by Phillip Donnelly
“Necrophilia is punishable by death. All violators will be deleted.”
Statute 32 of the Time Laws was well known to me, and yet I plundered the world of the dead regardless. It was not because I wished to join the dead, but rather because I wished to understand them. I wished to name the nameless.
But what I wished and wanted does not concern you, Honorable Screenface. Your only concern is what I did and what I learned, and how much of this knowledge I passed on to other cells in Necronet.
Very well, let me state it plainly in plain text, and let the mindworms mark my testimony as true, post-mortem. But face, if you can, this unwholesome truth: the City is dying.
* * *
Through my illicit reading of the ancient texts, I have learned that once there were many cities, scattered across the continents, and that each of them was different from the others. While this is hard for the modern mind to comprehend, it is certainly the case that the City, as we know it, is not eternal.
Rather, there used to be many cities, and space between these cities. This space was called ‘the countryside’ and was quite like some of the wilder municipal parks that can still be found in many of the Historic Districts, except that it was far larger and had far fewer pedestrian degenerates.
Why the government should seek to hide this information I could not imagine, but I was determined to find out.
The search required much secrecy on my part and a great deal of movement, as the GPS records of my various identities will show. But my erratic path across both hemispheres of the City was not intended, as the Screenface suggests, to enable me to act as courier to other Necro-terrorists but rather to enable me to access information points with obsolete security systems.
On these dusty interfaces, some unused in decades, the false ID’s in my possession, and my skill as a former systems analyst allowed me to access blocked data banks and even to download texts to a pornreader. And in archaic translations of lost languages I saw the truth of the Necros: the past is not the present, and by extension, the future may be different too.
* * *
Once my access was detected or, rather, suspected, I had to ditch one false identity immediately and move on to another — to another name and another location. Onwards, onwards, ever onwards. I have lived this peripatetic life for almost fifteen years, freelancing in over a hundred work cells under a hundred different names.
I have seen much of the City. And I have come to a most startling conclusion: the City is dying. The highways, motorways and the interdistricts are still very busy, but while the roads are full, the work cells frenetic, and the entertainment centres bustling, the City’s core is hollow.
Let me explain. In the company of indigents I have travelled around the hexagonal suburbs that surround the work cells. The indigents scavenge in local suburbs and know where the security camera blind spots can be found. The criminals’ life is surprisingly easy, since only they walk the streets; and were it not for their crippling addiction to pleasure drugs, few would ever get caught.
All eyes are peering into the Network, the virtual abyss; and the City, which seems so full, is actually quite empty. It is only a membrane — wafer-thin and bodiless.
The indigents and I would simply climb over crumbling walls, past weedy, uncared-for gardens, and peer through grimy windows.
Most rooms were empty, and even in the ones that were occupied I always saw the same scene. No-one ever noticed the face at the window gazing in. The occupants were all plugged into the Network — generally the pleasure portals — and there they would sit, completely immobile, for as long as I cared to look at them. Like zombies in stasis.
* * *
In my confidence, I grew careless.
One night, we broke into an abandoned house. In some districts they outnumber occupied houses. And in this house I found a forgotten access point. Unable to resist, I used the ID of my latest indigent accomplice to access the Network.
She was busy rifling the house, and I saw no danger in my manoeuver. And that, of course, was my downfall. Never trust an indigent: they have nothing to lose and love nothing. Their conscience dissolves, pill by pill, and in the end there is nothing human in them.
I realise now that she had been studying me suspiciously for some time. She rarely took her happiness pills in my presence, because, I assumed, she imagined I had lewd intentions. A sex machine is more hygienic, but many citizens still prefer to use an indigent’s body, and she was certainly a beautiful creature.
But the only thing that aroused me was the past, and I think she may have already begun to suspect this. I may have smelled of death to her.
I still recall the last text I was reading when she turned me in. It was a summary of something called The Iliad. It described a time when cities fought against each other, travelling over the lesser fish banks, which were called seas.
* * *
Now there is one City, one People and one Network. Now there is one time: the present. Necros, the lovers of the past, are its only enemy.
As for the demonised Necronet, the memory hunters and the mindworms will show what I have already told you: I never made contact with it. I die as I have lived — alone.
My last words are these: the past was different from the present and the future will be, too.
Copyright © 2011 by Phillip Donnelly