Chris R-0825-2 Image by Christine Renney

Tanner had always managed to navigate his way through life unnoticed. He became acutely aware of this when he first began his work as an Eraser. Ordinary looking and extremely reserved, even as a young man Tanner realised that this did not fully account for the uncanny ability he had for melting into the background, for making himself all but invisible.
There was something inside of him, an innate skill, a gift even, albeit one he hadn’t asked for and wasn’t sure that he wanted. He realised also that, given the line of work he had chosen, if he were to hone his skill and nurture this gift it could be very useful.

It seemed apt to Tanner that he, whose job was the disappearing of others, could move around unnoticed, was an invisible man as it were. But whenever Tanner glanced in a mirror nowadays he was shocked by what he saw. He was a little man, short and hunched, the pallor of his skin matching the grey clothes he always wore. His thinning hair was white and his face was deeply creased and lined. He was a ghoul, his was a face that featured in nightmares, that appeared toward the end, just before dawn.



Chris R-0098 Image by Christine Renney

Tanner had often considered creating a pamphlet of his own, writing and distributing it anonymously. It would be a manual of sorts, offering advice on how to recognise the troublemakers, those challenging the system, but more importantly those who haven’t yet but who might.
Whenever he began putting it together in his head it always seemed absurd. The notion that people should be suspicious of others based on their haircut or the kind of clothes they wore, or which newspaper they took, the music they listened to, the books they read.
Just because someone visited the library and checked out a novel by a long ago formerly banned writer it didn’t necessarily mean that particular someone would become a conspirator. A pamphlet might help, yes, but really it would be little more than a list of traits and affectations, of mannerisms and possible signs and it wasn’t enough.


Chris R-0140 Image by Christine Renney

Over the years Tanner had become highly attuned to his work and was able to spot the conspirators from afar. He could pick them out on a busy street, in a crowded bar or restaurant. This wasn’t ever based on anything concrete but he just knew. Perhaps it was because he had been obliterating these people for so long. Rubbing them out, the ones who conspired against and opposed the system, once they had been exposed after the fact.
Tanner had reported his suspicions hundreds upon hundreds of times and he had never been wrong. Each and everyone of those individuals had been found guilty and eventually their names appeared on The Eraser list. Occasionally Tanner will be appointed the case of one of his suspects and he always finds this deeply satisfying. He had been the first to recognise that this particular person was a potential agitator, someone who could easily stray and be pulled from the centre. Someone who would believe the lies and help to perpetuate the myth and now Tanner was able to wipe him or her from the face of the earth or at least from the system. To remove all evidence and any legitimacy that might still remain.


Chris R-2-3 Image by Christine Renney

Everything is so much smaller now and each day familiar, echoing the last. On the road the repetition was harsh and ceaseless. I wasn’t able to retire in the evenings and sleep in a bed and, come morning, begin afresh. I still can’t but somehow I have managed to establish a routine of sorts.
When the shops are open I walk the streets and I select a spot and I settle down. A particular doorway at a particular time. The abandoned spaces in front of the boarded windows and the ’TO LET’ signs. But not too far out – it has to be in a part of the city where people come, where they congregate. Pubs, clubs and restaurants or better still office blocks, places of employment and of course shops.
There are others here, vying for space, for a little change, but they aren’t resentful or in any way proprietorial. We are like fishermen on a bank and the busy thoroughfare is our river. They don’t ignore or avoid me but they do leave me alone and occasionally I will nod at one of these men because, for this, I am grateful.


Chris R-0136 Image by Christine Renney

It is not the Eraser’s job to make accusations, to point the finger as it were. But it is the duty of each and every citizen to be vigilant and able to recognise subversive behaviour. To be able to tell when it is happening right there in front of their faces. In the houses just across the street or that room at the back of a public house or in a unit on an industrial estate.
Those who conspire against the System are devious and they hide in plain sight, making leaflets and pamphlets, distributing their lies. And most people are unaware or they choose not to believe, not to see it.
The people had become complacent over the years and this made Tanner angry. It seemed to him that they had reached a certain level of acceptance, not of the Subversives of course but of their material. It had been a constant for so long and, as soon as the System had removed a particular pamphlet or magazine, another would emerge. There were differences of course but they were subtle and really nothing changed. The Subversives’ message, their falsities, remained.


Chris R-0903 Image by Christine Renney

There were others. Other Erasers and occasionally their paths crossed. Tanner always attempted to keep his distance and this hadn’t proved so difficult because each worked alone, forbidden from sharing information or collaborating even when their cases were connected and the names linked.
Tanner had always accepted this and never questioned its validity. In fact, it seemed right to him that just one Eraser be responsible for extracting a life, for changing that history and the covering of the tracks. It was respectful, he felt, and dignified. Although he wouldn’t ever have told anyone, Tanner believed that even rebels and dissidents deserved that.

Tanner is the oldest of the Erasers, the last of the ‘Old Guard’. When he is around the younger men sense his disapproval and yet they don’t hold back and talk openly about their cases. Tanner is shocked by this and also at how fiercely ambitious they are.
They moan about how antiquated the job has become and how they could be so much more effective if only they were allowed to work as a team.
‘There is still a place for the foot sloggers,’ they say, as they glance across at Tanner, ‘but we need our own offices, our own archives even.’
For them the job is simply a step up onto a ladder and one that they intend to climb. Tanner has often thought about reporting them to those above but the system is, of course, evolving, and these young men aren’t rebels. No, they are a part of its future.


Chris R-0813 Image by Christine Renney

We all call it Heaven but of course it isn’t. In fact we laugh at those from the Difficult Past, the ones who believed in a somewhere that was better and forever. No, Heaven isn’t about eternal happiness, nor is it a place where we can float upon a cloud in blissful ignorance. It is simply home or at least we hope that it will be.

Integration began here on Earth One almost eighty years ago. Infants were brought down from the Home Planet and over the course of five years the population here doubled. This wasn’t done clandestinely but the chosen families were sworn to keep the origin of their ‘siblings’ a secret. We didn’t know who was who and we still don’t know who is who. Eventually of course it won’t matter and everyone will get to go home but we aren’t there, not quite.
The Home Planet isn’t so very different from here, not now at least. We all visit – it is a holiday destination, somewhere to save for and look forward to.

They were wiser than us. Simplistic I know, a lazy analogy perhaps, but it does seem to me to be the truth.
The Home Planet learned from us during the Difficult Past and they succeeded against the Plague and the Famine, against War and Division. I suppose division is at the root of it all. It is where Contempt and Hatred are able to brood and breed.

The Home Planet fended against the bloodshed and the death. Whilst our population dwindled they flourished. When they decided to help us it was, I suppose, the final step because soon there won’t be any more ’us and them’ and everyone from here will eventually be able to begin again there.

An old timer like me, at seventy eight, has about a fifty/fifty chance, not bad odds. And I suppose in the end it won’t matter. There is no evidence as yet that any of the re-born can remember. But that doesn’t stop me believing, from hoping, for Heaven.