Cadisk: Seventh Tourmaline (part one)
Nothing netted any longer from the ocean, the harbor and all its traffic suborned to a use, the district peopled only with transients, intractable Jocelynists, the never-seen detainees…
Cadisk was a coastal town with a prison economy.
Residents were less happy than inmates. They could never leave this place.
They understood it. Their landscape, free to them if they cared to walk its paths, was flat, hot, devoid of wildlife. Their hero had seemed to advocate for such a world; and if they could not renounce their hero, they must be relegated to his legacy.
The G.R.A. took their measurements and deemed the punishees, as the Jocelynists called themselves, those they would not have mixing with others. The Hidtha Utdrife mixed, to the Cadiskers’ ire, and seemed set to thrive. They proliferated, birthed soldiers for the coalition army, were forgiven (if not lionized) by these malign social architects who occupied the nation; had no rights, to the minds of the punishees, to be enriched so by confiscations.
Rights, rights…the word rang with potency. The minority privilege of the Hidtha engendered a bitter line of obscene joking, though these hints and phrases were swallowed and muttered. The punishees knew their words recorded. They knew they might be uprooted and sent to another home, south, where the Hidtha flourished.
The only work in Cadisk was serving. Cadiskers tended rooms and offered food. The spit had miles of flat asphalt for stretching legs, hundreds of empty lanes striped out, for napping truckers. Shimmering mirages floated in the heat, over the false ocean of paved earth, when there were no troop movements, no convoys to fill the space. Ekers used the lot’s fringe to pitch tents, sat in camp chairs, ran electric fans and radios off long blue cords.
The military presence remained thick in Cadisk, from the gate in to the gate out, but hidden, boxed inside monolithic windowless vehicles. These bulked alive and humming, painted over with a coat of dense, tactile particles, that by proximity seemed to be mutating the clans of hawkers, making them deaf, crooking their backs, lasering red burns on their skin, causing kidneys and livers to fail under a burgeoning mantle of flab. The vehicles sat behind razor-wired fences at the back of the great staging area.
Above all this was the prison tunnel-complex, lit by tubal skylights, efficient for heating and cooling, efficient in all things—a model prison, of the G.R.A. type. Cell blocks were bored into the cliffs. Low-ranking inmates lived dawn to dusk, moving like players in a game towards the natural-light richness of the oceanside cells; political prisoners of some prestige were privileged to be isolated here in narrow chambers, with cot and toilet and video screen. One wall of each cell a thick acrylic-glass composite.
It interested the prison medical staff, that with this vista of vacant rolling waves, often of somber clouded skies, flickering with the deadly electricity that made the dying sea a danger, prisoners in these cells would stare all day at the screen.
The screen showed soundless movies, technicolored American musicals of the 1950s and 60s. At varying minutes, before and after 17.30; the sound came on, the prisoners started from their cots. The news of Cadisk came heralded by a bar of music masking a wave blast, that shocked the vagus nerve. Stories took place in some neighborhood of the city unknown to the viewer. So she would envy them or condemn them, their license to reopen liquor stores, their new employment in a warehouse, their murder-suicides—those Cadiskers living (dying) their relatable (hateable) routines.
The national news always spoke of gloomy Jocelynist depredations…
As this void on the north coast, where within a year all fish had vanished. How could its spread be stopped, when the voltage was unapproachable, when no measuring instrument, no circuitry, no motor, could survive, no unshielded human venture there, to study its source?
There were others: the drought in the south; massive avalanches in the mountains. A criticality at Miners’ Peak. There were talks underway, for the G.R.A.’s withdrawal. The occupiers were despised, and no one could feel safe abandoned by them.
Palma, versed in these mind-control forays, had only time on her hands—time, in every case, to ask herself, what am I feeling? What came first?
They wanted her intellect starved…the treatment began that way. They wanted her gratitude for their favors, her sense of flattery at being trusted, to wreak alteration on her brain. Which was not to overdramatize. The brain could saturate itself in its own chemical stew. The balance people thought of as rationality, the responses they called emotion, could be shunted by cue-training onto a new set of rails. Then everything became waiting for reward, worrying at the lack of it, finding it plausible someone was to blame for this. Readily accepting any offered someone as one’s enemy.
That was why the warden came at mealtimes while the news played—so that apropos of this or that, he might make his inconsequential remarks. And Palma knew she did look forward to it.
She looked forward to the game screen popping up. At times, there was a writing window where, accustomed to no privacy, you might—standing and with your finger—scribble a journal.
Today, a bird landed on the water, and vanished.
Vanished in a flash of blue.
It seemed cool to be able to embed previews of my books right in the post. Then I discovered, checking the email sent to subscribers, that all you see in Gmail, at least, is a big blank space. Click the above, to get to the Amazon page, and preview the books, if you like.