The red recording lights blinks off, and instantly, the false facade drops off his face. The artificial smile drips from his mouth like treacle, previously alight eyes now blank and empty. The man turns his back to the camera, shoulders slumping, head bowed, and makes his way from the room, flicking off lights as he goes. He leaves the building solemnly, wandering through the grey streets, snow turned to sludge soaking through his boots, tall buildings towering above him, their shadows casting darkness over him, causing him to cower under their watch. Its all part of his job, what he does each day, he tells himself. All part of his duty as a citizen. And he can pretend its work, but he knows, deep down in the pit of his stomach, that he doesn’t have a choice. No one has any choice anymore.
No ones waiting when he arrives home. Not that he expects anyone to be. No ones been waiting for him for years. His house is cold and lifeless, and he wanders through to hall, turning on lights, trying to breathe life back to the building. It’s nothing like it used to be. The lights are florescent and white, nothing like the warm yellow ones that used to occupy his home. He makes his way to the kitchen, and begins to cook his issued meal, nothing like the old ones he used make, or he could go out and buy, bright street lights and hot food, both foreign and familiar smells filling his nostrils. And when he looks out the window, he doesn’t see tall, illuminated buildings, or homely looking houses. He sees grey streets and bitter faces. He sees angry men, or unaware children, born into this world, not knowing any different. He thinks about the novels he used to read, leather-bound with crisp parchment, telling tales of terrible dystopias, ill-fated men and women trying desperately to survive. Books he is no longer permitted to read. He remembers pitying the characters. Marvelling at the horror of it all. Never would he have thought that was what his life could become.
* * *
The man walks through cold street, wind whipping his hair and biting his nose, towards the looming, ever-present building. He tries not to think about his job too much anymore. He doesn’t have any control, so why dwell on the topic? He pushes the big metal doors open and walks up the stairs, into the News broadcast room. Already, The Men, in their green government suits and masks, set up cameras, moving in silence. He runs over his script, trying his hardest to look presentable, to smile. A buzzer goes off, and the man makes his way to his chair, nodding briefly to the figure behind the camera, a silent, subtle salute. The cameraman doesn’t react, but the man knows that he sees, that he understands, and for a second, he can think how he used to again. But the feeling doesn’t last. Instead, he turns to face the lens, plasters an awful smile across his face, and begins to talk.
He reels off sentence after sentence about the success of the government, how things are better now, how everything is going perfectly according to plan. He tells people not to worry, everything is being dealt with. He assures people that all the decisions being made are the correct ones. He speaks words that he can’t comprehend. Words that feel foreign as he lets them flood like venom from his mouth, poison sinking into the viewers flesh. Everything he announces feels so unfamiliar, so unnatural. Still he speaks, letting the words flow from his tongue, trying to ignore the pangs in his chest and the thoughts racing through his mind. He reels off lie after lie. And he smiles the whole way through.
* * *
The man walks from the building, same as usual, same as everyday. He walks without purpose, unlike The Men in green, who march in straight lines, eyes ahead, unfeeling. The man wanders, and instead of turning off his usual path, he just keeps walking. He doesn’t think much of it, at first at least, and in a way, he’s trying to see how far he can go before something happens. How long can he walk away from his allocated home before something stops him. And he keeps walking, and nothing happens, and he thinks that maybe he should go back. At least to eat, get a coat, something, anything. But he can’t stop himself. He doesn’t want to stop. He wants to keep going until he never has to see this place again. Keep walking until this is all nothing but a distant memory. A vague past. A story book world. And maybe he can.