it was a wednesday, it was raining and it was the future. whilst waiting at the bus stop people read paperback books that cost £36. thirty six pounds for a paperback book! meanwhile, in a government warehouse a moustachioed gent was twitching nervously as he worked, opening endless envelopes and condemning their contents to a fiery end. with his moustache trimmed to the regulation eight centimetre length by five millimetre width he moved quickly and freely, his skin gently sweating as the heat of the furnace reached him.
“your beard is unsightly, unhygienic and will lead to tragic events for yourself and others. they make the country look shabby, can be used for tax evasion and carry illnesses such as hysteria and paranoia. we will soon be cracking down with fines ranging from £36 ever upwards but first there will be a one week grace period in which any beards can be sent direct to us for destruction.” who knew what ulterior motives were behind this sinister government’s fanatical beard purge? certainly not the moustachioed gent. this was just a job to him.
the beards kept coming, tumbling out of packages as strange amputated lumps of hair in vague face shapes. next to the moustachioed gent another moustachioed gent performed the same repetitive task emptying envelope after envelope of facial fuzz into the flames. as they did so they chatted to each other in the strange language of people who live in a future world in which paperback books cost £36, which sounds a little like this:
“this is boring,” said the second moustachioed gent, who was not the original focus of this story.
“yes,” said the moustachioed gent, keeping his head still.
“what can you do?”
as they tipped more beards into the flames adding ever to the crisp smell of burning hair, the moustachioed gents clung on to their moustaches with all the strength in their top lips, thankful that they had followed the path of being moustachioed rather than bearded, a commitment made many years ago.
the beards varied in size from lifetime growth to sandy stubble. some of them kept their shape whilst others had fallen to jigsaw pieces in the post. the moustachioed gents did not have time to put together the puzzle. some of the beards were pristine deserts of immaculate nothingness whilst others teemed with wildlife – spiders, toads, grubs – rainforests of growth, supporting whole ecosystems. they found clouds and grape vines tangled and flourishing.
“i tried a beard, once,” confessed the second moustachioed gent in a whisper.
“and how was it?”
“it made my face really heavy, slowed me down a lot.”
the two moustachioed gentlemen worked in silence side-by-side for a few hours, immolating hairy surrenders. there was a rhythm to the work – open, turn, pour into the flames. it was some hours later when the second moustachioed gentleman briefly broke this rhythm.
at this point the original moustachioed gent observed the following – the second gent opening a bulky brown envelope and, instead of tipping the contents into the fire, gently pulling them out and holding them in his hands. the beard he held was a fine specimen which held its original shape and displayed fine colours interweaving throughout a bushy and well-cared for body. he folded it carefully and slipped it into the pocket of his overall, then carried on as if nothing had happened.
the original moustachioed gent caught his eye moments later but it betrayed no secrets, it was as clear and glassy as the scentless future cityscapes that would one day be built a hundred hygienic, beardless years from then.
later the two embarked on a conversation about the recycling of envelopes at the amnesty. a while after that petered out they sat and ate their lunches, apple-green green apples. then they burnt some more beards and sweated in sync until it reached five o’clock and they left their work for the day.
“well, good day,” said the second moustachioed gentleman, “see you tomorrow.”
the moustachioed gent concurred and then followed his colleague home.
through the window he watched as the second moustachioed gent made himself a cup of tea and drank it with a biscuit. outside, cold and biscuitless, the moustachioed gent wondered if he should go home but instead he stayed, compelled to find out exactly what his colleague planned to do with the contraband decoration in his pocket. modern fog settled above and around the moustachioed gent, mugging his senses and licking around his ankles. sleep soon claimed him.
the moustachioed gent awoke several hours into the future, with paperback books still costing £36. the first thing he noticed was that his moustache was under some form of sticky restraint, minutes later he found that his mouth had been taped shut. he could not move his hands, tied together as they were and there was nothing to see in the darkness. sleep claimed him again.
finally he re-awoke in a shabby, windowless room lit by a single light bulb which swung with the motion of the spinning earth. breath could only come through his nose and he panicked momentarily before settling into a calming rhythm and finally his eyes began to dart around the room.
he was not alone.
countless immobile and illegal lavishly-bearded men stood around him in the half-light, pale skin, featureless faces. the moustachioed gent wanted to scream but his mouth and moustache were taped shut. beardies continued to stare. in terror, sleep claimed him.
re-re-awaking later in the same place he heard the voice of his colleague at the amnesty. “yes, he’s just rung to say he won’t be in work today… impromptu holiday… i know, i know… well, see you soon.” it must have become thursday.
the moustachioed gent struggled as he heard this, kicking his feet scattergun loose, wildly thrashing until he resembled a bound wild madman. he was more dignified than this – he was a moustache wearer dragged down by circumstances beyond his control.
and then, more terror.
in his uncoordinated hysteria, the moustachioed gent had managed to kick one of his hirsute sentinels and he had stumbled into another and he had fallen slowly, stiffly forward on top of the moustachioed gent. his pale body felt lighter than it should and the foul mass of hair somehow detached.
as it landed on him the moustachioed gent recognised it instantly – fine colours interweaving throughout a bushy and well-cared for body. he could see his colleague slipping it into his pocket, he knew this beard. he kicked some more and more of them fell to the floor, clattering all around him like a dismembered past. all vaguely recognisable, all shaved off and sent to the government, all liberated and displayed as a grotesque monument.
the moustachioed gent could do nothing as the bizarre museum tumbled down around him in a storm of fuzz and curls and lank, dank grease.