Now, I have only three left. I had seven, the seven Reri gave me. I hid these where I thought they would never find them, but they are ferrets and have found four of them so far. Four, and now I have only three left. They can come at any time but they cannot hurt me. By law they can search any Reader’s place anytime they wish, and they do. And I know they will come and search my place again and again, that they will keep looking until they are certain I have none left. However, by law they cannot lay their official hands on me even if they find something, although that, from what I hear, may soon change. And now they come once or twice a week, some weeks every day. One day they came twice. There is no knock, no warning. I have only a startled few seconds after I hear a key in my lock and before they burst into my apartment to cease or hide what it is I do if what I do is illegal (what I’m doing now, writing this, is illegal). My life is no longer mine, no longer private, for by law I cannot use latches or chains or anything they cannot easily, and quickly, unlock from without. They must have free access, is how the law puts it. Latches or chains of any kind, it specifies, would amount to protected privacy and that privilege is reserved for the Locom. I have to wear an orange R (for Reader) on my chest. It is made from glow-worm plastic so you can see it at night (as if I were crazy enough to go out then) and I have to wear it wherever I go. The Locom stand aside when they see me come or they stop and point. Some turn away. Mothers bend to whisper to their children and I see their little eyes widen before they scramble for cover behind skirts and coats, although some are too young to understand and instead they smile at me in friendly wonder, some even wave (soon to be scolded by their mothers). Some Locom scowl and frown, others pretend I’m not there. Some do violence to me, for the law says they can. It happens once or twice a week, that I get beaten. I don’t think it’s encouraged, these beatings. Reri said the law even frowns upon it, but when you listen carefully to what the law says, it is not illegal to hurt a Reader, that is, as long as you’re not an official, for by law the police or a searcher or other official cannot hurt a Reader. That’s what the law says. Reri never understood that either. I cannot, however, defend myself, says the law. A Reader may not. If set upon by a Locom I have to stand still and take what the law classifies as “The just outrage of the Locom.” It hurts, it hurts a lot, these beatings do, but usually I can make it home on my own afterwards. One day, I fear, either by accident or by excess enthusiasm, someone will kill me although that is against the law, to kill a Reader. Were that ever to happen, I mean if killing us would be condoned, then, of course, I would soon be dead along with others.