Southsea settled down onto a bench in Parliament Square opposite the old Palace of Westminster. The afternoon sun warmed his back. Visitors were coming in and out of the building, blinking in the sunlight like freed miners, all wearing dazed expressions on their faces from their experience of wandering the dark, echoing chambers of the headquarters of the Illuminati’s government in Britain. For centuries their agents had operated from this building, causing more mayhem and suffering than it was possible to imagine. Some couldn’t face it. Some people hated those buildings with a passion. There was a Facebook group with 10 million members calling for the place to be immediately demolished, along with all the other putrid oblong piles of the Illuminati’s Ancien Regime. Southsea felt no repulsion from these buildings; in fact they looked and felt to him like innocuous facsimiles of their former selves. The gloom and menace that they’d once radiated was dulled. Glyn (In narration do I use his first or last name? Cont- Ed) actually felt a sense of gloating as he looked at them; they were like the enemies heads impaled on poles, the broken spear of the invading general. Where men in dark suits had once sat together over brandy and cigars and plotted the enslavement of the British people, tourists and school parties now wandered. Couples from Japan now sat at the Commons Dispatch Box and students from Scotland reclined in the Speaker’s Chair laughing as their friends took photos of them.
Glyn looked at his watch; 4.30PM. If he sat on this spot as a youth the roads would be jam-packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic as rush hour travellers made their way home from work. The air would be filled with roaring noise of primitive IC engines, soot and the stench of petroleum fumes. The pavements would be a flow of marching pedestrians striding quickly with their heads down, nervously watching each other out of their peripheral vision to spot which one-out-of-ten was a rapist-paedophile or asylum-seeking terrorist infected with disease. The traffic volume around Parliament Square at this time was the equivalent to how it used to be at 2 AM. There was traffic, yes, but it was sparse and easily-flowing. The engine noise of the cars was mostly the warble of Digby Carousels and the hum of electric motors interspersed with only the occasional growl of an old IC vehicle. The air was also clean; in fact Glyn had recently seen a news story stating that there was now little difference between urban and rural air quality. As for the people who walked the pavement, they were a contrast beyond striking. People didn’t walk so much these days as glide. It was now 3pm and what passed for an after-work rush-hour these days was beginning. The first thing Glyn noted was that nobody wore suits; the cipher of the Illuminati gopher was now taboo wear, revived only by the most stalwart conservative. Nowadays the London pedestrians usually wore casual clothes or multicoloured smart shirts and trousers, the new office dress. Pastel-hued open-collars and short sleeves without buttons and slack ankle-length trousers seemed to be the form. Many blouses and shirts sported eye-catching patterns, emblems and pictures. A number of women wore skirts which were long and thin. Many of their hems were ragged and decorated with beads and embroidery. Brooches punctuated busts and bright buckled and tie-died sashes divided costumes at the waist. Glyn raised his eyebrows to himself as this thought went through his mind. “What would you make of this, Trinny and Susannah!” he muttered. He wondered how many of those gliding youngsters had enough range of memory to know what he was talking about if they heard him.
Glyn left the bench and strolled through the subway to the Embankment. The River Thames was a shimmering crystalline plate (Syn- Ed) of china blue with a hint of grey from the silt that it carried from its watershed. The musty smell of life, soil, fish and plants wafted over from it on the light easterly breeze. The refreshing vapour from its surface moistened his airways. Riverboats were cruising back and forth, mostly pleasure craft full of sightseers and people relaxing with a drink or meal. Some of the vessels were powered by Schauberger ducts and so produced no fumes. Glyn could tell which they were because they had no funnels. Happy voices echoed off facades of the disused government buildings (Specific ones? Ed) as crowds of people poured down the streets from their workplaces to the pubs and cafes. There was a large food market on the corner from which columns of people filed in and out. Glyn approached and entered, breathing deeply as delicious aromas met his nose. The door was propped open on a warm afternoon like this. A plaque above the lintel stated: Glasson’s Lush-Mart- Operated in partnership by the Glasson and London Retail Force Workers Cooperatives. Glyn smiled and looked around for the shop’s staff. One walked towards him now carrying a box of pineapples. She was a young woman with black hair tied back. She was wholesome and rosy-cheeked; she hummed to herself and her steps were light and energetic. She had on a dark green tabard with the Glasson’s Lush-Mart motif on the breast, but underneath she wore casual clothes. She lowered the box into a stall rim and puffed to herself. “Phew, them pinies are heavy!” Then she raised her head and called out in a thick cockney accent: “Carrie! What price are we putting on the pinies today?”
Another older woman turned towards her and yelled back: “Four Magows or two bob and six.”
“Blimey! That’s cheap; can we afford it?”
“Yeah, they’ve only got one day left on ‘em. We’re getting in a new shipment tomorrow and I want space for ‘em.”
The woman picked up one of the pineapples and examined it with a proud smile on her face. “These South African ones are my favourite. Ain’t they gorgeous!? Maybe if that war ends for good the price’ll go down and stay down.” She carefully put it back on the shelf then walked off to find something else to do. (The pineapples are still in the box- Ed) Southsea looked at the shelf she’d just been attending to and picked up one of the pineapples she’d just replaced. He hefted it in his hand and felt its weight. It’s rough skin pushed against the palm of his hand, its barbs spiking uncomfortably. He lifted it to his nose and breathed in. The scent of the fruit triggered exotic images in his mind: hot sun, miles of beaches, blue sea. He licked his lips as his mouth watered.
“Want one of our pinies, mate?”
Southsea swung around with a start; the woman he’d first seen when he entered the shop was grinning at him from his shoulder.
“Top quality, direct from South Africa’s finest plantation.”
“Erm... sure. How much?”
“Four Magows or two bob and six.”
Southsea prospected in his pocket. “OK.”
“The till’s over there. Hope you enjoy it!” The woman gave him a green plastic basket to put his purchase in.
Southsea took the basket and continued along the stalls, examining the fruit which was laid out on display like artwork. He picked up an immaculate apple from Somerset and sniffed it, feeling like Eve. Its sweetness seemed to seep through the pores of his skin as he held it. The tomatoes were, like most fruits and vegetables, much bigger than those he recalled from his youth. Their skin was firm and unblemished and their texture strong. He noticed that the woman was still watching him.
“Try one if you like, Guv’na.” She said as she arranged price tags on the opposite shelf.
“What, are you giving them away?” he chuckled.
“One or two. It’s a fair investment ‘cos we know one taste and you’ll be back for more.”
Southsea placed the tomato’s rump between his teeth and took a bite. The skin cracked under the pressure of his incisors and cold juice flooded over his tongue. Its perfume and taste of Earth, sun and sky sent shivers through his body. Slippery, wet seeds followed and then tougher flesh. He closed his teeth and extracted the mouthful, wiping juice away with the back of his hand. “Mmm! Yes lovely.” he said indistinctly as he chewed. “Are they totally organic?”
She shrugged. “What ain’t these days?... Well, these are from ex-Monsanto land so they’re about 99.8% plus. The farmer has to wait another season for his certificate.”
“Well he obviously cares about what he grows so I hope he gets it soon.”
“He’d have had to wait twenty years without the Lifetrails.” She lowered her voice and for the first time didn’t meet his eyes and she spoke, aware that she was raising a very controversial subject.
Southsea lightened the conversation, aware of her discomfort. “Have you got any grapes?”
She turned back to him and smiled more broadly than ever. “Of course. They’re 5 and 7 a pound... or 4.65 if you’re a Magow man.” She winked cheekily, perhaps acknowledging his lack of a local accent.
Southsea bought a bunch of grapes, some pears and a Cypriot orange; he took them to the till and fished in his pocket for his wallet to pay. He had 12 Oxford Hours which were not legal tender in London, but fortunately he had withdrawn 50 Magows from the bank before leaving for the AGM. Nowadays there was no Bank of England, it had closed down since the Great Change (Continuity-Ed). Like so many other artefacts of the Illuminati-occupied regime the building in the City which had housed the Bank was just a museum with roped off reproductions of offices and waxwork mannequins in suits. Today every city and county, and many small towns too, had their own currency and independent banking system. Of course this presented problems when travelling outside the jurisdiction of these small monetary zones, like the need to change money while travelling abroad in the old days, but far worse. So to avoid the necessity for a Bureau de Change on the outskirts of every tiny hamlet a duel currency system had emerged: Local means of exchange now operated in tandem with the Magow; a global currency, but not in the same way as the one originally intended by the Illuminati. After the Illuminati banking system collapsed the gold reserves of all the nations, including the US Federal Reserves’ at Fort Knox, were released to the public and were available for all citizens to buy. Far from deflating the price of gold, as the conservative economists had warned, the price had almost doubled since then as more and more people bought up the gold stocks that had been off limits to them for so many centuries. These stocks were sold in smaller and smaller portions until they were eventually made available in minute amounts; and as a result had to be put in a larger container for the purposes of basic dexterity. The easiest way to do this was to embed individual milligrams of pure 24-carat gold in plastic cards that resembled old-fashioned credit cards. These became known as Mg-Au, or “Magow” cards. Even tinier portions of bullion were released in hundred and fifty microgram cards. It wasn’t long before Magows naturally evolved into a universal unit of tender that solved the mini-currency exchange problem. The teller was short of Magows and so gave him change in London Shillings, directing him to the local branch of the Bank of London where he could change it back into Magows or Oxford Hours.
Southsea strolled along the Victoria Embankment smiling greetings at trolley-vendors, buskers and street artists exhibiting their paintings on hooks hung from fences. He knew the Thames bank well, but seemed to take much longer to walk it today than it used to; which it did of course, he remembered. He looked at his watch again: 5.32pm. He stopped in his tracks, surprised at how slowly time passed. It felt like 3 or 4 hours since he’d left Parliament Square, but only a single hour had passed. He remembered the Quickening and the years of “16-hour days”; one more example to add to the list of things that had transformed, become the opposites of what had been before. He stopped by at a pub for a pint of organic lager and paid a visit to the lavatory. Urinating was an effort; it had been for the last couple of months. He had to push like a mother giving birth to squeeze out his bladder. He’d been meaning to pay a visit to the doctors, but something had always superseded it. He made yet another mental note to phone the surgery when he got home. He caught the Underground back to Victoria and jumped on the Oxford coach. He settled into his seat and cleared his lungs as the vehicle’s Digby Carousel revved up and it jerked into motion. His mobile phone rang. “Hello?”
“Alright, Glyn.” The familiar voice on the other end of the line was smirking.
“Jerry, I told you I’d call you when I got home. The coach has only just left; give us a chance!”
“Sorry, Buddy; but this couldn’t wait.”
“Not even three little hours?”
Southsea waited for him to continue. “Well?”
“You’re going to like it!”
He sighed. “Get to the point, Jerry. What’s the big idea?”
“I want to bin the article.”
Southsea sat forward. “What?... You’re not interested in my story anymore?”
“Oh yes, I am very much.”
“So... what are you talking about, Jerry?”
He paused for effect: “Glyn, I’ve spoken to the editor and he wants me to chuck the article. In its place, he wants me to write a book about you; a new biography.”
Southsea guffawed. “You’re kidding me!”
“Not at all; in fact I’ve already been promised a 5500 Ox-hour advance to write it.”
“But, Jerry; I already have a biography written by somebody else. It came out 11 years ago!”
“And, like I said when we first met, it’s crap! This will be a new and original biography that will cover your life from an entirely different angle.”
Southsea shook his head. “Are you sure you want to do this, Jerry? What if nobody buys it?”
“What if they do? What if it’s a bestseller?... So are you in or out?”
“Erm... we’ll talk about it next week.”
(Section or possible chapter break here)“Mr Southsea, Dr Pritchard will see you now.”
Glyn Southsea heaved himself off the settee in the waiting room and limped down the corridor to his GP’s consulting room. The receptionist gave him a supportive smile as he passed her desk. “Morning, Doc.”
“Morning, Glyn. How’s it going?” Dr Pritchard was a thin and wizened man about Glyn’s own age. His hands looked flexible and muscular from a lifetime of medical manipulation as he adjusted his display monitor so that his patient could see it.
“Not bad... apart from the constant pain and discomfort.”
Pritchard chuckled. “How’s Stacey?”
“As cheerful as ever, lecturing me on not being a drama-queen.” Southsea delicately lowered himself into a chair.
“I’d say you’re entitled to a bit of that. How’s the prostate?”
“I’ve been feeling worse, although those senna pills opened me up a bit. It only takes me ten minutes to piss now instead of half an hour. I’ve lost 2 stone in the last couple of months and the pain is really bad; it’s cutting through the Aspirin.”
“I’m not surprised, Glyn. We’ve had back to results of the ultrasound and biopsy. Here.” Pritchard opened up a window on the monitor and pointed to a dark mass in the middle of the random pixels that he somehow interpreted as the organs and tissues of Southsea’s abdomen. “There’s a large tumour in your prostate. It’s the size of a grapefruit and it’s malignant; category 4 cells.”
“So I’ve got cancer?”
“Yes. It’s starting to metastasize too.”
“Spread out into the rest of your body.” He laughed. “I thought you’d have picked up enough of the lingo in your Portering career to know what that meant.” He pointed at the screen again. “There’s a secondary there, see?... And another.”
“I can well believe it, Doc. Although it feels like a melon and 20 grapefruits! So what will you do? Can you operate on it; cut it out?”
Pritchard shook his head. “Nah, no need.” He reached for his prescription pad and pulled a pen out of the chest pocket of his white coat. “Tell you what; I’ll put you on a course of Laetrile. That should clear it up in a few weeks. Now, pay close attention to the dosage instructions because this stuff’s like the Paracetamol of the old days; too much and it’s poisonous. If you’ve not improved within a month come back and see me again. OK?” He handed Glyn the prescription.
“You do realize that if you’d come to me in your condition thirty years ago I’d have given you three months to live.”
“If I’d come to you thirty years ago and you’d told me I had prostate cancer I’d have asked you what the fuck a prostate is!”
Pritchard laughed. “What bloke under fifty has ever found out that he has one?”
Southsea immediately felt better from the placebo rush of seeing the doctor as he left the surgery and headed for the chemists shop to get his prescription.
Like many non-manual workers these days, Nicholson worked from home and his office was a cabin on his houseboat. Southsea caught the bus into town and walked down the towpath from the canal terminus. The row of moored narrowboats was far longer than it used to be since houseboats had become far more popular in recent years, and Nicholson’s craft was several hundred yards beyond the boatyard at Jericho. The journalist bade him welcome aboard and invited him into the compact and cosy space below decks. The two men relaxed in armchairs in the main cabin with mugs of coffee and Nicholson opened his laptop. “So, Glyn, have you thought of a title?”
“My Life”? replied Glyn with a sardonic smile. “A bit unoriginal.”
“It worked for Bill Clinton and Leon Trotsky. But you know this is a biography, not an autobiography. I don’t do this ghostwriter shit. I want my name on the cover.”
“I know, Jerry. I was just kidding. It’s OK for a working title, isn’t it?”
“Yeah it’s not bad, but sometimes they stick, like with that movie What the Bleep Do We Know?” He paused. “Never mind, we’ll put the title on the back-burner for now. Where do we start?”
Southsea paused. “Hmm, good question. How does one start a book; I’ve heard that’s the most difficult thing for a writer.”
“It is... Well, let’s choose an obvious place. Where were you born?”
“And your birthday?”
“15th of September 1984, by the old calendar. That’d be...” Both of them lowered their gazes and concentrated but Nicholson beat him to it.
“29 BGC. (Syn + continuity + explanation- Ed) “So did you grow up in Kent?”
“For a while; we moved to a place called Penblynow in Cumbria when I was eight.”
“Did you have any existing family roots in that area?”
“No. My father got a job there in the Forestry Commission; he was a councillor too. He eventually became mayor of the town.”
Nicholson’s fingers danced on the laptop keyboard as he made notes. “So you were quite well-to-do people?”
“We were middle-class I suppose; that term had a very different meaning in those days. We weren’t ultra-posh though. I went to a state comprehensive school, we didn’t have private healthcare; I had my teeth fixed on the NHS.”
Nicholson looked up at him for a moment. “I’m interested in history and I’ve studied the era. It sounds like a very different world to the one we live in today.”
“It was. I’m not sure it’s possible to realize how different it was unless you’d experienced it.”
Nicholson smiled wistfully. “I wished I’d been there to see it.”
“Sometimes I wish I’d been born after it.”
He raised an eyebrow doubtfully. “Do you really, Glyn?”
Southsea felt himself blush. “No. I tell a lie. I feel very privileged to have taken part in something so important; the most important thing in all history. I’d do it all again you know, without hesitation!”
“I’ll just have to take your word for that.”
There was a pause and then a thought suddenly came to Southsea. “Hey! Maybe you really were there!”
“You might have had a past-life back then. Have you seen the work being done on Reincarnation Theory at the Fenwick Institute?”
Nicholson laughed. “I don’t believe in any of that stuff. Sure, I know that the Illuminati kept a lot of information from us about what happens to us when we die... but reincarnation? Nah! It’s a load of bollocks, Glyn! How could we exist in a life in this particular world at a different time than we do now? There are so many logical fallacies with that notion.”
“But it would explain your interest in the Illuminati and how they came to fall.”
Nicholson shrugged. “Who isn’t interested in that?”
The two men remained silent for a moment.
Southsea held out his mug. “Any chance of another coffee, Jerry?”
After they’d settled down with their second mug of coffee there was a long pause which was broken by Southsea. “OK, where shall we go next?”
Nicholson looked down at his laptop. “Erm... tell me when you saw your first Rep.”
“Well, it was the same time as everybody else, after...”
“No, I meant before we could all see the Reptilians as they really are; back in the days when they all looked just like the rest of us.”
“Ooh!” Southsea shuddered. “I think it must have been... him.”
Nicholson nodded sympathetically. “Go on.”