Rana Pratap Saikia
Present day: “Perhaps civilization is one of many social experiments that went wrong”, I ponder to myself as I look outside my cell window at the desolate picture below. Perched like a lonely eagle in my seventh storey prison cell of despair, the picture in my mind remains foggy. A blinking camera on the ceiling reminds me that ‘The System’ is watching my every move. My throat is parched from thirst, my belly hungers for food and my body still aches from the hours of flogging it has been subjected to, but my mind remains free.
I, Subject 2203, have spent many a night ruminating upon what might have been if I had not been caught. I probably would have found a way to contact the Rebels by now. But then again, maybe I am secretly thankful that I have not, seeing as how common it is to find Rebel militants' corpses lying in the vast stadium-sized garbage dump at the edge of this godforsaken city. I haven't slept in days as cries of prisoners being subjected to flogging ring out across the empty nights. I lie awake, and I think. I think about my life as a child, I think about my parents, but mostly, I think about her. I have heard tales that she is still alive, my beloved Shakthi.
I have heard tell that she is now one of the ‘Women Power United’ militants, a group of outlaws. They probably wiped her memories with the memostik treatment and programmed her through their telly propaganda to fight for their cause. Now a part of me wished that she would be able to evade capture, but they got to you sooner or later. If you were a man, The System would grab you and if you were a woman, you would eventually be recruited to fight for the cause of the WPU (often against your own will). Of course there were the transsexuals, who identified as neither gender and thus were mostly left alone.
I gaze outside the windows, and see a couple of children fighting with sticks. A System Guard sees them and tries to break the fight up, only to be viciously attacked by the two little devils who shout with glee in unison with every blow they land on the guard. He eventually decides to take out his machine-rifle and shoots the two children in their tender skulls. Their parents will eventually discover the bodies and will either decide to bury them or feed them to their wild-hoggs.
These kids, like all residents of Maatha (including me) were birthed in the womb of the AL1 (Advanced Intelligence 1) sexbots, which were primarily being used for breeding purposes. After the invention of the AI2 sexbot, the scientists at SexCorp had to find use for the thousands of AL1 variants which were practically rendered useless after the coming of the AL2 (which could often be confused for real live women). Thus, the head honchos at Sex-corp came up with an idea. With the dwindling of woman population due to most of them running off to join the WPU, and the declining birthrate in the country, they decided to sell these dolls in the black market for reproductive purposes. They formed an alliance with the transsexual businessmen, who were only too glad to have these dolls since they could not reproduce themselves. It basically negated the role of women in producing babies.
When some of the leading party members of 'The System' got wind of these proceedings, they decided to impose a new rule: every baby that was born would be assigned to a family consisting of husband and wife. Of course, marriages were few in Maatha and thus, the few married couples that there were, were entrusted with the keeping of many babies. I had heard tell that a certain couple in the province of Systemstate-Aizawl had been entrusted with the keeping of 281 babies. Naturally, the parents assigned by The System could not properly look after all the children and what it did was produce a country of miscreants and debauched children, many of whom were spies (for The System, the WPU, the rebels, you name it!) and as such, they were to be feared the most for you never knew which side they were on.
Days have turned into weeks, and weeks to months, and I begin to wonder if anybody even remembers that I am rotting away here. I actually miss my initial days in the cell when I would be flogged from dawn till dusk. I have not been outside for months and the stench of mingled blood and shit from the nearby cells nauseates me every waking moment. The only possessions left to me are a blank diary and a pencil which I have coaxed one of the prison guards to smuggle me after convincing him that I would pay him two 'soney' (counterfeit gold coin currency) after my sentence is over. There is no way to determine how long it will be, though, seeing as there is no legal procedure and matters of legal nature are entirely handled by cronies of 'The System'. My future looks bleak, if it can even be called that. So, one fine day, I decide to write about my past (or what I remember of it). I put pencil to paper, and start scribbling:
Oct. 2, 2059: I have heard that a great man was born on this day more than a hundred years ago. They say his image used to be on currency notes when they used to have paper currency. So I find it ironic that I, the most insignificant of men, write about my experiences on this very auspicious of dates. The first memory I have of gaining awareness is looking around me to witness a sea of poverty and chaos. I was entrusted to a couple in the countryside so I was yet to see the worst, but I remember the distress I felt as a child as I saw the people around me devoid of choice or freedom, living with terror in their hearts, struggling to earn a couple of slices of bread every day. I don't know what it is like now (I haven't been back since I left at the age of 23), but poverty was rife in the countryside during those days. The couple I was entrusted to by the shady people of The System who mainly operated behind the scenes, told me that I was born in the year 2030, almost a decade after the nuclear fallout that ravaged most of our country. I was precocious for my age and could read as well as write by the time I was six years old
and I started questioning. “Too much questioning is bad, you have to understand that”, Mama tried to convince me. The funny thing is, I didn't even know the name of my parents. I simply called them 'Mama' and 'Papa'.
I had been assigned the 'name' Subject 2203 because I was the 2203rd child produced in one of the many birthing facilities scattered across the country. I could sense that my parents, and especially my papa, reminisced about the world that existed before the terrible war changed life as it existed in Maatha. Behind his weary facade, I saw the strength of a man who had once stood up for ideals and principles that he thought to be just. But he was too tired now to keep fighting.
The System didn't allow schooling and books were banned. It was mandatory for the parents to plug their children into the 'System-virtua', a virtual reality box that showed the glories and triumphs of The System for at least two hours every day. But my parents were lenient and ceased to feed me the propaganda when they saw how much it pained me. Unfortunately, it wasn't the world I wanted, but it was the world I found myself in. And despite repeated warnings from representatives of The System on the telly about the consequences of keeping books, my parents found ways to smuggle them in. Papa was especially fond of reading and kept a treasure trove of information locked in the basement. I vividly remember the night he woke me up and stood at the end of my bed, looking me over with his cold and tired eyes. “Hush”, he said “Mama must not know I am here.”
I hear footsteps approaching my cell and hide my diary under my lice-ridden mattress. A guard appears from the shadows and his eyes lock with mine. He raps on my prison cell bars and snarls a warning at me: “serve”. Saying this, he starts grinning ear-to-ear and clapping his two hands together like a child who has found a toy. It is common knowledge that these guards are lobotomized when they sign up for duty with ‘The System’. Their memories are replaced with propagandized information which enables them to serve ‘The System’ without fail or questioning any of their motives. They are known to kill at the slightest of provocation, so I know trying to continue my diary entry would be a great folly with the feral SystemGuard prowling nearby. I close my eyes and I pretend to sleep. I live to fight another day.