Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The Community of the Dome

A satirical short story by Cranmer's Curate

The Dome squatted in the rain as Peter entered the Media-zone for his
last seminar before the Winterval vacation. He had narrowly averted
being evicted from the Dome Academy, an elite feeder for both the
Modernisation Commission and the People’s Media. Following a meeting of
the enablers up in the Lennon-zone to consider his insufficient student
debt, he had been ordered to go to the Conran-zone for some retail therapy.

For festival time, he went to his father’s home in a check-pointed and
well-guarded garden suburb. Peter's parents had recently terminated
their civil partnership. Following the abolition of marriage in 20-,
work-place ballots were held to maintain the required termination rates
set by the Commission. Peter's father had been nominated by a
disgruntled junior and got elected. It was terminate your partnership or
lose your job. Future employment across the Modernised Zones was
impossible to find for anybody who had failed to comply with a
civil-partnership termination. ID cards stored the relevant data.

It was in the pocket of a borrowed suit that Peter found the book. He
had been invited to a 1960s retro party and his father had said he could
borrow an old Mod suit belonging to granddad up in the attic.

"To Pete - this'll really blow your mind. Love Zoe" was written on the
inside cover of the paperback, in good condition but bearing the
desiccated pages associated with its age. Peter noticed some
strange markings on the back - 2/ - net in U.K. The front-cover pictured
a large golden lion and a boy wearing shorts.
Its title - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

Peter had liked his granddad, and was curious about the book. He read it
from cover to cover and found its imagery compelling - the strange land
entered through the wardrobe, the perpetual winter, the Witch and her
secret police, and above all the towering figure of the Lion.

But he was baffled by other aspects of the tale, particularly the events
surrounding the death of the Lion. What on earth had the boy Edmund done
wrong? What was wrong with disclosing his enemies' whereabouts to the
Witch? What was wrong with wanting to gain promotion for yourself at the
expense of others?

He could not understand the reason for the gory and humiliating
Voluntary Self-Euthanasia of the Lion. It was not as if he was seeking
to avoid pain, inconvenience, or shame for himself. He was sacrificing
himself for somebody else. It seemed folly to Peter.

Voluntary Self-Euthanasia
At the beginning of the autumn term, Terry began to suffer persistent
headaches. He presented himself to one of the Dome's in-house healing
enhancers in the Detox-zone. The tests began, the operation occurred,
the ensuing therapy continued, but the brain tumour was terminal.

Voluntary Self-Euthanasia had been introduced by the Commission to deal
with the growing problem of an ageing population. It was also useful in
depleting the burgeoning prison population amongst the underclass.

The framers of the legislation considered that the growing culture of
shame surrounding death would lead most terminal patients to
sign their own VSE consent forms. But if the patient was too
incapacitated to give their own consent, VSE procedure allowed the
obtaining of a signature of consent from the stakeholder's employer. For
educational institutions, the Chair of Enablers' signature
was required; for retired persons, the Commissioner
for Pensions was responsible for issuing VSE signatures.

Early on in the scheme, a legal challenge by the relative
of an elderly VSE patient on grounds of age discrimination had
ensured that regulations had to be applied in an egalitarian manner
across all age groups. VSE age discrimination was ruled contrary to
human rights.

When the system first began in 20-, procedures were observed carefully
due to the threat of legal challenges and the initial political
opposition to VSE. Initially, the signatures of two healing enhancers
were required to verify that the patient was unable to give consent
before the main signatory could give theirs and VSE proceed. There was
also an appeals procedure for relatives, which did in some cases delay

But now the system was operating in a streamlined, and
uncharacteristically for the times, unbureaucratic manner. The main
signatory would generally be satisfied with one healing enhancer's
signature and VSE could proceed speedily.

Terry knew his moment would come as soon as the sun-tanned Chair of
Enablers took his case in hand and issued the necessary decree. Confined
to the Detox-zone, he asked for and obtained permission to visit the

The Spirituality-zone
Banks of computer screens lined the Spirituality-zone. Aromas filled the
air and the atmosphere was enhanced by electric candelabra projecting
soft lights.

Terry keyed in his password.


Since childhood, Terry had particularly liked cats.


One duly appeared on the screen, sitting upright and staring




When the decree came from the Lennon-zone, Terry's VSE was performed by
a petite healing enhancer who gave him a massage and waved a crystal
over his prostrate body before administering the
injection. Terry breathed his last and was instantly cremated. His ashes
were placed in a container shaped like an old-fashioned Oscar.

Media Idol
The Community of the Dome gathered in the Nietzsche Hall for the
end-of-term Media Idol, judged by a panel of People's Celebrities. The
format was a policy announcement at a Commission press briefing. Each
contestant spoke into an autocue with their face projected onto a large
screen behind them.

For the first round, contestants were tasked to brief
the media on new funding for 24-hour nurseries on the day that a
commissioner had been charged with obstructing the course of a VSE
authorisation. For the second, they were tasked to humiliate an
unmodernised journalist with an impersonation of a personal mannerism.

Peter's punchy performances in all the rounds won him the prize and in
the blaze of a simulated fire-work display he was declared Dome Media
Idol of the Year. The Community of the Dome then linked arms and sang
the People's Anthem, Imagine. On this occasion, Peter's lips did not
move. His mind was elsewhere.

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