Friday, 1 May 2009

Vermin Enlightenment - Early Short Story

This story was produced at the same tume as 'Eden Central' and is a return to the near-future dystopias which filled most of my stories. This one was particularly a complaint at the New Right attitude that only the lazy were unemployed, at the partial privatisation of the National Health Service and the increasingly feeling that you could not longer get on in life unless you attended a fee-paying school. As with many of my stories it thus extrapolated trends of the time. I think it was also inspired by me doing holiday work in food warehouses, especially as a cleaner inside a frozen food one where temperatures were kept at -24°C. I constantly had to dodge into the shelving to avoid the 10m high 'turrets' and the smaller but faster forklift-up trucks as they passed.

Vermin Enlightenment

A figure dropped over the fence into the compound. Though it was a warm Spring night, the figure was clad in heavy padded clothing and its head was swathed in scarfs. It ran around the edge of the compound, close to the fence, skirting the full beam of the lights. Approaching a side door, the figure produced a small saw and cut the padlock, before opening the door and entering the chill interior.

Andrew looked around, carefully. He looked up at the shelves stretching to the ceiling, filled with boxes containing a wide range of foods available to those left in employment. The Rulers decreed no money to those who had no job, to encourage enterprise and self-help, to get those louts out of their beds "... and into their graves" his father had always added. Andrew's eyes watered in the cold air and his breath frosted the scarf covering his mouth.

Around the hall, Andrew could hear the movement of the machines tending the warehouse, in an automatic process which ran constantly without human hand or mind. He leapt back onto an empty shelf as one giant red lifter rolled up the aisle. He waited there until it has passed, then crept cautiously back into the open. Andrew broke into a run, he was searching for the poultry, hoping for chicken. It would be a treat, to have real meat as no-one in his family had tasted it for years. He had been told he would find the chickens at the far end. Reaching this area, he looked across the various boxes, reading the labels slowly.

Andrew, like most, whose parents could not afford school fees, was only semi-literate. Reading was a matter of what you picked up from the newspapers and advertisements. Andrew was unsure of what he was looking for. His father had been a near expert, but he had died a week before, at home, attended by his family. His father, of course, could never had afforded the health insurance payments.

Ahead Andrew spotted a pile of discarded foodstuffs, even the machines were not perfect. He rushed forward, noticing packs of meat strewn on the top near the wall. As he moved towards the pile, rapidly, Andrew felt a burst of pain to his ankle as the trap snapped shut. He could not move, the snare was cemented to the hard floor. Andrew struggled, shouting in vain in the inhuman, freezing environment.

A large automatic forklift appeared, but mercifully the figure had lost consciousness, from the pain, as the computer recorded:

"00.35-removal of vermin."

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