Books are not allowed anymore, they banned them a long time ago. It doesn’t stop me from keeping a secret collection though. Fifth floorboard down from the north facing wall, and two across. Lift it up and see what hides inside. Wuthering heights, pride and prejudice, and the bible lie side by side, covered by old sheets of newspaper, their stories faded, and pictures smudged.
There is more to the collection I keep, buried under a potted plant and a mound of dirt. Films are banned too, as are most popular television shows apart from the news or educational documentaries. Flat rectangular chips are all we can use now, EVC’s they are called. We can read books if we choose, they are to be read on our ECH’s, also known as Electronic Communication Handsets. Even then, our books are monitored. None of the classics, and definitely no bible. Religion is banned too, although I hear whisperings of a group that meets in secret to worship the one known as god.
I often think about what it would mean to be caught by the law squad, our city’s version of police. They say they are a peaceful group, but I have seen them become brutal at times, especially to those who have been found keeping forbidden items in their homes. It is one of those days today, the day when every house in the city is inspected for hidden items. They do not know about my hidden stash, at least that is my hope. There it is, the pounding on the door to signal their arrival.
Two officers will be there, each carrying high tech laser rifles and fingerprint activated handcuffs. They say those tools of the trade are never used, but I have seen otherwise. To the door I go, unlocking bolts and swinging it open. With a nod to me they push past, their eyes taking in the small living area my front door opens into. With a brief nod to me, they step inside and begin searching the place, calling out a short sharp “clear” to each other as they move through the few rooms of my dwelling. The place is tidy, as they request in the warning letter they send just days before the inspection. One of them is in my room now, lifting up the mattress to see what may be hidden underneath. Nothing luckily. The officer drops the mattress, turns to the dresser, and opens the drawers, sending their contents clattering to the floor as he up ends them. Finding nothing there he nods to himself, turns to the north facing wall and steps forward, his heavy black boots clopping noisily on the floorboards. As he steps on the fifth board from the wall and it gives a squeak my heart plummets and all colour drains from my face.
“Something in here Watkins.” He barks to his companion. With a knowing look shot at me the other officer who is much larger than his colleague enters my bedroom, carelessly stepping on clothing, ornaments, and other items one usually finds in a bedroom as he moves to stand near the other officer.
“Floorboard made a noise when I stepped on it.” The first officer remarked in hushed tones. “could be nothing, but these houses are all drone built. Well at least most of them are.” He continues as he bent to look at the boards. Rivulets of sweat made their way down my back as my heart beat at a faster cadence than normal. I knew I would be caught, no doubt about it.