Authors: Charles Kennedy Scott
‘Here are your clothes,’ said two stripy bailiffs
carrying in their elastic stripes the garments Delilah had entered the System
wearing her first day. ‘Get dressed. We will watch. Sit on our stripes to pull
your socks on. That is an order. Boing boing.’
Later, she depressed the white button. On broken heels
and in red blouse, skirt, socks and gilet – her salon uniform, ripped, torn,
of the Authority
stamped all over it – she hummed up in the lift. It wished
her good luck but said nothing more when she stepped into Authority Welcome.
She had a state-issued Life delivered into her hands by one of the two
similar-looking-to-each-other officers, who showed no sign of recognising her
and may not have been them at all. Other officers, similar looking too, also
with the water-bag buttocks, scooted in and out of Welcome’s doors, in states
of high excitement, often laughing off injuries, often complaining about the
roof. Delilah was keen to get out and lose Shane. Keen to get out, full-stop,
period. Keen to get to the salon, ask after her job, get back her own clothes,
if her locker hadn’t been ransacked or re-rented.
‘Couldn’t keep away, couldya!’ said Harry, walking in,
grabbing his crotch, pushing up against Delilah. ‘Wanna get yerself a bit of
Delilah wasn’t so keen on this new arrangement, her
sentence, but it was better than … than the System. (Wasn’t it?)
Shane said, ‘Come on, then, this way.’
Harry said, ‘Follow us, try and forget about your
death penalty. Have fun.
’re going to.’
Delilah said, ‘I haven’t forgotten that you, Shane,
mugged me and took my Life, and that that was the start of all this. I’ll never
‘Then try to,’ he answered.
‘Yes, forget,’ agreed Harry.
‘For your own good,’ added Shane, darkly.
But not so darkly as Delilah when she said, ‘This
They stepped onto the moving floors, Delilah
automatically shifted up floor speeds and onto the smooth speed of the fast
lane. It felt good. This was liberation. This was freedom. Sweeter than ever
it’d been before, this speed. But then she was yanked off, onto a slower lane.
‘Oh no you don’t, prisoner’ – Delilah didn’t like hearing herself called
prisoner – ‘you’re not allowed fast-lane travel, you’re not licensed, not with
that.’ Shane pointed at the bulky state-issued Life.
Delilah gave him an angry look.
‘Okay?’ he demanded.
‘So give me back
Life,’ said Delilah, ‘and
then just f–, then just go. Just leave me.’
Shane laughed. Harry did too. Delilah, in the hand move
that had killed Gentle, pushed them both into each other and jumped neatly down
a lane, down another, and onto lanes that travelled in the opposite direction,
and then up, up, up till she was heading away at a maximum speed, and feeling
good again, not caring she broke the law, not caring at all. She executed a
complicated junction. These junctions, their moving figures of eights were
dangerous, and Delilah loved them. She used to come out after lightdim in her
teens and do them just for fun. She went up an escalator, was thrown through
the air at its top, landed on the cushioned floor, resumed at speed. She looked
behind her. She’d shaken Harry and Shane. Her fingers began clipping a pair of
scissors that weren’t even in her hands yet. Her fingers knew where they were
going: the salon. She headed there snip-snipping, and searching for an inner
contentment she’d never again know, never again find.
She wasn’t expecting that. It touched her.
‘Happy Birthday!’ they cried, the girls in the salon,
crowding round, the thin men copying. They offered cake, they offered orange,
they said stuff like
How are you?
It must have been awful
What did they do to you?
They came asking about you and made us
tell them everything
They demanded free haircuts
didn’t give them very good ones
We upset one called Gentle, who we
didn’t like, he was too big for his boots, we gave him a silly haircut.
Then they said, ‘Here are your clothes.’ She pulled
‘Here is your birthday cake.’ She ate some.
‘The special waitress baked it this morning.’ Delilah
faltered on a half-chew. The birthday cake matched the court cake.
‘She said you’d like it – it’s true, you
She was very fat.’
‘There you are.’ This was Harry.
‘Found you.’ That was Shane.
‘Hello, Harry and Shane,’ said the girls and the thin
men. ‘You’re looking well. How nice to see you again.’
Delilah had to think about this for a while.
But then she asked the girl in charge a question. ‘Can
I have my job back?’
‘You’ve been away a long time. You’ve lost your client
base. Sammy has had to pick it up. Can you even remember how to style?’
‘Of course I can. Would you like me to prove it?’
Shane said, ‘It’s academic anyway, felons are not
permitted to work in salons and such like, they pose too high a risk. Officers
come in here, you know. It’s out the question. Besides, prisoner, you’ll be
busy. What with your new work crime-generating, not forgetting your bi-yearly
appeals and how depressed you’ll be when you keep losing.’
‘Still,’ said the girl in charge, ‘at least let us fix
her hair, she looks like a right dog’s dinner. What did they do to her lovely
blonde locks down there? I could crucify them I could.’
‘No,’ said Harry. ‘She’s under sentence and that’s the
style she must wear. It’s not going to happen. Don’t touch the hair. Put the
comb down. Move away from the scissors.’
But Delilah, being Delilah, had already sat herself in
‘Out,’ said Shane.
‘Skedaddle,’ said Harry.
But Delilah, being Delilah, had already picked up her
old pair of scissors and begun cutting her hair. It didn’t matter what Harry
and Shane said, or did, they wouldn’t be able to stop her. She wanted them to
try. She even said so, and they got sheepish, there was something about her now
they weren’t sure about. The girls and the thin men went to work. They did a
good job. When it was over, Delilah thanked them, and one or two of them hugged
her, which brought seeping eyes (she hadn’t known they liked her before). Then
she brushed hair from her clothes and exited the salon, a very different person
to the last time she’d left it, an ambitionless 19 year-old with a bit of a
thing for boys and a flash Life she was about to lose. She left the salon this
time and entered again her new life in the roofed world.
And waited for it.