Sunday, 8 July 2012

A modern fairy tale

This one's inspired as another of Chuck Wendig’s  Flash Fiction challenges  for a non-medieval, modern or future fairy tale.

   It’s a jungle out there.

   Or at least a temperate forest-cum-icy-wasteland this far north. And it's far from a fairy tale.

   A crossbow bolt sang past my ear as I turned the corner of New Road and South Lane: a shrieking counterpart to the flash of cameras as the police Communications Station registered my bicycle’s chip and registered Neighbourhood Pizza and Pharma for Carbon Tax (my ancient Trax 18-incher has tyres made of petroleum-derived rubber substitute) and made a Road Use Profile of  my lanky height (but skinny width) using up so many cubic centimeters of road space.  
   New Street Academy’s a tough school and since the courts ruled that searching children for weapons violated their human rights that corner’s been a shooting gallery. At least they rarely fire guns because the law assures that only the police, our tiny army and the gangs have access to firearms. Davenport Estate Killaz Crew owns the neighbourhood and they kneecap or clitoridectomize individuals in schools who arm themselves with anything more powerful than a bow. Big Jamal is something of a softie and he won’t behead a child for a first offence - except for apostasy.
   I settled the Kevlar vest a little more snugly on my chest and pulled the helmet Dad had worn in Gulf Three down over my brow.
   In the panniers behind me ancient Tupperware food boxes rattled against cardboard bottles of Approved Medicines. The government licences 28 prescription treatments as environmentally safe and cost-effective and provided by ethical businesses. Ethical businesses go to great lengths annually to show Members of Parliament and the movers and shakers in the Pharmacology Board just how ethical they are during their week-long Safety and Social Responsibility Audits at remote locations set amid tranquil surroundings far away from the everyday pressures of life in our war-zone cities and villages.
   At Moor Hill House I stopped and chained my bike in the security cage to keep it from drifting while I was inside. 
   The lobby of Moor Hill House was dark. Though it was technically illuminated by sustainable bulbs, I gave silent praise that today was breezy; some of the windmills studding the countryside were rotating lazily and so those bulbs gave off a grey, 20-Watt glow. I switched on the ‘scope and raised my mirror on its long wire handle to scan the landing one flight of stairs up. Since doctors stopped making house calls even in emergencies a generation ago and insurance rates and Road Tax for the pharmacists’ armoured cars hit the roof when I was a boy, it’s left to the voluntary sector and sub-contractors to deliver food and medicine to the sick and old who’re too scared or infirm to visit the county’s hospital. The scarlet fleece hoodies of Neighbourhood Pizza and Pharma are as much a part of English life as the blue armour of the police who arrive whenever a Beast addict has gone berserk and bitten everybody he saw, but NP&P arrive before things go chemically wrong whereas the police usually get to the scene only after a gangbanger or an unlicenced bystander has cut the Beastie down. It has to be a head shot or decapitation with a Beastie. If the axe-wielder isn’t from an approved community that’s expected to employ violence as an expression of its cultural richness (and is therefore a vigilante taking the law into his own hands), he’ll like as not be charged with murder.
   The coast seemed clear. I scuttled up squelchy-carpeted steps and knocked quietly on the second door on the left. Turning to face the hallway with a good solid width of wall behind me, I fingered a rolled-up Road Safety Manual which is a mandatory piece of equipment for all bicycle couriers who can’t afford the police bribes. A Bible makes a better shield against switchblades and is a superior gag for some attack dogs but judges pass heavy sentences on those who carry (openly or under plain covers), such divisive literature. Long minutes passed while bolts and chains were withdrawn from the flap in the door beside me. The judas opened and I passed through a box of sandwiches from the Mother’s Union kitchen in the Northallerton security compound.
 “God bless you, Deacon Willoughby,” came the man’s quavering voice.
   “And you, Mister Payne. Same time tomorrow. And I’ll have your prescription if the convoy gets through from York.”

  The last call is always my happiest, being family. We often reuse a teabag or two while she wolfs down the thin bread, cabbage and watery cheese that are the chief products of an agricultural system long ago rendered ecologically sustainable by law. North Riding Neighbourhood Pizza and Pharma prides itself in adding variety to its food deliveries; some spring onions or green beans in season.
    Today her front door was ajar and I pushed cautiously into the shabby little room I’ve known since childhood. When I saw the powdery packet on the table I reached for the iron poker used when her annual coal ration arrives for Winterval. I pulled down my hood for a better field of vision. She was nowhere to be seen but there’s a stage in a Beast high when they hide; silently enjoying the hallucinations before the Rage comes upon them. There was a noise behind me and I turned around very, very slowly. I said “My, Grandma, what big eyes you have.”


Chrissy said...

I gave silent praise that today was breezy; some of the windmills studding the countryside were rotating lazily and so those bulbs gave off a grey, 20-Watt glow

CLANGGGGG! — was that an anvil? ;)

AB Singer said...

Yep; my physics is every bit as good as the windmill lovers' economics.