Cadisk: seventh Tourmaline (part one)
Nothing netted any longer from the ocean, the harbor and all its traffic suborned to a use, the district peopled only with transients, intractable Jocelynists, the never-seen detainees…Cadisk was a coastal town with a prison economy.
Residents were less happy than inmates. They could never leave this place—they understood it. Their landscape, free to them if they cared to walk its paths, was flat, hot, devoid of wildlife. Their hero had seemed to advocate for such a world; and if they could not renounce their hero, they must be relegated to his legacy.
The G.R.A. took their measurements and deemed the punishees, as the Jocelynists called themselves, those they would not have mixing with others. The Hidtha Utdrife mixed, to the Cadiskers’ ire, and seemed set to thrive. They proliferated, birthed soldiers for the resistance army, were forgiven (if not lionized) by these doltish social architects who occupied the nation; had no rights, in the minds of the punishees, to be enriched so by confiscations.
Rights, rights…the word rang with potency. The minority privilege of the Hidtha engendered a bitter line of obscene joking, though these hints and phrases were swallowed and muttered. The punishees knew their words recorded. They knew they might be uprooted and sent to another home, south, where the Hidtha flourished.
The only work in Cadisk was serving. Cadiskers tended and offered food, rooms. The spit had miles of flat asphalt for stretching legs, hundreds of empty lanes striped out, for napping truckers. Shimmering mirages floated in the heat, over the false ocean of paved earth, when there were no troop movements, no convoys to fill the space. Ekers used the fringe to pitch tents, sat in camp chairs, ran electric fans and radios off long blue cords.
The military presence remained thick in Cadisk, from the gate in to the gate out, but hidden, boxed inside monolithic windowless vehicles. These bulked alive and humming, painted over with a suede-like coat of dense, tactile particles, that by proximity seemed mutating the clans of hawkers, making them deaf, crooking their backs, lasering red burns on their skin, causing kidneys and livers to fail under a burgeoning mantle of flab. The vehicles sat behind razor-wired fences at the back of the great staging area.
Above all this was the prison tunnel-complex, lit by tubal skylights, made efficient for heating and cooling—a model prison, of the G.R.A. type. Cell blocks were bored into the cliffs. Low-ranking inmates lived dawn to dusk, moving like players in a game towards the natural-light richness of the end-cells, cliffside; political prisoners of some prestige were privileged to be isolated here in narrow chambers, with cot and toilet and video screen. One wall of each cell, thick glass.
(2018, Stephanie Foster)