Something has come into my possession that’s telling me that the astonishing technological and social changes that have swept over us since I was born may have simply been responding to requirements, rather than creating new requirements.
It’s a wallet. Actually, it was my Dad’s wallet, and dates back to the 1960s.
I can tell this because one of the compartments is marked £5 notes. There are two other currency compartments – one marked 20/-, the other 10/-. This is leading me to suspect that the wallet dates from not too long before decimal currency was introduced (about the only visionary thing a National Government has ever done…).
If the wallet’s manufacturing date had been in the 1950s, or very early 1960s, I suspect the 20/- compartment would have been marked £1.
There’s a compartment on the outside of the wallet for a Driving Licence, and two other inner compartments: cards, and stamps.
So far, so ordinary. Provision has been made to carry cash. That’s not so important these days, but we do need a place to keep our EFTPOS and Credit Cards – mine fit nicely into the 20/- and 10/- compartments. Money going where it was designed to go.
But what really impresses me is the fact that the wallet is a 1960s version of a PDA, or even a cellphone. Yes, I know that I can’t use a wallet to call, txt, or email anyone. But I do have a place to keep business cards – mine and others. And I have another wee compartment for stamps… so if I had needed to make a phone call to anyone, or get a written communication away to them, I had the numbers, addresses, and means right there in my hip-pocket.
The wallet was made, and selected, because it met the identification, financial, and communication needs of the time. My own wallet is actually less efficient: it simply carries my ID (driving licence) and monetary requirements. If I want to communicate with anyone, I have to carry a phone. And believe me, with the five-year-old piece-of-poo Nokia thing my employers gave me to use – a stamp and snail mail might just be more efficient.
Listening to: a lot of brass band music. It'll never take the place of good old rock and roll,or N'Orleans jazz, or even swampy blues.
Reading: Trying to get into "Finding Enid", a biography of Enid Blytonj - but time's an issue, now the play's into production.
Night grunts as he stands, his lungs heaving, and hefts the Henry onto his shoulder.
“Come with me, little one. We need to talk.” He slips the knife back into its scabbard, grabs the bow and his arrows, and lopes toward the building.
The Henrys know of 3,000 Folk in the building: Unders, they call them. They are not aware that for every two Unders, there is one of the Free Folk. Folk who do not carry the Scarab. Their numbers were growing daily. There were free birthings, and more and more Folk were coming to accept the shrieking pain that attended the removal of a Scarab. His own arm is clear. He had been born free. His wife Lana, however, had had the Scarab slapped onto her arm two days after her birth. On the night of their betrothal, 15 years later, Night had helped her fight the agony of the removal: four hours of bitter, weeping pain. A time when she had panted and bitten through the leather they put between her teeth to help her stifle her cries of agony. Stifle them she did: her eyes had started, her sweat had run in rivers, she had thrown her head side to side, and she had clamped her teeth of the tough leather, and she had not made a sound.
The Scarab technology is centuries old, based on the Commonwealth’s nano-technology. Attached to the forearm of a newborn infant, it tracks and reports the wearer’s whereabouts at all times. It feeds off the host’s energy, and sends its receptors into the forearm’s nerve-ways, instructing the host body, repairing it when possible by diverting chemicals and enzymes away from their naturally allotted tasks, and by also stimulating growth of stem-cells to hasten the healing even more.
All in all, a blessing. But the Scarabs placed on the Unders’ arms were also instructed to bring death to their host-body after only 25 years of life. They could also be instructed to bring death in any one of a myriad of forms – almost all painful - to the wearer at any time.
The Free Folk has discovered how to cut the Scarab loose from their bodies a century ago. When they were cut free the Scarab died – and in dying, reported the death of their host. For the first dozen martyrs, the death had been real. Initially, the removal of the Scarab had been accomplished quite simply: an axe through the elbow. As time went by, and the Free Folk grew more numerous, and older, they investigated and experimented with the Scarabs. After a mere four hands of years they perfected the removal. Anaesthetics were out of the question: not because they weren’t available, for they were. But the moment the Scarab detected any opiate, any analgesic drug whatsoever, it reported the fact.
The Free movement had nearly died with that first surgical experiment. The surgery had been interrupted by heavily armed Henrys, who killed all involved. They died, bullets from the Henry’s gun-teks hammering them into bloody rags. The killings, however, had served a contrary purpose: they had been inspirational, and the Free movement had grown prospered.
Now, when Night or any of his brothers and sister prowled and hunted, they cut the hot liver from their victims, then hacked the Scarab from their arms, and mated the two. Experimentation had suggested that a death is not reported by the Scarab immediately – it can take up to twenty minutes before the Scarab acknowledged that its host was, in fact, moribund.
Every Scarab recognised and fed only from the DNA codes of its host, and feeding off the liver allowed the hunters to postpone the reporting of the deaths for up to five hours.
The Henrys knew they were doing it: it was a matter of daring and delight to take the cooling liver to the Henry’s headquarters, so the Scarab would die at their front doorstep.
Over the past seventy years, more than two thousand Henrys had died at the hands of the Free Folk.
And only seventeen Free Folk had been caught, tortured, and killed by the Henrys. A fair trade, thought Night. A fair trade. He loped toward his home-building, his captive a dead-weight on his shoulder.