Check out this author of the new book “2078: Shadow of a Doubt”, by Florence Watson. The cover looks amazing and interesting.
Florence is 37 years old, grew up in Brighton and Hove and now lives in Worthing with her family. Florence is married and the mother of 3 boys.
She received a degree from the Open University in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. In recent years she has worked in care, substance misuse and as a clinical auditor.
Outside of writing, Florence enjoys spending time in the gym, especially enjoying boxing training, trying to keep fit.
Earlier this month Florence released her new (and debut) novel, a futuristic, political thriller, ‘2078 shadow of a Doubt’.
The story is set in a future Britain where the political system has been shaken up by proceeding events that leave the government in the hands of a single party system. The focus is on personal health and following the guidelines so that your own wellbeing is assured. There are choices of course, but those deemed irresponsible have costs financial and otherwise.
A young woman, who only wishes to care for her ailing father, becomes embroiled in events that lead her to realise that the idyllic society she is living in has more layers and sinister undercurrents than she believed.
Excerpt from Book “2078 Shadow of a Doubt”
Thank you to my husband Jeff and my sons Marlon, Harry and Elijah for their contributions, patience and their support.
Also thanks to Beckie and Reece for their enthusiasm.
A special thank you to Adam Ford for his fantastic artwork.
Shadows possess the element of surprise. They’re trained to be silent and invisible. It’s what makes them the ultimate guardians for anybody wealthy enough to afford one, and why I didn’t get the feeling that I was being followed or hear any footsteps. Suddenly a large hand grips my left shoulder and I’m pulled back and sandwiched between two sets of oversized shoulders. In one swift unfussy move, I’m turned off the main street and into the narrow cobbled alley between the shops. Then the lights go out.
The lights never go out. Occasionally there’s a fault and one or two of the bluish white paving slabs or wall bricks will flicker. But this is rare and usually lasts only seconds. The dark is unsafe; years of criminal research has confirmed that most street crime is the result of poorly lit gaps between buildings. So for the past forty years or so, no alleyway, twitten or path has been left unlit at night. So why is it dark now? There’s only one explanation; this is no ordinary Shadow.
Though my mind ought to be on the gravity of the immediate situation; that I’m now pinned to the wall at the throat by the guardian of an unknown but likely important or even famous person also present, the fact that it’s dark is truly extraordinary. But as it dawns on me that nobody is likely to come to my rescue as no one in their right mind would turn down an unlit alley, muscle seizing terror strikes rendering my body useless for the purposes of kicking my way free, and I think I might pass out.
‘Why are you following me?’ Bellows the throat gripper, apparently undeterred by the possibility that someone might hear him.
‘Can’t…talk.’ I reply, with what feels like my last breath.
‘Put her down.’ Says the other man. ‘I’ll get the facts.’
‘No, I’ve got this.’
‘Fine. But you won’t get anything out of her while she’s suffocating. Her oxygen levels are dangerously low.’
Instantly I’m released and I fall to the ground. I gasp and cough as I’m assisted to my feet by the more reasonable of the two thugs, who then steps back out of the way. My eyes adjust to the dark and soon the distant street light catches anything white. That’s when I see the jacket; the unusual white markings on the left side where a pocket should be. Coincidence? Maybe. If the man standing before me is him, I’ll know from the distinctive smell of leather. Nobody wears leather anymore.
‘Who are you? Who are you working for?’ he shouts into my face.
It’s a strange question. I think as fast as my fright will allow whilst also searching the bricks for a camera. ‘My name is Starla.’ I reply, trying to control the shake in my voice. ‘I work at a warehouse, Govco. Packing fruit.’
I see the bewilderment in his darkened face. Yes, it is him. That unmistakable jaw line, the scruffy hair and the brow firm like a steel bar over his eyes, too heavy really for the rest of the face. And he’s the right build and height, six foot four or thereabouts. I never would have guessed he’s a Shadow. But then that’s the point of invisible guards; they could be anybody.
‘That’s where I work. I pack fruit into Bugs for delivery to homes….’
‘Yes, that’s where you work, but who are you working for? ‘
‘What do you mean?’
‘Oh come on!’ He’s frustrated now; appealing for information I simply don’t have. A clear case of mistaken identity. This could easily be resolved with a simple ID check. If he can control streetlights, and I suspect cameras as well or I’m sure the police would be here by now, I’m certain he has the power to access my data. But I’m happy to volunteer it.
‘You’ve been watching me for two weeks.’ he says, leaning further in.’ Who sent you?’
‘No one! I swear!’
‘What do you know? Or should I say, what do I know that you don’t want me to know?’
‘Huh? I don’t know anything, I promise! My name is Starla Carr. I’m nobody. Here, check.’
I hold up a trembling left palm. The jacket wearing throat gripper then steps aside and to my surprise, the other man comes forward and takes my hand. He presses his huge, warm palm against mine and then reads my data which instantly rolls across his eyeballs in blue text from right to left. I don’t recognise him. Now I’m confused; which is the Shadow and which is the employer? After a few seconds:
‘Nothing. She’s clean as a whistle.’ He says, dropping my hand.
‘What does that mean?’
‘It means she is who she says she is. Nobody.’
‘Did you check for Outernet access?’
‘Right. So she really does pack fruit?’
‘Yep.’ Answers the man who just scanned my Chip. I see now that he’s quite a bit taller and wider than the throat gripper. He must be the Shadow; a man his size does not need protection. The light comes back and the one in leather becomes completely visible. I’ve never seen him close up before. He’s even more striking with eye contact. He looks me over carefully, awaiting an explanation. I don’t have one, at least nothing that would sound sane or respectable.
‘Well?’ He says eventually.
‘Well what?’ I reply.
‘Why have you been following me?’
‘My Shadow has footage that’s tantamount to stalking. You do know that stalking is a crime, don’t you?’
‘Yes.’ I say, finally catching the scent of leather as the wind blows through the alley. ‘I know that stalking is illegal, which is why I wasn’t stalking you.’
‘So what were you doing? Are you a LOSER?’
‘No!’ I look desperately up at the Shadow; a brawny, olive skinned man with magnificent green eyes. He has at least two inches in height on the throat gripper. I’m an average six foot female, but I feel like a midget.
‘She’s not a LOSER.’ He answers with absolute certainty. ‘Besides, there’s no evidence to suggest that LOSER’s stalk.’
‘See?’ I say, more pleading than persuasive. ‘I’m not a LOSER. I have everything to live for, I swear! I mean you no harm.’
‘So what do you want with me?’
I suppose it was too much to hope that having been cleared of any wrongdoing or ill intent, he’d simply let me go. ‘Alright.’ I sigh, glancing up and down the alley and briefly contemplating making a run for it. ‘I was…’ But then I can’t bring myself to say it. It’s too embarrassing.
‘What were you?’
‘I was…’ But still the words won’t come.
‘Trying to make my job more difficult than it already is? What, damn it! What were you!’
‘I was checking you out, okay? There, I said it!’
Two Weeks Previously
I live on the twenty-seventh floor of a thirty storey tower with my father and virtual pet parrot, Honey. We moved here seven years ago after my mother died. It was a recommended downgrade. With just the two of us, we didn’t need the extra space we had in the old place and we managed to stay local, not that it would have mattered if they’d put us anywhere else. The British Underground Shuttle (BUS as its known) is the fasted way to travel and what gets me thirty miles to and from work six days a week, in around fifteen minutes. It’s replaced almost all overground passenger vehicles with the exception of bicycles, man powered taxis, and the occasional driverless cars and cabs that share the road with the Bugs. Bugs are black or chrome, dome shaped vehicles, varying in size depending on their use. The road ones are mainly haulage. The smaller, off road bugs do everything from street cleaning to home shopping deliveries. As a child, I thought they looked like giant woodlice and centipedes.
The district of Shoreham is characterised by three pedestrian bridges over the river Adur, and boasts one of the largest statues of our last Prime Minister Jon Myers. He was MP for the district a long time ago, before the surrounding suburbs were swallowed up. Like a lot seaside towns, it still has a handful of historic cottages dating back to when it was a fishing village, but most of the old dwellings are gone now. Those remaining aren’t lived in; they’ve been turned into juice bars and sports shops like any other place. But the old flint and tiny wonky doorways are quaint, discerning imperfections that give the district its character.
We live in a ‘Beehive’, one of hundreds of hexagonal housing blocks erected in last fifty years. ‘Hexagon Homes’, their real name, are built close together so from above they resemble honeycombs, hence the term ‘Beehive’. Thousands of outdated and inefficient buildings were demolished to make way for them. Our housing complex, called ‘Minerva’, like many others across England was constructed on the site of an old grave yard. With the exception of royals, politicians and other notable individuals, no one has been buried since the 2050’s. It’s a waste of land, and the general consensus is that cyber cemeteries take the morbidity, as well as the maintenance out of remembering the dead. Bodies are cremated and the ashes compacted into a little bottle, or for those who can afford it, compressed into a diamond keepsake. Thereafter, a virtual headstone is erected online. Clicking on a dead person’s stone will take you to their profile where you will find photos, videos, and just about everything you’d ever want to know about their life. So it’s a memorial as well as a public records library, which is far more useful and much less spooky than a garden full of buried bodies. All Beehives have five, six sided glass elevators in the centre leading to the front door of every flat, which open straight into the living room. The sixth elevator in the high-rise leads to a fire escape, stairwell. The lifts can move sideways, as well as up and down. For safety, front doors automatically lock when the lift is not present outside. Only the kitchen has natural light flowing into lounge via the door, and there’s a little light from the glass bricks on the elevator side of the room. The two bedrooms and one bathroom are seldom occupied during the day so artificial lighting is sufficient. There are no hallways or other unnecessary areas, and storage is high up on sliding cupboards so reducing the amount of floor space required. Our Beehive flat is very stylish in black, white and burgundy and almost completely bare. I took the opportunity to de-clutter when we left the old place.
‘Do you want anything with that Dad?’ I call from the kitchen.
‘No thanks love. Come and see this.’
‘What is it?’ I say, collecting my cup.
‘It’s the anniversary special.’
He’s forgotten that only five minutes ago we decided we would sit together to watch it. Honey flies past my head as I carry my raspberry tea to the sofa, and then settles on his perch. I still flinch at the sound of wings, even though I could walk straight through him and not feel a thing. The emerald green plumage is as beautiful as any real bird. Occasionally he’ll ruffle his feathers and one or two will fall out, and gently float nearly to the floor before disappearing. Simulated shedding and moulting is one of the many advantages of virtual pets. I sit on the sofa, mindful of my tea and Dads dinner on his lap.
‘What’s this?’ He says, suddenly looking down at the plate as if he’s only just noticed it there.
‘It’s broccoli and leek, crustless, baseless quiche.’
He raises one bushy eyebrow. ‘So vegetable omelette then.’ He says, prodding it rudely with the fork. ‘If there’s no sides and no bottom, you can’t call it quiche.’
‘I suppose not.’ I say, re-examining what I made. ‘Quiche is what it said on the recipe.’
‘Where’s the meat?’
‘There is no meat.’
‘Not necessary. Egg is protein Dad, you know that. There’s a vitamin pill on the tray as well. Everything you need that’s not in that meal is in the pill.’ I reply, as if I haven’t said this every day for the past year.
He frowns, then pouts childishly before picking up the capsule, inspecting it closely like he always does, then throwing it into his mouth. ‘I like real dinners.’ he says irritably, then trying to slide the tray across to my lap. I resist by blocking it with my free hand.
‘Call it omelette if you want, but you have to eat it. You can’t carry on like this; you’ll starve. You didn’t eat the lunch I left for you either. I can’t go out to work all day you if refuse meals or can’t remember to put food in your mouth.’
‘Don’t you worry about me.’ He says indignantly. ‘If I eat, I eat. If I don’t then that’s my problem. Leave it to the Health Visitor to sort out. When is she coming again?’
‘You don’t even like the Health Visitor. Besides, she won’t recommend anything other than what I give you now. I know it’s not what you’d rather to eat but it’s all good stuff.’
He turns to me and stares. After a few seconds, I’m not sure he even remembers what we’re talking about. He’s somewhere else; perhaps in one the restaurants where he was chef years ago. Or worse still, back in prison where quiches without cases were standard. I wish I’d just called it omelette now, but I know it’s a trigger for bad memories which is why I didn’t.
‘Ok, I’ll tell you what.’ I say, sounding resolute. ‘I’ll start coming home during my break. Would you like that?’
He nods uncertainly.
‘That way we can eat together, just like we do in the evenings.’ I give him a minute to process the suggestion. But he’s still lost. I can tell by the way he’s looking through me, as if he can see the bedroom door. ‘Dad?’
Suddenly, like a switch has been flicked, he realises what’s going on. ‘Come home? No! You’d never make it here and back again in time. Besides, I know you like a few minutes to yourself in the day. You’re like your Mum; you need a bit of head space. I understand that.’
‘You’re more important than headspace Dad.’
‘The hell I am! Silly girl! You just carry on and leave me to do my thing. I don’t want you fretting, do you hear?’
‘Enough. Start putting yourself first. I won’t have it any other way. You got that?’
‘Fine. I’ll send you more reminders then. But if I come home and the food’s still sitting there like it was today, I will start coming home.’
I doubt it would make much difference if I did, but I have to try. I decide to change the subject in the hope that he might forget that it looks like an omelette, then start eating without thinking about it. ‘Did you do your crossword today?’
‘Crossword! Crossword!’ Chirps Honey. He’s programmed to pick up words randomly. I haven’t got round to teaching him anything useful yet.
‘Yes. It was easy.’
I’m not so sure if it is good. He was prescribed them by the Health Visitor as part of his treatment. He has to keep his mind active to give the medication the best chance of working. If he’s doing the puzzles easily, that means he can remember more. But if they’re too easy, they’re not stimulating enough. I’ll mention it next visit. ‘Hey, I’ve got tomorrow off remember? We can go out if you like. Walk around town or sit in the park.’
‘Oh no, there won’t be anybody out Star. And everything’s shut. It’s not a happy day.’
‘You said this last year Dad. I know it’s not a happy day but we can still take advantage of no work can’t we?’
‘But it’s not respectful. People will be staying in, or making their way to London to pay tribute. We can’t be acting like it’s a jolly holiday.’
‘Ok, we won’t act jolly then. We’ll walk about looking sad, alright?’
He looks at me doubtfully. There was a time when any national holiday was a chance to skip hand in hand to the park, especially this one.
‘So are we going to watch this thing or what?’ I say, bringing my knees up. He says ‘four’ and the volume rises to the desired level.
The holographic image is of our current Prime Minister stepping out of a black car, followed by his older sister who emerges from the other side. He’s a slender, fair skinned man in his early forties but looks no more than twenty-five. He wears an immaculate pin striped navy suit, his trademark and uniform since his first day in Office. His sister Dita is equally youthful and smartly dressed in a red trouser suit, with her long dark hair tied in a bun. Both look appropriately woeful as they hurry to the most famous front door in the country. Our Prime Minister, Jon Myers II, is the son of our former Prime Minister Jon Myers, who died fifteen years ago tomorrow. His sister Dita is Chancellor of the Exchequer. They’re known as the Prime Family.
Dad smiles as if the sight of him has jogged a beloved memory. ‘Your Mum loved this kid. We always knew he’d follow in his father’s footsteps. Our first democratic political dynasty.’
I turn to him with a look of bewilderment. ‘No Dad, she never liked him.’
He looks back at me blankly.
‘Neither of you liked the Prime Family.’ I reply, shaking my head in disbelief. He’s getting worse. The medication isn’t working. He frowns, thinking it over carefully. They talked about the dynasty a lot but ‘love’ was not a word either of them associated any of the Myers family. We watch as they enter number ten, turning once to wave for the public and cameras before stepping through the door. Then the female news reader at the desk cuts in.
‘And that was the scene in London this afternoon, John Myers II with the Chancellor Dita, returning from Saturn Stadium where final preparations are being made for tomorrow’s commemorative service on the fifteenth anniversary of their father’s death.’
‘Saturn is the first stadium he had built.’
‘I know Dad. I did Contemporary History at school. Eat your dinner.’ To my surprise, he cuts into the thick round omelette quiche, and takes a big mouthful.’
‘Tonight we bring you a special report looking back at the personal life and rise to leadership of the man who ‘brought Britain back’. But first, Linden Rush takes us a little further into the past with a brief look at the history that made the man, before exploring just a few of the many accomplishments and feats of political genius that earned Jonathan Myers the title ‘Britain’s Saviour.’
The female news reader is reduced to a small bubble in the background as Linden Rush, our best known political correspondent appears before us.
‘Thanks Anna. ‘Britain’s Saviour’ is how Jon Myers was described by the former Minister for Education and long term friend, Oliver Wells, on the eve of what promises to be as always, a very public ceremony. He will always be remembered as ‘The man who put health at the heart of the nation’s well being’ and ‘The man whose rational policies pulled Britain back from the brink of economic disaster.’
‘In 2041 the country was in a slump, the result of the failed Prohibition Act of the mid 2030’s. In an interview many years later, Myers would describe how he, at the time an MP for the South, had cautioned against the Act. However in 2036, in a bid to improve the nation’s health and to save health services from collapse under the weight of unprecedented demand, the government commissioned a report into foods that offer little or no nutritional value and contain harmful quantities of sugars, salts and other additives. The result was a long list of foods and beverages that in the same year became illegal to produce or sell in this country.’
‘The aim was to increase demand for fresh and whole foods as well as to take the strain off general practitioners and hospitals by lowering the number of victims of self neglect and overindulgence. Mounting evidence of the link between poor diets, obesity, disease and associated minor to chronic health conditions forced the government to take direct and radical action where individuals showed a lack of self control and unwillingness to change. It had become clear that despite having all the information, many people continued to lead unhealthy lives at unsustainable cost, hence the deduction that people are not capable of making the right choices.’
‘However the immediate loss of jobs in the confectionary, soft drinks and alcohol industries from production to retail, gave rise to poverty on a scale unseen for many years. A black market soon emerged for these prohibited consumables. The illegal confectionary and soft drink trade known as ‘The Candy Trade’ was a response to what many believed to be an absurd ban on relatively harmless products. After all, many of the ingredients including salt and syrups were still available; albeit rationed. Many complained that the ban was unfair on those who had always eaten well, or had recently made significant diet and lifestyle changes.’
‘The consequences of dealing in candy were severe leading many to believe that the government had lost all sense. The Prohibition, backed by the findings in the Food and Beverage report, had caused chaos and the policing of prohibited products cost the government millions. After almost three years of protests, riots and related convictions, the government was forced to lift the ban which in turn resulted in a national junk food binge.’
‘I was at the Battle of London Bridge.’ pipes up Dad.
‘Yes, I know.’
‘It was meant to be a peaceful protest. But the police tried to barricade us in. We were herded like cattle on the bridge. Some jumped in the Thames; they wanted them to drown. It was a scandal.’
I’ve heard the story more times than I care to count. But he always tells me like it’s the first time. ‘Dad?’
‘Shall we just watch the programme?’
‘In the years following the end of Prohibition, economic recovery was slow, and with poverty and long term unemployment ironically, came increased demand for healthcare, as the Historian Jonah Ike explains:
‘The evidence suggests that alongside the predictable consequences of poverty, people developed a strong mistrust of the government and rebelled by consuming vast quantities of those very foods, and I use the term loosely, unavailable during the ban. It was effectively protest eating and of course, they were as cheap and readily available as they had been previously. This collective effort might not have been a conscious one and certainly it was financially beneficial to those on low incomes to eat rubbish, but it also sent a clear message to the government; depriving people of choice is harmful to the economy and demoralising to a nation.’
‘In 2042, after five years serving as an MP and frustrated by the ineffectiveness of administrators within the opposition, the former Olympic Gold medallist middle distance runner formed his own party. Jon Myers knew that the only way to ensure the wellbeing of the nation and to re-establish trust and order was to find a way to get people to change their bad habits almost instantly but without further damage to the economy and crucially, without removing choice.’
‘Myers was a well respected, charismatic Member of Parliament. But what he said in his first campaign speech shocked Britain of the time. Here are the highlights of that presentation.’
As we watch, Myers appears on a platform at the opening of his most famous speech.
‘There is culture of risk-taking in our country that is crippling our fragile social and economic systems. It is this behaviour, failure on the part of so many to make the right choices, which led to the Prohibition Act in the first place…
‘This nation has become a spoilt, greedy and reckless child, turning on its authority when measures are taken to protect it from self harm; smoking, drinking and overeating. We as individuals can no longer look elsewhere to lay blame when the evidence of our actions and our inactions is to be seen in the damage done to ourselves and to our services…’
‘If elected, my government will never eliminate freedom of choice. However, in the notion of a model society set out in our action manifesto, individuals who take responsibility for themselves and who make the right choices will be rewarded. Those who do not will personally pay the price. The State would no longer be held responsible for those whose behaviours carry known, unnecessary risks….’
‘Risk would therefore be calculated and assessed in every area of life to ensure that the right choice is the easiest one to make…..’
‘It is not in the nation’s best interest for the government or the taxpayer to make allowances for the weak willed, or to bail out the bone idle. These people are not victims. Collective duty therefore, would be replaced by personal accountability….’
‘We should no longer strive to be wealthy but to be healthy, as this is the true meaning of prosperity. Health is Wealth. Sport, fitness and nutrition would be integral to daily life, vital to the preservation of mind, body, the economy, and our nation state.’
‘….and those who succeed in life do so on their own merits, through hard work and perseverance. This is the true meaning of success. Acting in this way as individuals, will bring about the best outcomes for society as a whole. If everyone takes care of themselves, then society will take care of itself.’
‘My party has no colour because its policies are transparent. My party has no name because it is quite simply the way forward; the party of the future…..’
Linden Rush returns.
‘In 2043, The Future party as it had come to be known, won the general election. It was a landslide victory. The action manifesto contained details of proposed policies backed by hard evidence from experts in the fields of nutrition, medicine and agriculture. The manifesto was eventually adapted to create ‘The Manual’ – instructions for life, for all.’
‘The reward that Myers described in his speech, and arguably the proposal that won him the election, is the Health Points system, now referred to simply as ‘Points’. It is the greatest achievement of his government. Let us examine the healthcare model in more detail:’
A list of bullet points and a three dimensional chart appears to the left of Linden Rush.
‘2045: all basic medical consultations, assessments, screening and diagnosis including dental are free of charge to every child and adult citizen.’
‘In the same year, reward ‘Points’ are now awarded to adults following sustained period of good health, calculated according to weeks without visiting a doctor, dentist or Accident and Emergency. Points can be collected for a range of specific health statuses such as having low cholesterol or normal blood pressure.’
‘All adult citizens must now pay the full cost of prescriptions, hospital stays, surgery etc, subsided by, or paid in full by Points. Points are designed to be used towards the cost of prescriptions and treatment, if and when necessary, so for many become a form of health care insurance.’
‘In the twelve months from January 2045 to 2046, the number of minor operations and surgical procedures is cut by half and there’s a drastic decline in alcohol related injuries.’
In 2047, ‘Accident and Emergency’ is renamed ‘Incident and Emergency.’ because there is no such thing as an accident.
‘Injuries are divided into two types: Sports – free of charge or ‘non Points deductible’ and all other trauma. Treatment of injuries caused by carelessness or resulting from the actions of another, to be paid in full by the person or persons responsible. Myers’ aim was to encourage sport and fitness and to increase activity in general. As a world class athlete, he understood that there was ‘no gain without the occasional sprain’ but negligence comes at a cost.
‘By 2048, six monthly health checks had become mandatory. The monitoring process, which has almost completely eliminated the need for General Practitioners, is the same one that exists today; a simple body scan at the self service ‘scan and reward’ machines that identify injury and disease. The scanners were also key in the detection of physical abuse which in turn led to thousands of prosecutions spanning almost a decade.’
‘What transpired very early on is that, in making major positive lifestyle changes, the nation’s health and social behaviour improved, so Points built up. Five years later, parliament passed a Bill that allowed Health Points to be put towards the cost of other things such as higher education and housing upgrades – though many continued to save them to cover the cost of care in old age. Myers created a whole new currency by rewarding people for doing what they’re supposed to do anyway. There had, and never will be a greater incentive to be good. ‘
‘One year following his election victory, his wife Lauren Myers, died whist giving birth to their second child and our current Prime Minister, Jonathan Myers II. She’d been appointed Health Secretary by her husband and her legacy continues in the Manual. Dubbed ‘The Natural Health and Beauty Queen’ Lauren Myers was a self made millionaire from the sale of nutritional supplements and organic skin care products. She was also a lifestyle and fitness guru who like Myers, was part of a growing minority who believed that a clean diet can heal the body. Her formula for healthy living was adopted by the Future Party for inclusion in the Manual, alongside Myers’ very own athletic regime. A close friend of the couple speaking shortly after her death:’
‘Myers’ aim was to empower all with lifestyle changes that would increase well being and boost the economy, and Lauren provided a great deal of the instruction in the Manual. It was a refreshingly positive agenda and once the British public had got their heads around it, they realised that it gave them exactly what they wanted; the freedom to choose the right way forward. When Myers talks about respect for the body in the Manual, he’s basically providing us with the tools for our own personal harm reduction strategies that have positive repercussions throughout society. The Manual is a combination of his experience and training as an athlete, and Lauren’s nutritional expertise. She was an inspiration to him, indeed, to the nation. As a result of the Manual, interest and participation in all sports increased and the demand for sports equipment, personal trainers, and related professions rocketed. Within a few years, a new generation of sporting superstars had emerged; real celebrity role models driving our young to aim high, to compete, and to achieve in all areas of life. Lauren always said that people cannot be forced to change, and she was right. It wasn’t as though Myers was banning doughnuts like during the Prohibition or telling people they couldn’t sit around all day. Those options were and still are available. But if you choose to be inactive or to do things that might make you ill long term, you will have to pick up the bill, if and when your Points run out. The idea of taking personal responsibility was not a new one, but it had never been quite this personal. That’s the key to Myers’ success. Lauren, his closest advisor and my dear friend, will be sadly missed.’
Linden Rush returns.
‘The effects of the new clean living nation were far reaching as the country entered a period of rapid transformation. Within ten years, four immense sports stadiums; Saturn, Jupiter, Venus and Neptune had been built, reflecting not only Britain’s continuing Olympic success, but also a country revolutionised. The stadiums created thousands of new jobs in addition to those that had emerged out of the reformed Britain.’
‘Healthy choices had another impact on the landscape too. The demand for red meat drastically declined and by 2061, 89% of the population were either vegetarian or vegan – just like the Prime family. Early on, Myers knew that this was key to reducing climate change and waste, and land formerly used for cattle farming was purchased by the government to create green spaces such as parks and sporting facilities, and for new sustainable housing developments, in turn boosting the building trade.
The early investment in new build from freed up farmland made the government one of the largest proprietors of residential property today, as well as funding the ID chips in our palms, now implanted from birth, that are crucial to our safety and protection, and of course to monitoring our health. Everything from activity levels, stress, white blood cell count, body mass and intoxication is constantly tracked, giving us up to date and instant access to our condition. Our health is quite literally, in our hands.’
‘By the early 2060’s crime rates had fallen by over 70%. The reduction in criminal behaviour was initially attributed to newly created jobs, the transparency of our lives thanks to ID chips and twenty-four hour lit streets. But further research by criminal psychologists of the time pointed also to the increase in endorphins caused by good diets and regular exercise. ’
‘In 2048, Myers set up the Life Institute for investigation into Fallibility and Extension; ‘LIFE’. His hope was to unlock the secret to longevity and to test the limits of mortality through combined research initiatives into nutrition, medicine and technology. LIFE is the epicentre of medical research that has drastically altered the practice of medicine in the last thirty years. The Institute is also responsible for the drug of the same name, which we will return to later in the programme.’
‘Despite the new happy nation, in the early years Myers’ Manual came under scrutiny and fire from human rights defenders. Some believed that his new policies put the most vulnerable members of society at further disadvantage, and was an attack on overweight people. Myers responded with a statement to the nation.’
Once more, Dad and I watch as the former Prime Minister appears before us on a platform.
‘Those who lack the capacity to take full responsibility for their health will never be expected to. However, where treatment is proved to be effective, individuals must engage fully. This is the aim of the One Chance programme, a free initiative to motivate, and to restore the health of those on the brink of failure or death. One chance. One opportunity to make that change.’
‘We must expect some losses however, as not all will find the strength and determination to change. This is regrettable. But we must never support those who are not committed to supporting themselves. Standing alone must be the goal. Charity must start and end with oneself. We help others by putting ourselves first. We help society by being well in mind and body in order to prevent us from becoming a burden to our loved ones.’
‘And to all those who still doubt the Future Party’s motives; the Manual is not a handout on how to be thin. A toned, athletic body is something to be proud of. However, weight loss for its own sake is at best vanity, at worst a symptom of poor mental health and therefore not an idea that the Future Party promotes.’
‘The manifesto did not originally contain proposed taxes on some of the foods banned during the prohibition but were later introduced when foods were given a nutritional and production standard ‘star’ rating from one to five, and then priced accordingly. Foods with a five star rating such as oats and raw vegetables remained at low prices. Others with one star or less were heavily taxed. This angered many whose trades depended on the availability of these goods or ‘bads’ as they are now known. They argued that making basic food ingredients such as white flour, butter and chocolate unaffordable amounted to pretty much the same as removing choice; the one thing Myers had promised never to do. The aim of taxing ‘bads’ as Myers explained, was ‘to make making the right choice easy.’ Taxation resulted in these foods including sweets and biscuits being classified as luxury goods, afforded by a very few.’
‘A group of chefs, food critics and farmers who had originally formed during the Prohibition, re-formed the protest group; the Ministry for the Defence of British Food (MDBF). For a short time they revived the Candy Trade, illegally importing essential ingredients in attempt to provide a variety of ‘classics’ at affordable prices such as stew and dumplings and Victoria sponge. They justified their actions by arguing that these, alongside breads and puddings and other cakes, were staples that should not be allowed to expire or be replaced. The Ministry was urged to modify traditional recipes and to leave out the harmful ingredients – a fair compromise on the government’s part. Sugars and simple carbs had been weighing the nation down for far too long. But the audaciously self declared ‘Ministers’ argued that authenticity demands that no changes be made whatsoever. They upheld that moderation is all that was required and accused the government of tipping the scales in favour of the rich; the only people now in a position to eat cake.
The ‘Sweet Rebellion’ as it has come to be known was short lived between 2043 -2045. Punishment was as severe for members of the MDBF as it had been for ‘Candy Pushers’ during the Prohibition. Establishments using illegally imported ingredients and flour sold for less than market value from factories owned by Ministry supporters were closed down and licences to practice as chefs or to run food establishments, removed for life. Those who continued to campaign and fight the dying cause were placed under permanent surveillance until eventually imprisoned….
Dad wakes with a start. I’m not sure how much he missed; fifteen maybe twenty years of history. I didn’t notice until I heard the gentle snoring.
‘This is the bit I want you to see.’ He says sitting up straight then squinting at Linden Rush, whose three dimensional form still occupies the space between the sofa and the wall.
‘Following the sudden, tragic death of Jon Myers, many feared that his successor would struggle to live up to his greatness. The Future party had become an ideas factory, turning out what many considered to be definitive solutions to social and environmental problems at an unprecedented rate for over twenty years, unchallenged by any other political party.’
‘Jon Myers II had been a member of his father’s cabinet for only four years when his father died. He’d had a successful early career in long distance running, but his involvement in politics began at an early age. Like his sister Dita, the young Jon occupied himself with his father’s campaigns, supporting him at conferences and accompanying him on many public engagements. By the age of twenty one, he was already a seasoned politician with the makings of a leader. An unofficial poll revealed a unanimous decision; Myers II was the only man for the job. Now, fifteen years after being elected the new Future party leader, he continues to improve our nation’s health and wellbeing.’
‘Dad, this is not news to me.’
‘Wait for it.’
‘Can I at least get a drink?’
‘Ok, if you’re quick.’
I take my time getting a glass of tap water and then shinning up an apple whilst leaning against the cupboards. I can hear the HV from the kitchen.
‘Twelve years ago saw the launch of ‘Genie’, the fruition of an ambitious plan originally conceived by Jon Myers, to make the DNA, genetic map and medical histories of citizens available to all on the government social networking and compatibility site of the same name.’
‘Dita Myers who completed the project, speaking twelve years ago at the official launch:’
‘Reducing risk and total transparency have always gone hand in hand for the Future party. Making the right choice means having all the information to guide our decisions – that’s the only way to ensure that we don’t compromise ourselves when it comes to who we socialise with or decide to form romantic attachments to. That’s why we need Genie, and my father would have been proud of what we have accomplished today.’
‘Just like Internet dating or social networking sites of fifty years ago, you know a great deal about a potential partner before meeting. But with Genie you can also work out their career prospects based on intelligence testing and history of career progression. In addition, you have access to their family background and health records, including the probability of them developing disease due to any combination of deterministic genes.’
‘Genie can help us to plan ahead in order to meet future health costs by predicting what is likely to happen to us, as well as save us time, potentially years of our lives, by selecting our best matches for us. Genie is crucial to reducing risk and the breakdown of partnerships and marriages.’
‘The site is already being used by employers as a recruitment tool, as well as the police and other monitoring agencies. The merging of intelligence into one accessible system is crucial to efficiency, as well as to our safety and wellbeing. Genie, like all other applications, is accessible from chips. You’re future is in the palm of your hand.’
‘Genie and the universal, external software developed for ID chips has transformed the way we manage existing relationships and form new ones. In addition, contacts, data, music, and tools like cameras, are instantaneously accessed as the technology is in us – a fusion of electronic and organic matter.’
‘Genie is also responsible for the further fall in crime in the last fifteen years, to the extent that the role of the police officer today is almost entirely surveillance. ID chips are linked to the central system, keeping us all safe. Emergency services are instantly alerted to respiratory failure and falls in oxygen levels in red blood cells, which might indicate suffocation or blood loss. The ID chip cannot be removed as exposure to light and sudden temperature change combined would send out an alert signal. Undoubtedly, the public feel safer.’
‘But the biggest threat we face today is from LOSER’s; those suffering Loss Of Strength, Endurance and Responsibility. These dangerous individuals who have given up on themselves and subsequently chose to commit suicide, don’t care who they take down with them. Police work closely with health officials and employers to ensure that those ‘at risk’ are closely monitored, or removed and rehabilitated before they are able to harm loved ones or members of the public. But the official advice is to stay vigilant….’
‘Again Dad, I know all this.’ I say, walking back to the sofa with my half eaten apple.
‘Shush. This is the bit.’
I know what he wants me to see. I also know that turning off the HV won’t stop him going on about it. Once he gets a bee in his bonnet about something, it’s almost impossible to redirect his attention.
‘Myers II realised the final ambition of his late father nine years ago with the introduction of Health Visitors. The job of the Health visitor is largely preventative; to ensure that those identified as ‘at risk’ of becoming LOSER’s are given advice and guidance on lifestyle choices, and Points deductible health care where appropriate. Health visitors have gradually replaced clinics and surgeries as they are trained to diagnose and sometimes treat people in their own homes. They are effectively ‘super nurses.’
‘Myers II has taken the original plan one step further however, with the establishment of Health Farms. He was met with fierce opposition from within the Future party for going against their values; free treatment in some cases, for those too weak to change or failing through their own mistakes only reinforces the old societal standards of dependency on others and on the State. But Myers has rejected this view.’
Our Prime Minister appears before us, standing in the House of Commons.
‘Time out for recovery and lessons in independence can prevent the breakdown of families where one member refuses to pull his or her weight, thus compromising the family’s quality of life. The government will enable the victims in these situations to put themselves first.’
‘Disused prisons across the country have been transformed into Health Farms for the treatment and rehabilitation of the weak and unhealthy. Of course, there are those who don’t make it back into the community after admittance to a Health Farm. It is now recognised that a small number of LOSER’s are incurable.’
As the sound of applause for the PM’s speech fades, Linden Rush’s voice introduces the lady now standing before us.
‘Leading Psychologist Susan Hatt explains:’
‘The will to survive must come from within. It’s not something that we can prescribe for and administer. Using a variety of therapeutic techniques, we are sometimes able to ‘activate’ that will; that determination to continue. But it is not effective in all cases.’
‘Health Farms have helped many families facing difficult decisions about how to manage the care of a helpless relative – especially an elderly one. This time can be invaluable to husbands, daughters, wives and sons tolerating or providing for a needy family member. Some forecasts suggest that an increase in long term stays is inevitable if Myers’ makes Health Farms ‘too comfortable’ or lowers the threshold for eligibility. But Myers has made it clear that Health Farms will always be ‘a last resort, for complete and utter LOSERs.’
‘I know what you’re going to say Dad.’
‘You’re clever enough. You just need to go back and study a bit more.’
‘Actually, you don’t need a degree to be a Health Visitor; you just need a record of clean living and at least sixty five percent in your seventeen plus exam. The training programme is an upload, but it’s not cheap.’
‘See! You know more about it than I do! They get paid lots of money too; more than you do at the warehouse.’
‘It’s not about the money. I don’t want to do it. It’s a horrible job.’
‘What, helping people?’
‘No, not helping people. Interfering. You know what it’s like when our Health Visitor is here. You don’t like her; you’ve said so enough times. You think she’s nosy.’
‘But what about the money? I want you to have a future.’
‘Even if I could afford the training upload Dad, I still don’t want to do it. I’ll find something else. Something better. Anyway, since when have you promoted the ideas of the Prime family? That’s my job.’
‘This one is different Star; he’s not like his Father. He cares what end people come to otherwise there wouldn’t be Health Visitors and Health Farms. Yes, she is a nosy so and so. But better that than no care at all. Too many people died before. One Chance wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right.’
‘Are you sure he’s not just trying to reduce the number LOSER attacks? Or using Farms as part of infection control?’
‘Whatever the reason, he’s still doing the best by people. Even if they do nothing to help themselves, they are still human beings who deserve basic treatment. I want you to think about it. Otherwise, you have to go to University. You’re wasted in that….’
He trails off, his eyes suddenly fixed on a spot on the wall.
He doesn’t answer. He’s gone again.
The Health Visitor comes in four days. That means the whole of Sunday devoted to steam cleaning the flat. We don’t own a cleaning bug so I’ll have to use the steamer. She’ll take swabs from the kitchen surface and the floor of every room to test bacteria levels. She’ll check for particles in the air that could trigger an allergic reaction as Dad had a dust mite allergy as a child. She’ll then ask him how his fortnight has been and use the scanner to check for physical changes in his brain that will no doubt correspond with his symptoms. I will lose two hours work on Monday morning as a result of the visit, then try to make it up in overtime, half hour over four days.
She’s just doing her job. But I wouldn’t want to do it. I wouldn’t want to scrutinise and inspect people in the way that she must. Our home is the only private place we have. Our lives are out there for everyone to see including the Health Visitor’s reports. So in a way, these visits are also public. She said it will take a while for his medication to start working. I’m hoping that by the end of the year he’ll be half the man he used to be, then she won’t ever have to come back. We will never be ‘at risk.’
‘I fancy a walk.’ I say, jumping up off the sofa.
‘Do you want company?’
‘No, I just need a few minutes by myself. Will you be alright?’
‘Yes, of course.’ Then grinning up at me. ‘Bring me back something nice.’
‘A chocolate bar. Whatever you pick up first; I’m not fussed. I think there’s a couple of quid in my jeans. Go and have a look.’
‘Dad. This is the 2078. You can’t just ‘buy’ a chocolate bar, it’s too expensive. And people don’t carry cash anymore, remember?’
‘Oh.’ He says, his eyes returning to the HV, now showing the LIFE Institute in London. I stand waiting for him to say something. Eventually, after I’ve fetched and put on my trainers: ‘Where are you going now my love?’
‘My love’ usually means that he thinks I’m my mother. It’s just ‘love’ when he means me. There’s nothing wrong with his eyes so it must be the angle I’m standing or the fact that I’m wearing my hair down. ‘Dad, it’s me Starla. Mum died seven years ago.’ I squat down and take his hand. He frowns as I hold it up against my cheek. ‘It’s just you and me now. I’m sorry. Now, I’m going to the shop. Can I bring you back anything?’
He thinks it through again, then: ‘Get me some chocolate. Anything you like, I’m not fussed.’