Adrian Hickey

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

An intense iron lamp illuminated Leonora’s wrinkled face in a poorly lit, gloomy office on the top floor as she read and edited party documents with a thick red pen; her unsweetened tea becoming tepid in the party regulation tin despite the sweltering atmosphere. Dressed in a dark green and black army uniform, she had sat in this position all night; scrutinizing everything from State propaganda to Comrade Milyutin’s new plans to decrease the number of peas in a party rations kit. She had finished only to feel heavy, cold steel rub uncomfortably against her War of Liberty wound before examining the time in the corner. “5:47 already?” she thought, exasperatedly, to herself before powering on the black and white street surveillance screen and searching for the coming convicts. Her grey eyes fought fatigue before quickly discovering the men who had wreaked havoc on the Party for so long.
The city trembled when they moved in this early winter heat-wave. Even the thick, black and pungent smog that loomed overhead, like a judge on his bench, could not conceal the continuous din of a thousand men stumbling towards the newly built, monolithic foundry, which lay in the heart of Kerker. The wide cobbled streets could barely contain the vast number of grey faced, ailing men and the party’s armed mercenaries who assailed as they escorted them. They were flanked on both sides by torn Party posters stuck onto the sides of discoloured concrete apartment blocks that towered above. No soul could be ignorant of those faces and settings, as common as disease: happy children playing in front of a roaring fire, a rotund mother preparing dinner and a smiling father parking the family’s shiny new red car. Underneath this picture was the Party’s slogan which shouted out at each shuffling convict as he passed the block capitals: “OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE”. The mayor of Kerker’s eyes bulged as she followed their shuffling movements. The men seemed so small from where she was sitting.
Whilst the mayor was focused on the men, far over the apartment blocks, military blockades, pillboxes and razor wire fences lay the edge of the city. Here was a maze of construction sites expanding the industrial might of Kerker: asphalt, asbestos, painted shacks, warehouses. Further on from this, however, lay the barely touched wilderness. Few men thought to visit the overrun wilds anymore. The woodland overlooked the animals of the forest and painted their ceiling a vivid green in the summer and golden brown in the autumn whilst all the while allowing wind to sing as it whistled through the foliage; the psithurism could be heard throughout the veritable labyrinth of the forest and had so for millennia. A rangale of deer slowly and cautiously crept through. The leader and biggest of the stags, with large, charcoal black eyes and proud antlers that protruded out as an act of dominance, was at the front guiding the search for a place to sleep on a near forgotten memory of a safe place. The stags wandered over to a moving stream and lapped up some clear water, cooling themselves just a little, before hunkering down in a green clearing to rest. Birds pestered the creatures as they slept under the verdant thicket until, in the far off distance, an engine rumbled into life; the deer’s ears pricked up.
The men could now be observed outside Leonora’s small square window. She turned from the screens to watch them finally enter the foundry and could see the beaten, faceless mass that, somehow, looked even smaller than before. She considered the justice in the foundry punishment, reserved for only the Party’s worst criminals: rebels, murderers and thieves all inhabited that ghastly place. “For the greater good” she justified to herself, “progress must be made…How long have I been waging a war against these insurgents?” she wondered, “just how many more will come?” She paused slightly, then over watched the last of the men disappear through the foundry’s black, cast-iron gates before standing up, walking over to the large eastern window and gazed at the horizon, still anticipating the Party’s future. Then she saw it, high overhead, a migrating swallow just below the already low hanging black clouds. It was flying to a place it didn’t know. Its natural impulses were guiding it to the sub-continent. Dressed in full livery: metallic blue upper parts and breast band, cream-buff under parts and russet forehead; chin and throat before it soared upwards and broke the dense cloud into sunlit uplands. Now unseen, the swallow was being gently warmed by an amber sun as it headed elsewhere.
”Beautiful,” she murmured quietly to herself. It carried on. She turned from the window. A few moments passed. Then, an echoing shot rang out around Kerker.


All rights belong to its author. It was published on by demand of Adrian Hickey.
Published on on 05/22/2013.


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