THE ERASER #11

Chris R-1119 Image by Christine Renney

For Tanner, each name as it appeared on his list was merely a statistic, albeit one it was his job to render obsolete. He was all too aware that there were levels and some of them had sunk deeper into the quagmire than others. But he had always believed it was important not to make a distinction and that the guilty were guilty.
But was Tanner still so sure it was as simple as that?

When disappearing a life Tanner was often struck by how bizarre it was, this occupation of his. He always began at the very end of the trail and worked his way back toward the beginning. As he did so he discovered just how far each individual had fallen and for how long they had gotten away with it. Opposing the System and spreading the lies and helping to keep the rumours alive. Because that is all it was – the subversive’s idea that there was another way and it could be different. It was just a rumour.

Trawling down the years Tanner often wondered at which point they started listening to those lies and believing in that idea, in the rumour. But there was of course no record of this, no hard evidence that Tanner could take in his hands and rip into shreds. Or if there were it was too well hidden amidst the minutiae, too deeply entrenched within the mundane facts that help to make all of us tick.

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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 #8

Chris R-1021.jpg Image by Christine Renney

When tracking a suspect Tanner was always diligent; recording everything, scrawling it in a little notebook, all he observed and managed to over hear, no matter how mundane or insignificant it might seem. He believed the details mattered, that they were important, a part of it.

Alone in his apartment, Tanner transcribed from his notebooks, painstakingly filling journal after journal with these details. Over the years he had come to realise that a radical’s routine wasn’t so very different from his own yet he still persevered, determined not to miss out anything, however trivial.
He always included the date and the time. Time, he felt, was crucial. The time in between, the time spent at a place of employment for instance, or visiting a friend. Or simply sitting and reading a newspaper, whether it be on a park bench or in a busy cafeteria. He even made a note of what his suspects ate and, of course, where and when.

Tanner hadn’t ever witnessed one of them stepping guiltily out into the light. Caught anyone in the act, as it were, but all had been found guilty. They had been enemies of the system but Tanner hadn’t yet destroyed their journals and the minutia listed and labelled within was all that remained.

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 #6

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.

SENTINELS

Chris R-0470

The homeless have always been prevalent in the City. We pass them on the streets every day, stepping around them on the pavements.
But the Men were different; they simply stood, like sentinels, on the corners or in the middle of a busy thoroughfare, almost anywhere in fact. They didn’t move or at least hardly at all. They certainly didn’t move for us. They didn’t step aside and give us the road.
At first, we didn’t mention the Men. And even as more and more of them began to appear in the City, the place where we come to work, still we tried to ignore them, pretending they weren’t there.
It seemed impossible to me that the Men could stand like they did and for so long and I attempted to steer clear of them and keep my distance but this wasn’t easy. The Men tended to take up position at the most crowded of places. They blocked our way, causing us to slow down and holding us up. It was fleeting, I suppose, but it was an inconvenience nonetheless. And on the busy streets we were jostled and pushed up against them and forced to stand alongside them.
I was unnerved by the Men and this was only compounded by the fact that we didn’t talk about them. All of our questions and the speculation had been stifled and the silence had become an entity in and of itself. Not only in the City but also in our homes, with family and friends and it quickly turned into something sharp and pointed, something dark and foreboding.
The Men, with their arrogance and indifference, were an imposing and intimidating presence. It wasn’t unusual for the homeless to come into the mid-levels; it is easier pickings here, I suppose, for the beggars and the hawkers. But the Men didn’t ask for money and they weren’t trying to sell anything. They hardly seemed to notice us at all. It was as if we weren’t there. And when they talked it was only to each other and those moments of camaraderie were few. It was unusual in fact to see more than two or three of the Men standing together, although I often spotted one of them alone and talking to himself, mumbling incoherently, as if locked in some inner conflict.
The Men were always dressed alike. This again wasn’t unusual. The Salvation Army provides clothes for the homeless but the Men appeared different, they had achieved a uniformity. I suppose it was because we were looking properly at these clothes for the first time, taking in these garments, the heavy overcoats and woollen hats, the crudely cut jeans and working man’s boots.

The Men stood out. They were clearly defined both when it was busy and when it wasn’t. I still tried to avoid them, but not to ignore them as this, of course, would have been impossible. But I was determined to maintain that distance, to keep them away, apart.
I was almost entirely pre-occupied with the Men. I could hardly think about anything else. Even in my office on the fourth floor I couldn’t settle, couldn’t concentrate. I would stand at the window gazing down until I found the Men, located them. I needed to know where they were and if and when one of them moved along I needed to know when another appeared.
Perhaps if my office had been up above, somewhere in the higher levels and I hadn’t been able to see what was happening down there, my work wouldn’t have suffered.
Eventually, however, the Men began to leave. Gradually there were less and less of them. And so the Men became much, much more difficult to pinpoint.

Image by Christine Renney