Saturday, 5 November 2011

Flash Fiction; The Marketeers

It's that time again when Chuck Wendig has a Flash Fiction challenge on his blog Terrible Minds and yet again I couldn't resist. So here is my contribution. The theme this week is "Corporate Abuse", in keeping with the current Occupy movement and general dissatisfaction with the Capitalist system as it stands. A good excuse for some dystopian fiction in other words. I humbly present my piece, called "The Marketeers".

I scream as the ground disappears underneath me. My leg bends at an angle even a yoga specialist would wince at. I feel the leaves attaching themselves to my brown overalls when I tumble down that steep incline. Roaring crunches fill my ears. And then nothing.
Looking up at the floating billboards in the night sky, so bright they block out the stars, I begin to cry. The tears feel good, better than my leg anyway, and I let them roll down the sides of my face and into my ears. I know I can’t rest here, I have to keep moving. But right now, I just want a moment of stillness. So I can wish for the life I used to have.
My first mistake had been in wearing clothes I made myself. I loved designing and making things, but the Marketeers had long ago banned anyone having ideas. They said they were ideas their Corporations hadn’t had yet, so you were infringing on their Potential Intellectual Property. I’d kept it to myself, claiming they were retro, old clothes from the 21st century. But after a while someone must have got suspicious and ratted me out. Next thing I know a group of armor plated men are storming into my apartment, destroying the posters on the walls, the mirrors I decorated, the desk I scribbled a pattern on. And my clothes. They even ripped the ones I was wearing right off my back, leaving me half naked and shivering as they carried me into one of their black vans. I thought that was going to be the worst of it. I was wrong.
I was taken to an “Institute for the Creative”, where all artists, writers and anyone with original thought ended up. I’d heard they “corrected” the people, like the old mental asylums, but never knew what that meant. My parents, my friends, no one would talk about the Marketeers, or the Institute. We all just accepted that you had to choose a product from the lines offered and whichever Corporation sold the most would be elected as the Government. But it was really the Marketeers in charge, we all knew that. Governments came and went, but they were always there, always watching and always working on the next big thing.
I was terrified. I thought they’d torture me, or even do something to my brain to destroy the thoughts in my head. That scared me the most, the idea of not being able to imagine anymore. We’d all heard that story more than once. But what they did was worse, though I didn’t think so at first. They used us. They took all these “subversives” who broke the new IP laws and made us write down our ideas. They gave us whatever material we needed, wanted and encouraged us to “express ourselves”. I was ecstatic, thinking I’d found heaven on earth. Until I met Vince.
Vince had been there for over a decade, and couldn’t have been more than forty, but looked about eighty. He was a writer, his hands turned into claws from the hours of typing he did. That he was forced to do. He told me it was a con, that they forced you to work for as long as possible and the minute your ideas stopped you disappeared. You didn’t go home, you didn’t get released; you just vanished. He was worried his ideas were all the same recently. No matter what drugs he took (they provided you with all the intoxicants you could imagine, whenever you wanted), his ideas were drying up. I felt sick, thinking about it now, but I didn't believe him, I even thought he was being ungrateful. Here they were, the people we all had thought were evil, actually encouraging creativity, creation, art. How could that be bad. Then Vince disappeared. When I asked about him they said there’d never been anyone there by that description. When I pressed them, I was put into isolation for a week in a room with no windows, no paper, no material, no pencils. Just me and the dark. I didn’t ask about Vince again. But I did start making plans on how to get out of there.
No one thought it could be done, and many didn’t want to talk to me about it. Eventually though I had a group of five, me included, and we hoarded materials in our rooms. We drew a map of the building and the grounds, plotted out the times the guards were on shift, their routes. We thought of everything.
The day of the escape everything went to plan. An “accident” with a vat of paint meant the guards on shift had to go clean up. After locking them in the washroom, we made it to the walls, where we’d chiseled free bricks in the preceding months. Then we ran. We ran as fast as we could to get as far away as possible. We must have been twenty feet away when the alarms went off. I was ahead of everyone else, one of the few who had loved sports in school, but I heard two fall to the ground. The guards had electrified bullets, that would make your body freeze, and sometimes your heart too if you were unlucky. Me and the remaining escapees got to the road, but one, Marge I think she was called, got hit by a truck running across that ten lane highway. It was only me and Daryl left. And until yesterday it was still us. But he... he let me go ahead when we heard the helicopters and dogs. He told me to keep going, to tell everyone, to live. I don’t know what happened to him.
Thinking of Daryl dried my tears and gave me the strength to stand, even though my leg protested with searing pain. I had to keep going, for Daryl, for Marge and most of all for Vince.


  1. Love the whole concept of this, it feels just possible enough to come true!

    Just one thought, you put "but one, Marge I think she was called" and it really jarred me, firstly because this is a group of five that have worked together on a plan for escape (taking the bricks out etc) and then later, because she uses the name as someone she intends to escape for. I'd rather see Marge characterised in that sentence, rather than her just being nameless, forgettable person who dies.

    Really love the line about her leg bending to an angle "even a yoga specialist would wince at" -- great imagery!

  2. Good point! I think I was imagining at the time that she was befuddled with the whole running away thing. But you're right, she would remember Marge better than that. I'll leave it as is here but the version I keep on file may be slightly tweaked... Thank you!

  3. Good story. It felt real, and made me feel anxious, like it could really happen. I think there are echoes of your story in real life.

  4. Thanks for the kind words Louisesor. I know I see it a little in the crazy lengths some companies will go to in order to protect a trademark - it's the next natural step really!