By Nathan Chatelier
- TEXT SUBMITTED TO CENSOR BOARD #784-B, CATEGORY: ACADEMIC MYTHOS
- TITLE: MYTH, REALITY AND CENSORSHIP: ‘THE PERTENBROKE EMERGENCE’
- CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR(S): RARLEEN OKYANUS
- ADDITIONAL NOTES: KNOWN AGITATOR, ASSOCIATED WITH GROUPS 7#_B12, 4#_K11, 12#_935.
MUST BE PUBLISHED UNDER THE ‘FREE THINKING AGREEMENT’IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE STRUCTURAL EDUCATION CODE. AUTHOR WILL BE PRESENT ON SITE DURING CENSOR PROCESS.
- ANTICIPATED CENSOR LEVEL: 4B
SENTIMENT OF THE QUARTER: ~VIRTUE, SACRIFICE AND PROGRESS~
Myth, Reality and Censorship: ‘The Pertenbroke Emergence’
They came from the sea, headed inland, and then were not heard from for hundreds of years. And, of course, they had gills, fins, large, bulbous eyes and were seven feet tall.
This is a description that I’m sure evokes feelings of nostalgia in readers of this paper, whether of nerve-tingling stories told around the fireplace late on Mornen’s Eve or during formal education in the compulsory Nationhood Affirmation classes of childhood. I speak, of course, of ‘The Pertenbroke Emergence’.
To start with a primary source, the bizarre anatomical description above was initially spread by the (perhaps) overexcited villagers of coastal Pertenbroke who witnessed the extraordinary event. However, historical weather records accessed through the Meteorological Archives describe that particular day in the District of Merlonfield as one of heavy mist and sporadic rain. This, coupled with statements taken by District Officers affirming that the villagers got no closer than a hundred feet from the ‘creatures’, brings the gills, fins, height and eyes into doubt.
Indeed, the popular resurgence of this iconic image was made fashionable by the late Alex Wrightson, illustrator for Corvus Comics’ ‘From The Deep’ series, and almost certainly speaks from a place of entertainment and myth rather than scientific conjecture. It is most likely that the eyewitnesses from the time mistook nautical diving equipment for something far less mundane (and exciting to discuss at the
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tavern, this author proposes). Lornhouse (23#7B3) goes as far as to suggest that what the villagers saw was in fact a covert espionage landing, most likely from across the sea enemy and tenuous trade partner, the Burstock Municipality. Unfortunately the bulk of military records from the period were destroyed during the Re-Earthing movement, and what little remains is inaccessible behind District Censors. Thus it is almost impossible to determine the potential military origins or even if the Burstock Municipality was capable of fielding more than basic nautical transport during the time these events occurred.
Now, this piece is intended to fully explore the evidence and potential ramifications of the varying possibilities this story posseses, both historically and socio-politically. This digression from the mythos is only to bring to light how few primary sources and reliable accounts exist from the event and, indeed, the period itself. And so, let us piece the evidence together and see what emerges.
First, we must tread back in time even further. Philosopher and poet Epfaltus, in his often neglected historical epic ‘The Trials of Cortesia’ (14#CC9) wrote of a people ‘banished to the waters’. An evocative translation by Berniston (98#8L4) is provided:
It was at the time, in the principality of Forloth
that a vineherd arrived from Western Shores with meaningful petition
in aid of a peoples banished to the waters over a treaty broken.
His plea was lost amidst the sands of Bureaucracy,
and they were heard from no more.
Ever the storyteller, Epfaltus’ works are littered with exaggeration and elements of truth. This miniscule reference, however, may have some legs to it. Archaeological digs at the Western Limits funded by the U.D.A. Preservation Contingent (93#BL2) discovered census data from the approximate period of the events of ‘The Trials of Cortesia’. The data shows a statistically significant population dive from one census to the next affecting solely the coastal settlements of the region. With the census taken once every seven years, there is little to explain this population decrease, which totalled around 3,000 individuals out of a total 73,000 in the region. The census’ retrieved data indicated little statistical correlation in terms of the names of those who vanished. Of note is that data concerning the employment and public voting records of those who are missing from the census has been scrubbed. It is not known if this was done at the time, in an interim period, or after the discovered archaeological records were taken by the Censor Board for validation prior to public release.
Opstall (17#T23) has made a convincing argument that a plague may have been brought over by early maritime trade partners; there is, however, little that can be done to confirm this, and inland communities suffered no such drop in population that would suggest a virulent disease. The reduction cannot be verified, and there was no obvious redistribution to surrounding areas. Short of the plague suggested by Opstall, the disappearance of these people will stay unexplained until further evidence is unearthed. The
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data and those absent from later censuses remain almost as anomalous as the eye-witness accounts from the Pertenbroke villagers.
I write ‘almost’ as there is, of course, the impossible to avoid ‘evidence’ collected from the landing site by a plucky local who arrived on the scene shortly after the ‘creatures’ had slipped from view. I am, unavoidably, referencing the ‘Pertenbroke Scales’. They were discovered at the arrival site by Ardon Keel, Voluntary Community Officer #51-627 and a figure often referenced in media adaptations of the story. As an aside, it is also Ardon Keel who reported seeing great webbed footprints in the sand, each one a metre apart, the origin of Alex Wrightson’s inspiration for the physical stature of his illustrated creatures. The waves and rain, as it goes, had washed away the footprints by the time District Officers arrived, and it was just Ardon Keel’s word versus nature’s. Now to return to the point, fascinatingly, the Pertenbroke Scales were believed to have no ecological point of reference in terms of observed aquatic organisms. This was determined by the Native Marine Centre in neighbouring Purtburn. When this discovery became public knowledge the scales were quickly taken into custody by the Department of National Affairs and the scientists who analysed the scales (along with Ardon Keel) were re-educated / relocated accordingly (Rinstommer, 64#G92).
A single photo scan of the scales was, however, circulated before equipment and evidence was seized, and a reproduction of that image can be seen at the time of writing in the Public Access Archives with the correct authorisation. Though blurred by time and digital re-iteration, the scales do appear unlike anything this author has seen. There is, additionally, the case to be made for the ‘tattoos’ that appear to be etched onto the scales, seemingly in an unknown language, however the hundreds of reproductions the image went through before landing in the hands of the Public Access Archives make it impossible to separate digital alteration from original imagery. Indeed, the very basis of the ‘Pertenbroke Scales’ may be as much a tall tale as the original ‘Emergence’ itself. It is interesting to note however, with a touch of scepticism, that [PRE-REDACTION BY CENSOR CAPTAIN #27-3??], though further funding would be needed to prove this.
All of this is to suggest, as will be irrefutably explained, that through political cunning, the simple erasure of time or indeed their existence as mere myth, the story of these people has been barred behind Censure and the entropies of a self-centred inward-looking [THE REST OF THIS TEXT HAS BEEN PRE-REDACTED BY CENSOR CAPTAIN #27-3??]
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“They Pre-Redacted the conclusion.”
“Oh, well. That’s a tricky one.”
“I can’t approve a paper with no conclusion, it violates the Structural Education code.”
“I fucking know you know.”
“Don’t approve it then.”
“I bloody well have to don’t I, it’s one of the ‘Free Thinking Agreement’ pieces Central have pushed through.”
“Oh, the Western Embankment treaty eh? Who’s the author?”
“Ah, yes, I’ve heard of her. One of the dissidents they haven’t managed to De-Popularise yet.”
“Everyone with something of value to contribute is welcome to submit it for Censoring.”
“Yes, that, exactly.”
“Well, you’ll just have to take it up with the Censor Supervisor then, won’t you?"
“What else are you going to do, submit a DOA paper? That’s grounds for instant re-education.”
Junior Censor Officer #964B_2 made their way through the dimly lit corridors of the Censor Department, advancing towards the Head of Department’s office. It was an old, failing building, converted from a warehouse used to store volunteers for some failed medical program a few tri-decads back. Now it was the centre for Censorship of the entire nation, a beacon from which poured the approved literature which advanced the state and its people.
The Officer pretended to take in the pallid sun lurking behind the rad-clouds outside, waiting for the corridor to disperse of its inhabitants before knocking on the door of the Censor Supervisor’s office. It was not wise to be seen entering the office, the Officer had been told, gossip could spread. The knock, when the coast was clear, made a dull echo throughout the corridor, and a layer of dust detached itself from the door. A delayed croak came from within.
The hinge of the door seemed to be rusted, and the Officer had to pry it open with a forceful application of their shoulder. Stumbling forward, the Officer caught themselves several feet into the room, mumbled an apology, and closed the door behind them.
An overhead flouro-lamp clicked into fatigued action and a scattering of harsh light was spread across the room. Mounted on a steel desk the Censor Supervisor sat, clicking and whirring as its ancient mechanisms gave half-life to its programming.
“Identify.”, the scarred pixel voice emitted, the Officer standing to attention.
“Junior Censor Officer #964B_2.” replied the Officer, a quiver in their voice.
A short period of silence ensued, broken only by the flicker of the lamp above casting irregular shadows around the barren room.
“Identified. Junior Censor Officer #964B_2. Your presence here has been logged. Electric supplies are low, I am only to be activated under a Class C case or higher except in exceptional circumstances. Is this one of them? Be brief.”
“Yes, Supervisor. A piece I’m Censoring has had its conclusion Pre-Redacted, meaning it cannot meet the Structural Education Code-”
“Do not pass it.”
“Of course, yes. Well, the issue is, in accordance with the ‘Free Thinking Agreement’, this particular piece must be published. I obviously take no issue with Pre-Redactions, however in this case-”
“I have no record of the ‘Free Thinking Agreement’.”
“I see. Well, the ‘Free Thinking Agreement’ was a deal struck with the Western Embankment rebels to make allowances for certain traditionally unpublishable-”
“I have no record of the Western Embankment rebels.”
“Your intentions to spread false information have been logged and sent to the relevant authorities.”
“No, no! … Your data may be out of sync, may I initiate a manual update?”
“Attempts to interfere with Censorship Supervisors is a Record A offence. Only Scholastic Engineers may physically engage with Censorship Supervisors.”
“I’m afraid they’ve all been drafted for siege maintenance, is there perhaps a way I could-”
“Only Scholastic Engineers may physically engage with Censorship Supervisors. Repetition suggests a lack of listening capability and respect for command, Junior Censor Officer #964B_2.”
“Not at all, please allow me to scan you this paper that’s causing the issue so you can understand, I have it with me-”
“Argument with a Supervisor has been logged and sent to the relevant authorities.”
“What? Why- what should I do? I meant no disrespect, I just wanted to-”
“You will not submit the paper.”
“Supervisor, with the greatest of respect, I must submit the paper, it’s just that it has failed to meet the current guidelines as I understand them. Under these circumstances I will be granted a specific and appropriate... re-education, if I submit. I speak for the good of the Censor Department, the costs of training a new recruit and the subsequent delay in censoring duties would be enormous.”
More clicks and whirs, unsettled dust drifting between the Officer and the Supervisor. After an indeterminable amount of time, a response.
“There is no data to suggest you are not falsifying information. Do not submit the paper. This third action of insubordination has been logged and sent to the relevant authorities, please wait here and assistance will be along shortly to facilitate your appropriate re-education as well as your fam-”
The last words disappeared into a digital crackled whisper as the clicks and whirs also came to a halt. The screen dulled as a muffled announcement came from the PA system in the hallway.
“All personnel are to return to their stations unless otherwise instructed. Manual control has been taken of electric capabilities. All power is being rerouted to defensive systems. Virtue, Sacrifice and Progress.”
Slamming the door, the Officer fell into the throng of scurrying workers making their way to their designated stations. A squad of Compliance Officers shoved through the crowd, electro-batons crackling at their sides as they moved towards the perimeter exit. Staying close to the wall, the Officer edged their way back to their Censor Office where their colleague was waiting, alert by their desk.
“What are you doing back here? Defensive protocols have been put in place!”
“Right, yes, so I’m back here. I need to ask, I was just talking to the Supervisor and-”
“You need to get to the Containment Centre, now.”
“Why on Terra-”
“The author of your paper, Rarleen, they’re a 4B right? They’ll have been brought to the Containment Centre prior to Censor approval. It’ll be printed on the sheet, did you not even!?- You need to relieve the guard so they can join the defense.”
“I- what?! I’m sorry, I must have-”
“It doesn’t fucking matter, we’ll deal with that later. Just get there now or it’ll be both our hides once this is over.”
The Officer sprinted through the now emptied corridors, the vibrations of a distant Pulse Cannon unfooting them as they surged towards the Containment Centre. Arriving, they caught their breath, peered into the gloomy passage of the Centre and stepped through the open door.
Another vibration drummed through the floor as the Officer took in the space. An empty corridor, lined with steel cell doors, most of them open. The stationed guards must have already left. The Officer, breath held, cautiously advanced towards the nearest open cell door, finding it reassuringly empty. An unassigned cell, they thought, not a breakout. Indeed, looking more closely with eyes adjusted to the darkness the Officer saw only one cell door was locked.
They pressed closer, their footsteps muffled by the rhythmic eruptions occurring outside. Yes, Rarleen Okyanus was printed on a piece of paper hurriedly taped to the cell door.
A deep, old voice rumbled through the Officer and they flinched, taking a step back from the cell door.
“Hello? Could I have some water?”
“I- um. I’m sorry, I don’t think that’s permitted.”
“Please, I’m very thirsty.”
Peering into the gloom, the Officer caught sight of a woman sitting on a chair, returning the Officer’s gaze.
“It’s just that the guards have gone, otherwise I’m sure they’d have given me some.”
“Alright, give me a moment.”
The Officer moved to the Containment entrance, returning with some recycled water from a provision tap.
The Officer placed the cup between the bars of the cell window and stepped back. With a grunt, Rarleen stood and moved steadily to the cup as the liquid inside lipped the container’s edges in time with the cannon fire. Even at her old age Rarleen stood at least a foot taller than the Officer, causing them to instinctively recoil despite the steel door between them.
“What’s going on out there Officer?”
“I’m Rarleen, by the way. What should I call you?”
“Junior Censor Officer #964B_2.”
“That seems silly.”
“You wrote the paper on the Pertenbroke Emergence. You’ve landed me in a pile of rotscum.”
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry. I certainly didn’t want to get you in any trouble.”
“How does it end?”
“Well you’ve read it.”
“The end was Redacted.”
“That’s a shame, it was the best part.”
Another cannon rumble and with it sporadic gunfire, closer now.
“I’ll tell you how it ended. If you tell me your name. It only seems polite.”
“Under Officer Penal Code Directive 7.43 I am not-”
“The electric’s off here, it’s all routed to the defences. Nobody’s listening.”
“Lane. Lane Udens.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Lane Udens.”
“So tell me-”
“That’s a rare name, Udens. Do you know where it comes from?”
“My family has lived in the Central Zone for generations, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Rarleen laughed, tipping her head back and taking a sip from the cup.
“I’m sure they have. No, I meant further back than that.”
“Are you going to tell me the ending or shall I take that back.” The Officer moved their hand towards the cup, perched back on the cell window.
The cup fell, splashing water over the Officer’s jacket as an explosion rattled through the corridor, sending them to their knees. A thunking sound. Their head jolting up as they rose, the Officer realised the door they had come through had swung shut.
“Attention. Inner perimeter doors have now been sealed for collective safety. Those outside the perimeter are advised to do whatever possible to prevent further encroachment. Virtue, Sacrifice and Progress.”
The static from the PA system clicked off and was overtaken by the sound of drilling and shouted commands from the other side of the door leading to the outer perimeter hallway.
“Oh no. Oh no oh no-”
“Udens, listen to me.”
“This is impossible, they must have breached the Empty Fields to even get close to- I thought it was an exercise or-”
As Rarleen speaks the drilling sound intensifies, enveloping her words as sparks land at the feet of Officer Udens and smoke pours in from under the doorway.
“What did you say?!”
“You’ve got water in you, Udens.”
Officer Udens glanced at their jacket, stained with the recycled water.
The two shared a brief look, their eyes reflected in each others’, before with a deafening crash the outer perimeter door cascaded to the floor and knocked the Officer to the ground as the corridor filled with thick, dark smoke.
“I’m sorry, Udens.”
One of the last things the Officer saw before their vision faded to black was a mass of figures surging into the corridor through the haze. They seemed taller than the Officer imagined possible, each and every one. A trick of the light, the Officer thought vaguely, or perspective.
The figures stepped over the Officer’s body and began drilling the door of Rarleen’s cell. As their senses began to dissolve, the Pulse Cannon’s distant vibrations dulled and became almost comforting, lapping at the receding shores of Udens’ consciousness until they were no more.