The Big Un-Sale
Every New Year’s Eve, we watch the crowds converging on the old shopping centres. Last year the Committee decided it was now 2031 AD, and all the clean-burning hydrogen engines were un-sold. So the car parks are filled with fume-spewing internal combustion engines, and that’s progress for you.
New Year’s Eve is our most shameful day. The day when each store becomes an un-store, and the voting public takes illegal tech back from whence it came. And we as a people are accepting the decisions of the Committee as a fait accompli!
Our organisation has been monitoring the Committee’s Annual List, and each Boxing Day we’ve noticed an alarming trend. While the first Un-Sale was a measured subtraction of one calendar year, sometimes the powers that be have been deducting three or even five years from our current Technology Standard. While it’s admirable that developing nations have been benefiting from our deductions, we ask when it’s all going to stop.
Are you going to be one of the mindless horde that trudges to the Collection Point, list in hand? Every person that takes the Committee’s buy-back money is a collaborator, and our great culture is being sold off, one year at a time. When the day comes, will you cheerfully hand back your MyVisor, or happily give up the cancer-inducing mobile telephony that you’ve only just gotten used to again?
It’s simply ridiculous, and we cannot go back to plasma televisions, nor the telegraph.
In particular, we the people object to the inclusion of the following items on this year’s Annual List:
• FleshSlaves, models Beta and Gamma
• Neurolink cyber interface, all models
• All vehicles fitted with the Perfecto bio-diesel system.
• MilliGro brand custom algae farms
Concerned Citizens for Tech Protection.

I grew up in a tenement that looked out on the back of the minotaur’s head. The minotaur statue is older than the city and taller than any building in it. Our tenement is nearly as tall, not nearly as old, and in far worse repair.

The statue gazes out across the plain of salt, which the scholars say was a sea that dried up years ago, and my siblings and I gaze with it into the hazy horizon.

The scholars don’t know who built the statue, or why, but everyone else says it’s a marker to guide travelers over the salt plain. However, everyone, including the scholars, agrees the plain is impossible to cross–too vast, too empty of landmarks. With all the wind-stirred dust, you can’t navigate by stars; by day, you can barely guess where the sun is.

My brothers and sisters and I do go out onto the plain at daybreak and dusk, when the twilight seeps into everything, and we might be walking on a flat of sky. It’s the one advantage we’ve got in the salt quarter. The old city has history; the river districts have trade and communication with distant lands; and the elite quarter has the evening cool of the mountains. A half hour at either end of the day to explore an empty blue world doesn’t seem like much in comparison.

We find our way back by the broken silhouettes of the mountains, and the prongs of the minotaur’s horns above them. One night, we found a man collapsed at the base of the minotaur statue, covered in salt dust. Under the white coating, we saw his boots and glasses were the blue of twilight on the plain.

We went for a healer and returned to find the man gone. The scholars and city guard told us he was a lunatic who’d wandered out onto the plain. We didn’t believe them; we knew the impossible when we saw it.

They built his pyre on our rooftop–our building was closest, and they didn’t want to move him far, which made us even more suspicious. We knew secret ways to the roof, so we crept up and stole his glasses and boots.

We argued all night and drew lots. In the predawn twilight, the glasses show me trails on the plain. I set my foot on one to see where the boots will take me…

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following consists of image descriptors copied from the Wembausch photographic archive in New Vienna

  1. Mayor Smyther entering Halifax hall the morning before the Western riots (Mellart, 1997)
  2. Graffiti slogans by street artist Elscape (Various, 1987 – 1997)
    1. Riese & Resist (sic. 1997)
    2. Ride or die (subway roof) (1995)
    3. You’re mom (sic.) (early work) (c. 1987)
    4. Remember the Shadows (1997)
  3. Street shiner with “See the light” sandwich board (Mellart, 1995)
  4. Mixeffellion theatre, northern facade (Shiner, 1963)
  5. Man fighting his own shadow (Anon., c. 1984-6)
  6. Man blinded through repeated shining of flashlight into own eyes (Dr. Oscar Lucrus, 1995)
  7. Tavern in the Hole (Anon., Date unkown)
    • CURATORIAL NOTE: Double check authenticity. Reflections are off.  Windows should reflect Straussberg plaza but  neoclassical architecture clearly apparent.  Possible misfiling?  Cross check with photomontage.  Possibly an early Mellart?
  8. “Street tomb” for Elscape 1979 – 1997 (Mellart 1998)
  9. Woman fighting her brother’s shadow (Anon., 1996)
  10. Straussberg plaza burning, Western Riot series (T. Lindeman, 1997)
  11. Mixeffellion theatre burning, Western Riot series (T. Lindeman, 1997)
  12. “Flashlights Sold Out,” Pennysaver (Aldark, 1997)
  13. Elscape wall mural, The Tear and the Shadows Beyond (Anon., 1996)
  14. Elscape, in full Street Shiner regalia, appearing in court accused of the murder of Mayor Smyther (Samuel Kennedy, 1998)
  15. Two men fighting shadow (Mellart. 1997)
    • CURATORIAL NOTE: Really a Mellart?  Misfiled?  Cross check with photo-manipulation.
  16. Grave of Mayor Smyther after vandalism attack (Thomas Veer, 1999)
  17. “Batteries for flashlights sold here” Pennysaver (Aldark, 1997)
  18. Graffiti erroneously credited to Elscape (Various 1998 – 2000)
    1. “Shine on” – Rubberchin (Rubberchin, 1998)
    2. “Burning in the light” – Devi8 (T. Lindeman, 1999)
    3. “Never dark. Always aflame.” – Squealpiggy (Underwell, 1998)
    4. “Solar powered savior” – Animan (Oscard, 1999)
    5. “My light still shines” – Rubberchin (J. Hutch, 2000)
  19. State troopers defending power switching stations (Mellart, 1997)
  20. “Shadows burn away” graffiti, Western Riot series (T. Lindeman, 1997)
  21. Mayor Smyther re-election campain (Thomas Veer, 1994)
    • CURATORIAL NOTE: Misfiled? Shadows are all over the place. Check photo-manipulation.
  22. “Was it good for you?” – Group of Street Shiners skateboarding in the ashes of Mixeffellion theatre, police officers gagged, bound and surrounded by celebrants in background, Western Riot series (T. Lindeman, 1997)

Exhibit 1.a: The lines are a millimetre deep and three times as wide, and milky white compared to the pine-brown skin surrounding them. They line up like pale railings against a wall.

The placard underneath the image says that the woman painted is twenty-two.

Paper lanterns hung outside the gallery’s high windows, shedding patches of their colour — blue and yellow, red and seaweed-green — onto Turme’s white dress. She stood with her back to the lanterns, staring at the row of foot-wide paintings.

The pale lines matched so neatly those on her own thighs.

Exhibit 2.a: Look closely to see the lines, barely darker than the skin. Look closely to see how they cross the small breast, how they stretch between side and nipple.

The placard underneath says that the woman painted is nineteen.

Turme remembered the reviews: A gallery of that which is hidden away — for good reason! and What next, will artists paint the deformed and claim to be showing beauty?

“These are beautiful paintings,” she said.

“There’s a trend among artists to conceal the marks left by natural growth,” the gallery’s owner replied. “Iri, the artist, feels that concealment is un-necessary.”

She wanted to raise a hand and run her fingers over the paintings. Would they dip like the marks on her thighs? The paint looked textured enough for it.

When had she last seen artwork so honest?

Exhibit 2.c: Dark lines curve over soft skin, like half-bracelets, on the side of the girl. They point to the small of her back. They point to the lowest part of her stomach.

“I’ve been to six galleries today,” Turme said, “and seen a lot of paintings of nudes with flawless skin like glass from the Suresh Quarter. The ones with blue and green hair were interesting, I suppose. This, however…” She looked along the wall, at arms and legs, breasts and stomachs, covered in pale and dark lines.

“Would you like to meet Iri?” the gallery’s owner asked.

“I suppose I should, as I intend to sponsor his work.”

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