The Tower

We stood in the shadow of the Great Tower, green, yellow and black overalls elbow to elbow, watching the butts of the rifles carried by the Secret Police. They stood on the dais facing us, clad in red, their dark skin exposed by short sleeves. Potato sacks covered their heads. The firing squad captain raised his arm, and the ten officers aimed at ten sacks. The captain let his arm fall. The officers fired in unison.

The siren sounded, promptly all party members gathered in the square returned to work. It always happened this way, the execution sirens would peal, and all party members within one kilometre of the Grand Parade would have to make their way to the Tower to observe the killings. No explanations were offered. The Party makes no mistakes. Whoever was being executed deserved it. Speculation as to why the group before them were condemned was rife in the crowd, the heads of the condemned were always covered and they were dressed in red. If they were dark like us, they had to be traitors of The Party, and if they were of lighter hues, the assumption was that they were prisoners of war.

The low-ranking members of the Inner Party clad in black overalls made their way around the dais and into the Great Tower just as the last body was carted away. The Tower, a mass of dark concrete three hundred metres tall, loomed over the city.

I stared up at the giant white letters emblazoned on the front side of the building. It made me uneasy. Something was amiss.

Together the letters formed the words of the tenets of The Liberation Charter:

The Liberators Shall Govern!

All Groups of The Party Shall Have Equal Rights!

The Party Shall Share In The Country’s Wealth!

The Land Shall Be Shared Among The Party!

All Members Shall Be Equal Before The Party!

All Members Of The Party Shall Have Equal Human Rights!

There Shall Be Work and Security!

The Party Shall Control The Doors Of Education and Culture!

There Shall Be Houses and Security!

THE PARTY IS PEACE! THE PARTY IS UNITY!

The camera below the Liberation Charter swivelled and fixed its gaze upon me, breaking the daze I was in. I was the only one left standing before the building; the yellow cluster that is the maintenance division of The Party was already exiting through the West Gate of the inner ring wall. The fifty-metre tall wall was fashioned after the Tower it was built to protect.

I caught up with my unit near The Party Gardens, which is home to the headquarters of the maintenance division. ‘…I heard they were in cahoots with the RFC, that’s why they were executed,’ said a voice I didn’t recognise, ‘What do you think Khanya?’

‘I don’t believe in ghost stories man! There’s no such thing as the RFC.’ replied Khanya.

John, the foreman of our unit, stopped walking and faced the fifteen men he was responsible for and said, ‘I implore you all to stop the constant chatter and speculation. There will be no mention of anti-Party movements, real or imaginary in my unit. Those people were killed because The Party wanted them dead. The Party acts in our best interest. The Party makes no mistakes.’

‘The Party makes no mistakes!’ chanted the group in unison.

We walked the rest of the way in silence. But, when we eventually reached the gardens, the only green space still left in the city, the RFC was still on my mind. I understood John’s vexation at the men because the rumours about the apparent revolutionary movement looking to overthrow The Party were rife. Just mentioning them was enough to land any Party member in serious trouble. There was no proof that the movement existed. Initially, they were dismissed as a myth by Party Gazettes, and the rumours were treated as such, but the recent aggression from The Party higher-ups towards the mere discussion of the RFC suggests there may be some truth to the stories.

These kinds of thoughts came to me a lot easier under the canopy of trees in the gardens, the only place in the city in which the Great Tower was not visible at all times. Even when you could not see the Tower, it could see you and hear you as well. It was always watching and listening even this sanctuary is filled with hidden cameras and listening devices, in that bush, in the bed of larkspurs and the alcove of that tree.

My shift started in an hour; I broke away from the group and walked along the cobblestone path, past the aviary filled with grey-looking birds. This part of the gardens was the darkest, the trees were low growing, and the trail turned to gravel. After walking another ten meters, I stepped off the path and made my way through the undergrowth and came to a small clearing. In the centre of this clearing was a stunted Willow tree, it had a short trunk, but its foliage was thick and grew so long it was now creeping along, parallel to the ground. I walked towards the tree and stepped through the leaves. In the dark, I was alone, closed off from the world outside. I discovered this secluded area on one of the solitary walks I took through the gardens during my lunch breaks away from the din of the crowded maintenance department mess hall. I was searching for a place to smoke. It is not allowed in public.

I pulled a cigarette and lighter out of the left breast pocket of my overall. The flimsy thing was half empty. The tobacco had fallen out in my pocket. I tore away the excess casing, gingerly holding the cigarette tip away from the ground. I lit it, closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. When I opened my eyes, I noticed something pinned to the trunk of the willow tree. I dropped the cigarette and started towards what appeared to be an A4 page folded in half. Someone had stuck it to the tree by impaling it with a screwdriver. I grabbed the red handle of the screwdriver and pulled; grabbing the page as it fluttered towards the ground, the cream coloured paper felt thick. I’ve never seen or felt anything like it. My fingers trembled as I unfolded the page.

--

--

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
Storm Simpson

Storm Simpson

37 Followers

Tales of a Tempestuous Life | Cape Town-based journalist and writer