Friday July 1st 2050 - Part 3
The day I tumbled into the world – July 1st 2020 – was the day my birth country of “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” (feels so quaint writing that) well and truly locked itself into a path of wanton self-destruction that would make a crackhead blush. The deadline had passed for an extension to give more time for post “Brexit” negotiations with the European Union. By the end of the 20s, Scotland had become independent, Ireland was reunited and even Wales had voted to go its own way.
It wasn’t a peaceful transition. One of my earliest memories is of my dad taking me to an independence rally in the old city centre when I was four. A gang of Unionists showed up and began bashing people’s heads in.
But that was nothing compared to the horrors of what Northern Ireland went through. I watch clips of those sad deluded bastards, all Union Jack tattoos and fury, violently lashing out, desperate for the love of a country (England) that had right royally abandoned them.
England was left all alone in the world, isolated and pitied, its poor bastard citizens trapped on a slowly sinking island. With little in the way of hard or soft power left, it was possible for us to “pull up the drawbridge” on our increasingly unruly southern neighbours.
In the summer I turned 18, The Republic of Scotland formally annexed Northumberland. With the sea level risen by 30 metres, Carlisle underwater and the Tyne bursting its banks, this limited land access to Scotland to a 50km stretch along the A69 from Hayton to Hexham.
“Adrian’s Wall” was erected along the A69, named after the then Scottish foreign minister, Adrian Gilhurst. The English, bless ‘em, couldn’t do fuck-all about it. Their economy had well and truly collapsed, and with precious little in the way of natural resources and no practical method of paying off their massive debts, “Supreme” Chancellor Cummings had no choice but to turn to the United States with his begging bowl out.
But America had its own problems: massive chunks of New York city, Los Angeles and San Francisco were now permanently underwater, as was the whole of Boston, Atlantic City and a truly stunning amount of Florida.
With no friends left, England became known as “the North Korea of Europe”. The irony being that actual North Korea had reunified with the south years earlier and was – last I heard – a fully functioning democracy.
Today I’d be finding out first hand just how long and hard the mighty had fallen as I began my journey to my first destination… Stonehenge.
I had a few drinks last night and woke up a bit later than intended. Happily, I’m more organised than I look and had packed the night before. After a quick shower I donned my travel garb, called Odie over, put him on his lead, slung my backpack on, said goodbye to my flatmates and hit the road.
East Kilbride has changed a lot since the flood, and with most of the city of Glasgow now underwater, the place teems with people. Having a “quiet moment to yourself” is nigh-on impossible. My area is one of the better zones, but still, I have to share my flat with seven other people.
The bus station is over near the English refugee zone. Any English who made it over the border before it was closed twelve years ago were allowed to stay. If I was born 100 years ago I’m sure I’d be some hippy-dippy peace-and-love chick, but I’m Generation F (the F stands for “fucked”). I genuinely hate them. All they do is drink, fight each other and complain. I can deal with the drinking and fighting (hey, I’m from Glasgow!), but it’s the constant whinging that gets my goat. If they saw what I saw today on my journey down to Stonehenge, they’d soon shut their clanging man holes.
It took a couple of hours to get to the border crossing at Haltwhistle. It was hot, high 30s, and drizzly. The kind of weather that turns you into a big sweaty mess and ruins any plans you had for your hair. We stopped along the way for selfies at actual Hadrian’s Wall, an amazing achievement 2,000 years ago but too short to keep Odie out, never mind the English.
The new border wall a mile or so to the south consists of two parallel reinforced concrete walls, 25 metres high and topped with electrified razor wire. Between the walls is a road, the old A69. There is only one legal border crossing. The guard on the Scottish side was convinced I was a lunatic for wanting visit England. I told her I was on a humanitarian mission (which was a lie), she said to let her know if I met any humans “down there”.
Once stamped out of Scotland, Odie and I went through the northern wall’s big metal gate. There was a small group of bodyguards standing on the road between the walls holding signs with names scrawled on them like chauffeurs used to in airports, back when we used airports.
I spotted the guy holding the “Elly Torres” sign and made my way over to him. Bodyguards are mandatory for Scottish nationals wanting to travel around England. He was a few years younger than me, kitted out with a bullet-proof sleeveless jacket and a big fuck-off gun. His name was Trent. He had green eyes. He asked me if I’d been to England before. I told him I had never left Scotland before. He sighed. “Come with me.”
I followed him to a guard tower. “Two up!” he shouted to the guards above. We got the all-clear signal. He hitched his gun round his back, motioned with his head and started up the ladder. “C’mon.”
I tied Odie’s lead to the pylon, placed my backpack down and began to climb.
When I got to the top, Trent was nattering away to the tower guards, talking about me, I think… but the sound of their voices dropped away as I scanned the land that stretched out beneath me… the other side of the wall…
I’m not going to lie. It was a vision of hell, worthy of Hieronymus Bosch. From the wall to the horizon, a sea of mud. And in the mud, people. Tens of thousands of skeletons. Some living, some dead. A city of rags, tents, fires and despair.
One of the tower guards came and stood next to me. She muttered something. I became acutely aware that my mouth was hanging open. I took a deep breath.
“Sorry, what was that?” I asked
“They’re animals,” she said.
“That’s a bit harsh… animals don’t tend to eat their own,” mused Trent, before turning to me. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“How far does it go on?” I asked.
“It’s like this for the first few miles or so, and then it settles down. All being well, we should be able to make it to Huddersfield before dark.”
I took a sip from my hipflask. “Fuck it. Let’s do it.”
“Your choice,” said Trent. He took a clothes peg out of his jacket and handed it to me.
“What’s this for?” I asked.
The next convoy was set to leave at 1pm. Trent drove an old Land Rover Discovery hybrid, beefed up with steel plates and bulletproof glass. I sat in the passenger seat with Odie on my lap.
The English border guards walked up the line of cars and vans, checking everyone’s paperwork was in order. Like anyone in their right mind would try to sneak into England.
Somebody shouted. A whistle blew. A smattering of gunfire.
“Don’t worry,” said Trent, “they’re just firing over their heads, stop them having any ideas of rushing the wall.”
The convoy started to move.
We drove parallel with the southern wall for about half a mile before turning left through the huge metal gates and into England.
As soon as we had crossed the border, I realised what the clothes peg was for. The stench of shit and rotting flesh was like nothing I’d ever experienced.
“The English aren’t big on sanitation,” said Trent, sensing my discomfort.
I grew up watching zombie films, I never thought I’d be in one in real life. The English lined the road. They were gaunt and pale and watched us silently through dark, sunken eyes.
“They’re like beaten dogs, they know better than to attack, but you can never be too careful,” said Trent, patting the gun on his lap.
It was proper eerie. “What are they waiting for?” I asked.
“The van at the back of the convoy throws food out for them. If they get in the way of the convoy, no food. Still, they occasionally give it a go. They never get very far.”
Behind the living dead were hundreds, possibly thousands, of muddy tents, spread out all higgledy-piggledy.
“Where do they go in winter?” I asked.
“As far south as possible,” answered Trent, “then they spend the entire summer trying to escape. If you head down towards France it’s a similar story.
“How does Wales keep them out?” I had so many questions.
“They just shoot anyone who can’t speak Welsh.”
“Won’t be going there then,” I muttered to myself. “Do any of them make it into Scotland?”
Trent clicked his tongue. “Some of the canny ones do. They cross over in boats at night. This lot, they’re too far gone, just waiting for handouts. When I first started working down here, the camp went on for a good thirty miles in every direction. Now each year there’s less and less of them.”
I stared out of the window, half-horrified, half-mesmerised. One thing that struck me was that hardly anyone looked over the age of 30.
“Generation F” indeed.