A Strange Relationship With Time Vol. 10

A small Swiss town, a river running through its centre: A green river through a red town. Fast and slow at once; ancient and modern. Parts of this town had stood for several thousand years, although the locals only perceived the more modern aspects of it. An ancient bridge wound its way across the fast flowing green waters: it was several hundred years old in places, but continually under repair.

A couple walk hand in hand, minds distracted by the rush of the water below them. They amble from the new town in to the old, their eyes not picking up the ancient monument which separates the two sides. The water rushes down several metres of glassy slope to a river which wends its way over a wide expanse of fertile plain. Beneath the plain is wealth in electromechanical form, unseen by all.

A green beetle walks along the railing above an eternal eddy. The vortex sits in the almost dead space above the bridge. Water swirls as it is held in place, about to join the rush. The beetle stays in a straight line before walking to the underside of the puckered metal bar. Its glittering carapace pulls in light from all directions, before showering it back to the control tower, between new and old.

A wax disc spins on an ancient table; its noise never raising above a crackle. The crackle is a long form modulation of a single frequency, its peaks and troughs simple variations from the mean. A powerful microphone sits upon a simple cardboard cone; it transmits wirelessly to a small device, atop which blinks a bright green light. The dissonance between the eras of technology is stark.

A wall is made of polished concrete; it buts against a floor of rammed earth, swept clean and free from clutter. The table is plain, but old. It has been maintained well, so that it has survived for more than a dozen score years. The concrete is less than a decade old: a new addition, a strengthening of the ancient structure. No one was seen coming or going from the complex; it merely got stronger.

A hand reaches out from behind a desk, its cuff ringed with Harris Tweed. A pale, checked shirt peeks out, its lines traced out in green and brown. The fingers are long and young, the movements slow and considered. The Tweed suit makes way to a Tweed tie, set in the same pale shirt. The face above the tie is blank and inhuman: a clear plastic carapace atop dark circuitry and blinking diodes.

A view from above: a drone sits in the sky, almost unobserved, its red LED the only concern to the passers-by. Its lazy eye follows pairs of folk as they wander through the bridges and along the green watered byways of this sleepy town. Weapons lock is available for each and every one of them; its control circuits click on and off, selecting and deselecting people at random. No shots are fired yet.

A visitor presses a button on an anonymous panel, affixed to a modern concrete wall. In order to get here the visitor had to choose to ignore as many things as they had chosen to see. Some entrances had been hidden with time; some signs were deliberately obstructive. A camera focusses in on the back of their head. The button is pressed once more; blonde hair mingles with blood and bone.

A wolf stalks along the opposite shore. It is lean and it is hungry: it is an expert and a killer. Teeth glint in the bright daylight. Its image is not reflected in the green water below. Grey, white and black, its coat seethes with musculature. Every step is made up of myriad tiny movements, keeping the whole body as still as possible. Stillness by force; stillness held until the moment comes to kill.

A mother pushes a child in a pushchair. They twitter and chatter to one another about the business of the day. Only one of them is making any sounds a passer-by would discern as language; the other is simply mimicking, and enjoying the day. The freedom of a child, lost in her mother’s gaze. There is not a cloud in the skies above their heads: nothing to spoil any of the fun of their day together.

A single electron in a quantum gate moves down an energy state, triggering the switch. It is a truly random event, and as such could never have been predicted by The Observer. Its shiny visage is not capable of displaying the emotions which its circuitry does not register. Rather it relays a message to the drone to intercept all packages from the north, lest they manage to penetrate the inner cordon.

A man sips a strong coffee at a riverbank café as he pretends to leaf through a copy of the local Zeitung. His German is imperfect, but he cares not: the appearance of his indifference to the scene playing out before him is his only concern. The coffee is scarred with warmed milk, colouring the foam atop the still brown liquid below. A young child cries, demanding more crisps from her parents.

A breeze casts its presence through the scene: it is a welcome addition to the heat of the day and the humidity of the flowing green waters. It carries the scent of toffee apples on a mild summer day. The mother tucks her child in to its blankets a little tighter. The little green beetle is lifted from its perambulation, and cast towards the old wooden bridge. A motor turns, and it flies off to the tower.

A door opens, and a body is disposed of; a hidden jet scoots away a puddle of congealed blood and puckered skin. All that remains is a wisp of blonde hair caught in the foliage, and a sticky fingerprint on the round, black button. The body will never be found; its owner will be sought out: their identity will be written out of history, and their memory erased fully from the collective consciousness.

A piper begins to play, and the wolf recoils. The Observer has no need for the kill: not for today. Today there are far more interesting things to be getting on with. The man with the paper observes three people walking in from one side of the bridge: a bearded man in his forties; a woman in her late teens; a small blonde child, excited to see if there are any ice cream vans around this corner.