A weathered man edged his way through the humming metropolitan landscape. Bearing his thin form through the preoccupied crowd, he resembled a leatherback book: papery, crinkled and aged, he seemed to rustle along the bustling high street. Inside his worn leather overcoat he held a dense journal close to his chest. Removing an intricate hand from the folds of his jacket he extracted a dull pocket-watch from his person and quickened his pace. A frown crept into the corner of his yellowing forehead. There wasn't long before the broadcast.
A wiry woman adjusted a microphone, delicately tuning a dial on a mixing desk before her.
'Test 1. Testing, testing... Verifying levels.'
'Where the fuck is he?' inquired a man sitting beside her, with a nervous expression on his young face
'You know he'll be here, Andrew. '
'And if he isn't? What the fuck do we do then?'
'Oh calm down, you've been trained. You know how the broadcast works.'
The clock on the wall edged it's way towards 9 a.m. Andrew's expression tightened, his breathing became conscious. He knew what to do, but if he got it wrong, even ever so slightly wrong, the world would change. If he left out a name, he ended a life.
Nobody could have estimated it would get so bad. Scientists claimed the average human attention span was decreasing, but it had been impossible with their data at the time to estimate to what extent this would affect memory. And all too soon, people could barely remember their family member's names. And then their own. So, along came the Identification Programme. The programme made sure every new child was labelled: an identification number etched into their forearm. But the number was not enough on it's own, and so the broadcasts began. Of course, some people remembered, but it took willpower and effort. The world focussed on consumption of dispensable information, entertainment, and media. People could gave up struggling to remembering personal information to make room for more consumable distractions: TV shows, mass produced music and film. Quotas had been experimented with for a while: limiting the amount of time people consumed media, in an attempt to ensure room remained in the human brain for personal memories. But soon it was realised The Broadcast was the only viable solution.
The weathered man in the leather overcoat had begun to climb a decrepit set of stairs, he would soon be at the Broadcasting Chamber.
'Andrew, you're going to have to do The Broadcast. We've only got a minute left, are you ready?'
Andrew tentatively held the microphone in his hands, a light film of sweat glazing his forehead. He opened the book.
'You're sure it's up to date?'
'It's the most recent version we have.'
And so Andrew read.
'Number 0001, John Oakes, carpenter, Oakes and Sons Woodworks LTD. Number 0002, Niel Smith, Assistant Executive...'
Three hours later, Andrew finished and breathed a sigh of relief. His work was done. People could remember again.
With a sickening thud, the weathered man collapsed through the door, his bloodied face pained beyond his physical condition.
'What the fuck!' Andrew exclaimed, a horrified tone in his voice
'We forgot one.' The weathered man explained.
'We left out a name.'