Black Keys

Erich studied the keys on his new typewriter. The body was light gray and the keys were black with white letters. It was unregistered, untraceable, and he would finally be able to write his story, a story that if it fell into the wrong hands, could mean he’d spend the rest of his life in a five-by-five room with no windows. It was a risk he needed to take.

He looked over at the typewriter he’d been using for the past few years, primarily writing for the local newspaper. That typewriter had been registered with the the state, as all had to be, so the State Police could take the mark of the typewriter so they could always trace back anything it had ever written. He used it for work but what he didn’t consider what he was doing journalism anymore. He wrote up a story, then edited it down so nothing of substance was there, and sent the skeleton off to the newspaper’s editor, a State Security officer charged with ensuring everything the people read was thoroughly manicured and wiped clean of any signs of dissent, lies about the Party, or any unfortunate truths that would ruffle the feathers of their socialist Utopia.

Erich knew he couldn’t use that already traceable typewriter for his clandestine work. It’d be too easy to track. He arranged, through a friend, to smuggle a new unregistered typewriter, a major risk in itself as one never knew how many agents worked as informants for the State. Many husbands had found out their wives were informing on them and vice versa. Neighbors informing on neighbors, friends informing on friends. The network was complex and airtight. No citizen knew who they could trust.

Erich listened to the clacking of the keys as he punched them, different from the typewriter he’d been using for the past few years but nothing he couldn’t get used to. He would write a piece, one that told the unnerving truths of life in the State, where everyone was watched, everything was heard, thoughts of dissent were snuffed out quickly, and there wasn’t a single thing you could learn about someone that you couldn’t read in their file. Friends of his, not party enemies but not loyalists either, had gone to bed in evening and were gone in the morning, never to be seen again. Someone close to them or someone who simply didn’t like them would drop a hint to the State to inform them there was dissent amongst the people and that individual was the primary perpetrator and they’d be snatched up in the dark hours of the morning by the State Security.

Telling their story, one that could get him, his wife, and possibly even his children, imprisoned. Despite this, he needed to get it out. His plan was to finish it, hide it for a while until it was clear to move it across the border where it could be published without any worry of it being traced back to him. The Party would never allow any scathing pieces of life within their walls to be published or go unpunished. They controlled everything. The television, the newspapers, the books in the library, the lives of the citizens. Everything was controlled by the Party.

Erich’s hands began to quiver as he tapped the keys. He started to falter at the weight of his undertaking, scared for himself and his family. He believed he could trust Marina, his wife, but could he? Wives informed on their husbands all the time. No. She wouldn’t, he could trust her. She was just as involved and committed as he was. He continued to type, a little faster this time. The fear of the State couldn’t paralyze him anymore. He needed to write and to write something real. He needed to tell their reality. He needed to tell what it really meant to live in the Party’s Utopia.

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