There’s Always a Choice
‘Just… don’t think about,’ said Billy, fiddling with his sleeve. Like he always did when a conversation got too serious. Chris shook his head, absently, looking over the edge to the working masses below.
‘How can I not think about it? All those people down there…?’
‘People,’ sneered Billy. ‘You wouldn’t use that word if you’d spoken to them. They’ve no culture – nothing except the turning of the wheel. They don’t even have names.’
Chris leaned over, just a little further, peering down the shaft. It was a long way down, and plumes of smoke billowed up from the chimneys – but it wasn’t the choking, thick, hiding smog Chris remembered from his childhood, three districts away. Though they were little bigger than ants he could see the workers down below, wearing nothing but coats of ash.
‘It’s not right,’ he muttered. ‘You know, their life expectancy—’
‘Of course I know. Does it matter? They’re beasts. And, besides, it’s necessary. There are those that toil, and those that think. The hands and the head.’
‘It’s not right.’
Billy sighed and closed his text book. It was a phase, he knew: one that everyone went through.
‘So, what, you want to go all Moses, then? “Let my people go”, right?’
Chris didn’t answer. Billy sighed and stood up. This was his fault, really – he shouldn’t have brought his friend outside. All it led to was pointless introspection.
‘Come on. We’re going to be late for today’s lecture.’
Chris turned his head at last.
‘What’s on today?’
’Hrrm… Post-structuralist approaches to the homoeroticism of Sherlock Holmes* and the early detective genre*, I think.’
Chris’ face lit up at Billy’s words; he licked his teeth, already spinning a few arguments about audience interaction and the non-existence of ‘canon’ in preparation.
‘All right,’ he said, turning away from the balcony’s edge. ‘Let’s see what nonsense Professor Sand’s spreading now.’
Billy slapped Chris on the back. Now they were going to do something important, something that mattered – literary criticism. They rushed, together, back inside the gleaming white tower: today, in their small way, they would change the world.
And down below, amongst the dirt and smoke, the toilers continued to toiled.