What I dreamed last night

There was a prison break, in the 22nd century. And a man who'd been arrested for no good reason (or, at least, had been arrested because he bore none of the marks of a solid citizen of the time, and spoke as strangely as a drugged-up tramp, which he thought was no good reason) led the revolt. He'd got to know a few of his fellow-prisoners, and he'd liked them. He'd found lost and lonely children: fragile, aggressive and oddly eager to please. He saw that they, too, had been arrested for no good reason, so he let them all out. (I guess you'll wonder how he did this, given the draconian security in place in 22nd century prisons, but I don't exactly have an answer for you. He wasn't an ordinary man of the time, as this story should make clear, and I expect that some security measures had been allowed to lapse and grow lax, given the overriding apathy of the prisoners. But I don't know how he did it, only that he did.)

He opened the doors of the prison, and the criminals poured onto the streets by their thousands. At that time, about 85% of the 12- 25 year-olds were in prison at any one time, and there were precious few young people who'd never had a stint. So many things were illegal back then. Unauthorised gatherings after dark (a half-dozen teenagers in a field at night) carried a minimum 2 year penalty. Underage drinking in public could add another five years to that. Most teen-speak slang would be illegal as soon as the authorities understood it, though this wasn't much of a problem because it changed so fast. "Youth-culture" generally was attacked with a vengeance. A popular politician got a standing ovation for a speech in which he said that he "had no wish to outlaw merely 'being young' or 'being a teenager', as his opponents suggested he did. But why should the decent law-abiding masses be forced to stand by and meekly accept it when the nation was overrun with crime and violence and drunks vomiting in the street because the young people had chosen, of their own free will, to act like teenagers?"

So the prisoners let out by the unordinary-man had a pretty hard time of it trying to fit back in. Boy-children and girl-children and some criminals who weren't children at all fled their jail cells and tried to blend in with the respectable people who'd locked them up in the first place. Because he was with them, and because he was smart, the first thing they did was to raid a clothing emporium. He (and he needs a name, I suppose; call him Major Tom) told them to be careful what they chose. He said, "Pick clothes you wouldn't usually wear; pick clothes that you very almost wouldn't be seen dead in." He said, "These are tough times, as you shouldn't need me to tell you. The citizens will be afraid and angry and insulted when they hear what you've done, and if you choose the kind of clothes that people like you might want to wear, then those are exactly the kind of clothes that you might very well be seen dead in."

He told them to shave their faces, if they needed to, and to cut their hair if they needed to. He made the girls put on sensible flat sandals and uncomfortable silver suits with unflattering hemlines. He made the boys pick out red hats, such as respectable adults wore, and forbade them all from wearing black. He picked out an impeccable suit of red and gold for himself, and he made them destroy the rest of the clothes, so that no one would know what they'd taken. Then he told them to scatter, and left them to themselves.

A few managed to follow him. Fifteen-year old Daisy (who thought Major Tom was the only adult in the history of the world who'd ever said anything worth listening to) was the one to spot where he was headed. Sixteen-year old Philip, her best-friend and occasional lover, followed her as a matter of course. Dim, affectionate Will, Philip's twenty-three year-old cellmate, followed because he had no idea what else to do. They weren't a bad bunch of kids, as criminals go, but all of them were long-term inmates, and their voices, like their young faces, did nothing to conceal the fact.

Trying to walk like people with jobs and homes and a status in the world, they followed Major Tom (from a distance) down to the town's main bus depot. This, again, was smart of him. The prison accent varied from town to town, and even fifty-miles away, his swiftly-acquired inmate's drawl might just sound like the quaint, accented speech of workers from the north. But you need ID (and lots of money) to ride the trains or water-planes (or even the long-distance buses). The local buses connect to one another, though, and it wouldn't take long for him to travel that all-important fifty-miles. He got on a bus. I don't know how he expected to pay when he got off, but he boarded with the quiet confidence of a man who knows his place in the world.

 Site by Sian Hogan. Last updated on 1st June by Sian.