After School: 2061

It has been a long day.

I struggle through the front door of our fifteenth floor apartment and push my schoolbag into the baggage cubicle so it can be scanned for illegal substances. As the integrated machine begins its search for anything deemed “hazardous to the state” I lean heavily against the door jam. I’m tired and I could do with a rest, my head feel thick from memorising by rote the reams of texts required by the National Education Board before I can sit my quarterly exams and hopefully continue past year eleven into my final year of secondary schooling. If I don’t pass I’ll be placed in a work for benefits scheme somewhere, working a production line or a cleaning job; a thankless drone attached to our great beneficiary SeaCorp.

The machine finishes scanning my bag with a beep and I sigh, heaving its bulk back onto my shoulder and making my way into our tiny common area. Nobody is home but the television is on, it’s always on because it can’t be turned off and until midnight it can’t be turned down. There’s an obligatory fifteen minute “relaxation” period before my own room’s door unlocks and I can catch a bit of sleep so I reluctantly drop onto the hard plastic of the couch and gaze blankly at the screen. I try not to pay attention but it is impossible not to, years of conditioning have made me instinctively watch the drivel on the screen.

At the moment there’s news on, that’s pretty common although I could already recite what stories will be shown. A puff piece about how our brave soldiers are doing overseas and how despite great odds, they continue to push back the forces of the enemy; they’ve been pushing back since I was a kid but they never seem to finish despite the monthly declarations of victory over the hordes of extremist terrorists.

Then there are the stories about how the poor are dragging us all down with their dependence on state welfare and how their laziness is making everything worse.

Finally, there will be a feel good story about how some dude has worked hard at his six ’til ten job and now lives in the comfort of the high-rises uptown. The dude always looks the same, clean cut with strong features and a determined smile and steely eyes; wearing a plain blue shirt with a work helmet under his arm. I’m calling bullshit on that one because I know my dad works on the line and he barely has time to shave at all, let alone stay clean as a whistle. All of the line workers I’ve seen look permanently exhausted, that hang-dog look people get from no sleep and endless hours staring at clanking machines and consoles. Poor dad, he’s forty-five and he looks about sixty. He says that he’s looking forward to retirement when he his eighty-five but we all know he won’t last that long. Not with the dust of the machine plant and the unending grind to increase production.

There isn’t actually even a need for my dad to be working in the stupid production line. The only reason he does is because the government wanted to lower the massive unemployment rate so they put half the population in dead end jobs making things no one needs and paying them a pittance to do so. Dad works about eighty hours a week and its killing him, but the tele says that the problem with the economy is lazy people.

That and extremists.

We see the pictures on the movies of what extremists look like, unwashed fanatics burning the national flag and smashing the windows of good peaceful citizens. We never really get told why the fanatics are protesting and going crazy and when the security shoots them the talking heads on the tele say they deserved it. They say that the last thing our great nation needs is people who don’t appreciate their freedoms.

Freedom; free to work until death in jobs that are absolutely pointless. Freedom to buy the same overpriced crap we are told is good for us, day in and day out.

How is it that a fifteen-year-old kid can see this but all the adults around me and most of the kids just seem to accept it? They scowl at the people running amok with their signs on the tele, they don’t even know what’s written on the signs because the government censor it all. You can see the protestors faces though, that’s always clear with a warning that harbouring them will lead to some insane jail sentence like fifty years with no parole.

There’s a growth industry, more of my friends are in the big house than I would have thought possible. I don’t hear from them and we can visit because they count as undesirable elements, which means they basically disappear for the rest of their lives. Ben was put away for jay walking and then laughing when the corp guy did an illegal U-turn just to book him. Public insolence causing damage to a security officer was the charge. In other words, Ben hurt his feelings. My other mate Jez was put away for saying SeaCorp were crooks, he was put in a SuperMax for sedition and attempting to foment public dissent.

That’s why I don’t even talk when I’m in public, most people would think I’m a deaf mute because I just look at everything with the same bored expression on my face. It’s the only way to stay safe.

I’d love to do something about how wrong it all is, but there’s no fighting the system if no one believes it’s a problem. Someone once said that if you repeat the same lie for long enough it becomes a truth, I’d say that once you lie enough then the truth is whatever you decide, especially if there’s no one to disagree.

It’s all fucked.