The worm behind the facade
The mighty edifice of the Nation-State is a glorious thing to behold.
It towers imperiously above you as you dutifully play your civic role in keeping the Great Treadmill turning.
Decked out in the national colours, it boasts huge frescoes illustrating your country’s origins, its traditions, its heroes and its martyrs.
It celebrates the pillars of its rule: its democracy, its wealth and its strength.
Moving parts bring this heritage to life, as the scales of justice tilt to and fro before finding equilibrium, as the sword of the law strikes down on imaginary wrong-doers and as coloured wooden figures representing the dominant political parties revolve in and out of sight through the mechanical doors of power.
The Nation’s great monuments and feats of engineering are depicted, in awe-inspiring relief, and above that images of recent heads of state topped by a 20-foot portrait of the current Leader, jaw jutting forward in princely pride.
Above, so high that you have to strain your neck and shield your eyes from the glare of the sun, are writ the words that bestow ultimate legitimacy on the State, a God-given commitment to the highest of human ideals.
And all the while blares out, from the imposing pipes of an automated and gaudily-decorated fairground organ, your national anthem, and other patriotic melodies designed to stir within you all those fine feelings required by the State: credulity, obedience, submission and conformity.
When it declares yet another state of emergency and demands that everyone run twice as fast on the Treadmill, and take half as many breaks, you are happy to comply.
When it calls upon you to denounce any neighbour seen to be shirking or complaining, you enthusiastically unleash your moral outrage.
When it calls for a million more children to be fed into its Official Orifice in order to maintain Growth and Prosperity, you leap into action with your virtue fully signalled.
The State’s spectacle has entirely dominated your world since you were four years old and first stepped on to the Training Treadmills it so generously provides.
It is unquestionable, invincible and irreproachable, its non-existence simply unimaginable.
And yet, one strange day, when you felt sick of the crowds during your Treadmill break, you wandered far to the edge of the Inclusive Comfort Zone and saw something that changed your life.
From your new perspective, you saw that the edifice was nothing more than a facade, propped up from behind like film-set scenery.
And you were horrified to see little creatures running around the place behind the scenes, busily manipulating the moving parts.
Before you could see any more, you were spotted by a Public Protection Patrol and frogmarched back to the Treadmill, to the boos and jeers and pointing fingers of all those good citizens who knew better than to venture to the fringe.
For a while, you kept your curiosity at check, fully aware that you were under observation.
But then, later, you took the risk and wandered casually to the opposite side of the Zone to see behind the scenery from another angle.
Again you noticed the nasty little figures scurrying about and as you tentatively walked nearer you saw that they looked something like goblins, or perhaps minor demons.
As they moved the levers behind the scenes, the scenery on the facade pivoted in the opposite direction, the illusion thus relying on inversion.
With a start, you realised that the Patrol was after you and, knowing that there was no way back from a second offence, you made a dash for the facade itself.
As you grew closer, closer than anyone was ever supposed to get, you saw that the paint was clumsily applied and chipping off in places, while parts of the oh-so impressive surface had clearly been glued back into place after falling off.
Rounding the corner, you sent goblins running for cover. “Ultra-extremists! Left-Right conspiracy terrorists!” they shrieked, evidently scared out of their little wits by the sight of a real human being crashing into their cloistered world.
With the Patrol at your heels, you dashed forward, with just one glance over your shoulder to see the vast empty wooden expanse of the back of the facade, which, like the props which held it up, was obviously rotting away to the point of inevitable collapse.
You found yourself running parallel to a great plastic pipeline leading from the Official Orifice to what you now saw was a huge reservoir or lake, with some kind of mechanical arm moving back and forth across it.
To your horror, when you drew near you realised that this reservoir was full of the bodies of the children delivered through the Orifice and the arms were blades, cutting their flesh into bloody pulp.
Giant tubes reached up out of the grim mess, sucking the flesh-pulp still further on.
As you rushed forward, breathless, in your determination to elude the pursuing Patrol, you nearly stopped dead in your tracks when you identified for the first time the recipient of this food.
An enormous white worm, or grub, lay on a kind of grotesque throne, wriggling and palpitating as it swelled still further in size thanks to the incoming pulp from not just one but hundreds of tubes attached to its slime-covered scaly body.
And how this worm stank! You felt you were going to vomit as you advanced into its miasma of gangrenous greed and putrid power.
You saw now, as you clambered on to the lower parts of the worm-throne, where the other tubes were coming from.
In each direction they reached from the back of a facade much like that of your own Nation, though the outlines and sizes differed greatly in character.
You could hear music, as well, coming from all around, a confused cacophony of patriotic pride interjected with stern announcements and decrees in a hundred different languages.
Looking behind you, you saw the Patrol advance and feared the worst. But then, inexplicably, they hesitated and turned round.
What was this? A small group of people had followed you in your dash behind the scenes and were waving frantically at you as they advanced.
Another Patrol was following them, but on their heels was an even larger group of intruders.
In fact, you realised with a thrill, there was a massive flow of people leaving the Zone and penetrating behind the facade.
You heard a shout and over at the other side of the worm you saw two people waving at you, who had evidently made a journey like yours from another Nation.
Over there, another! And another! And behind them, partly hidden from view, great floods of humanity rushing in your direction.
The people, everywhere, had broken through and there were just too many of you for the Patrols to do anything about it.
Emboldened by all this, you started to climb the sides of the worm-throne and, as you did so, you broke off a length of wood hanging loose and ragged from the ancient and unsteady structure.
Trying not to breathe too deeply of the rancid air, you reached the top and before you lay the flesh of the beast.
Without even thinking, you plunged your wooden stake into the vile body, and when you pulled it clear, you did well to avoid being sprayed by the evil fluid that spurted forth.
Again and again you struck and as you did so you were joined by others, dozens of others, hundreds and thousands, all using whatever weapon they had come across to stab at the worm, some even tearing at its flesh with their bare hands.
Others set about ripping the tubes from its body so that it could no longer grow fat from the flesh of their children.
You had no notion of time passing, but when the worm was dead, the throne demolished, tubes hacked into pieces, goblins banished, facades pulled down and treadmills turned into firewood, for the first time ever you felt free and truly alive.