Setting out on my quest again, I reach a building. It has the dismal look of a factory, yet the sign says “Bodge it & Screw ‘Em Legal Services (Pies and Pasties a speciality). I enter and move, unnoticed, through room after room of people, dully intoning, “your matter has become too complex and a solicitor must now advise you. Please note that our charges will increase exponentially.” I hurry on but can’t avoid seeing that their faces are all the same, features slightly blurry, as if they were manufactured. There is no individuality and no passion on their faces or in their voices. They are automatons processing case file after case file with no interest in their outcomes. I shudder. This could be my future if I don’t step up to the plate. A future full of procedures, monotony. A future where talent and imagination are stifled in favour of form filling. A future where clients are no longer people to have conversations with but file numbers to process. My sense of urgency increases. I must succeed in my quest! I walk on and come to a brightly lit room, lined with filing cabinets, and hear a new voice.
“Where’s your stamp?” he squeaks.
I turn and see a small creature with multicoloured neon fur, “My?”
“Stamp, your stamp that says who your parents are.”
Bemused, I can’t think of a response.
“Look,” he says, pointing to his bum, “your stamp”.
Embarrassed, I look closely, past the tufts of fur, and see it. His Certified Copy stamp, with two signatures.
“Well…I don’t have one.”
“Then how do people know where you came from. You’re nobody without your stamp!”
Somehow, I just know that all of the people I’ve seen so far in this building have stamps and that all of their stamps look the same.
“I don’t have a stamp. I come from a far off land where nobody is stamped and no person is the same as the next. I came to seek a plate to rescue my people. If I step up on it, they will be saved.”
A look of fierce concentration appears on the little creature’s face. Then, “Does your plate have a stamp,” he asks with an expression bordering on sly.
“I don’t know,” I say. “I haven’t seen the plate. Nobody can describe it for me. All I know is that I must find the plate and step up to it.”
At this, he appears to lose interest and turns away to his drawers of records.
“Excuse me,” I interrupt. “I don’t suppose the plate could be filed in your cabinets?”
He snorts. “I do not misfile anything. My cabinets are perfectly ordered. You have no stamp, you couldn’t understand.” With a snippy toss of his head, he walks away.
There is nothing more for me in this place. I walk on out of the building and come out into a dark, bleak landscape. I blink. How long was I inside? As I peer out at this strange new land, I think I see a spark of light. With hope, I stare at the point where it had been. Eventually, it comes again and I start towards it, only to be stopped in my tracks by a whispering voice.
“Justice?” I ask.
“No,” comes the soft reply, “I am Ethics, her sister. Tell me, how does she fare?”
Uncomfortable, I stare out into the dark. Eventually, I say the only thing I can.
“I’m sorry. I’m afraid she is very ill.”
“I feared as much.”
Just a wraith herself, yet there is something more substantial to Ethics than her sister. I find myself asking her how this came to be.
“My future is bound up with yours and others like you. Lawyers. I feel the same shifting currents, see the same predators but they can’t come for me or for you until my sister is sufficiently weakened. She protects us, you see.”
The sad creature I had seen could barely protect herself. Glancing at her, I realise Ethics knows that. A light sparks again. Before I can take another step, Ethics’ voice grows harsher.
“Stop,” she cries, a rasping, ragged shout. “You mustn’t.”
“But if there are people, they may know where the plate I seek can be found.”
“No longer people,” she looks on the lights with pity, “no longer.”
“They sought the plate before you. When they came to this place they were caught by the monster of the bog, a terrible creature formed from the souls of home secretaries and justice secretaries who willingly gave them up in return for the power they sought. It is a young creature, only two decades old, but it grows ever stronger as each successive government builds on the actions of the last.”
I feel a shiver of revulsion pass through me as I think of the souls that had gone to create and sustain such a creature. I watch as another light glows and slowly dies away. Turning back to Ethics, I ask with trepidation, “how did they die?”
My question is met with silence.
“Please,” I try again.
“The monster will speak to you. It will lure you with promises of safety and security. For many that is enough. It pacifies them because they so want to believe. Remember from whence the monster came. It will be convincing. You will want to believe but you must not. Remember me. Remember Justice. Perhaps you can do it.”
Then, she is gone.