Selected

Most mornings were the same back then. I woke up, I had breakfast, I got dressed and went to school. 5 days a week, every week for 8 years. The morning in question was just another one of those. 1 Wednesday in 1 week out of 52, but when I close my eyes I can remember it all like it was yesterday. 

I can taste the corn flakes and fresh milk I had for breakfast, I can smell the toast and coffee my father was eating as he sat at the breakfast table across from me, I can hear the morning radio playing away to itself.

I can see the puppy-dog eyes Robbie, our dog, was giving me as he tried to guilt me into stealing him a piece of toast from my father’s plate.

I can hear the shower getting switched on upstairs and my sister wandering from room to room singing to herself as she busied herself getting ready for school.

Most of all though, I can hear my mother’s weeping. Over the radio, over my sisters singing, her weeping drowns it all out. I can see her face as she appeared at the kitchen door mumbling to herself through streams of tears, holding in her hands a blood red envelope.

I can hear the smash of my father’s coffee cup hitting the floor. I can sense the panic from Robbie as he scattered and scampered out the kitchen in fear.

I can see the deep, black lettering of my name on the envelope and I can see my mother’s eyes, bloodshot and haunted as she laid it down on the table in front of us all.

Dear Brandon,

As you are aware, since the enactment of the Bardow Selection (Scotland) Act 2024, all citizens of Scotland can be selected at random to become recipients of Dame Yanzi Bardow’s life enhancing medicine. It is estimated, but not guaranteed, that the medicine will increase life expectancy of the lucky recipient by an additional 50-80 years.

The legislation states, in line with the Transan Global Agreement 2024 (TGA ’24), any Transan Government introducing the use of the Bardow medicine must take appropriate steps to regulate the population of the country. Where a country does not take these steps, appropriate action will be agreed upon by the Transam High Court, Washington DC. To ensure Scotland adheres to the conditions set out by the TGA ’24, all citizens of Scotland can be selected at random to to be terminated.

I am writing to advise that you have been selected for termination.

Please accept my apologies to your family for this inconvenience, however I am delighted to advise they will be provided with a Government grant of £500 which can be used to part-fund your funeral proceedings.

Within 5 working days you will receive, by drone delivery, a package which you can inject to carry out the termination. Further details can be followed in the attached guidance document ‘How to administer your terminal injection‘.

If you have not carried out the termination within 5 working days of receiving the package we will take swift and appropriate action against you and your next of kin.

I thank you for your sacrifice and know you will join me in wishing the recipient of the Bardow medicine, Lord Morton Brown MBE OBE, well for his extended future.

THUG SI A BEATHA AR SON A TIRE, FUAIR SI BAS AR SON A TIRE

Yours,

William H Ferguson, Minister for Population and Environmental Control

I stood rooted to the spot, staring at that word. “Terminated”. A cold chill took over me and the room seemed to dim in colour. My stomach churned as the floor beneath me began to tilt. I felt like I was being spun round a kaleidoscope of greys and blacks. I couldn’t even take in the commotion around me. Mother had passed out on the floor next to me, my Father and Sister were fussing around her bringing her back to consciousness.

“Brandon?”

“Brandon??”

My Father’s hand gripped my shoulder tightly from behind. Still stunned and wobbly, I allowed myself to be spun around and pulled tightly into his embrace. His chest bobbed my head up and down as he quietly sobbed whilst simultaneously gripping me tighter and tighter as if he could squeeze away what the Government had decided on for his son. “It’s OK” he mumbled, maybe more to himself than me “I’ll do something about this.”

Since it’s commencement 5 years ago, every single recipient of the Bardow medicine had been some old, rich, white person. Whether a man or woman, they always had some initials after their name or had some connections to the Scottish Parliament or Scotland’s Royal Family.

We weren’t living in the slums, but we weren’t eating caviar every night either. I saw how hard my Mother and Father worked to provide for us every single week. My Father worked his job as a freelance journalist well into the evening most nights, sometimes starting his morning before the milkmen woke up. My Mother juggled three different jobs across the week including cleaning toilets every Saturday morning at our local leisure centre. Much of my Saturday morning social media mentions consisted of me being tagged in a recently used toilet with a witty message about my Mother cleaning up after them.

After the first couple of years of the medicine lottery we didn’t really take much notice of it. Media coverage tended to focus on celebrating whatever privledged person had become recipient of another 50-80 years on this dying planet. We didn’t really think it was ever anything that would ever affect us.

Of course, the person who the media now referred to as ‘the leveller’ i.e. the poor person selected for termination was always someone from a poor or working class background. A 46 year old joiner, a 25 year old Polish bus driver, a student nurse placed here in an exchange agreement with the German Government, a 17 year old black girl who had gathered a large following online through her brilliant songs addressing social issues in the country. And now me. A 17 year old mixed race kid from a working class background with two hard working parents who have only ever tried to live well and provide for their family. It stunk. Selected at random, yeah sure.

We sat together around the kitchen table and agreed to try to go have a normal day, the bills didn’t stop needing paid just because we’d received this. We’d talk again tonight, a bit of time would give us all an opportunity to try to think a bit clearer.

I opened our front door and was immediately blinded by a flash from a giant, remotely operated camera, it was sat on a tripod on large, all terrain wheels. Some journalist obviously didn’t have the balls to brave the outskirts of Edinburgh so had instead decided to send in the machines. Unfortunately, the camera wasn’t alone. Around 10 or 12 drones zoomed around above my head, each one with voices shouting questions at me as they swooped down towards me at increasing speed. With the focus on keeping my head remaining on my shoulders, I jumped back into the house and shut the door.

The following day was worse. Our whole family had been plastered across the media’s 24/7 breaking news ticker for much of the day and night. Sat holed up in the house we spent most of our time staring at eachother and consoling my Mother. That was until the next breaking news of the day exploded onto the screen.

The reporter stood in front of a grey stone pathway with a professionally trimmed garden running up either side of it. In his face you could see the reflection of blue and red flashing. As he tried to speak he was knocked sideways by a line of black-clad men wearing helmets and thick vests. SPS was emblazoned across the back in bright yellow and white reflective material. The reporter returned back onto the screen and began to describe the scene.

A hostage situation was ongoing and he had been told that the Special Police Scotland branch had surrounded the house and were believed to be attempting to negotiate with a lone combatant. Just as he was about to explain where the location was, my phone exploded with WhatsApp notifications. 20 or so urging me to click a link. Distracted from the TV, I clicked the link and was taken to a streaming site I didn’t recognise.

What I saw, I couldn’t comprehend. What looked like a balaclava’d man was stood in a large living room with a camera trained on him. A small older man, clearly terrified, was perched down in front of him with the butt of the man’s gun placed to his head.

With a large intake of breath my family were suddenly around me, eyes fixed on my phone too. The TV had been muted as we huddled round watching the small screen.

“I am the rich man’s nightmare.” the man bellowed. “for too long they’ve taken from us and filled their own egg timers to the brim. Lord Morton Brown. This privileged, rich, white, 76 year old man here has been randomly selected to receive the Bardow treatment.” for a second he had released the gun from the terrified man’s head to accentuate air quotes when he had said the word random. At this movement the older man had cowered and screamed.

“For the first time in your life, my privileged friend” he continued looking down at the top of the man’s head “you have been incredibly unlucky. Not only have you been selected to receive the Bardow medicine but you’ve also been randomly selected by me, the Reaper.. ” the word random triggered air quotes and a scream again “…for execution. This is for you Brandon.”

A pop filled the air. The older man slumped to the ground out of the grip of the masked man. Red spilled from the top of his head. The masked man walked towards the camera, he held up a piece of paper with the phrase “#forBrandon” and the stream turned to static.

Takeover: Part 1 – Outbreak

“Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it” – Unknown

Years ago our former President had wanted to build a wall to resolve the “crimewave” that was coming over the border from Mexico. The guy even tried to get the Mexican Government to pay for the damn thing. Well, like the old saying goes “be careful what you wish for, you might just get it”. Under Trump, the building of the wall had started. Under President Harris, the rest of the world finished the job.

In scenarios like this you often hear different rumours and takes on how the end of the world began. Not here. With 24/7 TV coverage and the hive mind of social media broadcasting every little human movement in real time, we all knew how it started. The whole world did. It started with him, Harris. It was always going to start with Harris. After Trump I thought that things would turn on it’s head, I thought we’d get our feet firmly planted on the ground as a nation and get back to a ‘traditional’ Presidency. I was wrong. So wrong. The campaigns were torturous. The candidates were former pop stars, movie stars and social media ‘influencers’, whatever they were. Career driven professionals, lifelong philanthropists and storied war heroes were now scoffed at and ridiculed. Apparently America no longer cared for values and policies, you know, the essentials when running one of the largest nations on earth. Instead the currency these days was online ‘clapbacks’, fashion sense, chat show appearances and social media followers. The Presidency had become a damn recording contract, $50k or whatever else reality show ‘winners’ walked away with. Harris took things to another level.

Daunte Harris was a former child rapper (Lil Vanilla), singer, author (“Lil V’s Guide to Life” was a New York Times Bestseller) , fashion designer and tequila company owner. His policies? he only had one: “Peace, Love and Positivity”. #PLP trended on twitter daily, weekly, monthly and annually ever since his campaign had begun. The irony of his message was that this man essentially battle rapped his way to the White House, his team digging up every little misstep and controversy his opponents had ever made. He of course used this to publicly decimate them one by one. America ate it up, we love a scandal. Some gossip to feel like we’re getting a peek behind the curtain. Harris shovelled scandal after scandal into one giant online heap and set it alight.

Once he got into the White House “Peace, Love and Positivity” became hard to maintain on a daily basis when the majority of the world despised the country you’re running. The economic structure of the country was in the toilet, 65% of the population was overweight and with the introduction of AI to the majority of manual jobs, unemployment rates were the highest they’d ever been. That’s without mentioning the damn climate. People were literally cooking on the street on a weekly basis.

In what I can only imagine was his way of boosting morale, our esteemed leader’s social team had begun posting about a very special scheduled broadcast. These broadcasts had become a norm for the Harris administration since his Presidency had begun, they were streamed live automatically to any device with a screen and an internet connection. I wasn’t the only one who had become tired very quickly of these broadcasts which mainly spewed faux positivity or even worse became thinly veiled advertisements for the First Lady’s latest venture into fashion or the fragrance market or even worse a promotion for the First Dog’s Instagram page (5 million followers and counting). This broadcast, we were told, was to be a major groundbreaking event. I’d normally have found myself a good paint to watch dry during these broadcasts but I have to admit, even I was intrigued by this.

With a small sense of apprehension and a large spoonful of skepticism I hopped onto my exercise bike and waited for my television to jump into life. After cycling a few kilometres, my TV screen jumped into life with the usual graphic:

THIS IS A PRESIDENT HARRIS PRODUCTION. PEACE, LOVE AND POSITIVITY TO YOU ALL. #PLP2025

The graphic faded out into a beautiful blue sky, not a cloud was present, just pure blue tranquility. The familiar drums and piano keys of Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z bounced into life as the camera snapped down, spinning slowly to show a beautiful panoramic shot of the New York City skyline. This seemed to be being filmed from the very top of the Empire State Building. The camera panned right across the Hudson River, zooming into the Statue of Liberty. I admitted to myself that it looked amazing, as with all of Harris’ productions, the guy knew style. Just as Alicia Keys hit the crescendo on the chorus the camera peeled back to the top of the Empire State Building to reveal Harris, arms wide open, a movie star smile aimed directly at the camera. With his shaved head, shades, open necked white shirt and tattoo sleeves you would be forgiven for thinking you were watching a music video or movie trailer. His tanned skin glistened in the sunlight. He was stood alone next to a square glass structure. The glass structure looked a bit like an old telephone booth, almost 6 foot high with the Presidential Crest emblazoned across it. The glass was clouded, no doubt to arise interest from his adoring public.

“What’s up my fellow Americans!” he announced. “Today, you join me in the birthplace of my hero, a true inspiration of mine: Shawn Carter, otherwise known as the rapper, Jay-Z. I have some major groundbreaking news to share with you my fellow countrymen and I thought to myself, where better to unveil it than in the city that never sleeps.” He smirked to himself, like he was the only one in on a private joke he was keeping from the nation. He moved to the front of the phone booth. “As you know, I preach Peace, Love and Positivity wherever I go. I believe it’s the key to us as a human race finding our purpose. But, just like I found out when I entered the music business as an enthusiastic 13 year old, not everyone welcomes a new fresh outlook on life. When I dropped my debut album “Not 2 Young to DM” all the top rappers in the game laughed at me. They had fun dissing me, they said I was their son – that they’d fathered my whole style and that I’d be forgotten in months. What happened? oh yeah, that’s right, I broke every single streaming record there was. When I unveiled my “Albuquerque Tequila” business the industry laughed. They called it corny, a rip off, they said it tasted like pisswater.” He raised a small shot glass , toasting to himself and, as he downed the drink, proclaimed “Well who’s laughing now?” He laughed theatrically, smashing the shot glass on the ground and, opening his arms out wide, he looked to the sky and screamed “I’m literally on top of the world!”

In an instant he fixed his gaze back on the camera “I’ve encountered unprovoked aggression and unfair judgement from world leaders wherever I’ve went since I started this project…” Wait a minute, I thought, did he just call the fucking Presidency a project? like it’s a damn concept album or a bit part in a movie? Jesus. “….just because I’m an American. A successful American leader. These attitudes have lead me to today’s major announcement. For the last few months I’ve been meeting with the nations top scientists and weaponry experts. The objective I set was to develop a deterrent for anyone, ANYONE, who will even consider trying to take away from us our peace, our love and our positivity. I want my countrymen to live a relaxed and secure life with no concerns about your future….” I scoffed. This guy was unbelievable, he could sell snow to the eskimos. . “…now we have that deterrent.”

By this time I’d stopped pedalling the bike and was now firmly fixed on the screen. Icy trickles of anxiety slithered up through my stomach and crept into the back of my throat. Where on earth was this going?

He disappeared off screen for a moment, reappearing with his smug smile beaming into the camera. He was pulling along a heavily chained up person by their shackled hands. The person shuffled along, their legs bound together by chains. Their face was hidden by a black bag which had been taped over their head.

“This man” said Harris, now with a fire and passion in his eyes, “is an enemy of this country. This man is a murderous, despicable, cowardly criminal who has broken law after law, harming good American men, women and children. This man will today pay his debt to you and I by helping me to demonstrate what will happen to those who want to act on their negative feelings about the United States of America. He moved over to the clouded glass door, slowly opened the door and pulled out a large syringe, the contents of which were a yellowy green colour. He grabbed the man by his chained up hands, raising the syringe to the sky. The song “Takeover” by Jay-Z clapped through the speakers. Staring into the camera Harris expertly rapped along. It was pure theatre.

” We bring knives to a fistfight and kill your drama, we kill you muthafuckin ants with a sledgehammer”

With that, he injected the contents of the syringe into the mans arm. The music cut to silence. Harris let the man go and, what seemed like in slow motion, he fell to the ground like a chopped down tree, landing face down with a thud.

The camera panned in on the slumped, seemingly lifeless body. After a few seconds it started to shake uncontrollably. The whole body was flopping around on the ground like a newly caught fish, it might have been comical had it not been so damn frightening. The exposed areas of the mans skin turned a putrid shade of grey. Eventually the shaking stopped. Harris, now in picture, looked at the camera. As he opened his mouth to say something the body sat bolt upright. Harris began stuttering, trying to berate someone behind the camera “Hey…hey, asshole!! You! yeah, you! You said he would disintegrate! Cut the fucking feed, cut the feed!!” He looked panicked. There was a commotion going on behind the camera with shouting and swearing overheard, the camera jostled and shook as though the cameraman was unsure whether to keep filming or not. Just in the corner of the screen you could see the body begin to pick itself up off the floor, very slowly. It began advancing on Harris. More shouting, screaming erupted and then the deafening undeniable sound of a firearm being discharged rang out. The feed cut immediately followed by some muzak plinkety plonking over a black screen.

I leaned over and grabbed at my glasses sitting on my bedside table. The facial recognition automatically logged into my twitter account and I began using the motion-detecting hands-free lenses to scroll through my feed. The reactions were polarised. There were the usuals “WTF’s” and “holy shit”s mixed in with political opponents accusing Harris of using tax payers money to promote a forthcoming horror movie. Needless to say people were confused. The few journalists I followed could only merely speculate about what had transpired, however when I looked at the trending topics all I saw was one word:

#ZOMBIE

I laughed, yeah right. Of all the things it could be, that would be bottom of my list behind the apocalypse and the Spice Girls reforming for their 800th tour. I winked my right eye onto the trending topic which opened up a new screen on my lenses with millions upon millions of posts. As I scrolled and scrolled through the mountains of them I noticed that a video file was increasingly being tweeted and retweeted over and over. It had no subject line, just a video file attached to a blank tweet. I blinked on one of the posts and waited for it to buffer, a fifteen second clip popped up in my lenses. I watched it. Then I watched it again. And again. It showed a mans feet shaking on the same ground where Harris had been stood, that much was clear. Another man seemed to be crouched over the top of him. As the crouched man pulled away from the body on the floor, it turned towards the camera. The face was crooked and grey but more obvious and much more alarming than that was the deep scarlett mask of blood he wore. He turned methodically and then suddenly lunged at the camera. That horrible trickle of anxiety I had felt before became a thunderclap which began in my feet and rose to hit my lungs like a cricket bat. My heart rate flew. I wanted to run, it didn’t matter where, I just wanted to run. I threw my glasses across the room, jumped down from the bike and paced my flat. There was no doubt about it, that blooded thing in the video clip was President Harris.