The Curriculum


Inspired by dystopian literature such as ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (henceforth referred to as ‘THT’), and ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, I created a repressive social control system, (‘the Curriculum’), a totalitarian leader, (‘Headmaster’), and a conflicting social group, (‘the Disaffected’). I see schools as a microcosm of what could potentially become a brutal dictatorship, so extended this idea in the lexis of my dystopia. Unlike ‘THT’, my dystopia is not based on the oppression of women, but on the restriction and maltreatment of the general population.


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1. The Curriculum

It is 8.52pm and 21 seconds. I have precisely 7 minutes and 39 seconds before I will die.

I run, faster than I’ve ever run before. My heartbeat is racing inconceivably fast, so loud that I can hear it drumming in my ears, my lungs can not seem to draw enough oxygen from the surrounding air. I begin to hyperventilate, my breaths shallow, uneven. Desperate. My feet pound against the ground, trying to make myself move faster, trying to get there in time, but time is running out, I don’t have enough time, I need more time.

I won’t get there in time. Or will I? This was always the point, in the films I used to watch, when an astounding occurrence would happen and all the characters in the film would miraculously survive whatever terrible, horrifying tragedy unfolded…

But there are no films anymore, and there are no happy endings. And unless I get to the Border in the next 6 minutes and 58 seconds I will suffocate to death.

Using gas is the kindest and most humane way to kill the Disaffected, Headmaster once told us, it’s the only way they will learn.

The county will be like one big gas chamber.

Headmaster told us that if we were good and followed all of the rules laid out by the Teachers, we would be rewarded and protected, and live in a beautiful new world where crime and hate was a thing of the past, and we would all respect and get on with everyone, regardless of race, age, gender, status.

My wife believed this up until the moment she was shot by one of the Teachers. Her crime? She did not hand in her weekly Report on time. The first time, she was given a Detention. The second, a woman in a white laboratory coat, like the sort I used to wear at College, came to our house. This woman rang the doorbell, I opened the door, she introduced herself as being the Deputy Head, but only the temporary Deputy Head as the usual one was on holiday, he deserved some time off, he was doing such a good job, and that she was pleased to meet me. My wife came wandering into the entrance hall. She had her pink polka dot mug in her hand. The temporary Deputy Head brought out a handgun from her briefcase. She aimed, she fired, she hit, right on target, and then she left without saying another word. My wife lay sprawled across the floor, blood seeping out from the eyes that I once had fallen in love with.

I walked over and collapsed onto the floor beside her. She did not move. The shattered pink mug was scattered over the carpet, broken beyond repair.

That was 4 years ago. My wife died after 10 months of the Country’s new Curriculum, when she was just 26 years old.

5 minutes and 3 seconds. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Pound-pound, thump-thump.

The temperature is below freezing, the air sharp, bitter, spiteful, but I’m still able to sweat, I’m running so fast. My feet are almost numb, it feels like I’m running on air, I don’t know how I’m still moving, but I still am. I will myself to not give up; it’s what my wife would want. The street I’m sprinting down is deathly quiet; it looks like it has been abandoned for sometime. The Disaffected are always moving around from county to county, never staying in once place too long, never wanting to be detected. They pretend to have faith in Headmaster; they pretend to believe in the Curriculum, they work their way up in society, from Minors to becoming Prefects, even sometimes Teachers. They aim to destroy the system from within. Sometimes it works, and whole cities can go on Strikes, and all Members of Staff will flee in fear. But most often, the Disaffected will be found out, revealed, and then they are the ones to run, to hide, to try to blend in again.

4 minutes and 42 seconds.

That’s not why I’m running. I’m not part of the Disaffected, I’ve never played Truant, never been Grounded or Suspended. I’ll just be caught in cross-fire, another victim, another death, another number on the death toll. This city, where I’ve lived for 9 years, has been declared ‘a problem city’. So the whole county is to be exterminated, because of course, one is more likely to kill the maximum number of the Disaffected if one exterminates a whole county! Why bother worrying about the innocent individuals who live there, if you think about it, if they die it’s their fault for not moving quick enough, isn’t it?

Being opinionated won’t get you anywhere if you’re dead, Headmaster told us at our first Assembly. We all sat on in rows, ten to a bench, heads up, sat in silence, wearing our trousers, our blazers, our ties, our shoes shined, hair combed, girls on the right, boys on the left. Headmaster told us that as part of the new Curriculum, all over 18’s would be assigned a job that most benefited the country. We would be designated a house to live in, and a spouse to live in it with. If we fell in love with our spouse then that’s good, Headmaster said, as, remember, Merits will be awarded to couples who have children. But if we do not fall in love there is nothing we can do about it.

The first Assembly took place approximately 4 months after the Riots. It only took 4 months for our country to go from a place of total freedom, a democracy with human rights, to a dictatorship that makes us all worship one arrogant, deluded man.

2 minutes and 51 seconds.

The Riots only lasted 11 days, but those 11 days changed England. The chaos spread from the capital city, the epicentre of the Riots, to other cities, other boroughs. Why did they start? A dispute, a disagreement about the results of the Olympics, with each country trying to defend their honour, their pride, over a bunch of meaningless games.

After the riots were over, for months nothing happened. Life went back to normal. But then, mid-way through November in two-thousand and twelve, the lights went out. A power cut that lasted 3 days left the London in total darkness.

When the lights came on, the world was a changed place. TV, radio, internet, phone services no longer existed. I tried to call my mother, to let her know I was alright, but when I dialled the number, or any number, there was just an ominous monotonous noise in response. I haven’t heard from my mother since.

1 minute and 59 seconds.

Then the PE Teachers came to every person’s house in the country, delivering boxes. These boxes contained uniforms with our names sewed in; our new names. My name is 826629. Our futures had been planned for us. In the boxes there was a letter addressed to each person welcoming them to the new Great Britain. As part of the new Great Britain, there was no freedom, no democracy, but this was for the good of the people, said Headmaster. Headmaster said that so that we may live in peace, we must live an ordered existence.       

The letter clearly explained all the rules and obligations, and explicitly said that anyone who disobeyed them would be killed.

1 minute and 7 seconds.

The first Staff Meeting took place approximately a week after our first Assembly. Here the teachers, people who before the Curriculum were part of rich, powerful families, said in their report that they thought that Minors had too much freedom; too much choice. This freedom maybe our downfall, the Teachers said. The Headmaster agreed. So on the next day they began to build. They built walls between each county in England, Scotland and Wales, which would limit where people could travel to and from. These walls defined us, labelled us. These walls were twelve feet high, and the only way to get through them would be to beg, bargain or bribe the Receptionists that guarded them. As I run, I can feel the bundle of Merit notes scrunched in my pocket.

33 seconds.

I see the border in the near distance, the gate, my way out of death. A deafening siren comes on, and I know that it is about to begin, if I do not get through the gate I will choke to death.

Perhaps I should welcome death, join my wife, and give in? No.  Once again, my fate is not up to me to decide.

I begin to smell something. It burns my nose. The sickly sweet smell seems to pervade every part of me, tightening my chest, stinging my tongue, torturing my eyes.

If I die, then what was the point, the purpose of living? I have achieved nothing; I have not stood up against the Curriculum, the Headmaster, the Teachers. I was just another blank face in the Assembly Hall, too cowardly to speak up.

 

 

Curriculum Update

 

It has been another outstanding week for the Curriculum, with all Members of Staff being as busy as ever!

We should all take great pride in the fact that during this week’s extermination of a problem city in Section 23; our Caretakers managed to Expel of 100% of the suspected Disaffected in the area.

I look forward to seeing you all at next week’s compulsory Easter Concert.

Have a happy and hard working day,

 

Headmaster

 

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