A short exert of a bigger work in progress. A country controlled by the few has struck fear into its citizens for the last twenty years, but who can stop them?
In a world not unlike our own, a country lay besieged by a frightening oligarchy, controlled by a political alliance called ‘The Pear Tree Party.’ Boasting of a prosperous future for their nation. So long as the country did what they were told.
The Leader of the Pear Tree Party, President Broderick Jaxe, would address his public with a friendly smile and a laugh that spitefully earned him the name ‘Banshee Broders.’ His laughter would foretell a calamitous wave that washed across the country. Government-sponsored assassinations were covered up, media outlets were muzzled by censorship and propaganda, and secret police would snatch people from the streets. Most were dropped off in the same spot they were taken, battered and broken. But the number of those who did not return was growing. After twenty years in power, the PTP had trodden the people’s optimism into fear, and deceit had become as common as a greeting. The public did not know who to trust, so it became taboo to speak ill of the government.
The PTP’s tyranny held strongest in the country’s capital. A once raucous city had been eerily quiet for the last few years as it eventually submitted to its government’s domination. People went about their day half dead; all interaction was short and empty. A meaningful connection with another person was rare since trust was difficult to keep and easily lost. But even though the city held a dull atmosphere, there were many cafés and bars where people could drink away their anxieties, but often it only fuelled their paranoia.
In a cramped drinking establishment on a wintery evening, there were very few patrons sat inside. The cackles of two off-duty partridges, the city’s law enforcement, would rupture the over-bearing silence in the bar. You could tell a partridge by the bright orange boots they wore.
At the end of the bar was a young man dressed smartly in a white shirt with a grey waistcoat and trousers. Gripping his drink with both hands, he hunched over the bar in deep contemplation, although he was slowly becoming irritated by the arrogant nattering. But he knew better than to say anything to them. The entrance’s bell rang as it opened, revealing a howling that was quickly muffled once more as it closed behind a beautiful young woman—striding towards the bar with high cheekbones and deep green almond eyes and taking a seat between the young man and the partridges, smiling at the bartender.
“Rum and lemonade, please.” Her smoky tone echoed in everyone’s ears as they fell silent to her order. The bartender tipped his cap to the young lady and began her concoction. A low ripple of conversations started again as they returned to their drinks. Even the partridges had stopped to gawk at the young woman in her black overcoat. The woman pulled out a small book and began to read. The two officers looked at each other in amusement before calling over the bartender.
“I’d like to pay for that lady’s drink.” One of the two men boasted, he had a thick amount of greased back hair. The woman looked up from her book with a sweet smile.
“No, thank you.” She politely refused his offer, promptly returning to her book. The partridge looked taken aback by a citizen’s abnormal morale, but he laughed it off and gave her another chance at accepting his offer.
“Come on now, let me buy your drink. Not often I see a pretty foreigner like you.” His voice had a threatening overtone to the word ‘foreigner,’ definitely not much of a sweet talker. Still, his dangerously cocky attitude did not go unnoticed by the rest of the bar as their conversations trailed into silent apprehension. At first, the young woman did not raise her head from her book until the officer asked her, “What’s your name?” she glanced up from her book to him, still smiling reluctantly.
“Marceline.” the greasy officer grinned back, glaring into her eyes, clearly trying to intimidate her. His partner sat along the bar and laughed at her name—certainly, an unusual way to wingman.
“Well, Marceline… which colony are you from?” the young woman took a moment to answer as she sighed and closed her book.
“I was born here, in the capital.” This had been done before. Scary-looking officials with their orange feet would saunter over to ask for visa documentation, her settler’s permit, and a passport to scrutinise. The two got up from their seats to stand over her. Forcing a smile over a sadistic enjoyment for their jobs. The second officer, who was much shorter now that he was standing, had a rounded belly, no hair, and a voice like chalk.
“If you’re from here, then you wouldn’t mind showing us your passport, eh?” his hand rested the edge of the bar stool’s cushion after lightly brushing against Marceline’s backside. But she did not react. Instead, she tucked her book back into her pocket and turned away from the two to look inside the handbag swung over her shoulder. Sifting through its contents, she felt her fingertips touch the leathery cover of her passport. As she pulled it gently out from her bag, she looked up to see the young man sat on the other side of her staring into her handbag. His eyes were apathetically fixed on the shape of a handgun nestled in the centre of her bag between a spray bottle of perfume and a pair of black tights. He glanced up and realised she had caught him peeking. The two stared at each other for less than a second, and then Marceline gave him a sly little wink before turning back to the officers with her passport in hand.
“Here you are, officers.” Refusing to break her smile, even as she handed it over to the stumpy one so he could take his hand away from her arse. The fat little partridge’s grin had quickly turned its corners into a somewhat disappointed frown as he studied her passport. The lanky greased officer snatched it from the other’s hands and scrutinised it further. But his expression never changed. He gave a short chuckle before waving the little book in front of Marceline.
“This looks suspiciously fake, Miss.” His voice grew more venomous, “We’re going to have to take you down to the station to verify your status.” The tension had been growing stronger within the bar as the partridges became increasingly hostile. But Marceline seemed surprisingly unfazed by their thinly veiled threats.
“What makes you think my passport is fake?” she queried innocently, looking from one to the other. The greasy one just laughed and smacked her passport against the edge of the bar, bending its spine.
“Looks real cheap! I’ve seen counterfeits like this before, so why don’t you come with us, and we’ll take care of this.” He growled in her ear. There was a pause before the young woman eventually stood from her bar stool and stepped out to stand between the two officers.
“If we must.” Marceline’s alluring voice hadn’t waivered once during this confrontation, which the greasy partridge found somewhat irritating. The bartender reappeared with Marceline’s drink, gingerly placing it down beside her before backing away again.
“Or, you can let me buy you that drink, and we might look the other way.” He seemed pretty proud of his intimidation, but Marceline was not impressed in the slightest. Rather, her smile remained plastered across her face, getting stiffer by the second.
“I don’t accept drinks from fowl.” Marceline quipped, which received a round of short gasps from the patrons. Unsurprisingly familiar to everyone in the bar, the officers’ demeanour switched from cocky intimidation to boiling anger.
“Listen here, you little mongrel,” the greasy officer began as he suddenly gripped her wrist, pulling her closer to the two orange-footed officials, “If I say you’re coming with us, you’re coming–” his face suddenly eased into a painfully relaxed state, so relaxed he could not even form words. His grip loosened from her wrist as his muscles slouched his posture into a deep hunch. The stumpy officer stared in disbelief at his neutralised partner, then turned back to look at Marceline, who quickly waved her wrist in front of her face. He smelt a strong, strangely calming aroma fill his nostrils. But what came over him was a sense of obedience. He wanted to do whatever this mysterious woman told him to, like a machine built purposely for one task. The two of them stood limply, waiting for her instruction, but she took a moment to take hold of her iced rum and lemonade to drink it down in one go before smacking it back down onto the top of the bar. She gave a satisfied sigh before turning back to the two docile birds.
“I’m not going anywhere with you. In fact, you’re both going to forget meeting me. You’re going to forget my name and my face.” Marceline instructed them, and to everyone’s surprise, they agreed. Nodding their heads before gradually slumping against the side of the bar, out cold. Without a moment’s hesitation, Marceline reached into her bag and grabbed the perfume bottle and sprayed it three times in the air of the bar, filling the noses of each patron, as well as the bartender. “No one in this bar will remember me; no one will remember what I look like.” her short instructions were met with a round of silent nods. Once they had agreed, their heads would droop to rest on the tabletops. And with each patron more or less conked out, Marceline took her leave.
Walking out the door and entering the windy winter weather. It was not until she was halfway down the road did she realise that the greasy partridge still had her passport. She quickly turned to run back but came face to face with the young man from the bar.
“Forget something, Marceline?” He asked in a smooth, melodic tone. He held Marceline’s battered passport out for her to take, but she was hesitant. This was not an age of trusting the kindness of strangers, especially ones who seemed unaffected by her trickery. Her smile had been ripped from her cheeks as she snatched the passport out of his hand. “How did you do that?” he continued his questions, but she did not answer. “You don’t seem too scared of the repercussions that come with assaulting a partridge.” The woman rolled her eyes.
“They can’t persecute someone they don’t remember meeting.” She replied bluntly; the young man could tell that sweet exterior was nothing but an act. The two stared at each other for a second with mutual distrust.
“There are rumours of a rebel’s alliance in the capital, fighting to oust the PTP, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who knows anything about them.” The man ventured with his words carefully, in case anyone was listening. “How could someone even be able to join a rebel alliance that no one knows anything about anyway?” Marceline paused as she thought of how to reply. But she could see the door of the bar opening at the bottom of the street, from it stumbled the greasy partridge who spied to two of them.
“Oi! Were you lot just in here?!” he shouted out to them. Marceline took a quick step forwards to whisper to the young man.
“If you manage to keep up, then I’ll tell you.” She taunted before suddenly taking off in a sprint down the street in the opposite direction of the woozy officers. The young man quickly ran after her, surprised by her speed and agility as she weaved between bystanders and bollards. He couldn’t help but enjoy the sudden exhilarating feeling of freedom he felt running from the government’s lackeys. He did not care where she was taking him, as long as he could feel this again.