Since he’d woke up, Ian had been living in a permanent state of fear. The very idea that he, a member of the DMO had done exactly what he’d been taught from day one not to do would be more than enough to get him sent off for rehabilitation. He’d made sure the book had been safely hidden under his bed in an unassuming old shoe box, but even then, he’d have to hope that nobody thought to look.
“Oh don’t be silly!” Ian told himself while getting ready “Nobody’s spying on you and nobody cares what’s under your bed! You’ll be fine!”
Even so, as he said goodbye to Grace and headed off to work, Ian was constantly worrying. On the walk to the station, he was constantly looking over his shoulder, worrying that a member of the W.E.R’s police force may have been following him. The ride on the underground train was no better. Ian spent the whole journey glancing at his fellow passengers. For all he knew, any one of them could be a secret police agent sent to monitor him. Ian spent the entire journey in such a permanent state of terror that he very nearly missed his stop and only just made it through the closing doors of the underground train.
As Ian walked through the front doors of the DMO offices, he half expected to be met by a squad of police officers. To his relief though, nobody was there except the receptionist at the front desk. Ian tried to look natural and signed himself in with his ID card before heading up to his office. Ian quietly made his way to his computer and opened his emails. As usual, he was being asked to read over some two bit electronic magazine for the masses. Ian opened it up and began his inspection.
At first he just tried to concentrate on his work. But every so often, his mind would keep drifting back to the book under his bed. All it had to take was one person checking and…
“No!. It’s fine. If they find it, I’ll just tell them I was planning to destroy it and…”
At this point Ian stopped what he was doing and began to think. Why did this book have to be destroyed anyway? What made it different from the thousands of magazine pages he was forced to scan over every single week. Maybe it was because it involved religion. Ian shook his head. That only raised further questions. Since the day he was born, Ian had been told that religion was bad and the secular materialist ways of the W.E.R. were the way forward. Now though, Ian began to wonder about this. He’d constantly been told that all religion was evil and immoral, but now that he thought about it, he’d never actually heard much from the religions himself. He’d just been given the odd quote or supposed practise with no real context.
At that point Ian shook his head
“Mustn’t think like that” he told himself “You live a great life doing an important well paying job for the state and-“
Ian then realised something else. Everything always went back to what the state wanted and what was good for the state. But Ian never really thought if it was good for himself. He then wiped his brow. Ian realised at this point that the W.E.R. was right. All this book was doing was causing him grief and unhappiness. He then decided that the first chance he got, he’d destroy it in his oven. Once he’d finished reading it of cause. After all, Ian reasoned, I stole it so I might as well finish the damn thing.
Ian resumed his work, trying to focus on the stuff he’d been sent. But no matter how he tried, the thought of being sent to a correction centre just kept creeping back into his mind. Every few seconds, Ian looked over his shoulder. Once or twice, he swore some of his co workers were looking at him. Despite this Ian continued to type. As the W.E.R.’s philosophy went, time is money so make sure you’re productive.
As he’d just finished going over the magazine, a hand tapped Ian on the shoulder causing to nearly jump out of his seat. Spinning round, he was met by Doug standing over him
“Do you mind!” he snapped “I’m trying to work”
“Sorry mate!” Doug held up his hands “ I just thought I’d ask if you wanted to get lunch together”
Ian sighed “Sorry about that. I’m still a little on edge about what happened yesterday”
“Hey I understand” Doug smiled “It can’t have been easy”
Ian tried to change the subject “Well why don’t we go down and get a bit to eat. I could use a break”
Doug nodded and the two of them set off for the office’s cafeteria
Said cafeteria was located on the first floor of the office. While several employees were happy to pay out the amount needed for the synthetic meals served, quite a few would simply pack their own lunches. While Ian had packed his own lunch a few times, he hadn’t done it in a while and was getting used to the food served there. After they’d gotten a meal of stewed synthetic meat and imitation potatoes, Ian and Doug sat themselves down at a table. On the wall opposite the table, a tv had been mounted onto it to allow the employees who didn’t have anyone to talk to, a distraction from staring at their phones. The show was always the same, namely the UK branch of the W.E.R.’s 24 hour news channel to allow the DMO to keep track of the international situation in the ongoing conflict against the evil P.R.E. As Ian and Doug sat themselves down, Ian saw that the news had taken a break from reporting about the war to instead report on a domestic issue. A couple of hours earlier, a young couple in Manchester had been found guilty of secretly publishing pro religion pamphlets and distributing them among friends and neighbours. As a result they’d been given the standard punishment of 18 months of rehabilitation each. When the report had finished, Doug spoke
“Quite right too!” he said with an air of patriotism “The great W.E.R. state has no time for irrational anti scientific superstitious nonsense!”
Ian nodded “I agree with you completely. We shouldn’t have to tolerate any intolerant backwards beliefs in this great land!”
Doug smiled “See you’re back to normal already. You just have to remember that the W.E.R. has all our best interests at heart.”
Ian nodded again “Of course. If we’re to be united against those horrible P.R.E. types, we’re gonna have to make some sacrifices here and there”
As he spoke though, Ian’s thoughts drifted. He’d had to think like this since the day he was born and he’d never actually thought to question them. At his school he’d been told that the P.R.E. were the enemy and religion was bad and the W.E.R.’s ways were the way forward. Now though, as he listened to what himself and Doug were saying, he felt a slight amount of concern. He wouldn’t tell Doug though. As loyal a friend as Doug was, there existed no doubt that the moment he mentioned any of his doubts to Doug, he’d be hit with a one way ticket to the correction centre.
Ian’s thoughts were then interrupted by a cry of “Hey guys!”
He and Doug looked up to see a fellow employee who worked on one of the upper floors, by the name of Steve walking over to them
“Hey there Steve!” Doug waved as Steve walked over to them.
Ian looked up from his food “Oh hey” he said slightly meekly “What’ve you been working on?”
“Oh just some film that’s coming out in a couple of weeks” Steve replied.
“Well sit yourself down and we’ll chat as friends” Doug told him. Steve then pulled up a seat and began eating his lunch while chatting with them
“So this film you were looking at?” Ian said between bites “What’s it all about”
“Well I can tell you it’s not one of the big budget blockbusters” Steve laughed “It’s an independent action movie about a group of action heroes who have to fight for their lives when a bunch of P.R.E. genetically altered sharks launch an attack on their island base.”
“Maybe I’ll look out for it” Doug replied “Have you had to censor anything?”
Steve tapped his nose “I can’t tell you too much. Department policy”
Doug frowned “Oh go on”
Steve looked left and right before leaning in close to the two of them
“Well, as shocking as this might seem, the film featured female characters who were nothing more than fanservice!”
Doug blinked in surprise “No!”
“Oh yes” Steve nodded “In fact, the film’s depiction of woman was borderline offensive! Of course we rejected it and they’ve agreed to reshoot the film and make the female character more in line with the W.E.R.’s standards”
“The nerve of those filmmakers!” Doug spat. Steve then stood up
“Well chaps it’s been fun talking to you, but I’ve got to get back to the office. We’ll talk again some time!”
Once Steve had left Ian groaned
“Fucking hell, I hate that guy!”
Doug looked at him confused “What’s wrong with Steve?”
Ian huffed and folded his arms “He just thinks he’s such a big shot just because he’s doing the bloody upper floor work. For fuck’s sake, why does a smartarse like him get to work on the films while you and I get stuck reading the crappy magazines?!”
“Look on the bright side” Doug said through a mouthful of mash potato “You get to be on the front lines fighting against the evildoers who want to do nothing more than reduce us to the level of the P.R.E.!”
Ian looked away “I know, I know. It’s just that…”
Ian shook his head “Nothing. I’m just being silly”
“No you’re not!” Doug leaned in “You’re not having doubts are you? I mean if you are…”
“Just drop it!” Ian snapped. Doug went silent
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some magazines to go over”
Ian spent the rest of the day doing his usual work of reviewing magazines for the office. When it was finally time to go home, he let out a sigh of relief and made his way back across the city to the flat where Grace was waiting for him. The two of them soon settled down for dinner. The whole time they were eating though, Grace realised that Ian was very quiet
“Is something the matter?”
Ian looked up from his food
“No of course not. I’m just getting over what happened yesterday. Shooting someone through the head for the first time is something you don’t forget that easily”
Grace nodded “Yeah, I understand. I hope you’re feeling better soon”
“I should be” Ian smiled “It’s just one of those things we have to do in the line of duty”
“If not, you could go to the doctor” Grace replied “I was thinking of phoning him on your behalf”
“I’m flattered you’d think about me, but I’m sure I’ll be fine” Ian bit into the synthetic fish on his fork before swallowing it “Just let me get back into my old life and I’ll be right as rain before too long”
“I hope so” Grace frowned “We’ve got Marie and Donald coming round for dinner tomorrow night and I would like it to be a completely normal evening”
“Oh those two” Ian blinked in surprise “I haven’t seem them in a while. What are they up too these days?”
“I think they recently had a child who was sent to live in the Paddington house” Grace told him
“If I recall that’s a really affluent home” Ian said
“It is” Grace replied “Of course, Marie said that Donald had recently been promoted in his job at W.E.R.T (Western Earth Republic Telecoms)
Ian then yawned “You know what, I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll turn in for the night after I’ve finished”
“Of course” Grace replied “I’ll join you when At Home with the Dallas’s finishes”
Later that night, Ian laid in bed. In the distance he could hear the tv playing the theme for At Home With the Dallas’s. His mind however was occupied by the thoughts of the dinner tomorrow night. Ian grumbled to himself. Donald and Marie were a perfect example of how a W.E.R. couple should behave. Ian always felt a pang of jealously around them. Still he would try to be on his best behaviour. Mainly for Grace. The thought of upsetting her was enough to put Ian in his place anytime.