Readers' Submissions

Internet Cafe, 2040




– London, 2040

Jake finished another 12 hour shift at the Chinese factory and clocked out. He needed sleep, but that would have to wait. He had an appointment to keep. He joined the throngs of workers leaving the purpose-built compound, with its worker dormitories and canteens and headed for the perimeter gate. The guards, exiles from what was left of the British army patrolled with dogs and automatic rifles. He never quite figured out whether their job was to keep people out, or in.

It was dark now and starting to rain. He was making his way down the main street when the blast lifted him off his feet. The side of his head caught the brick wall and he fell down stunned. Eventually he came around. His first instinct in the chaos and confusion was to check his watch. Damn, he’d been out for too long. He staggered to his feet, blood dripped from his head onto the clean white shirt he’d put on specially for the meeting. He had to be on time.

Scanning the area he saw the smoking ruin of St. Michael’s. Another IDL bombing by the looks of it. They weren’t going to stop until every church had been destroyed, every white Christian driven from the country or killed. He knew, they knew it. He laughed dryly. Democracy. In the end it had been the West’s achilles heel. Outbred and outvoted in their own country. Just another minority. Demography had been their destiny. Using a handkerchief to staunch the blood he moved along the street towards the internet cafe. The noise of the screaming, the sirens was deafening.

He ducked into the doorway of the Internet cafe and looked around. The usual suspects. White males. In their late teens and early twenties mostly. All good looking, lean and tall. Blue-eyed, blond-haired. They were the ones who always did well. He needed a coffee. He couldn’t afford one, but he needed one. His head throbbed. He headed to the counter. John, the owner, was busy rubbing out the prices and writing new ones on a makeshift chalkboard.

Jake looked at the new prices. “Jesus”.

John turned, and smiled. “Jake! You look like shit”.

“I feel like shit. Prices up again?”

“You know that QE crap. Money printing. This place is going to end up like fxxxing America.”

“It already did, John.”

Jake handed over a week’s wages.

“Give me an Americano. Black. And an hour on the Net. I need to go get cleaned up”.

Jake headed out back to the small restroom. Splashing cold water on his face he did his best to freshen up. He felt like he could sleep for a week. But he needed to make this meeting. He knew he was getting close. Close to the jackpot. Close to the way out he’d been searching for for five years. He was 23 now. He knew his big chance would soon be gone.

He cleaned up the last of the blood, then went out, grabbed his coffee, took a deep breath and sat at his usual terminal. The high spec web cam and comms set lowered automatically into place.

And now, on the high-def comm screen was Ning. His future. Ning was in her late 40s, ugly and obese. But she was kind enough, and smart too. Based in Bangkok she had a great job with a Chinese multinational. She spoke fluent Mandarin, English, German and of course Thai. She was the product of one of the world’s best universities, The People’s University of Shanghai, where her wealthy Chinese Thai parents had sent her at no small cost.

Jake knew the stakes were high on this one. He had to get out of this shit-hole. He still couldn’t believe how the country had declined into a mess of corruption, race war and economic meltdown. But then the lessons from history had been there all along. Staring them all in the face with its cold, uncaring eyes. If only they’d thought to take notice.

Ning was his ticket out. Luckily she was in a good mood tonight.

“Jake! Did you get the money I sent?”

“Yes thank you so much Ning.”

“I wanted to send you more. But you know these new currency controls. It’s so hard.”

“Yes I know. Don’t worry Ning. It’s enough.” He didn’t want to pressure her more than he needed to. He didn't want to run the risk of scaring her off.

“You have enough to buy your ticket now Jake?”

He had. Just enough. His Dad had stashed something away for him. Jake struggled to keep from breaking down when he thought of the old man pushing the crumpled notes into his hand. The hell they had endured. Just to get enough together to help him leave home.

“I have enough Ning. I just need the RTL? Could you get the approval at your end?”

“You know it’s very difficult now Jake. Very difficult for British people to get Right To Land for here. Too many terrorists. Too many bad people.”

Jake felt like he would vomit. The desperation rose within him.

“I know Ning. Thanks for trying.” He tried not to show his disappointment.

“But….” Ning let the word hang in the air for a moment, smiling.

“…. My uncle helped me. Now we have the OK! We have the RTL!”. She laughed with delight.

Jake couldn’t help himself. He let out a long, loud “Yeeessss”.

The others sat at terminals around the cafe guessed what had happened and cheered. One of their own had made it. Someone called him a lucky f*****g c**t. Jake smiled.

Ning smiled. “I picked my wedding clothes too. And I bought yours too Jake. Are you ready?”

“More than you know Ning. I can’t wait to be in your arms. I love you so much.”

Jake thought of the money he’d be able to obtain from Ning and her family. Money he could send back to his parents. They would be able to buy fresh food. Maybe even some small luxuries. Fruit. Chocolate. Maybe one day he could get them to Thailand too. But deep down he knew they’d never leave. This was still their home. Their blood. Their soil.

Then all too quickly the hour was up. Jake left the comm station. In two days he’d be in Bangkok. Wondering if he’d ever see his parents after he left, he nodded to John, and stepped out onto the crowded street.

***



Stickman's thoughts:

Scary!