5B’s Foray into Orwellian Fiction
In a year that would have seemed like a dystopia not too long ago, the students of 5B read one of the most acclaimed pieces of dystopian fiction, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel. Furthermore, they also read his seminal work Animal Farm. Not only did Orwell’s works serve as a topic of discussion, but they were also used as inspiration for creative interpretations and alternative scenes. Finally, students were asked to try their hand at writing the beginning to their original dystopian novels. Enjoy some of these incredibly creative submissions.
2056 – A Dystopia
It is August 15th, 2056. In past years, this day might have been a beautiful summer day, the birds might have sung up in the sky and the flowers in peoples’ gardens would have been blooming. But this year, 2056, was not at all like the previous years.
If Noah Smith, also referred to as “Worker No. 735009”, had lived in earlier years, he would have been an English middle class worker, living in one of Berlin’s suburbs in a white townhouse. But since it is the year 2056, the door Noah opens in the morning of August 15th does not belong to a white painted townhouse, but to a sixty-story grey skyscraper. It is one of the many skyscrapers of Berlin that make up a major part of the city’s architecture. As Noah steps out of the building into the dusty grey streets of London with all their dusty grey cars, buildings, and people, he starts coughing. Exasperated he remembers to put on his face mask which one is supposed to wear when outside of buildings. A breath of Berlin’s dusty and grey air is supposed to shorten one's lifespan by five to eight months, but many people don’t wear face masks as they anyway question the sense of a life in this grey and dusty version of Berlin.
But what had happened to this city, that had been one of the most popular and most toured cities of the western world? The answer: the same thing that had happened to the rest of the world. But what could have been done to prevent it? In the year 2021, who could have guessed that neither the British nor the African mutation of the coronavirus would be the most dangerous ones? Who could have guessed that in late September of that year, a new mutation of the virus would appear, that, combined with the consequences of climate change and the resulting mass migration, would lead to the doom of major parts of the civilized world? Luckily, at the beginning of 2022, scientists were able to develop a new vaccine that would finally lead to the eradication of the virus, but only after five percent of the global population had been wiped out by the virus and over 500 million people were on their way towards Europe, with the hope for a better life in their minds. Droughts and famines made them flee to protect their bare lives. As Europe shut its borders to protect itself from the flood of refugees and flying was no longer possible due to the extreme air pollution that had rapidly developed in 2023, most of the world's trade connections were cut off. Since then, every person over the age of 16 is legally required to work at least 45 hours a week on fields or in factories in order to provide enough food for the people of Europe. The European people live a pretty depressing and dull life in the year of 2056, but their suffering is nothing against the suffering of the people on the other side of Europe’s borders.
2056 - Chapter 1
The smog was everywhere. In every breath of air, every building, and every home. It was infused into the food and water, which made it look grey and lifeless.
Even the people were taken over by the smog. Their skin and hair seemed almost bleached out and even the occasional shower in non-polluted water, which was almost impossible to get, couldn’t bring the color back.
The streets were empty. No one dared to go out too often because of the pollution. Only a few rats were running around on the pavement, fighting over the last piece of bread.
It was a cool Sunday in April. Luz, wearing a mask over her face to protect herself from toxic gases that rose from the river next to her, stepped out of the door of the only bakery which was open on a Sunday. Luz had to give up the last few coins of the day to buy a piece of cake, an expensive rarity, for her daughter, whose birthday happened to be on that day. The piece was carefully sealed in the bag she was now holding, to protect the sweet flavors of the dessert from the smog.
The wind blew dust into her already sore eyes causing her eyes to tear up.
After a few minutes of walking through the filthy streets, Luz reached a bridge, which led over the toxic river and onto the next street. She sped up her steps and hurried to get to the door of her house, up the stairs and into the flat, where her daughter Ann was already waiting for her.
Inside, Luz was able to take off her mask. She tried to brush and pat the dust off her body, but it didn’t help too much. The richer families of the country all had their own equipment in the house to get the outermost layer of dust off. But as a factory worker and single-parent, Luz didn’t earn enough money for such a luxury. She had to settle for dirty water and acidic soap to scrape the smog off her skin.
In the living room, Ann had fallen asleep in front of the TV. The girl had been watching one of the kids shows that were broadcasted every Sunday afternoon. Her body was curled up on the sofa between piles of dirty dishes and unwashed clothes which Luz wanted to clean the night before but couldn’t since she had fallen asleep out of exhaustion and forgotten about it.
Luz reached for the TV remote, to turn off the device. She wanted to save on the already expensive electricity bill. But as she was about to press the off button, she realized that the RNC, the Royal News Channel, was running.
Normally she’d still turn it off, since the news about ongoing health crises, wars in other countries and the never-ending conversation about air pollution were just too depressing to take in sometimes. But this time, there were no reporters speaking. Instead, it was Evaline who is one of the many members of the Royals, the equivalent to the Royal Family of the country.
The Royals were best described as perfect, perfect in every way possible. With their clear skin and complexion varying between peachy shades and brown tones. Their eyes looked like orbs of diamonds. Blue, like the sky used to be, green, the way leaves and grass looked before the smog took over, and brown like droplets of molten chocolate. Their voices were soothing like a lullaby, always soft and happy, never angry or disappointed. They would never shout or cry, because they had no reason to. Unlike the ghostlike souls of the average citizen, there was no point in them not being satisfied with life. The Royals had their small district, far, far away from all the smog, where they could live in peace. Rumor has it that in their home, clear water was no specialty, and no one ever had to worry if they had enough money to buy food for their families.
Luz remembered her late grandmother, who had always told her stories about her youth. She had claimed that back then everyone used to look like the Royals and the world used to shimmer in all colors imaginable. But now this was only a distant fantasy.
Evaline was reporting about recent protests on Central Square - nothing special - but her voice was a comforting background noise as Luz started cleaning up plates, bowls and cutlery. She washed just enough dishes to be able to set the table for her and Ann, took out the cake and separated it into two pieces, giving the bigger one to Ann.
She sat down on the sofa next to her daughter, turned off the TV and started stroking through her hair, whispering her name to wake Ann from her nap. Slowly, Ann opened her eyes, she let out a yawn and smiled as she realized what her mom had brought home. They sat down at the table, chatted about their day and the plans they had for the remaining part of Ann’s birthday. Hearing Ann laugh and stumble over her own words as she excitedly talked about the show she had been watching, warmed Luz’s heart and allowed her to leave behind the bleakness of the abandoned streets she had just walked down.
The cake had a very significant taste of artificial cherry and bitter, almost coal-like chocolate. Still, it was the most tasteful thing either of them had eaten in a while, so they refrained from talking too much and enjoyed the sweetness of the dessert melting on their tongues.
2056 - Who comes first, goes first
The last passenger entered the spaceship and Judy ran to a bench to grab her two most loved materialistic things and hurried to get into the spaceship that was reserved for the staff. Only a fourth of the population would make it. As soon as she closed the two-metre-thick door, the aircraft began to take off. “What have we done to this world that we have to leave it and go to another habitable planet now?”; she wondered while she was nervously biting her fingernails.
She was walking along an aisle to get to her seat as she ran into a man, no older than fifty, who looked at her creepily. In his stare, she saw that he didn’t care about anything anymore. He had probably lost all his loved ones and things, his Meaning; in the unstoppable fires or the destructive flood. He was just one among all the people who didn’t feel anymore. With goosebumps all over her body, she turned away and continued her search.
Judy tripped and suddenly stood inside a huge circular room with chairs along the walls. A woman in the front seemed to prepare a speech and then raised her voice, “Welcome citizens of Mars, our new home. Unfortunately, not everybody we had expected on this trip made it to our plane on time so please join us as we remember them in a minute of silence.” Three fourths of the population didn’t make it to the spaceship, only one did. Not anything in her face would tell that she was sad, she looked untouched, virtually unaffected, though Judy knew that leaving them on Earth would be their doom. Judy’s thoughts drifted away to June 29th 2049, when it all started. After Australia had somehow disappeared, councils all over the world were looking for measures to prevent the people from all the suffering and grief they were facing. The government sensed that Earth had to be left as soon as possible and began to lead people away from their focus on love to humans and towards affection for materialistic things, they even started calling it The Meaning. This was in order to prepare people for the departure to another planet where not everyone should be looking for relatives that need to come with them. If everyone just had their two pieces of Meaning in a bag, they could react faster and with less emotion. Judy noticed that the speech had already continued a while ago. She looked out of a sun-shaped window and couldn’t believe that she was flying through galaxies in a tin box with a bunch of people who didn’t even bother leaving their brothers or aunts in a place where they would die. Judy herself had always been an orphan. The two things that meant something to her were a picture of her parents - the only one she had - and a diary. Reading all of her feelings from the past made it easier for her not to become like them and just be the government’s mannequin.
Judy wasn’t sure if things were going to get better once they reached their new “home”. So much had been lost. The dangers on Earth were the natural consequences of mankind’s actions. The danger now was mankind itself. How could they survive in a world like that?
“... and into a better future. Thank you.”, the woman ended her speech and Judy saw that everyone had laid their Pieces of Meaning in front of them. She saw smartphones, toasters, several other kitchen items, headphones, but nowhere did she see personal things or things that would remind them of what had happened and what they had done before.
A tear rolled down her face and they flew into infinity.
Animal Farm – with a twist
…Snowball was racing across the long pasture that led to the road. He was running as only a pig could run, but the dogs were close on his heels. But then something happened that may not have been a metaphor for the Russian Revolution. The air in front of Snowball started sparkling and an unbelievably muscular pig with shades and a machine gun mounted on its back appeared just centimeters away from him. At the very moment Snowball passed the pig and was safe from its artillery, it opened fire. He covered his ears and all the other animals hid in the barn, but they still thought that they would go deaf with each fired bullet. The shots however, died down as suddenly as they had started. Just seconds after the first dog dropped dead, the only hint of a gun, bullets or pop cultural references were a second sparkling in the air and nine corpses in a sea of blood.
The animals managed to deal with the dead bodies, but that was the only work they did on that day. Both Snowball and Napoleon held impromptu speeches on the following morning. A lot of the animals didn't sleep that night and those who did felt like they hadn't. Still, every single one of them got up for the speeches in hope they would get at least some of their questions answered. While Napoleon blamed the Massacre of the Assembly Barn, the now official name for what had happened, solely on Snowball, who had supposedly used witchcraft to let a destroyer pig kill the dogs, Snowball started his speech with saying that he did not know what had happened.
In his best speech and quite possibly one of the finest speeches ever held by anyone, human or animal, he said to the animals that what had happened right in front of their eyes, could not be explained in any rational manner and most certainly not by sorcery. As (soon as) he thought that the animals understood he went on to another topic, that,strangely enough, wasn't discussed at all up to that point: Napoleon’s assasination attempt. It took just a few of Snowball’s sentences for the first animal, a young pig, to shout, “Napoleon has to be banned!“ Napoleon tried to defend himself, but for all of the animals, even for the sheep, the case was already closed. He got two hours to leave Animal Farm, and wasnever seen again.