What I dreamed last night - Page 2

This is where I come into the story, because I noticed that confidence with envy. I didn't know my place in the world. Not even nearly. I was twenty-three, and had finished school and college without ever having spent time inside. I'd been very careful indeed; a little lucky, but mostly just careful. I was polite, studious and unrebellious, and I'd gotten along just fine, so far. I'd always thought most young people I knew were fools for taking so many risks, breaking so many rules. I'd never been like that. So I was, in theory, one of the lucky few "young 'uns" of whom society approved. But I hadn't found a job yet (as a matter of fact, I was on my way to an interview that day), and I was getting pretty close to the point where my period of unemployment would qualify me as 'a nuisance'. And I didn't have the money or talent necessary to continue my studies.

Major Tom sat down next to me. (Oddly, since there were unpaired seats available elsewhere. Now I think about it, he was probably planning to pick my pockets. I wouldn't have dared to accuse a man in his early forties.) A few moments after he sat down, his little crew of followers got onto the bus too.  He saw them (I noticed him stiffen) but pretended otherwise. The rest of the bus didn't bother to pretend: we all stared, in fact. They weren't dressed very differently from me, but they were clearly recent convicts. For a start, the younger two ought to have been in school uniform. In fact, at that time on a Wednesday, the younger two ought to have been in school. Quite apart from that, why would a twenty-odd year-old guy be hanging out with a pair of scruffy teenagers, if not because of in-the-house camaraderie? And they obviously weren't a family, since Daisy was black and the other two were white. Then, too, their hair just looked wrong, like whoever had styled it had never even seen the kind of feathery braiding that everyone was wearing that year. And none of them opened their mouths to say a word, even when Will, who looked vaguely familiar to me, bumped into someone. I assumed they'd only just been released from the prison, after an extended stay. (I hadn't heard about the breakout yet.)

I expect the authorities didn't want to announce the flit officially, in case people got scared. There'd been a few riots in the past few years, when even the elderly had become frightened enough to be angry. But they'd figured that Tom had been the ringleader, and they stopped our bus pretty much the minute we'd got out of sight of the town. They announced that they were on the track of an escaped fugitive ringleader, a hardened criminal in his early forties, and I felt Tom go stiff as a board beside me. Then they informed us that they believed this ringleader to be accompanied by several younger criminals, who they would also detain immediately, and I stiffened too. They stated that none of the citizens had anything to worry about, and that the situation would be resolved very shortly, and I could hardly breathe for fear. I'd just realised that I had, in fact, seen Will before: he'd briefly attended the same school drama group I had, about eight years ago. The group had been disbanded three months in after one or two ill-advised choices of play, and I don't think I'd ever exchanged more than a couple of words with Will (who'd pretty much only been used to add bulk to the crowd scenes), but the connection existed. There would be records, and the link would be traced. Somewhere, in some computer file, our names were on the same list. And that would be enough to implicate me as an accessory to the flit. And I'd been unemployed too long. And Tom was sitting next to me.

Daisy, Philip and Will were looking pretty shaky too, but they hadn't spent their lives working to avoid the youth culture that predominated in the prisons. They knew how to speak to people of their own age. I didn't, not one bitty chunk. I was in the deep stuff.

So when Tom rose, went to the back of the bus, poked his head out to be shot at, then ran to the front of the bus, lobbed a smoke bomb he'd made from things he'd found in the basement of the clothing store, and ran out, covering the ground quickly with long, long strides, I followed him just as eagerly as the other three did. The smoke bomb had caused a lot of confusion. People back then weren't used to criminals with resources and brains. We got quite a distance in our comfortable shoes before they were organised enough to follow us. Maybe a full mile. As Major Tom reached a long-abandoned church at the edge of a long-abandoned village of red sandstone, he turned around to look at us.

I don't know what he thought about me, but I thought he looked like he pitied the others. His long, dark face was pulled into an expression that looked like a smile around the mouth, and like a frown about the forehead. A worried welcome, perhaps? He put his hand out to the church, and said, "This should do." I'm not sure what he did or said next, because I turned around to watch the dogs and horses and robots and men on horses that were now racing after us, like creatures out of nightmares, barking and whining and whistling and shouting a cacophony of pursuit. I closed my eyes for a moment, and tried to imagine silence and birdsong, and half-hoped that they'd decide to shoot us straight away, and save me from prison.

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