In Citizenry, Leena knew cruelty was normal.
Order was kept by Warren, through intimidation and abuse.
Normal meant deliveries from above, supplies from the great, unknowable, Actual.
Normal meant hating the lessers who live below.
Normal meant routine public degradation.
Normal meant hearing screams, and knowing no one dared help.
Normal was knowing that tomorrow,
it could be your own screams being ignored.
Leena found a way to help.
Leena found a chance.
Leena discovered revolution.
The first book in the series, Rubberman’s Cage, serves as a broad introduction to most of the regions inside the series environment.
Rubberman’s Citizens takes a closer look into one region’s history, and by the end of the tale of Citizenry, we are pushed forward into the future of the inhabitants, and the vast environment itself.
Then, she saw a group of men, maybe half a dozen. They were still far off, making their way around some shacks. They were walking with purpose, not just idling about. She couldn’t make out who they were yet, but Leena got the feeling they were headed for their shack. She got the feeling they were Warren’s men.
She rushed to Jen’s side and shook her. “Wake up. I think we should clear out of here.”
Jen moved and gave a moan, but didn’t seem interested in what Leena was saying.
“Look at me!” Leena held Jen’s face, and gave it a little shake to encourage Jen to open her eyes.
Reluctantly, she did.
“World’s kinda spinny right now,” Jen mumbled.
“Well, that’s going to make it hard to run. Get up! Shake it off!” Leena dashed back to the doorway to peek at the group of men. She could now see that leading them were Mike and Warren. “Sack of stupid!” she hissed. Mike waved like an idiot, and Warren was carrying something.
Warren turned back to his four escorts, and presumably said something. They backed away, letting Warren and Mike get a bit of distance ahead. Leena watched the four men carefully, expecting them to split up and surround her shack, but no. They just maintained a distance several metres behind Warren and Mike.
As they got closer, Leena could see that Mike was wearing his “sorry” face. When they were a few metres in front of Leena, she looked back and forth at them both, suspiciously.
“Warren, if you’re here for Jen, don’t. Just don’t. She’s resting.”
Warren smirked. “You could have told me she wasn’t here. You could have played dumb!”
“Yes, I could have, and then what? My shack gets searched, you find her, and then it’s beatings for everyone.”
Warren smiled wide, and leaped up a little, stamping on the floor and pointing sharply at Leena. “Yes! You don’t play dumb, do you? You play smart! It fits, it fits!”
Warren tossed the bag he’d been carrying at Mike. “Here, food and things for your new little friend. Go inside and play with her. Leena and I have to talk.”
“What?” Mike blurted, fumbling with the bag, “I’m staying by Leena, and-”
“Ah! Ah! I forget, she’s your favourite. And well she should be!” Warren’s disposition was a little like after he ate some of that white powder. Not as intense, but similar. “Fine, Mark, I mean Mike. Stand there and keep an eye on us. We’ll go for a walk, and talk. Just over there. Nowhere near my men; just out of earshot of everyone.”
Mike shifted his weight awkwardly, glancing at Leena, Warren, and the four goons.
“No, no, it’s good, it’s good,” Warren said, “peace is good. It’s that, or I have the boys beat you while Leena and I have a private chat. Frankly, a nearby beating is just not a good mood setter!”
Leena huffed, and patted Mike’s arm. “It’s okay. Do as he says, don’t be stupid, and be good. Count what’s in the bag here if you’re bored.”
Mike nodded grimly, and watched as Leena and Warren walked away. Warren had noticeably more spring in his step.
“Where’d you find Mike?” Leena asked.
Warren waved his hand dismissively. “Oh, he was rummaging Jen and Don’s place.”
“Dan,” Leena corrected.
“Whatever. I asked Dan where I could find Jen, so–”
“So you could put her through another quick gathering?” Leena tried not to throw too much anger behind her voice, but it was terribly difficult.
Warren seemed to be in too good of a mood to take offence either way. “No, Leena, I wanted her to lead me to you.”
Leena came to an immediate halt. Warren turned to face her, and clued in. “Oh, no no, Leena, I’m not considering you as special guest at a gathering or anything. That’s absurd!”
Leena was silent, but resumed walking along.
Warren slowly turned on his heel, and held an open hand towards the apex of the common’s dome. “You know who lives up there, yes?”
“You mean the Actual?”
“Yesss.” Warren maintained his gaze upwards, but clasped his hands in front of his chest. “We know of the lesser ones from below, and obviously, Actual is better than the average Citizen, right?”
Warren’s stare snapped back down to look into Leena’s eyes. “But haven’t you noticed that some Citizens are just better than others?”
Leena held her tongue, and let Warren continue.
“Even ignoring the over-sniffers who do nothing, there’s a lot of useless people here. I don’t think they’re real.”
“Not… real? Hallucinations?”
“No, I mean they’re real, they exist, but they’re not as real as others, Leena. Not like us!”
Leena cocked back her head and raised an eyebrow. “Like us?”
“Leena, I had a feeling when I first saw you. When you saved most of my new powder jar, I knew, and the way you didn’t lie about where Jen was to me. So smart, I knew, it was confirmed! You’re like me! We’re real, we’re Actuals!”
It was insane ramblings, but Leena had little choice but to play along. She gestured to the rest of the Commons. “Everyone else is fake?”
Warren’s face turned serious, and he gave tiny, sharp nods. “Probably not all of them. There could be some Actuals I haven’t met yet, or noticed. But most of them? Yeah, no better than lofus. Want to know my theory?”
“Citizenry. Is where Actuals come from. We were all born from who? Other Citizens? But we know that now and then, a lofu comes to live here. What if we are all children of children of children of lofus?! And from us, sometimes one of us becomes an Actual. That’s what Citizenry is! From up there,” Warren pointed to the top of the Grand Elevator shaft, “Actual can see us! Judge us! See who has become like him!”
“Fine, fine, and then what?”
Warren became sombre once again. He held his jittery hands close to his chest, He faced the Grand Elevator’s loading centre. His voice became as soft as a parent wishing a drowsy child a good sleep.
“And then, those of us worthy need to wait, I suppose. Wait for our deaths in the Citizenry, so we can be taken by the Messenger to go up.”
Leena gave Warren a moment, in case more insanity was about to dribble out, but he seemed to be waiting for a reaction. “So, Warren, do you think maybe the Actual up there now- may have been a Citizen at some time in the past?”
Warren bounced away backwards, and outstretched his arms. “Who’s to say? Maybe our Actual has been eternal, and new Actuals are sent off to other places to do Actual things. Maybe they all become new parts of Actual’s being, like all in one and stuff. Maybe they sit around getting wasted on some unimaginable dizzy water and screw all day! I don’t know!”
Leena didn’t ever think Warren could be this entertaining. And friendly. Maybe the key to making a friendlier, safer Citizenry was keeping Warren on just the right amount of the white powder. Enough to make him happy- not so much as to make him a manic, spontaneous rapist and murderer. As stupid and overly optimistic the idea was, it was worth exploring.
“Warren, you’re on that white powder right now, aren’t you?”
His expression changed again, chin high, eyes wide. “See! Oh, you’re clever. You’re an Actual for sure!”
“That wasn’t too hard to guess. You’re not as crazy as last time.”
“Yes, yes, that turned unpleasant when it wore off. I’ve taken to smaller doses.”
Unpleasant when it wore off? For him, maybe, but Jen and Darling seemed to dislike it a lot when it was at its peak. Leena’s sense of pity for the women that Warren had abused and even killed over the years bubbled into a quiet anger, reminding her that the jovial fool in front of her was the same man who made abuse part of his regular activities.
“If you’re so eager to go be an Actual with Actual,” Leena said, “why not just kill yourself now? We all get sent up!”
Warren nodded and paced. “Yes, yes, I’ve considered this, but it sounds unpleasant. I’ve given this thought. But just so you know, I’ve been thinking about this whole thing for a long time, long before the white powder. It might be giving me clarity… and more motivation, however.”
“Motivation to kill yourself? If it’s a problem, Sledge could help, I’m sure.”
“And then I’m dead, and I go up, and it’s all good for me, but the Citizens learn nothing of the truth of it all! At least not with proof.”
“I didn’t think you cared so much about the education of the masses, Warren. So how will you teach us all?”
He held out his arms as if ready to embrace the entire Commons, or at least the ceiling of it. “I will not wait to die to go. I will go up without death because I am an Actual, and the Citizens will know. I’ll be a legend!”
Leena suppressed a snort. “So if I’m an Actual too, am I invited?”
Warren raised an eyebrow, but his expression didn’t say much. “Oh, oh, for now, go back to your man Mark over–”
“Whatever. Go home. I might be in touch.”