I've written a story, here it is:
In the distance, I see a frail old man. He looks like he's trying to be sure no-one's watching. He's not doing a good job of it. He just looks suspicious. Furtive. Like he's doing something he shouldn't be.
The next moment he is definitely doing something he shouldn't be; he clambers through a small gap in the roadside barrier and into the undergrowth beyond. There's no reason to go back there, and plenty of reasons not to. The Colleagues don't like people trying to leave the roads. The Co owns the roads, and lets us use them. It owns everything else too, but we're not allowed into most of it.
It would probably be in my best interests not to be watching this old guy. It's always best not to pay too much attention to anything you think the Colleagues might view with suspicion. That doesn't leave a lot, which is probably why so many people seem to be getting in trouble with them these days.
But it's always the old ones who get in the most trouble. The ones who can remember a time before all this. Before democracy gave way to whatever it is we have now. A country run by a corporation. A corporation the public cried out for, when it became impossible for the politicians to hide how much they'd been fucking everything up.
I'm heading toward the gap in the barrier now. I want to know why the old man is going back there. I should leave him to it, but curiosity is getting the better of me. At the back of my mind I don't think I'll get there in time to see where he's gone, then I can carry on walking, pretend I never saw him. As I get closer to the spot I saw him in just a few minutes ago, that feeling grows. Until I get there, and I see him, still there, just a few metres past the barrier, his already ragged and dirty trousers tangled up in some Co branded razor wire. He's fallen, twisted into a position which a young man would find uncomfortable. It must be practically unbearable for him.
My sensible side is screaming in my ear: "keep walking. Ignore him. Ignore him and go home. No-one will know. Go. Go. Go."
I can't. The old man has seen me. His eyes are full of desperation. They send a silent plea for my assistance. I do my own version of the man's guilty scan of the area for unwanted observers. I see no-one, but then, he didn't see me either. I leap into the densely packed foliage, feeling the unfamiliar sensation of plants brushing against my legs. Most people my age don't get the chance to experience nature beyond the officially sanctioned parklands, where the grass is kept short and the flowers and bushes are for looking at, not touching.
Without exchanging words, I reach down and pull him free. There's some blood around, but he's not seriously injured. He gets to his feet, thanks me and gestures for me to follow him further. That sensible voice is back, but I already know I'm going to ignore it. I'm excited. Nervous too, but nervous is good when you're used to every day being the same. No strength to anything you feel. No variety in your actions. Your life prescribed by the will of the Co, even down to the bland excuses for food they put in front of you three times a day. Brown food. Always brown.
The man starts to stride through the plants. Perhaps the razor wire was new, he certainly seems confident he's not going to run into any more. He seems driven by some invisible force. Pulled forward by his desire for whatever we're heading toward. Suddenly, he stops, crouches, pulls a plant from the ground and bites into it. His face lights up, seems to lose ten years of age in an instant. He pulls up another plant and hands it to me. Putting a plant in my mouth seems completely unnatural. I've never eaten anything green before. I remember the films we were all shown in school: people eating plants, animals, grains that were nothing to do with the Co and being struck ill. The Co made sure the food we were given was safe, free from contamination. It was cheap too, and no-one went without.
But now the man's smiling face means I can't resist. I open my mouth and raise the freshly picked plant to my face. Before I can savour the taste, I hear the rustle of bodies moving toward us, I turn to face the sound just in time for a Colleague's baton swing to connect with my eye socket. I can still see, but I wish I couldn't. An unhappy team of Colleagues stands above me and I know my decision to follow the old man was a bad one. The last thing I see is a Co logo, on the sole of a hard boot heading straight for my face.