THE MODEL

Chris R-1-227 Image by Christine Renney

If the model had been bigger it wouldn’t have survived, someone would have destroyed it years ago, taken a hammer and smashed it to smithereens. But the baseboard was a little less than a metre square and it fitted easily into the back of a small van or a large estate car and so moving it from place to place hadn’t ever been that difficult, not too much of a task. When it outstayed its welcome there was always someone able to transport it and somewhere else willing to take it. And so the model had survived and it had languished in little museums and dusty civic centres and draughty village halls. Over the years people had looked at it and a lot of them had been impressed. But no-one had really, really looked at it, not in the way he did. Jacob was the first to study and scrutinise it and to recognise just how delicate, how intricate and extraordinary it was.

The model was a sprawling cityscape of high-rise towers, a section of a much larger metropolis. It wasn’t a re-creation of a particular place, not New York or Singapore or Chicago or Hong Kong. This city was the model makers’ invention and no attempt had been made to conjure anything futuristic or other-worldly. No, this place was representative of the here and now, a city that had once been high-tech and ultra modern but was quickly fading, losing its lustre and its glow.
The model was constructed from molded plastic and the paintwork was exquisite. It had been the model maker’s forte, the masterstroke. At first glance the tower blocks appeared identical and it was only when you looked closely that you noticed the subtle differences and could see the wealth of tiny detail and Jacob couldn’t stop looking.

As he moved around the model that first afternoon and gazed down into it and it snatched the hours away from him, he wracked his brain for an analogy. The best he could come up with was that it was a little like staring at a computer generated image on a screen. A scene from a game perhaps or a video installation. A mid twentieth century city that has become jaded and has somehow lost its way. A place where no-one wants to be, certainly not somewhere that Jacob would want to go and yet he couldn’t stop looking.

Squinting in the bright sunlight, Jacob felt giddy and disoriented. Stumbling he managed to reach the bench in front of the community hall and he sat. Gradually he began to focus again and, looking up, he realised that it was a beautiful evening. After standing for so long in front of the model he needed to stretch his legs and started to walk.
Jacob had lived in this small town since he was a child and he couldn’t remember ever being anywhere else. But, as he walked through the narrow streets and alongside the rows of Georgian and Victorian houses, it began to dawn on him that he had not looked properly at the place in years. Moving out across the market square he felt like a stranger but no, not a stranger, like someone returning to their home town after a long journey and discovering it anew. It felt good and Jacob considered himself to be lucky, lucky to be here and yet he knew that, in the morning, he would re-visit the community hall and look again at the model. That he would look at it as often as he could and for as long as he was able.

TRAILBLAZERS

Chris R-1-155 Image by Christine Renney

They told us we would be hailed as PIONEERS, TRAILBLAZERS, the ones who began it, CREATORS OF A BETTER WORLD, A SAFER PLACE FOR OUR CHILDREN AND OUR CHILDREN’S CHILDREN. We were upright and law abiding citizens. Why wouldn’t we – what did we have to fear, what could we possibly lose? The trackers would soon be mandatory anyhow and the surveillance complete and no egregious act would be unseen or go unpunished.

The trackers are small and the insertion was quick and painless. The Trailblazers all have an identical scar on their lower backs, a little hole at the base of the spine where it was inserted.
The trackers work remotely, connecting with our synapses and to our muscles and brainwaves. I don’t know how it works. I used to believe I understood why but now every time I get up to walk I feel a pressure inside, I feel it everywhere – but then again perhaps I don’t.

The Trailblazers are easily spotted. We stand out in a crowd, everywhere. People know who and what we are. Everyone carries their own trackers now in their phones and watches and tablets and such. They are able to track the trackers and yet despite the fact there are cameras everywhere gathering images and sound people are still wary when we are around. They are reluctant to cross a Trailblazer’s path. They don’t want to be captured by us and recorded for posterity.
People laugh and talk behind our backs, pointing and gesticulating. We were foolish and gullible, yes, but we did what we did because we believed in the greater good and now we are pariahs. We see the anger and hatred written on their faces, the disdain and disgust in their eyes. If they could, they would kick and punch us, hurl abuse and spit in our faces but, of course, they can’t