tagNovels and NovellasNo Future Ch. 69

No Future Ch. 69


Ivory Towers

Iris had never lived anywhere other than London before in her life, but now here she was: renting a room in an ancient sprawling house in the suburbs of Oxford. Although she'd had to make new friends, was now earning somewhat less money than she'd used to and had to sleep on a disgusting mattress that should have been replaced years ago, Iris was happier than she'd been for years. The year in which she'd made a living as a prostitute now seemed like nothing more than a nightmare from which she'd at last awoken.

Her current job at the Biotech lab for Sigma Cybernetics plc was one for which she was ridiculously over-qualified and which only two years ago she'd never have contemplated ever applying for. And the fact that she'd had to re-locate to Oxfordshire, some seventy or eighty kilometres from London, would have placed a job opportunity like this right at the bottom of the list. But now when she went to sleep she no longer had the odour of aging men adhering to her body and no residual memory of their repulsive cocks between her thighs that no amount of scrubbing could remove.

Although the same river ran through Oxford as it did London, there were none of the elaborate flood barriers that were being built throughout the capital city just as they were on the English beaches. Nonetheless, Oxford wasn't without walls and those weren't only the ancient mediaeval walls that attracted the few tourists who'd ventured so far from London. The student riots of the last few years had embarrassed a government whose legitimacy had been secured by a promise to banish the chaos and anarchy of public disorder. The city council was determined to demonstrate its commitment to the government's effort to restore civility and order to the Kingdom and, like other tourist cities in England such as York, Bath and Norwich, the City of Oxford had constructed a wall around the town centre that had at least provided employment to privately resourced security staff and building maintenance workers.

In practical terms the wall was just a bloody nuisance for Iris. Every morning she had to stand in line until she could flash her work permit and the shiny new Government Issue ID that verified that she was eligible to work in the city centre and therefore wasn't an illegal immigrant. It didn't normally take her long to get through the security checks, but other people in the same queue were often delayed for much longer, especially those that looked slightly foreign or were dressed in a fashion that bothered the security staff. It wasn't just a person's skin colour or accent (especially Scottish or Welsh) that might earn special attention. There were other characteristics such as hair that was too long or too short, too many tattoos or body-piercings, or clothes deemed to be too eccentric.

There was a clear difference between the world inside the city walls and that outside. It was almost as if Oxford was one big gated community. Outside the walls were derelict and aging properties where the unemployed, the poorly-paid and the criminal underclass had to live, work and most likely die. Inside the walls, the streets were clean, the buildings properly maintained and the shops well-stocked. But, most of all, the people inside the city walls were better dressed, better spoken and better fed. In actual fact, a higher proportion of those confined within the walls were of foreign origin than those outside. Many were tourists from China, Korea and Brazil, but most of the others were students at the venerable University of Oxford. Although they mostly came from the same wealthy countries as the tourists, some even came from Africa and the Middle East. There were no Americans, of course. Few of them could afford to travel so far abroad these days. And there weren't many from Europe now that the Kingdom of England had such hostile relations with almost all its immediate neighbours, especially those with which it had so recently been constitutionally bound.

The main consolation Iris had from her boring work was her daily stroll through the city centre. This was sometimes along the grassy banks of the River Thames where she might pass the occasional punt and even a few ducks. This was a privilege that would have been denied her if she hadn't happened to be employed within the city walls. Passes into the city centre were usually only issued to students and tourists.

The contrast to the peaceful and elegant streets of central Oxford couldn't be greater than with the suburb where Iris rented a room in a large sprawling house. It was nearly an hour's walk home along roads where most street-lamps no longer functioned and where prostitutes lurked in the shadows. It was always a relief to get home and through the front door even though now, in midwinter, it was scarcely much warmer indoors than outside. The only room that was heated was the living room where she and the other residents, mostly young people like Iris, would gather around the television and share the warmth emanating from the coal-burning stove.

Deciding what to watch on television was always a compromise and inevitably the news channels were the ones about which there was least dispute. The choice was principally between the various affiliates of Fox UK and the rather diminished service provided by the EBC. Ever since the government abolished the license fee system, the EBC had struggled to provide an impartial service and even this was still censured for its supposed liberal bias by the government and the majority of the privately owned media. If the other spin-offs from the venerable BBC based in Scotland and Wales weren't so parochial, Iris would have relied on them for news, but instead, like everyone else, she settled for either the sparkle and glitter of Fox News UK or the static images on EBC News 24.

"What does this England First policy really mean?" asked Sue who was sitting beside Iris on the sofa dressed in a thick jumper, scarf and woollen mittens. "How's it gonna be any different from what the government's been doing anyway for the last few years?"

"It's just a slogan," said Steve, another housemate. "It probably doesn't mean anything at all."

"I don't like the government posters," said Sudesh who was rolling a spliff on the back of an old magazine.

"What's wrong with them?" asked Iris.

He smoothed out the tube of cigarette paper and twisted one end. "I dunno," he said. "They're a bit sinister. All those white faces, English flags and village greens. It's nostalgia for an England that never existed and it's scarcely what you could call inclusive."

"And how's all that patriotic jingoism going to create jobs?" wondered Steve. "That's what we want. Not warm ale, pork scratching and cricket pavilions. It's jobs."

Iris might well have wondered, but it soon became obvious that what the slogan meant wasn't so much about creating more jobs, but to ensure that what jobs were available would be allocated first to those people whose origins were indisputably English. And it was Sue who was to be the first victim in the house.

"What the fuck!" she exclaimed as she sat cross-legged in the living room when Iris returned from work on a particularly chilly evening. She'd just opened a manila envelope that had been addressed to her. "I just can't fucking believe it. I'm gonna be deported."

"Deported?" wondered Iris who could only assume that Sue was joking. Of all the people she knew, Iris seemed the least likely to attract the attention of the English Homeland Security Services. "You're not American, Australian or anything are you?"

"Of course I'm not," said Sue. "I'm Scottish."

Iris had never noticed this before. Sue didn't have a pronounced accent and although it clearly didn't come from London it wasn't one that was easy to place.

"I still don't understand," she said.

"Scotland's not part of the same country as England these days," said Sue. "And since England left the Northern European Union, all those old treaties that let people in the Union work wherever they wanted have been torn up. Scots can work in Sweden and Poland, just as Swedes and Poles can work in Scotland, but none of us, it seems, can work in the Kingdom of England."

"That doesn't make any sense," said Steve. "I thought you'd spent all your childhood in Durham."

"I did, but I was born in Scotland," Sue said. "When the old British passports were scrapped, I was issued a Scottish passport. I didn't think anything more of it and I'd never thought of applying for an English passport. I mean, who wants one of those anymore? The only places they're good for are places you don't want to live. That is, unless you want to carry on living in England."

"They can't do that!" said Steve unconvincingly.

"They fucking well can," said Sue. "And they fucking well have. I've got to leave voluntarily before the end of the month or I'll lose the right to make my own arrangements. It's just like what's been happening over in the Republic of North America where all the Mexicans and other Hispanics have been rounded up and driven across the border, no questions asked."

"Won't you be better off in Scotland?" said Iris. "They're not doing so badly across the tartan border, are they?"

"There's still not much in the way of jobs," said Sue. "And anyway I've got a job. It might not be much and it's a fucking waste of a Master of Arts from Trinity College, but it's better than nothing. And I don't know anyone in Scotland. My parents emigrated from England to Canada fucking years ago before the fall of the United States. It's a fucking nightmare!"

Sue wasn't the only person to fall foul of the England First policy, but Iris had to admit the policy did help the government fulfil its promise to provide more jobs for English citizens. As more and more people were deported for not possessing the right kind of passport, the jobs they used to have became instantly available to properly certified English subjects. Iris thought that enough blood had already been squeezed from the stone over the last few years. She'd witnessed the departure of almost everyone she'd known who hadn't been born in the UK and, most significantly, whose skin-colour and complexion was dark, dusky or black. Only those who could show indisputable proof of birth within the English counties seemed to be safe. But the range of unwanted people was now extended to include any non-national unless, of course, they came from a relatively prosperous country like China or Brazil. People like Sue who'd believed they were safe because they began working in England when the country was part of the Northern European Union were now receiving manila envelopes that enclosed their deportation orders.

Iris noticed that many of her colleagues would suddenly not appear at the office one day and no explanation was ever forthcoming for their non-appearance. Nobody in permanent employment would ever put at risk what reputation they had to the risk of being labelled a troublemaker.

One thing that troubled Iris was how little news coverage was available on the deportation of what must surely be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Scots, Welsh and Irish. Predictably neither the national newspapers nor Fox News UK made any reference about the fate of the many deportees, although they showered constant praise on the government for its resolute courage in pursuing the absolutely necessary England First policy.

"About time," said Stewart Platell on Good Morning England on Fox News UK. "There's a good reason why there's been high unemployment in this proud nation and it's not because English men and women are not willing to work."

"England should always come first," said Amanda Hislop on Telegraph TV. "We've let ourselves accept second-class status to our French and German neighbours for far too long."

The EBC was less forthright but by virtue of being meticulously non-partisan in a country where the opposition was mostly silent it had to tread carefully. The mild criticism voiced by the people it chose to interview in the pursuit of balance was elsewhere either dismissed as naive and impractical or damned as unpatriotic. The only news agencies that expressed an openly negative opinion came from abroad, but their coverage mostly featured cheerful Scottish and Welsh passport holders who were returning home from what was characterised as exile in the land of weak tea and muffins. This gave the impression that it wasn't so much that such nationals had been deported, but rather that they'd at last seen the error of their ways and were happy to return to the land of their birth (despite the fact that Wales, Scotland and Ireland had no more jobs and a not much better social security system than did England).

"And then there were two," said Iris to Steve when the house they shared was now empty of all the other people who'd once lived there. After Sue had left, it was only a matter of time until Sudesh, Gerhard, Mohammed and Alexei should also leave.

"I take it that your ID is OK," said Steve.

"Yes," said Iris. "And yours?"

"I just hope that the fact my grandmother was Irish isn't held against me," he said nervously. "But you just don't know, do you? Just how far can these bastards go till they're satisfied?"

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