Stories from Refuge – 28 – “We all accepted it, but they were still bribes.”

(c) Radist |

(c) Radist |

Refuge: an underground city built to save people from an apocalyptic world. But how will its people save themselves? Read the stories in any order, or start with the introduction at part 1.

Reconciliation Council report B-28, interview with C.S., recorded by James 72A
Refuge Year 100.8.11

They say Councilors are getting in trouble now. People are speaking out against them and the lies they’ve told. It is true? Can I say this? Can I say what they did?

Not anyone here, of course.

I worked in Production. I went back and forth between factory and hydroponics, but usually something to do with food. Paid all the bribes a long time ago, got the right licenses.

That’s sort of a lie, too, isn’t it? We all know it happened, that people had to pay extra to get good jobs, and we all accepted it, but they were still bribes. Is someone going to get in trouble for that?

It was when I worked in food processing, making the protein loaves, that the Empaths started showing up. Different ones, making me give them extra rations. Some of them were pretty blunt about it, just hit me with an order and I had to turn over the food, drop it in their hands, two loaves at a time. Some of the Empaths were sneakier. They made me start worrying, like thinking I’d left a machine on after I got off work so I had to go back and check it, even if it was after curfew, and they’d come in after me when I unlocked the doors and load up on the extra rations.

You’ve had Empaths in here, right? Did any of them apologize for making people scared like that? Did any of them feel bad about making people hurt themselves?

No one made me do anything like that. One of them, the albino, just walked up to me and said, “You know the Big Man wants extra food, right, and he has the means to get it. Now I think he’s a greedy son of a bitch but he sent me to do a job, and we can do this the easy way or the hard way.”

I only gave her one protein loaf. She grinned and said I did it exactly right.

The next day the Big Man showed up.

Do we know what his real name is? You have to know, don’t you? You all worked in Government. Or did he tell you not to say his name, either? That’s intimidation, isn’t it? If you can call someone by name it makes them easier to relate to, right?

He was good. I guess he’d have to be, head of PsyOp and all. He walked in and I dropped everything I was doing and practically bowed, like a knight or whatever in those old-fashioned stories. I practically knelt down on the floor and handed over anything he asked for, just because he was so sure he deserved it.

Turns out it was too much. There was a lot of food going missing, and they had to blame someone. I was fired the day after that.

But I wonder, whenever I think about, whether this Big Man really hit me with the Empath stuff. I used to think he was just really subtle about it, really skilled, like he could do it without anyone feeling it. But maybe it wasn’t fake. Maybe he wasn’t trying to fool me into thinking anything. He was just telling me he deserved the extra food, telling me he deserved everything in the whole world, because he really believed it.

[Recorder’s note: Subject is still nervous. Maybe he did have something to say about the Councilors here, but wasn’t willing to. I don’t know whether this will work, continuing dialogues when people are still scared.]

©2016 Michelle M. Welch

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Next story: “And guess what? My life hasn’t changed yet.” ->

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