What’s Next?

What’s Next?

Progress on Coventry 2091

The name, for the Coventry Penal Colony, comes from an English phrase “To send someone to Coventry,” an idiom meaning to ostracize a person or group.

One explanation for the origin of this idiom is based upon The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, by Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon. In this work, Clarendon recounts how Royalist troops during the English Civil War, that were captured in Birmingham were taken as prisoners to Coventry, which was a Parliamentarian stronghold. These prisoners were not received warmly by the locals and treated as if they did not exist.

Our penal colony is called Coventry, because, in coming here, we were made to disappear. Prime Minister Russell’s plan was brilliant in conception and ruthless in its execution. It could not have worked without the enthusiastic and broadly-based support of the media. When we were sent to Coventry after the passive resistance of 2051 by the Peace, Order, and Good Government (POGG) Tribunal, for all intents and purposes, we vanished. No one directly killed us, but we died in silence and away from the public eye. We could slavishly produce and exchange platinum group metals and rare earth metals from the abandoned Coventry mine for food, yet we quietly starved in obscurity.

From A History of Coventry Penal Colony by Christian Mutembe

Imagine a Future …

Imagine a future where perception was truly believed to be reality. A future in which our energies were devoted to convincing others to believe as they should rather than behave as they ought. Welcome to 2091. What happens to those who still believe in truth, reality, and right behavior are discovered rather than indoctrinated? Let’s find out. Welcome to Coventry 2091.

A Sample Chapter

Jacob Kraiser shivered on the cold metal bench watching the snow blow in little cyclones outside the open front of an alcove that served as a waiting area. He needed to wipe his nose. His handcuffs, fastened to his seat, forced him to bend over as far as he could so he could use his handkerchief.

Straightening back up, he tried to stretch out a cramp the exertion had given him. The alcove reminded him of one of those empty truck-ports with three sides and a roof. It even had a large garage door into the main building at the closed end.

Three guards, smoking cigarettes, huddled in a small group near a door on the far side. One of them swore. “It’s so bloody cold!” he said to no one in particular. One of his fellow guards agreed, with a string of curses of his own.

“Why are they being sent here in the middle of bleedin’ winter, anyway?” asked the third guard. “We don’t get many Cretins for the penal colony anymore and those that do come, arrive in the summer. Don’t higher-ups know how bad the roads are now?”

“Damned if I know why they’re sendin’ ‘em here. These Cretins must have seriously pissed off one of our higher-level citizens to get a one-way ticket to Coventry in the middle of winter.”

Jacob shook his head at these words, hoping to clear his muddled brain. They’re right. What was I thinking? Why did I defend her? Why didn’t I let Connaught just have her as he wanted? He has her now anyways. Here I am, five years an orphan, and going to prison on my twenty second birthday.

The last four days were a blur in his mind. He had been rousted out of bed by the police just before he was set to rise and go to his job at the Federal Technology Centre in Toronto. Two officers watched him closely as he was given a few minutes to dress hastily. One of the officers gave him a duffle bag and told him to fill it with necessities. When he reacted too slowly, they handcuffed him and began throwing clothes in to fill up the bag …

Did they know then already how this would turn out and that I would end up here? He wondered.

He had not been taken to court as he had expected—the sentencing happened much too quickly anyway for court—he had been taken to a tribunal.

He remembered the room. There was a large portrait of former Prime Minister Russell on the wall behind the raised bench with a single tribune in his crimson robes presiding. Above the portrait in large gold letters was written: Dedicated to Peace, Order, and Good Government on Behalf of the People of Canada.

Jacob was disoriented from lack of sleep and the speed with which his life had changed. The charges had something to do with his conduct at work and minutiae in his austere private life. Each of the many charges referred again and again to violations against peace, order, and good government. His state-appointed advocate stood quietly at his side and said nothing in Jacob’s defense. When Jacob cleared his throat to ask what it all meant, his advocate pulled his handcuffed arm to turn him, shook his head gravely and put a forefinger to his lips.

The tribune looked briefly at Jacob as if daring him to speak and then asked the Crown Counsel to continue. After the charges had been read, the tribune requested witness affidavits to be read as well. His boss, Clive Connaught’s name came up occasionally, and so did Cynthia Stapleton’s, the young woman he had tried to defend. The charges and written testimony made no sense to Jacob. It was as if they were talking about someone else and he had been arrested by mistake.

The tribune pronounced his sentence. He was being sent to the Coventry Penal Colony. Numb with disbelief, his legs buckled. He was half-marched, half-dragged out into the cold and ushered into an unmarked truck. He was the only prisoner. He had a seat, a bunk, and a small latrine in the sealed back. The truck lurched into motion, throwing him against the wall and so began a long, bumpy, three-day journey. He knew from the few remarks the guards made when they brought him his sparse meals, that they were travelling west and then north of Lake Superior. Jacob had never heard of the Coventry Penal Colony.

Shaken out of his reverie, Jacob’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the small door opening against a pile of snow. Two prisoners in handcuffs like his were shepherded into the room by two other guards. The guards directed the newcomers to sit on either side Jacob and then handcuffed them to the bench.

Stamping out their cigarettes and with the other guards, they retreated through the small door and left the prisoners alone.

The prisoner on Jacob’s left spoke with a quavering voice. “Hi, I’m Hanna. Does anyone know where we are?” Hanna was bundled up in a parka so Jacob could only see her large brown eyes, moist with tears.

Somehow seeing her so frightened gave Jacob courage. “Hi, I’m Jacob. I know we’re outside a prison of some sort north of Lake Superior.”

The fellow that had entered with Hanna took off his glove and stuck out his hand only to realize his cuffs made a handshake impossible. “I’m Zeke Rempel. I’m pretty sure we’re outside a place called the Coventry Penal Colony, on the Iron Isle, Vulture Lake. The penal colony was established on an abandoned platinum group metals mine. I think the road ahead of us—” Here he waved out the alcove to a long, straight causeway disappearing into the blizzard—“is the only access to the real facility.”

“How do you know so much about this place, Zeke?” asked Hanna.

Zeke chuckled. His laugh jarred against the dread that crowded Jacob. “I come from a notorious family, I do. My uncle and grandfather were both sent here years ago. We never saw them again We were never allowed to visit, but we did find out as much about this place as we could.”

“Coventry Penal Colony,” said Hanna. “Oh no! It’s happened then. My friends at university had warned me about this. I didn’t believe them.”

Before Jacob could ask any more questions, the small door opened again and three more prisoners were brought in. Without a word, these three were taken to a bench on the other side of the truck-port, four meters away.

“Oh my,” Hanna muttered, her tone indicating danger rather than surprise.

The three newcomers were striking. All had their hoods down. Two were large, heavyset men with scowls on their faces. The third one was also tall but thin. His eyes were sharp, like an eagle searching for prey. The big men sat down leaving room for the third between them. The tall man gestured to one to move over and sat on the side closest to the alcove door. None of them spoke. The two bodyguards (no other word came to Jacob to describe them) kept their eyes moving as if watching for trouble. The eagle-eyed man examined Jacob and his two companions intently as if he were interrogating them with his eyes.

Just then the large vehicle door at the back opened and a van pulled into the truck-port in between the two benches. Three guards climbed out of the front passenger doors and opened the backdoors of the van. With two guards covering the prisoners with automatic weapons, the third uncuffed Jacob, Hanna, and Zeke.

“Get in!” he growled and shoved them into the van. They climbed onto one bench bolted to the van side. The other three prisoners followed them in and sat on the other bench. The two bodyguards continued to glare at them. One of the guards shoved a sealed envelope into Jacob’s hands. “Don’t open it. Give it Hodgkins.” The guard then locked them in.

The van began to move. Looking out the far side window, Jacob noticed that a pair of heavily reinforced doors, previously blocking the entrance to the causeway, had swung open. The van proceeded down the single, snow-covered lane. The blowing snow limited visibility, but Jacob could see black, open water interrupted by patches of snow-covered ice. After a few minutes he saw the shore of an island ahead of them. Vulture Lake ought to have been covered with ice at these frigid temperatures, but apparently, a river entering this end of the lake provided enough flow to make the ice here treacherous. Open water showed that attempting to cross the lake here would be suicide. This was a perfect prison, especially in winter.

The long causeway came to an end and they rumbled across a drawbridge and entered a parking lot. Looking out the back window, Jacob saw a second heavy open gate, and had a better look at drawbridge which had been lowered from the far side.

They’re not taking any chances

The doors at the back of the van were opened and the three guards carrying automatic weapons motioned the prisoners to climb out. Jacob, Hanna and Zeke were shoved along with the barrels of the rifles, but Jacob noticed the guards regarded the other three prisoners warily and did not molest them.

Beyond the parking lot Jacob saw a huge, dilapidated building which reminded him of a factory. At the fringe of the parking lot, snow-covered, heavy equipment stood in white mounds with tires and scoops protruding like toys partially hidden inside huge marshmallows.

Curiously, in one section of the large parking lot were the trailers from six eighteen-wheeler transport trucks.

A man in an old, tattered parka approached from the building and shouted to them to get their attention. The guards, warily watching the building for trouble, covered the prisoners with their automatic rifles and waved them toward the building entrance. The man in the parka didn’t try to speak in the howling wind, but approached Jacob for the envelope and then waved for the six prisoners to follow. He turned and leaned into the wind, walking back toward the building.

Jacob looked over his shoulder as he followed the others. The guards climbed into the van, made a rapid U-turn, and raced across the drawbridge. Jacob heard the drawbridge begin to rumble as it lifted into the air leaving a fifty-foot gulf of open water between the island and the causeway. The grinding of the gate shutting could be heard even over the wind. They were in prison and cut off. Jacob felt himself panicking at the clanging of the heavy gate. He was in prison. His life had changed forever. What will become of me? He hurried to follow the others.

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