Intro: This is actually a fragment of a story that I started writing about 2004 and never went anywhere with. To put it in context, ipads weren’t released until 2010. Seems like a lot longer ago, doesn’t it?
I’m in a green room. There are no doors or windows. Oh no, that’s right, I’m drowning. I try to swim up to the ceiling/surface and my head pokes up, but I only manage to thrash more water in my mouth. Someone is pulling my hand. They drag my leg free of the twisted metal of the shopping trolley and up onto the small dock made from stacking palettes. It’s Tom.
I’ll go get help, he says while I lay there coughing up my lungs.
You saved my life, I say, I owe you. I’ll be your bodyguard or something.
He looks at me like I’m daft.
Girls can’t be bodyguards, he laughs then leaves.
That’s where you’re wrong mate, I mumble into the wet planking.
I’m in the green room again. Bugger. Oh, hang on, this is that dream again. There’s something I can do about this. WAKE UP! WAKE UP! I gasp into being awake. The duvet is soaked again. I really must remember to get it a cover. I head to the sanitiser in the corner of my room and whack it up to full. It’s not pleasant, but it’s cheaper than having a real shower. I towel off and find the clothes strewn on the floor. Jeans and a t-shirt again. Like I ever wear anything else.
I head down to the kitchen. Tom is already there, clicking through the newspapers. I fire up my own newsreader and while it is doing its usual cycle, whir and cycle again, I stick on the kettle. ‘Morning,’ I grunt, and Tom grunts back. I take my cup of tea back to the table and start clicking through the papers myself. Dunno why they’re still called papers, but they are. ‘Aw,’ I groan, ‘Bloody elections again already.’
‘Well, it is Tuesday,’ Tom points out, with his usual morning sense of humour. Black sense of humour. ‘Who are you voting for, Magpie or Lansdowne?’
‘Not voting this week,’ then snort. It was an old joke. Compulsory voting was a thorn in my side, but the death penalty was a big incentive to participate.
‘I thought you were voting for a change of system?’ We both have attacks of the giggle fits. I nearly spill my tea on my newsreader.
‘Good one. No, not made up my mind. They’re both as bad as each other. S’pose I’ll toss a coin when I get to the voting booth.’
‘Where are you going to get a coin?’ he asks, pedantically.
‘Good question. Okay, then I will run a randomisation application with both parties programmed in as an outcome on my wrist-top and toss that.’
‘Bet it lands screen-side down.’
We click through the papers for a while longer, then I say, ‘See, I told you they’d have flying cars by now.’ There was a big story about how the future of transport had finally arrived. Of course you can only get them in Japan right now, but apparently we’ll all have our own little helicars soon. If you are rich enough, of course.
‘Only taken them a hundred years,’ Tom grunts. ‘What else you got planned today?’
I rub my eyes. ‘Thought I’d go down to the park. Feel the need to see some greenery. You are going to be alright if I do?’
Tom looks at me balefully as if I’d asked him something extremely patronising. Which I suppose I have really, but I am supposed to be his bodyguard, you know. ‘Could you get us some milk while you’re out?’ I nod.
Spray some factor ninety onto all my exposed bits, then head out the door into the hazy sunshine. ‘Morning, Mr Fleapit,’ I say merrily to the next door neighbour. His name’s really Mr Fleetwood, but it’s alright because his cochlear implants play up all the time and in any case he just scowls at me whatever I say. He’s tending to his cabbages. I think they’ve been crossed with one of those frogs that bury themselves in the desert so that they can hide from the heat of the sun. Well, either that or he only imagines that he’s got cabbages. My car is there on the second floor of the pavement, right where I left it.
‘Car,’ I say. It does not reply. ‘CAR,’ I say louder. Nothing. I pull out my key fob and hit the big button. My car reboots. ‘Right, Car,’ I say. Still nothing. I kick the tyre and received a small non-lethal electric shock for my troubles. I pick myself off the floor, then I remember. It is a new car, Made in Japan, where they still have funny ideas about English accents. ‘Car,’ I say, in an over-the-top American accent. The door pops open. I will have to reprogram it when I have the time. For now, accent it is. ‘You bloody knew it was me,’ I grumble in the driver’s seat.
Good afternoon, Mr Legg. Destination? Pops up in the heads-up. ‘England Park, manual drive.’ Enjoy your driving experience and have a nice day, Mr Legg. ‘Definitely reprogramming you,’ I mumble. What was that? ‘Nothing.’
I have to admit, England Park is a good idea. Consolidate all those teeny, tiny little bits of green in the cities into one big area. More space for building in the cities, and a big protected area where people and animals can roam right in the middle of the country. Not hard to get to in these days of modern transport. Except the parking of course. All these idiots who can’t park and who insist on manual drive. I’m the exception of course. I can park.
I look out my side window and spot a good space over the opposite side of the multi-storey and by luck it is not gone by the time I get there. It’s a tight squeeze. ‘Sunroof,’ I say to the car. I clamber out, careful not to touch the other vehicles. I laugh at all the other people who thought it was too tight to park. Time to hit the main stretch of park. I love that.
Kangaroos, badgers and meerkats wander around on either side of the rolling pavement. I lean up against the handrail and roll a spliff. A few people gasp when I light it up, and I have to tell them, ‘It’s alright, it’s only weed,’ and they relax. Of course not many people know the difference between tobacco and marijuana these days, if they smelled it, but I don’t want to be arrested anyway.
There’s an area of manual walkway a bit further on, but I can’t be bothered to wait till the end of the rolling pavement, so I vault over the side and wander through the woods. The people behind gasp again but it’s all legal to walk through here anyway, as long as you don’t badger, ha, the badgers. The trees are tall, which must mean that they are on steroids because it was all only planted up a few years ago. I get into the rhythm of walking and am quite enjoying it, when I hear an urgent whisper from the bushes: ‘Oi!’
Some crusty bloke is hiding, his scruffy hair dyed green. It almost matches the foliage around him. ‘Who are you?’ I ask.
‘Robin Hood,’ he replies.
‘Where’s your merry men, then?’ Six other crusties rise up around me from the bushes. They wave cheerfully. ‘Ah. So I suppose you’ll be robbing from the rich and giving to the poor then?’
‘Nah, that’s a myth. We just rob the rich.’
‘Well, how about a compromise then?’ There are six of them, but I don’t want to hurt them. They seem too happy. Robin nods, and I go over and sit down next to him. ‘You can share my spliff and I’ll let you off.’ The merry men are puzzled but Robin enthusiastically accepts the joint.
‘What’s your name?’ he asks conversationally, after all the little band have sat cross-legged on the ground and taken a turn on the spliff. I look at the spit-soaked end and hand it on again without a puff.
‘Marion. Nah, really it’s Lilly Legg. Mrs.’ They look impressed.
‘We heard of you. You were that girly who rescued that man.’ I roll my eyes up to the sky. ‘What was his name again?’
‘George Magpie. You know, head of the Magpie corporation that runs half this country. Wish I’d left him rot in that prison cell, but you know, Mrs Magpie and all the little Magpies wouldn’t have been too happy.’ They whistle appreciatively, all at once. I am starting to think they are clones.
‘I guess he was generous with you for doing that?’ Robin asks and I think I know where this is going.
‘No, I am not the rich. Bodyguards, Assassins and Operatives tend to be in a high tax bracket, you know. I’ve hardly got a penny to my name and have to live with my best mate in his box-room.’
‘What about Mr Legg?’ one of the Merry Men pipes up.
‘Dead,’ I say and leave it at that. Feet are shuffled and filthy fingernails inspected. It’s all you have to say these days to shut anyone up. I throw my pouch of weed, papers and lighter on the ground. ‘Have the rest, I’m giving up anyway.’ And with that I get up and begin to wander off.
‘Umm, Robin,’ I hear one of the Merry Men tentatively say.
‘Nah, let her go,’ he replies. ‘She’d probably kick our arses anyway.’ Smart man.
I get home to find Tom still sitting where I left him. ‘Nice day?’ he asks.
‘Not bad, although don’t go wandering alone in the Sherwood sector. How about you?’
‘Hmm? Oh, I got kidnapped.’ He takes a slurp from his mug.
‘What, again?’ I ask. Corporate kidnap was highly ritualised these days. They got so used to the swapping of hostages that they didn’t bother taking them anymore, just send you a note and remove the money directly from your bank account. Fortunately it was tax deductible. ‘You got to get out of this game, mate. Go and be a consumer for once.’ He harrumphs like it is the stupidest thing I ever said.
‘Be a consumer? You may as well tell me to go join the reproduction gangs.’
‘Sensitive! Well, you carry on getting kidnapped by Lansdowne and I’ll leave you be.’ He grimaced.
‘What you mean your own uncle’s company kidnapped you?’
He sighed. ‘Yeah something to do with quotas.’
That was taking the mickey and no mistake. I remembered something. ‘Oh yeah, got to go vote.’
‘And where’s my milk?’ he said as I legged it out the door.
‘Howdy car,’ I shout at my car. It pops the door immediately. ‘Voting station GU22, y’all.’ I tell it and we go, no fuss.