Getting right into it, the title should hint at potentially what might be going on in this story. Because of that I’m not going to say too much about it. Truthfully, I don’t even suggest when it is set. Be interested to see what you the readers believe is its setting. Anyway, enough from me, here is Illusionary.
“It isn’t right.” Noah declares while stood waiting for the tram. Alongside him is Felipe who has his shoulders hunched in hopes of preventing the rain sliding down his neck as he turns toward his oldest friend and asks, “What isn’t right?”
“Any of it, Felipe, any of it.” Is the sum of the reply given. No further context is forthcoming, which makes it impossible to know what this any is.
Accepting his efforts are in vain, Felipe drops his shoulders and welcomes the rain to do as it pleases. After all, it’s little more than a light spray so it’s unlikely to cause much irritation if it does go down the back of his neck.
“Look over there; you’ll soon see what I mean.” Are the words next spoken, by Noah, as though he read his friends mind. He hasn’t. He is simply too wound up to keep quiet.
The pair are the only ones stood waiting for the tram. It isn’t an unusual occurrence for them in Bannerster, at least not at the hour they depart work for it is mid-afternoon.
You see Noah and Felipe work shifts, the same shift, at a nearby factory where they operate a line which chops and cans vegetables. It’s a mundane job but pays the bills, barely.
Against his better judgement Felipe turns his attention in the direction his friend is indicating. Across the street he sees a couple, well dressed, elegant, oblivious. They are the epitome of the upper class in Bannerster, a group which neither Noah nor Felipe can count themselves amongst.
“And?” Is the reply accompanied by a weary shrug.
“And! AND! It isn’t right! We toil away on the lines, get paid peanuts, while they swan about without a care in the world. This isn’t how Bannerster is meant to be. It was supposed to be a paradise. A place for us all. Not for the same old divisions there has always been.” The disgust in Noah’s tone is unmistakable. Yet, these are complaints, ranted, that Felipe has heard many a time previously. He pays little attention to them for they are purely frustrations needing to be vented. Soon his blonde haired friend will burn himself out, like a wick left to burn too long. Hopefully, it’ll be before the tram arrives. Felipe doesn’t fancy sitting there getting stares from the other passengers because of Noah’s ravings. They aren’t the sort of thing one should shout about in open air when anyone could be listening. True, expressing opinion is not restricted but… Well, there have been stories. Not new ones either. About people who disappear from their homes in the dead of night. Potentially for having spoken too loud and one too many times in public about their frustrations with how Bannerster… Felipe doesn’t think, run, is quite the right word. Regrettably he cannot find one that better fits, so he settles on it, moves on.
“This is meant to be the seed for a new tomorrow; Equality, ingenuity, opportunity. I see none of it. At least, that is, not for any of us anyway. I see plenty for them, their ilk, breed, kind.” Each moniker for what the upper class in Bannerster can be branded is said with greater levels of disdain.
Feeling Noah isn’t anywhere close to burning out from this rant Felipe spits, “Will you stop? It doesn’t help what you’re doing.”
Surprised at his friends’ reaction Noah wears an expression of mortified alarm. Regrettably it does not stop him from asking, “Are you sick? Why should I stop? I’m at the bottom of the barrel.”
“We both are. Deal with it.”
“I am, by voicing my opinions.”The blonde man declares with pride.
A roll of the eyes is followed by Felipe grabbing his friends arm and forcibly turning him so that they are stood face-to-face, eye-to-eye.
“Which might not be a great idea in and of itself. You must’ve heard the stories.”
A chuckle belches from Noah’s cracked lips, “Of course but they are just that, stories. Don’t tell me you believe them?” A raucous laughter escapes the blonde man’s mouth. It echoes all around though the reverberations are difficult to catch amidst the other sounds of the city.
A strike to the arm by Felipe soon puts pay to Noah’s roaring.
“I’m serious. Seven people in my block have disappeared this past month. They aren’t just stories.”
“Are you really suggesting what I think?”
“I am unless you haven’t been paying attention, yes.”Comes the stern, serious reply from the other man.
“Those are very serious allegations there Felipe.”
“You don’t think I know that.” Is the swift counter by the dark haired man who is speaking in a hushed tone of voice now, his brown eyes locked on his friend.
“I never believed…”
“Well you should. I do. Now, quit your ravings.”
By chance it is at that moment the tram comes trundling toward them putting pay to their conversation, punctuated by a sideways head jut from Felipe which Noah offers no resistance to.
Once on the tram, seated and underway, Noah turns to his friend.
“Something must be done, if you are correct.”
“What did I say?”
“I know what you said, but…”
“But what?” Felipe urges to know just as a pair of large men cast long shadows over the pair.
Fearing the worst, in part as a result of the look on Noah’s face, Felipe turns. His heart sinks when he recognises the men, not personally but professionally.
Dressed in dark blue uniforms that are near black they are so dark these men can only belong to Bannersters’ Constabulary Au Secrecy. They are a step above the normal police who can, sometimes, be found on the streets. Though, in more recent years with apparent ‘restructuring’ their presence appears to have be ever diminishing. Yet, where those who had counted themselves as employees have shifted to no one is quite sure. Likely it is the Constabulary Au Secrecy, though if that is true it seems none are willing to confirm or deny. Undoubtedly the group have been seen far more frequently than used to be the case however.
Forcing a smile across his face, Felipe shoves his swelling fears down deep and asks, “What can we do for you constables?”
“Are you Noah Standings?” The marginally less gruff looking of the pair replies ignoring the question to issue his own.
Unsure on how to answer, because if Felipe says no then it is clear the other man with him must be, which he is, he settles on saying nothing.
“We require an answer.” The other constable soon pipes up with a darkening look on his face.
“Th-that’s me.” Noah informs raising a shaky hand.
His previous bravado is gone, evaporated.
“Move, you need to come with us.” The first instruction is aimed toward Felipe, the second Noah.
“What’s this about?” Is the query from the blonde man who cannot help but feel the eyes from all the other passengers riding the tram, except those belonging to his friend, upon him.
“Just move it.” The grumpier one of the pair demands clearly short on patience, further proven when the shaking Noah moves too slowly and is grabbed by the arm and wrenched into the trams aisle. A wide avenue that separates the two columns of seats down either side of the track based public transport which is the principal form of locomotion around Bannerster, other than cycling or walking.
“Please, that hurts.” Is the whimper from the apprehended man who offers no resistance other than verbal for fear he might be beaten in broad daylight if he dare.
Feeling a compulsion to do something to help his friend, Felipe makes efforts to rise from his seat. The other constable dissuades him by forcibly keeping hold of his shoulder, pressing him down into his chosen seat. No words are exchanged. In fact the constable doesn’t even look at Felipe. That is until Noah and his other constable are off the tram, at which point he offers a twisted smile-snarl, releases his grip on Felipe’s shoulder and quickly departs.
No sooner is the second constable off the tram than it resumes its journey. Panic-stricken and fearful of what might become of his oldest friend, without any consideration for the display he might cause, the dark haired man rushes to the front of the tram.
“You need to stop, let me off.” Is his declaration upon arrival.
The driver offers no reply, much like he makes no efforts to slow or bring the tram to a halt.
“Did you not hear me, I need to get off!” Felipe’s voice is shrill.
Slowly the driver turns his head and then looks up at Felipe.
“Sorry sir, no can do.”
“Why not?” Is all Felipe manages to offer in reply, which is much less than he had planned. Seeing as he was intending to offer a reasoning as to why he is making such a demand.
“Authority says I can only pull up at designated stops, planned and marked.”
The line sounds rehearsed, as if the tram driver has been asked the question a thousand times previously.
Panting in disbelief, his breathing short and loud, Felipe manages to fire back, “You stopped but a minute ago. Isn’t that the same?”
“No sir.” Is all that is offered alongside a slow side to side shake of the drivers head. Apparently no elaboration is to be given.
Turning his attention back to the dark haired man, sweating and trembling, who is stood close to the glass that all which separates them, the tram driver answers, “Because they were constables and I have to do what they demand.”
“They want you not to stop?”
No answer is forthcoming. In fact the driver ignores Felipe. It’s as if he is pretending the dark haired man is no longer stood there. Even when he asks other questions the ruse is maintained and no response provided.
Defeated, Felipe shrinks, turns, sees the eyes upon him and slinks back to his seat.
Not everyone is looking his way, just the bourgeois, the rich, the wealthy, the upper class, whatever name you prefer to call them.
In Bannerster it tends to be bourgeois for reasons he isn’t aware of. It could very well be a fashionable thing. Regardless, they are focused on him, staring. It makes him wonder if at any moment he may too get a visit from the Constabulary Au Secrecy.
Would it be better if he did? He doesn’t know. Part of him thinks yes, because he might have the chance to locate Noah. Another part of him swears it isn’t; that we could not help his friend if he too were carted off. To where? He cannot say. If he were one of them he might.
He wonders if he knows anyone in the constabulary. He doesn’t. That is the conclusion he reaches as the bell is rung to signify the tram is approaching its next stop.
I’ll get off here, retrace my steps, go looking for… What do you hope to find? They could be long gone.
Frustrated, Felipe gets off the tram, looks up and down the street, spies only the bourgeois who Noah holds such contempt for and then… His eyes fall on more constables. The dark haired man gulps. They have to be coming for him. There can be no question. Otherwise the timing is too…
The constables accost a woman. She is dressed in similar fatigues to Felipe, her hair stained with grease. She protests in vain with the rich watching as she is forcibly marched away just like Noah was.
Panic, at wholly new kind, leaps into Felipe’s throat.
What is happening?
Convinced the street is not the place to be, without understanding why, Felipe makes haste for home. Its close but he’ll take the back way so he can stay semi-hidden.
Usually he wouldn’t dream of it for it reeks of guilt. But with what he has seen in the last eight minutes feeling guilty for using back alleys is not something that worries him, Bannerster is what does. The city is changing and not for the better.
You knew this! You ignored it! Pretended you didn’t see! Everyone has!
He urges his internal ramblings to silence, to spare him their damnation, their judgement. It doesn’t work, though they mercifully prove unable to thwart his retreat to safety. Well, he hopes its safety. It is his home after all, so in his mind it should be safe.
But is it? Or is that only a hope? Maybe it’s a dream, a lie? Perhaps you are not safe in any place that you know of.
Shut up. Shut up. Shut up!
Locking his front door, Felipe breathes an enormous sigh of relief as he stands with his back against his door adorned with four locks. Not something he had installed. That was how it was when he moved in. Until this moment he’d always hated having so many locks. For some reason they now provide him a modicum, nothing more than that, of comfort.
Sadly, his nerves do not appear willing to calm. It’s because his mind refuses to stop whirring, and so he stumbles into his kitchenette. He ignores the kettle, his preferred drink of choice, grabs a glass he hadn’t had time to ferret away to its place in the cupboard before his shift, shoves it under the tap and spins it. Water soon jets out in a violent rush. The glass fills in seconds only to then spurt a cascade over the edge when Felipe fails to spin the tap back the other way.
Ignoring the wet over his right hand he withdraws the glass from under the fast running water and presses the glass to his lips. Quickly he gulps down the contents. It’s cool but does little to ease his thirst he feels and so again he shoves the glass under the tap. More water goes spurting violently all around the sink bowl. Some of it splashes Felipe who is oblivious.
He extinguishes the tap, then proceeds to gorge himself on this second helping of water. It lasts seldom longer than the first. When it is spent and dry however the dark haired man does feel better. He cannot say how much, just that he does.
Plonking the glass down on the draining board, Felipe braces his arms against the edge of the counter. He’s starting to feel light-headed which leaves him to wonders if it’s the result of having drunk too much too quick. He doesn’t care. He needed it.
When finally the sensation passes, the dark haired man can manage only to shake his head from side-to-side in disbelief.