The First of July

The First of July

Bianca Chan, 15, of Maryknoll Convent School, won first prize with this grim tale about the future in a short-story competition sponsored by the SCMP and RTHK

I was born on the day of festivity, when the official establishment of our nation was declared. I was born into an era of stability and prosperity, where the last of the radical thinkers were finally eradicated.

I was born on the first of July in the first year of rule under our Beloved Leader.

"GeenKwok, you are summoned to the Principal's office," one of the teleports announced during recess.

The machine was one of the newest technological breakthroughs under the implementation of Five-Year Plans. It had been installed as a general reminder for us to concentrate on subjects that could contribute to the betterment of society. Underneath the teleports were government posters, with captions that stated: "HUMANITIES ARE FOR THE WEAK."

Unlike guilty wrongdoers, there wasn't any uncomfortable fidgeting or guilty feelings bubbling inside of me when I stepped into the Principal's office.

My strict dedication to the Daily Routine for Students had allowed me to live up to the standards of being a loyal servant of our nation. According to our Beloved Leader, "a righteous man has nothing to fear from authority".

The office smelled of fresh paint and new carpets. Dark mahogany furniture contrasted with the cream-coloured walls, where rows of awards, badges and framed photographs of our Beloved Leader and the Principal were hung.

He was sitting behind his large black desk waiting for me with a sly smile.

"For Betterment of Society?" questioned the Principal. It had been his official practice to seize every available opportunity to repeat quotations of our Beloved Leader. We would be expected to answer using the second half of the line.

A wise man in his 70s, the Principal had once served as a comrade before deciding to retire from the battlefields and dedicate his time to cultivating future economic contributors.

"Economic Growth is Key," I replied. I never missed a single parade that celebrated the latest instructions from our Beloved Leader. I never responded to any questions incorrectly.

"Very proficient." And I would receive the same compliment from the Principal every time.

"Study well. Make Progress. Day by day," I said, quoting the latest teaching from our Beloved Leader.

Only his wise words could form satisfactory replies in any conversations.

"GeenKwok, if you were given a chance to serve our leader, would you?" the Principal asked, his tone warm and sincere.

I pressed my thighs together. I didn't know if it was a mere dream or was I experiencing "A Sheer Delirium", as our Beloved Leader would say.

I didn't know if I was hearing correctly. Those four words, "To Serve the Leader", sounded absolutely beautiful - almost as wonderful as the time when our Beloved Leader had actually mentioned the word "Geen".

The Principal laughed silently, and asked: "GeenKwok, do you know why our Leader assigned this name to you?"

I did not hesitate to shake my head. Under the second Five-Year Plan, all language classes at school were abolished to divert more resources to subjects thought relevant to the economy. Our spare time should be spent on practising accounting or engineering skills, rather than filling our heads with thoughts about pointless paintings or words.

"Geen means construct, while Kwok means country. Your name means 'to build a nation'," he said.

I bit the inside of my cheek. I saw no importance in words that had not been spoken by our Beloved Leader.

The Principal seemed to have noticed the little irrelevant detour he'd made and said: "We are recruiting enthusiastic youth to be intelligence workers to crack down on radical thinkers."

My eyes widened and my mouth gaped.

"Ra … radical thinkers? I thought they had ... had diminished," I stammered.

In the past, I had heard stories about the Great Chaotic Period, when radical thinkers had abused the power of "phlip-bustering" and impeded the decisions of the feeble government.

I knew of a time when extremist rebels had occupied "Central" (the current Peaceful Plaza) and derailed the economy completely.

It was then that our Beloved Leader had risen to safeguard the economic interests of thousands of professionals and won the support of the working classes. The rebels, of course, had been completely destroyed for meddling with the economy and advocating the "right to choose our leader".

The Principal added: "Some radical thinkers simply went into hiding, lurking in the shadows, unknown to all. Some of them mastered the skill of acting and pretended to obey our Beloved Leader. But the Leader knows. He knows those who are loyal and those who are not."

The Principal paused and stared at me intently. "GeenKwok, you are a virtuous person. Are you willing to defend this nation from radical thinkers? Are you willing to correct the wrongdoings of your parents?"

"My parents?" I said as my face flushed. I had never mentioned my family circumstances to any living soul. It was a shame and humiliation.

My father had died when I was little and my mother had always been cold and distant - unreachable, in fact, to her only child.

With every month came our struggle to pay for our subdivided unit on the edge of town. I had always attributed our current financial difficulties to my mother's incompetence.

Our Beloved Leader had once voiced his opinion of the poor by declaring: "One must provide for themselves financially. Poverty is their incentive. Deprivation is their punishment."

It was my mother that had left me languishing at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.

"Have you ever wondered how a decent lady like your mother would end up in the group that is frowned upon by our Beloved Leader?" said the Principal, with a scathing look.

"Have you ever wondered what contributed to your current strife?

"In the past, your parents were active accomplices of the rebels. Your father was caught. However, your mother has managed to escape justice up to now."

He paused and patted my head. "So, I am asking you now, GeenKwok, are you willing to serve the Beloved Leader? Are you willing to gather evidence against your mother?"

Instinctively, I replied: "Y-yes. I will serve our Beloved Leader with great dee-lee-gence."

The Leader had entrusted this mission to me. I would do my utmost to help. "To succeed one must sacrifice," I reminded myself.

Surveillance Report by GeenKwok, No. Ax0918

Day 1

No noteworthy incidents or suspicious acts.

11.45pm Snoring noises were heard from Object.

Day 3

7.48pm Object referred to the Great Leader as "the one in control".

11.30pm Snoring noises were heard from Object.

Day 7

6.55pm Object complained about the small living spaces.

8.10pm Object referred to the Great Leader as "Your Leader".

11.23pm Snoring noises were heard from Object.

Day 15

No noteworthy incidents or suspicious acts.

11.36pm Snoring noises were heard from Object.

Day 34

6.35pm Object failed to remember the instructions from the Five-Year Plan upon further probing.

9.45pm Object expressed discontent with present living conditions.

11.47pm Snoring sounds were heard from Object.

Day 59

No noteworthy incidents or suspicious acts.

11.24pm Snoring sounds were heard from Object.

12.30pm Muffled voices were heard. Object appeared to be on the phone in discreet conversation. Words such as "careful" and "aware" were mentioned repeatedly.

Day 60

6.54pm Object appeared to be distressed and fatigued.

7.43pm Object appeared to be in shock when asked of "late-night plans". Unusual fidgeting and anxiety was observed.

11.35pm Snoring sounds were heard from Object.

11.45pm Object checked on Intelligence Worker. Intelligence Worker pretended to be asleep.

Midnight Voices were again heard. Object was on the phone. Important phrases were noted as follows: "Time has passed … The reinforcement of the social contract ... change from the people … Problem of indoc-trin-nay-sion … Iron fist …"

Day 61

6.00pm Intelligence Worker resorted to faking illness to lower the suspicion of Object.

11.25pm Snoring sounds were heard from Object.

Day 62

1.23am Object appeared to be awake and dressed.

1.30am Object left home. Intelligence Worker followed.

2.23am Object reached Dragon Centre Street.

2.25am Object knocked on an inconspicuous door hidden behind a well-disguised science laboratory.

2.26am Object disappeared through the door.

6.34pm Object appeared to be stressed and fatigued.

11.34pm Snoring sounds were heard from Object.

Day 63

1. 19am Object left home. Intelligence Worker followed.

2.24am Object reached the same place as before. The phrase "lib-ber-tie" is believed to be the code to gain access.

2.29am Intelligence Worker gained access. The number of people gathered has exceeded the legal maximum of 3.

3.15am Object seemed to be the leader of the illicit group. Her speech was noted as follows:

"Thank you for coming to the Demm-moe-kratik Alliance Caucus. Today, we gather here to fight for our fundamental dig-ni-tie as human beings, we fight for our lib-ber-tie and our wrights.

"We con-demm the poi-le-tic-kal app-athy that caused the failure of Occupy Central, and further denounce the current money-oriented, economic-based way of life.

"Today, we stand tall and strong to oppose the so-called Beloved Leader that has single-handedly indoc-trin-nay-ted millions of children, my own included …"

Intelligence Worker would advise immediate action from the Great Leader to deter future illicit gatherings of people and provocation of instability ...

"... And the Highest Service Award goes to GeenKwok for her relentless efforts in rooting out rebels and safeguarding the productivity of our nation."

I pinched my thighs together. The Great Leader was standing on the stage, waiting for me with a gentle smile.

Among all the applause and cheering I could only concentrate on him, the person I had served so dearly for the past three months.

I was being recognised on National Day, in front of thousands of people. I was promoted into the ranks of Comrade, surpassing any accomplishments achieved by youth under 20.

I no longer attributed the challenges I faced to my mother, for her incompetence had given me a chance to redeem myself, a chance to climb up the socio-economic ladder.

I didn't know what happened to her afterwards, when the Great Leader ordered a clearance of the "Demm-moe-kratik Alliance Caucus".

Yet what I did know was that today was indeed a day of festivity, a day of celebrations.

I was born on the first of July, where the future looked bright and the people were celebrating my name.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
The First of July


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