What if Mother Nature thought we humans were out of control and decided to reset population growth? How would it be if you somehow woke up 100 years after the event and didn’t find anything like what you see in the movies? What if violence and mayhem hadn’t come to rule, and that what you found was all peaceful and nice?
The year is 2130.
World population: 1 million.
Current fertility rate: 98%
Loosely based on an actual virus outbreak in Australia in 1997. The “Menangle Virus” was transmitted from bats to pigs to people. It caused illness in people. It caused massive infertility in pigs. This “Paramyxo” virus was localised and didn’t spread very far, fortunately.
New World Order in the year 2130
Adam and Rachel check into their rooms and meet in the hotel bar for a drink before bedtime.
Adam shakes his head. “So the system—the government—is right here in Geneva?”
“Yes. Seventy-two representatives from all over the world—three from Australia—sitting around big tables coming up with ideas for new laws or to change old ones.”
Adam nods ponderingly. “And they decide everything for everyone?”
“Nope. They decide what new things to propose. Then we all vote yes or no. And if we vote no, we get to leave a message as to why we didn’t like the idea. And the teams of analysts and researchers go through all that and figure out something better if required.”
“You all vote?”
“It’s not compulsory. We teach at school how important it is… I pick the topics that interest me and read up and vote on them. Most people do.
“Anything else, history guy?”
Adam shrugs. “I’m guessing there are no homeless or starving people in the world these days?”
“You guess correctly. Everyone either works or studies and the basic essentials are free in return. Housing, clothing, groceries, transport, medical. The 20 hour commitment to work or study gives enough income for a reasonable amount of leisure and luxury on top of the basics. Work a bit harder or smarter if you want extras.”
“And does the system tell you where you have to work?”
“Nope. The system owns about 90 percent of all enterprises. Pick whatever you want to do and apply for the job. If you can start an enterprise of your own and make it work, that’s fine. It will be registered as suitable work. If you’re good enough at tennis or screen acting or painting or music or something—same deal. You can do it professionally and it counts for your 20 hours. Or you can teach it.”
Rachel rolls her head to face Adam. She’s smiling. “I watch all the old movies. I know what you’re seeing differently… There’s no excess now though. There’s no point accumulating great wealth because you can’t pass it down to your children. Nothing is transferable. If you die wealthy, the system simply reclaims everything.”
“You can’t leave anything for your kids? You can’t leave them a business that you’ve built or the family home?”
“Nope. The only person you can transfer assets or significant credit to is a spouse. Kids have to start from scratch and earn it themselves.”
Adam finishes off his Bourbon. “That sounds unfair.”
“It’s generally viewed as tough love for kids and equity for everyone. No zillionaires and no homeless or starving people… But you can suggest changes to our local representative or look for interest groups on the subject—try to push your ideas and get them voted on… I don’t know—maybe intergenerational wealth transfer wouldn’t be as damaging as they say—maybe you should be able to leave something to your kids.”
Rachel finishes her wine and stands. “Are we going?”
Adam walks her to her room. His is next door. She turns to face him and he takes hold, cuddling her and meeting her sweet, warm lips. Rachel backs through her door, pulling Adam with her. They’re still locked in a kiss as they stumble onto a couch. Adam is on top, plundering Rachel’s open mouth with his tongue. He has one arm around her and the other hand free to explore. He feels a breast through a thin knitted top, beneath that the lacy texture of a bra. He squeezes as Rachel arches upward against his hand. He finds her nipple and toys with the firmness of it.
Rachel breaks their kiss and meet’s Adam’s eyes. She glances down at her chest. “Um…”
Adam strokes up to her neck and face. He caresses over an ear. “Sorry. Couldn’t help myself any longer.”
“Oh?” Rachel chews a lip. “That much is nice, but I don’t usually… You know, this soon…”
Adam feels his face flush. “Yeah sure. Of course.”
“I mean, it’s not that I don’t want to.”
“No, I get that… It’s too fast. Too soon.” Adam takes another small kiss and smiles. “It feels right to me, though.”
“Ha! Shocker! Like it doesn’t always feel right to you men.”
Adam chuckles. “Yeah, I guess…”
“Oh, you guess, do you?” Rachel pokes Adam’s chest with a finger. “I just want to wait a bit longer before we go any further than this, Adam. It’s just all new and who even knows what’s going to happen?”
“With my memory?” Adam strokes a wisp of hair and kisses the beautiful woman beneath him again. “I get that… I know this could end any minute, Rachel… You’re right we shouldn’t get too carried away.”
Rachel’s pretty eyes sparkle. “Thank you,” she says sweetly and smiles. “I don’t see any danger in kissing and cuddling like this, though… I’m not feeling tired at all. Are you?”
“No. Not at all.”
“We could watch a movie? Or just watch the city? There’s a great view from out there.”
Adam looks to the balcony doors. “Might need a coat.”
Rachel points. “There’s a big blanket right there. We could share?”
The hotel room is on the eighth level and has a view of a glistening lake and parklands. In the distance the city of Geneva is alight. Parliament House is a sprawling, low level building flying the flags of every nation. Beyond it and built into the parkland are the research campus facilities where every aspect and function of society is governed, micro-management within the various industries occurring at production sites around the globe.
“Those apartments look much the same as ours, though,” Adam comments. He’s in a big comfy chair with Rachel cuddled on his lap.
“Community apartments are pretty standard,” she answers disinterestedly. Ours were built from scratch. Others were reclaimed after quarantine… I think this is all mostly reclaimed. They’ve just refurbished it all and bulldozed what they didn’t need.”
Rachel is quiet for a moment then goes on, “So, what about your ex-girlfriend? You said you wanted to get back with her.”
Adam chuckles. “Don’t see how that’s very possible.”
“I know, but in here.” Rachel taps Adam’s chest.
Adam takes a breath. “Actually—in all honesty—I haven’t even thought about Amanda since I’ve been here. She’s not even crossed my mind.”
“But you were in love with her, weren’t you?”
“I thought so… I don’t know. Back there I’m a bit of a loser. Or that’s how I feel, anyway… I’m 34 and have got nothing. I’m not educated and don’t have very good prospects… Now that I think clearly about it, I wonder if I was clinging to Amanda a bit.”
“Ha. That sounds very familiar to me.”
“What, with your ex?”
“Yeah, I was definitely clinging. I can see that clearly now too.”
“But you’ve got a good job and that,” Adam kisses pretty smelling hair. “And you’re hot.”
Rachel giggles. “No, history guy. You’re the one who’s hot.”
“Yeah, you mean Cooper.”
“No. You’re the one inside, Adam. Eyes are nothing without the personality behind them.”
“Hmm… That’s a good point… I like your eyes.” Adam strokes the beautiful woman’s face and kisses her again. She responds passionately, their bodies huddled together beneath a heavy, tasselled blanket, the night meandering on as they talk and often just shut up and kiss some more.
The next morning Adam and Rachel are on another bullet train winding through the abandoned streets of city after city up through Germany and across into Poland. Stops are every hour or so, the train only about half full of passengers at any time. The warm, silent journey takes Adam and his dream-girl travel companion through Belarus and into Russia.
There is a sizable community in the centre of Moscow. Adam and Rachel alight the train there and check into the historic Ukraine Hotel on the bank of the Moscow River. It’s not quite nightfall. They take a stroll and Rachel pulls Adam into a small supermarket. She gives him a plastic basket and leads him around putting in it toiletries for herself and picking out a new deodorant and some men’s soap for him. They collect a couple of apples and pack their groceries into a cloth shopping bag provided.
“Where’s the red thumb thingy?” Adam is looking around. There is no checkout of any description that he can see. The shop is seemingly unattended and open to the street.
Rachel rolls eyes. “You don’t buy stuff like this, Adam.” She tosses him his apple.
He follows her outside and catches up. “But you have to pay at a café.”
“That’s prepared food, with service. These are basic essentials.”
They stroll back across a bridge and brush off the snow before entering the hotel lobby. Dinner that evening is in the Ukraine’s fine dining restaurant. People around are speaking Russian mostly, but the waitress is bilingual. “Try the Borsht then Kulebyaka,” she suggests. “That’s a nice plain local meal with your rye bread there.”
Adam has to get that bill on their way out, since they’ve exhausted the budget provided by the system. They have another cuddle while watching the Moscow skyline that night. The next morning they reboard the same train they had the previous day.
Stops on this leg of their journey are several hours apart, the single rail mounted alongside the old Siberian train line, the country a blanket of pure white and the small settlements barely towns let alone cities.
That night the train crosses the Euro/Asian continental border and berths in the population hub of Ekaterinburg, where Adam and Rachel have another booked hotel room, and they again stroll and stretch their legs before trying some more Russian cuisine.
The endless fields of white continue east of Ekaterinburg and into the depths of Siberia the following morning. Adam watches with interest an older style train passing in the opposite direction. It’s running on two tracks and is driven by diesel engines.
“It’s just a goods train. They connect everywhere too, and cart everything from place to place,” Rachel explains sleepily. She’s trying to cuddle up but rolls over instead.
“And what about across oceans? There’s still big ocean liners for that?”
“Yep. You’ll see when we get to Hong Kong.”
Adam lifts the armrest, creating a love seat. He snuggles, spooning behind Rachel and pulling up their blanket. She smiles back at him and meets his lips, and she takes his hand and places it upon her breast.
“Ooh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about,” Adam whispers into her hair.
“Yes. That’s what I’m afraid of,” she tosses back at him with a giggle.
The bullet train spears onward, and after a final stop in Siberia it heads south and up into the icy highlands of Mongolia. It’s a good six hours before the lights of the city of Ulanbator breaks the pitch darkness. The train only stops for passengers then powers on towards China. It’s daylight again now. Adam watches in fascination as massive industrial cities pass beyond the tinted glass. The air is clear—visibility to the horizon. Nothing lives in the cities other than greenery and wildlife.
Adam and Rachel spend the night and freshen up in a hotel in Beijing before the final Asian leg of their journey has them in the busy seaport of Hong Kong. Adam learns from a local man that this is a shipping and land transport hub for all of the southern Pacific, China, Japan and right through to India. Other ports in Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the Mediterranean service those arms of the grid, linking with several major ports around the American continent.
“That must be us,” Rachel says, indicating a small jet being serviced across the tarmac from where they’re lunching in the airport terminal.
“Oh no. Don’t they have anything bigger?”
“That’s plenty big enough, and I can’t wait to get home now. How about you?”
“Yeah, I never want to see snow again.”
“Oh, you do so. That’s so amazing. It’s so beautiful and clean and fresh.”
“And cold,” Adam adds, getting up and taking Rachel’s free hand.
They cross the tarmac and board the jet. The take-off has Adam gripping his armrests again, the power of the sleek little machine driving him back into his seat. It’s a 6 hour flight, a couple of movies then a meal seeing most of that time pass. The mechanics of this strange new world intrigue Adam. He’s watching clouds out the window and mulling over all he has seen and learnt. Rachel is playing euchre with some people via the device they were using earlier for movies. Adam waits for the game she’s currently playing to end.
“So, I have another question, teacher.”
“Oh yeah? It’s not politics again, is it?”
“Nope. I don’t think so.”
Rachel turns with a smile. “Well, out with it then.”
“Well, it’s obvious to see there’s like zero crime anywhere. There’s no way to steal anything when everything’s free anyway. And you said there’s no prisons or anything anymore… Zero violence.”
“That’s right. There are disputes that require mediation and there’s no shortage of relationship dramas because of people being less than sincere or, I don’t know, just silly and jealous or whatever. There’s no violence or theft or anything, though. It’s all there in the films and books from history but none of that survived the virus.”
“What do you mean, it didn’t survive the virus? How does a virus change people in that way?”
Rachel shrugs. “Well, the virus was just a virus. It made women infertile—almost all women. It wiped out a generation and set us back to square one as a population. Of course it had no effect on psychology. It didn’t change anyone’s propensity to violence or theft. The simple fact of the matter is that no one with that propensity exists today… The reason for that is well researched and a complete mystery.”
“So, it’s like there’s been a selection process. Like judgement has been passed.”
Rachel giggles. “Oh no. I’m not going there thank you very much. I’ll leave it to the scientists to figure it out.”
“But stuff like this was prophesized in scripture, wasn’t it?”
“Thankfully we don’t do scripture anymore. That ended with the virus as well. It’s there in history books but no one preaches or prays anymore. Not publicly or in mass anyway.”
Adam glares incredulously. “No one? Like, there’s no churches and that now? No mosques, temples for worship?”
“No, but wasn’t that all just cultural anyway? Didn’t what people believe and have faith in simply depend on where they were born—into which culture..?” Rachel huffs. “People killing each other in the name of their god and priests raping children..? No thank you… Right and wrong is in your heart, history guy. There’s a direct line right there to every moral answer anyone ever needs. What we have in the world today requires no scripture, and we’re all on exactly the same page. The one that says the power and responsibility is entirely within.”
Rachel turns off her device and settles back in her seat. “And anyway, I think you’re into all that. Or at least Cooper is.”
“What do you mean?”
“I saw the icon on your big screen at home. There’s an online group into all that silly ‘meaning of life’ stuff. Dad’s into it too. Lots of people are.”
Adam takes that in. He doesn’t see how it’s any more absurd than his own presence. “There’s clearly been some sort of selection process, Rachel. Not all people are nice and honest. Most are, but not all.”
Rachel takes a moment to respond. “I’m just glad that for whatever reason the good stuff won. Some of the things from before the virus seemed to be really horrible… It must have been so hard for some of those poorer people.”
Adam nods. “True.”
“And I don’t dismiss people wanting to understand what happened to change things… I don’t know about our souls being judged and there being some kind of selection process, though… I respect peoples’ opinion about all that, but I like to see hard evidence, personally.”
“Hey, me too,” Adam agrees. “I’m just blown away by even being here!”
Rachel tucks her legs up and leans close. She touches Adam’s shirt. “I’m glad you’re here.”
Adam peers down at her face but she doesn’t look up.
“I can’t wait to get back to your place,” she says, blushing a little as her pretty eyes lift.
She’s biting a lip. She nods. “Yes.”
Adam softly takes her lips. His heart thumps. “Do you mean..?”
She nods again. “If you want to.”
“Oh, I want to!”
“Yeah?” She giggles into the next kiss.
“Damn it, there’s so long to wait now,” Adam groans.
“You can wait, can’t you?”
Rachel giggles again. “Well, that’s how it should be.”