Behind.


The huge clock above the raised office shows 13 minutes past. The hour? Citizens are not to be trusted with such details. The Hooter will signify when breaks are to be taken and when the working day is done.

Tide concentrates. Head down.

He’s only barely aware of the scent. A Remembrance, perhaps {work through it, Tide}. Floral? He can’t actually remember flowers. Or can he? A Remembrance. The Time Before.

There’s no good that comes from remembrance.

The fragrance, seeping into his consciousness.

Processing cards. One after another. Burying himself in process. Pick up the card, read the title, scan the summary, categorise, add the appropriate dot … purple, yellow, or red. Process. Read card, categorise, code … and repeat. Processing human lives, categorising human lives, changing human lives. Lives not worth living.

Process, masking Remembrance.

Process. Good Citizen Servants doing Important Work for the good of the Society. Processing. Winnowing. Identifying. Earmarking.

Finding the Transgressors. Cleaning up the Society.

Process. Remorseless process.

Ah, but that fragrance. What is that smell? Think, Tide. Remember.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store


A life well-lived; celebrating people, places and purpose; an encouragement to stay curious, optimistic and adventurous. Newsletter, every Sunday, 6pm sharp.