Commonwealth, XXVII: The Last Tree

Commonwealth, XXVII: The Last Tree March 20, 2020

Commonwealth: A Novel of Utopia, part 1, chapter 7

Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from my novel Commonwealth. The rest of today’s installment is free, but only on my Patreon site. If you want to read the next part today, it’s already up on Patreon as well. You can sign up for as little as $1/month, or $2 for exclusive author’s notes and behind-the-scenes material. There’s also a table of contents for all published chapters.

On one of the rare nights she had off work, Rae invited Zoe and Michael over for dinner. Following her friends’ lead, she had turned the lights down as low as they would go. It saved money and gave the apartment a soft illumination, as if they were eating by candlelight.

With food-adulteration scandals bursting into the news every day, they were being cautious. None of them had gotten sick so far, and they wanted to keep it that way, especially as Zoe’s pregnancy progressed. Rae had made a big batch of rice and beans, since those could be thoroughly washed and boiled, and a sheet pan of roasted potatoes, carrots and onions, since food that grew underground wouldn’t be tainted by pesticide sprays – she hoped. Her friends hadn’t brought any dishes of their own, but no one commented on this.

“I didn’t touch the dairy or the meat,” she said as she served them. “Not even at Mr. Song’s. I trust him, but not his suppliers, you know?”

“That suits me just fine,” Zoe said with a wan smile. “Morning sickness is no fun. Carbs are all I can handle anyway. Gimme.”

As they ate, Rae asked, “I’m sure you heard the commotion last night. Do you have any idea what that was about?”

Everyone on their floor had been awoken at 2 AM by an amplified voice booming through the walls: “Police! You have been accused of economic crimes! You will come with us voluntarily to face justice in a court of objectively constituted law!”

There followed the crash of a door being smashed off its hinges by a battering ram. When a dozen sleepy people poked their heads out into the hall, Rae among them, they had seen a squad of police hauling out a slumped figure.

That morning, the apartment that had been raided gaped open, its door hanging from broken hinges. A band of yellow-and-black tape slashed across it, supporting a poster with the mugshot of the person who had lived there – an unassuming man whose face looked stunned – and the text: “THIS INDIVIDUAL HAS BEEN ARRESTED FOR ECONOMIC CRIMES.”

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