Land of the Free

By Max Dunbar

The sky used to be blue, that’s what Nana always said. She was old and senile, unproductive, her functional purpose almost worn out, and I used to laugh at her. But in her time she was a historian, when they still existed. I’d say: the sky is grey, Nana. Grey except for occasional periods of flared purple or orange, when the nuclear storms come, or when the Terrorists attack.. The dome was thinner then, the dome that encloses this city. Most of our country is made uninhabitable by nuclear war with the Terrorists; we’ve ruined the world by fighting over small bits of it. Go outside and you wouldn’t get two paces before your skin started bubbling and peeling and your eyes were dripping out of your head. The Terrorists are still out there, trying to attack us. No one’s ever seen them on the briefings, but we know they’re out there. The CEO said once that it would be better if we never saw the Terrorists. If we saw the Terrorists, we might become the Terrorists, and that would be a bad thing.

But she’d keep going on about how the sky used to be different shades of blue, still was, up there beyond the glass and the cocoon of smoke. There were shiny white flecks in the sky and they were called stars. There was a huge one that hurt to look at but somehow our whole lives depended on it. Sometimes swirly things flashed across the sky and they were called comets or shooting stars, and if you saw one you could make a wish and it would come true. Nana would go on like this until my mum’d tell her to shut up or send for her medication and lead me away, gripping my arm tightly. One time she went on like this, my mum started to cry.

Now I’m about thirty, and I’ve never seen the sky or the stars. I hardly remember what Nana looks like and I’ve not seen my mum for years. In fact, my memory is fucked: vast swathes of it have been colonised by advertainment and the medication I was weaned on. At any given time I have three or four jingles going round in my head, signature tunes from OffalBurger™, the theme from That’s Family Life!, the latest synth-pop track from IdealWhores. Several times when writing I have confused actual events in my life with those in sitcoms or films off FreeVision. Besides, it’s not easy keeping a good long-term memory when every day’s the same as every other. The past fades into a mulchy grey blur.

We never really spoke much after I hit working age. The family structure is good as an agent of control, but once all the children have started to work, it outlives this purpose. When adults get so old and sick that they physically can’t work any more, they’re quietly thrown out of the dome into the acid winds and the eternal nuclear night.


Now it’s eight in the morning and my WhorePartner is sucking my dick. She does this very morning whether I want it or not. The screen that covers an entire wall of our capsule home is showing the 8:00 briefing: the ABC1s in their bland suits sat on the sofa, discussing the Project and the Deadline and other stuff, the omnipresent clock ticking down the seconds in the corner. My penis stiffens in my WhorePartner’s mouth.

I have tried to refuse her a couple of times, but we’ve been married for five years now and she knows that I always get horniest in the morning and when I’ve finished work. She’s been trained at the Life Management camps to suck my dick whenever I want it. Every society is a pressure cooker and there have to be valves to let off excess steam. If I was sexually frustrated all the time, I might do something like try to kill my team leader or break out of the complex. And that would never do.

I remember our wedding, about five years ago. Religion is officially banned, but its restrictive structures are still in place. We got married in this little office. The vows had been changed. Mine were a load of stuff about promising to work as hard as I could to feed her and to give her a child. Hers I remember vividly. The guy in the suit, going ‘And do you, Susan, promise to fellate thy husband whenever he desires it, to rid him of his energies, so that he may work, and to bear him child, that might continue the work after he has passed on, to serve the Project in his stead…..’

She’s sucking my cock efficiently, flicking her tongue over my foreskin, bringing me to a quick, clinical orgasm. My head snaps back and I feel my wilting, slimy penis spilling out of my WhorePartner’s mouth, and there’s an audible gulp as she swallows. I sit down on the bed, feeling relief but no real pleasure.

‘Come on, honey,’ she says, rubbing my hair without affection, ‘time to get to work! You know, last night on the briefing they said that the deadline may have to be extended!’

‘Again?’ I say in the human-interest ‘ho, ho, life, eh’ style I always use when talking to her. ‘Oh well, best get in the shower, then.’

In the shower I reflect that this woman satisfies my sexual frustrations, while my more obscure frustrations, which the CEOs have only half-identified, are meant to be channelled into work. That’s one of her functions. The other one is to basically cook my meals, clean the capsule, and generally keep me productive. She keeps nagging me to make her pregnant; she says we’re under suspicion as we haven’t had a child yet, a child we can raise and clothe and send out to work on the Project when I get too old. We were meant to have a child five years ago, she said. If she conceives, I’m doomed. And of course, if I get ill or die, my WhorePartner is the backup: she will go and do my job for me.


My home is in the residential complex, a massive glittering hive of thousands of these little capsules, containing food preparation, bathroom and sleep units, plus the FreedomVision screen. It is difficult to write in peace in the capsule: I have to wait till my WhorePartner’s asleep, spit my Oblivioneze™ pill out from under my tongue and go in the kitchen. And the screen’s two-way so it’s still risky. We’re encouraged to be proud of our capsules, because, as our CEOs said, ‘A man can only be free once he can own his own property and be responsible for its upkeep.’ Every family unit customises its capsule with different glasspaper, logos and décor, everyone’s always paranoid about thieves breaking into them, there’s even a Capsule Residential Association which meets bi-weekly to discuss insulation, plumbing and shit like that. I’m not worried. No one’s gonner break into our home, since crimes against property are punished even more harshly than crimes against the person. You’re sent to the sweatshops for life, or thrown out of the dome to die of radiation poisoning. The CEOs know this makes sense. Property is solid and lasts forever, while people are dispensable and irrational.

Walking away from the hive, its shadow extending about half a mile down the tiles, I know I should be driving to the industrial complex, but walking clears my head. I’ve got the oxygen helmet on, as the background pollution is high for the time of year.

I do a lot of walking, especially in the evenings. I tell my WhorePartner I’m going to the entertainment complex. It was on one of my walks that I found the place near the tube, the place where the dome is weak. A few blows with a blunt instrument would suffice. I look up for stars, but can’t see any.

The roads are filled with cars, all stationery, covered in a raft of smoke. Every square inch of space is covered with adverts, and there is so much neon that it makes your eyes ache walking down here. To the left, a gigantic screen running a trailer for the new reality gameshow, Isolation Challenge! in which ten Z class are sealed in a 30-by-40ft box for ten weeks with no food and a hacksaw. The last one alive gets released from the sweatshops and given a capsule and a year’s supply of OffalMeat. Towering to the right is the one for the new FreedomCorp™ Niceboy, an animated, holographic image of two ABC1s kissing on an empty road: ‘The car that will bring you love.’ We’ve learnt to associate emotion with products now; the hoardings bring us false reminders of profound things long since lost forever; beauty, love, friendship, sacrifice, nobility. On the narrow pavement I walk on, there’s a shimmering pan-shot of a Victory Trainer. ABC1s are the top consumer class. They are outranked only by the CEOs, the leaders. They are never seen by most normal people. Perhaps fifty of them are rotated as sponsors for the thousands of different products made by FreedomCorp; for sportswear, clothes, console games, medications. They appear in all advertainments and motivational briefings. The slogans change but the most common one is: WORK, CONSUME AND BE LIKE US. The ABC1s are strong, tanned, multiculturally homogenous, physically perfect but not beautiful. Everyone wants to be an ABC1 man, to have an ABC1 woman as their WhorePartner, but it’ll never happen, so we just sit at home with the screens on, drooling over these idols, a part of us hoping that if we work hard enough and consume enough we’ll one day get to kiss their feet for ten seconds.

I’m nearing the bureaucratic complex now: the logo of FreedomCorp, which sits on the top point of the complex and can be seen anywhere in the city, looms nearer. The bureacratic complex is perhaps ten or twenty miles long, a huge steel building that seems to grow every year, spreads out like bacteria multiplying.


My job? I am an input clerk. This will be my last day, although no one knows it yet.

I go in the building and walk around till I find a free wallscreen. A huge wall clock dominates the centre of the room, where the team leaders’ workstations are; there are also digital readouts on all the wallscreens. There will be a pile of papers on the desk. I’ll turn on the wallscreen and be logged on to the input system. I’ll take the first paper off the pile, which will be full of figures. I don’t know what the figures mean, but it’s my job to type them onto the system. And that’s it- all day. Sometimes I collapse over the keyboard; when that happens one of my team leaders will run over and usher me to one of the quiet rooms for a powerbreak, where I’ll be given a cigarette and a can of fizzy RefreshJuice™, to get my exhaustion levels down to the level where I’m able to work again. Everyone else around me is sat at their wallscreen, doing exactly the same thing- dressed the same, too, shirt, tie, trousers, FreedomCorp logo and ID badge. If I get tired or talk to my neighbour too much, and my input rate drops below a certain level, it’ll show up on the central computer and I’ll get whipped by one of the team leaders. Now and again pop-up motivational messages will appear on my screen- ACCEPT YOUR SITUATION, CONSUME FOR FREEDOM, DON’T THINK TOO MUCH. I don’t know why I’m doing this job, why it’s so important. No one here does. All we know is, like the rest of the population, we are contributing, in our small, humble way, to the future of the Project.

No one knows what the Project is. It is on a need-to-know basis. It has been going on for as long as I can remember; generations of people have been sacrificed towards it. The Project involves the whole nation. I’m lucky, I’m part of the bureaucratic class, the B1s-E5s. The bureaucratic class keep the tokens in constant circulation and input the data required to keep the economy going. I was educated, like every boy of my generation, at the Work Management training camps; three years of being taught key skills like numeracy, banking, IT, and time management. I think the training camps used to be called universities, way back, before the CEOs decreed that the only purpose of education was vocational- no point in having history, philosophy, literature and all that shite. That was about the same time they started hunting down the artists. Poets, painters, novelists, musicians, architects- they all became overnight fugitives, outlaws, hopping from safehouse to safehouse, escaping out of the dome, committing suicide. Nana said about when the army was going through everyone’s capsules and people were getting taken away. She was getting all the books we had and burning them in the street, stuffing pages frantically down the toilet. The ones they caught, they didn’t just chuck them out of the dome, they made an example of them, they had them burnt in the stadium on a bonfire of recovered books, a pyre of their own words…..Artists are a threat, the CEOs understood that. A threat to any society, because they contribute nothing and take nothing. They have no function. Like the CEO said on the execution broadcast: ‘If a man will not contribute to our economy, our society, they shall have no place in it.’ Art is dangerous. It is separate, it is a world outside society, it is an unknown quantity. Now that art has been completely merged with advertising, this threat is eliminated.

The Z classes manufacture the goods in the sweatshop complex, all those toys, cars and trainers made by FreedomCorp. As there are so many of them- more than 75% of the population- they live in the complex, huge, smoke-belching factories that go on for miles, they just work till they drop and are replaced. Sometimes they are drafted, whisked out through one of the steel tubes that run out of the dome, to fight Terrorists at home and overseas. The Z class are normally referred to with distate and contempt by the ABC1s and CEOs, but if they are drafted, they become heroes, brave salt-of-the-earth men protecting democracy. There are no prisons and no homeless- no need for them when you have the sweatshops. No one’s ever seen inside the sweatshop complex. No one wants to. My father died serving the project, and his father before him, and so on…no one knows what the project is. All we know is the purpose of the project is to protect freedom. When the project is finished our freedoms will be protected forever.

At about eleven I start to zone out. The figures merge into one great formless mass and the next thing I know there’s a crack and a searing line of pain down my spine. ‘You! Clerk! Your input level has dropped beneath the optimum standard!’

‘Sorry, boss,’ I say.

‘You keep falling asleep, clerk.’ He gives me a suspicious look. ‘I suggest you increase your Oblivioneze dose.’

‘I will, sir,’ I say, feelin para. He knows. He knows I tongue my pills and I sit up at night writing on the ancient laptop I dug up.

‘See that you do. Or I shall find a vacancy somewhere less demanding.’

He means demotion. I am an E5, the lowest level of the Bureaucratic Class- data input. It is a source of shame to my WhorePartner, she can’t buy the latest stuff. If I get demoted again, I get sent to the sweatshops, and she’ll be screwed.

Another reason to leave tonight.


The day passes uneventfully. The man next to me whispers in an excited, conspiratorial way that the Terrorists are planning another attack and there’s gonna be a briefing from the CEOs. As the hours go by I find myself drifting into a trance of boredom. I keep typing in the figures, keeping on part of my mind free for speculative thought. My dream last night was a repeat of That’s Family Life! I used to dream about beautiful women, running through fields under moonlight, climbing mountains. Now I dream more and more of advertainment sitcoms, SynthLove videos, commercial messages. Dreams are produced by the memory’s filing process. They’ve colonised my head alright but my soul remains inviolate. Most people’s emotional range consists of fear, awe, envy and self-abasement. They go into raptures over products and cry over soap operas. I’m not like that. I must always remember that the sky is still blue.

At 2:13 a klaxon goes off in the room and we all rush to the quad; it’s the bell signalling an important briefing.

The quadrilangle is a huge open space in the middle of the bureaucratic complex, a mile across, square and featureless like all architecture is now. If you look up you can see the glass of the dome and the base where the FreedomCorp logo is, right on the apex of the dome: it can be seen from space, a bright red light winking out from the ruin and devastation of the rest of the UK. The north face of the quad is dominated by a massive screen, constantly playing adverts and motivational messages, but now it’s reverently blank.

The klaxon is still going off when I get down there. The quad is filling with people, pulling their oxygen masks on and there’s a buzz of excitement and anticipation. The CEOs are about to speak.

You couldn’t call them government leaders because the government doesn’t exist any more. Sometime in the early 2100s government and business ceased operating as separate entities and merged into one. By then there was only one company anyway. Since the late 20th century, corporations had got bigger, wiping and buying each other out, until there were only a handful of huge, powerful corporations left, which became one: FreedomCorp, which controlled all means of production, owned the world’s media and employed 85% of the world’s population. The way Nana told it, no one really saw it coming. Some problems are so big you don’t see them until it’s too late. FreedomCorp was so influential it made national and international parliaments superfluous. The charade of democracy limped along for a while, with politicians becoming increasingly similar and powerless, parties turning into brand names. The CEOs talk about how they rid the country of big, bureaucratic government, made us free from the state. The gaps between elections got longer until they disappeared altogether. In the CEO’s words: ‘It is obvious to me that the interests of business, of FreedomCorp, are the interests of the nation at large.’

So as there’s no real government now, it follows that there’s no need for politicians. But a society needs its figureheads. Religious worship, long since outlawed, can be rechannelled into worship of the CEOs. The governing class decided that the figureheads had to be people who it was easy to project your fear, awe and envy on. They chose to revive the three people from the decadent age who could inspire these emotions the best.

The screen flickers and the CEOs come into view. The roar of anticipation fills my ears. It builds to a deafening crescendo, like being inside a waterfall. Against the backdrop of the FreedomCorp logo, a silver-grey box with three rotating arms. Attached to each of the arms is a human head in a reinforced glass case filled with formaldehyde. The technology’s no been perfected yet, they can’t yet bring back full bodies. One of the heads is that of an old, curmudgeonly looking man with glasses. He was a businessman back in the old times, he controlled almost all of the means of communication. The second head belongs to an old woman with a beehive hairdo that floats upwards in the formaldehyde. She was a prime minister in the late twentieth century, often credited with laying the foundations for our society. Her eyes are horrible, dead as poached eggs, but with a hideous vitality flickering in them. The other head is a lot younger, female. The revival has corrupted her perfect face, but not much. Full lips, coiffeured hair, creamy skin; she was an ABC1 back in the permissive age, when they were still called celebrities.

The arms revolve. The roar of the crowd around me gets even louder, the almost pagan sound of a mass of people focusing their identification on a single image. One of the heads is about to speak.

It’s the second one. The one we call PhaCheur. The roar dies to a hush as she begins.

‘Loyal consumers!’ The voice is beamed out, a totally clear B1 accent, from hundreds of microphones spread around the quad. ‘You have been working well! You have brought the Project one stage further to completion! Give yourselves a good pat on the back!’

At this there’s a big cheer. I feel a slight, joyless rush of triumph as I join in.The guy next to me is staring straight at the screen, eyes bulging, mouth open in ecstasy.

‘However….’ the head says, those intense eyes seeming to bore right into me, ‘through no fault of ours, there have been complications. The Terrorists,’ at the mention of that word a frisson of hatred ripples around the quad- ‘have been planning further attacks. We have clear information that they are developing a weapon that may be capable of cracking the outer layer of the dome. A 50,000 strong force has been dispatched to South Europe, and we are strengthening the missile defence shield around the dome. Our scientists on the technological complex are working on a special layer of plutonium-reinforced glass. Meanwhile, property crime has risen by 7%. Keep your capsules sealed at all times, and remember there is a reward of goods or tokens for anyone who manages to capture or kill a property criminal. We have strong initiatives to combat these thugs. We have already invested a further billion dollarpounds in our police force…..’

She goes on about sacrifice, property rights, performance targets and shit for what seems like hours. I zone out, but keep my eyes fixed on the screen, cheering and hissing at the appropriate times.

‘….adultery has decreased by 16%. We regret that, due to the complications I have outlined, the deadline of the Project will have to be extended, for another twenty years.’ A massive collective groan. ‘Also, work time has been extended for one hour, as of next week. This is to ensure maximum productivity under this difficult time. But do not despair, loyal consumers. With every minute of every hour spent working, we are ever nearer to our goal. I look out over a sea of faces, and I see the virtues of the work ethic alive and well in you, and I am filled with confidence and joy. For remember, work makes us noble, healthy and strong. Work makes us free!’

The roar of worship rises to a climax. I think my ears are going to bleed. Several people in front of me collapse to their knees, trembling. There’s a commotion up ahead as someone lunges at the screen, perhaps trying to touch it. It’s always the same; they congratulate us on our work, then announce the extension of the deadline, then the extension of the working day. It will reach the point where we’re working all the time, only stopping for sleep breaks. They will calculate the exact amount of labour that can be extracted from a person without their bodies giving out, over the longest possible time. A lot of new capsule buildings are being built in the industrial complex. People are moving into their offices.


Rumours. Rumours have survived, even here. Rumour will always find a way. Most of them are bullshit, stuff about the Project and war told in excited, self-righteous whisper. But one, told to me by a woman whose husband died two years ago, interested me. She said to me that outside the dome it isn’t all wasteland and aggressors. She told me that there were people out there, small knots of people living on patches of unspoilt land. Little colonies of people, living without nuclear fission or videoscreens or cars or anything, just keeping warm by the fires and eating the less harmful mutants. Living communally, practicing free love and lust. Some of them, this woman explained to me, were the subversives who managed to get out during the purges, there were anticapitalists, artists, trade unionists, homosexuals, army deserters, unemployed people- people who had no functional value and were therefore dangerous, and others who saw the way things were going. Also there were people who had got into this country from places like America, EU or some of the war-torn sweatshop economies in the southern hemisphere. These colonies (if they existed at all, she stressed) numbered very few. Most of the original people who had got out died of radiation before they could find a safe spot. They bred a lot, but lots of the babies were stillborn or deformed to such an extreme that it was kinder to kill them. Also, the constant smoke pumped out by the dome and the eternal warfare meant their numbers would be depleted year on year. The communes would number twenty, thirty, one hundred each at best.

I liked that woman. We worked in token rotation for a couple of years but our conversations only added up to around three hundred words- desultory hellos, feeble ironies, mild flirtations. When I got demoted to data input, she came and found me during a powerbreak (I’d temporarily lost the vision in one eye) and told me that story. It was the most she’d ever spoken to me at any one time.

The next day, she was gone, and I never saw her again.


The rest of the day goes by without incident, and I take a taxicar home. The radio’s on full blast in the back and I’m glad to get back to the residential complex. The screen is on and my WhorePartner is heating up a couple of OffalBurgers for us. A member of the Z class who was drafted into the army has vaporised a small village in Sweatshop Asia suspected to be a secret Terrorist training camp. He has been promoted to temporary ABC1 status and his airbrushed face is being splashed over various motivational briefings. Scientists have developed an implant for the cerebral cortex which can beam all the images from the screens directly into the brain. The CEOs are looking into the possibilities of implanting this into newborn babies from birth.

We sit down in front of the screen and eat our meal.

‘Hey, honey,’ she says, after she’s cleared everything away. ‘Good day at the office?’


‘I saw the briefing. Deadline extended again, eh?’

‘Yeah,’ I say, ruefully. ‘I guess we’ll just have to work harder.’

‘You wanna try?’ she says, trying to inject lasviciousness in her voice, and failing. There’s no real lust anymore: there’s just emptying the bag. Sex is like going to the toilet with a full bladder. I feel an ominous dread, but I know if we can get it over with she’ll stop going on at me for a while about having a kid and about the new furniture she’s seen in the capsule next door (‘Giles is a C1 now, you know…..promotion came through the other week…. I’m glad some people have time to enjoy the finer things in life’) so I take her through to the bedroom. She strips naked. She is physically attractive but I can’t feel any interest whatsoever. I am getting hard, though, as I have not been relieved since this morning.

I remove my clothes, get on top of her and start grinding away, pausing only to finger her vagina a while to get it wider. I tried foreplay a few times; it just confuses her. We fuck for a while and at first there’s some initial comfort, but soon it just gets to be a drag because I’m nowhere near climax and my cock gets harder and harder and thank god I won’t ever see her again and finally I come and fall out of her, lying back on the bed. She didn’t come. She didn’t expect to. I imagine having an orgasm would distress her.

‘That was great, tiger,’ she says, getting dressed, ‘now let’s hope for a little boy!’ I’m still lying there, saying nothing. Consumerist societies, contrary to popular belief, do not promote promiscuity. Monogamy and its institutions are enforced by law, even though the emotion that was the basis of monogamy, romantic love, has more or less disappeared. I think I knew love once. That woman in token rotation, and one time when I was younger, this girl I used to see out of the window in the camps, walking past every day in a dress with flowers on it: she saw me looking one day and smiled…..

Still, the restrictive institutions of marriage and the family are useful to bind people. You’re assigned a WhorePartner by the time you hit working age: that’s your woman for life. Her looks depend on how well you did in the camps. If you sleep with anyone else’s WhorePartner, you’re punished by being exiled from the dome or sent to the sweatshops. Homosexuality has the same penalty. Same goes for her with other men. If everyone was allowed to go around sleeping with each other all the time, people would rediscover sensuality, beauty and pleasure. People would realise that sex was about more than ridding yourself of frustration to the extent that you could still go to work. They would reject this stunted, narrow form of sexuality we have today, and society would fall.

There is a rumour, though (related to me by a squat middle-aged D4 with drool flecking his chin; he disappeared a couple of weeks after) that somewhere in a secret location in the dome there is a small complex, a harem full of IdealWhores, physically perfect women lolling on silk cushions with wine and opium, who fondle and fuck each other all day and are trained to satisfy every sexual whim of any man who walks in there. Only the governing brains and some ABC1s know about them.

If my WhorePartner conceives, I’m screwed. I’ll never get out, and I’ll be tied down, forced by guilt and love to look after this kid.

I sit on the sofa with my WhorePartner and watch the screen with her. This is the last time I’ll ever see her so I want to be nice. We watch the advertainment Lives Of The ABC1s and The Dome’s Funniest Police Shootings and then she goes out to compare kitchen units with the people next door. As she gets up to leave I stand up and kiss her cheek. She gives me a weird look, then scurries out of the capsule.


And now I am writing this up on the laptop computer I got from work. Someone dug it up from somewhere. Take a look at this, it’s a real antique, they laughed. I rammed it up my shirt and smuggled it home.

This is my last night in the Dome, probably my last night. When I finish this, I will walk out of the residential complex, get in my old Rimjaw and drive to the entertainment complex. Every society needs its valves to release the pressure; the valves get tighter every day. The entertainment complex is a huge stadium where ABC1s duel it out in ball games. Sometimes they have reality nights, where members of the Z class, property criminals and suspected terrorists hack each other to death with blunt instruments. This is all transmitted on FreedomVision. On the perimeter of the stadium are a cluster of bars, clubs and restaurants. I sometimes go to these but I find them depressing. All you can get in the restaurants is OffalMeat burgers served up by Z1s in wanky uniforms. The clubs play continual advertune house and young people dance robotically in clusters. The bars are full of lone men and couples staring mournfully at pints of AlcoRelease™ beer. The police are always circling these places, making sure the rules of monogamy are observed. It’s generally frowned on not to visit these places at least once a fortnight, but when you get there, you rarely speak to anyone you don’t know. Everyone wears identical shirts with FreedomCorp designer logos, projecting images of themselves, their true selves withered and died. Forced social interaction and consumption, but everyone still isolated from each other, in a sad parody of hedonism. Not communal, not individuals: the worst of both worlds.

The entertainment complex is scaled down every year. The opening hours for the bars and clubs are shortened. Everyone found on the streets after eleven is automatically arrested. I will have to be careful when I go out, driving off the main roads and across the tiles, driving to the outer edge, to the crack in the dome.

Hopefully if I plow into the crack at full speed, it will give, and I’ll be out. There’s no danger of the nuclear air coming in; the dome is made partially from a self-sealing material, so that any holes made in it by missiles close up automatically. I don’t want anyone else to die.

The oxygenator in the car should help me out for a while, but after a few miles the metal will start to run and melt. I’ll have to get out before then, before the car turns into a molten tomb. I’ll have my full body suit on and my oxygen helmet. Although these are only designed to deal with the inner dome’s background toxins, I should be able to get pretty far running, before my skin starts sloughing off. Maybe a few more miles.

Maybe that will be far enough.


My great granny was a history professor and told me a lot of things before she went senile. It is from her that I have got most of my background knowledge. I am not in a position to know how and why my society operates, because my society’s survival depends on its citizens being ignorant of this. Nevertheless, I hope I have been able to give an accurate account of the history, sociology and economics of this place, which I have pieced together through half-remembered fragments of conversation with my Nana, and my own intuitions.

If a space alien flew past now, looking down on our little planet, what would they see? A collection of shiny domes, with its logo and orbiting missiles, tubes running out of them, a few bright domes scattered across vast continents burning and glowing with radiation.

I doubt that this account will ever be read. If found it will probably be destroyed by the police. Perhaps, years from now, if the species has managed to claw itself out of this hell, it will be read by future historians, and displayed as a warning from the past. But the act of writing, however futile, seems important to me; it seems to prove that I’m still alive, still living in some strange way they haven’t been able to crush. I dedicate this account to the future- and to the past.


One more thing.

I looked out of my window just as I finished this and saw, beyond the smoke and the glass, a little electric flicker.

My Nana said: if you see one, make a wish.

I wish for my car to be strong enough to break through the dome.

I wish for those communes to exist.

I wish to get far enough to find one.

I wish that the sky is still blue up there.


I wish. And I hope.

The End

Copyright © 2003 by Max Dunbar

Max Dunbar was born in London in 1981 and is currently a literature and philosophy student at Sheffield University.



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