where the action of this story is centred, cannot be said truly to exist. Except in the imagination of man. It is, in a way, rather like Swift’s country
of Lilliput ... a setting against which a way of life can be acted out,
politics played, passions pursued. And
where points of view may be made.
there is no place where LIMBOURNE can exactly said to be. Sometimes one feels it might be a quiet
English seaside town or, possibly, a large village; at others one feels one is
amongst some pioneer American community, with its rough honesty, rigidity and
Puritanical outlook allied to hard work.
It is a strange mixture.
is a timelessness about LIMBOURNE, too.
It cannot be the present, though many things are of the present
day. Mainly one seems to be living in
the past, yet one cannot deny the numerous facets of the future which ever and
anon flash upon the scene.
one must be content with the fact that it is any place, at any time. Therefore, and rightly, one must call it a
figment of fantasy, and yet ... and yet ... how often the reality of the place
and people seem to grip one.
then, is a strange ‘new world’.
it is not a science-fiction world filled with bizarre beings and even more
bizarre machines. One the contrary, it
is filled with very ‘ordinary’ people who live in a familiar everyday world for
a very good deal of their time. In that
sense, it is a quite believable world.
At least, so it is to be hoped.
is a world some will find amusing. Some
will enjoy it a great deal. Others may
be rather appalled by it. If you are one
of the latter, please do not persist.
This is meant to be a form of entertainment for those who enjoy such
things. It is not meant to be taken
seriously. So if you don’t like it,
don’t read it - simply dispose of it.
then, makes this mythical LIMBOURNE different?
all, it has been said that the people and the place have a familiar appearance.
is simply that it is a place where society (even this microcosm of it) is based
on a system of slavery. There are those
who own and those who are owned. There
are those who are served and those who serve.
That, of course is something quite alien, indeed horrifying, to society
today. Yet those in LIMBOURNE accept it
as a natural way of life. For them, it
is something that has been ordained - from ‘on high’, as it were. Complacent ease and privilege ... or bitter
toil, humiliation and deprivation. One
or the other has been decreed. How? Why?
To what end? If there is any
purpose in anything at all anyway!
us, then, in imagination, move into LIMBOURNE ...
small train huffed and puffed its way through the bleakly brown landscape of an
Autumn afternoon. Shuddering and
hissing, it would make its way up some modest incline and then, more at ease,
clatter down the slope on the other side.
It was a rather old train. The
sort of steam train one might have found on any one of the hundreds of British
branch lines in post-war days.
were four carriages in all. The first
was a rather smart, green pullman-type with a restaurant car; then came a
plain, squarely-built carriage, made of sepia wood, very third-class in
appearance; finally there were two goods wagons.
the windows of the Pullman, a few figures might be observed - a considerable
number of them in uniform - reclining easily or eating under the soft pink
shades of the lamps on the restaurant-car tables. These people were of the privileged class
known as State Officials. They were in
charge of the administration and the ordering of the People of the Land. Practical men and women devoted to the
pursuit of State Policies. No-one ever
questioned those policies - especially people in their position. They were policies which, it seemed, had been
in operation since time immemorial and had acquired something of the authority
of the Laws of Mosses.
not to reason why ...
second carriage was of far greater austerity.
It was of open-plan type and had wooden seats and upright wooden
backs. On these were lines of closely
packed young men and women. At each end
of the carriage were two guards in dark blue uniform, one man, one woman. They had very much the appearance of prison
guards. No doubt because that was
exactly what they were. To be more
precise, they were guards attached to one of the State Slave Training Centres.
rows sat in silence, young men and girls mixed indiscriminately on the
seats. Most eyes were lowered, but some
darted fearfully about the carriage or peered at the gloomy landscape. On a few girlish cheeks there was a hint of
young men wore a sort of plimsoll-shoe, coarse grey shorts and rough
shirts. The shorts would have been more
suitable for a ten-year-old boy and the shirts were, in fact, hair-shirts and
exceedingly irritating in the heat of the carriage. The young women also wore the same
plimsoll-like shoes and each had on a grey, sack-like dress of knee
length. The hairstyle of each was
similar. Uncut, it had been allowed to
grow long but was plaited in a pony-tail which was fastened on the back or the
top of the head. The ultimate
arrangement of that hair was something that would be decided in the near
future. It might all be shaved off, it
might be trimmed and shaped, it might go into pigtails, or it might flow
free. That was a decision for the girl’s
to who that owner was had already been designated by the label fastened around
the neck of each young person by a piece of string. In black indelible pencil were scrawled names
and addresses, such as:
Bracewell - Tanderville’.
and Mrs. Crampton - Ramport’.
Campbell - Limbourne’.
were all, indeed, like so many parcels ... and had no more say-so in their
destination than the real brown paper-wrapped thing!
half-a-dozen of the labels bore the address of the town Limbourne. But only two were addressed to Mrs.
Campbell. These were worn by a young man
and a girl who sat alongside him. It was
obvious, like all the others, they were either in their late teens or early
twenties. The young man was, in fact,
twenty-four years old and the young girl just nineteen. On the front and the back of the upper
garments of these two was fastened the letter ‘P’ in yellow cloth.
came a ‘click’ from the loudspeaker Tannoy in the carriage.
next station will be Tanderville,” intoned a flat, official voice. “All those alighting there will now stand.”
half-a-dozen or so of the seated figures got quickly to their feet and stood
swaying at attention. Two of the guards
checked the labels against a manifest and, in about a minute, with a grinding
of brakes and a hissing of steam, the train came to a halt at a small station. Those who could see out noted that it was
scarcely more than a wayside halt. Two
of the carriage doors opened.
... out!” shouted a guard. And, one
after another, the figures stumbled down the steep step to drop to a wooden
platform. There a burly male figure
could be seen awaiting them.
for the consignment,” yelled out another guard, extending the manifest. The burly figure checked the number of new
arrivals against the list and put pen to paper.
correct,” he said. “Right away ...” He raised his hand.
an anguished snort, the engine tugged off its load again. Silent resignation, bred of despair, settled
over the carriage again. For these were
the doomed. Those of their generation
destined to be slaves. It had been
decreed and there was no escaping it.
One simply had to accept the hideous facts of life. Fate could have dealt none of them a more
ever since childhood, each had been aware that it was a Fate that possibly
awaited them. It was part of the pattern
of life. Something they had had to learn
to live with.
oh ... oohh ... how they envied those for whom Fate had decreed a quite
half hour later, the loudspeaker Tannoy clicked again.
next station will be Limbourne,” came the voice. “All those alighting there will now stand.”
one had been close enough, one would have heard a sharp intake of breath from
the raven-haired girl who bore the yellow ‘P’ on front and back. Her youthful male companion certainly heard
it as he stood alongside her. Though he
had not been able to study her properly, he was aware of the girl’s
attractiveness and the thought pleased him rather. For the girl was allocated with him. A kind of companion - even if a companion in
servitude. He wondered what sort of
figure she had under that sack of a dress.
She certainly had a very pretty face.
The young man stiffened as the face of one of the female guards came
before him ... thin-lipped, hard-eyed.
He recognised her as being from his own Centre.
“Name?” she demanded.
Dawson, Miss,” he answered promptly.
guard looked down at the manifest. “You
are on Probation,” she said.
you,” said the guard, moving to the girl alongside. “Name?”
Blake, Miss.” The girl’s voice was soft
Blake, Miss.” At once the response was
louder and firmer. The girl’s small
white fists clenched at her sides and her body trembled under the coarse gown. Oh God, would she ever get used to her new
status? It seemed impossible that she
ever could. She had endured three cruel
and hideous months of training at one of the Centres. That was enough for a lifetime. Yet, in fact, it was but a beginning. The true horror was yet to come.
an iron chain, her existence stretched indefinitely out before her. Link after link. Servitude ... submission ... humiliation ...
obedience. The links went on and
on. To an awful infinity. The girl bit a full lower lip to stop it
quivering. She had a wide soft mouth; a
mouth made for sweet young kisses.
need hardly tell you,” said the guard, looking from one to the other, “that, if
you get a bad report from Mrs. Campbell - to whom you are allocated - you
Training Overseer will make you wish you had never been born when you return to
your Centre. Understood?”
... Miss ...” said the two in unison.
girl trembled again; the young man tried to square his shoulders and tried to
look brave yet respectful. Only the day
before, he recalled, his own Overseer had had him over a Flogging Bench and
laid a rod across his naked rump. Ten
strokes. But, as she pointed out, a mere
fleabite compared with what she would give him if his behaviour was unsatisfactory
whilst on Probation. Whatever this Mrs.
Campbell is like, he thought, I must be humble and obedient. Oh yes, very obedient. Industrious, too. He must show all the merits a slave should
possess. But, as Matt Dawson well knew,
that was easier to think and to say than to do.
more the train ground to a halt and another half-dozen figures were decanted,
Nancy Blake and Matt Dawson among them.
had arrived in Limbourne.
is very permissible to ask some questions at this early stage.
example, in what kind of society - under what kind of regime - can such things
be happening? What sort of system allows
one set of human beings to treat another set as if they were a race apart?
fair question. Or, fair questions. But one is not going to get any truly
positive answers. For, as has been
explained earlier, this is a world of the imagination. It takes some of its aspects from the past,
some from the present, others from a possible future. A land of make-believe, if you like. But, if you are interested, it will pay to
come to grips with it. To understand it
better. After all, Professor Tolkein
built a world of his own. One deep in
the heart of the earth, where strange creatures lived an organised life of
their own. It related to this world, yet
was not truly part of it. This minor
work does not attempt anything so elaborate.
It merely asks the reader to put himself within a certain framework and
live therein for the time being. That
should not be difficult. Surely it will
be simpler than the world of Professor Tolkein ... which many intelligent men
have failed to comprehend even after nearly a lifetime of study.
one, therefore, without being too boring, set out a few basic facts about the
Society ... the Land ... and the System ... in which this story is set?
are in a Land. And let us leave it at
Land is ruled by State Officials. They
are faceless and nameless ... and need not particularly concern us. Nevertheless, they are the founders of the
whole System and are respected by those who live under it. Even if the average person does not come into
contact with any but the more minor State Officials. It sounds a bit like Communism - or Fascism -
doesn’t it? And, to be fair, it has
something of both extremes in it. That
is the way our present society is progressing.
Few would dispute it.
the System imposed by the State (and, after a long period, now accepted by all)
there are what we might call ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in Society. That is to say, those who are enabled to live
a happy, self-satisfying - even self-indulgent - kind of life; and there are
those who live an unhappy, deprived, subordinate, arduous and humiliating
existence. That is, simply, how the
State has arranged things. All one can
say in the State’s favour is that there are more of the former ‘winners’ than
there are ‘losers’.
you cannot run such a system without there being ‘losers’, and the whole of
this Society is conditioned from birth to accept such a System. Every child, as soon as it can understand
anything, knows that it is at risk. That
is - when it reaches young adulthood, it can either be a ‘winner’ or a
‘loser’. All citizens accept this,
because they simply cannot do anything else.
That does not lessen their desire to be a ‘winner’, nor their despair if
they happen to become a ‘loser’.
us examine this System, and the Laws laid down, in a little more detail.
males and females go into a State Lottery at birth. An ERNIE which no one can avoid! The draw is made and the luckiest - known as
the Elite - are made exempt from slavery for life at once. Oh what a gift that is under this particular
State! Better than any silver spoon in
the mouth. The proportion of the
populace thus exempted is ten per cent, or one in ten, if you prefer.
what of the remainder?
there’s the rub. For they have to go
into further Lotteries ... and do so again and again.
girls start to go into these State Lotteries at the age of eighteen and the
young men at twenty-four. From these
ages onwards they each go into a Lottery every year for six consecutive
years. At each Lottery five per cent of
the girls and five per cent of the young men are earmarked for slavery. A tragic, but pre-ordained, Fate for which
the State is responsible ... and, force majeure, everyone has to accept. It is part of the ‘Way of Life’. Thus it will be seen that a young person
might escape five annual Lotteries yet be caught on the sixth. A cruel Fate indeed!
all those who escape the sixth Lottery are exempt from slavery for life.
will be seen this that the years eighteen to twenty-four for a young woman, and
twenty-four to twenty-nine for a young man are both crucial and
nerve-racking. At each Annual Lottery
their whole future is at stake. Are they
going to be ‘winners’ or ‘losers’? To
live a life of relative ease or wretched misery? What a mental agony those years are for the
young of this State!
until this crucial period, young people lead relatively normal lives - even
though they are gradually made aware of what is coming to them. Their education and activities are much as
they might be in any present-day system of family life. However, young women under eighteen - and
young men under twenty-four - may not marry, even though they are permitted
sexual intercourse, with parental permission.
having escaped six Lotteries, young people may marry and have families. Ah the same time they must work for State
Institutions for prescribed periods.
Girls from twenty-four to forty, men from twenty-nine to fifty. The work is concerned with the organisation,
progress and practical running of the State.
Such work is allocated, according to merits and skills - and there can
be no appeal against State rulings.
Whether one’s work is unpleasant or not, one has to accept it. But, at least, all know that their lot is far
better than that of slaves which, if the Lottery had gone against them, they
could have become. This makes acceptance
the end of their working life - at forty for women, or fifty for men - people
may retire to small village communities like Limbourne. In such places they are aware they will lead
lives which are cushioned from financial worries and will have slaves to serve
them. For many, such a prospect is most
satisfying - if not to say exciting.
Many endure their whole working lives just dreaming of such a
retirement. There are some,
nevertheless, who do not find such a prospect pleasing. They like the thought of ease, but they do
not approve of slavery. Well, the State
takes care of such people. They have to
continue working a further ten years of their lives and then retire to a
communal village where, mainly, they have to fend for themselves. It is a fairly tough life, but there are
those who prefer it that way. The
all-seeing, all-understanding, beneficent State arranges for their wishes to be
granted. In their primitiveness, the
villages to which such people retire are like villages such as Limbourne. The essential difference is the lack of
slaves - who provide such excellent service and pleasure to those who desire to
make use of them!
a son gout ...
who so opt can retire to a village like Limbourne where they have slave labour
available to them. Slave labour provided
by the State. Slave labour organised and
trained by the State. It is an aspect of
the System which the State realises many of its citizens fully appreciate. It gives them what they want. It keeps them content. The State never mentions this. It simply provides. And for this the State has its own reasons
... which it never reveals.
motto of the State might, indeed, be - ‘Never complain - and never explain’.
far we have dealt with the majority of the citizens of the State. Those, that is, who are fortunate in the
State Lottery. Let us now look at the
earmarked for slavery are sent to State Slave Training Centres. There they remain for periods of six months
to one year in order to be conditioned and disciplined for the life of
servitude which lies ahead of them. A
dire and gloomy prospect indeed yet, strangely enough, one which is accepted by
those who have to undergo it. For it is
a basic part of the pattern of life set by the State. To rebel against such a pattern would have
been like committing blasphemy in the Middle Ages. It was simply a thing one did not do.
as has been said, that made it something any easier to endure.
training, each slave is allocated to an owner in one of the villages. He or she becomes a virtual chattel - an
object, if you like - of which the owner can make any use he or she
wishes. Of course, there are some
restrictions (and these we will hear of later) but any owner can virtually do
no wrong as far as a male or female slave is concerned. Even violations of the State’s basic code are
seldom acted upon.
short, the owner is Master or Mistress of the slave in the truest sense.
is for as long a period as that of the ordinary working life of those who have
escaped slavery. That is to say, up to
the age of forty years for women and fifty for men. Thus it is possible for a woman to endure
twenty-two years of slavery and a man twenty-six.
happens to them after this time?
are sent to isolated communal villages to live out the rest of their
lives. In these places, which are
relatively comfortable after the sort of existence the slaves have endured,
marriage and procreation are forbidden.
On the other hand, unlimited sex is allowed. Life is rather brutish with the spoils going
to those who have the most strength and will left after a lifetime of servitude
and degradation. In some ways, ex-slaves
may do as they wish - as far as they are able.
But they must never leave their village or its immediate surroundings. To do so invites certain death.
it be said that a number accept such an invitation without any great regret?
now to the State Slave Training Centres.
of the system at such a Centre is that slaves should have a taste of their
future existence outside the Centre by being sent on Probation. It is all part of their training - and such
an arrangement usually occurs after about three months.
Dawson and Nancy Blake are at precisely this stage of their training.
they have endured a lot. Already they
have learnt a lot.
it is but a beginning.
they are arriving at Limbourne.
as some say, they are now ‘In Limbo’ ...