No Future Ch. 16bybradley_stoke©
Faith and Charity
It was the first time since Lindiwe was a child that she could remember ever being happy. Was this what she'd been looking for since she'd left Lesotho? In fact, so low had her measurement of luxury fallen that just to sleep on a mattress she didn't have to share and to survive without needing to sell her body were enough now to make every day seem worth living.
Lindiwe was totally baffled how Reverend Diane Dawkins had managed to keep the Reigate Refugee Centre open through the years of the English National Unity government, but the reverend was more than willing to answer Lindiwe's questions on one of her regular visits to the centre.
"The centre survived because it was designated as a Refugee Processing Centre," the stout elderly woman explained. "The government needed holding stations to house refugees before they were deported, but ours was a centre that made no attempt to hasten bureaucracy's exasperatingly slow processing."
The centre had been used as a refuge for illegal immigrants since the Indo-Pakistani Nuclear War and continued to serve a similar function through the Stan Wars and the Wars of Secession in what had once been known as the United States.
"Nowadays the majority of refugees come from Africa and the Middle East," said the reverend. "In your case, of course, it's because the economy's collapsed. In the Middle East, it's because of political repression and war. From Egypt to Iraq, from Morocco to South Africa, there seems to be no let up in the flow of refugees."
Although the reverend was sympathetic, she was adamant that the centre should never be perceived as a facilitator of immigration. "You can't believe the problems I've had. The local MP was especially unsupportive when the English National Unity government was in power. In any case, it's not appropriate for the Church of England to have a political view on the immigration issue. Our concerns are entirely compassionate. It is immoral to allow people to starve or die from radioactive poisoning when we can do something to help."
Although Lindiwe wondered whether the reverend was being disingenuous in her protestations she had to acknowledge the simple arithmetic that wouldn't and couldn't go away. The international status of the Kingdom of England may have suffered ruinous decline. Its relation with its immediate neighbours, the Republic of Wales and the United Kingdom of Scotland and Northern Ireland, could now be best described as frosty. It was currently in the humiliating process of petitioning to rejoin the Northern European Union it had left with so much bravado. But despite all that, the quality of life in the kingdom was still immeasurably better than it was in most of Africa. There was no famine. There was no armed militia roaming the streets. There was a working economy. There was electricity, gas, running water and public transport. And there was no lingering radioactivity as there was in the Stans and on the borders of India and Pakistan. Literally billions of people were clamouring to get into the Kingdom of England just as they were into all the relatively prosperous nations of Europe, East Asia and North America.
As far as Lindiwe was concerned, the greatest benefit of being able to live at the Reigate Refugee Centre was that she no longer had to sell her body. Whether openly or more discretely, it had been almost the only way in Ashton Lovelock she could earn a living where immigration status wasn't an obstacle. When Lindiwe confessed to her friend Apara how far she'd sunk on the day she returned to her squat with a bag of pills to treat the gonorrhoea she'd contracted, she was shocked to find that her friend was transacting much the same kind of business just to be able to continue working at KFC-McDonalds.
Lindiwe had to get away. She didn't really know where, but it definitely had to be somewhere else. It was a trail that took her hitchhiking along the M4 motorway and was only made possible by continuing to offer the same sexual services she hoped never to have to do again. After passing through several other small towns Lindiwe eventually arrived at Reigate, Surrey, where by taking advantage of the good reverend's compassion she at last found a place to stay where her vagina could take a well-deserved rest. It wasn't that her new job of sweeping Reigate's streets attracted especially attractive wages—a pitiful piece rate was the best she could expect—but at last, with a secure bed and freedom from the protection rackets that preyed on illegal immigrants, Lindiwe could begin to think in terms of improving her lot.
As part of her rent, Lindiwe also helped in the refugee centre's administration. Her doctorate in biotechnology was evidence of significantly more advanced arithmetic skills than those she needed to maintain the centre's accounts. The creaky old computer might not have the horsepower to handle the rendering requirements of modern VR or to seamlessly stream terabit data, but it was more than adequate for the task of adding figures together. The flow of income from fund-raising and charitable donations was always just about exactly the same as the outgoings and bore witness to the fact that Reverend Dawkins received no income at all from the enterprise.
Lindiwe helped in other tasks that were even further adrift of her postgraduate qualifications. She helped make the beds, scrub the floors, and even take care of refugees who were suffering from the final excruciating stages of radiation poisoning. Lindiwe's heart brimmed over with agony as she watched the health of victims, often younger than her, steadily deteriorate from cancers that lacerated the flesh and devoured the internal organs.
"Would you like to work full time?" asked the reverend after only four months. "I've seen how much you do around the place. We need people who are capable and willing and, of course, who speak such excellent English."
"What about my street-cleaning?" Lindiwe wondered.
"I'm sure there's someone else who'll be more than eager to take on that responsibility," said the reverend. "You have skills and talents that are being wasted while you wander the streets of Reigate with a broom and plastic bag."
There was of course no shortage of work required to administer the centre. This was partly because the dismemberment of the United Kingdom into three separate nations had been hasty and uncoordinated, leaving English accounting practices in a labyrinthine mess. Even so barely a tenth of Lindiwe's time was spent maintaining the accounts. Her time was mostly dedicated to general caretaking jobs alongside a resident taskforce of willing but mostly terminally ill refugees. Amongst her duties was the care of the same refugees when their infirmity finally brought them down.
"How could those generals and politicians allow the bombing of Ashkhabad, Amritsar and Duachanbe?" commented Dr Abdullah, who was a refugee from Uzbekistan. "What was going through their minds when they condemned so many millions of people to a life of such misery?"
"They probably thought of the victims as corpses rather than survivors," bitterly remarked Daniel, an Ethiopian doctor who nowadays most often worked as a nurse. "If a soldier earns a medal from killing just one enemy, think how many medals a general gets from killing millions with just a single bomb."
"They knew the value of life, though," said the doctor sarcastically. "Barely one single rouble. More than half the bombs used in both nuclear wars were neutron bombs. They killed people but left property standing. All the better for the looters once the background radiation had dissipated."
As a Refugee Centre employee, Lindiwe was even invited to have dinner with the reverend and other favoured employees. The reverend shared the vicarage with Doris who was about the same age as her partner. She was employed by an international company that along with most such companies based in the City of London had radically scaled down its activities in the British Isles when the English National Unity government honoured its electoral pledge to leave the Northern European Union. She claimed that she was just working out her final years until retirement, although she also complained that her pension wasn't going to be adequate.
"The Stock Exchange has had too many crises, shocks and falls for it to be worth much anymore," she said while eating the vegetarian curry prepared by the centre's cook. He was a refugee from Amritsar and a living witness to the ravages that persisted a quarter of a century after the city was engulfed by the century's most famous mushroom cloud. His face was covered more by scar tissue than skin.
"It's not all gloom and doom," the reverend said cheerfully. "Things have improved a lot in this country in the last four years. They've at last started repairing the flood defences in East Anglia. They might even drain the swamps round Norwich and people will be able to get about without getting their feet wet. And they're doing wonders with renewable energy."
"There's been too much damage done already to make any appreciable difference," disagreed Doctor Abdullah who was also invited over for dinner. "You can't reverse a four degree rise in global temperatures as easily as that."
"You have to start somewhere," said the reverend. "Now things are settling down in America, the Northern United States and the Western Union are doing something practical at last..."
"... while the Republic of North America still burns up what's left of the world's petroleum at heavily subsidised prices," Doris disagreed.
"It's something, nonetheless," said the reverend. "Look at the strides that the world's two leading economies, Japan and China, have made. They've taken up the slack in the space program after the former United States had to duck out. They've produced so many amazing scientific miracles. Robots that seem almost human. Advances in biotechnology. The research into nuclear fusion. They might even find a cure for cancer."
"It all sounds good," admitted the doctor, "but that's not enough to address the real problems of the world."
"And what are they?" asked the reverend.
"You know as well as I do," said the doctor. "The environment is in crisis. Too many people and not enough resources. And where there is enough to go around, like in China, Japan and some parts of Europe, there isn't the will or the wisdom to share it fairly."
"He's right, Diane," said Doris. "It's not looking good. And it's the rich countries that are most at fault."
The reverend smiled. "We can't change the world alone, but I don't believe that the Lord Jesus Christ would ever abandon His creation. I still hold firm that through the Love of Jesus Christ Our Lord, we will all be saved."
"Amen," said Doris.
Lindiwe wasn't sure whether the reverend's partner was being sincere, but her heart echoed the sentiment. Her own faith had been sorely tried by the journey from Lesotho and Reigate. Her body had been battered and fucked and buggered time and time again. Her genitals had been ravished by abuse and venereal disease. At last here in the refugee centre run by the good Reverend Diane Dawkins, Lindiwe's faith in her God and the goodness of other people was once more restored.