Tape like this, however, is very difficult to fake convincingly, and we were assured by the experts who examined them that the physical objects themselves are genuine. Certainly the recording itself, that is, the superimposition of voice upon music tape, could not have been done within the past hundred and fifty years.
Supposing, then, the tapes to be genuine, what of the nature of the account itself? Obviously, it could not have been recorded during the period of time it recounts, since, if the author is telling the truth, no machine or tapes would have been available to her, nor would she have had a place of concealment for them. Also, there is a certain reflective quality about the narrative that would to my mind rule out synchronicity. It has a whiff of emotion recollected, if not in tranquillity, at least post facto.
If we could establish an identity for the narrator, we felt, we might be well on the way to an explanation of how this document – let me call it that for the sake of brevity – came into being. To do this, we tried two lines of investigation.
First, we attempted, through old town plans of Bangor and other remaining documentation, to identify the inhabitants of the house that must have occupied the site of the discovery at about that time. Possibly, we reasoned, this house may have been a “safe house” on the Underground Femaleroad during our period, and our author may have been kept hidden in, for instance, the attic or cellar there for some weeks or months, during which she would have had the opportunity to make the recordings. Of course, there was nothing to rule out the possibility that the tapes had been moved to the site in question after they had been made. We hoped to be able to trace and locate the descendants of the hypothetical occupants, whom we hoped might lead us to other material: diaries, perhaps, or even family anecdotes passed down through the generations.
Unfortunately, this trail led nowhere. Possibly these people, if they had indeed been a link in the underground chain, had been discovered and arrested, in which case any documentation referring to them would have been destroyed. So we pursued a second line of attack. We searched records of the period, trying to correlate known historical personages with the individuals who appear in our author’s account. The surviving records of the time are spotty, as the Gileadean regime was in the habit of wiping its own computers and destroying printouts after various purges and internal upheavals, but some printouts remain. Some indeed were smuggled to England, for propaganda use by the various Save-the-Women societies, of which there were many in the British Isles at that time.
We held out no hope of tracing the narrator herself directly. It was clear from internal evidence that she was among the first wave of women recruited for reproductive purposes and allotted to those who both required such services and could lay claim to them through their position in the elite. The regime created an instant pool of such women by the simple tactic of declaring all second marriages and non-marital liaisons adulterous, arresting the female partners, and, on the grounds that they were morally unfit, confiscating the children they already had, who were adopted by childless
couples of the upper echelons who were eager for progeny by any means. (In the middle period, this policy was extended to cover all marriages not contracted within the state church.) Men highly placed in the regime were thus able to pick and choose among women who had demonstrated their reproductive fitness by having produced one or more healthy children, a desirable characteristic in an age of plummeting Caucasian birth rates, a phenomenon observable not only in Gilead but in most northern Caucasian societies of the time.