by Stewart Wilson
August 18th, 1986
The Jamaican sunlight streams though the window of my shack. My eyes don't want to open but I forced them to anyway, and from the angle of the too-bright light it looks to be gone noon. I can't remember through the pounding in my head what I was drinking last night, or why. Water. Water will at least give me a reason to get off this cot.
The bottle of rum on the table in the main room gives an indication as to how much I drank. That and the bottle of whisky. Someone brought me that, I know how bad I get. Someone was the bearer of Scotch and bad news. Who and what are still too painful to think about, especially with my tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth. What kind of a state am I in?
I catch my reflection in the bathroom mirror. I'm still white, but some of the arseholes back in England would take my tan and the dreadlocks and the tattered clothes and argue that. Especially the arseholes in government. The dreads are down to the small of my back and a matted shade of grey. If I could be bothered to get a haircut or even just wash my hair I'd probably be "distinguished silver", as my father called it when he went that way. Large bags under those blue-green eyes that never seem to stop shining, and now wrinkles at their corners. I moved out here to relax, but that seems now to be just an excuse for a change of lifestyle while I got old. More important than this self-study I look dehydrated, and for someone like me that can be lethal.
Bones creak as I head out down the beach to the water. My body's complaining at the movement even as I shuffle into the ocean. I wait, letting the salt water rise around my chest and flow into my pores. One too many draughts of this stuff would kill a man in short order, but as I drink deep I know I'm not a man. Not wholly, not since I became part of the biggest secret in the British government. A secret I've tried hiding from for too long. My body filters the salt and the impurities out of the water and part of my altered physiology kicks in, giving me a helpful current back to the beach.
The chair in front of my shack is like the rest of the place, made from whatever was at hand but surprisingly comfortable, and a good place to dry off. There's still the low buzz of the hangover in the back of my head, but that's just muting the outside world and makes it easier to remember. Edward was the one with both the whisky and the bad news. Once I heard the news, we started on the rum and on the herb.
The Iron Bitch has a plan brewing, and Ed is one of the few who knows about it without liking it. One of the advantages to being in the Civil Service, or so he says. For some reason he thinks I can help, what with being part of the secret. And to be honest, there's just enough patriotism in me that I figure I just might. This all stems from the second-best kept secret in the country, the Mindstar Project. A group of dropouts and bums were farmed off to a few government-sponsored research facilities, surgically altered in order to give them psychic abilities. Then they got fast-tracked into their own little section in the military, with hopes that the training would be enough to make them the Iron Bitch's puppets. While they were invaluable in the Falklands, a year later the program was scrapped when the government realised that they were out of control. These were the people that wouldn't vote for the government, costing money and generally being an embarrassment. Now, most of them are back on the streets or living around the poverty line.
Well, it turns out that the concept was valid but the execution was flawed. The plan now is to institute a new tax, flat rate for everyone, measured by the register of voters. In addition to raising more money, this will apparently shift the burden to the poor. According to Edward, the idea is that people that wouldn't vote for the government anyway would voluntarily remove themselves from the register so they could continue buying food. Those with whom the government has favour, especially the upper class, would have the option of testing, and some of them would go through the procedure. Rather than the military, they'd become a "national security force", MI-5 with psychics rooting out dissent amongst the people. A right-wing army of lunatics with powers, under the control of the Iron Bitch.
That makes me just sick enough that I want to do something about it. Waves crash against the shore without any wind. Some of the others from the secret are still in England, on the fringes. The same place as the Mindstar dropouts.
I head inside, looking for my passport. I think it's about time I went back to London.