THE ERASER #12

Chris R-0978-2 Image by Christine Renney

The trails Tanner was assigned to follow were merely ones made of paper. It wasn’t necessary for him to dirty his hands with anything other than the written records.
These trails always began at the traitor’s last known address; a house or an apartment, sometimes just a room, a rented box. But whichever it was, a mansion or a bottom bunk on Skid Row, it was the subversive’s final abode, their home.
Tanner wasn’t required to enter and to rifle through their belongings and he was thankful for this. He hadn’t any desire to sift through all of the things that they had gathered over the years; the heirlooms and memorabilia. It didn’t matter to him if they had been train-spotters or stamp collectors or fans of the operettas of Gilbert & Sullivan.
Some of it he could guess at – the framed certificates and sporting trophies. These, of course, would be destroyed and anything else of any real value would acquire a new price tag ready to be sold.

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THE ERASER #10

Chris R-0314 Image by Christine Renney

Tanner had often been responsible for the erasure of people he had known. This was against the rules. He was all too aware that cases where the person was known to the Eraser should be passed across to another worker and yet Tanner had ignored this time and again.
Over the years he had worked hard at convincing himself it didn’t matter, that it was a small rebellion, just a little thing, but of course he had left a trail.
There had been colleagues from his schooldays, boys and girls he had sat alongside in various classrooms. Occasionally one of his teachers had appeared on the list. Tanner recognised their names immediately and had been able to conjure up the particular individual with his minds eye. The pictures had always been and remained vivid and detailed whilst Tanner’s recollections of his so called class ‘mates’ were hazy.
Tanner had often found himself brooding on this, on the fact that he could remember his former educators but had forgotten his contemporaries. He wondered if this meant that he regretted the removal of certain lapsed citizens, more so than others.
Ultimately though it didn’t matter. It wasn’t Tanner’s job to make sense of it, to understand the how and the why. No, it was his job to wipe all of them from the records and from the system.

THE ERASER #9

Chris R-0114 Image by Christine Renney

Tanner was a loner. Even prior to the System, during his childhood and throughout adolescence, he hadn’t managed to form any long term relationships. He had kept his head down, listened intently, and worked hard and he had been an above average student and yet none of his teachers had seemed impressed nor even to notice. When the System came a-calling he had known instantly just what he could do for them, what he could become.
He hadn’t ever felt resentful or blamed his choice of occupation for the solitary life he had led. In fact, he believed they were complementary, that he had been more efficient because of it. In the past, whenever an Eraser was around, people had been worried, close mouthed and reluctant to share or shoot the breeze. Tanner was unsure if this was still the case but he suspected it wasn’t. He still had the same effect and, when those who didn’t work for the System realised he was about, in the proximity as it were, their conversations would stutter to a halt.
Tanner’s colleagues, on the other hand, talked almost constantly and they didn’t care if he was around and could hear or that he was excluded. Their lives seemed to consist of an endless cycle of family feuds, of birthday parties or barbecues and excursions.
As Tanner listened to them, to the other Erasers, he was often struck by just how similar their lives were to those of his suspects. The ones he had unearthed and exposed, the lives he had cut and wrenched from their moorings that he, and they, had erased.

THE ERASER #7

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.

THE ERASER #4

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.

THE ERASER #3

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.

THE HOME PLANET

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.