My latest blog post ‘Diversity and Creativity’ reminded me of a short story I wrote in June 2015 following the Anti-Austerity march. As it currently lives on a defunct blog site I thought I’d take the opportunity to give it new life in here, as it remains as relevant as ever.
For the Anti-Austerity march I was part of the Arts Emergency block, and the chant started with “No Recession of the Imagination”. Repeating this line again and again clearly triggered something. This story came stampeding through me the next day, and it was all I could do to scribble fast enough to capture it. It’s strange when this happens, you feel less like the author, and more like the vehicle the story used to come into the world. I hope you enjoy it.
Recession of the Imagination
by Stephanie Ressort
Aged 5 Caroline was asked to surrender a part of herself to the safe keeping of her school.
“You want to be a good citizen, don’t you Caroline” whispered Miss Aubrey, her favourite teacher. The scent of sweet vanilla, fresh biscuits and sun warmed skin melting away any doubts.
Caroline nodded and did as she was told. Following the instructions to the letter she watched a glowing vibrant part of herself nestle into the corner of a jar: a jar that once held blueberry jam from Asda. The lid was closed and the light dimmed. Caroline called out in alarm.
“Now now Caroline” soothed Miss Aubrey, “It’s quite normal for the light to shine less brightly. It’s adjusting to its new home. But we’ll take good care of it for you”
That night at home Caroline’s parents asked her about her day. She told them about Scott Presley wetting himself out of spite because Mr Gordon called him stupid. She told them about the lumpy yellow custard they had for pudding. She told them about her imagination being locked away in a jar.
Her parents smiled and nodded at the sound of her chatter, the words bouncing off their work-drenched brains.
The years passed and Caroline grew into a model citizen. Working hard for little pay she never complained. They were all in it together after all. Her once proud nation had grown poorer, emptier. The fickle corporations had left behind the carcasses of now empty corporate headquarters, enticed away by the promise of brighter talent, escaping an island of budget minds.
The government minister despaired. This had not been done on her watch. The blame ricocheted from teachers to parents to drugs to immigrants to the previous administration to video games to pornography to single parents and back again. She wanted solutions not scapegoats.
“So explain this again, they collected the imaginations of an entire generation?” she asked the civil servant.
“Not everyone, only those that went to non-fee paying schools. It was felt an imagination was a luxury. It made for bad citizenship: unhappiness with the status quo and the like. They kept demanding answers, wanting access to information. It was inconvenient. The system was stretched. We needed to be more efficient.”
The minister shook her head. As each year passed they shuffled closer to obsolescence. On a global level the future of humanity was tenuous at best and her precious Island was contributing nothing in the fight to find a solution. Their great minds was aging with none lined up to take their place or challenge their out-dated thinking.
“Where are they? The least we can do is return them”
“Afraid not ma’am, it turns out that an un-nourished imagination turns to dust. Only took a few years and there was nothing but powder.”
“Well at least we can give them that. Maybe there is a way to revive it?”
The civil servant tapped his fingers against the table. A nervous habit he despised himself for. He’d not wanted to be here but the others had pulled rank. How to explain the drug habits of the decadent, capricious rich.
“Ah yes the powder, about that ma’am ….”