This is the first part of a multi-part novella that I am in the process of writing. The plan is to publish a new installment every two weeks. The title is still pending; I think that once the story develops, a title will strike me.
She smelled vaguely of cat litter. It was a peculiar aroma, undeniably. If one were not used to such a common occurrence, one might wonder why every young woman smelled of cat litter. But such a question could not be seriously asked when such is the reality of the world. That is simply how things were now.
He glanced around furtively and quickly looked back down at the floor, assiduously avoiding sustained eye contact, lest the shrill whistles of The Marshalls call attention to his impertinence. He already had several infractions against his registration card. One more meant the suspension of his work privileges for a month. He didn’t want to be compromised; he knew that he was one of the fortunate ones. The juice was hardly worth the squeeze anyway. They all looked the same. Black, white, Asian. . .no matter. The doughy and toneless bodies beneath the forest green dresses, all cut smartly just above the knee. Bangs swept to the left side of the forehead, buns tied tightly at the nape of the neck with a wisp of hair escaping to create the illusion of breeziness. Four auburn bobby pins, two on each side of the head. Dour brown ballet flats and Band-Aids taped to the backs of each ankle. That placid, almost lobotomized expression on their faces as they flitted from makework jobs, to their flavor of the week calisthenics group fitness class, to dinner and drinks with their equally dronish friends, to the brothels where they all engaged joylessly in their daily sexual constitutionals with new, strange, nameless men each day. When they finally returned to their spare apartments (and they all lived in apartments, as single family homes were abolished decades ago), they returned only to feed the members of their menagerie, finish a bottle of white wine, and to collapse into bed to get up the next day and play the reel back from the top. This was as it should be. They were fully liberated now, saved from an inglorious past of oppression, the interminable drudgery of maintaining a household, and of course the albatross that was monogomy. And they had The Regime to thank for their salvation.
The stench of degeneration clung to everything and was everywhere, even though the decline was not apparent to the eye. After The Cleansing, retrogression became an aspiration. Every skyscraper that collapsed under the weight of time and neglect was celebrated with bonfires and Bacchanalian fetes; every work of art lost to the ages was declared a victory for The Regime and for the New World. These, after all, were artifacts of a less progressive time, a time when gender philistines and their unenlightened henchmen ruled. Gone were the majestic talismans of a glittering and ascendant civilization. In their stead stood sickly paeans to conformity, equalism and the fetters that now bound the human soul. Skyscrapers fell to be replaced by spare puce edifices crowned with corrugated tin roofs. High art disintegrated and gave way to gritty, mean art installations elevating the grinding debasement of requiring no vision, demonstrating no mastery of the form, and exhibiting nary an iota of transcendence.
This was the era of the iconoclast, but nothing was broken down to be built back up. Everything was broken down to ensure that everyone was equally mired in the squalor and hopelessness now seemingly a permanent feature of the human condition.