Future Views Magazine
University Fees and Debt
Who is the main beneficiary of university education, the student, the employer or the nation?
Units of measurement and the end of space.
Six Point Pollution Solution
Part One: "Flowers In The City"
brighten our cities with many tiny garden?
Six Point Pollution Solution
Part Two: "The Transformation of Waste"
Instead of landfill, waste could be a valuable resource.
Hidden blueprints for the new cities of the sea.
Arabian Mights & Maybes
Plans for the future carefully copied by Brenda.
Arabian Might May Raise The Sea
Desalinated reverse rivers powered by nature
The Unpublished Manuscript
A hint as to what may lie in the future.
A curious twist to the laws of perception.
The Slop House
an alternative to the traditional public house
You Are A Winner
A willing victim is the best victim.
Maybe our prisons are not as wonderful as all that.
The Bright New Pants Manifesto
The hilarious solution to invevitable change
A raging argument is discovered
MEET THE CREW
My mate Euan, Sir Keith's nephew and my assistant, got me the job as sound recordist.
Others on set include Brenda, Lotte, Eta, Tosh and Arri (so called because it is short for Arthur and also reflects his love of the Arriflex cameras).
Sir Keith funds the entire operation, or so he would have us believe.
His friend and business partner, Saleh el Moharbi undoubtedly has a lot to do with it as well.
Then there's Acey, Ed and Igvarts Lobermann from Lithuania or some other country, I think he's from a place I've never heard of.
That's us, sometimes we get together outside work, often we pass each other in the course of our work and barely exchange more than a greeting.
Euan and I stumbled across evidence that pointed us towards a bizarre plot. Our two benefactors, Sir Keith and Saleh el Moharbi, are heavily implicated as being at the centre.
Arabian Mights & Maybes
...and the secrets of the little black book. (2,000 words)
We were travelling through Kyrgyzstan, around us the fertile plains stretched up into the narrow valleys. Up ahead lay the mountains and a series of tunnels.
I oscillated gently from side to side as I made my down the railway carriage back to our compartment. Sir Keith had been polite but brusque, Saleh al Moharbi had been more accommodating and welcomed my offer to fetch refreshments for them. No one noticed that I forgot to retrieve my pen and no one offered to return it when I delivered their snacks, exactly as intended.
Tucked away behind my lapel the tiny receiver wired to the recorder in my pocket picked up everything they said. This time, I hoped, we would hear one of them reveal exactly how they intended to erase many millions of people from the face of the earth without drawing suspicion to themselves.
"Like I've said before," Tosh was saying as I resumed my seat between Arri and Brenda, "there are too many people in the world."
The countryside vanished abruptly and our ears popped as we entered the first tunnel; the lights gave a yellow glow and flickered as if threatening to go out.
"It says here," Eta indicated her magazine, "that scientists have come up with a proposal called 'Terraforming' whereby Mars will become a habitable planet. We'll send convoys of rockets full of people who'll -"
"Too slow," Tosh interrupted, somewhat rudely I thought. "Men should be offered the snip for free at age eighteen or after three children have been born, condoms should be distributed in cereal packets, anyone who signs on for benefits should automatically be neutered." Tosh was his usual adamant self.
"Condition of benefit payment?" Brenda remarked.
Tosh nodded, "yeah, absolutely. Why should society support silly buggers who insist on having fifteen children when there's no way their wages can ever support them?"
"I think you're wrong," said Euan.
"Why?" Tosh retorted.
"There's far more room in this world than we realise, you've been brainwashed," Euan asserted.
I felt a heated argument looming and decided to keep well out of it. Arri maintained a look of wide eyed innocence, or maybe it was vacant indifference.
We emerged from the tunnel, through the window we saw a lush valley; here and there smoke drifted from houses and the occasional shepherd tended flocks of sheep or goats.
"Brainwashed?" Tosh glowered at Euan. "Ninety per cent of the wild animals of Africa have been killed off in less than thirty years, the seas have been fished empty. There are simply too many people."
"That's mismanagement," Euan replied, "over fishing, over hunting, lack of planning, lack of proper farming. In Europe farmers are paid to set land aside because they produce too much. Sorry, the problem isn't over population, it's something completely different."
The train disappeared inside another tunnel.
Tosh opened his mouth to speak but Euan beat him to it, "even the Romans complained about over population and they are the ones we have to thank for turning the 'granaries of Europe' into the dust-bowls of the Sarah. If arable land can become desert, desert can become arable land."
Eta and I nodded, Brenda glanced impassively from one to the other.
Tosh pulled a face, rolled his eyes and waved his hand in disgust, "rubbish," he remarked dismissively.
We emerged from the tunnel, there was a sudden roar overhead as six jets hurtled down the valley alongside us no more than sixty feet from the ground. We all turned and watched.
Tosh poked his finger into the table with some force, "either we take drastic measures now to curb the population globally, limit the size of families, birth control, benefit restrictions and the like or we plunge ourselves into the biggest war we've ever seen - a global conflagration, nuclear holocaust, whatever. We cannot go on like this, something's going to give."
"Starvation, natural disasters, the world will find a way of getting rid of us if necessary," Eta remarked quietly.
"Our leaders have a duty to look ahead and take steps to safeguard all our futures, that is what they are elected for," Tosh said, "and they advocate greater birth control."
"I think we are in for a big surprise," said Eta with a curious knowing look, "twenty years from now the world will be a very different kind of place from what it is today."
Tosh and Euan gave her their full attention. Arri looked out the window.
"This time one hundred years ago," she continued, "the future looked rosy, very rosy indeed and then what happened? The mother of all wars, the influenza epidemic, mass sexual disease, starvation in central Europe, the Russian revolution, Stalin's purges, Mao's famines, the gas chambers and the atomic bomb. Who knows what lies ahead? Brace yourself, we could be in for a choppy ride." Eta spoke earnestly.
"You mean," Euan said, "we've never had it so good!"
"He's right," Brenda asserted, "the days of the Euro-American dominated global economy are about to end. America spends more on arms than practically every other country put together and the staff of the Pentagon are shivering in their boots at the prospect of an assault by North Korea! Paranoia at the top. America is about to destroy herself with fear and desperation - and Europe's hard on her heels."
"Into the abyss," Eta added.
"Massive budget deficits, indebtedness, unsustainable trade imbalances, you could be right," Tosh muttered with a shrug.
"The end is nigh!" Euan chuckled as if it was a big joke. The train entered another tunnel with a roar.
"Seriously," Eta's eyes were wide, "in the Mayan Chronicles it says the Western world will come to an end in December 2012."
"I read a prophecy that our world will be 'rolled away' when the White Man builds a house in the sky," said Euan, "Lame Deer, that was the book. Old American Indian, early twentieth century, he foresaw television and all sorts of stuff."
"Mir, the space station," Tosh said.
"You mean the International Space Station, Mir came down," I corrected him.
We emerged from the tunnel, the valley was crawling with troops of every description, military vehicles lined narrow roads, barracks were arranged in blocks surrounded by parade grounds and high fences.
"There's something else, a sleeping - er - camel?" Brenda giggled. "What nobody seems to have noticed is that America can't be in debt without borrowing from someone who is rich - richer than America. The most economically powerful countries in the world are the oil states, the Arabs. If there's one thing the rich understand it's the workings of money. They know how to lend huge amounts without risk to themselves."
"Pardon?" Euan said, "if America defaults it's the lenders who come unstuck."
Brenda shook her head and laughed, "No no, silly, that's the stupid European way of doing things. The Arabs are much too smart for that. All their loans are covered, they protect themselves through intermediaries and complex spreads involving pension funds, insurance companies, banks, multinationals. Oh no, if America goes down the swanny they'll still get their money. Remember Enron? They weren't the only ones who knew how to scam the system. You wait." Brenda smiled and drew a small leather-bound book from an inside pocket. "Arabia, North Africa, the Middle East," she waved her book, "they'll grow so fast the Malaysian economic miracle will look like a recession."
"What, sell us sand and tell us it's chocolate?" Tosh looked at her askance, "they haven't got anything apart from oil and camel dung."
Brenda shook her head, "it's the best kept secret. The Arabs are about to embark on the biggest land regeneration programme the world has ever seen. Within a few decades the United Arab Nations will be the New America. It's in here," Brenda tossed the book on the table, the train disappeared inside another tunnel, the military convoys vanished from view.
I picked the book up, there was nothing on the cover. Turning it over the back was emblazoned with an embossed gold title, in Arabic. Of course - Arabs do everything backwards.
Flicking through the pages told me nothing, it appeared to have been hand-written which was something of a surprise.
"You can read that?" asked Tosh.
"Yes," said Brenda, "I lived out there for seven years."
"That's how she's with us, like Euan, a little spot of nepotism by the Executive Producers." I smiled but my contribution did not go down very well.
"How the blazes did you come by this?" Tosh asked somewhat incredulous. Either she was faking and this was just some crank's personal scribblings or else she had in her possession a rare and valuable document.
"There are some places only a woman can reach," Brenda said with a mischievous glint. "Only twelve of these exist, hand written in order to leave no trace on any computer, press or typewriter. They belong to the Inner Circle of Arab Leaders and describe their plan. It's brilliant, pure genius."
"And you stole one?" Tosh sounded on the verge of outrage.
"No no," Brenda frowned as she shook her head, "copied it."
Euan flicked through the pages, "vocab, shopping lists, personal diary. You're having us on."
Brenda seized the opportunity to change her story, "that's right," she said, reaching for it, Euan drew it away; he passed it to Tosh.
"What would I get if I handed you in?" Tosh said as he examined the incomprehensible text.
"They'd chop off your head," Brenda hissed, snatching once more at the book which she now wished she had never revealed.
"Surely, Brenda, they'd chop off your head if they found out, if they knew you were telling us?" Eta remarked.
Brenda reddened but with her usual remarkable presence of mind found a way out.
"No they wouldn't; for one thing they like me, for another, they know no one would believe me." With a huge grin Brenda practically shouted, "in their eyes, I'm a Bimbo!"
I struggled not to laugh too much.
We emerged from the tunnel and found ourselves on yet another wide open plain stretching for miles in either direction. Fields of maze, sunflowers and crops I couldn't identify stretched as far as the eye could see.
Eta shook her head as she opened the book. "Go on, Brenda, tell us what's really in here," she said.
"What they're going to do is," Brenda continued in a conspiratorial tone, "I shouldn't tell you this, it's top secret but I think it sounds great and no one is going to believe any of it anyway so here goes," Brenda warmed to her subject. "They're going to build reverse-rivers all along the coastline. It's incredibly ingenious. The entire project is powered by the forces of nature and far from being a drain on the economy it will run at a profit." Brenda thought this hugely amusing. "Twenty years of fresh running water streaming into arid desert will make a huge difference." She paused.
"Go on," I said.
"They plan to build cities, dozens of them, each limited to a maximum size of under half a million, each one ecologically planned from the outset, with masses of parks and gardens."
Euan cocked his eyebrow and smirked, "flower boxes?" he glanced over to me. I grinned, recalling our earlier conversation.
"Yes, actually," Brenda said, "hanging gardens throughout."
"I've got a little green book," said Arri.
"What's in it?" Brenda asked.
"Same as what's in your little black book but this one's for the vast dry plains of America and Australia."
"Where on earth did you get that?" Brenda asked.
"Same place you got your stuff," Arri replied, adding, "more or less."
"What do you mean by that?" Tosh exclaimed.
Arri shrugged, "I copied it, from my uncle's notes."
"Ha," exclaimed Euan, "I've got a little blue book," he reached into his bag and rummaged about.
"What's in it?" I asked.
"Nothing," he said, slapping it gleefully on the table, "It's a brand new notebook."
"What," asked Brenda, "are you being so smug about?"
"I've got a little red book," Eta replied, drawing a little book from her bag with a smile, "Mao's."
Out came Mao Tse Tung's 'Little Red Book' of the great Chinese revolution.
"Pah," Tosh proclaimed, I've got a little yellow book." He evoked groans all round as he reached down his case, "it's a bible - no, Quoran - no, Bodhisatva," he opened his case, no, it's - "
"The Viz Magazine Annual," Euan interrupted.
Tosh slapped the Viz Annual on the table. "Ah yes, I knew it was something profound," said Tosh.
The train slowed down.
Brenda looked at me, Eta followed.
"What?" I asked.
Everyone was looking at me, evidently I was expected to do or to say something but I didn't know what.
Arri leaned over and whispered, "your book," he said.
"Oh, of course," I drew out my notebook, "I've got a little white book," it contained my notes on Sir Keith and the Great Conspiracy but only Euan, Brenda and I knew about that.
The door opened, Saleh al Moharbi looked in.
I reached into my pocket and turned off the recorder for fear of feedback.
Saleh al Moharbi handed me my pen. "Our stop," he said, and vanished.
"That's it, we've arrived." Tosh rose and reached for his jacket.
"Hang on, we've got an explanation to hear," Arri looked at me, what's in your book?"
"We've no time for that," said Eta, rising.
The train had almost ground to a halt.
"You'd never believe it," I said, putting my notebook away.
"We've got a lot of luggage to shift and very little time to shift it," Brenda said, hoisting down a suitcase from the luggage rack.