Kill Your Darlings

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

15th January 2016
I find the essay at the bottom of the trunk I'm sorting though. Finding it makes me jump inside, makes my insides clench and then turn to jelly. I remember writing it as if it was yesterday, instead of 54 years ago.

We were leaving the pen, then, and starting to use Tabs for everything, but I'd been stubborn and written mine in old ink. The title was, 'Why "Release Age" is a Good Policy'. I want to to cast it straight to the TO GO pile, but can't resist taking a look, nonetheless knowing exactly what it will cost me. I skim read the first page, which is mostly about dwindling food supplies, the rising costs of healthcare, the shrinking of living areas, the lack of carers and workers.

The second page is mostly about the benefits. I read this one.

'The benefits for the person being released are obvious: they will not be allowed the indignity of suffering; they will not be given the soul destroying treatment that is full time care; they will know exactly when they are to say goodbye, and plan it to the best of their ability. Parties will be thrown, tearful goodbyes around a deathbed will be exchanged for a celebration of a life, people will arrive with smiles and leave with renewed vigour to live their own lives. My grandmother will be one foo the first and I have to say she is quite excited about her Releasing Party; she's got balloons and food and music...'

I can't read on. I'm taken straight back to her party, and the thought of it makes me feel sick. She'd insisted she loved it but she had no chocie but to put a brave face on (for the alternative was imprisonment and a death sentence) and she smiled as we left. But when I had to run back inside to pick up my handbag, I'd caught her crying a river. Her bravery in not letting us witness her going had cost her a terrible price. I'd rushed to her and hugged her and insisted on staying with her. She'd been terrified.

I shudder. I'd shared none of this with my mum.

Back then, of course, Release Age was 79. A nice, round, old number. A decent time to have lived and, as the propoganda said, who was healthy into their 80s anwyay? I think Gran would have been. Her mother had lived a decent life until well into her 90s. people mostly accepted it, though. Once there wasn't enough food to go around, once exports started to become too expensive and we had to change dietary habits to feed everyone (less meat, more seasonal stuff, if I recall), people had to accept it. The choice was feed the older generation or feed the children and the workers. It was no choice, really. And it's amazing how quickly it became 'normal'.

The protests did start, however, years later. I was in my 40s by this time, and things had got even more difficult. Releasing people was helping, to an extent, but there still wasn't enough food. there still wasn't enough housing or workers to do the jobs or carers to look after the old. So they brought the Release Age down to 75.

I remember thinking, as I watched the protestors marching across my screen, that it was still such a long way off for me. Things were sure to change.

How wrong I was. My own children were doing well, I was healthy and living a productive life at the Food Centre and my husband was still alive; writing and teaching. We lived good lives. Release Age felt like years away. And then Mum... How young 75 suddenly seemed after she was Released. Except by then, I thought of it as being Taken. Grief was no easier with the luxury of being able to say farewell. I'd missed it with my father and husband, when they had the accident, but with Mum I got to say everything I wanted.

Somehow, it made the goodbye worse. After we all left the party, I thought of hundreds of things I'd not told her and the things I had told her had awoken unexpected feelings in me; I had regrets; I wished we'd treated her better as teenagers. Suddenly Release Age was a cruelty. My siblings felt the same and we began a petition, asking for a change in the law. We cited the development and technological leaps in farming methods, and the fact we lived in smaller housing and could accommodate more. We wrote about how there were more carers, better healthcare and reminded them that people could work for more years because of this.

I found one of our later peitions, printed out, earleir today. It went on the TO GO pile as well. At least my children won't have to deal with all my stuff. Mum left us to do it all, claiming she couldn't face it, but I can't do that. I'll die tidy and organised, and all that will be left is my Will. I scrunch up my Release Age essay and try to get on. Only one more box to go.

My Release Party is this weekend. It should be a happy occasion, if we're to believe the government spinners. They even give tips on how to throw a good going away party. Can you imagine? They suggest things like a 'Jewellery give away game - pass on the family heirlooms with humour!' and a 'Will Reading - explain it all now, and prevent arguments after you're gone!' It's sick.

But the sickest thing of all, is how Release Age wasn't raised, it was dropped.

It's now 69.

And I am 68 and 360 days old.

There aren't enough words to describe how I feel, though Anger and Fear top the list.

My children are with me; although they're children of the modern world and only vaguely recall a world less ordered, they are on my side. "Escape, Mum," they said, when their own chilren were out of earshot. "We'll help you hide," they said, when their children were on a playdate. I've thought about it, but with our cities becoming citadels and the countryside being full of NewFarms, where would I go? I'd be caught. The UK just isn't big enough. Of course, loads of people have tried to run but nobody ash escaped. Instead they get charged with Obstructing Future Proofing, some charge the latest leaders have dreamt up which is meant to make us think of thema s the baddies, the ones who are interrupting the natural order of things.

I can't remember how it felt to support Release Age but I must have done, if my old essay is anything to go by. I look at it, scrunched up in the bin, and shudder again. When I think about dying it's a cold feeling I get. A cold and lonely feeling. I don't welcome it as a release from a life of hard work, I think of it as no more sunrises, no more grandchildren's laughter, no more toes in the sand, no more cups of tea with my daughter. It's terror, waiting for me.

I've got five days to do something and no ideas. Supposedly there are islands around the UK, fortressed islands where people hide and defend themselves. They're left alone, if you believe the underground BlackWeb pages. But do they really exist? It should be a breeze, these days, to find out anything but it's got harder. The BlackWeb is full of lies and government infiltrators, and the normal, old internet can't be trusted either. My children have tried to find out what they can, but as both work outside of the government sphere, they can't know for sure.


I must have fallen asleep in the middle of my sorting because when I woke this morning I realiosed I'd lost another day. I've now got four days left on Earth. And even more to do than yesterday. My eyes are sore; I've been crying in the night. Eltie, my daughter, says she's coming to help me today but I don't want her to. Knowing I have to leave her makes the thought of being with her too much to bear. I shall grab her and never let go and.

By the time she arrives, I've only got one box of paperwork to go. Mine is one fo the last Year Groups to really have paperwork; two years after I filed my last page paper was rationed and everything became electronic. Most of it was but they banned even written letters, so those of us who did cling on to old ways were forced to give up. For a while there was the underground letter movement but paper became too scarce quickly afterwards and that was that. The Digital Age arrived Officially.

Eltie embraces me at the door. Neither of us can speak. She leads me inside and we sit, side by side on the sofa. She turns to face me and whispers, 'Mum, I've found a way.'

I can only gaze at her. To live? Does she mean to live?

She smiles through her tears. 'I've been doing a little digging with Gabs. She has access now to the Digital Library at Hadfield.'

I gasp: Hadfield is where everything 'dangerous' and threatening to society' ends up, filed on thin digipages. We hear about it all the time on the news.

She continues,'I can't get you the digipages, but Gabi says it's a sub, comes once a month, goes to Australia. The journey is treacherous and as you know Australia isn't supposedly safe, but that's the only place this group can get away with it.'

I whisper, 'Get away with what?'

Eltie looks at me with shining eyes, 'Living. Living, once you get past Release Age. There's a whole society there.'

'But... But how? Australia has those crazy weather systems, the drought. How do people survive?'

'I don't know. She didn't have long. There are no other records of this. They let people get on with it, once they get out of Euro waters, figuring they're going to die anyway, so why waste time? But it's a chance, Mum.'

'I'd still be leaving you,' I say, touching her face.

'But you'll be alive. And if it does work there, find a way to tell me. I'll come too. We'll all come. We can live there. Nobody can be Released again!' Her speech is rapid, punctuated by gasps and breaths. She grabs my hand. 'Please! I can't stand the thought of... you know. This weekend.'

'But how do I find it?' Despite everything in me that knows this is a bad idea and that I'll get caught and sentenced, it's grabbed me. I have to try.

'Gabs is going to try and get more intel. She's going to pretend she's trying to stop it. Then she'll tell us where and when and put the government on the wrong scent. It's possible, it's all possible. What have we got to lose? If you don't, Mum, they will kill you.'

And so it is that I find myself standing on a beach, two days later, feeling the wind on my face. There's a boat due to take me out to Hope Island, a place named by sailors who were dumped there by the sea when their ship was wrecked in the 1900s. Once on Hope, I hide, with anyone else we'v ebeen able to contact, and a sub will come. It will come, Gabi told me.

The breeze plays with my hair. I dig my toes into the sand, stare at the sky and hope. I squint at the surface of the sea. Something moves. Slowly, a shape rises up, like a black whale. A hatch opens, somebody disembarks. Standing before me, is an old woman, a face wrinkled and beautiful.

'Welcome to your future,' she says.