Bigger Brother

By Ewan Lawrie

“And camera 4-899 cut to Beese City live feed voice over Geri” The director stretches and adds:

“hope we’ve got some live-ones tonight.”

Nods all around from the sub-directors paid to watch the monitors. 100 mini-feeds to two Terminals in front of each of the 100 “sub-dees”. 10,000 cameras feeding Ghetto Blast,

Panopticon’s latest smash-hit for the overclass.

Sub-dee #99 waves an arm at the Director up on the bridge:

– “Nicoteeners in Smoke Town, live mugging: camera 9-981.”

– “Geri, cutting live to mugging, Smoke Town.”

– “Now live: from one of the most dangerous areas of the city. A mugging by two crazed Nicoteeners : you’re watching Ghetto Blast, and I’m Geri Manda for Panopticon TV; your eye on the world.”

A thin woman is backing towards a C-5 automated waste disposal unit. The action of a worried person. C-5’s sensors have been known to be triggered by human body mass, no-one knows the figures for accidental wastage. But, then there are no census figures for Smoke Town. Or Beese City, or The Stews, for that matter. The woman looks healthy for a resident of Smoketown: sallow, but no obvious respiratory problems – she’s been on screen for a minute and hasn’t coughed once. Her eyes are darting from side to side. The two youngsters, 15 or so, with the hooded tops so fashionable a century ago, keep coming towards the woman.

“Give it up.” The boy says.

“Now, we need some, c’mon.” says the girl.

“How many?” the woman looks relieved.

“How many have you got?” the girl wants to know.

“20. You know the price.”

The woman hands over the illegal cigarettes, the girl hands over a light-looking bag.

The woman asks “Is it red?”

The girl throws back her hood, red stubble shows through the scalp. She gives a toothless smile. There’s no healthcare in Smoke Town, or anywhere outside of Overtown, where the Overclass live.

– “Jesus! Sub-Dee 99 can’t you tell the difference between a mugging and a Tobacco deal? Christ, I’m working with idiots. ANYBODY got something? Sub-Dee 45? OK. Geri? Cutting to Beese City. People at Waste Disposal Centre”

The director almost chews her fingernails; but that would be a sign of an addictive personality. That signpost points down to the Underclass; Smoke City or worse.

– “Geri Manda, here again, now a look at the wonders of recycling. Beese City Waste Disposal Centre #9.”

The live feed shows a 100 overweight people outside a razor-wire topped gate. A siren goes. The gate swings wide: the crowd waddle through: there’s no audio feed, but they look like they’re listening to a PA announcement. As one morass of a mass they peer round. They make for a steel vertical shutter door. It’s about 10 x 10metres. A sign says Disposal Chute #9. The shutter is slowly going up. Stuff – ooze – gloop is seeping under the gap. Then it starts flooding out. Chicken carcases, chop bones and other, less identifiable things protrude from the gelatinous gloop. And the crowd descend on the mess. They eat. Everything.

– “Come on, come on.” The director’s fingernails are straying near her mouth again.

– “There must be something worth fighting over!” she says.

– “Something on camera 4-517.” Sub-Dee 45 trills.

– “Live now to camera 4-517, Geri, something, just wing it.”

– “Geri here for you, the eye of the world sees all. Two Beese Citizens have found a juicy morsel.”

And they have; they pick up something blue and mottled, about the size of a chicken. It would never have flown even if it lived. The Beese exchange a look.

– “Yes, yes, yes!” The director yelps. “Go on eat it, go on. TV first. Live cannibalism. DO IT!”

But they don’t . One of the Beese takes off their coat and wraps it round the tiny thing and they walk out of shot.

– “Follow them Sub-Dee 45. Get that shot.”

There’s nothing to see. The Beese lay the pathetic bundle on the wall beside the gate of Waste Disposal #9, and waddle back towards the chute via cameras 4-508, 9 and 10.

– “SHIT! What is wrong with these people tonight? Why don’t they give us what we want?” The director’s face is red and she has been sitting on her hands for a few minutes now.

– “Camera 2-383: Alcoholograms, empty bottles; Health Police wagon approaching.” Sub-Dee 23’s urgent voice shrills out.

– “Geri, going live to Health Police Alcohologram arrest. Yeah, I know they’re not real people, but we’ve got to have something tonight.”

On the plasma screens of Overtown Geri Manda fades out and the feed from camera 2-383 fades in. Two female Alcoholograms are sitting in the road in The Stews. It’s quite safe: the only traffic consists of the Health Police wagons.

The Alcoholograms are drunk, delirious and diseased. The Health Police wagon pulls up at a safe 10 metres away. The white-suited HPs pull down their protective helmets and leave the safety of the wagon. They walk over to the Alcoholograms.

– “Mmmm, give it them, give them the needle!” The director’s lips are a little swollen and her cheeks are flushed.

HP #1 leans over the Alcoholograms, vacuum syringe module ready to give the eternal sleep. You have to keep the numbers down, and they’re not real people, after all. Only, if they’re all eradicated, what will people watch on the TV? HP#1 shakes his head at #2. They move off, back to their wagon. The oblivious Alcholograms exist to drink another day.

– “SHIIIIIIIIIIIT!” The director wails and finally chews a manicured fingernail.

– “This is Geri Manda, signing off for Ghetto Blast , from Panopticon TV, your eye on the world…”

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