March 17, 2010

Here’s the second chapter of my novel, Railroaded. As with the first chapter, it’s a little over 4,000 words.

You can read the first chapter here.


Isaac slowly stirred and pulled the duvet over his head and revelled in the silence. Isaac had avoided the temperature controlled bed since Nicole had passed away, a guilty pleasure. Sleeping at a constant temperature had never fully agreed with him but it was a compromise as Nicole also wanted the media display playing in the background to help her get to sleep. This was something Isaac couldn’t abide, he required absolute silence to drift away so the display used to be switched off whilst the bed maintained a constant two degree’s above body temperature. Now everything was unplugged.

It was four days since the auction and Isaac hadn’t done much since. The house remained as it was; nothing was moved or thrown away, he hadn’t done any cleaning, washing or been shopping. He wasn’t the most active of individuals around the house but this was exceptional inactivity. Isaac wasn’t too concerned about slipping into depression, it wouldn’t happen to him. Boredom was the biggest fear facing Isaac. What was he going to with himself? Without Nicole performing the unthankful task of knocking him into shape on a daily basis and keeping all the little things ticking over; cleaning, shopping, managing bills, answering email, keeping in touch with family and friends, Isaac could see himself spiralling further and further out of orbit.

Isaac threw the duvet back as a symbol of defiance and strode purposefully to the bathroom, only because he couldn’t hold it in any longer. Whilst sitting on the toilet he addressed the mirror to his left, “What’s the morning report please?” His grandmother would have slapped his wrist for not saying please, even to a computerised mirror.

“Today is the 23rd September 2066 and the current time is 9.33am. The weather today in Wigthorn will start off overcast getting brighter in the afternoon. Temperatures will average 20C. Traffic flow in Wigthorn is fairly light with no major road works. In politics, Oregon and Washington have completed their joint secession from the United States of America. This brings the total of seceded states to 12 since the final appeal in the ‘Waterworld Absentia’ case was denied at The International Court of Justice in The Hague five years ago. The CEO of the United States, Lakisha Gonzalez was saddened by this loss but remained hopeful that relations between the US and the succeeded states would remain amicable and trade would continue to grow…”

Isaac let the news enter one ear and pass out the other; staring into the mirror he questioned the future as he tried to find meaning in the past staring back.

“In business, RoofTech published their final report on their energy renewal contracts due to be released to the first UK customers next month. Special deals are available now so act quickly! In sport, Wigthorn Rovers completed a shock win over Manchester United last night at the Pharmara Stadium, with Darshana Grabowski scoring a last minute free kick. He becomes the first Englishman to score in the European Super League for 24 years. Wigthorn Rovers are now drawn to play Brighton & Hove Albion in the second round; tickets are already on sale for this eagerly awaited local derby. In other news, Jayden Spears received The Noble Prize for Pop Music. There are a few household requirements awaiting your approval, would you like to go through them now ‘Sugarpops’?”

Isaac let out a laugh. Nicole sometimes called Isaac ‘Sugarpops’, as well as other similarly embarrassing terms of endearment in their more intimate moments, she liked to update the central computer to refer to Isaac in the same way.

“Sissy, please can you change my name from Sugarpops to Isaac?”

“Yes Sugarpops.”

“I’ll go through the household items later Sissy.”

Sissy was actually C.I.C.S.I., Centrally Integrated Computer Systems Intelligence, the central computer that controlled every function in the house from answering the door and cooking a roast chicken to recycling water and redirecting excess energy back to the national grid. Every household had one and most programmed the personality settings to resemble a woman in her thirties with the same accent as the household owners. Women feel safer with a woman in control and men like the dominance of having a woman in control. Of course there are exceptions, when students get their first house these generalities go out the window. The amount of computer hacks for personalities such as; superhero, pornographic model, extremely effeminate gay man, strict sergeant major and a fictional Igor-type dogsbody, is immense and has sustained a highly lucrative industry for a few decades.

“I’ve finished Sissy.” With this, warm water sprayed up Isaac’s backside to clean him followed by a rush of soft air. Being part of the older generation bought up with toilet paper, this always felt unnatural and embarrassing but since the UK’s Self-Sufficiency Act of 2018 there was an intense drive to push unnecessary wastage out of society and one of the first items to go was toilet paper.

Isaac stood in front of the mirror and leaned with one hand on the sink as the other hand brushed his teeth; he spat into the bowl and rinsed his mouth out with water. Isaac curled his lips up and fully exposed his teeth like a growling dog with a crazed smile, twirled the toothbrush around and turned on the ‘Whitening Light’, running the beam over his teeth. Isaac wasn’t convinced this actually did anything but Nicole had insisted so much it was now an ingrained habit. Marketing had pushed his boundaries of credibility a long time ago.

Isaac looked towards the bathroom door, this was usually the time Nicole walked in and stole the shower. If she didn’t have a camera in here watching him then she had a sixth sense for it.

Isaac suspiciously eyed the white specks around his ears and tapering around the back, contrasting with his black hair, and wondered whether he should trim it to stem the advancing whitening but talked himself into doing it tomorrow. He had taken advantage of facial laser hair removal so he never had to shave, this went some way to explain the smooth appearance of his skin; he also didn’t laugh very much either. Isaac got compliments whenever he told anyone his age; Nicole loved hearing it and said he was her toy boy even though he was older at 70 and she too, looked far younger. Nicole had belied her years but was now on the other side of the mirror aiding further advances in skin and hair treatments and ‘genemetics’ in the afterlife.

“Shower.”

Isaac stepped straight into the shower and simply stood for a few minutes not doing anything. He hadn’t showered for a few days so he soon began scrubbing and washing his hair. It was refreshing, awakening him to the fact that the rest of his life started today, it felt good. No more sitting around in a numb daze. Nicole wasn’t coming back and if he didn’t start looking after himself properly his life would be taken out of his hands and he’d end up in a facility somewhere. Isaac had his work and from now on he would step up production and efficiency, he would throw himself into it. He wasn’t aiming to leave a legacy behind but a profit for his granddaughter, Abby.

“Dry.”

The shower stopped and was replaced by warm air coming from all sides of the shower cubicle. Isaac may not have got used to the paperless toilet experience but the towelless shower experience was something he never tired of.

“Spray.”

Finally, a freshening, moisturising spray lightly covered his entire body. It dried off by the time he walked back into the bedroom leaving behind a pleasant cologne. Isaac dressed for work which was simply jeans, short sleeved shirt and casual shoes. Isaac walked down into the kitchen, illuminated as he went like a singer followed by the spotlight, the lights turning on when he entered an area and turning off again once he had left.

Isaac stepped into the modern, open planned kitchen/dining area and began making himself breakfast; freshly squeezed orange juice, muesli mixed with various fruits and a couple of slices of toast. Sitting there eating and scrolling through the morning’s headlines on the kitchen table media display, Sissy’s voice broke the silence.

“Isaac, your faecal and urinal waste results have now been analysed and there’s…”

“Sissy! Sissy! Why do you always do this when I’m eating?” Isaac said throwing his hands up to the ceiling, “I’ll ask you for a report later.”

“OK Sugarpops.” Sissy missed Nicole too.

Isaac didn’t need to ask Sissy about the report; he knew what irregularities there were. Isaac’s consumption of contraband throughout the years had taken its toll, as it had with Nicole. The one saving grace about this habit of taking illegal substances was that Isaac had managed to calibrate Sissy’s external reporting so that this information was not fed to the external world and therefore alerting the authorities. Isaac allowed Sissy’s analysis to remain functional within the four walls of their house in case anything irregular did show itself, but the automated reporting to the outside went through one of Isaac’s specially configured filters. Like a pet unknowingly eating a pill hidden in its food, Sissy was little more than a loyal dog.

Others would have called Isaac a junkie but it was the rest of the world who was under the influence. Isaac couldn’t quit because he didn’t want to. He had no desire or motivation to give up and because of this his work revolved around the continual acquirement of supplies and the selling of product to make money. Calling Isaac a junkie was only half true because he was also a dealer.

Isaac left his cup and bowl on the kitchen table for the robotic ceiling arms to take care of and stepped out of the patio doors into the back garden. It was time to go to work. He walked to the left of the garden and stuck his hand into a bush and pulled a false weed upwards and then let go. A computerised, male voice whispered.

“Please wait 2 minutes for a clear window.”

Isaac casually stood waiting on the patio and cast an expert eye over the lawn and flora that lay before him. The manicured lawn was about the size of a tennis court, surrounded by a high wall and bordered on three sides by a flower bed lush with many varieties he had collected over the years. At the bottom of the garden were 10 tall pine trees standing grandly in front of the far wall, dressed in climbing ivy.

“Satellite gone, clear skies above confirmed.”

A dark line suddenly appeared across the centre of the lawn, running from left to right. The back half of the lawn remained as it was whilst the front half lowered itself by half a metre and started receding underneath the back half of the lawn. As the front disappeared it revealed the reflective surface of many green, rectangle solar panels that slightly tilted southeast towards the sun which made its daily arc across the front of the house.

Isaac then whispered back to the bush, “Open Sesame.” with that the steps that led from the patio down to the lawn sunk further into the patio to reveal another set of steps that led further down underneath the solar panels. Isaac walked down until the steps ended in front of a big, secure metal door; in the centre was a heavy wheel like flood doors found on a ship. He turned the wheel and then pushed the door open. His face was brightened by the strong light coming from within. He squinted as he walked in and sat at the large desk situated in the corner immediately to his left. After consulting the huge display on the wall behind the desk and taking stock of the readings, he swivelled around in his chair, leaned back with hands behind his head and surveyed the rest of the room.

The plants were lined up with military precision matching the lights above. The nursery was noticeably divided by age; opposite Isaac’s desk in the right hand corner were shelves of seedlings, each box marked with the plant name, dates and its own little sun shining down upon it. Next, along the right side of the wall were bigger shelves containing bigger plants, the shoots were breaking through the soil and some had the odd leaf sprouting from them. On the opposite side of the room, on the left hand side were the adolescent plants; most were about half a metre in height, others taller, standing like a regiment on parade. The rear half of the nursery was completely closed off by a wall with a door in the middle. Isaac walked through the middle of the nursery in between the rows of forbidden flora, each stage of development adding to Isaac’s crime and length of incarceration should he be caught. The door was opened to reveal the star witness in an open and shut case; a hydroponic heaven illuminated by a thousand suns. Walking into this closed section of the nursery was like walking onto another planet. It was hot, so hot yet lush with plants. Isaac took off his shirt and left it outside, shut the door behind him and activated the watering system which sprayed a fine mist over the plants. Walking through this man-made rainforest under an ordinary English seaside town was a joy Isaac never grew tired of. Caring for his plants, inspecting every single one with tenderness and concern, he could spend hours down here. Without Nicole here to steal him away for herself, he would.

Percy, the nursery CICSI, bastard step-brother to Sissy, spoke again, “Isaac, I have detected a satellite will be overhead in 20 minutes. Would you like to exit now or will you remain within the nursery?”

“I’ll stay here; you can close it up thank you Percy.”

“There is enough power and water for three days Isaac.”

Isaac wasn’t worried about lack of power or water, there was always enough to sustain the nursery, a warmer world is a wetter world. Isaac was more interested in the personal care of his plants; his source of revenue, his sustenance and his passion. Isaac wasn’t leaving for at least half an hour, so he asked Percy to activate an old gardener’s trick he’d learnt from his grandfather. It had no real scientific background and was probably more for Isaac’s sake than the plants, but nonetheless, Isaac saw it as a vital element of the horticulturalist’s armoury, “Percy, can you continue with Mozart’s ‘La Finta Giardiniera’ please.”

An hour passed quickly, lost in the work, the smells and the music. He couldn’t deny that the secretive nature and the element of risk added to the whole experience, it seemed more worthwhile. Isaac was expecting a client soon, so he cleared things away, checked over all the plants one last time, gathered some home-grown to take back into the house and left the nursery to hide itself away again. A secret at the bottom of the garden.

Isaac didn’t have many clients mainly because he didn’t want to arouse suspicion but also demand for his natural product had declined over recent years. Society now wanted man-made, genetically enhanced products reinforced by excessively gilded marketing ideals. Going underground was no longer an option for many natural idealists as it was becoming ever more expensive, time consuming and increasingly harder to achieve without arousing the suspicions of the omnipotent satellite and tracking coverage. Breaking statistical patterns was almost as dangerous as breaking copyright law.

Isaac was in the kitchen washing his hands when Sissy announced his client’s arrival, “Mr. Julius Talent is at the door with a companion.”

Isaac wasn’t expecting a companion, “Who is the other person Sissy?”

“I am not familiar with the DNA. It is a male, early 30’s, white, similar to Mr. Talent. The image is on the display now.”

Isaac examined the display within the kitchen table but still did not recognise the other man, “Let me speak with them.” Sissy activated the external speaker. “Hi Julius, I didn’t know you were bringing company today.”

“Isaac, Isaac,” said Julius light-heartedly, “Don’t worry mate. You know what we spoke about yesterday…look, do I have to do this on the doorstep? This is Morgan. Morgan Harris. He’s kosher mate. Let us in.”

“Let them in Sissy.”

Julius and Morgan walked in and Isaac gave Julius a warm handshake and welcomed him into his house. “Nice to see you again Julius, how you been?”

“’Jules’ please!” Julius looked at Morgan, “He always calls me ‘Julius’ like my old man!”

Julius grabbed a book out from a brightly coloured, well sealed courier bag hanging down from his right shoulder and handed it to Isaac, “I’m doing good man. Here, I got you a little pressie.”

Isaac read the front cover, ‘Unusual Jams from Unusual Fruits’. Isaac smiled like a slice of melon, “Wow! Thanks so much, how do you get your hands on these things?”

Julius tapped his nose and winked at Morgan.

Isaac showed Morgan the back cover with the primitive barcode, “I don’t know how Julius and his lot do it. Look, this was printed over 50 years ago in 2011.”

Morgan appreciated the rarity of the printed word, “It’s in good nick too. Amazing what those ‘Unrecorded’ boys find lying around under the radar, isn’t it?”

Isaac nodded, his head already buried in the contents page.

Julius got down to business, “After we spoke yesterday about you stepping up operations as it were I thought you may want to branch out into some new areas. Plus here’s a new client for you, this is Morgan.” Isaac and Morgan shook hands. “Morgan here is an old mate of my brothers, he was telling me last week of his increasingly severe stomach pains. They sound like they were much like mine were all those years ago when we first met.”

Isaac turned to address Morgan, “How long have you been having these stomach pains?”

“About 2 years now. At first they were easy to cope with but the past 4 months have turned to agony. I can’t sleep through the night, my job is suffering and it’s starting to affect my family now. Julius says that you were able to help him so I’m hoping you might be able to do the same for me.”

Isaac motioned for Julius and Morgan to sit down in the lounge, “Anyone like a drink?” Both men declined. “So Morgan, have you been to a doctor about these pains?”

“Yeah, I went when they first started happening. He did the usual and gave me a box of colour coded pills with an equally colourful schedule but that did nothing for me. If anything, it made it worse. I got a second opinion after a year of continual pain and received another load of pills that didn’t do anything either. I’ve also been trying different diets, even the crazy ones, without any success.”

“From what I heard a few days ago, the diets are set to get even crazier.” Isaac then got down to business, “Morgan, what I do is illegal, you know that right?”

“Yeah, Julius explained everything. You’ve no worries from me; I’m only interested in sorting my stomach out.”

“All those drugs you’ve been taking, they’re the wrong kind of treatment. You shouldn’t be taking those. Come into the kitchen with me, let me show you something.”

Isaac led Morgan and Julius to the fridge, opened the door and revealed the products of his green fingered handiwork to Morgan.

“What is that?” Morgan asked, his eyes attracted to the brightest object.

“A tomato.”

“No way, that’s too small to be a tomato. That’s a red currant isn’t it?”

“No, no, that is an original tomato untouched by human ingenuity. That is the kind of tomato you would have found growing in English gardens 100 years ago.” Isaac reached inside the refrigerator and grabbed a couple of tomatoes and handed one each to Morgan and Julius. “Take a look, touch it, smell it, taste it.”

Morgan handled the tomato as though it was made of paper thin glass, “It’s so small, so soft.”

“That’s because modern tomato skins have been engineered to resist the rigors of hotter summers and stronger pesticides. They’ve been made bigger to increase yield per square metre. Taste it.”

Morgan put it to his lips and took a bite. The juices ran down his chin and all over his hand, Isaac handed him a towel. “My God, it’s so succulent. Not as sweet as a regular one but so much more tasty. I never really rated tomatoes before but this is delicious.”

As Julius and Morgan enjoyed their tomatoes, Isaac continued talking, “Your problem is your diet. Everyone’s problem is their diet but you, like Julius, have stomachs that have reacted more acutely to all the rubbish we’re putting into our bodies nowadays. That tomato you’re eating is made from illegal seeds. Those seeds are manufactured by Mother Nature and do not fall under any patents or DNA restrictions; therefore they are now deemed illegal. If those tomato seeds are found to have infected a genetic crop of tomatoes, the ramifications would be crippling. The food industry takes their genetic patents very seriously.”

“How can something natural be illegal?” Morgan questioned, taking another bite of the tomato.

“If it’s a poison.” Isaac answered promptly. “Ungenetically modified seeds and farm animal semen are classified as ‘poisons’; they were once classified as ‘natural’. Removing natural fruit and vegetables and leaving behind only patented versions not only means improved productivity but exclusive rights. People used to grow their own tomatoes, beetroot, cabbages, lettuces, carrots, runner beans, apples, blackcurrants and a load more. Look inside your tomato, what do you see in there that is strange to you?”

Morgan examined his tomato, “There are little yellow things in here. Are they bugs?” Morgan looked at Isaac with a concerned face that his delicate stomach was now trying to digest insects of some kind.

“No, they’re seeds. With those seeds you can grow new tomato plants. From one tomato you could potentially grow about 20 new plants, from 20 plants you could get around 1000 tomatoes, and so on, and so on. So do you understand why the food industry removes the seeds from their tomatoes? They don’t want to include the blueprints within the product.”

“Are they safe to eat, these seeds? A tomato plant won’t grow in my stomach will it?” enquired Morgan suspiciously.

Isaac smiled at Julius, “You said the same thing. No, no, go ahead; you can eat the whole thing, its fine. We humans have been eating all of Mother Nature’s produce for thousands of years and now over the last 70 years we’ve radically changed our diet from natural fruit, vegetables and meat to genetically transformed foods with an extra helping of pharmaceutical drugs added into the mix. Human stomachs are collectively going through the worst period in their existence since the last ice age.”

“Well, I’ve certainly worked up an appetite.” said Julius, hinting towards more.

“Yeah, that tomato was great. I’d love to try some other fruits and vegetables if possible Isaac.” Morgan confirmed.

“OK, its lunchtime anyway so let me give you a special introductory offer of lunch, some supplies and a cookery lesson. Has Julius advised you about the necessary steps we have to take to keep this from the various authorities; storage, transportation, waste management, etc?”

“Yeah, Julius is taking me to see another guy to get some of the more technical supplies.”

“OK, good.” Isaac walked over to the fridge, opened it again and started pulling out a wide selection of fruits and vegetables and placing them on the kitchen table.

“Do you grow all this yourself Isaac?” asked Morgan.

Isaac turned away from his guests at the kitchen table and explored the refrigerator to conceal his face which would surely betray his words, as it always did. “No, there’s a guy out in the country, far beyond the main systems of tracking or surveillance, who travels into Wigthorn once a week. Nice guy.”

Once the lie had finished, Isaac came out of hiding, speaking to his guests freely, “So let me show you one way of turning all this into a tasty and healthy lunch your stomach will appreciate. Have you ever heard of a ‘Caesar Salad’?”



Feel free to post any comments about chapter 2!

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