1985 – Dystopian fiction
‘The third face, you never show anyone. It is the truest reflection of who you are.’ – Unknown
Winston stopped and paused by the placard before stubbing out his poorly-made cigarette and entering the premises. Nodding curtly to the man behind the bar he proceeded past the disjointed tables to a nondescript shag that lay in the corner, peeled back a corner and entered the trapdoor to the dark, smoke-filled room concealed below.
‘Winston my chap! Good to see you!’ Bellowed Galloway a gregarious and rotund man, first to notice his arrival.
‘We were just discussing the new tobacco ration. Have you heard?’
‘It was nigh impossible to avoid today Mr. Galloway, everyone at the Ministry has discussed it to great lengths.’
‘And you are of the opinion?’
‘Naturally it is a great idea.’
His response sent those present into raucous fits of laughter; It was some moments before Galloway composed himself enough to continue.
‘That may be the belief of the Ministry, Winston, we want that which is your own.’
Winston surveyed the room and finding only friendly faces looking back at his own he paused before formulating his response.
‘Well, if you want my opinion in earnest, Mr. Galloway, I feel too long has it been that we are handed arbitrary rule from high above with little concern for what should ail or abate us.’
The sentence killed off the lingering laughter in the back of the room, those who had not yet watched Winston turned and nodded their heads in agreement to the expression. Winston continued.
‘Should we allow this today then I fear what shall happen tomorrow. Perhaps they take our wives for their pleasure, our sons to fight their wars. It is my choice, nay, my duty to protect the liberties and values each of us doth uphold.’
By now each head nodded in time to every syllable he uttered. The tense silence was broken only by Galloway’s inquiry.
‘And what do you suggest we do, my chap?’
‘The only thing we can do Mr. Galloway, for should we protest peacefully I fear our voices will not be heard and indeed we shall never set foot in this establishment once more. You all I trust remember the untimely demise of Mr. Robinson.’
The men examined one another, each nodding their heads in almost synchronised rhythm. The palpable tension in the room was overwhelming.
‘Do you suggest rebellion, my chap?’ Galloway dared to ask; his eyes wide.
‘The time is nigh Mr. Galloway, for should we dwell much longer the opportunity I fear may escape us. I implore you to leave here post-haste and return with every man of able body within your districts. We shall move as one, the largest enemy this nation is yet to see. The armoury may be sparsely guarded but this is nothing for such a gargantuan, determined force.’
Clenched fists began to bang upon tables, slurs were interjected aimed at the ruling party. A table was overturned at the back of the room. Winston found himself yelling, encompassed by the sweeping discontent.
‘WE CANNOT STAND IDLY BY WHILST THEY CONTINUE TO LINE THEIR POCKETS WITH THAT WHICH THEY DEPRIVE US OF. MY BROTHERS IT IS UP TO US NOW, TONIGHT, TO BREAK FREE FROM THE OPPRESSION UNDER WHICH WE FIND OURSELVES. TONIGHT, WE FIGHT!’
At this the men began whooping and hollering. Chairs were broken, their legs fashioned into makeshift bludgeons. Pint glasses of varying fills were launched at pictures of the ruling party plastered across the far wall. The fury in the room had boiled over, their hearts a burning furnace of hatred and spite aimed directly at the faceless leaders. Winston pulled himself onto the closest table to be seen by the now rioting room.
‘GO! GO NOW AND RETRIEVE THOSE WHO FEEL THE SAME WAY AND RETURN TO ME! THE SOONER WE BEGIN THE SOONER WE OVERTHROW THE TYRANNY THAT WE –’
Winston was finally interrupted by a long beep emanating from the overhead speakers.
‘Midnight, closing time. Please come back tomorrow.’ The automated message repeated three more times as the lights rose to reveal the utter destruction of the room. The realisation of their madness caused many to hang their heads and wring hands in shame. Each filtered up the stairway, through the trapdoor and out into the crisp air of the night. Winston and Galloway were last to leave. Each lit a crude cigarette, taking in the cool air.
‘And what do we do now, my chap?’
‘The only thing we can do Mr. Galloway.’ Winston drew from his cigarette dropped it to the floor and stubbed it out with his shined toe. He began to back away gradually, not turning his back on the man until after he spoke once more.
‘Until tomorrow, comrade.’