Tag Archives: Surveillance

“The Rud Yard” – Fiction by Vajra Chandrasekera

Illustration for Rudyard Kipling's "With the Night Mail" - F.X. Leyendecker, 1905
Illustration for Rudyard Kipling’s “With the Night Mail” – F.X. Leyendecker, 1905

Should you care for another taste of our Spring 2015 issue before it flies on March 20, here’s “The Rud Yard,” Vajra Chandrasekera‘s hilariously terrifying take on the future of the surveillance state.

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HE SAYS HE’S ALLERGIC TO EVERYTHING, only as if he’d like to be bitten by a radioactive spider and wake up the next morning without any allergies and with 20/20 vision and surprise abs. What he has instead is a pain in his belly from, he claims, the constant stress of the surveillance state. He refuses to let me use his name, so let’s call him M.

I get M’s shirt off and discover a belly like that of a woman just barely pregnant. I place my hands on it reverently and make a face like the baby just kicked.

“You have a radiant glow,” I tell him. Then I have to explain that this glow has nothing to do with the radioactive spider, and we get sidetracked into an argument about the Radium Age of science fiction a hundred years ago. Specifically, about Kipling’s Aerial Board of Control stories, which he thinks should definitely count and I don’t, mostly because I haven’t read these stories. M says they’re about airships that rule the world or something like that.

“Oh, like drones!”

M says no. Not like drones. He says one time when he was twelve the President came to his school for prize day.

“What does this have to do with Kipling?” I say, “Or for that matter, the surveillance state?” and he says shush, wait for it.

So the President came to his school for prize day and the entire auditorium was full of important people and parents –these were non-overlapping groups, with the important people in the front and the parents in the back– and there was no room for the kids, so they set up some plastic chairs outside the auditorium, under a tin roof still glowing cherry red from the afternoon sun.

Sweltering under it and choking slowly to death on their ties, the boys –it was a boys-only school, he says, all rum and sodomy and the lash– practiced their bad seventh-grade French, which consisted entirely of all the French swear words they had learned to that point, and the useful phrase je ne sais pas.

“The two most important stages of language acquisition,” I say.

Yeah, M says, the parts of speech that are always permitted: swearing and denial.

The reason M refuses to let me use his real name is, of course, the surveillance state. It’s not that he thinks they don’t already know it, as M always says, but it makes him uncomfortable to hear it said at all any more.

Continue reading “The Rud Yard” – Fiction by Vajra Chandrasekera