It’s 17:16, rush hour, Poet’s Day, Friday 20th July 2029. And the temperature outside has risen to 52C, a new record high. I lie back in my cool thermal white tee-shirt, matching hipsters, anklets and soft white ballet pumps, and wait for stretch class to begin. I close my eyes, relax.
‘Do you mind if I lie beside you?’
I open my eyes and admire the young woman looking down at me.
‘Not at all, be my guest.’
It’s her! I hoped it would be. The woman of my dreams. She’s naturally beautiful with a short black bob of hair that graces her eyes (her irises are different sizes!), a cute turned-up nose, high cheeks, and delicious kissing lips. Slim, tall and tanned. Beautiful. I see she’s dressed for stretch class too: an orange vest, black shorts, matching sweatbands, soft ballet pumps, no socks that I can make out. I shuffle to one side so that she can squeeze in, enjoying the warmth of her thigh pressed against mine, the twinkle in her eye, her naughty smile.
‘Come here often?’ she asks.
‘Same time every day,’ I reply.
Our small talk is interrupted by an irritated, irritating, voice. The temperature’s rising in stretch class. The others are becoming irritable like caged tigers; well, when there were tigers, jungles. Heat rage, they call it. It’s becoming quite a problem in stretch class. The guards have stepped in with tasers. My only surprise is that we haven’t been interrupted.
‘Can you move along, before one of us faints from heatstroke.’
No please. Please ended a decade ago. I’m last in line. To say please. I move along. She moves along, too. Her left arm and leg adhere to mine in the sweltering heat. I don’t complain. I speak.
‘You’re not meant to say those words in public,’ I state, turning my head to face hers, so close, our lips are almost touching.
We start to move, I feel her lips brush against mine, ‘Which words?’
‘Come here often? Me, too?’
We bump and grind. Joust. We gain momentum. Thrust. We accelerate. Position. We glide on.
‘Why not? Can if I want to?’
I fear for her. The guards. Friday. Poet’s Day. The night of the long sticks. Cattle prods. Her arse. Shocked! 800 volts! Conversational containment. Oh, God! One’s seen her. Stick out! On his way. God! Stick out! 1,500 volts! Not allowed to say that, darling. No swearing in public! I hurry my words. He’s almost upon her. Cattle prod. Stick! Out! Out with free speech! 2,000!
‘Can’t! New rules! Not allowed!’
Fear in her eyes! Cheeks, taut! Against mine! Her lips, working, furiously! Cattle prod! God! God’s gone away. Not here to protect us. They sent him away. AI is God! AI is our new God!
‘What is it? What is it? Tell me! Tell me!’ she screams.
Heads turn. Someone faints. The shock! The shock! Of the prod! On her burning skin! Control!
‘Look away, girl!’ I cry, ‘Look away!’
There is an announcement:
The next station is Clapham Junction.
Wearily, I brace myself for the crush.
Of all those bodies.
Lying on top of hers.