12. After Elevenses...

12. After Elevenses...

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



Now I know what a breakfast is.

I never dreamed it possible, but now I know. Let me explain. Back in our hovel we would rise at the start of the day and if we had a chew of fungal bread left over or saved from the previous day, or maybe a few slivers of dried fruit, we would eat it, and it was never something to look forward to in the way I will always look forward to my next helping of breakfast, complete with a, would you believe it, delicious hot drink called tea.

Today we are to be given a lecture on the changes to society wrought since our ancestors left the cathedral a very long time ago. Kim says her man called Philip will talk to us. Apparently he’s an important person within the society we are rejoining. Back in Paradise Hell we had no human leader, just the disembodied voice of the thing we learned only too late was called Paltroon. But up here, apparently, everything is a great deal bigger and a team of people is needed to sort things out.

You will like Philip,” beamed Kim, “he’s cuddly.”

We found out what she meant by cuddly when breakfast was over and everything had been collected by young women in the skimpiest of clothes, the sort that I was beginning to discover made my Timmy’s eyes glitter and glow and follow them until they were out of sight. He’d never looked at me or any female like that down in Paradise Hell, but then we all looked the same, dressed in identical smocks, all grey though some showed stains that proved too obstinate to wash out in the only water that was available to us, which was cold. But down in our old world that sort of thing was normal and we accepted a few stains until it was time to replace the smocks, something that happened every year or so when the disembodied voice of Paltroon told us.

The waitress (for that was what the young women were called) who cleared our table was a ravishing creature and it wasn’t only Timmy who couldn’t tear his eyes off her. I couldn’t, either. Such beauty and harmony on two legs, and talking of legs, such perfect examples of how glorious a leg can become!

Philip was introduced and the first thing I felt was shock. His hair: someone had chopped it off and it was virtually non-existent. I was to learn that he suffered from what he called Male Pattern Baldness, which was general head-hair loss, and in order to smarten his appearance the remnants were shaved off, giving his head a skin-covered look. I had, at that point, never seen such an offensive creature! But then, all my life males have been proud of their long and shiny hair and the whole idea of removing it was almost an admission of infertility. Some men started to lose their own hair, and long wigs were produced, recycling the hair from the cemetery cave where burying long tresses was seen as a terrible waste.

Kim’s man, Philip, was also bigger in both height and girth to any man from Paradise Hell, with a round face and eyes that darted everywhere when he spoke. And when he spoke he also laughed a lot, sometimes because what he said might be considered amusing and at other times because, well, he just laughed. To tell you the truth I liked him straight away. He exuded a rare sort of honesty, the sort unknown in the depths I had called home until yesterday.

I will begin by explaining why we are and why we live the way we do,” he said, and he chuckled. If I write down every time he did that, chuckled or even laughed out loud, this could get both too long and too boring, so I’ll leave most of them out.

To start with, we have one unforgivable crime,” he said, “and that is war. It is when one nation, and you will discover there are many nations living on different parts of this planet, chooses to declare violent war on another.”

We knew that much because that’s why our ancestors had left overground and sought refuge in the bowels of the planet because of it. War was threatened and when it came., we were told, just about everything would be destroyed because over the years mankind had succeeded in capturing the power of the stars and using it in weapons.

What are stars? I’m not at all certain just yet. Maybe I’ll find out soon enough. Anyway, that sort of nightmare is what war consists of, with younger men obliged to fight other younger men who happen to live elsewhere, with those of neither side really knowing why they’re doing it, just that ‘for king and country’ meant something to stir their hearts into action.

And, of course, they went away to fight and many got killed. Their equivalents of the cemetery cave became filled o overflowing. Young men ceased to grow older but were torn to pieces in a violent outpouring of meaningless violence. Few lived past their thirty-fifth year anyway, and to be obliged to die much younger is an offence to nature. That’s what we were told.

Philip continued, though.

Before what would probably have been the last war because weapons had become so all-powerful, there was a silent uprising across the globe, and the masters of war, the leaders who demanded that their people fight to the death, were all, on a single night and after a huge amount of careful planning, captured. Oh, they had their talk, their arguments, their convictions, but we, the people, were no longer prepared to listen to them. It wasn’t that their voices were silenced because in a sort of contradiction we believe in free speech, but it’s got to be peaceful and honest free speech.”

I was getting lost. What is free speech? Aren’t all words part of speech, and aren’t they all free?

He continued after a deep-throated chuckle.

We have a new way of dealing with the masters of war,” he said, his eyes glinting with the kind of passion I’d do anything to feel bearing down on me, “it was decided that, instead of the youth of the world going into battle in one final orgy of death and destruction, they would.”

As I listened to him it made a great deal of sense. It was the kind of morality that had guided us in Paradise Hell, where anyone who went against the common good had punishment ordered for them. They were flogged and more than once that flogging had ended as death. But it was deserved death. It was a counter to what the alternative might have become, with loud-mouthed wannabe rulers taken out of our world.

After elevenses I’ll tell you more,” said Philip with a cheerful laugh.

Good. I needed to know more and so, I’m sure, did everyone else.

But what’s elevenses?

© Peter Rogerson 25,02,21


© 2021 Peter Rogerson

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Added on February 25, 2021
Last Updated on February 25, 2021
Tags: breakfast, war, masters of war, free speech


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..