The War Is Over
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)
The guard at the door to the bunker complex stepped
forward, hand on gun butt, but then recognised him and saluted. "Go right in,
BP nodded. "Thank you."
He was still nominally a civilian, and didn’t have to salute back, so didn’t.
Some of his colleagues thought it was disrespectful not to salute back, but he
tried to retain what little vestige of civilian privilege he still could.
The corridor inside was
grey and white, lit by cheerless fluorescent lights overhead. It always looked
chilly enough to make him shiver instinctively. Closed circuit cameras on the
walls turned silently, following him as he walked down the passage to the lift
that would take him sinking down, to his laboratory level, far below.
"Morning, Doctor," the
lift security guard said. There were, of course, security guards everywhere,
even though there was less and less need for them as time went on. "How are
BP nodded and smiled
briefly, not bothering to answer. What was he supposed to reply – that the
situation was catastrophic, the sky was falling, something like that? So the
only alternative was to smile and say everything was fine, and he’d done the
The security guard didn’t
seem to notice or care. "They do say the war’s going very well," he babbled.
"They say we’re going to win soon."
"They do?" BP asked,
watching the red numbers change as the lift rose from deep underground. "Who
"Everyone," the guard
said. "I heard it on the telly."
"Well, then, it must be
true, mustn’t it?" BP smiled briefly and stepped into the lift. It was
cylindrical and the wall was mirrored. Distorted versions of himself looked
back at him with smeared faces as the lift began to sink back down.
BP rubbed his eyes. Each
time he left the bunker complex, it seemed harder to return. The conferences in
the capital, tedious and unnecessary as they were, were welcome breaks in the
schedule. This time he’d even had a couple of hours free when they’d let him
walk on the street, allegedly alone, though of course they’d have bodyguards
discreetly following. It had been a lovely spring day, a real wind in his face,
and it felt strange to see children running on the pavements and playing out in
the open. Only a year or two ago, they’d never have been out by themselves for
fear of missile strikes. One child, accompanied by two little cyborg dogs, had
run to him, obviously mistaking him for someone else, and then stopped, suddenly
confused and uncertain.
BP had tried to make it
easy for him. "Nice dogs," he’d said, though the creatures, with their metallic
limbs and skull-like faces, had repelled him. They weren’t anything like
the real dogs he’d always known and loved. "How old are they?"
"Eleven," the child had
said, a finger hooked in his mouth, pointing to one of the dogs. "That one’s
thirteen." The second dog had seemed to have taken a fancy to BP and had jumped
into his arms, struggling to lick his face. Its tongue had felt like fine dry
Eleven and thirteen,
though, and these two dogs were jumping around like puppies. They’d probably
still be like puppies eleven or thirteen years from now.
Everything was moving
towards the cyborgs. That was one of the many spin-offs of the war, as the
media proudly repeated. The cyborgs, they said, opened the way to immortality.
That was as long as one
could afford it, of course. BP had heard that the average cost of a human
cyborg was equivalent to twenty years’ pay, and even then only a few candidates
were being considered. People who could become super soldiers and end the war.
BP grimaced, and the
smeared cylindrical reflection grimaced back at him. If the cyborgs promised
immortality, the worst perversion of the technology would be to use them as
soldiers. But then the generals would do anything.
A bluecoat was waiting
for the lift at the bottom, an older man with a thick bulldog face and a walrus
moustache. He was all ready to glare as the door opened, angry because he had
to wait, but then saw BP’s green coat and thought better of it. Greencoats were
the top of the hierarchical pile in the bunker complex.
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