tagNovels and NovellasNo Future Ch. 56

No Future Ch. 56


"On decent speakers that bass is fucking dope!" Ember exclaimed.

Iris knew only too well how much difference a good sound system made. That was the essence of dance music in a live setting. When she was younger and clubbing was something she took for granted she'd not given it much thought. You expected the gut-shaking, floor-trembling, but still so crystal-clear sounds of a nightclub to do better service to the tracks you'd downloaded off the internet than your stereo system at home. Whatever the manufacturers of sound cards and speakers claimed, nothing could compare with the real deal: especially at the hundred decibel mark. There was also nothing that any amount of technology could do to match the buzz of an E or two, enhanced by a line of sulphate, a sniff of coke and the distant memory of a preparatory spliff. Who needed a fucking bar anyway?

Not so long ago this would have been a normal Friday night and Saturday morning. However, the dance floor would have had more bounce, the music wouldn't have suffered from the echo that came from hosting the event in a venue that had never been designed for its acoustic properties, and the booth where the DJ sat wouldn't have been shrouded in shadows in a corner where the lighting had no resonance at all with the music. In Iris' early years of clubbing a DJ like Xanthippus Middleton would have been a superstar surrounded by groupies, hangers-on and minders. He'd have had the wealth to afford to fly to foreign countries whereas few people nowadays could afford to travel even by train or coach. He probably still had an international reputation big enough to fill stadiums in Russia, Argentina and Canada, but he was one of the few who'd chosen not to desert England in its hour of need when most DJs, rock stars and jazz musicians had moved elsewhere. And most of those who'd stayed behind played music bland enough to be acceptable to the arbiters of impoverished taste in Prime Minister Eisenegger's cabinet.

Perhaps Xanthippus Middleton was still a frequent flyer. He'd certainly been able to get hold of not only the sounds Iris and Malcolm and the others had heard on internet radio interspersed between words in Hindi, Spanish or Mandarin broadcast over nanotube cables, but plenty of other sounds from the cutting edge night clubs of Shanghai, Auckland and Pyongyang that were both unfamiliar and exactly what Iris now knew was what she'd always been missing for all these years.

Iris had only been dancing for an hour or so but she no longer had the energy she'd once used to have. She wasn't a teenager anymore. And, in any case, it was a long time since she'd last been to a night club. Defeated, she and Malcolm walked hand-in-hand off the dance floor still sufficiently E'd up to appreciate each other's body even more than usual. Malcolm was normally rather a quiet guy and most happy reading a book or hacking together app interface code, but he could loosen up on occasion. However, there weren't many opportunities these days for him to relax and this wasn't just because the government had closed down the night clubs and imposed restrictive licences on entertainment venues. The relaxation on the laws that had protected victims of racism combined with the vigorous government campaign against illegal immigration had made life much harder for anyone like Malcolm who, even though his family had lived in England for nearly a century, just happened to have black skin. Malcolm was no stranger to racist abuse, but it now happened much more often.

"You got any speed?" Ellie asked. "I'm coming down hard. I need a pick-me-up."

Iris shook her head. "I've got a few lines of coke, if that'll do," she said.

Ellie considered this for a moment. "I'm not sure I wanna mix things so much," she said. "Anyway, are you sure you can afford it?"

"It's about the only thing I can afford these days," said Iris. "Go on. It's not hard to get more stuff."

Ellie nodded and walked off with a small corner of folded cardboard. Iris wasn't lying. Although she was still working long hours at the lab with little likelihood of promotion or pay rise, the only thing that wasn't getting any more expensive were recreational drugs. The fall-out from the last war in the Middle East had made such commodities even cheaper and much more widely available.

Despite this, drugs were still very much illegal. The only policy that Ivan Eisenegger's government would contemplate for dealing with the growing national problem of drug addiction was to tighten the penalties for drug possession and to rant ever more fervently about the danger of drug abuse. Predictably, this policy had made no appreciable impact whatsoever. The police were too poorly paid and thin on the ground to enforce the draconian laws, while the large numbers of unemployed both increased the size of the potential market for drugs and the numbers of those willing to sell them.

However, when the police pushed their way into the warehouse Iris was sufficiently alarmed to pull out of her battered cloth bag all the pills and powders she'd stuffed into it and toss them away onto the dark concrete dance floor. It just wasn't worth the risk of being found guilty of possession. In any case, it cost less to replenish her stash than to pay the fare for the night bus home. Iris wasn't the only one who'd disposed of stash in this way. The floor was littered with enough powder, pills and weed to make it worth someone's while to pick it all up and sell it on, as would almost certainly happen once the police raid was over.

This wasn't the first police raid Iris had witnessed. It was an unavoidable hazard of going out to a gig these days. If it wasn't clubbing that attracted police attention, it would be live music or even unlicensed theatre. The imperative that united the government was the need to make anything that was fun illegal while ensuring that legal forms of entertainment were now too expensive for most people. Without jobs or money or the prospect of finding either, it was no surprise that most people no longer cared about what was legal and what wasn't when they sought a way to fill the empty hours of enforced idleness.

The police were dressed in heavy padded jackets and carried large batons which they showed no reluctance to use on anyone who was judged to be getting in the way. Iris could see there was going to be trouble, so she and Malcolm swarmed with the crowd heading for the exit in the hope that they'd escape unscathed. It wasn't as if there was anything much now to stay for. The music had stopped abruptly mid-beat and Xanthippus Middleton was nowhere to be seen. The only evidence he'd even been there were the stacks of speakers and a chair that had tumbled over on one side.

This time, however, Iris and Malcolm weren't so lucky.

"Not so fast jungle boy," said a shaven-headed policeman wielding a baton and with the visor of his riot uniform tilted upwards. "You can't just break the law and walk scot free."

Iris was determined not to be caught so easily. "What's the fine, officer?" she said and ostentatiously opened her bag to pull out her wallet.

The policeman hesitated for a moment and then looked around him. There was a general air of chaos. The partygoers were funnelling towards the exits where the police were both directing them and picking them off as they went. Iris couldn't help noticing that the majority of those taken to one side for interrogation were black or Asian. The police were clearly hoping to haul in some illegal immigrants. A few busts for drugs were just not worth the effort and cost of such a large police operation.

"A monkey would cover it," said the policeman.

Fuck! Five hundred quid. Even with inflation, this copper was a greedy bastard. That was enough to fill a car with petrol or pay for a train ride to Birmingham. Fortunately, Iris had cash on her. "I've only got 400," she said as she spread out the four notes in her hand.

"That'll do," said the policeman as he grabbed the notes from her hand. "Now fuck off. And don't do it again."

"Don't do what, officer?" Malcolm asked cheekily.

The policeman glared at him aggressively. "Break the law, sunshine. Don't fucking tempt me... You know you shouldn't be dancing to that fucking ghetto shit. The law's the law. Fucking piss off or I'll give you a taste of the long arm of the law."

He slapped the baton into his palm and Malcolm took the hint.

There were no more incidents between the warehouse and the night-bus stop, but Iris and Malcolm were careful to avoid walking along the main roads just in case there were other police around. Unfortunately, the side roads were badly lit and would normally be unacceptably dangerous, but with so many others streaming away from the warehouse, Iris reckoned she was safe.

"I'm going to have to touch you for the fare home," Iris said when she and Malcolm finally found the night bus stop and saw that they had less than half an hour to wait till the next bus arrived. "I've been cleaned out."

"I'll pay back half of what you paid that pig," said Malcolm. "It's only fair. It was me he was after anyway."

Iris was half inclined to brush off Malcolm's offer, but times were tough and there were several more days until she next got paid. "Yeah, that'd be good," she said gratefully. "Look at me. Skint and stashless. The perfect end to the day."

"It was good while it lasted," said Malcolm.

"Yeah," Iris admitted. "It was. We must do it again sometime."

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