Image by Christine Renney
Tanner’s job was to remove the evidence, to wipe away the traces. He considered this task as necessary, that he was an essential part of the system and for more than forty years Tanner’s belief in the system hadn’t wavered. He had remained resolute, diligent and effective.
Although he remembered all the names of those he had erased, Tanner hadn’t ever regarded them as individuals. No, they were part of a collective and anyhow many of them, most in fact, were already dead or imprisoned before his work had even begun.
Some, a few, had escaped and were living in exile, but what they did and said elsewhere didn’t matter. What they were beyond the system was inconsequential. It was the eraser’s job to eradicate those who opposed the system from within. To help establish and maintain the truth.
By the time a name is passed on to Tanner, the bulk of inflammatory material has already been unearthed and obliterated. Underground magazines can’t hide forever and the liars are always captured amidst the lies, like spiders trapped in their own webs.
Tanner is responsible for the minutia, his job is trawling through old news reports and other archives. When it is decided that someone shouldn’t exist, doesn’t exist, each and every record from birth right up until that final betrayal has to go.
The younger generation aren’t really sure what it is that Tanner does or, more accurately, what it is that he has done. But Tanner has helped to close down national newspapers, the demolition and destruction of institutions, of hospitals, factories, schools and libraries, with the disruption of families, of whole communities, of tradition. But none of this is a part of the truth and he is just an old man with a black marker.
The rhetoric hasn’t changed over the years and Tanner is perplexed by this. Whilst the system has evolved, is constantly evolving, those who oppose it are forever locked in a relentless fight and it is futile. They are able to make themselves heard, yes, but only fleetingly and it seems to him that they are shouting into the void.
Tanner often finds himself thinking about the monolith in that old science fiction film. The film has been banned, of course, and so he hasn’t seen it in years. And it isn’t actually the monolith that preoccupies his thoughts but its surface, gleaming and unmarked.
Protesters and rebels , this is how they are referred to beyond the system. Those who have survived and are still out there, they are dissidents or exiles. Tanner has always been uncomfortable with these labels although he hasn’t managed to come up with any that he feels are better suited. ‘Those who oppose the system’ is too clumsy but that is what they are. And they are still as virulent as they ever were, perhaps even more so and for that brief spell, until they are uncovered, just as vocal.
Tanner remembers the names and also their former occupations. He remembers the carpenter and the school teacher and the plumber and the doctor. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. He remembers what they once were, what they should have been.