tagNovels and NovellasNo Future Ch. 30

No Future Ch. 30


Britain Means Business

It didn't come as much of a surprise to Tamara when Zoe died. The mystery was rather that she'd managed to live so long given that she'd managed to maintain for so long a drug habit far in excess of what a woman of advanced years was designed to withstand.

All the same, it had been good while it lasted. She and Mohammed had done well out of keeping Zoe supplied with a regular supply of whatever drugs that were currently on the market. Mohammed profited from having a regular customer who paid promptly and in advance. Tamara profited from having a very nice house to live in and a wonderfully warm and clean bed in which to sleep. The only penalties were that she had to leave regularly to visit Mohammed, which she did in Zoe's car, and to sit with Zoe while she sunk into yet another of her mostly silent drug-induced trances.

"What was your relationship with the deceased?" the doctor asked Tamara after he'd examined Zoe's dead body.

Tamara had rehearsed her answer. "I was her lover," she said.

The doctor raised his eyebrows. "Well, Miss St. John-Easton was a strange one, that's for sure. And the toxins in her body... You do know what caused her death, don't you?"

"Drugs overdose?"

"Amongst other things," said the doctor. "However, we shall be discreet. And not just about her illegal drugs habit, of course. I hope she's left something for you in her will."

"I'll just have to wait and find out," said Tamara who hadn't thought about that possibility before.

Of course, Zoe had died intestate. Naturally. When would she have found the time to sort matters out with her solicitors however often they might remind her of her duty to her family? And this of course bought Tamara a great deal of time in which she could remain resident in the house she'd made her home for so many months in her new assumed role as Zoe's bereaved lover.

Tamara had everything she wanted except a line of credit. She had full access to Zoe's home, her car, her possessions and everything within the estate's secure walls. What she didn't have was the money to replenish supplies as they ran out. Thankfully, everything continued to function much as before even though Zoe was no longer alive. Groceries were delivered. The cleaning staff arrived once a day to tidy up what was now a much less disorderly home. The electricity and water continued to be on supply. But Tamara knew that at some point all this would come to an end and that she hadn't put aside nearly enough cash to cover all the costs.

All the same, Tamara could comfort herself with the notion that the direct debits and standing orders that had been set up were tapping into a well of funds that must be pretty much bottomless. And ultimately that source, as Tamara discovered from Zoe before she'd died and from her own research on the internet, was Zoe's father who'd died nearly half a century earlier.

"He was rich," Zoe told her. "Fucking rich. He almost owned the bloody government. If it wasn't for him there'd probably never have been an English National Unity government."

"But he died a couple of years before all that happened," Tamara pointed out.

"During the London riots," agreed Zoe. "Yeah, that was probably the catalyst that made it all happen, dear. Money spent on political influence. Chaos caused by joblessness and poverty. People weren't used to it."

"Things were better fifty years ago, weren't they?" said Tamara.

"People didn't think so at the time, dear. The nuclear wars over in Asia. The crop failures. The high price of fuel. Everyone thought it had just gone too far."

"I don't see why there were riots then when most people had enough to eat; when people thought plague and famine was banished forever; when ordinary people could drive cars and didn't have to buy household electricity in portable batteries; when Norfolk still existed as a county and London wasn't flooded half the time; when, for fuck's sake, Israel was a land of plenty. What were people complaining about?"

"If people had complained a bit more," said Zoe, "perhaps we wouldn't be in the mess we're in. Dad didn't think the real problems were anything to do with the stuff you've just gone on about. He thought it was all to do with governments interfering in the interests of business. That was what he mostly thought, but he also believed that immigration, homosexuality, atheism, environmentalism, trades unions and a whole shitload of other stuff was to blame. A lot of people agreed with him. Especially the stuff about immigration."

"That's what the English National Unity government was most famous for, wasn't it? Kicking out foreigners."

"It got worse when England was forced to leave the Northern European Union. That was when the United Kingdom fell apart."

Tamara got bored with conversations like that. The English felt so sorry for themselves. They, and also the Americans. The English annoyed everyone through their well-documented stupidity and arrogance. And soon they woke up to find that the United Kingdom was no longer united and no longer a kingdom. It wasn't even any longer part of the Northern European Union that it had whinged about for so long. The Americans were even worse. They let their most extreme political party take absolute control of the United States and then watched with growing horror as it dismantled the engines of government. All that was left was a progressively weaker nation that steadily squandered a reservoir of wealth that was far from boundless. Eventually, what a nineteenth century civil war had sewn together was dissolved through constitutional crises and economic collapse. At least this time it wasn't associated with the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.

Even so, what were these misfortunes compared to those suffered by Israel. The nation of Tamara's birth existed now only in the abstract sense of having a paid representative in the United Nations' headquarters in Beijing and by the continued existence of millions of worthless passports. No sane person would actually choose to live in a nuclear wasteland where crops were mutated, cancer was everywhere, and the Palestinians doled out vicious vengeance on any Jew foolish enough to be identified as such. That wasn't what had seemed the most likely of possible futures when, after the initial barrage of nuclear weapons, the Israeli soldiers streamed out of the Promised Land to secure their victory. A rather hollow victory it now seemed when even a limited retaliatory response had destroyed Israel as a nation. And hollower still when it became obvious that wind direction and rain spread nuclear fallout and radiation as evenly on the victors as the defeated and that an angry vengeful Arab population many times larger than the population of surviving Jews was not, after all, likely to retreat in cowed abjection.

"What did your father think of the Jews?" Tamara asked.

"Not much, dear," said Zoe. "Well, not often anyway. Though I guess if he thought about them at all he probably didn't like them. He didn't like most foreigners. If they didn't speak English as a first language and they were a different skin colour, then he almost certainly didn't like them. And that was odd, of course, because his businesses were more active abroad than in England. He spent far more time outside the United Kingdom than he ever did on its shores. If there was money to be made out of the Israelis that was all right, I guess, but if an Arab was going to cut him a better deal my Dad would just dump the entire Jewish nation if that's what it took to seal it. Anyway, it was American money that kept Israel going wasn't it? When the United States dissolved that's all it took for Israel to collapse."

That wasn't, of course, how Tamara understood it from what she'd been taught in the Promised Land. She was still sure it was never as simple as that, although surrounded as she was by evidence of the extraordinary wealth, power and influence that Zoe's father had once possessed, she couldn't help wondering whether the fate of Abraham's tribe hadn't, in the end, just all been down to money.

And nowadays money was exactly what Tamara most fretted about. She'd gathered together all the cash she could find in Zoe's home, but it was obvious that the lines of credit that kept the estate functioning by default couldn't forever continue to finance her lavish lifestyle. At some stage, the electricity would be cut off, the cleaners would no longer arrive, the groceries would no longer be delivered and the lawyers representing Zoe's estate would ask her to leave. She couldn't remain where she was for evermore, could she?

On the other hand, as the days stretched into weeks and the weeks into months, Tamara began to wonder whether in some strange way the financial acumen of Eden St John-Easton might not benefit his daughter's proxy drug supplier for many more years to come. How would the diminutive billionaire view his heritage now if he knew that the last benefactor of the fortune that had shaped the opinions of millions was a stateless Jewish refugee who'd had to resort to prostitution and drug dealing to survive? Was this the legacy by which he'd like to be remembered?

Eventually, of course, the services that kept Tamara in luxury steadily came to an end. The first extravagance to be discontinued, of course, was the regular cleaning service. The day came when the house was not filled at ten in the morning by a busy rush of activity from Asian and Arabic women who'd once methodically removed every trace of Zoe's prodigious drug habits and now had much less need to be active. Tamara was actually more upset when the contract for media services expired and she now had to rely for news and entertainment on the terrestrial radio stations. Most of these were more or less identical commercial radio stations, but she could at least listen to the EBC News Service which was one of the last few remaining remnants of the once prestigious BBC.

Beyond the security walls of Zoe's estate there was a large and very frightening world. This was a world in which a plague was spreading across Wales and North West England; where there was a deadly border dispute between Mexico and the Republic of North America (though much of that was indentured labour trying to escape to Mexico rather than economic migrants travelling north); where famine bred violence across the Middle East and put further pressure on the few remaining Jewish settlers besieged behind high walls and barbed wire; where the Netherlands was now mostly underwater; and where frightened nations were building up military alliances to defend what remained of their economic influence.

It was a much safer world behind the walls of Zoe's estate. When she looked through the window at the countless hectares of garden that had become ever more unkempt since the gardeners stopped arriving, Tamara could well believe that things weren't so bad. It was easy to shelter here in a world where the horrors of the outside world were as distant as they once seemed a quarter of a century ago when she was a child. It was reassuring to have access to so much space. She was tempted to invite her friends from her time at the Refugee Centre to share the bounty, but she recognised that this might present a problem with regards to the security guards. They were prone to pass a blind eye to the one by now familiar Jewish immigrant, but would be far less tolerant of twenty or so people that they didn't recognise.

The groceries finally stopped arriving one day. That was a blow, although the food was scarcely what Zoe would have chosen for herself. She was sure that it wasn't even partly kosher, but she'd abandoned the scruples of her religion a long time ago. There was enough in the freezers to keep her going for several months more, but only if the power supply continued. Thankfully, the wind generators and solar panels didn't rely on payment to the electricity suppliers.

Tamara's was now a lonely life. She had no company at all now the cleaners didn't visit. Tamara was rather grateful that Zoe had never been very neighbourly. She was pretty sure that none of Zoe's very wealthy and rather snooty neighbours would be especially friendly towards her supposed lesbian lover. Tamara was secluded in an island of illusory plenty. She knew it wouldn't last forever and as the days passed by the dread of being thrown out into the harsh world beyond troubled her more and more.

Every news report of yet another immigrant being lynched made her shiver. And she trembled even more when the racial origin of the victim was identified and it was announced that it was yet another Jewish migrant.

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