Surveillance Sets You Free

The innocent have nothing to fear.

Martin’s eyes flicked around the grey walls of his cell – they were so impeccably, institutionally clean, the reek of disinfectant was nauseating, overwhelming. Hunched over, he retched, wretchedly, adding his own acid-stench to the miasma. The heat caused the light to shimmer, and the walls themselves seemed to dribble and sweat, sweltering.

The voices of his mothers sung to him through his dehydration-induced madness, the gibberish early-morning song they used to greet the sun, snatches of advice or admonishment, whispered consolations and praise at the most mundane of his activities. They reinforced the message of the Inquistors.

The innocent have nothing to fear.

They had even voted in the last election. Before the Emergency Powers Declaration. Before the Alien Deportation Act and the State Securities Bill. And they were right, for a time. News of failed conspiracies and foiled insurgents seemed to spew from the television screen – flocks of drones flew, invisible, like dragons, haunting the skies. Explosions rocked the public consciousness, as jihadis struck and vanished. Like smoke drifting, machine-gun fire rattled through the streets, as protesters marched, and were arrested in turn. Defeated, unidentifiable corpses would fill the screens, alongside weeping women and shattered men – the state’s victories seemed only to be defeats. Checkpoints bloomed on road-sides, armoured-vehicles squatting, and the automated cannons of white-plated robot guardians clicked and whirred, full of barely-constrained menace.

You’ll grow used to the delays, his mothers had lied to him, to his face. You never grew used to the delays, to the heavy weight of a sniper’s scope from a distance, to the growling menace of sniffer dogs and their handlers.

Bearded hipsters were arrested, for printing illegal newspapers, for refusing to fight, for looking too different. Martin shaved his beard and stopped wearing sunglasses and skinny jeans. Teenage boys strutted, in drab olive greens, assault rifles at the ready, testosterone bubbling. Martin bought a lapel-pin. They took his mothers away, charged them as sexual deviants, said that they had corrupted Martin, had damaged his mind.

He became a ward of the state, in a lodging house full of other lost children, in desperate need of re-education. His mothers became a memory, phantoms that visited in his dreams and reminded him only of his mistakes.

We’re only trying to keep you safe.

The red paint trickled down the cracked, battle-scarred concrete of the towerblock. The ever-watching lenses of security cameras had noticed, of course. His gait had been analysed, compared and distributed before he had finished. His retinas had been scanned ten-thousand times, from when he first stepped out of the black market and back into the monitored streets. His fingerprints coated the outside of the spray-can. There where fifteen witnesses. The security ‘bot had already been dispatched. He heard the whir of its servo-motors behind him, heard the booming announcement to drop what it had mistaken for a weapon, and that he had fifteen seconds to comply.

The stencil slowly peeled away from the wall, as the tape relinquishing its loose grip on the grit and the brick-dust that crusted every surface.

Welcome to the Panopticon.

As he turned from his art he saw anew the decay and the destruction, saw the city behind the too-clean armour-plates. He barely even felt the kiss of the ‘bots taser.

He awoke, to a mirrored wall, showing him an image of himself, battered, bloodied, bruised. There was only silence, echoing, like a fist. The mirror rippled, distorted into the black-grey of his cell, and a disembodied voice whispered at him, from somewhere near his elbow. “You have been found guilty, citizen, of aiding or supply morale to a terrorist group,” he tried to ignore it, “you have been found guilty of carrying an illegal weapon, as identified by the guardsman. You have been found guilty, and will be executed. Remember, citizen: surveillance sets you free.”

Hey, just something quick and a little bit longer than usual. I’ve recently had a sabbatical from the internet and from writing (if you can call two weeks a sabbatical), just to recharge my batteries. It worked. But now I need to get back to writing again, the workload never stops, but that’s probably part of why I love it. So here I am, flexing my writing muscles, getting back into the flow of it.

Tell me what you think, comments and criticism always welcome!

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2 thoughts on “Surveillance Sets You Free

  1. ganymeder says:

    That was awesome! Love the grit, though normally I’m not much for gritty stories. Unfortunately, it’s all too obvious where the inspiration lies. Wonderfully written!

  2. Sonia Lal says:

    wow. This was pretty good. I could see it, feel it.

Comments and criticism always welcome!

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