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.