The Abandoned Station






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 Last Pants


I am wearing the last pants on earth.

They are at least formal. Black dress trousers. Hangs well at the waist, comfortable around the crotch, although long in the leg, but then, it was not tailored for me.

I will wear it for show, briefly, before removing them and tossing them in a pyre, the fire itself several stories below.

It will be filmed and shown the next day in edited form on all sorts of screens across the nation. So everyone will know. This is the end of a very specific chapter in human civilization. Personally I would have assumed such an action would make the appendix at best. But of course I keep my assumptions in a locked box deep inside my mind. I couldn't possibly trust an actual locked box, with its feeble physical characteristics. You don't earn the trust of the Council by dropping your guard for a single second, even when you are alone in your house in the dead of night. Because you're never alone nowadays. The true panopticon has finally arrived.

And they don't want to see anyone in pants ever again. Robes, dresses, kilts, skirts, they are the paths of the future. A paragon of comfort and modesty. So much preferable to the staid, constricting, clothing that too carefully follows the direction of the left and right legs, intentionally revealing too much of what should clearly be hidden away behind much more asexual garb. These are the alterations that will change humanity for the better.

We're not erasing the history of the garment, no. That would be barbaric. We'll hold it up as a hard learned lesson, a time and energy wasting diversion, a mistake finally corrected. Photographs and illustrations and grand caricatures of pants, yes. Descriptions and notes in the official register, yes. And two weeks ago, there were discussions in our circle regarding perhaps adding some videos, so as to see a pair of them in action. But that would require some assistance from the media and technology department. Resources and manpower have been thin for the last few quarters, so it was not simply a matter of calling Abramson and asking for some qualified crewmembers to spend an afternoon on floor 15.

After days of departmental discussion, Manqui and I brought the proposition to the Council.

They didn't appreciate his tone and his apprehension to kneel enthusiastically and he was removed. That was one week ago. I'd not heard from him since, but I'd heard of his last known whereabouts.

Only thanks to a long wait for the trams standing beside Federov, who was in charge of internal prosecutions. Problems in propaganda department, apparently. A bevy of criminals, all guilty of rogue story treatments. On top of that, the power and connectivity in what was formerly the Henkel building had gone from intermittent to nonexistent, pushing the transfer of files weeks behind schedule.

And all I'd said was, 'hello, how are you?'

I certainly didn't bring up Manqui. Federov did that herself, noting that she'd signed the paper that sent him to one of the coastal villages, even saw him and his family at the terminal with all their belongings, waiting for the bus, their brightly coloured robes flapping in the belligerent wind.

I nodded with perfect indifference, kept my past relationship with my former co-worker lodged strictly in a handful of personal neural synapses, and later said a silent prayer in one of the few rooms with windows and without cameras (I don't believe it, hence a silent one). The decisions made regarding the use of this room was the most classified of classified. Repainted a fresh berry blue, the statues and flags were removed, and it was deigned as a place to reflect upon the sun (apparently because it hasn't abandoned us yet).

An unfortunate development, Ferderov went on saying, offering something that was almost an opinion, since Manqui actually hated pants.

She was right. It was something he and The Superior agreed on. I'd hesitate to say bonded over, because it's not expected that one of us should bond with The Superior over anything (too personal, too improper). But at the weekly meetings, The Superior almost always locked eyes with Manqui with something almost like amusement when the garment strategies and how far along they were was brought up.

But seeing eye to eye with The Superior didn't help Manqui when we were both in front of the council, our gaze purposely avoiding three of the nine faces looking down at us with bored contempt.

Two of those three were Manqui's contemporaries, and my friend felt they were passed over for a position on the council for boot-lick type reasons (didn't hold a grudge against The Superior, though, only those who did the boot-licking). The third was from Manqui's hometown, and this man sent Manqui's brother to his eventual death.

So looking back I imagine that was going through their mind as they were kneeling alongside me, gruffly answering certain questions and pleasantly answering others. At that moment I was focussed solely on not offending the nine members myself, and not looking too disappointed if they turned down our request for additional resources.

Which they did, as I expected (Manqui was more hopeful, despite their disgust for a third of council). Then I was asked to depart and did so with a dutiful bow but Manqui was not asked to do this, and I couldn't even risk a glance back at them as I left and they stayed inside the shining pale blue circle on the floor, not staring up at their apparent destiny.

And now I am here, alone in the preparation room, the black cloth practically clinging to my legs, a tiny surge of static electricity tickling my hairs. Simple sensations I've not felt for what seems like years.

I am wearing them for Manqui.

I am wearing them for some who had enough passion for the greater cause but too much passion for personal bygones that should have been forgotten.

I am wearing them for someone who helped me find my footing and tongue at a tempestuous time, when you could have been shot on sight for walking down the wrong block at any time, when you could have been arrested for making eye contact at the corrupt and arcane notion of monetized law enforcement.

I am wearing them for a friend.

I wonder if The Superior reprimanded the council. I wonder if he even knows what happened, or what they told him before the meeting that sent Manqui away. Occasional eye contact at a meeting with dozens of people pales in comparison to constantly chatting with your nine most trusted advisors.

I never caught The Superiorís eye. Almost certainly a good thing. His unexpected appreciation of your existence will quickly be tempered by the council's displeasure of said appreciation. The same nine will work very hard to remain just nine and the same nine. Better to be on the bottom of the ladder in the city of plenty than the top rung in a distance camp.

Finally we can all agree on something.

That's what The Superior pushed and promised in his speeches, and what Manqui and I talked of, on late nights in our offices clutching weak coffee or standing around for entire afternoons in the central command workshop, waiting for our assigned car to be fixed yet again. It's okay because we know - we all know - that we're taking the steps forward together, as one.

The problem with the world before was that no one could agree on anything. Everyone was corrupted with selfish navel gazing, forsaking the needs and wants of the community for their own pointless, short-sighted immediate wants, and to hell with everything else.

Well hell certainly came, and it's time to pick up the pieces.

It's not hell if we agree we can turn it back to heaven.

It's not an ending if we can agree it's a beginning.

It's not a sentence if we can agree it's a chapter inside a larger story.

It's not a terrorist organization if we agree it's a movement.

It's not a cult if we all agree it's not a cult.

The Superior told us to put little stock in outmoded labels, anyway.

The old ways tethered us, crippled us, put us in ill-fitting clothing that constrained more than our physical vessels. Creating the new requires hard work and sacrifices. In very immediate terms of the latter, there's Manqui, and my relationship with them. To carry on, there must be no hint of a relationship, I have to banish it from my mind, just as the council has.

The sacrifice.

Just like the one I will commit to the flames in mere moments.

With the exception of the long leg, the pants fit perfectly. I try not to attach any symbolism to it.

The bell is ringing.

It is time to go. The stage manager will be opening the door and leading me to the stage, where tens of thousands wait in baited breath, in hand-wringing anticipation for what The Superior has promised to give, keep, and take away.

The biggest of night of the spring festivities. Everything is to go like clockwork. The Superior was adamant that those shall continue to run on time.

I hear impatient rapping on the door. I undo the belt and am prepared to disrobe, because I will have to do the entire ritual - putting them on, parading around in them as the charges are read, then removing them and consigning them to the flame - in front of the lucky chosen attendees.

But the zipper is stuck.

My zipper is stuck.

The door opens and the stage manager is there with two burly security guards, and I am stuck in the last pants on earth at the worst possible time.






The more obvious the truth, the less practical it is