A collective writing project with UCA students
1984 in 2020
It had been a peaceful day before it all went dark. Winston woke up to a different smell, and to a holler coming from above. In the middle of a barely recognisable city, a policeman was yelling at him, urging to put on a mask and get moving. I do not understand he stuttered, barely making out the traits of his visage. You’re right in the middle of the city lad’, you can’t be staying here laying down like that, get up and put on a mask will ya? he quickly answered.
Winston felt ungoodwise. After getting up, Winston scrutinized his hands and surroundings. He was filthy and could barely discern the city he was in. Everyone had cloths of various colours on their faces and the streets were appallingly empty. This, with the addition of similarly – albeit cleaner – looking monuments and buildings induced in Winston a sentiment that he was still in London. Much to his dismay, he also realized that being as filthy as he is, he must have been mistaken as some sort of vagrant. He could not remember much, and still had the aftertaste of his last Victory gin he had drunk. His first thought hit him like a truck; he loved Big Brother and nothing else mattered.
At his next upcoming thought – interrupted by a buzzing ringing accompanied of a metallic voice came from the air. Due to recent events, please practice social distancing, wear a mask and thoroughly wash your hands. A fine will be given if not respected. Protect yourself and others. It came from a small helicopter shaped machine that dashed quickly through the air and went past Winston, not knowing what it was or what his pitch consisted of. Perhaps an invention of the Ministry of Peace.
Upon almost no spatial recognitions and lack of indications, He decided to walk towards a bystander, asking his way in plain English, I’m sorry sir, do you know where exactly we- but as he started to inquire the unknown person, he backed off yelling, battering a similar talk as the previous flying machine and left. No one else would answer him, and the lack of passer-by’s did not help. Winston continued walking. Upon his feeble stroll, he has been met with strange screens showing not the face of Big Brother, but formal warnings and orders on how to avoid contracting some strangely named malady. He did not understand what it was; still hazy from his slumber state. Shops and malls were closed. But also, neater and bigger, none of which existed before. The few remaining folks roaming fearfully the streets were either walking at fast paces or lining up to buy essential goods. All seemingly a meter apart from one another. Promiscuity had died and intimacy with it. Winston, if he were to have an untrained eye, could have easily mistaken this society to his own. Apart from the cleaner state of the place, everyone obeyed orders and obviously lacked freedom.
What utterly struck him was the little attention he was getting and what kind. He was much different to the rest of the populace, worn no masks, no transparent gloves and still had the standard washed-out blue overalls given to him after his treatment. He stood out from the rest; he was the only dirty thing miles around. The streets – as aforementioned – were left alone. The tarmacs and asphalts left to their triste destiny; to rot grey and crackle under time’s weight. The couple of looks that he had gotten were resembling the ones accused of thoughtcrime. Indeed, he feared that not acclimating himself to the climate was perceived as obscene or at least, immoral. I cannot crimethink, I have been cured. I love the party, reassuring himself. He was indeed incapable of any oldthink.
He kept walking and began to collect his memories. I was at a bar, drinking Victory gin and smoking Victory cigarettes. My mind had won upon my crimethink and I loved the Party. I remember to two gin scented tears that trickled down the sides of my nose. I remembered my love for Big Brother -But his face was nowhere to behold. He also, began to understand the queer climate present of this newfound society. It must have been a master trick of the Party, to change it all as we were sleeping. New orders. New visages. Cleaner streets and proper curbs; there is a duality to all this -he rationalized- Ingsoc had swift ideas and the right personnel to execute them. Dayorder seemed to not have changed but I do fai lto understand how the orders of the Party could not have been malquoted. Despite all this, he still felt at ease, or rather a bellyfeel.
Thoughts raced, and he began to murmur his way out of his mind; Instead of an authoritative agnate figure, a disease controlled their thoughts and directed their actions. It showed by how the thinkpol acted. They sufficed themselves with the basic needs resembling Victory goods. Instead of uniformity in the clothing, they had cloths covering their tired faces. Instead of wars as constant terrors they had the fear of others. No more Ministries to induce doublethink, but a common government of fear. He felt at home and at peace with himself. He wasn’t home, but it was all right, everything was alright.
As the day came to an end, Winston learned that a curfew was still in place. He hid in a cul-de-sac near an empty avenue and muttered to himself words that still resonate in this time and place. War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery and Ignorance is Strength.
Original character and vocabulary (newspeak) by G. Orwell’s 1984 Novel
From a general psychosis towards the unknown. . .
The exterior of a two-story corner building on a street in New Orleans which is named Elysian Fields Avenue and runs between the Interstate 610 and the river. The section is poor but, unlike corresponding sections in other American cities, it has a raffish charm. The houses are mostly white frame, weathered grey, with rickety outside stairs and galleries and quaintly ornamented gables. This building contains two flats, upstairs and down, as well as a pharmacy on the first floor with floor-to-ceiling windows. Faded white stairs lead to the entrances of the two flats.
It is first dark of an evening early in March. The sky that shows around the dim white building is a peculiarly tender blue, almost a turquoise, which attenuates the menacing atmosphere of decay and leeriness.
Two women, one white and one colored, are talking inside the pharmacy, leaning against the counter. The door of the pharmacy is open, letting a slight breeze come in. The white woman is Eunice, who occupies the upstairs flat and is in charge of the dispensary; the colored woman a neighbor and customer.
Two men come around the corner, Stanley Kowalski and Mitch. They are about twenty-eight or thirty years old, roughly dressed in blue denim work clothes and wearing homemade reusable face masks. Stanley carries his bowling jacket and a dusty package.
Hey there! Stella, Baby!
[Stella comes out on the first-floor landing, a gentle young woman, about twenty-five, and of a background obviously quite different from her husband’s.]
Don’t holler at me like that. Hi, Mitch.
[He leaves the package at her. She cries out in protest but manages to catch it, then she laughed breathlessly. Her husband and his companion have already started back around the corner.]
Stella [calling after him]:
Stanley! Where are you going?
Can I come watch?
Come on. But wear it, huh?
Sure… Be over soon. [To the white woman] Hello, Eunice. How are you?
I’m all right. Tell Steve to get some new elastic bands, ‘cause this mask dates back to the 2009 flu.
[They all laugh; the colored woman does not stop. Stella goes out.]
What was that package he th’ew at ‘er? [She rises from steps, laughing louder.]
You hush, now!
[She continues to laugh. Blanche comes around the corner and walks up to the pharmacy front door, carrying a brown faux-leather handbag. She looks at her phone, then across the room, then again at her phone and again across the room. Her expression is one of horrified disappointment. Her appearance is incongruous to this immaculate white medical setting. She is wearing black gloves and hat, designer acetate sunglasses and a baroque silk scarf covering her mouth, looking as if she aimed to cover every inch of her skin. Her fragile health must avoid a contamination.]
What’s the matter, honey? Are you lost?
Blanche [with faintly hysterical humor]:
I was told to take a subway line named Desire, and then get off at one called Cemeteries, and walk six blocks to a pharmacy on— Elysian Fields Avenue!
That’s where you are now. How can I help you?
At the Walgreens pharmacy?
This here is the Walgreens pharmacy.
They mustn’t have—understood— what item I wanted…
What you lookin’ for?
[Blanche wearily refers to the screen of her mobile phone]
You don’t have to look no further. We’ve just received some nice colors.
I’m looking for a mask. I mean— an FFP2 mask.
You just did miss the last one. It’s now sold out everywhere honey. You ain’t gonna find one anytime soon.
Out of stock—could this last— a long time?
You watched the news on TV?
I’m— not sure I properly listened to them.
Well, that’s where we’re at, no masks and the few we may have left, they all goin’ to the hospitals and doctors.
[There is a pause]
You want to buy a reusable mask? You can wash it up to ten times.
Eunice [defensively, noticing Blanche’s look]
It’s not an FFP2 I’ll give you that, but it does protect. As long as people are all wearing it.
Uh-huh. I mean, I hope so.
To collective indifference once in a real health crisis . . .
[Some time has passed. The virus has spread across the entire country and New-Orleans has not been spared. The sanitary impact of the crisis is now well-known amongst the population. Yet the afore taken precautions regarding this new threat have been abandoned. The blame seems to be on lassitude. It seems as though everybody was trying to find their old life back at all costs. Despite the official social distancing instructions, Blanche has decided to go out accompanied.]
Are you taking off—
You’re taking off your mask?
It’s only a reusable one. I have been persuaded to buy one despite the fact that I had been looking for an FFP2! Something about a stock shortage and the slowing down of Chinese productions.
Aren’t you worried about your fragile health?
Yes, I suppose I am quite vulnerable right now… But do not pay too much attention to it, I am simply facing some temporary indisposition. See, I do not have any fever. And I rarely cough! Disagreeable allergies, that’s all. Nothing that you should worry about. And I have nothing to worry about either, for you do not have any symptom!
They say some people may not show any symptom, yet…
Oh! Pure nonsense. Doctors and their contradictions! I even blame the media— oh, the media and their constant pseudo-news based on hearsay! No, no, no, my dear, rest assured, this pandemic is behind us, I can feel it! Yes, I can feel it in my bones! Now, will you do something for me?
That red velvet pouch on the table, hand it to me! This way I can fold my mask inside so it won’t gather dust— it was quite expensive after all! Will you, please?
Be glad to.
See, I can’t stand such a chafing piece of cloth on my face, any more that I can a rude remark or a vulgar action. And to think it’s summer already! I simply cannot continue to suffocate behind a mask all summer!
I guess you have been careful after all, so there mustn’t be any risk.
I’m very careful— when I need to be, that is. Oh! To breath some fresh air again!
from A Streetcar Named Desire by T. Williams