Rapidly growing government.
Rapidly crumbling society.
Eighteen years into the future of despotism and cancellation, 20400324 - The Future Liberals Want (Part Two) left us dangling on the rocks of disaster as equity enforcer "Xin" launched a full scale investigation into two missing soy mill workers, "Lor" and "Sen". "The Council" will stop to no end to find their missing producers and stamp out any hope of...hope.
Will Lor and Sen be reclaimed? Will Xin spread they/them's inquisitorial net wide enough to find the true reason for their Irish Exit? What tyranny of the future await us in part three of…
20400324 - The Future Liberals Want
The night wind howled through the moonless mountain pass, blowing a sea of the summer’s white snow (after they particulated the sky to battle climate transition, seasons became merely suggestions of ancient lore), the only light coming from its crystalline reflection. This deep in the frigid forest, even if the permanent clouds didn’t obscure celestial illumination, the thick blanket of branches and foliage would block any of it from reaching the earth.
Hundreds of miles from the Soy Mill…from Cube PL1-A4…from the city…a husk of a man shuddered against the ancient timber towering above him, the circumference of which his only protection from the persistent piercing tempest of an icy gale. Head cowering between knees and arms, desperately embracing himself to retain his last gasp of warmth from a tattered gray jumpsuit.
Nearly a month away from the nutrient doses, from the blinding diodes of imperceptible flickering light, from the evening extractor, from the production quota…Lor’s final hope was alone…as alone as Lor.
Alone. In the backcountry. Alone. In a lightless valley.
The black of night and titanic trees contrasted endless snowdrifts. The shuffled trail behind him rapidly disappearing with a seemingly eternal supply of frozen flakes. Any sense of progress washing away in the blistering blizzard of despair. His last meal was seven days prior - rabbit tartare - the first he hadn’t shared with Sen. His companion had given up and decided to turn back, beg forgiveness, and accept the punishment which may be lessened if he provided information on their foolhardy mission.
I had to do it. They would have tortured him before they turned him into compost if he made it back. It was quick. He never knew………………..I had to.
Lor survived the rocky, frozen, unforgiving trail to this point. Sen did not. His lifeless body laid under a few inches of dirt, now shrouded by the wintry precipitation. A silent spread of cold covering a pastoral pedestal of passing.
Twelve days Lor pressed on without his cubemate, but only an hour or so since Lor’s last thought of his demise.
Since he saw Sen kneeling in the snow to catch his breath.
Since he turned his back to Sen and picked up the rock.
Since he drew a deep breath from the crisp wind, borrowing it only to heat and return to the atmosphere, the oxygen spent, now a wisp of carbon dioxide.
Since he closed his eyes, summoned his strength, spun on his heels and silently screamed to overcome the basest humanity in him and replace it with the basest animal.
Since he was surprised with how easily the back of Sen’s skull crushed under his stroke.
Since his face felt the warm splatter of red, no longer flowing through Sen, and his tongue tasted a bitter fleck of iron.
Since he silently held the stone in his brutal stance, focused on the steam of breath drifting up while the lifeless body fell forward, away from him into the snow.
Lor borrowed another breath. Sen did not.
Lor sighed, slid up the tree to standing, and stepped into the biting squall. Hoping to glide his barely rested form across the top of the fresh powder, he stepped forward gingerly, but his foot was immediately buried. Undeterred, he battled on until the gray of dawn matched the gray of his uniform…what was left of it, and the storm mercifully dwindled, nature having dealt her punishment for his rebellion. In the bleak twilight of the approaching day, he neared the edge of the forest and stopped dead in his tracks.
To call what he saw a “building” wouldn’t do it justice - it was a warehouse larger than he had ever seen. Sitting below the pass in a level, snowy plane surrounded by mountains and millions of cubic feet, at least five stories tall, this was a facility. Things were being made here, but there were no doors or windows, no roads, no trains, no runways, no drone pads…nothing was leaving this place.
The whole thing was one color: flat black. A stark contrast to the un-private "visibility" of the city he fled, no one was to see what happened inside this place.
Lor slowly retreated backwards, his eyes never leaving the behemoth structure. Quietly he vectored behind a large tree and squeezed his eyes shut. There were no words, no decipherable thoughts, just his exhausted mind reeling through what could come next. Weeks of travel now resulting in more questions, undoubtedly with answers which would result in his demise. Serpent like despair began to slither into that spinning mind, slowing it to a halt.
I still have to know.
Filtering glacially through the trees, he took every opportunity to observe the field, the mountains forming a bowl around it, and the thing…an endless, impregnable rectangle of deathlike black. After hours of searching only to find no undetectable approach possible, he did the only thing left to do - he sat down against a tree, this time facing the infuriating scene, wrapped his arms around his knees, and allowed exhaustion to consume him. Curiosity nor ravaging hunger was sufficient to sustain the beleaguered man’s consciousness. His head slowly tilted down until he slumped forward, asleep, his huddled form collecting the gentle flakes from the now fully illuminated low clouds.
A snapping sound sent him bolt upright.
Not a twig breaking or a branch cracking. A loud, thick snap. Then a deep huff.
He had never seen one before or knew what it was, but the enormous, furry frame and long, snarling snout signaled a primal reaction deep in his soul. He had no choice. He sprang to his frozen feet and sprinted for the higher ground of the mountains which encircled the gargantuan construction. If he knew what a deity was, he would have cried out for help. Making no sound, save his exerted strides, he ran for his life. The gaunt beast had smelled him, saw him, and now recognized Lor as his prey.
For the first time in nearly two weeks, his traverse was accompanied.
It seemed like miles, but in reality was only a few hundred feet. The gap had closed and the steaming breath of his bestial pursuer was literally at Lor’s back. Gnashing and boofing filled his ears and soul. This was the end. A horrifying, bloody, painful end. He took notice of the steaming breath pouring from his nose and mouth…the irony not lost on him.
Then he saw it.
Mere feet in front of him set into the side of the rock face, a two foot wide, round metal hatch, barely bigger than a manhole, rapidly opened revealing a soot covered face, frantically waving him to take refuge in a lightless sanctuary.
He muted an outburst and widened his eyes with rage as the clawed paws swiped across his back. Blood splattered the snow behind him and began to pour down his back. he took three final strides, and leapt forward. The hatch clanked shut as a muffled crash rang out on the other side. Fear and fatigue overcame him and his brief spark of awakening fizzled into the darkness that surrounded him.
“You’re safe,” she said.