Kent produced a flashlight and guided Oriana about fifty metres up the pipe. Here it opened up to a small chamber. Kent passed the flashlight to her and then climbed up a ladder opening to a manhole at the top. Oriana followed him up and found herself in a stone chamber about 5 by 10 metres in size. There was a small rectangular sky light in the roof providing some natural light. Kent touched a switch on the wall and a series of LED lights came on fully illuminating the room. He offered Oriana his hand and helped her to her feet inside the chamber.
The chamber had four stone pillars that created two arches across the narrow section of chamber, with the skylight in between. The space was thus divided into six sections of roughly equal size. Starting from one corner and working clockwise was a queen sized mattress lying on pallets. The next segment held a fridge, an electrical switchboard, inverter, and a bank of car batteries. Next to this was a kitchen and pantry area consisting of a work bench, sink, and gas burner with a methane cylinder. Opposite this was a shower and a toilet. Then next to this was what looked like some kind pyramid of sculptures set up on ascendingly narrower shelves. There was some kind of decorative gym mat on the floor here. In the final segment was the manhole they entered into. There was a pulley on the roof for raising heavy loads, and a book shelf stuffed with books on one wall. In the center of the room was a small work table with a stool and an armchair. This table was directly below the skylight. Several paintings of buildings, landscapes, and scenes of people hung on the walls.
“Wow,” murmured Oriana making her way to the centre of the chamber, “So this is where you live?”
“Yes, it’s sometimes a bit humid in the summer, but surprisingly comfy in the winter.”
Oriana looked up into the skylight. There was about two metres of distance between the chamber roof and the glass roof of the skylight. She noted that the skylight roof was shaped in a rectangular based pyramid.
“So, why underground?”
“It helps me to get closer to perfecting my soul,”
Oriana stared at him, “that is a joke? Right?”
“No. Not at all, I mean to live my life in accordance with my values. Living down here helps me to live as truly to myself as I can.”
“How does living down here help you to perfect your soul?”
“The rent isn’t paid in money, and I can avoid paying most taxes.”
Oriana chortled, “Seriously? Don’t you have a job?”
Kent smiled, “I do, I have lots of jobs, but who wants to spend their money on evil things?”
“How is rent evil?”
“It isn’t so much rent, it is the expense of the utilities, and other government fees. The problem I have is that I don’t like the wars.”
Kent listed a string of countries that the country was currently bombing or fighting in. Oriana nodded, realising that yes, indeed her country was involved in a lot of wars: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc…
“So what does being anti-war have to do with paying taxes?”
“Well, last election I wanted to vote for a political party that was anti-war. However, both of the major parties were for the endless wars. I ended up voting for a small party, along with millions of other people, but I noticed that it didn’t really matter what I voted: my tax money was going to be spend on war. So I decided that voting wasn’t enough. If I was going to stop supporting the wars, I had to stop paying taxes.”
Oriana was getting bored talking about taxes and wars, “So tell me, Kent, how did you come to live down here?”
Kent motioned for Oriana to sit down in the armchair. He took her order for tea and prepared a cup for her. Once they were both sitting at the table with their cups of tea in hand he started his story.
“When I arrived here in this city, I had no where to stay. I asked around at all these factories for a place to work. Eventually, I came to the computer assembly factory at the end of Cutters Court, it’s actually just above us. The manager said he couldn’t afford to hire anyone, but he needed help with security. Lots of robberies in the area. Professionals who came at night and broke in and out too quickly to be caught. The security company had failed to protect them from three burglaries in one year alone so they were getting desperate. He said that I could sleep in the factory at night so long as I provided security. Well, although I just had a sleeping bag on the floor of the factory. There was a bathroom with showers and internet access. I was able to make about $50 a day during the week doing odd jobs like gardening or packing boxes; which paid for my food and clothes. But not enough to rent a place of my own.”
“Yes,” interrupted Oriana, “but if you were so poor, why did you not just get welfare assistance from the government?”
Kent took a thoughtful sip of his tea before answering, “Because that wouldn’t be in line with my values.”
“Values? What do you mean?”
“I don’t think it’s right to take from others without asking. It’s like with the war, I shouldn’t have to pay for wars that I don’t want to pay for. I don’t think it’s right for people to give me charity if they don’t want to. That’s why I asked the manager of the factory here if he wanted to help me. As fortune would have it, I was in a position to offer him some peace of mind in return for his generosity.”
“Peace of mind?”
“I was able to look over the factory for him at night so he felt easier sleeping.”
Oriana’s tea cup was already empty, but she brought it to her lips sub consciously as she pondered what Kent had just said, “It sounds to me like you’re against democracy or something.”
Kent’s eyes shifted away from Oriana and wandered across the ceiling for a few moments before returning to focus on her.
“Do you respect democracy, Oriana?”
“Do you hold it in high regard?”
“I guess, isn’t democracy the reason why we live in a first world country?”
“Have you ever considered just how cruel democracy can be?”
“Cruel?” laughed Oriana, “are you serious?”
“I am. Very serious. In theory a democracy is supposed to venerate the people, yet our democracy is currently bombing people. How can this be? Consider this; say there are ten people, and one person has ten dollars, and the other people have nothing. Is that man allowed to say ‘no’ to them if he doesn’t want to share his money with them?”
“Well, he is being greedy isn’t he, by not sharing that money with them?”
“What if he earned that money by working all day, while the other people had done nothing?”
“Hmm, ok, yeah, that wouldn’t be fair of them to take his money from him. Since he did earn it. They should respect that it is his money and that he doesn’t have to share it if he doesn’t want to.”
“Right, but just say the group decided that they should have a vote? I mean, let us use democracy to decide who gets to keep the money. They vote on it, and nine people want the money shared out evenly with everyone. So they force the man to give up his money and they each get one dollar. Is that fair?”
Oriana wasn’t too sure, “part of me thinks it was wrong to take that one man’s money, but part of me feels that it sounds fair to share it with everyone.”
“Ok,” said Kent, “Instead of one man with $10 and nine other people, imagine one woman and nine men. The nine men vote that they should all have sex with the woman, the woman votes against this. The majority rule and they all end up having sex with the woman against her will. Does this sound fair?”
Oriana burst out laughing, almost spitting her tea across the room. Then she noticed that Kent wasn’t actually laughing with her. He was certainly smiling warmly at her laughter, but nonetheless, serious about his comparison. Oriana felt herself experience a chill of horror when she realised just how apt the comparison of democracy to a gang rape actually was. Feeling confused and anxious about this, she decided to ask Kent to resume his story again. She would save thinking about this democracy problem until later.
Kent continued with his story of how he came to live underneath the factory.
“One night after I had been living in the factory for a few weeks; the robbers broke in. They had disabled the alarms. I watched them break in. About six of them. Because there were so many of them I didn’t try to stop them. I messaged the manager of the factory, but they were moving so fast I feared they would be gone within five minutes. So I snuck outside and punctured one of the tires on their truck with a hammer and nail. It worked, they actually had to unload the truck before jacking it up again. While they were busy replacing the tire I listened into and recorded their conversations with my phone. Turns out one of them was a security guard from the company protecting this building! Thanks to my delay the police and the factory manager arrived in time to blockade the street entrance. The crooks were caught red handed.
“The factory manager was delighted by this and said I could stay as long as I liked at the factory. I decided to cultivate a veggie garden out the back of the factory when I found this old cellar underneath it. It was full of dirt and junk. The manager didn’t mind if I wanted to clear it out and make it into my home, so that’s what I did. It’s been two years now since I moved in. I have attached my own water, sewerage, and electricity. So it’s actually a really comfy place now. With the veggie garden on top, I easily save $300/w living here. Plus being underground it’s easy to cool and heat. Not to mention that it’s peaceful down here. I can do my work in peace.”