The Weeds In The Rock
The eastern cordon meets the bank of the Thames in a shallow mass of concrete. The women wash their clothes in the grey current and beat them dry on the rubble. If you stand here, leaning out into the smog, you can see the dark shape of the borderwall.
Sixty years had been and gone, and still the wall stood. It reminded Annis of some great crumbling snake, slumbering in the water to protect the nation.
The Protectors warned the citizens of what lay beyond. Posters of brutal men swarming in boats and clambering up at the borderwall slathered the city blocks, red ink seeping into the flaking wood. In some, they grasped at the pure citizen women and dug their dark fingers into their frightened mouths. In others, skeletal monsters with bulging eyes feasted on the flesh of children who went too close to the borderwall. In bold blue print, defending the nation, were brave Britonic soldiers, armed and defiantly beating back the mass of invaders. And everywhere, all over the citadel, the posters proclaimed the victory of the borderwall against The Others.
But The Others never came.
Occasionally, Annis would see thin, dark men and shawled women being beaten out of blocks by the Britonic forces, hit with the barrel of guns and forced into vans. These were the vermin, infecting the nation with their vices and impure blood.
But the sprawl of Others never seemed to arrive, the boats never washing up on the gulf, the army of dark faced men never storming the capital. The Protectors warned them to be vigilant. The papers were full of the latest captured invaders, the secret wars that happened out on the borderwall where no one could go.
Weeds have seeds!
The posters said.
Let them fester and all is lost!
And so it was that there was little sympathy for the impure who were sent to work in the camps of the north. “We have to protect what is ours,” The High Protector would say sternly over the announcements. “Our great Saxon blood, warrior blood, must not be tainted by these savages. Vigilance is key. Unclean blood is a disease, one that will destroy the nation. The culture. Civilisation.”
Annis would often wonder who had been impure on her bloodline. Her family, rudely placed in the east cordon, were on the lowest edge of Saxon land. Here there was the worst rations, the worst Protectors. Dark hair and big dark eyes spoke of savagery in her heritage, they said. It had only been her grey-white skin that had saved her blood line from the work camp by the cliff. She was fortunate. She should be grateful for the state for their good will.
The schoolbooks spoke of an all white nation, the pureblood saxons, slowly usurped by the Other. For centuries the superior, peaceful saxons had lived peacefully on the island under good Christian law, they said. A noble people who fought hard to keep the island pure. But sixty years ago, this country had been over run by invaders. Only the bravery of the enslaved saxon men had ended their slavery. The pictures showed wicked, grinning people in strange dress, stealing and touching what wasn’t theirs while the white people huddled in fear. Or so the books said. The Elders of the east cordon remembered the war, although they knew better than to say much more than a shake of the head and a subtle shrug when confronted by the texts that said otherwise.
As she washed her dress in the river, she watched the fog roll down the gulf. Beyond, a storm growled low in the Baltic. It glowed in indigo and blue beneath the clouds, flashing in a brilliant white. When it did so, the horizon lit up, illuminating the wall. How tall was it? Fifty, sixty feet? Or more? It was hard to tell, the resource ships swamped by the shadows as they delivered food and guns to the soldiers there. They shot anyone on the other side. Mercy did not exist in the Protector policy.
A man was watching her as she washed, his silhouette clouding the water. She paused, turning to haul her cloth on the bank. The man was a Protector, senior in uniform, the blue collar wet in the rain. His eyes were hard.
“Gute dey, Protector.” She said, in the high tongue formal Saxon. No one used it normally in her cordon, but it was best to submit to authority.
“Gute dey.” He replied, stiffly. She nodded, bowing to him. He had his hands on his gun. “It is late to be washing, don’t you think?”
She hesitated. The truth was bad, but a lie too obvious. “I like seeing the storms. I can see the sky beyond the borderwall from the lightening, sometimes-”
“You’re very dark.” He interrupted. He peered at her, reaching forward to touch her jaw. “What level impurity are you?”
“Five, Protector.” She had the documents. Pulling them out of her bodice, she gestured to the purity mark. She was safe. He nodded, satisfied.
He spat into the sand. “Small nose for a rodent.”
It was best to say nothing. The wind was picking up, the rain too. He was staring at her. He was a highblood, with very blue eyes and a thin long nose. It was a strange expression on his face. Hatred, almost disgust, but curiosity. She was the closest he would get to an Other. He raised his hand to her face again, marvelling at the strange shape of her features. She felt like an insect held by a cruel child, waiting for dissection.
Don’t touch me let me go
“How strange,” he mused, brushing a thumb over her forehead. “That an impure could be almost pretty.” And with that he released his grip, signalling her to collect her washing. “Go to your block,” he ordered. “It is dangerous out here.”
Dangerous because of men like you
She bowed low, running up the slope with her basket before he could change his mind, or worse. These were the worst of men, she thought, heading into the concrete maze. Worse than those who believed themselves to be good for performing mere moral adequacy. No doubt he would congratulate himself later for not having beaten her.
Behind her, the weeds blew in the approaching storm.