One Picture, One Story
I lay back in the lukewarm water, submerging all but my mouth and nose. The long days of work were catching up to me and it seemed every muscle in my body was furious with me. I had wanted a hotter bath than this, but I had a hard enough time keeping up with bills as it was, so sacrifices had to be taken. I sat up a little straighter to get my head out of the water, slipping slightly as I did so. I noticed that some of the grout had been weathered away and a tile or two were loose. I guess I would be adding that to the list of things I never have time to fix. The front door needed adjusting, the bedroom window needed to be replaced (the plywood just wasn’t that aesthetically pleasing), numerous plugs needed fixing and there was a hole or two in the drywall downstairs. I took a deep breath and submerged my head completely in the water. I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t contemplate letting myself drown. There didn’t seem to be a great deal going my way and the long hours I was working left little time for friend making or anything else for that matter. I felt no joy for life and no drive to do better. I was constantly exhausted, but so was everyone else for that matter. The long working hours were in preparation for a day of celebration commemorating the Prime Minister’s rise to power 12 years before. Parties had to be planned, speeches had to be written and in my case, cars had to be cleaned, buildings needed to be painted. All of us were expected to pitch in extra hours for free as a gift to the PM for saving us from the “Eco-terrorists” and the “Propaganda of the Leftists”. The national newspaper and television station, known simply as Solarmedia, had been running biopics about the Prime Minister all week to get us all in the mood. I found it quite amazing how easily we swallowed his policies as he slowly took what was a democracy and turned it into a one party system. We had elections every 4 years, but they were all just for show and we all knew it. The Prime Minister would choose an opponent and not allow him to campaign and when it came to the election day there was always a prominent police presence and a Government agent looking over your shoulder as you put the X on your ballot.
I coughed a lot these days. The smog outside never lifted as the oil refineries pumped out smoke 24 hours a day and the air in the house was no better. The Government returned to using asbestos for housing us lowly workers as it was cheaper to get. I knew that my house was poisoning me; I knew that the “great outdoors” was killing me; I knew all of this, but still I couldn’t help but step in line. It was in your head, “Either you are for us or you stand with the terrorists!” Posters were up everywhere, commercials inundated you all day, every government building had it in the windows. We all knew to keep quiet or we would be arrested as terrorist and as such had no right to a fair trial. We would simply disappear to a prison on some island in the middle of the ocean.
I let the water drain from the tub and dried off. I checked myself in the fogged up mirror, tracing the bones protruding past my sunken eyes. I couldn’t remember the last real meal I had eaten and it showed in my physique going from an average 165lbs to a measly 107lbs. I had nothing left to live for, but I still got up, did my duty and went home. It was ingrained in you and you were watched constantly, making sure you didn’t slow down and you didn’t complain. I put the same dirty clothes on that I had worn the whole week as I couldn’t afford to wash them more than once a month and I grabbed the last couple of newly invented “superfoods” called Carotatoes. I think the name was pretty self explanatory; they genetically joined potatoes and carrots and made them resistant to any and all forms of herbicide and insecticide making them incredibly easy and cheap to grow. It was one of the few foods that I could afford, just like everyone else.
I was very disappointed in myself. I allowed this country to get this way, just like everyone else who sat and watched, but did nothing. We all assumed that in our country this would never happen, but it did and now we were too malnourished and overworked to form any kind of resistance to what was taking place. We had our chance and we let it pass with little more than a passing curse under our breath. I threw the vegetable type thing on the floor and grabbed the toaster from the counter. I walked into the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror with the toaster in hand. I stroked it like I remember stroking my cats before they were taken by the Government to fill the need for food. I felt the scar on my cheek from when the police beat me for trying to vote for a different party. I punched the mirror with what strength I had left, knocking a single shard loose and cutting my hand in the process. I stared at the blood dripping from my hand, watching it fall and hit the floor. I placed a finger in the wound, wincing briefly from the pain, and I began to write a message on the mirror for when they found me. “Crime Minister Can’t Steal My Soul!” I sat in the tub, put the plug back in as it was still half full and reached for the toaster that was now plugged in. I heard them kick in the door as I dropped the appliance in the water.