I dreamed I saw the silver spaceships
Lying in the yellow haze of the sun
There were children crying and colours flying
All around the chosen ones
All in a dream, all in a dream the loading had begun
Flying mother natures silver seed to a new home in the sun
Being summer, the old man woke early and slowly got himself out of his bed. It took considerably longer to “get going” these days and it wasn’t unusual at this time of day for his thoughts, now that he was in the very twilight of his life, to dwell for a short time on his approaching and inevitable demise. “It’s a wonder”, he thought to himself, “that I’m still here at all, when so many who should be aren’t”. He pulled back the curtains, gratified to see clear blue sky to the horizon, and slowly dressed before heading downstairs to take stock, eat breakfast and consider the day ahead. One of the things that had kept him going through recent tumultuous years had been his scrupulous adherence to recording those moments, significant and not so significant, that had impacted his life to a greater or lesser extent. In the early 2020’s he’d used a computer, saving his words to the “cloud”, but, by 2026, he’d realised if posterity were ever to see his journal, he’d need to record it in notebooks and keep them somewhere secure. He hoped that one day they’d be seen, at the same time he wanted to keep them away from the increasingly prying eyes of the ever growing state machine. Little did he know, when he made that decision, how events would turn out.
Breakfast was a simple affair, home baked bread, farm cheese, bought with a brace of plump pheasant, and a large glass of the rapidly diminishing stock of apple juice he’d bottled the previous autumn. Food stocks were low, apart from the vegetables he grew, but the coming week would see both his pension paid onto his GovCard and his fortnightly turn to take a seat on the bi-daily Electro-bus into Penrith. Once there he’d be able to take advantage of his 45 minute ShopSlot at TesCostiSons before enjoying a couple of pints of Nation-ale in the Freedom Arms, Penrith’s only remaining “wet” drinking establishment. His reverie was broken (his allotted thirty minutes of sol-time being up) by his Virtuwall screen fizzing and flickering into action. The holographic presenter moved in and out of focus before settling, wishing him a pleasant good morning and reminding him of his seat number on the bus, his time slots in both the shop and the pub and the number of hours before he had to take up these options, or wait for another two weeks. She also reminded him, rather matter of factly he thought, that this day, being the 18th 0f July 2046, marked the fact that he had precisely 109 days to put his few affairs in order, before reporting to Retrieval Station #4468 GHS (Central Conclave) Monitoring Centre, to have his carbon captured.
He’d received the eletter in April, a single, perfunctory paragraph told him, in not so many words, that the algorithms which were run on every citizen on their birthday, every year, had put him in the “red zone”. He’d had a good run, but age (he was in his 95th year), GovCard entitlement, Nation-ale consumption figures, Electro-bus seat take up, ShopSlot purchase history and his inability to keep it shut after a couple of pints had finally tipped the balance, when weighed against his positive Citigive contributions to the totality of GlobalGood Incorporated. Several e-pages of graphs, unfathomable mathematical calculations and future projections were presented as evidence that any appeal against the decision would be dismissed out of hand. It was time to suck it up. The Virtuwall screen flickered, popped and faded to dull grey stasis, a sure sign that leaving the house and wandering round to his veg patch was in order, before the hour long targeted ShopSlot ads came on the screen. He knew that if he didn’t get out before they began, the lec-locks on his doors would kick in and he’d have to suffer them, start to finish. A chilling prospect, given that the current TesCostiSons narrator could be an holographic representation of Pies Moron, Flif Skellfeel, Hilly Wollowbay, Harvey Slayt or any one of a long line of now retired (or even deceased) “popular” morning TV presenters from the early 2020’s.
The old man grabbed his stick and set off on the short walk to his plot. Having only ever been subjected to the most perfunctory of searches by members of the CiviPol it was the place where he kept, skillfully hidden, his journals, his crossbow, his high powered air rifle and ammunition. As subtle and effective as the CiviPol considered itself to be, most of its active officers were either low intelligence drone operatives or loud, uncouth, arrogant bullies. Dealing with them took some skill and not a little finesse, a balance of mildly outraged belligerence, tempered with a good helping of apologetic subservience was enough, on those rare occasions when a couple had shown up, to mollify their constant need to be top dog. A couple of pounds of tomatoes didn’t go amiss when oiling the wheels, either. Slowly making his way along the walled lane the old man, as was his wont, ruminated on the state of things. The village had changed little during the preceding 25 years; there were one or two new houses, tucked away at the ends of long gated drives, and the once thriving pub was now a restaurant with bar that opened Thursday to Sunday only, but the most striking thing was the lack of people. As the older residents had passed away or moved into towns for convenience sake, their houses had been sold to a new breed of part time villager.They didn’t associate with the few remaining locals they hadn’t yet replaced. The old man couldn’t have joined his new neighbours in the bar if he’d wanted to, his GovCard was standard issue and didn’t have the correct chip to even get him through the door.
The shed that stood alongside the vegetable plot and what remained of the greenhouse was functional and homely, without being ostentatious. Ostentation was much frowned upon. It had a chair & table, a cold tap & small sink, a gas burner & a south facing window, it also had a false floor. The old man had closed both the gates that gave access to his little haven, sliding the bolt on the second one, just in case. He put the kettle on and, while he waited for it to boil he lifted the rag mat, eased up the trap door and removed the cool box where he kept his journals. He also took out his rifle, rabbit were everywhere in the back fields and he intended to bag a couple for the pot.
Brew made, the old man opened his current notebook, inscribed 2045-46 on the cover, wetted his pencil lead and proceeded to carefully enter the happenings of the previous day;
Tuesday 17/07/46 Morning;
A fine day again, little of note to record. The Electro-bus was full, I waved, but no one waved back, scared I suppose of the CiviPol conductor cameras. Rabbits and pheasants are everywhere, once the CiviPol drone has done its rounds tomorrow I’ll probably try my luck in the top fields, away from the road, they’ll not miss a rabbit or two. Saw DB, he’s still much the same, but he refuses to keep his head down. Wouldn’t surprise me if he gets moved into town soon, or even gets bumped up the list and “red zoned”, even though he isn’t quite eighty yet. Two drones came over, but didn’t linger, I was in the shed so they wouldn’t have detected movement. One was the usual CiviPol patroldrone, the other was a little larger and didn’t seem to have so many cameras, but there are plenty of Pol departments and plenty of drones. It could have been a new MiliPol attacdrone, an AgriPol search drone, or even an EnviroPol drone, checking whether someone had an extra sheep without a license, or an extra row of soya beans planted. Not to worry, as the virtuposters make clear, if you aren’t doing anything wrong, you won’t get zoned. Weeded the tomatoes, harvested a head of spuds and a couple of courgettes.
Went to bed for a nap, primarily to avoid the compulsory Virtuwall drama. Although they’re a different telling, it’s the same story every day, with the same characters and the same moral imperative; “Live by the rules, don’t say hurty words, don’t think hurty thoughts, don’t question the narrative. Don’t borrow, don’t lend, don’t barter. Keep social interaction to a minimum, work hard, accept your good fortune and your GovCard status, thank GlobalGood, the GHS and your mask for your continuing good health and prosperity”. Allocated my electrocook quota to the crockpot to make the evening meal. Closed the greenhouse vents, locked the shed, used my electrolight allocation to read a chapter from “The Moon Is Down” before it too joins the rest of Steinbeck’s books on the banned list.
The old man surveyed his work and marvelled (only slightly) at the banality of it. He chuckled to himself and thought about the early days of what had originally been called “The Great Reset”. All those big ideas and grandiose plans to create a better world for the whole of mankind; no fossil fuels, no poverty, no dead polar bears, no borders, no fat, no pain, no worry, no cash, no property, no pandemics, no Orange Man, no nationalist politics, no questioning the narrative or the agenda, the list had been virtually endless. He decided it was time to do a bit in the veg plot to kill off a couple of hours and time any drones, before wandering up the field to see if the rabbits were still about. Maybe tomorrow he’d have a look through his journals and refresh his memory about the early optimism of 2021 and the start of a half decade that crashed brutally on the jagged rocks of 2026………….
To Be Continued…
© Colin Cross 2020
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file