And that's it...
And that's it...
Daisy stares introspectively into the bottom of her empty mug, tea long since drunk. Her hair falls in an unkempt fringe, blocking out the view of the bloke sitting opposite her in the galley dining hub still quietly sipping from his mug, savouring the sweet tea as though it is his last. His story is fantastical, farcical almost but ultimately horrific. It had taken, in the end, only the press of a button and piece of computer code to roll the centuries back on civilisation. From 21st century modernity to monsters in the space of a minute. A virus, released a year earlier had travelled undetected across the internet, hidden in an online financial transaction. it soon infected every bank, every cash-point, every smart phone, every smartcard, every virtual transaction until, three days after Daisy was sealed into the pod, someone, somewhere pressed send and deleted all the money. All the virtual money in the world gone within seconds. And civilisation ground to a halt. The money was gone and before the systems could reboot, all the records of every transaction were deleted too and in a horrific game of leapfrog, the virus kept jumping into other systems, world health, medical trials, crop data, border controls, voting systems, automated factories, cash tills, shipping routes, air traffic control...
Douglas had paused at this point in his story and explained how he had worked in a call centre, selling insurance and had taken a sabbatical as his doctor had said the stress was killing him, his weight was out of control, his drinking too. He had travelled to Greece to cycle around a few islands for a month as a start to a new lifestyle regime when 'Downfall Day' happened. It's amazing how the end of civilisation can make a difference to a diet. Nearly five years it had taken him to cycle back, through a war ravaged Europe, through famine and fire, through desperation and disease, poverty, plague, hatred. Here and there he had found pockets of sanity, communities clinging on together, who took him in and kept him alive while all around the world fell apart. And it really fell apart. First the cash riots, runs on banks, supermarkets, turning quickly into looting and anarchy. Then, after a year, the Third World War broke out. It didn't last long, unpaid, hungry armies are not great fighters and no one won as as global famine set in. The bloke sighs and continues, '… and that's it really. I managed to get through the tunnel without being eaten and arrived back in England a few weeks ago. I've been trying to find a way past London...'.
'It's not good there. It's never good in the big cities now. The M25 is pretty much blockaded with trucks on the south east side and the tunnels and bridges have been blown up. I'm trying to get past and head up north, I've heard rumours of a place, a community building a new independent country..'
'A new country, in the UK?'
'Yes, like Scotland but not in Scotland.'
'No, no... they're calling it New Cumbria.'
'New Cumbria?' Daisy can't help the sarcasm in her voice at the thought of a post apocalyptic government glamping in the Lakes. 'Are you telling me the UK is going to rebuild itself from the Lake District, of all places. Surely there would be a government bunker somewhere, a high security power base, in London or just outside. This is just crazy. Do you even have a name?' Daisy can feel hysterical laughter beginning to claw at her throat. New Cumbria, it isn't even funny.
'It's just a rumour, a whisper. But at least there I won't be near the cities. There's a strong chance there are communities surviving there, in the mountains.' Douglas has the strong suspicion that Daisy is laughing at him. 'What is this anyhow? A caravan?'
Daisy laughs out loud. 'Yes, it is, I won it in a competition five years ago...it's a long story though. You hungry?'
' Toast OK?'
'Yes... thank you... toast would be lovely.'
Daisy heads off to the kitchen pod to make the toast as Douglas, visibly moved at the kindness of her offer to share her food and not just any food but something as precious and rare these days as bread, wipes away the tears welling up in his eyes and runs a finger around the inside of his mug, to make sure he catches the last dregs of the sweet, sweet tea.
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