The Time-Checkers (‘Numbers’ short story collection)


She strolled slowly along the bustling city streets without a care in the world. She stood out as if she were a tree of auburn, planted against lonely bare branched saplings. These bare saplings sped along swinging with each long stride their brief cases, coffee cups, and arms, which every now and then were held at 90-degree angles by the time-checkers. Tall grey buildings, grey skies, grey suits, grey pavements and grey faces, enveloped her. She was a multitude of colours living in a colourless world. She was a cartoon in a black and white silent film. She was a soul in a soulless universe.

Her name was Susan. She didn’t detest the time-checkers, she merely disliked that they didn’t question anything. Susan questioned everything. Why are we bound by pieces of paper with numbers on them? Why are we bound by the circular faces with digits on them? Why are we bound in a boundless world? Susan soon learnt that freedom is a concept that is widely misunderstood. People only think they want to be free, but the reality is they don’t. Freedom is fear and correspondingly fear is freedom. But Susan embraced the fear in freedom.

Standing still in the middle of the road Susan closed her eyes and let the sounds of the city fade into a dull echo. She smiled and breathed in the polluted air, ignoring the tooting horns and screams of those she was inconveniencing.

“I’m gonna be late to work now you imbecile!”

“Hurry up and move woman!”

“What are you doing you idiot! I’m trying to drive here!”

Susan mulled over what the people had yelled, considering such questions of why the world was in such a rush. Coming off the main high street she began ambling past the concrete boxes commonly considered to be households, except Susan felt unconvinced that such constructions were really homes. She turned left down a narrow alleyway, stopping at a rusted grating to lift it up before submerging underground. She placed the grating back in its rightful place with a loud clank which reiterated off the walls below. Clambering down the ladder she reached the bottom, landing in a puddle with a splash. Observing the dimly lit surroundings, Susan started to make her way through the dark, dank, long-winding tunnels silently.

Approaching a corroded metal door placed at the end of one of the tunnels, Susan pulled the handle and wrenched the hefty door open to reveal another doorway to the left and an insecure timeworn lift in front of her. She shut the door and stepped inside the lift pressing the faded LG button. The lift took her further underground, creaking the whole way to the bottom. She perceived mumbling noises, which became clearer the further down the lift went. Reaching the bottom the lift jerked a little, before the doors squeaked open revealing a fine-looking colourful pathway of curtains, blankets, mats, cardboard, old newspapers and items of clothing.

After having roamed the blackened tunnels, Susan let her eyes adjust to the brightness of the firelight posts that illuminated the secret city that lay before her. Hurrying towards Susan was a barefoot elderly man with white wispy hair, holding a tree branch as a walking stick with a few leaves sprouting out the top, and dressed in a long piece of vibrant material worn like a poncho. Greeting Susan he held her hands in his, beaming at her with his watery eyes and rosy cheeks. He spoke with genuine delight, “So lovely to see you my dear.”

The secret city was a place designated as the nonconformist headquarters. Those who didn’t want to be governed by time and money came here for freedom, but that often meant giving up luxury and ease since with freedom came sacrifice. Living by the rules of the powerful is a safe existence, and as much as Susan believed that rules were necessary in society, she was very much against the unspoken rules that existed in her world- How to dress, how to speak, how to act, how to be a woman, how to be a man, how to be successful or how to be intelligent.

What is intelligence anyway? She thought. Are those famous reality show stars intelligent? Those who are remembered as drinking a bit too much alcohol and running around unclothed swearing loudly, can they be deemed as intelligent? She pondered these questions and concluded that although these individuals were frequently idolised, most people would say that such Z list celebrities were idiots and probably couldn’t even name the countries that make up the United Kingdom. Susan had a different opinion though, for she didn’t question their intelligence based on what they knew about chemistry, history or maths. She considered intelligence to cover so much more than the subjects taught in educational institutions. Is intelligence measured by knowledge? She considered. Or is it measured by grades printed on a piece or paper? Or is it measured by memory? Or is it measured by success?

Susan assumed that if intelligence was measured by success then such celebrities were indeed intelligent, since they used their senselessness to entertain the senseless viewers sitting inside their concrete boxes staring at the transmitted images through their screens while eating out of plastic pots filled with artificial foods. These reality stars used their stupidity to gain fame, money and a career in the entertainment industry. The individuals achieved what they set out to do making them successful, and thus could be considered intelligent. Still, Susan found it quite difficult to remove the standard definition of intelligence when she remembered the reality stars she had seen on one of the screens above the ground a few weeks ago.

She couldn’t remove the constructed view of intelligence that conjured up images of a scientist in a lab or a philosopher reading books. Of course books were hard to come by nowadays since everything was digitally produced, but Susan still thought of them in her imaginings of intelligence, especially considering the world appeared to become ironically stupider with advancements in technology. She hated reading off screens anyway, it felt so unnatural, and she couldn’t help but appreciate the sound of the pages turning in a real book.

The secret city was one of the few places that placed value in printed books, whether they were pages filled with fictional stories of other planets, or academic and theoretical studies, or Bible’s. It didn’t matter, they wanted to collect as many books as possible and store them and distribute them for those who were interested amongst them. Although the city didn’t want to end up crammed with material things, books were still something to be protected and cherished.

The elderly man who had greeted Susan was the child of the secret city founders and he was referred to as chief. The secret city still held that leaders and policies were important to run a satisfactory society; indeed they knew they couldn’t build a perfect society in an imperfect world, they understood utopia was an impossibility, especially with the existing differing views of what a perfect society would look like. What they did aim to have though, was a place in which opinions could be expressed without the worry of political correctness. They wanted a place in which talents could be used to help others, everything could be shared, and reusing and recycling could be the norm. A well-known piece of writing of the secret city was recited daily to remind them of their apparent freedom:

Clocks and coins won’t control my days,

I’ll live my life in a different way,

I don’t panic when the hand strikes 9,

I’ll get things done in my own time.

Paper notes have no hold over me,

For I share what I have fairly

You see,

I refuse to reside with you greedy folk,

Those time-checkers I must revoke.

I’ll move underground if I must,

I’ll live amongst the dark and the dust,

I’ll miss the sun, the sand, the sea,

Though they’re polluted by you and by me.

We banish the structures of society.

We eliminate the norms of humanity.

Secret city we believe in liberty.

Freedom we seek,

Freedom we have,

Freedom we maintain,

Clocks and coins won’t control my days,

I’ll live my life in a different way.

Susan recognised that the secret city supposed they had obtained freedom, but she thought otherwise and she wanted to discuss her views further. The chief brought Susan to a long lopsided table made out of oak, pine, and yew. Sitting along the uneven benches were numerous people engaged in friendly conversation dressed in abnormal clothing. When they saw Susan they looked at her in wonderment, while talking excitedly amongst themselves. The chief introduced his teenage daughter Steve, who appeared to be wearing a robe made out of crisp packets, which bizarrely would have probably been viewed as fashionable in the eyes of the society above the ground. Steve had met Susan before but she was merely a child at the time, though she still had a strong memory of her.

Steve hugged Susan and asked, “What’s it like?” while pointing upwards. The chief interrupted “Oh Steve she’s only just arrived, give her a chance to settle down before you bombard her with questions.” Turning to Susan, “Now why don’t you sit down and we’ll get you a drink my dear.” He smiled as Susan sat down and brought over a hand carved wooden cup filled with murky water. Susan thanked him and turned to answer Steve’s question, “Do you know what the colour grey looks like Steve?” She nodded in response and Susan replied “Never mind 50 shades of grey, imagine thousands of different variations of the colour grey, and that’s pretty much what above the ground looks like.” Steve was astonished, but was soon distracted by visible marks on Susan’s arm.

Looking down at her arm Susan gazed at the huge scar forever engraved into her skin. She explained to Steve that above the ground individuals have metal chips placed beneath their skin when they are born. These chips require software updates every so often, and during one of the update processes Susan took a blade to her skin and dug into her wrist pulling the chip along with it’s wires out, cutting away a significant amount of skin and bone. She couldn’t go to the hospital because they would only replace the chip, so she took the risk of not going and managed to survive. Steve was in awe of Susan and how brave she was living above the ground, and wanted to know more about the grey planet and the purpose of the chip, but the chief had some things to say himself.

The chief looked concerned at Susan and spoke softly saying, “You know I worry about you my dear. Your return underground makes me think of the parable of the prodigal son.” Susan replied, “You found an English Bible?” The chief chuckled and answered, “Yes my dear, finally we found one. I can’t quite decide if it’s profound or ridiculous, but it’s an insightful read all the same. Anyhow, tell me will you be staying for good this time?” Susan mused for a moment before asking the chief to walk with her.

Strolling by the homes of mud huts, old train carriages and wooden tents, workers were out delivering produce to the occupants, some children were playing with their handmade table tennis set, while others were reading books or providing music with hand built instruments. Susan began, “Chief, when you plant a seed, you place it underground and that’s where it begins to grow. Likewise the secret city is like a seed beneath the earth, waiting to be watered so as to grow through the surface blooming into a beautiful flower of colour brightening up an otherwise dull world.” The chief contemplated what Susan was saying.

She continued, “The time-checkers would destroy the secret city if they knew about it. They want us in dreary suits, rushing along the lifeless streets, spending our days gazing at screens in an office, before hurrying home and doing the same thing there. They want us to be up at a certain time, they want us to spend money on things that should be free. They want us to buy into things we don’t need. They don’t want freedom.” The chief looked confused, “But surely everyone wants to be free my dear? It’s only natural.” Susan replied, “Do you know that some people still think that sexual relationships between the same gender is unnatural? Do you know that wearing a dress is only regarded as natural for a girl? Do you know that there are buildings dedicated to selling food containing artificial substances wrapped in manufactured packaging?” The chief appeared to be somewhat in shock at what he was hearing, but there was also something odd about his expression. Susan thought of how he hadn’t been above the ground since he was a child, he had probably long forgotten what the place was like and much of what she was saying was likely to be new to him.

Susan resumed, “The look on your face is evidence that my return underground was necessary. You talk about how unsafe and unnatural it is up there, yet you barely know anything about the place. You tell me I should stay underground and be free, but is that truly freedom? I don’t think it is chief. You see freedom is choice and independence. It is free will. It is refusing to be restricted to living in a tunnel in a fake society that is afraid of the world. You can’t hate the world above because without it you wouldn’t survive. You can’t grow food down here without sunlight, so you rely on workers who venture above, and even then they don’t go much further into the world than a few meters to grow crops or collect materials. You’re allowed to be afraid, I’m afraid. But I’m afraid and I’m living. I am part of the defiance; I live above the ground liberally knowing that at any point the time-checkers could report me and have technology implanted into my brain making me like the rest of the zombies staring at their screens, but I refuse to hide. I’ve returned underground to educate and recruit individuals into the defiance. I refuse to let the clocks and coins control me. Isn’t this what your ancestors wanted too? The secret city has remained a tree that refuses to flourish beyond the surface of the soil. The roots are there, they just need to develop and rise above and prosper.”

The chief reflected on what Susan said and responded, “You’ve given me a lot to think about Susan. I’ve lived underground longer than I ever lived above it, this life for many of us is all we know. People are inspired by the adventurous life you lead, but to them they are merely stories not an existence they could lead too. How can you expect us to live out in the open as part of the defiance? The time-checkers are notorious for brain configuration constructions on rebels like us, I know that much. Is freedom giving up our hiding place and letting it be taken away from us permanently? The world isn’t ready for true freedom Susan.” Susan asked, “So you admit that this society isn’t free?” he retorted, “My dear you and I both know the truth about that. Freedom is impossible, we will always be restricted by something.” Susan looked critically at the chief and he exclaimed, “Don’t be surprised Susan. I’m far more intelligent than you would have believed. I may be an old man stuck underground but I know that this society is mine, I own it, and they do as I say when I say it. I’m the clock of this society. The people will provide food for me and I don’t even have to pay for it. They will build me a house and I don’t need a mortgage. As long as I spout lies about how their lives aren’t controlled, they believe it. You could even say that I am the god of the underground. I’m smart my dear.”

Susan was flabbergasted by the chief’s immoral and malicious disposition realising that she was completely right in questioning the world and everything in it. Just because the majority deems something as good or as right or as normal, doesn’t mean that it is, but Susan had never felt so alone in her interpretations of society. The chief and his society were simply camouflaged time-checkers. She wanted to scream at the world telling them to take their rose-tinted glasses off, she wanted them to be cured of their blindness and see things the way she did, she wanted to open their minds and get them to think for themselves. She was frustrated at how the world was, but she alone couldn’t change it. She was overwhelmed.

The chief stopped and looked at Susan, “You belong here my dear. Don’t think I’m going to let you run around up there any longer.” Susan uttered, “I don’t belong anywhere. You can’t stop me from leaving”. The chief smirked threateningly and simply said, “I beg to differ my dear.” Just then noises of clattering resonated around the secret city. The sounds came from above the ground, which worried the residents below. Knowledge of the secret city was extremely limited to those above the ground, but no security precautions were ever taken to stop people from getting in and out. The belief was that security teams and systems would only draw more attention to the secret city and consequently make its discovery by time-checkers more likely. If the secret city was exposed it would soon be abolished. The people below would subsequently become time-checkers making them controlled citizens of the world above. The chief too wanted to avoid this because he too would become just another nobody of the world above, rather than his role as god of the underground that he relished.

Susan marched away from the chief and back to the long table that seated the majority of the underground people. They all appeared panicked believing the time-checkers were coming for them to remove their illusory freedom. Most of them had heard plenty about what the time-checkers were like, believing them to be despicable, evil, nasty villains, so naturally they were terrified of the loud noises coming from above. Steve came towards Susan and whispered, “Can you protect us?” Susan answered, “Steve I can’t even protect myself from the constraints that humanity itself has built. I had hope for the potential freedom of this society, true freedom, but your father has made it apparent that acquiring it is doubtful regardless of whether we live above or below the ground.”

Numerous people gathered around Susan with optimistic looks as if she was their knight in shining armour. Feeling pressured to make them feel safe and answer their many questions she stood on the table and addressed the crowd. “Everyone listen up, I’m not your saviour, and I don’t have the answers to everything. I’m merely a human being who probably has more questions than answers too. I’m sorry to inform you all, but each of you has been living a lie. Some of you were born down here, some of you, like me, came from above in search of an alternative life, and many of you had parents who were founders of the secret city. The secret city intended to be a society of people who cared about one another and the environment. It was supposed to be about equality. It was supposed to be a place where we didn’t have to be time-checkers worrying about finances. It was about forgetting the alarm clocks, the bills and the paychecks. It was about freedom. Do you really believe you are free? Have you ever questioned your leader? The Chief is not the man you think he is. He is a fraud, and if you want to be free from his fakery and the world itself then you have the daunting task of thinking for yourself.”

The crowd murmured as Susan spoke, stunned at the confrontations that had been expressed. Emotions were high and the crowd of people had mixed feelings. Susan was a sort of celebrity to them, who only came by every few years telling stories of the world above, which fascinated the simple folk of the underground. Susan was a thoughtful character who contemplated many things about life, and now was the time for her to articulate her judgements to the underground society who she cared for deeply.

Steve was in awe of Susan and very much looked up to her, even when she was condemning her father. As she got older Steve had become increasingly questioning of the life she led, and seemed to think similarly to the way Susan did. She had never been above the ground, but dreamed of it frequently regardless of the horror stories she had been told about the world of grey. Her suspicions of her father grew when a few years ago after having spoke with Susan she decided to pay more attention to the rhyme the secret city recited each day. She deliberated the meaning of the clocks and coins rhyme and attempted to instil meaning in it again. It’s so easy to repeat things over and over and for them to lose their connotations and significance, and so Steve wanted to be sure that the poem written by the founders of the secret city would remain meaningful all through time.

The reverberating clatters became progressively louder adding to the panic of the people. Now was the time the society below wished they had put in place security precautions, for there was only one way in and one way out of the underground, making them trapped in their own prison. At that moment a gushing noise was heard. Susan paused and listened before following the noise towards the entrance of the secret city. Steve followed her asking “Don’t you have some form of technology built in to you that could help?” Susan shook her head, “I removed everything. I’m not a robot. I never wanted a credit card on my fingertips, or a map on my palm. I didn’t want to be tracked, timed and watched constantly. I went to a conference once and they spoke so enthusiastically of the chip updates and how they could drastically improve our lives, it was hard not to fall for the eloquent speech.” Approaching the lift Susan pressed the button to summon it and tried to pry the doors open with no luck. She placed her ear against the door and could hear mutters echoing through the lift shaft as well as rattling and spurting sounds. Susan couldn’t work out what she was hearing. Steve asked her, “So you’re anti-technology?” While Susan continued to try to work out what was going on she responded, “Not necessarily, I think it has its place.”

Suddenly a loud jangling noise was coming towards them from inside the lift shaft. Susan stepped back worried just before a loud bang shook the city. The lift had landed. Staring at the doors waiting to see what would be behind them Susan and Steve were both feeling anxious. The banging continued echoing throughout the secret city, ending with a deafening silence of anticipation from the people. The seconds felt like hours to Susan, and evidently Steve couldn’t really put a time limit of how long the wait felt, for such definitions were non-existent underground. At that moment a grey substance began to seep through the cracks in the lift doors. Steve shrieked, “They’ve brought the grey to us!” Susan told Steve not to worry and grabbed a branch lying in a pile of wood beside them. She attempted to open the lift doors with it, groaning using all her strength to force them open. Eventually after some time the doors loosened to reveal what was inside which caused a serious look of alarm on Susan’s face.

The chief had made his way in the direction of Susan and Steve, cheerful and amused at the events. The lift doors had opened to reveal cement that had purposefully been poured into it, with the intention of preventing anyone from leaving the secret city. The chief had used his power to do exactly what the secret city didn’t want- to remove free will and choice. As soon as the cement hardened, it would block off Susan’s only way to freedom, and she more than anyone didn’t want to be held captive underground in yet another corrupt society.

Why is it always about power and glory? Susan thought. Why do we let ourselves fall for the evocative words of crooks in suits? This world is no place for me, I wish for nothing more than trees and fields of green. She was saddened by humanity rather than angry, and she looked at the chief tearfully. Steve on the other hand couldn’t quite understand what the grey paste was, she wondered had the grey world above simply melted. As soon as Susan explained what cement was Steve was full of rage and stormed towards her father, shouting at him while punching her fists into his chest. “Why would you do this? You’re taking away our freedom of choice! You’re killing us!” she yelled. The chief remained uncommunicative until his daughter had calmed down. “I do everything in the interests of us. Do you really think we would survive up there? We would be living off minimal money from my pension, barely surviving and constantly having to rush to and fro. That’s no life for an old man. This is the easy way.” Steve sobbed, “You’re a coward.”

Susan had frantically begun to shovel out the cement with her hands to stop it from becoming a solid block of concrete inside the lift, but the chief informed her that it was no use, “I have men above who will be filling the whole shaft with cement my dear, I’m not stupid. The lift was just an initial illustration of my plans.” Covered in grey Susan began to give up hope wondering how she would ever escape from the secret city.

Calling a meeting the chief gathered his society around him waiting for everyone to hush before he spoke. After a moments silence, “My parents brought me to this city when I was just a boy. I’ve spent most of my years here as your leader. A while ago I made my way above the ground to see a doctor, I didn’t want to use any medical staff of the secret city because I believed that I was seriously ill. My doctor did in fact inform me that this was true. I have a terminal disease and was given a certain amount of time to live. I wanted this city to have more homes, more produce and more workers, so I’ve allowed our society to become ruled by time. I’ve been consulting with people above the ground. You may not know such meanings of ‘tomorrow’ or ‘In 2 hours’, but you have been completely oblivious that I’ve managed to get you to do things to a time limit. When I was diagnosed with this terminal illness I realised that time did matter. Why do we waste time sitting around when we could be building a bigger and better city and manufacturing new materials and products? Our ancestors may have wanted a society that wasn’t restricted by time, but didn’t they realise that life is short?”

Susan enquired, “If you realised the importance of time, then why didn’t you become a time-checker amongst other time-checkers?” The chief responded explaining the underground society was his home and he sincerely loved the people. “Why would I want to leave? This is all I know.” He revealed. Susan asked a further question, “How do you intend to build a bigger and better city without the help of the world above?” the chief appearing confused said, “What do you mean?” Susan was astonished by the chiefs stupidity, “Surely with the emphasis you place on the importance of education, you have an understanding of why you need sunlight, why you need plants, why you need people? Without the world above you won’t survive. If you’ve blocked the only entrance then I ask you again, how do you intend on building a bigger and better city?” The chief replied, “Once again Susan you’re trying to insult my intelligence. I can prove to you that my plan has been successful for I have built a secret way in and out of the city. Don’t bother trying to find it because you won’t. Do you really think I would be stupid enough to block the only route?” This final point quietened Susan for she had underestimated the chief’s intelligence on many occasions already.

Unexpectedly a man and woman appeared in the secret city striding towards the crowd of people. These people weren’t natives and Susan recognised the individuals in suits as time-checkers. The most dedicated time-checkers are involved in capturing those who defy the rules. They ensure that such delinquent’s soon become fanatical when it comes to the numbers on clocks and the numbers in bank accounts. The chief was perplexed by the commotion of the crowd but once he turned around to see the time-checkers he was soon enlightened. He looked horrified when they took him by the arm saying, “Mr George Phillips, we are apprehending you for the crimes against clocks and coins under number 56 of the time-checker’s act. You have lived in open defiance of the law and you and your people will be reprimanded for misconduct.” He argued, “I trusted you! You promised me! You promised me!”

In that instant Susan noticed the dry cement on the time-checker’s shoes. The chief had clearly hired them to do his dirty work without questioning their trustworthiness. Susan thought that surely the chief should have known that extreme time-checkers were highly disloyal individuals, very skilled in persuasive language. How could he let himself be tricked so easily? Maybe his greed for power and desire for bigger and better things had blinded him from such questions of who to trust. The chief’s stupidity had shone through after all. His plan was unsuccessful.

That day the time-checkers managed to take away the secret city and all the individuals in it, bar two people. While the crowd had been in a fright over the arrival of the time-checkers Steve had sneakily taken Susan away from everyone. Susan didn’t know where she was being brought to, but she questioned Steve the whole journey. Eventually arriving at a hut with a train carriage door as an entrance, wooden body and numerous materials, Steve ushered Susan inside. There was a small bed, table and a stool made out of different tree woods. Charcoal drawings hung on the walls and piles of used sweet wrappers and packaging were placed in the corner. This was Steve’s hut. Steve lifted her bed aside to uncover a trap door beneath it. Opening it Susan looked down at what appeared to be nothing more than a black hole. Steve stepped outside taking two pieces of wood that lay at the doorway and rubbed them together speedily to produce fire, and taking a long branch she lit the end of it to use it as a torch. Going back inside she illuminated the black hole to reveal a wooden stepladder leading to a tunnel even further underground. Beginning to climb the ladder she gestured to Susan to follow her. “The ladder isn’t quite secure, some of the wood is rotted so be careful.” Steve warned.

Steve and Susan made their way down the ladder successfully and began crawling through the tight tunnel that smelt strongly of earth. Steve explained, “I began constructing this tunnel after you left the last time you visited. I’ve put planks of wood along the walls to make it secure. I mistrusted my father so thought it would be a good idea to have another way in and out of the city, but little did I know my father had built his own secret passageway too.” Steve led Susan through the tunnel, which was a long straight journey in one direction. They travelled through the tunnel for hours, before they reached the far end of the secret city. At this point the passageway turned back on itself and began to move steeply upwards leading eventually to the top of the lift shaft.

While they were climbing upwards their surroundings began to shake, the time-checkers were filling the secret city in blocking it off forever. Little bits of earth fell with each rumble making Susan and Steve travel faster. If they didn’t make it to the top they would be buried alive. Just then a colossal shudder brought down part of the tunnel behind Susan and Steve causing them to cough on the dust from the earth that had fallen in. The visibility was extremely poor and both tasted the soil on their tongues making them wretch, but they couldn’t stop now, and had to resume climbing whilst the tunnel continued to collapse behind them.

Soil was stuck to their sweaty skin but they had almost made it to the top. Steve pulled away the pile of wood that obstructed the metal door, opened it stepping inside to where the lift and door to the subway was located. Suddenly another immense roar shook the tunnel almost burying Susan. Steve frantically tried to grab her hand which peeped up from under the earth, pulling her to the surface and through the door. Both sat on the concrete floor out of breath covered in dirt, perspiration and freedom.

Voicing how she felt Steve said, “I’m afraid Susan. Life was easy underground; we did what we were supposed to do and just got on with it. I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a member of the defiance.” Susan replied, “You can’t have freedom without fear, but life without fear would be boring. I live my life in the way that I want, no matter how challenging and frustrating it may be. It’s risky and it’s difficult to maintain, but I refuse to be condemned by the time-checkers, I know how to survive without being just another numbered individual counting minutes and currency. I can teach you how to survive as part of the defiance and learn to just be. They’re afraid of people like me, of people who aren’t constrained them.”

After their terrific getaway Susan and Steve spent their days living in fear, but they too were living as free individuals who had broken the chains that society tried to tie them down with. Susan often thought of the chief and how he had been corrupted by his desire for power, but she also understood his views of death and illness in relation to time. He didn’t want to waste time so he became a time-checker. Susan vowed to be a sort of semi-time-checker who made the most of the time she had, but she still ensured to do her best to avoid the rush of life that had become the norm. Susan thought of time and money as precious, but warned against such things becoming gods of the people. She simply wanted everyone to forget the numbers and learn to live just by being, even if it was just for a moment.

On one sunny day Susan and Steve were watching the world go by, and Susan gave Steve a gift. Opening the gift Steve found an expensive vintage watch inside. She looked at Susan confused, but Susan explained, “in the words of William Faulkner-I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it.”


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