LIMBOURNE, 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.
There 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.
So 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.
Here then, is a strange
But 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.
It 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.
What then, makes this
mythical LIMBOURNE different?
After all, it has been
said that the people and the place have a familiar appearance.
It 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!
Let us, then, in
imagination, move into LIMBOURNE ...
The 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.
There 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.
Through 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.
Theirs not to reason why ...
The 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.
The 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 tears.
The 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 new owner.
As 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:
‘Mrs. Bracewell - Tanderville’.
‘Mr. and Mrs. Crampton - Ramport’.
Campbell - Limbourne’.
They were all, indeed, like so many
parcels ... and had no more say-so in their destination than the real brown
Some 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.
There came a ‘click’ from the
loudspeaker Tannoy in the carriage.
“The next station will be Tanderville,” intoned a flat, official voice. “All those alighting there will now stand.”
A 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 ... 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
“Sign 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.
“All correct,” he said. “Right away ...” He raised his hand.
With 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 cruel blow.
Yet, 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
But oh ... oohh
... how they envied those for whom Fate had decreed a quite different
A half hour later, the loudspeaker Tannoy clicked again.
“The next station will be Limbourne,” came the voice.
“All those alighting there will now stand.”
If 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
“Name?” she demanded.
“Matt Dawson, Miss,” he answered
The guard looked down at the
manifest. “You are on Probation,” she
“Yes, Miss ...”
“And you,” said the guard, moving
to the girl alongside. “Name?”
“Nancy Blake, Miss.” The girl’s voice was soft and low.
“Nancy 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.
Like 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.
“I 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
“Yes ... Miss ...” said the two in unison.
The 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.
Once more the train ground to a
halt and another half-dozen figures were decanted, Nancy Blake and Matt Dawson
They had arrived in Limbourne.