a tale in weekly parts
Bernice Reed, a thirty-something African-American woman from Arizona, appeared in the street of a small Canadian town some two hundred years in her future in the body of a white male. Now known as Bernie, he settled into a high-tech life. But it didn't end there! Not by any means. Any change to the 'past' after her/his translation would (and did) rewrite the future - his present.
Jonas took the hint and constituted his first-line team of men into a formalised committee. Imaginatively, he called this the Men’s Committee. His first task for them was to collate of a list of names and, on his own initiative, competences and any relationships that predate the New Reality.
At his next regular meeting with the danjang, Bernie purposed to update him on the progress of this initiative.
“In brief, Guardian,” Bernie said, “I have appointed Jonas Smythe as my Chief Man and asked him to present me with a full list of all the men in this camp.”
“To what end?”
“I believe that we need to make sure that, when the men and women come together, pre-existing relationships are respected. This is especially important where there are children involved.”
“And how do you plan to do that?”
“Jonas will give me a list of the men. Then, I shall need a Chief Woman to compile a list of women and children.”
“Do you have a candidate for the job of Chief Woman?”
“I do, Guardian. I propose Diane Smythe. I’m afraid I don’t know her designation.”
“No matter. Why do you choose this woman?”
“She is, or was, Jonas’ wife – life partner – in the old reality. They will work well together.”
“Will they breed?”
“That, I can’t say, Guardian. It is possible, once the buildings are re-purposed, that they will attempt to breed, but that will be their decision. As Chief Couple, they will be aware of the importance of their position and I think it will not be difficult to persuade them of their responsibility as an example to the rest.”
“Very well. You do know, though, that I already have a full record of all guests in this camp: men, women and minors born before the camp was established. There are, of course, no children born since the camp was opened, other than those fathered by my men, and they have been sent to State institutions to be raised in accordance with the principles of the Republic.”
“Can I have access to those lists?”
“I will have one of my men give you a copy of the lists and a time and place for you to meet with 3360-1864, known as Diane Smythe.”
The meeting ended and Bernie went back to his quarters. When he arrived, Jonas was waiting for him.
“What news?” Jonas asked.
Bernie gave him the gist of his meeting with the danjang.
“So I wasted my time setting up this collection of names?” Jonas handed the list to Bernie.
“Not really,” Bernie said, scanning it, “I can compare it with the official list, when it arrives, and check for any differences. The competences will be useful when we come to allocate jobs for the refurbishing effort, and the claimed relationships will be a step towards building the final family list.”
“Bless your soul, Jonas. Don’t you know that at least some of them will have put down the name of someone they’d like to have a relationship with, rather than what they actually had? I can already see that Jeanette Riley is named by at least three men.”
Jonas blushed. “Hadn’t considered that. See what I mean about you being the best for the job?”
The following morning, one of the danjang’s spooks approached Bernie and handed him a small file of papers. “Male, female and minors lists,” he said. “His Excellency says you’re to meet with 3360-1864 at 4pm today, in his office. Come alone.”
“I’d like to bring my Chief Man with me.”
“His Excellency says you must come alone.”
Accepting the situation, Bernie sought out Jonas and updated him before preparing himself for the afternoon meeting.
Bernie arrived at the danjang’s ante-office a few minutes before 4pm. The danjang’s gatekeeper opened the door between his and his boss’s office, announcing, “This way, Rev. His Excellency will see you now.”
Bernie entered the inner office and saw in the corner, a woman whose face he knew so well, though not with the defeated, care-worn look she now wore.
“I shall leave you two to conduct your business,” the danjang said as he left his office, “though be aware that the cameras are on and recording.”
“Diane,” Bernie said after the door closed, “how are you holding up? How are things for you and the other women in your side of the camp?”
“I don’t know you, do I?” Diane asked, furrowing her brow.
“That’s a long story,” Bernie replied, “best left for another time. For now, we’ll just deal with what we’re here for.”
“Okay. The danjang told me you’re in charge of making some big changes around here, but he wouldn’t say what they are…”
Bernie gave Diane a short version of the plans that the Rev had started and that he had now taken on.
“Your job,” he concluded, “if you’re willing to do it, is to compile the lists of women and children to get us started. I want to name you Chief Woman, and I’d suggest that you form a committee like the men’s one. It’s an efficient and effective way of getting information to and from your people.”
“So, if and when the men and women come together, what will happen to me and to this committee?”
“My plan is that the Men’s Committee and the Women’s Committee should merge, under the joint chair of the Chief Man and yourself.”
“Will I get to meet this Chief Man before then?”
“You’ll have to. I’ll need you to work together to produce the final relationship-based list, so we can allocate the right accommodation to the right people.”
“This is all quite exciting… er…”
“This is all quite exciting, Bernie. Apart from the danjang and you, I haven’t had contact with any man for eight years. None of us has. Well,” she said wistfully, “apart from those younger ones who’ve had the job of providing the spooks with sexual favours.” Her face brightened. “When do I get to meet his mysterious Chief Man of yours?” she asked.
“Nothing mysterious about him.”
“Who is he? Will I know him?”
“All in good time, Diane. You’ll find out when you meet him.”
“When will that be?”
“As soon as I can arrange it. Maybe as soon as a couple of days.”