Dear readers, today we are interviewing Tommy, off the pages of Counteract and Resist. Tommy lives in a dystopian future, constantly under the guard of the Office of Civilian Safety and Defence (OCSD).
What was it like, for a growing child under the OCSD?
It’s funny you should ask what it was like to grow up under the thumb of the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense. The OCSD really took hold in 2019, when I was only three years old, so I’ve never known what it was like to live without the Restrictions–until now. I guess my life was pretty close to what you’d call normal. I understand now that my mom tried to shelter me from what was really going on. My dad was an attorney and activist who opposed the creation of the OCSD and spoke out against their policies, but my parents didn’t talk about it at home–at least in front of me. I grew up going to school and playing sports. We lived in an area that still had a few restaurants and shops, but it wasn’t like that for everyone. I guess our quadrant had a lot of rich people, lots of people who were high up in the government. Our community’s social status–and our compliance with the Restrictions–are what allowed us to have those luxuries.
What was your favourite toy and game as a child?
When I was twelve, the OCSD shut down access to the internet, but even before that I never spent much time on computers. Football was always the thing for me. When the OCSD announced they were phasing out school sports and banning spectators at college and pro games, my dad was really upset. At the time I thought it was because Dad was hoping I’d play pro someday, but I found out later that the Restriction wasn’t about keeping people safe from terrorist attacks. It sounds crazy now, but you gotta understand we were told that gathering at stadiums, movie theaters, and malls made us potential targets for terrorists, and we were safer viewing and shopping from our homes. Anyway, Lowell Stratford, who was the OCSD director at the time, was trying to get my dad to back off and quit speaking out against the OCSD’s policies. Stratford blamed my dad for the new Restriction; he knew associating my father’s name with the taking away of access to entertainment and sports would hurt his cause, and make him a less powerful opponent.
Luckily, my high school took their time about phasing out sports, so I got to play. I wasn’t super-motivated about college ball, though. Now I regret that. I probably would’ve made the team, but I was just coasting through those last months of high school, ignoring my parents’ prodding to think about my future. Then, that summer after graduation, everything changed. We were in an auto accident, and I lost both my parents. My right leg was mangled–it took four surgeries, and still the doctors weren’t sure if I’d ever walk normally, let alone run, again. Eventually, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and got going on my physical therapy, and I was getting better. I was on the verge of feeling like myself again. Then this whole terrorist threat came up, and bam. Taking the antidote killed my motivation. I quit working on my recovery.
What does the antidote really taste like?
The antidote tastes bitter, like something you wouldn’t take if you didn’t have to. Did they do that on purpose? To make us treat it like some kind of medicine, something we needed for our health? If they’d made it taste like candy, maybe we wouldn’t have taken it as seriously.
What do you feel when you drink it?
When I took my first dose, I was also on some heavy pain meds, and the whole experience was pretty trippy. I thought I was out on the lake, in a boat, where we used to go on holiday when I was a kid. Other times, it rained inside the house. Grass grew out of the TV. But none of that seemed strange. On the antidote, you just kind of roll with whatever happens to you. Well, on Phase One, that is. Phase Two was different. Stronger. I don’t remember much about what happened when they upped our doses. Careen told me some things that happened, and honestly, it make me glad I was totally checked out.
What is life in the Resistance like?
Life in the Resistance? Let’s just say I had no idea what I was getting into. I can’t believe I was that oblivious to what was going on in the world around me, but I never considered blowing off the Restrictions and refusing to do what the OCSD told us to do. They said it was the only way to survive the chemical weapons attack. The day Careen and I ran out of the antidote was like the point of no return–for both of us. Once we realized we weren’t going to die, we wondered if we were the only ones who’d stopped taking the antidote. We saw what the antidote was doing to people around us, and realized something was really wrong. We made contact with the Resistance, and before I knew it we were going along on a mission to rescue some people who’d been detained for opposing the OCSD’s policies. Things got a little messy while we were at the OCSD headquarters in the capital. Now, we’re fugitives. We can’t go back to our old lives, even if we want to.
Is there anything you miss from your “regular” previous life?
My old life seems like a dream. I miss playing football and knowing it’s just a game, not a life-and-death struggle. I miss sleeping late and being lazy. I miss not worrying. Now I watch my back all the time, ’cause I’ve realized you can’t trust anyone–and that includes some of the other members of the Resistance. I feel responsible for Careen, and some of the others. Physically, I’m strong again. My skills are needed, and I’m ready for whatever comes next.
Do you see a future together for Careen and yourself?
I was surprised when Careen showed up on my front porch one morning. I’d seen her around once or twice, and she’d made appearances in a couple of my dreams, which was weird since I didn’t really know her. She seemed to have some connection to me, too. Later we realized she was being manipulated by a member of the quadrant marshals, who was using her to find out if I was carrying on my father’s work against the OCSD–which I wasn’t!
The day we met was also the day we ran out of the antidote. I remember wishing more than anything that it was an ordinary day, so I could meet a girl and not have to think about dying. Careen’s smart and brave, and she’s been through some rough times; it’s not easy for her to trust anyone. Even though we stuck together while we detoxed and tried to figure out what was going on, she kept me at arm’s length. We depended on each other, watched out for each other. Then the day we realized we were going to be arrested and forced into the OCSD’s civilian army, well, there was no reason not to… um, you know… and we did. Maybe things between us moved too fast, but I know that our connection is real. I think I love her. I want her in my life. We’re still getting to know each other; we don’t always agree, and yeah, we fight sometimes. It ticks me off that one of the other guys in the Resistance is trying to put the moves on her when he knows she’s my girl. Oh–but long-term? Yeah, I hope so. It’s just not practical to plan too far into the future.
Tracy Lawson knew she wanted to be a writer from the time she could read. She grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and currently resides in Dallas, Texas. You can find Tommy and Careen on the pages of Counteract and Resist.
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