Written for a New Scientist competition to write a short story about the future in 350 words or under.
The border point was along a quiet, non-electrified B-road in the middle of the countryside. It was secluded and there were guns. Richard held Jeanette’s hand.
“So, you want entry into Rutland?” asked the Guard.
Richard swallowed, but stuck to the plan. “Citizenship actually....Refugee status even,” he added, seeing the look on the Guard’s face.
Don’t babble, he thought to himself. Be strong. You’re the one with the power here.
“Look, we’ve been on the move for a year now, ever since Surrey enacted the Native Wealth Laws and threw us out because Jeanette was born in Kent. We work where we can – we work hard, we’re science teachers – but no-one wants us. Lincolnshire has given us a five-day transit visa but it runs out today and if we’re caught we’ll be Interned.
“And,” he concluded in a whisper,” I can’t let that happen.”
They stepped off the road to let an oil-burner go past. Richard coughed from the stench of its exhaust. There had even been a driver behind the wheel. What sort of Godforsaken backwater was this?
“Look, mate,” said the Guard. “There’s not a lot I can do. Unless, of course, you have special reasons for me to look into your case...”
He left the sentence hanging. Richard sighed.
“Bananas?” said the Guard. “Tea? Coffee? We’re landlocked here and trade negotiations aren’t going well.”
“I’m sorry,” said Richard. “We’ve given away everything just to get here.”
The Guard leaned in and whispered earnestly. “Can you fight? It’s starting to look mean over Leicestershire way.”
Richard shook his head.
“Well, then, be off with you,” the Guard shouted. “We have no use for your type here.”
“But where can we go? We’ve tried all the borders!”
“Have you tried the sea?” the Guard sneered, and stalked off.
Richard went to leave and reached for Jeanette’s hand, but she took a step forwards.
“I can show you how to make mustard gas,” she said.
The Guard turned.
One from Strange Maps-
"It matters where we are, for it helps determine who we are. Or, as the quote often attributed to Napoleon states: Geography is destiny. That destiny extends to drink, as demonstrated by this map. Where we are determines to a statistically significant degree what kind of alcohol we prefer. Or is it the other way around: the kind of alcohol preferred is determined by the place where it is produced?
This map shows Europe dominated by three so-called ‘alcohol belts’, the northernmost one for distilled spirits, a middle one for beer and the southernmost one for wine. Each one’s existence and extension are a mix of culture and agriculture."
442 – Distilled Geography: Europe’s Alcohol Belts - Strange Maps
This is quite simply brilliant: a cheat sheet for mad scientists to hang in their time machines so that they can fundamentally rebuild civilisation (or at least make serious amounts of money) if they end up stranded back in the past. Have to admit to thinking about this in the past, probably as a result of a boyhood collision with some L Sprague de Camp book or other, so there's definitely a market for it!
Would presumably also work in advent of nuclear war, asteroid impact, or any other chance to rebuild civilisation. Nifty
TopatoCo: Time Traveler Essentials Print