The Carrick Gazette sponsored the Creative Writing Competition that was part of this year’s Ballantrae Smugglers’ Festival.
In last week’s edition we printed the story by Pat Young whose story “Black and Red” was “Highly Commended” in the adult category.
This week we are publishing the final prize winning story by James Rose the winner in the adult category entitled “The Smuggler of Intangibles”.
‘I’m going to search the vehicle.’ The voice comes from my vehicle’s infotainment console.
The tense delivery means he thinks he’s got me. I sit on the kerb and wait. Stops me feeling faint. A Kontroller of the Grand Ikonoklast makes a circuit of my vehicle, boots harsh on the tarmac.
‘I’ll put it through the GCS.’
The GCS scans for global complexity. More than 10% out compared with your manifest and they take the goods and the vehicle apart. The scanner clicks and whirs. Numbers flash. I try to swallow but it’s hard. Now the sniffer. It detects artists’ materials - paints, charcoal, canvas even maskers and sealants. The incomprehensible read-out makes me anxious, reminding me of when I got caught.
After the third Global Economic Crisis the manufacture and sale of Art had been prohibited to stop the rich from preserving their wealth and leaving everyone else in a downwards fiscal spiral. The Ikonoklasts enforce the law. Suppressor Kommand destroyed confiscated paintings, sculpture, ceramics, books, ereaders and closed the theatres. Out of work as an actor and out of pocket, I became the classic white van man, answering the phone with a cheery ‘Will’s Transport,’ but being wary of Kommandos acting as agents provocateurs. To avoid risky electronic communication, I only took personal instructions. Legal deliveries acted as cover and I programmed my rearcam for following Kars. If I was pulled over, I went back to my old trade of acting as if butter wouldn’t melt... Then I got caught.
The Kontroller’s pleasure was smeared all over him.
‘Complexity’s 12% over manifest. Sniffercam’s holding its nose, so there’s something fishy in there.’
Between the laminates of the tables they found the figure drawings. I got a long sentence. Re-education showed me I was propping up a corrupt system but the time in solitary passed ‘wearily, drearily’ and I gazed ‘with a wistful eye upon that little tent of blue, which prisoners call the sky.’ In my graffitied cell I thought about cave painting, those expressions of our being sapiens. Now without Art, we were losing our humanity. I had to preserve mine. I scanned my mind, delved deep and worked hard.
The Ikonoklast agent approaches slowly, thumbs in his belt. He orders me into his vehicle and sits in the driver’s seat. The doors lock automatically. I’m trapped. He brings up my manifest.
‘I was that close,’ and he separates his finger and thumb very slightly just in front of my eyes, ‘ that close to tearing everything apart. Then I spotted your error. Wrong complexity coding on these items. I’m watching you.’ He’s disappointed. We both know I’m smuggling something. ‘You’re free to go.’
I drive off, glancing anxiously at the rearcam. I stand empty handed on a stage in front of a small crowd. Lights up and I begin. “O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend,
The brightest heaven of invention! ...”