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.
“So, you really didn’t tell Diane that I am Chief Man?” Jonas asked as he walked to the danjang’s office with Bernie.
“Thought the surprise would be good for her,” Bernie replied.
“She looked to me as though the time she’s spent in this place has really dragged her down. Remember, I know what she was like in the other place.”
“And you expected her to look the same here? From what you’ve told me, that place was paradise compared with here. Of course she’s going to look better.”
“Fair point, but I imagine that, by comparison, this place was a paradise before the troubles started.”
“Few of us can remember back that far.”
“It’s not that long.”
“Not from the outside, but it surely is from the inside. Anyway, wouldn’t she have been as pleasantly surprised if you’d told her at the time?”
“I didn’t think so. I’m no expert, Jonas, particularly not on your wife, but I thought the mix of anticipation and nerves she’d feel would heighten the delight she’s sure to feel when she sees you.”
“I hope so, Bernie,” Jonas said, as the entered the danjang’s outer office, “I certainly hope so.”
“Go through,” the danjang’s gatekeeper said as they entered.
Jonas and Bernie walked into the danjang’s office, where Diane was seated, talking to its occupant. She turned, saw Jonas’s face and dropped the glass of water she’d been drinking. Turning to the danjang, she said, “Sorry, Sir, sorry… sorry. It’s just—”
“I am not without feeling. I understand,” the danjang replied. “Go to him. I’ll have my man clean up. Rev,” he said, turning to face Bernie, “you’re with me.”
The danjang stood from his chair as Diane ran to Jonas, almost screaming with delight. “Is it you, my love? It is, isn’t it? It’s you.” She started to cry, “I thought I’d never see you again.”
Jonas hugged her in silence, as Bernie and the danjang went out into the outer office.
“It’s good of you to give them a few moments alone together, Guardian. I feared you may disapprove of their show of emotion.”
“I may have a tough job, Rev, but I’m still human. At the end of the day, I go back to my wife and children the same as other men.”
“And the same as we may be able to do again here, before too long.”
“We’ll see about that.”
“Even so, Guardian…”
“How long do they need. Will they breed?”
“Probably, though not today.”
“They need to get to know each other again, and they certainly wouldn’t be comfortable joining in your office, Guardian.”
“Because they fear you, and haven’t yet learned to trust that you will do what you say.”
“Why would I not?”
“They will expect you to continue as you have for the past seven years. We all do.”
“But I have been persuaded by your arguments. I believe that – what is it you said? – ‘a happy workforce is a productive workforce’. I have consistently applied the methods laid down by His Holiness the Supreme Leader not only because his arguments are persuasive, but also because the results of not complying are to be feared.”
“I have secured approval to trial this new method.”
“I am concerned that if it doesn’t work, my life will become at best intolerable, at worst forfeit.”
“If I may be permitted to suggest, Guardian, your feelings towards the support you appear to be enjoying from your Supreme Leader are exactly the same as those we feel towards the support you are offering here.”
“That is rational, Rev. I shall keep it in mind as I design the new arrangements. We should go back in now.” The danjang started towards the door to his office.
“It would be good to knock loudly, Guardian.”
“Why? It’s my office.”
“They may not be seated properly, in the way you require in your presence.”
“You mean they may be breeding? But you said—”
“Not breeding, Guardian, but not in a state that respects your power. Why are you so interested in them breeding?”
“Isn’t that the purpose of these changes you want? To provide children to maintain the workforce?”
“That may be so, Guardian, but these things take time and they must be allowed to happen organically.”
“Organically? What does that mean? Without drugs?”
“Without interference or pressure.”
The danjang tutted but knocked on the door loudly anyway. Behind the door, he and Bernie clearly heard sounds of urgent whispers and a shuffling and changing of positions. When they opened the door and walked in, the two lovers were seated side-by-side opposite the danjang’s chair.
“Good,” he said, walking to his desk and sitting in his chair while Bernie joined the others, “I take it you are happy with the Rev’s choice of Chiefs.”
Jonas and Diane looked into each other’s eyes as they spoke.
“Yes, danjang,” Jonas said, formally.
“More than happy,” Diane said, less so, still gazing into her husband’s eyes with that look that a wife reserves for her husband to signify that she still loves him as much as when they first wed.
“Good,” the danjang said, “let us get down to specifics. Rev, talk us through your plan again.”