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Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run

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Following the silent masses into the grey, steel rec room that afternoon, I spotted Simeon staring blankly at the TV screen, sitting on one of the cold metal chairs that surrounded it.

I knew even before I saw him up close that he had been to his injections today.

It was painful to walk any closer, but I called out his name all the same, and he turned to look at me, his eyes so empty that they were like lasers. This was bad. He had been here for, what, a bit more than a month? Month and a half maybe? Was this what I was going to become after just a quarter of my time in here?

‘Hey Simeon,’ I said casually, sitting down in the chair next to him.

‘Hi,’ he said. How much did he remember? And how long would it take him to remember everything? I was no expert at this, and it frightened me, and I wasn’t the sort to act frightened normally.

I decided to do it in the same way I had seen it done once back in Salt Lake City, when a friend of mine had come back from the Institution. As I had never had practice in the Institution before, I didn’t play much of a role in initiating her back into our society, but I’d still seen the experts at work. The key was to try and get them to remember through prompts and questions.

‘What are the Dreamers, Simeon?’ I asked.

His light eyebrows lowered. ‘Dreamers? I don’t know.’ The voice he spoke in was unbearably unlike the one he normally used. It had no tone and no emotion, and sounded almost irritatingly pleasant.

This wasn’t good. Maybe I had to start simpler.

‘Simeon, where were you living before this?’

‘Uh...’ he began unsurely, ‘California?’

‘Where, though?’ I persisted.

‘I don’t know...no, was it San Francisco?’ he said. ‘I was living...’ his eyebrows lowered even further, ‘in a cave. No. A tunnel? A train station.’

‘Well, just underground would have been fine,’ I said. I had never visited the Dreamers in San Francisco, but I assumed that they, like every other base I had ever been to or heard of, lived in the tunnels under the city. Since World War Three, we were all supremely equipped to dealing with having to live somewhere where we would be undetected. Strange how a war that nearly wiped out the whole of humanity actually turned out surprisingly convenient.

‘Anyway, who did you live with?’ I asked. ‘Can you name anyone?’ There was no way of telling the validity of his information; I would just have to trust that, if he remembered any of their names, he would say them truthfully.

‘There was...oh dear,’ he said, holding his head in his hand. Even the fact he had said ‘oh dear’ unnerved me—it was so unlike anything I had ever heard him say before. ‘Why are you asking? I don’t know.’

‘No, you do know,’ I insisted, gently but firmly. Glancing up, I saw a security guard with his small, dark eyes fixed firmly on my face, but I didn’t wither or relent. He was standing the other side of the room; he didn’t know precisely what I was doing. If he thought I was acting suspicious, he would have to come over here for himself and confirm that, thus giving me a few moments warning.

‘Carla!’ Simeon suddenly cried triumphantly. ‘There was a girl called Carla. And...Jon? And there was a guy called Neil. No, Niall. Yes, he was called Niall.’

‘That’s good,’ I said, feeling a tiny bit victorious. Being in a place as dark as the Institution meant that even the smallest amount of light was able to shine through so brightly. Technically, if society was fair and normal, Simeon shouldn’t have to remember anything, because he wouldn’t have been given amnesia in the first place, but putting that aside, the fact that he was remembering was good.

‘And who were those people?’ I prompted. ‘Why were you all living together? What were you doing in the underground?’ I didn’t know whether, at this stage of his treatment, he was supposed to remember the likes of dreams and imagination at all, but I had to try. I could, but I was a month and a half newer to it all than he was. Eventually, the repeated amnesia took its toll, and memories began to drift for much longer periods of time. If I could help it, however, he would remember. I was determined not to suffer out this Institution alone.

‘We were...working together,’ Simeon said, thinking about every word as he spoke. ‘Yeah, we were working. My job was in the underground but...did I live there and work there?’ The perplexed tone in his voice made me laugh.

‘Yeah, you lived and worked in the underground,’ I confirmed for him, ‘but what was your job?’

‘I don’t know,’ he said, but with a glance from me, he began to think about it. Take that amnesia! ‘I...shot someone. And I ran a lot. And I stole stuff from someone, no, lots of people. But mostly I shot people. And...I went to supermarkets. But I...did I steal stuff from the supermarkets?’

‘Yeah, I imagine so,’ I said, casually dropping that fateful word into my sentence. He didn’t question it, so maybe he was beginning to remember properly. ‘Do you remember it though, Sim?’ I said. ‘Do you remember being a Dreamer?’

He shook his head, unusually solemn, his mind far away. It was delving deep into his memories, desperately scrounging around and trying to retrieve everything. I remembered that feeling for just the first couple of minutes after waking up yesterday. I could only fear how frustrating it must be not to be able to remember anything for hours, and later on even days. It would always be there, at the edge of reality, in the corner of your eye, but never quite close enough to touch.

I was just about to persist with trying to get Simeon to remember how he had been just this morning, but at that moment the TV caught my eye.


Under that, the statement was even worse:


‘Sim?’ I asked, not making eye contact with him; instead focusing solely on the screen, watching the reporters standing outside the hospital and interviewing people and showing footage of ambulances and the A&E department. I wasn’t paying enough attention to be able to hear what they were saying, so I just read the headlines printed on banners across the bottom half of the screen.

‘Sim,’ I repeated, my tone grim, ‘do you remember Dictator Kempton?’

‘Who?’ he asked, glancing blankly in my direction.

It was only at that point that I realised quite how much he still had to remember.


The following day, Simeon seemed much more normal than the day before. He still struggled with the concept of imagination—considering he still couldn’t remember what it was, I decided to teach it to him, but the idea of things that didn’t really exist was incomprehensible to him.

Other than that, though, he could remember the majority of stuff. He remembered Dreamers, vaguely, though it was like a sharp stab inside when he described them as being terrorists. However, he quickly corrected himself, calling us freedom fighters instead.

We were actually in the middle of a decent game on the snooker table when the volume on the TV shot up without warning.

‘Silence!’ one of the security guards shouted, striding into the centre of the room, his voice deep and imposing. Instantly, a deathly quiet fell over the room.

Just in time for us to hear the news headline. Today, there was only one.

Citizens of America,’ the newsreader began, ‘it is my solemn duty to announce to you all that President John Kempton is dead. And, as requested by our former leader, the new presidential role shall be taken by Ms Tamara Lomax, the current Minister of Media.
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I figured I'd link this music video by Adam Lambert because I saw it about a week ago and it reminded me so much of the Institution. Although sadly they don't all start dancing in this Institution.