Collective Unconsciousness

Collective Unconsciousness Smog slithered its way through the streets, blinding Tom as he trudged against it. He clenched his rough, netted bag crammed with corrugated metal that was slung over his shoulder. The uneven cobblestones were barely visible beneath the river of filth grasping at his feet. Amidst a hazy sea of amber light that bled upwards from the market stalls, he caught a glimpse of the stars that timidly hovered over the crooked streets which surrounded the square. As Tom emerged into the vast market square his senses were overwhelmed. Merchants swarmed him like midges on a warm dusk night. Colours danced in the flickering lamplight. A collection of exotic and oddly shaped fruits were enclosed in a cage of rusted metal. Government messages sang from radios, strategically stationed around the square. The humid air sat on the chests of the market goers. An assortment of used protective gear was tarped together to form a little canopy. Tom ducked under the draped, portiere of patchwork cloth that led into the merchant’s yurt and set his bag down on the table, removing the metal for inspection. Tom’s eyes followed the trail of the merchant’s hands as he scratched it – testing its authenticity. “Your safety and health is paramount… your government will protect you.” “I haven’t seen anyone with the virus for years,” offered Tom in an unguarded moment. The merchant nodded with a smile, gathered up the metal and filed it in cubby holes as Tom removed a rusty box from his pocket and placed it under the red light of the crypto-credit machine. His self-made device beeped to acknowledge receipt of the compulsory crypto-currency. The merchant held down a strange, green button as he took a furtive sidelong glance at Tom, before dismissing him and moving his attention to the next customer without uttering a word. Tom headed home, past one of the ubiquitous steam cafés, the smell of the rehydrated food pumped out to lure him closer. Firefly lights hovered along the narrow streets – chasms, overshadowed by worn sandstone buildings that had evolved into shanty hybrids reaching up to the sky, becoming more rickety and crude as they grew; geological strata of human development and regression. Tom felt a rush of cold air ignite goosebumps that spread all over his body. He pondered, “What did that green button do?” Tom turned and met with the faces of two tall, stocky men – government paramedics, dressed in sky-blue uniforms. “We need to take you for some routine tests.” The fog coiled up Tom’s leg like a snake about to strike. His eyes darted frantically around looking for a way out. All he saw was their ambulance which was a white van spray-painted with the caduceus symbol. They walked him round to the back doors. As they opened, the snake split apart revealing the splintered, wooden interior. They put the inhaler over his mouth and he fell asleep. The van drove away, swallowed by the smog.


by Will Cannon, Age 14

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