Two figures stand before a jumbled pile of rusting shipping containers. The shorter is in grey and blue police uniform. The taller holds a small camera and wears a bright orange coverall, over the top of civilian clothes, though it is clear the shorter is carrying more weight. Both are fully covered: sunglasses, hats, transparent face masks, high collars, gloves. No bare skin showing.
In a thick forest of stacks, neighboring stacks have been knocked outwards, forming a small clearing. Traffic noise is a distant, muted murmur, largely drowned out by the whining of drones surveying the scene.
One container, which has tumbled the furthest, landing upside down, has cracked open. A mixture of bodies and machinery has partly spilled out. There’s a strong hospital, chemical smell, and a hint of rotting meat.
Coverall asks, “Are they all dead? Are you not checking for survivors?”. Squats to take a close-up. Two of the smaller, higher-pitched drones, also in orange, take up station either side to record the context in full stereo. A pair of larger, deeper-voiced drones track each orange one.
Uniform answers, “As good as. Nothing there to keep alive. Literally nothing we can do except look for IDs, and sweep up. We’ve here got ourselves some WAWAGs. The area has been declared conditionally safe. I’ve been ordered to let you access all …”
“A White Nest.”
“I’m going to say ‘what’ again. Sorry, this is all new to me. My boss dumped me into this without much prep.”
Hands on hips, then pointing and waving a hand, Uniform declares, “A nest of ‘wanna be white again’s.”
Coverall turns, mouth open, “Ye Gods, that was a lifetime ago. Does anyone actually care anymore?”
Hands on hips again. “Now? Maybe not. Then, and soon after then? Yes. Desperately. Deeply. And expensively. They want, wanted, to wake up in a future of white.”
Uniform continues, “So, yes, access all areas. I am assured that the public is ready for this, and you are our chosen voice that is going to tell them.”
Coverall gestured, “And the air escort?”
Uniform shrugs, “They are as much for you and your drones’ protection as anything else. I said it was only conditionally safe. Also, we’ll be able to verify any footage you produce. We should maybe charge you extra for that?”
Coverall nods, then mutters as a watch chimes quietly, and retrieves a sachet from a thigh pocket. Chews. Swallows. “Ugh. Does not taste any nicer.”
Uniform stares, “So, you’re a Type X? Can’t miss a serving, huh?”
“Nope. Miss one, miss a day. Miss a day, miss a week. Insurance premiums shoot up. Can’t go out on external work. Miss the scoops. Salary drops. Career stumbles. So, no. Can’t skip a single serving.”
Palms up, Uniform asks, “So, what do you know about this?”
Coverall shrugs, “I just know the standard patter about ‘hold outs’, and how we are meant to sympathise with the poor folk who have failed to adjust. Is this common?”
“Hold Outs!”, laughs Uniform. “Well, it’s a term for it, I guess. We’ve kept it quiet, but it is increasingly part of my and now your working life these days, as the different types of Nests start failing from common causes.”
One arm gestures towards the broken container, “What we have here is a crate full of hold outs. We used to fret about ‘people smuggling’ across land borders from wars to a better economic life.” Fingers miming walking. “Now it is across time, from climate mayhem and darkening days to a future yesteryear. You may use my words on that. I once spent several minutes composing that phrase. Anyway, desperate, sad, wealthy people couldn’t face becoming black. Unreconstructed racists, really. They put themselves at the mercy of time truckers, to sleep them through to the return of the ozone layer. To no longer need to be dark skinned. To be safely white.” Hands either side of the face, looking Munch-scream-horrified.
Coverall shakes their head. “‘Time truckers’. This is nuts. There is no hint of this in the press, even in our press office.”
Uniform’s turn to shrug. “It wasn’t so apparent in the early years. It also wasn’t necessarily illegal. Enough money was spent to build and bury these nests effectively. But now, they are starting to break down. It was, however, highly embarrassing for old money families and corporations, to have these racist dinosaurs leap out from the past and sully the family name. Lots of groups were happy this stayed quiet. Now though, as we pass the statutory non-disclosure period for the early nest discoveries, it is time for society to ‘fess up, apparently.”
“The WAWAGs paid extra to have the temporary melanin gene therapy flushed out while they sleep, to arrive white. Pretend the whole nightmare never happened. They …”. Uniform leans over, “Look at this one.”
A tattoo is partly visible on the chest: ..ke When White
Uniform continues, “Near as we can guess, the WAWAGs were shown a well equipped stasis centre, professional-looking staff, expensive booths. Once in and out, they were parked in crates like these”, miming stacking blocks, “and left in fully autonomous mode. No trace of the time truckers. Any accidents, I’m guessing this one was a gas explosion”, pointing at a ruptured corner, “and it’s game over.”
They stroll around the clearing, checking the other containers for damage.
Both their watches chime loudly, within a second of each other. They both reach for their thigh pouches.
Coverall mutters again, “At least this tastes a bit better. You Type Ys still need to take your UVs daily? I’m assuming you are a Type Y?”
Uniform reaches for a thigh pouch. “Yeah, but a much smaller dose than you Xs. Us naturals”, arms akimbo, one hand higher, holding a sachet, body twirling around, “multiply its effect. We Ys have sunscreen baked in, not painted on like you Xs. Oh yes”, taps Coverall on the chest with a forefinger, “Ys are the future. Xs are toast, literally. A ha hah ha.” Coughs. “This isn’t ticking you off?”
“Nice try, officer. While I take my pills I’m just as black as you. Meanwhile, us inner-whities are working on fixing a lighter future. UV reduction. Non-reflecting glass and concrete. Oh yes. Replace the CFC shield. Re-inject the ozone layer. All of that stuff. Before you know it, we’ll be back in short-sleeved shirts oppressing your black Y asses again. Normal service will be resumed.”
Uniform reaches up to pat Coverall on the shoulder. “Hah. I saw that film too, before they banned it for inciting hatred. What was it called? White Dawn: A beacon of hope? Probably the last thing these poor schmucks watched.”
Coverall nodded. “Yep. It was bad and sad and mad. Not going to happen. That film was made, what, 20 years after the emergency. We are now 25, 30 years after that. Two generations on. If they were going to do it, they’d’ve done it by now. My kids have had the gene therapy, another half way from my X tan towards your deep Y”. Chopping actions with one hand into the other palm. “Half the melange. Half the UVs.”
“You going the eumelanin route?”
Coverall nods head harder. “Oh yeah. The bright red pheomelanin option didn’t really cut it. I mean, I’d have to change my wardrobe, my look. Hang out with other reddies. I’d look hot and sweaty all the time. No, the future is brown.”
Uniform turns towards the broken container again. “Glad to hear it. Now, we have some rotting whities to ID and bury. Best done quickly before the fragrance strengthens. We can assume the equipment is pretty standard, but we should be able to correlate the tech with other nests so we can construct a timeline. The sleepers often have bank account details tucked into their booths. At least these ones probably went in late enough to not be relying on bitcoin.”
They don another layer of gloves, and climb up and into the split container.
Coverall leans in close to a body. “You said they were all, er, WAWAGs. Sleeping through to a glorious white future.”
“This one isn’t.”
Uniform steps over to check. “Na. You are looking at corpses. Frozen, thawing, rotting. Blood drained. You are a civilian. Your eyes are not trained to …”. Leans in closer, “Ah, ok. Yes. That’s maybe not a WAWAG. And … this is possibly a bullet wound”. Looks up, gestures a drone over, leaving the probe in place for a photo.
Uniform continues, “I’m guessing this one was not a paying guest. Congratulations. Is this your first murder victim? Well, technically, the others are murder victims too, but … .”
TYPE X / TYPE Y
(from Predicting the Present)
by Chris Gathercole
published: 08 April 2018
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
draft-1, draft-2, entry-for-2017, entry-for-2018, entry-for-2019, entry-for-2022-05, entry-for-2022-09
mashup (... er, what?)
Background image by Peter Griffin....
This story was written over the weekend of 7th/8th April 2018 for the @scifilondon #SFL48hrFlash Fiction challenge, with (in my case) a specified title, “TYPE X / TYPE Y”, including dialogue, “Ye Gods, that was a lifetime ago. Does anyone actually care anymore?”, some optional science, “Chameleon DNA allows drugs to be developed to change skin colour”, and up to 2K words.