Liberty for the Builder’s Son – Charissa Cheong

The Orwell Youth Prize 2016 Winner – Year Group 9, 10, 11

It was April 10th, 2016, and this earth’s tenth year since the abolition of currency. It’s been a long time since I last had the liberty of feeling the loose change in my pockets weighing me down as I strode down the winding path home. Far too long since I held my first pay cheque in my worked and calloused hands. Raising that rectangle of plain white paper to the light, I praised it for its utmost beauty. The strain on a labouring man was trying, but the reward of rubbing the silky paper ribbon between your fingers made it worthwhile. Poor as I was; a back-bent, builder’s son without the smarts to get through school, I treasured my craft. There was no experience as pleasurable as feeling the midday April breeze wiping the sweat from your brow, sitting on a park bench with your old man every day, eating lunch and whistling compliments to the pretty ladies that swung by. The day was done. I stood opposite my finished artwork, an indestructible fortress of brick walls. I smiled. For I knew I had down something few had the fortune of doing. I had created a storage unit for years of memories, a sanctuary for the lost, a home. All with my own two hands.


That was long ago. And if my old man could see me now, fluorescent builder’s vest traded in for a black suit and tie, he would have said I had cement stuck in my brain. See, I remember the technicolour confetti flakes that fluttered downwards on my TV screen when the good news was delivered.


‘A world without money – a battle won’


And I suppose then it really was won. For coins were the shackles on the poor man, and notes were The Ten Commandments to the corrupt, and money was the gambling man’s lover, and money was the banker’s favourite son, and money was the face on the tax collector, and money was the lock on prison jail cells, and money was the root of all evil


and money…


and money…


and money was the idol I bowed down to each day when I wanted my supper, each time I needed my daily bread. Money was my provider, and I fell to my face for it every day.


I was grateful to the Committee of Liberty for fighting for our right to a world where we no longer chased after golden coins rolling down pavements, rolling faster and faster and into the gutter. It seemed then that liberty was a coin toss away.


And then the job refills began. In a world where we all provide our services for free, in order to receive the same allowances in return, the pressure from your parents to become a doctor, lawyer or engineer disappears. In 2016, it pleases them equally to be a bin man, and the line in wait for bin man enrolment was flatteringly long. Then, the ever intelligent Committee of Liberty introduced job caps. By the time I had fought my way into the local job registry, the cap limit on building work had been reached.


Which leaves me here, sat behind the desk of ‘Liberty Newspaper’, where the midday April breeze does not do so much as dare to lick the pane of my sealed office window. Alexander Dwight, Editor and senior member of the Committee of Liberty has instructed me today to write yet another article advertising the good works of the Committee.  I had been staring at a blank document for the best part of three hours, unable to write another worthless lie in a world where worth had no meaning at all.


Outside my window was a steady banging noise like the slow, syncopated beating of a heart. I peered beyond the grey tinted window glass and saw on the opposite street, far below, a young man in a fluorescent yellow vest looking up at a tall unfinished wall in front of him. The rage I felt then

turned me back on my heels, back to the empty document I had left behind. My temptation to rebel was ever stronger, but in today’s society, a word against the Committee would be equivalent to suicide. Nevertheless, I threw my fingers onto the keyboard and typed, smashing down on the keys until they were worked and calloused. What did have to lose?















Whatever possessed me had picked up the computer, ripping the wires from their nerve endings, sending it through the huge window panel, landing thirty feet below to the ground with a harsh clatter. At least it didn’t cost me anything.

Then Mr. Dwight with his air of authority came worriedly barging into my office.

“Colin is everything all right in here?” Then, seeing what I had done, somehow immediately knew my motives.

“Colin, are you not grateful for the life the Committee has given you?”

I spat on the ground.

“I understand it’s not easy, but look around my dear Colin, we have given you freedom! Liberty at last. Liberty, which comes at a price.”

I scoffed hysterically.

“Price? Nothing has price anymore. Nothing has value anymore. This nightmare you have created, this false utopia you’ve built, does not come close to liberty. Not my version, anyway. If liberty was mine then I would be free to tell you that I hate this job, I hate your Committee and I hate you!  But maybe you’re right my dear Alexander, maybe liberty does indeed come at a price.”

And slowly stepping forward to meet his eyes, I knew what that price was.

“I quit.”

My last two words on this corrupted earth before I was falling, falling through my grey tinted office window to be with the nice young man in the fluorescent yellow vest,

to help him finish that wall of his.

Liberty at last.