It has become late as you silently strode around a small corner in this dark alley. There was not much left of what you usually would call „street“ and so you had to be specially careful to avoid the many puddles that paved your way instead. Even as no light was actually hitting the ground for you to see much more than blurry silhouettes of shabby buildings and shady businesses laying ahead you were constantly pierced by those always looking, preying eyes all around you. Nobody actually cared about them anymore. They became just as common as your air to breathe. They were simply there; and they no longer required any reasoning. They were present as their sole purpose.
You had followed along that path for too long now. It didn’t matter where you went or when you arrived. You could check in for your place for this September summer night at any time; though you would never leave. You would be welcome, people told you when you tried to arrange things earlier. As you passed by at Knockturn Alley you swiftly felt a breeze of cold wind at your neck. A few meters further you finally reached the decided on meeting place, a small tavern that didn’t look like it belonged in this time and relative dimension in space. At least not as far as you could decide, when you finally stepped through the tiny front door. It was actually bigger on the inside – came a though to your mind – as you realized how spacy everything seemed.
In a far off corner sat a group of average people, not quite, entirely unlike of what you expected to find in this place. As you passed the customers at this place to meet up with that group, you noticed sharp gazes carefully avoiding eye contact – stinging anyway as you passed table by table, chair by chair. Your throat was dry and anyway you needed something for a change. As you hit the bar you firmly ordered two dry martinis – shaken, not stirred -; one for your dry mouth and the other for your humour.
Slowly you approached the long table you spotted earlier. People one by one went silent as you drew near. It was not so much the feeling of impeding doom or you to have prepared for this evening – same as you usually did every evening -, but the faint feeling of unease you felt grow in your throat. Just seconds before people around you were talking about the weather – actually not that you actually would have wanted to talk about the thick, low-hanging rain clouds all around you in the sky -, sports you never really had gotten warm with (The Eurasian players somehow had beaten the Oceanian team) and celebrities you only ever heard about here – who the hell was this Hackbeard C. Line anyway and why would you care). Just a last step away from the table you reached out with your hand to knock; when you noticed the first people lifting their eyes and hands to greet you at this corner of society.
The welcome was warm as you would have expected given the introductory conversations you have had earlier today. Even though nobody was openly harmful you still felt separated from this group. Slowly you sat down at the next free chair around the table everybody already had made themselves comfortable at. When you were half into following up yourself, to prepare your place for the next hours to follow, discussions slowly reignited again.
A young man just across the table started in on a new topic which you felt was much more appropriate for this occasion. You did not see any need to take any part in the bread and games offered to you day by day. You wanted a change and thus it felt refreshing when this young man started on what would be the most active discussion this evening. „I don’t care about my privacy.“ flew the new topic into your ears, a whooshing sound as if some small kid had just declared to like trains. You were instantly sure that this young man won’t survive the deadly arguments to follow, but you were curious nonetheless, so you stayed put and played along.
„So you need no secrets?“ was the first response that came to mind and, nice as you tried to be around people, you phrased it less offensive: „That’s nice. can you tell me all about you?“. The young man struck from this unexpected reply. Usually people would stop arguing with him, or just ignored him, but this was a new. „I’ve just started my second job“, he stumbled forward, „at the old bakery near the station. It’s the second part-time job for me to support me and my kids.“ He took a short breath and continued. „Though actually this won’t really help getting along.“
A few others at the table tried to join the conversation. They just realized who similar this seemed. Many recognized themselves in this story as you could make of the few interested views. A somewhat older guy, with dark brown hair, set down his glass he just had emptied: „Do you get along?“ „I,“ he tried not to be too obvious about it, „hardly have anything past the midst of each month.“ A wave of nodding swapped the table; just about everybody here knew this situation or was in the same. „When I was to request support by the state I actually would get less.“ He tried to take another nip of his beer, but found the glass to be empty. It was only the beginning of the month; but better not risk being blank for more than usual.
Another guy, probably at the end of his 20th, joined in. „I was about to request support by the state, but couldn’t even manage getting past the first 25 forms. I got stuck at the section about eating habits, because the forms listed things I haven’t come close to for years. And why would they need to know this: I need support, not a tip to improve my health.“ Laughter broke out at the table, and even though there was a – or maybe even there was no – reason for the state to know support for filling in the blanks was offered. „I’m avoiding those beasts as much as I can,“ hinted the older man from before, continuing to explain „I always filled in all the paperwork they requested, but there was always something wrong; be it the weather, the colour of the used pen, or maybe the officer just having been left by his wife recently.“
Having heard people complain inside, the clouds outside began to open. Not that it mattered, it just fit the atmosphere quite well. Although the room was huge it still felt to shrink right now. Not that it would have had any positive influence on the mood right now.
„We have needed to get support since last autumn,“ the old man continued after a slight moment of puzzlement, „but it has never been such a problem to get a few bucks for food and heating. Yet with recent changes all they do is strike any money couldn’t protect fast enough.“ He took a nip from his glass. „It’s as if they had invisible eyes everywhere around you.“
You just had an idea – and even as it was not a bad idea in itself, you at least wanted to try something: „Actually there are.“ Questioning eyes suddenly turned towards you as if you suggested to try killing Hitler. The room went silent and you were slightly shocked by yourself. Did you really just suggest that?
A moment of silence arose out of this unexpected flow of things. Sure, there were all those cameras hanging everywhere – even in this tavern you have seen those signs. Small hints always remind you that the toilets are being monitored for reasons of cleanliness and hygiene. You noticed them to be there before, but you didn’t invest any thoughts into them. Was it just you who didn’t do anything about them; probably not decided your inner critic and asked you to shut up. Though while you thought of a reply to your inner critic you noticed something: He was right and you just reached the chapter of this discussion, you briefly remember to have discussed already to all lengths since 102 Discordian weeks ago when it first came about. By that time it hit like a bomb and was no news anywhere though.
Taking a deep breath you tried to calm yourself down again, but to no avail: what was done had been done and so you set yourself up for a long discussion of all the same topics you have been discussion elsewhere over and over again. You didn’t actually enjoy talking about all the same things again – it just so happened, you felt, that people won’t listen anyway. „The various forms aren’t there to better decide, how and how much to help your life, but to oppress you“ slipped by your lips. And there it was again – or rather still – this sceptical scanning by the others at the table.
The man with the dark brown hair gave you a wondering look. „But there are different situations for everybody around here. Similar but definitively different!“ Your inner critic screamed in pain – why would it have to take such bullshit again and again? Didn’t people see, how they were basically the same with differences implanted all the way just to differentiate them, to divide and conquer them? „No,“ you firmly replied, adding after a small pause: „Look, aren’t you all in the same situation? You all know how everybody here struggles to get along, yet alone survive until the next month’s mild gifts by the state are paid. What you should see, is in fact, how you all are the same, only separated by artificial borders, custom specifics that won’t change much on the whole picture.“
Laughter went through the group of people. One by one gave you strange looks and a bewildered expression on their face. Nobody seemed to follow this awkward conjecture. And they didn’t even requested proof. It was as if they were just zombies around a table, drinking to their hearts content and washing away their problems and brains while they were at it. Realizing how futile giving this explanation was you continued. It’s not as if you didn’t went through just this facade all along. To be honest: You have met this wall of empty faces glued to dead brains unwilling to think just too often. Doing so once more won’t hurt you, yet if you convinced only one you would have one.
As you tried to order your thoughts for the next sentence you noticed a picture frame with some suburban houses shown on the pictures that remotely triggered a memory in you that you might have seen this area before. Actually you did! And it wasn’t even too long ago to be precise. It was in the window of a small store selling antiques – or at least you sorted it there. Back then you were slowly passing by when you noticed a small collection of various picture frames cross you field of view. Behind several pretty boring frames there was this electronic one labelled „World Panoramas at Winter“ showing some pretty Hawaiian architecture surrounded by tiny hills of snow. It was an idyllic view of the landscape, but the houses in it somehow had gained your attention. Thinking about it you realized: One of those houses had become well-known just recently. It was the home to a terrorist – or a crusader, depending on whom you asked. Your neighbour at the table tapped you on the shoulder: „You wanted to explain how the state tries to control us, didn’t you?“ Shaken out of your slight slumber you turned to him. „Yes, I was just …“ A small moment of silence followed before you broke loose – the moment of noticing the picture was well spent.
Starting this topic was complicated, if not impossible. Everybody on the table had their own views and some completely rejected even just the possibility of hearing out, what someone who believed the terrorist instead of the state’s pre-digested news. A lot of denial went around the table as you tried to sort the pieces of this puzzle into one whole picture of the situation. „The cameras are used for control. They provide a view on what people are doing and shows their behaviour in larger groups. It’s not what the individual is doing, but what society does. Offering you a comfy way of thinking cradled by the state if … yes if you just give up thinking about all the false things you are lied on in the face every single day.“ You took up the drink that arrived at your table just in time. „By giving up thinking you not only gave up responsibility for your lives, but became a grey mass of strangers to yourselves; you gave up freedoms and civil liberties for temporary security in your live. You will keep none and deserve neither.“
Something indifferent was part of the many faces you saw in the round. Questions seemed to form in the various minds and mostly the questions showed clearly in their faces: What would they be able to do? Mentally they have given up, you realized, it made no sense changing things starting from the dead. You gave it another try anyway – there was nothing to loose now -: „Imagine you always knew what everybody was doing, knew his secrets, knew his weaknesses … would you silently stand by and do nothing?“ Heavy murmur erupted on the table, when finally the young man replied: „But what would it buy you?“ „Control,“ crossed your mind, but that wasn’t it. Why bother to control for control’s sake? Sure, it allows to keep the status quo, but that’s not the answer, because you can always achieve this in different ways to. And keeping people silent on their problems even though you just robbed them off their source of living – no, that was simply to counter-productive.
„See,“ continued the young man, „it only hits those who try to cheat, those who go on thinking on how to improve their lives at the cost of others.“ Being a bit puzzled you tried to grasp what to say next, but the only question you could form was „But there are those really rich people higher up, that don’t have any problems at all!“ The brown-haired man, who had followed this development suddenly intervened: „Well, they have YOU!“
Suddenly it felt much quieter all around you. Strange looks were being tossed around and nobody felt up to continue the conversation. You were beaten, as you realized, by someone you declared dead from the beginning; dead to critical thinking and yet you lost through arguments: The problem really was you who tried to intervene in a brave new world, full of reflexes to protect just barely enough of yourself to survive. It made no sense, but somehow you now knew, that thinking made no sense to all those people either. They were fed up with it as it only caused them trouble in their tiny, warm places they called home. You didn’t know what went wrong, but being indifferent about it didn’t seem like such a bad idea anymore. Actually: It was a great time to leave the group and forget about all the things you have senselessly been fighting for.