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The Facility: Chapter 4:
Brenda was always a person I could retreat to. Like a rock of surety in a world full of flux. Acting as a kind of lightning rod for the storm that raged in a backwater like this and was always simmering beneath the surface, ready to inflame the unfocused passion of a pissed off proletariat. I could barely hold in my run down this long street, the green mile of destitution, the humid air seeming a firebrand at my back. My own worry snapped at the wind of my retreat as my mind battled through the perpetual slurry of enforced apathy born of unemployment. Thoughts came slowly, outpaced by panic and my laboured breath, what was that thing? A facility? 'A' implies a singular, distinct entity, removed but alike to a collective whole, how did I sound so reasoned and collected?
Each hapless scrounger has had their names stuck into a lottery, a raffle where your Golden Ticket is made of showy brass and snares you in, a false glare captured from the neon lights bathing an abattoir's sluice floor. THAT PLACE, smacked of a butchers to me, it's conceited air of measured hatred and death was fueled by the offal of it's impoverished victims. There was a vampire at my door, taking the viral infection of others literally. Cloning and proliferating at every threshold. These were what those Facilities were, standing sentinel over the lives of the poor, a new depth to the horror they sought to inflict on the working classes.
Brenda's flat loomed up as a flimsy defence to bureaucracy's Reich. The thick tide of heat subsided as I crossed her flimsy Maginot Line. Something eased by being beneath the shadow of an old Edwardian house's grace, despite it carved up by Right to Buy hyenas. A spike of fear lanced through my chest as I found her door open, but I kidded myself into the fact that I was being paranoid and my mood was making dramas that weren't there. Brenda was often known to leave her door ajar in the daytime. Summer made her want to attune with the natural air, the only whisper of nature in concert with this concrete river. Besides, the gaping divide between open and shut was an invite for Brenda to all the ne'er do wells to remember their own humanity for a while. To recall a day when an Oxbridge journalist in an ivory tower hadn't deemed them a miscreant. She'd be a shoulder to cry on from The Facility.
The passage waved a firm hello with stout old maps and a plethora of barometers, hardly any worked, but they served their purpose in reminding Brenda of the salad days of her past on the rare gasps of fresh air down this street. I entered the living room of her flat, choked with Atlas's, globes and paraphernalia all gathered from a world she could have seen, had fate not have selected her as a nemesis. A brilliant meteorologist, Brenda had shown promise, with a great degree in her subject coupled with her dream of being a weather girl... but early onset arthritis had other plans.
Only in her early 40's, poor Brenda had to get around on a frame and had been a prison of the Giro for two decades. Shuffling around on tight rein to the nearby job centre, the harshest of punishments for a woman who had dared to think the glass ceiling could be shattered. She had made a hairline crack once, but that membrane was self-healing and began work on repairs as soon as the slightest notion of penetration was made.
Despite her sickening misfortune. Brenda's zest for life had never been extinguished, her vicarious fervour drove her passion to comfort others. To understood and be a shock absorber for the ritualistic litany of disappointment, anger and lethargy that proved a trifecta of dosser's suffering. I sorely needed her relaxed and measured voice, her weighed, logical and unflappable persona today... but she was gone.
The biscuit coloured walls and carpet looked at me like a nervous child, aware it was in trouble and unsure how to respond. The bookshelves looked mournful at the fact that their contents would never be read again and would be destined for boxes and old charity shops where entropy was now their friend. The woodchip, MDF cupboards awaited expectation, in a state of flux about who they would serve next. All the trinkets, the photoframes, the gatherings of bird feathers, or shells from the beach, driftwood and worn out antiques... she believes wear on something to be it's true story, I thought. It was the last cognitive function on the express train out of my petrifying body. A letter lay casually reclining on the seat of her grey electric armchair, a ray of sunlight bestowing an unholy glare upon the paper, taking up new residence amid the vacuum it has caused. My eyes read as they filled with tears and turned the rest of me to stone:
"YOU ARE THE FIRST SELECTION OF THE FACILITY. NOTHING OF YOUR PREVIOUS LIFE EITHER MATTERS OR IS REQUIRED. YOU WILL BE COLLECTED AS SOON AS YOU FINISH THIS SENTENCE."
© Brad James, 2014.