Memory is strange. I can't remember what I did last week, not really. Whether it's the creeping shadow, or the fact that the days are all the same now, I couldn't say. I can half-remember a quote from a book I've never read. Back in the days of newsprint, a novel-review said the writer had quoted it on the first page of that book I never read. That was the last newspaper I bought here in the Wild North. The Sentinel's Melchester office blew up the next day. They say there were no casualties at all. All non-editorial staff had been given the day off for Brexit Day's 10th anniversary. Every journo, subbie, and features editor was in King's Cross, in Londington, at head office. Anyway, here is the quote as I remember it,
'I have seen the future. It's just old people in cities, staring up at the sky.'
That doesn't seem like the present to me. There are no cities left in the Wild North, Englandia to some. Just towns and shells of metropolises with the odd phasonic region dotted within the wreckage, like oases in a desert. It's crazy where these little patches of stability in the chaos are. Chapeltown, in Lodes, for example. Perhaps the areas with least distance to fall into ruin last the longest as communities. And if you spend your time looking up at the sky a trip on a broken paviour will be the least of your problems.
Ourtown Royd's roads are more suitable for tanks than what we used to call a family saloon, so they're no safer than the damaged pavements. Theirtown Royd's roads are better, but - even if I had a vehicle - I couldn't, as an over 50, drive there after dark. In the days before the The Great Schism, younger people used to call us names. It was fair enough, we had a few names for them. It's funny though, I voted against the tide. The youngsters up here all voted for Brexit and then voted for Boris. Now, nearly 30 years later people over 50 aren't welcome, where the young people are. They don't want to see us. Maybe it's because they're ashamed how it all turned out. And those same young people are over 50 now. Banished from youngtowns, like Theirtown Royd.
But I do speak to some young people. We meet in the shell of that hospital I moved near to, you remember. They bring candles. It's dark in whichever of the ruined departments we use. We arrange a time every day, a different time, during the daily power outages. Also by arrangement, if the weather is cold, no one is supposed to come. I always turn up, in case someone does. It's nothing funny, by the way. I just tell them stories of how things used to be. Sometimes we have debates. They're not used to those. I ask one person what they think about Londington, about the North/South divide. They tell me it was Europe's fault. None of them have been to Londington. Europe is a mystery to them. Englandia is all they know.
I explain a few things, try to show how all of this mess is nobody's fault but ours. Some storm off, never come to the hospital again. Others look at me slack-mouthed. Some just whisper, 'bastards'. These sessions are really for me. They remind me of the lectures I used to give, when I started my university career. Later ones not so much.
I tell them there had been a chance. And there had. If only Boris had kept a promise or two.
(Part one is here)
Footnote: Phasonic is a nonce-word, coined for the nonce by me, an adjective derived from phason, from nuclear physics, which means: "A region of non-metallic material of a different phase from that of a surrounding material, within which an electron has become localized, thereby stabilizing the phase of the region". (From the OED).