The Century had begun in chaos. It had started with the smoking ban and all those old people cluttering the place up, once they’d ditched B&H in favour of green tea and yoga. Then Covid, of course, and the Amazon take-over, the installation of tracking fit-bit tags and finally the compulsory installation of micro-chips monitoring neurological-intuitve-medical-mood-bio-interaction (NIMMBIs) linking every single human at risk of death. It had all happened, looking back, so quickly, no one had had time to think about it really. Or notice.
Change had become so much easier, and quicker to effect with the accelerating development of interactive social media mind management. It was funny to think it had taken as long as seven years to sway opinion.
Euthanasia, like the smoking ban, and 5G, and for seeming good reason at the time, fed fear of diminishing personal power and notions of a police state. Now in 2027 it seemed as ridiculous to oppose the right to choose one’s own date of departure as it was lunacy to allow people to smoke at home.
Abby watched the hoards amass outside her newly refurbished flagship shop on her Samsung fit-for-it implant embedded in her right wrist. Jojo nodded agreement from the back room and their wrists flushed pink and green, signifying success. NEXT-NOW was, as they’d both been certain it would be, what people desired. A sense of a nostalgic past and flashbacks to dramatic disputes in Marks and Spencer, Gap and the iPhone shop over coveted items in Boxing-Day sales drove the masses to rekindle, revisit and reignite the shopping bug. NEXT NOW supplied one of the few remaining items that could be touched and tested before shipping. Abby thought it was daft that drone-flight deliveries were still called ‘shipments’. As if shipping still had a role.
The blinds disappeared, the timer unlocked the door and the first four customers were across the threshold of NEXT NOW in a hot second.
A couple in their mid-eighties were already in dispute. He was convinced they’d agreed on bamboo whereas she thought they’d opted for willow. Men were so mean. The bamboo was, naturally cheaper. There was so much of it since the Panda had been discontinued. He of course couldn’t kick the habit of economy. Jojo and Abby tittered to themselves, listening in on the hearing loop that monitored their perceived experience.
‘We agreed,’ he said.
‘I just can’t see what you imagine you’re saving the money for.’
‘That’s not the point and you know it. Waste is waste. End of. And if we can get them for half the price and leave a bit for, I don’t know, someone else perhaps – someone who might otherwise be forced to choose cardboard. I mean come on Carol. Look at them. I doubt they’ll still hold together at all in five years’ time. Imagine if the only choice you had was one of those? You know my feelings. We must, when we can, help others less fortunate than we.’ He was adamant. She sulked.
Pandora, a sleek transgender in transition back to becoming male again, dressed in the shop’s iconic purple-quilted jumpsuit slid up to Carol with a tablet.
‘Bit of a domestic going on love? Maybe I can help you find the middle ground. I know how you feel – I’ve read your flow display – they’re lovely aren’t they, the willow. I’m so lucky myself – working here. My discount, you know. I’ve chosen mine already but before I knew, you know, before I got the job, I’d spent quite some time experimenting in the virtual shop, adding minor specifications to a bamboo for myself and you really can get quite a close simulation of the willow. Personalise it – sex it up some although I’m not sure if my partner would have been any easier to persuade that my design choices were the best, than your husband might be. Enough about me. Let’s see if we can’t find you a double you’re both happy with shall we?’ The couple were moved, just as they had been in that dreadful Lada garage back in the 80’s when they’d been talked into buying that car they’d had to ditch on the A41.
Phil chipped in. ‘Come on love. You know he, sorry she, um,’ he faltered.
‘Just call me Pandora’
‘Sorry. Pandora. Come on Carol. Let’s see what Pandora’s got up that sleeve.’ Pandora had a knack for sales.
‘Lovely. Now then. Let’s run through the prompts on the screen or better still, lets synchronise wrists – quicker. And to be honest, I’m not really able to write. So,’ They synced and as they each gave Pandora their answers the screen adjusted the image of the boxes on the screen.
‘Are you going on the same date? From home or from the recycling centre? And that fits with your DNA readouts? Up to date with the advance payments? Good. Now a personal one; how likely are you to default on payments towards the departure plan before, when was it, ah yes, I see. Ah, sweet. Lovely. Between your two birthdays? And that’s been approved has it Phil? You’ll be six months over the deadline – 90 – but – oh. Ok. No. There it is. The certificate’s flashed up on the screen there now. Good. See? You can compromise. Well done. Good. Ok. We’re going for the Bamboo. A double or two singles? Great – no I think, you know, if you’re short of space at home them the double decker makes a lot more sense. And a memory foam inner? Oh ok. Let’s go back. You’ve got rid of the bed? Ah, king-size, brilliant. So it’ll fit in? Well you might as well go for the side by side then love. With or without hand-hold-holes? Ha, ha. Without. Ok. No. No. Yes I mean. Yes, I know just how you feel. I love mine too but you don’t want to be joined for eternity do you love? Just in case. But, now then. The memory foam. Cool blue or mauve? Bamboo sheets come free with the cool blue but the mauve accrues a small extra charge. So that’s mauve with six pairs of bamboo sheeting in, shall we say cream? Three each. You can always get more on Amazon if you fancy a change in the next five years. Great. No, I love that combination myself too, love. What colour’s your scheme in the bedroom? Perfect then. Mauve with cream. There we go. Now, what about pillows and duvets? Yes, no of course. No, as long as you know, over the next five years you don’t have some unfortunate spillage or whatnot then usually they’re removed and passed on to the needy in advance of the despatch. I mean all those chemicals going up in smoke. No. We can’t have that. Oh yes. That’s a point.’ The screen bleeped and indicated a choice of crematoria. ‘Which recycling centre have you chosen? Yes, yes, no I know there’s a water-gas despatchery in Milton Keynes – bit pricey but, yes, it is indeed the responsible option. You’ve got to think of the kids. Oh, I’m sorry. No. Not sorry. No. Neither am I. Better off without all that hassle and well, it’s not on really is it, reproduction? Yes of course. So you’ll be donating the excess to?’ The screen already knew.
Within ten minutes of entering NEXT-NOW Carol and Phil had settled on the one. The Amazon drone would lower their customised NEXT-NOW pod in through their bedroom window that very afternoon and their journey to the end was underway.
Dragons’ Den often got it wrong and Abby and JoJo took great delight in welcoming the Dragons into the shop the very next week, offering them a 10% discount on their purchase of ten gold embossed coffins for delivery in 2026, despatch in 2031. They all seeemed to have been given early departure dates. Something to do with air-miles. But an order is an order and more fool them.
Progress. You had to have a nose for it. Abby and Jojo were awarded the OBE just five years later – shortly before attending the Dragons’ exit parties in 2031, smirking since IKEA (it had been there plain as day in their original business plan) had taken over production and had bought-out NEXT-NOW. Abby and JoJo’s OBE, for ordinary business enterprise had earned them the right to rejuventative health-care, free of charge, left-field thinkers having finally realised they were really the only sort of human worth keeping. IKEA now offered the masses dual-purpose cut-rate sleep-coffs that both euthanized painlessly on the programmed and specified date and dispatched automatically through triggering the inbuilt drone to ship their inhabitants to the nearest, clean-fuel recycling centre.
Abby and JoJo’s sister business, NEXT NOW EVENTS was raking in tax for the economy, doing away with a troubled arcadia’s obsession with death duty, capital gains and tax avoidance.
Looking back to the doom-mongers’ prophesies they remembered so well post Brexit, chuckling to themselves, Abby and Jojo droned off to live in China, everybody’s new green dream.
Edited – 9 May 2020
Strangely I simply added four words to this piece. I first wrote in 2016 in the month after the Brexit referendum. Adding ‘Then Covid, of course’ today (4 years later) gave me the chilling sense that next is already now. CC