Thursday, 7 July 2011
We, the runners.
No-one knew how many members The Group consisted of, or how it came into being. All that was certain was that The Group did exist.
The numbers were small and decreasing year on year, but while ever individuals retained a fierce, independent spirit and a need for transcendence - while ever individuals still wanted to live and not simply be sustained, The Group would survive.
The years since The Shift Of Power had been long and demanding. When News Corps had taken over the traditional means of government, we, the runners, had sensed dark days lay ahead, but we'd never envisaged the scenario we now encountered in our day-to-day struggle.
The rise of the Corporations had been inevitable. Now, all Consumers shared the same life-style. Since the mortgage system had collapsed and all property had been reclaimed, Consumers lived in a house owned by The Bank. They worked for one of the seven Corporations. Their earnings would be split in several ways. The majority of it would be deducted at source by The Bank. This would guarantee a roof over their heads.
News Corps would receive a share in return for providing Consumers with Entertainment and The Truth. (In the years since The Shift Of Power, the concept of the lie had disappeared. There were no longer any lies, only The Truth.)
Some of the credits earned through working for one of the seven Corporations would be spent on consuming products produced by the Corporations.
A small part of a Consumer's credits would be available for spending on Leisure. All Leisure took place in malls or gymnasiums, where access to Entertainment screens was available at all times.
It was in 2019, when the mountains were designated an Area of Forbidden Entry that rumours about The Group emerged. But it was the publication of The Adams Report, commissioned by TESCO, in 2020, that was the catalyst for the explosion of The Group's popularity. The findings of the report stated that 'the increased levels of naturally-produced chemicals inside the human brain, as a result of endurance running might have detrimental side-effects in terms of the propensity to consume.' Such findings, unacceptable as they were to News Corp and the seven Corporations led to immediate action. On October 21st 2020, running was declared illegal.
Members of The Group were encouraged to run alone and to stick to Out-Of-Bounds Wilderness Areas, where the numbers of Corporation detectives and News Corps hackers were more scarce. By such action, it was hoped, the possibilty of detention would be more remote. Increasingly, however, new methods of surveillance and Private Life Intrusion techniques had led to capture. And when detention centres were full, the Corporations had pioneered the practice of 'processing'. Through a combination of Electrical Cortex Stimulation and Positive Behavioral Therapy, an individual captured and detained as 'dangerous to society', or simply 'a runner' could be transformed into a model Consumer. A house would be provided by The Bank. A job would be provided by one of the seven Corporations. News Corps would enable said individual to experience the fullness of life through their provision of Entertainment and The Truth.
As members of The Group declined drastically through the 20's as a result of these measures, a mythical hero emerged. Cassady, it was said, had run over every peak in The Lakeland Zone. Having never missed a day's run in many years, he had somehow escaped detection. Stories grew about his feats in The North, most of them probably wildly exagerated, but inspiring nonetheless. In our darkest of days, here, at least, was a glimmer of light in an existence made unbearable.
But all lights go out. The news spread slowly by word of mouth. His detection, detention, processing.
And now I understand it will come to us all. I know that, but it makes little difference. For until my time is stolen from me, I will continue to greet the sunrise from impossible summits or the ocean's edge. I will continue to pay worship to the woodland tracks and forest trails. One foot in front of the other. A breath. A heartbeat.
And I'll rejoice in the shared secret - one that only we, the runners, truely understand.