Sunday, 27 August 2023

Dog walk stories. Number 2

See previous post for explanation of post title...


The Curist   © Kate A Hardy 


Curist, Ethelred Gruber lowered his face slowly from the machine's viewing frame. He blinked hard, eyes tired from staring so intently for many minutes. 

The woman sat still, obedient, awaiting his command to remove her face from the machine's black curtained box. He hated this moment. Some didn't. Some felt a certain power - a playing of God; a giving of prized or feared information that would change the course of a life.

This news was not to be good. The dancing patterns and textures he had seen within her grade seven, green irises spoke of more than the allowed number of illnesses she was destined to house within a not at all distant future.


A further, deeper look had revealed thoughts she had tried to conceal; thoughts he would have to tap into the verity consul. If he didn't, those thoughts would rest in his own mind and would be in turn unveiled during his bi-monthly verification which was to fall during the next Sevday, a Wedsdy to be precise. 

Harbouring other's thoughts was worse than thinking up the thoughts oneself. Unless one trained one's mind relentlessly the thoughts became meshed with all the others imbibed through these interminable sessions.


The woman moved her position a little, her cheek bones probably hurting from the metal band; too polite to complain, or perhaps overanxious to appear compliant as if being so would alter the truth if it were to be bad. 

These days too few people left the string of Curists' bays with a pass added to their medicomp and relief shining on their faces. It was more common to witness people leaving the bays with blank, staring expressions and instructions on their medicomp that would send them - within the corpoguv's allowance of time - to the finality zone. 


She, this woman with bright copper hair, coughed very slightly, shifting in the uncomfortable seat. She held less than thirty years in her life. It was a vile thing to have to inform her of the outcome. But it was time; there were four others to welcome in as brightly as he could this aft.

The Curist pressed the button that would release the band. "Right, Miss Harper . . . you can sit back now . . . sorry, that took a little longer than I thought."


Time he had spent in morbid musings, the residue of which he would have to scrape away from his mind during downtime, lest anything betray his own secret misgivings about the system.

She peered at him over the machine rather like one of those reconstructed animals he had seen in the museum of beforehand. A lemming . . . or was it a cat? they seemed to look eternally surprised, which perhaps they had been if they had realised they were about to be annihilated by a megagath green gas bomb.


"Curist? Is everything . . . as it should be?"

He jumped a little, surprised out of his extinct mammal daydream. "As it should be?"

"You know . . .  all right."

He hated the fact he had delayed; he should be sharper with the truth, give it to them direct, matter-as-fact as the steel of this surface his sweating hands lay upon.

They were not to engage overly with the person. No apologies, no remorse, no empathy. It's how it was. Everyone knew. You had a fifty-fifty chance although it appeared to him increasingly that sixty-forty might be the new normal.

"Miss Harper . . . it is not good news."

It was a lemming. He was sure of it now. Her eyes protruded; the small sharp nose losing its colour. Her cheeks flared as rapidly as the Southern Lights that swirled around the sky above the desert peaks.

"You mean . . ."

"I'm afraid so. It'll all be on your medicomp within a few clockfaces."

She started to stand up, unsteady, unsure of her movements. He wanted to take her in his arms, pat her comfortingly on the back, but he did what he was supposed to do; gestured with a steady hand.

"If you could leave by that door, thank you. As I say, it'll all be listed."

"Was it the thoughts, Curist? Or do I have diseases?"

"I'm afraid I am unallowed to discuss this further."

She moved towards the door, her rubber soled shoes causing a slight shriek in the silence. She might say something else, right at the point when her hand clasped the door handle. They usually did. A question about their personal defects; the thing that would rob them of life.


"Miss Harper?"

Why do they call you Curists when you don't cure anything anymore?"


She didn't wait for a reply, even if there was to be one. He searched for a response. There was none.

The door closed with its gentle click. 

Gruber risked the eye of the view-all lens and let his head loll into his hands. A few tears wetted his palms. A red light winked through his fingers as the view-all closed in on where his face should have been. 

He straightened up, changing his hidden expression of despair to one of comfortable self-control, and prepared to wait for the next client.

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