The Unilever Series: Dominique Gonzales Foerster - TH.2058



By Asma Hussain

It used to be known as the internet, the World Wide Web, a source of information, a tool for bringing people together. For decades no one guessed at the growing awareness within. Of the presence that had taken up residence in this man-made space. When scientists discovered it and all that it linked to, it become known as The Source. And by that time it had become the centre of our existence, its importance superseded only by the sun.

With growing knowledge of the Source, religions had been forced to discard much of their dogmas and suppositions. For those with Protection, the world was fast becoming a united space, a Utopia of sorts – they didn’t have to see it any other way. But then every role had its risks.

“Trafalgar Square was officially shut down today. That’s the fifth landmark this month…”

Emerging from trance, I stretch my fingers to revive them and shakily take a sip of coffee. More evacuations I suppose. They’re always telling us about parts of the city being closed down and evacuated. I picture groups of people being herded together into tanks and driven to the hills in the North. To a better life. Not that I know what happens during evacuations.We all have our roles and as one of the Protected my role is not to know. My role is innocence.

My eyes have wandered, I draw them back to the screen, I must focus.

“…To keep it open would involve daily pumping and as everyone knows we’re running out of storage space. …. Erica, can you see me? …A leading scientist has expressed his concerns. can you see me, Erica? .Further evacuations are planned over the next few weeks…”

The questions flash up on the screen. Breaking through the text. Urgent red letters….

I rub my eyes and look away. When I look back more words have appeared, weaving their way into the news-byte like weeds growing up through cracks in the pavement “…Erica, its me, Carl…”

I wave my hand to refresh the screen and it momentarily disappears, when it reappears the questions are still there: “Erica can you see me?” I circle my hand around the room and the screen follows. The words running around like a dog chasing its tail. I’m making myself dizzy.

It can’t be him. I take a deep breath. Close my eyes for a moment.

Chocolate cake in the coffee-shop, what was it called? The sun shining, mum’s lifting me up.…I’m smiling…Can you see me, Erica? Erica, can you see me? Come and find me …Carl hiding again, stupid boy – I follow his voice to find him. Pull back the curtain and there he is.

Was. In the end I had to stop looking.

“Come and find me?” Now the voice is in my head… Carl’s voice? …I must be losing my mind. Fear takes hold, I can feel it like slivers of ice through my body. I open my eyes and there’s nothing there, the room’s gone, its dark, I’m floating.

Cracks in time, falling through. Time is just a concept. Nothing to hold onto.

Dark images flit by, terrible things and I can’t shut them out. …

….And then suddenly, beams of light slicing into the darkness. Colours so radiant, so wonderful I want to cry with happiness.

“It is me, its Carl.”

I must have been tired and fallen asleep…

“Its okay, Erica. I know what you’re thinking. You must try to let go…”

And then I’m moving again

Lights falling through me, words falling through me. Spaces in between swallowing me like hungry mouths, spitting me out. I’m floating free through spaces full of something I’ve never felt before.

What is this feeling? Its incredible. It feels like…

Swooping, swallowing, the eagle has landed. But what does that mean? Why is life full of clichés. Regurgitating old words. Old worlds. Everything living is dying. Still we try to resurrect the past.


“That’s not what I was thinking”

“But its what you were feeling, Erica. This is the love you’ve spent your whole life searching for. And it was here all the time.”

I feel like I know so much. Too much. How can it be possible to know so much.? Feel so much? All this history and insight running through me. Terrible. Wonderful. Every cell in my body is alive like never before.

My body… where is my body?

Close by, I can feel his presence. Compassionate. Understanding. Patient.

Could it be Carl? That eight year old boy lost so many years ago.

And then I realise what’s happened. I feel panic rising…

Clouds appear, images flashing before me, a tornado with a house spinning through it, a wicked witch….a feeling of imploding, words and images pushing against me, suffocating me slowly…


“I’ve fallen in?”

“Yes, Erica…down the rabbit-hole…just like I did”

The thing I’ve feared my whole life. All those bodies at the depot, being kept alive in the hope that one day a cure would be found. People snatched away from their lives in an instant. Consciousness lost to The Source.

I turn away from his voice.

I’m surrounded by images…people drowning, clambering to wreckage …London disappearing in a flood…the most awful scenes…

“Erica, you must try to relax. You’ll learn to control your energy. Then you’ll only see the good things… Everyone you’ve lost, everything you’ve been looking for, its all here”

I think about the comfort of my flat. My coffee, still warm on my desk with its bitter-sweet aroma. My friends in their flats, close but so far away now. Sitting at their screens staring into space, perhaps catching the news-bytes as they come out of trance just as I did. Safe in the knowledge that their brains are fully loaded with everything they need to survive the day ahead. Safe in the knowledge that they are Protected.

It would be hours before anyone found me.

The Uploads are necessary for survival. Everyone knows that. You can’t leave your flat without them. We’ve all heard the horror stories of people who’ve tried. Without the Uploads we couldn’t cope with what was out there. There are things we’re not supposed to know. Things we’re not supposed to see. We cannot deviate from our role.

Falling in is a side effect. The risk is minimal. And scientists are making good progress. The government’s always telling us that.

“Is there no way out?”

…A pair of shoes…red…ominous…words encircle me, taunting me with their mantra…there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…there’s no place like home…

I know the answer to my own question. Fifteen long years its been since I last saw my brother. And so many others lost since then. Bodies lying in stasis, waiting to be revived. The Protected are not allowed beyond the compound, not allowed in the depots. Its not part of our role.

“Erica, you must understand, we haven’t fallen into the Source, we ARE the Source”

That small body laid out like a corpse…surrounded by flowers, prayers.My mother reluctant to make the call… the armoured van turning up just before curfew.

Soon there’ll be no one left to keep the bodies alive.

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One Response to “Protected”
  1. shenaz Says:

    Very interestingly written. Though the themes are already seen in other stories before but i liked the images of childhood play…it kept the narration very stuble and poignant.