John Richmond ~ THE PERMISSIONER’S BINDERS

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Things had changed. Had they changed for the better? Maybe, but who knew- who could even remember. The only thing that they did know for certain was that the “aged-ones” told stories- maybe they were even tales- of a time when a Permissioner was never needed and the Binders never existed. But, that was then, and this is now. So, how did it happen, who is the Permissioner and what is in the Binders?

It was an “evolution” of sorts; one that led to a new social contract that was forged over, through and as a result of long years of human and cyber uncertainty- and terror; a new way of “managing” society with a new philosophy that believed that rights- human and otherwise- were a function of time, place and circumstance.

Oh, to be sure, everyone retained the same basic, original philosophical rights- “…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…”- but beyond that, everything that was tangible and real was in the hands of the Permissioner, and he was aided in his duties by the Binders.

Many believed that the mid-twenty-first-century was the turning point, but the antecedents of the change- the turn- were occurring years before. It’s just that 2053 was the year that a critical mass of governments finally said their equivalents of- “enough is enough.”

It was a combination of terrorism, social media activism- run amok- and the Hacker Revolution that resulted in a world-wide state of anarchy. Put differently, people and places were blowing up, cyber-security as regards ALL data became nonexistent (everyone had access to everything) and social media chaos- and the masses it could summon- turned every aspect of governmental functioning- from the local school board to the affairs of state- into a world of perpetual gridlock to the point of absolute dysfunctionality. The aspects of the problems were universally the same- as was the response- differing only as a result of local nuances.

The phenomenon of human terrorism was addressed by the Zoning Laws Act (ZLA) of 2048 which created 10k- 6 square mile- Zones in which one lived and worked and recreated. No one was allowed to exit their Zone without explicit written- and documented- permission. Those who violated the ZLA were punished by the loss of their job, their housing, their food and education subsidies and a minimum of twenty years in prison.

Social media fell under the purview of the Social Media National Defense Act (SMNDA) of 2050 which- among other things- limited social media access to only one employment related page while other feeds- not to exceed five- were restricted to bona fide members of a citizen’s immediate family.

Finally, the Hacker Revolution- and the repercussions of everything being technologically accessible- led to the Internet Access Control Act (IACA) of 2051. The IACA limited Internet access to only pre-approved educational and entertainment websites.

Yet, as regards personal information- of all and any sort- there was still a need to have some sort of repository of data and someone to manage- and oversee- both the data and the repository.

This led to the Permissioner and the Permissioner’s Binder Act (PAPBA) of 2053. In essence, the PAPBA established the Office of the Permissioner and the compilation of the Binders. It was the Permissioner’s responsibility to review any request by those living in his Zone of Authority for travel permission to another Zone. Second, the PAPBA, further, authorized the compilation of individual Binders on everyone in the Permissioner’s Zone. Finally, the Act provided for the establishment of a repository for the Binders.

The Binders were comprehensive. They included everything there was to know about the individual in question. Further, the Act required that the Binders were all “hard copies”- literally binders- that were durable, resilient and impervious to attack, cyber or otherwise.

Obviously, it took some time to establish, demarcate and electronically secure the Zones. It took even more time to collect the individual data and assemble the Binders. The enormity of these tasks resulted in a series of multiple “start-dates,” those points in time when parts of what would ultimately be the entire system would be functional- and permission would be required.

Of course, once a Zone was “operational,” near-to-endless speculation ensued. There were questions like- “Who is the Permissioner?” “Where are the Binders kept?” “Is the repository in the Zone?”

These were, obviously, good, natural and logical questions. They were practical, yet, for all intents and purposes, they were- and always would be- simply rhetorical.

For you see, no one ever met or came before the Permissioner. No, he never saw anyone- and, no one ever saw him- though each Permissioner dealt with hundreds of people each day. Besides, once you were standing there- before the Permissioner’s Zone Coordinator- with your transit request papers firmly in hand, it would have been highly- near-to-bordering-on-transit-request-denied- unlikely to inquire about anything- let alone the Permissioner. Still, in the Zones, curiosity- and rumors- were rampant. It was, necessarily, of the word-of-mouth variety- and especially guarded- but it was pervasive.

Some people didn’t believe that the Permissioner- or the Binders- existed at all. They questioned the requirement of Zone Transfer Permits, but at the same time, no one took it upon themselves to put their belief to the test.

Others believed that there was a Permissioner and that there were Binders, but that they were housed in a subterranean vault somewhere in the Zone.

Then, there was the majority opinion that believed that all of the Permissioners and the Binder Repositories were situated- located- deep in a cavern in a remote mountain range.

Was it mysterious? Yes. Was it sometimes a burden and an hassle to have to get a permit to travel? Yes. Did it require some “advanced planning” so as to coordinate everything? Yes. Did it feel like the government was controlling everyone’s lives? To a person, it was a most definite and emphatic- YES!

But, more importantly, did these measures- did what the Permissioner and the Binders represented- finally impose- for lack of a kinder, more democratic word, a control and stability and a predictable functionality to the world? Oh, yes, indeed.

Actually, the bulk of the population- after the revolts and disclosures and the terrorism- found it “comforting”- well worth the inconveniences and the sacrifices- to know- and maybe more so importantly, believe- that everything and anything that there was to know about them was safe and secure- and accessible to only one set of eyes- the Permissioner’s- in their very own, individual- and private- Binder.

It was in this way, after the passage of a few generations that the world of the hackers, protesters, revolutionaries, and terrorists slid into history; a dimming of a phase that had brought adjustments and had created- a new and different kind of existence- the world as they know it today.

 

John Richmond‘s writings have appeared in the Stone Path Review, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, Rogue Particles Magazine, From the Depths, Flash Frontier (N. Z.), The Birmingham Arts Journal, Riverbabble (2), The Writing Disorder, Lalitamba, Poetic Diversity, Marco Polo Arts Magazine, Embodied Effigies, ken*again, Black & White, SNReview, The Round, The Potomac, Syndic Literary Journal, Ygdrasil (Canada), Slow Trains, Forge Journal, and is forthcoming in The Tower Journal.

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Douglas Polk ~ A Question

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life and I,
hitchhikers in this body,
through space and time,
with this body’s last breath,
life has said,
it plans to leave,
but I wonder,
what will become of me,
maybe an offer to tag along,
or must I stay,
the question troubling,
the answer unknown,
uneasy traveling companions,
we remain,
life and I.

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Jonathan Beale ~ The White Tomb

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Vaguely reflecting some light of the day
and some life
The sallow marble amongst the water’s reflection

“You block my light” thinking of ‘how
I consider how my light is spent.’
How is this light
– what is this light
– what is this light?

The usual grey: just shows life “as is”
the good, bad, right & wrong
“Grey is all; all are grey.
We fumble along in our grey existence.”

Waters of reflection.
The broken idols, idols – Men war: women repair

Marbling surface of the white stone and water’s edge.
Show no history nor remorse

Energies spent unwisely are not spent at all
Found nowhere just forgotten

The white tomb remembers – those wonders
That presence of life can muster.

 

Jonathan Beale’s work has appeared regularly in DM, Decanto, Penwood Review, The Screech Owl, Poetic Diversity, Voices of Israel in English, MiracleEzine, Voices of Hellenism Literary Journal, The Journal, Ink Sweat & Tears, Down in the Dirt, The English Chicago Review, Mad Swirl, Poetry Cornwall, and Ariadne’s Thread. He was commended in Decanto’s and Café Writers Poetry Competitions 2012. He currently works in mental health in South West London. He studied philosophy at Birkbeck College London. He lives in Surrey England.

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Peter O’Neill ~ London

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In memory of Helmut Newton

In and above the underground, patrolling
The Circle, battle hardened AmaZons
In their mid thirties march through the labyrinth
Of streets and corridors in pairs.

With the tails of their raincoats
Flapping like Devil Ray wings, revealing
Twin carnations of rosy, muscular thighs,
They gravitate towards Eros, in Piccadilly Square.

While across the Millennium Bridge
An army of old European surrealists,
Led by Paul Delvaux, go to meet them.

The orgy commence outside Whitehall,
Finally climaxing under the shadow of Big Ben
Where the statues of Boadicea and Nelson
are released into the Thames.

 

Peter O’Neill writes from Ireland (and on occasion bits of Sardinia).
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Matthew Ryan Herfurth ~ Death

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Right now, in my dead granny’s apartment, heaps of puff pastry loving white ants are eating the rotting cupboard with glass doors. One of those white ants has crawled away from the cupboard and is getting pretty near to the lamp with orange lampshade, the lamp where the fat girl and I are sitting near.

The next moment, she’s telling me that in several situations, the Grim Reaper can, in fact, bring about a person’s death, leading to stories that he can be outsmarted, deceived and bribed in order to keep one’s life. After that, she says that she read this on the Internet, some website, actually, deceptive people tricking gullible people with invented stories about how only the Grim Reaper shows the dead to Hell.

I say, nobody shows dead people to Hell. That’s stupid, plus the Grim Reapers not real.

Don’t believe everything you read about what happens to people after they die, I say.

The next minute, she’s looking at something behind me, over by the wall, and stares and thinks and points at something and says, ‘How can you afford to buy that?’

I run my fingers through my short brown hair and turn to see what’s she’s pointing at and say, ‘It was my granny’s favourite chair.’

She’s untying the black ribbon in her hair, untying it so she can tie it again, and she does this and says, ‘Your granny must have been loaded.’

Okay, I’ve got plenty of money in the bank. More than enough to last a lifetime.

Turning back and looking at her hair draped on her thick shoulders, I tell the girl that when granny’s father died, probably more than 30 years ago, he left her a great deal of money.

Getting up and walking over to the TV in the wall, I tell her that my granny’s father had only one child. It’s probably best, I whisper, that he didn’t have another child like granny.

‘Your granny can’t hear you from Hell,’ she says, ‘You said that she had pretty much gone deaf in both ears.’

I tell her to keep her voice down and if granny can’t hear what we’re saying, then The Devil can, and you know that he’ll tell granny.
Expect nothing less from him.

I turn on the TV and DVD player with remotes made by poor people who talk funny and are half my age and size.

On the TV screen: a small living room with a baby lying dead in a cot and her grandmother lying on the floor—dead.

On my way back, I look at the fat girl lying on her side, picking up a hair off the carpet, and she looks up and yawns, her thick jaws bones cracking. ‘Is that dried up shit near the red curtains?’ She drops the hair and it lands on the carpet, and she watches me sit down near her and says, ‘Do you own any cats?’

The vermilion curtains.

From what I can see, five dried up shits lie near the soft leather sofa and the curtains, their main parts crumbled. The one I did one month ago over by the satinwood table leg, well, it’s been half eaten by flies.

And the girl says, ‘Have you ever thought about toilet training your cats?’ Looking at my neither calm nor stressed face, she says, ‘You’re better off dumping your cats in an alleyway and buying a goldfish.’

Cats, I don’t mind.

Goldfish, I hate.

The appeal of watching a recording of a dead baby is learning about what happens to a baby’s face after it dies. Each time you watch it, you notice things that you missed the previous time you watched it.

According to the girl, the dead baby’s face reminds of her of a pug’s face. ‘It’s like the baby’s face is wrinkly.’

The camcorder still on the baby, the fat girl covers her half smile with her hand, then slowly lowers it and says, ‘It’s like the baby is frozen in time. Her smooth pale ears. The way the light makes her sweaty features seem clearer. You have to wonder what she was looking at just before the light in her eyes, you know, went away.’

And I look at the fat girl’s neither calm nor stressed face and say, ‘When the baby was alive, for sure, she couldn’t see anything but blackness.’

We watch, and the girl quietly clears her throat. Scraping some wax from out of her left ear with her middle finger, she says, ‘People only have babies because, you know, they need something to control.’ Wiping the wax onto her plain black dress, she says, ‘All babies want to do is eat, sleep, shit and pee.’

The baby, a crapping and peeing machine.

And before I scratch my short left arm I say, ‘The baby deserved to die because she would have grown up to be an annoying telemarketer.’

And the girl laughs and says, ‘Or one of those annoying door to door sales people who think they are good with people.’

I say, being dead is better than pretending to be something you’re not for a weekly pay cheque.

And near the cot, the small brown birds are hopping, their eyes moving from side to side. And from that angle, you can see there’s a small pillow lying on the carpet.

On that day, the quietness in the room and looking at the old woman’s and baby’s slightly open mouths excited me. That instant, I felt less angry and nervous.

‘The old woman is better of dead because she probably communicated with most of her family through cards, mostly.’

I tell the girl that people who send cards don’t really know how to care about each other. Because sending a card is their way of saying: ‘I once liked you but, deep down, I don’t like you anymore.’

The real winners, the card companies.

The thing is, some families spend their entire lives avoiding each other. Some families only see each other at funerals. Where they pretend to be grief-stricken for relatives they never bothered to get to know.

The next moment, we’re sharing our ideas, the ways the baby and the old woman should’ve died, so we can amuse ourselves for a little bit longer. The old woman and the baby should’ve choked on ping-pong balls, I tell the fat girl. Stingrays should have stuck their barbed stings into the baby and old woman’s chest and heart. A building should’ve fallen onto them, squashing their bodies flat onto a path. Piranhas should have eaten their brains. A killer whale, with a black back, white chest and sides, and a white patch above and behind the eye, should have swallowed them. We wish the baby died in the old woman’s daughter’s stomach. Even better.

When the camcorder is showing the old woman, the girl wants to know if the old woman’s body was stiff and cold.

The old woman’s body, I say, looked cold, and it would have gone stiff 3 hours after she died. After 24 hours, the body would have lost all its internal heat. After 36 hours, the body would have started to lose its stiffness, and after about 72 hours the stiffness would be gone.

The bodies of the dead more often than not smell like a dead rat, I tell her. When around dead bodies it’s best to pinch your nostrils with your fingers, I say. Cover your mouth and nose with a tea towel. Close your mouth and don’t breathe heavily. And spraying toilet spray near the bodies won’t get rid of the smell.

I tell her the ways I think people, in general, should die.

I say, Emphysema.

Throat cancer.

Meningococcal disease.

Melanoma.

Food poisoning.

From a broken heart.

Heroin overdose.

Harakiri.

Slaughtered in an abattoir.

Beheaded by a Queen.

Starvation.

MS.

Parkinson’s disease.

From a faulty artificial pacemaker.

Kidney failure.

Liver failure.

Stroke.

In a plane crash.

Anthrax.

Hyperthermia.

Tuberculosis.

Malaria.

Euthanasia.

Dehydration.

Eaten by a crocodile.

Eaten by a cheetah.

Stomped flat into the crusty earth by a rhinoceros.

Eaten by Aliens.

Typhoid fever.

She asks, ‘How do you want to die?’

I think.

I say, I’d very much like to be strangled to death with hands or a telephone cord, and my second choice is, probably, being held under water until I stop breathing. Strangling someone, I tell her, requires strong hands and years and years of pent-up anger. And there are plenty of angry people willing to strangle others in this world, and it’s quick and computer cords and even bag straps can be used.

The fat girl licks her lower wet lip. ‘I want pretty women—women who wear expensive clothes—to be killed by chemical weapons. And even if some of them don’t die from asphyxiation, at least I’ll get to see the poisonous gases blister their skin.’

She smiles, and she coughs and gasps like she’s choking. I ask, have you ever tried to kill yourself? She says, a few times I’ve tried to blow my head off with a hand grenade. That’s what sad and fat people do at least two or three times in their lives because, you know, that’s how bad things can get for lonely fat people. Death seems like a better option, sometimes. She says, just out of interest, have you ever tried to kill yourself?

I say, I’ve tried to shoot myself in the head with a revolver, maybe, more than once.

And the girl laughs and says, ‘Failing to kill yourself is just another thing people will mock you for.’

The recording of the baby and the old woman suddenly ends, and a man in a black suit rams a pretty woman in a white dress off the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The woman doesn’t even scream, and the man starts crying and screaming for help.

Perhaps somebody will kill us before we kill ourselves, I say.
In a corner of the living room, a serial killer in a close-fitting and sleeveless garment might creep out from the shadows and smash our heads in with a hammer until we pass out. In seconds, we’ll be on the carpet—dead. There’d be blood all over his and our clothes and the solid metal hammer head and firm oak handle and carpet.

The fat girl and me should be so lucky.

When the TV screen goes black, the girl says the pretty woman in white probably cheated on the man in the suit. How many cocks did she suck? (16? 111? 400?) in her life?

I say, probably too many.

‘And how can sluts like her think,’ she says. ‘that they’re going to get away with doing that.’

 

Matthew Ryan Herfurth – “I attended the University of South Australia and completed a degree in Writing and Creative Communication and I majored in Advanced Editing and Publishing. I came third in the University of South Australia’s Mental Health Week Writing Competition in 2009. I have also earned a degree in Library and Information Management.”

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The Ghost of a Flower

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“You’re what?” asked the common or garden spook
Of a stranger at midnight’s hour.
And the shade replied with a graceful glide,
“Why, I’m the ghost of a flower.”

“The ghost of a flower?” said the old-time spook;
“That’s a brand-new one on me;
I never supposed a flower had a ghost,
Though I’ve seen the shade of a tree.”

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The Hell-Bound Train

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A Texas cowboy lay down on a barroom floor,
Having drunk so much he could drink no more;
So he fell asleep with a troubled brain
To dream that he rode on a hell-bound train.
The engine with murderous blood was damp
And was brilliantly lit with a brimstone lamp;
An imp, for fuel, was shoveling bones,
While the furnace rang with a thousand groans.

The boiler was filled with lager beer
And the devil himself was the engineer;
The passengers were a most motley crew-
Church member, atheist, Gentile, and Jew,
Rich men in broad cloth, beggars in rags,
Handsome young ladies, and withered old hags,
Yellow and black men, red, brown, and white,
All chained together-O God, what a sight!
While the train rushed on at an awful pace-
The sulphurous fumes scorched their hands and face;
Wider and wider the country grew,
As faster and faster the engine flew.
Louder and louder the thunder crashed
And brighter and brighter the lightning flashed;
Hotter and hotter the air became
Till the clothes were burned from each quivering frame.
And out of the distance there arose a yell,
“Ha, ha,” said the devil, “we’re nearing hell”
Then oh, how the passengers all shrieked with pain
And begged the devil to stop the train.

But he capered about and danced for glee,
And laughed and joked at their misery.
“My faithful friends, you have done the work
And the devil never can a payday shirk.
“You’ve bullied the weak, you’ve robbed the poor,
The starving brother you’ve turned from the door;
You’ve laid up gold where the canker rust,
And have given free vent to your beastly lust.
“You’ve justice scorned, and corruption sown,
And trampled the laws of nature down.
You have drunk, rioted, cheated, plundered, and lied,
And mocked at God in your hell-born pride.
“You have paid full fare, so I’ll carry you through,
For it’s only right you should have your due.
Why, the laborer always expects his hire,
So I’ll land you safe in the lake of fire,
“Where your flesh will waste in the flames that roar,
And my imps torment you forevermore.”
Then the cowboy awoke with an anguished cry,
His clothes wet with sweat and his hair standing high.
Then he prayed as he never had prayed till that hour
To be saved from his sin and the demon’s power;
And his prayers and his vows were not in vain,
For he never rode the hell-bound train.

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