He slipped the pellet of poison back into the small breast pocket of his grubby waistcoat. It had been the third time he had held it in his hand and looked at it since he had found it on the floor. It was probably inevitable that he’d swallow it down at some time, the question was when. If he delayed, the risk of it being found on him was greater. They’d be coming soon and he’d need to decide; a quick, certain death or the prolonged agony of the unknown.
First they took those who wouldn’t be missed. Vagrants, prostitutes, the confused. Everyone applauded; after all, it was for their own good. They could be fed, housed, cared for. It was our moral obligation to create a better world for everyone, including them. Then came the initiatives to afford everyone the same rights as those who already had it all; work programmes, prisoner rehabilitation, experimental healthcare. Civilised society had been voted in and had stolen humanity. We had all looked on, waving our flags and clapping.
Resistance had been a long time coming; we hadn’t recognised the need at first. But eventually opposition party members were silenced. Campaigners started to disappear. The police moved on people gathering in the street and it became impossible to congregate in small groups of more than three or four. Then the curfew came. Everything went underground. All legitimate methods of protest were expunged.
He hadn’t joined the dissenters. His eyes had remained locked on the newspaper print when a woman was dragged past him by two officers during his commute to work. He hadn’t even look up when she slammed her palms on the train window as it pulled away from the platform. She would have done something to deserve it. The young men in orange jumpsuits, scrubbing the walls of his concrete office block, were nothing more than an inconvenience as he tried to enter the building. It was their fault; there was work if you wanted it. Society needed a firm hand, it was what it needed.
Soon the newspapers stopped printing news. Legislation strictly controlled the information which could be disseminated. The TV consisted of re-runs and state approved situation comedies about happy families. Universities closed, merging to form super institutions which only accepted the academic elite. Everyone else would benefit from developing a range of skills, skills which suited their potential and how they could best serve society. A civilised society valued people with all types of skills, not just academic ones.
When his boss had been taken away for re-education he hadn’t been too concerned. His son was a student, lined up for great things, but had thrown it all away to support to campaign for the rights of societies’ dregs. It had to be the parent’s fault. “They’ll come for you one day”, he had shouted as he was escorted from the premises. He was right.
He hadn’t shared the four brick walls of his small cell with anyone for weeks now. The other man had been taken away for re-education and not returned. During their brief time together he had learned that he had been a chemist. He’d had time to hide the capsules in his trousers when he was taken.
Now he was on his own, on his own with the small black capsule. It wouldn’t be long now. The footsteps were getting closer. They’d be coming for him soon. He closed his eyes and prayed to the god of Middle England.