- Books, Literature, and Writing»
- Commercial & Creative Writing»
- Creative Writing
The Greatest Wall: "I Am Ahab"
It is true. I am Ahab.
You don't know me. I will never know you.
When you look to the sunrise, you will remember me.
When you see those crumbling walls in those clouds, remember, it was I who slayed that beast. But the price was high. Millions died, even before we made it to the wastelands.
Five hundred years are gone. The Greatest Wall still stands. It has even survived the Greatest War. The war that did end all wars. The war that ended almost all the human life on the planet as well.
We are at peace. But the price was very high. The peace was death for most.
The words on the yellowed page reads, "...from disaster grew a plan. It had been set in motion during the early days -- the building period. From 2020 until 2076, a much celebrated Tricentennial, builders succeeded in constructing the largest, thickest and longest wall ever to have existed on earth. They did this, at the request of a president who later became emperor. An emperor who later took the name Trumpus Maximus and who never died."
Someone named Filberton, was the writer.
It is an old journal, handed down. Kept hidden, but read often. Many have died keeping the it or copies of it. But the name never dies. The name of Filberton. A man who lived centuries ago. A man who was not all man in the end. A man who wrote it down, so we could know what happened and decide for ourselves.
The building of the wall, we knew, was not good. The ancients of America, before the Empire grew, thought it was a godsend. To save America from the hostile world, said Maximus. It was more than that, however. It was to keep Maximus forever in power. Forever adored. And us, forever inside, toiling for the Empire.
Wars began to rage across the globe beginning in 2017. We know so little about the globe now. The journal tells us little. Much of it has been destroyed. Copies burned. Computers destroyed.
The histories, according to Filberton, tell us that China invaded Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and simply began to annex countries like Singapore and Australia. They went east.
These were countries, we think. Maybe they were cities or kingdoms, some say.
Russia's bear awakened once again and went west. Europe, with few exceptions became satellites of Moscow. We think the bear and Russia are related. Europe is a mystery.
Canada became a shared territory of Russia and China. More countries? We are uncertain.
India invaded Pakistan, after economic chaos, brought on by confiscatory tax polices, erupted into a blame game. Both countries were still nuclear wastelands to this day.
We understand wasteland and pestilence. Some still have copies of old bibles and other holy books. They seem to answer the great questions. that God erased the world, but let America be reborn, with Trumpus Maximus to reign.
Africa became the Empire of South Africa and changed its name to New Africa. Then America bombed it. More wastelands.
South America was not forgotten. It became the country of New Mexico. It is forgotten to us.
So many names. So many places now forever dust.
America, perhaps tired of fighting for so many years to keep the world from once again degenerating into chaotic realms of despots bent upon destruction and annexations, turned inward. Filberton said this.
She built a wall, the yellowed pages of the journal read.
Five centuries later, only America remained. But it was no longer the America of its Founders. The Founders? We do not know of them.
Washington? Jefferson? Adams? More names and more questions.
All the world had waged war, eventually it descended into darkness and chaos; and ultimately nothingness. But we are alive. And we knew little of this alleged history. Other countries? War? All according to the citizens and our leader?
Was Trumpus Maximus telling us the truth or is this journal the truth?
All of life was the wall to us.
I Am Ahab
The wall is the wall. It protects us from the outsiders and keeps the good in. I've heard that so many times, but I don't think it's true any longer. If it ever was.
"Stand back, Non!" the citizen ordered. And I would. We could not get too close.
Shade is an example of the lies. Shade has no humor. It's just shade. Trees can provide shade, but I am not allowed to go near the trees or look at the shade. Why? Who made this rule? Is it really about the shade?
"Move along, Non. Till the fields! Toil as it is said."
I see them, though. I see the citizens resting in the shade. Drinking sodas, ice tinkling in their real glasses and eating real food under the real trees, in the park. It is an old park, but it is still a good one where they read and type on their computers. Park their cars under the trees by the bridges and talk and sing or just listen to music. Such natural and wonderful greenery.
I see them from the tube cars. The stinking tin cans. The sardine trains. As I zip by. Sitting on the plastic bench. Chained in and locked.
Citizens have no jobs. Citizens don't ride the tubes, they have cars. Citizens live in houses, not sleep pods. Citizens live on land, not in the wall. Not in the stinking wall, I think.
We must guarantee the safety of the country, so we too will become citizens and enjoy our lives. We live in the wall until then. Until when? Our death?
All lies, we know now. We are not defenders of freedom. We are a resource. The labor. We feed them and they do nothing.
But things are bad now. It is breaking down. The citizens' cars are getting old and rusty. I see abandoned cars now. Under the trees and under the bridges. Cars that have turned brown and tires that have rotted away.
This has been going on for years, but the citizens have ignored it. Even their buildings are decaying as they play. Always they frolis and cast their noses in the air when they speak to us. When the order us. When the belittle us.
"Why do you look this way, Non?" That is the moist common refrain. And, "look elsewhere Non."
If I walked over there, even near there, even close to one of those trees or tried to look into one of those dead cars, I would be shot. My body would be left there until day's end as an example and then my coworkers would be ordered to remove my body, take it back with them on the tube cars, as everyone else watched and then they would throw my body over the wall.
Afterward, my coworkers would line up for their meals. Sleep would come next. There would be no discussion of my death. No looks. No remorse. Nothing. Their survival depended upon their absolute obedience. Even to think about my death would be met with punishment.
You need full citizenship to enjoy nature. I was working on mine. I refused to become another statistic. But I'm not yet a citizen. I cannot yet look at the abandoned cars.
There is a wrongness here.
Non-Citizens or Nons as we are called, have many restrictions. I drink water only and without ice, for example. To use ice is forbidden.
I will have ice one day. That is my rebellious side. I like the word rebellion. It has a nice feel. Like it has power. Substance. Meaning.
I must report to work every morning. Work my 20 hour shift and then go back to the wall for the medicated short-sleep. Why can I not sleep longer? No answer is given. You must not question the rules. It is the will of the Empire.
I must consume the sludge, as we call it, from the food faucets in the dining hall. Literally, a hall where we stand on a people mover, step off for 30 seconds, fill our palms with a gray foamy bitter substance, feed our faces, then step back on.
Why can we not eat the vegetables we grow on the fields for the citizens? Why can we not take our share of the eggs and the beef? Even the alcohol?
I must go directly to my sleep pod after feeding, consume my water allotment, from the blue tube, which is laced with the sleep drugs. I must be cleaned by the disinfectant water that smells of grease and jets from spigots over my head. I must make sure to close my eyes and not swallow then. As my paper smock dissolves into the drain at my feet, I must shiver until I dry.
When I'm dry, the sleep pod, a coffin sized compartment, rotates into the optimal rest position determined nearly 500 years ago, by doctors who could never have imagined that it would be an enforced three hour sleep-coma.
Usually, right before the sleep drugs take me to the dull gray night, I recite the Wall Rules out loud, as is ordered. I also remember to always obey the citizens and all computers. Amen. Think obedience. The machines know our thoughts.
Then I awake for the next day. The sleep-pod plasters my body with the pasty one-piece that hardens into today's smock.
The pod opens, ejects me onto the people mover that then delivers me to the tube car platform. I enter the first available one, squeeze in between the many others and try to glimpse the world outside as the tube car races to the next job – all programmed by computers. Sardines to the rescue.
I think about that word. Sardines. I hear it often, but I don't know what the word means.
As the tube car drops from the wall and curves near the ground, it skirts the growing fields and begins its speedy trip around the houses and gray buildings. I try to catch a glimpse of the citizens as always. Try to catalog their lives. Learn something.
Windows flash by. Citizens sleeping in beds by windows in houses with many rooms and flickering lights. I see them in the mornings from the tube cars as we zip by the small towns, that each year seem to be getting smaller and smaller. Like they are rotting from the center outwards, toward the wall.
Graffiti litters the wall. "Non, to be is not to be!" And there are more.
I notice each month that less lights are on and more candles flicker. Perhaps this is why we are often sent to the wax factories now. I quickly banish the thought as the warning light grows red over my head. A female next to me gives me a strange look and her like flickers red as she smiles. I concentrate. My light turns green, but the fact that she can change her light so quickly makes me wonder. And that smile. I try to remember her face then.
At night, on the way back to the wall in the tube cars, I see fewer citizens, usually congregated near small buildings or around large campfires. I learn later that these are how the citizens pass their time. In bars or going to what are called parties outside where they do crazy things and take wild chances, always knowing that they will be cared for and healed, if they make too big a mistake.
Only citizens have privileges. Better food. Houses. Land. Children. What are called hospitals, all managed by computers I am told.
I have none of those things. Not yet anyway. Maybe soon. Maybe in a few more years, after I can buy my citizenship in full and not take a loan like some have done. Like those half-citizens.
I used to want to be a citizen. I want it all, I thought then. No payments. No interest. I want to report to the Capitol, stand in line, show my wrist mark and say here – here is my full payment. Make me a citizen. Not be ordered to man the check-in stations where the wall-people, like me, enter the interior to work each day.
That's what the half-citizens do, until they pay off their loans. I've never seen any of them ever pay off their loans anyway. Not one. They work in the check-in stations until they are recycled or returned.
I am unsure what it means to be recycled, but returns are more common. In fact, some of the half-citizens were even sent back to the wall. They were said to have lived beyond their means. Gotten married, had children and paid the pre-citizen excise taxes. Once their debt became unmanageable, they were stripped and shipped. Returned.
Wall Monitors the returned became. The worst job of all. Staring ever outward. Looking for invaders that never came. Often taking the leap -- suicide jumping -- into the wasteland below. There must be piles of bones there by now, I think. Unless the dark things take their bodies. Always there are reports of the dark things of the wastelands. And the howling.
I used to dream of that day. The day of my citizenship appointment. On that day I will smile and after I buy it, after I am a full man of this nation-empire I will take a name. I've already decided on my name. It will be Ahab. Even the thought machines have forgotten that name, but Filberton had not.
But my dreams have faded. They faded when I discovered what recycling really meant or what I think it means. Learning to read made it that way. I learned of the Harvesters. Learned how citizens were being kept alive. How Trumpus Maximus lived so long. What we really were. We were spare parts.
The Greatest Wall was my home for now. Thousands miles of wall, a mile-high. A wall that surrounds an entire nation and all of its islands, territories and conquered seas. A wall that is over a 1000 feet thick and that is home to over 400 million of us now. Non-citizens. Servants of people – the true citizens.
But it was more than a wall. It was a massive living space. We were just now rediscovering its secrets. And we would not live for much longer if we did not act.
Beyond the Greatest Wall is death. There is nothing left, we are told. Just radiation, hordes of foreigners rampaging across broken and desolate landscapes, all dying slow deaths.
Even 500 years after the Greatest War, few Wall Monitors have ever reported seeing life beyond the walls. Maybe a boat floating by in one of the oceans. Maybe fires in the Canadian wilderness. Maybe explosions from the Old Mexican Territories. But no people. No humans who come up to the walls asking for help. No knocks on the wall.
I think we are still afraid. We know that the citizens are bad. We know that recycling means death. That our bodies are grown for them to use. We are spare parts to be harvested when needed. We also know that the whole world is not dead. There are things out there. If they live, so can we.
But the citizens have become lazy. Their computers in the wall are breaking down. We see their machines – the flying machines. Once used to launch attacks against the foreigners beyond the walls, they now lay broken, unused, gathering dust. The pilots and the drivers of these tank machines are all gone too. The wars are over.
But we have been at work. Difficult we found it, but not impossible to fool the sleeping-pods. And we have used our time wisely. We have made some of the old machines work. The fighting machines.
Only the Nons live in the wall now. It is the citizens who should be afraid. Beginning today. For it is today that we have chosen to strike back. Clones against masters, machines against machines. It is escape or death either way.
It is Harvest Day.
© 2016 Jack Shorebird