This story is in the near future. The United Kingdom has left and not left the European Union. The country is united by division. Everything is just like it is today, only more so. The things that worry and bother and irritate normal people today, will do so tomorrow. Only, because of the situation, just a whole lot more.
It’s hard to explain. Perhaps if you think back to the first years of New Labour. What was the difference between them and the last years of the Major government?
Not a lot. New Labour was mostly just Tory wets, but making everything slightly more annoying.
But then came their mission creep.
All must have prizes education. Not allowed to mention certain, pressing issues. Ban this. Compulsory that. Speed cameras that criminalised 2 million ordinary citizens, at the same time as relaxing the law on more serious crimes.
All day drinking and yob culture. DNA data bases. Politiscisation of the public services. Sucking up to the media. In bed with the biggest of big business and banking. Usurpation of the Honours system for party funding purposes. The Common Purpose octopus. The desire to please and promote the European Union. The reporting of crime statistics that fell as the school exam passes rose. Without empirical evidence that either had ever improved.
The spin doctoring of not just news, but every single thing remotely connected to the government and its main people. The gender promotions. The endless, three a day regulations and law making. To go with your five a day nannying and lecturing. HIPS and use by dates. Green taxes. Apologising for the past and borrowing from the future…
That’s just what it’s like now. In this shortly to be the future time. Only more so. And without the easy credit that made it bareable last time. Perhaps I should just tell you what happened. I’ll fill in details you might not know as we go along. Treat you as if you were from out of town. Guide you through it all…
Chapter 1. The wake up
Something was beeping. A quiet beep. A radar like pulse sound. It wasn’t alarming. Quieter and with a lower frequency than a smoke detector. And far less agitating. As persistent as government advice on sugar consumption. And as insistent as a subpoena. It required attention.
I opened one eye a crack and consciousness attempted to process the data.
It seemed I was in my office. I recognised the shape of the rectangle of window. Covered in a filmy London city grime. The light rain was spattering the panes. The office was in an old commercial building. On the top floor, where no window cleaner would ever call. The windows were large, for their 1920s era design. And let in enough grey light to see the coat stand by the door. A sad looking plant in a brightly coloured ceramic pot. And the brown stain on the ceiling, in the corner. The one that looked uncannily like an ear trumpet. And the wall mounted Vid’Screen.
I managed to force my eye to open and take in some data. Yep. This was definitely my office. As viewed on a slant through my right eye. So I was lying down. That’s not bad Rightie. Good work. Lefty wasn’t processing anything.
The slanted, bleary view was because my head was resting on my folded arms, that were lying on my desk. And my left eye was wasn’t processing anything because something was jammed into it.
It was the Super-Fit_byte 3000 wristwatch and lifestyle coach. A chunky, yet smooth, sleek black box, that was rare enough for the hipsters to crave. I was lying on it.
I raised myself upright and rubbed my eye to bring back some vision and my ears to end the ringing.
The vision came back but the beeping continued. It was the Super-Fit_byte 3000. I read its semi-holographic screen.
It was telling me I needed to complete 2,372,000 extra steps to be on my ideal weight program. I didn’t know how to make it stop beeping. I didn’t know how to make it start bleeping. Or start my car. Turn on the hob. Count the calories in a milkshake. Buy a plane ticket to Kathmandu, pick a new lover or recommend a movie that it could watch for me.
I’d had it a while and still didn’t know how to make it do any of the many thousand essential post-millennial functions it effortlessly sorted, that were apparently necessary to sustain a modern progressive’s life.
I really didn’t know how to do anything with it but ask it to tell me the time. So I took it off to put it away.
As I put it into the drawer I saw the inscription again, on the casing.
“To Joe. 15 years service. From all the guys in
The Department. Keep it clean”
My leaving gift. From The Department. I sometimes wondered who they fenced it from. These things weren’t cheap. But they were annoying. I shut the drawer to muffle it.
Now I recalled why I was here, sleeping at my desk. I’d been out with some of The Department, last night. It was old Foxley’s leaving do. He’d managed to reach pension age. Quite an achievement.
Not because working for The Department was all that dangerous. More that the government kept raising the age a person could begin to claim their pension. It was currently at 79 for men. And 62 for women. But it changed all the time. Foxley had made the 79 required years, spending the last twenty at admin to get through it, and now he was out. Free to spend his days playing video golf.
He’d processed a lot of paperwork for me when I was a rookie.
“Get your paperwork in order, kid. And keep it that way. It’s all about paperwork in The Department.”
He’d been right. Admin and box ticking was far more important than criminals caught or crimes solved. Far more important.
The retirement party started the evening at one of the few remaining London pubs that still served alcohol. A former Wetherspoons, re-branded as OnePlus after Wetherspoons quit the UK, AB – After Brexit. It wasn’t far from Westminster so quite a few service types were there.
The roving drone surveillance team were on their own piss-up. Flying their drinks from bar to table to great cheers from themselves. While the Airport and Ports Drone Interception Division, in the other bar, attempted to shoot them down with their own drones. We ignored the nerds and met up with some of the Vice. Which was good as they always had access to the latest substances.
I only drank. But I remember a police technician with very wide thighs had shared her “Chinese Xianhou lite” with me. It tasted like a dead mule. But caused instant intoxication. I recall it had made the tubby, brunette, techie suddenly, very appealing. But also gave my stomach that six bottles gassy feeling. I said I’d be right back. Went to the gender free toilets to break the seal. Got talking with some Chinese Met police guy about what a bummer it was that just when Dyson had finally, after thirty years of others attempting it, invented a hand dryer that actually dried your hands, they had been made illegal by the EU-UK energy efficiency laws. And the recyclable paper towels couldn’t dry spit. He was a bit drunk too. And worked up about the hand driers. He had trouble saying recyclable. In his accent it came out “Wee-suckable.” Which made all the girls and guys in the toilets laugh.
When I returned from those unisex toilets, the big brunette techie was sitting on Foxley’s lap. Exchanging tongues.
So I left them all there. And not finding a black cab, and the current Mayoral Uber ban being in force, I decided to head to my office. Which wasn’t too far away, along the river. Where I’d gone in, and up, and rested my spinning and now aching head, on my arms. And I must have slept there until I had awoken, just now. In my office. On the top floor of the old building.
The office with the legend
Printed on the glass pane in the door.