The old paperback, dusty and cover-torn lay unnoticed under the bed. The orderlies just removed the body, they had no time to look around, but they saw scenes like it several times a day. An old, ill, useless-eater who starved to death because their carers were too overworked or forgot to call. Not that they could do much in twenty minutes.
The old man had worked at sea in his young days. He had sailed the world and passed the time reading Science Fiction. The dystopian novel lying on the floor had predicted the society in which he died, but in the book the Nazis had won the war. There was no medical care nor welfare nor pensions. If you wanted a carer you paid for one yourself. Children were drilled 10 hours a day, taught that they were living in the best of all possible worlds. They were taught to sneak and creep and spy on their parents and family and to report any politically incorrect thought or action. They were taught sex from an early age and taught to mock “abstainers”. They were allowed in every venue, disrupting adult activities, causing accidents with the elderly and infirm, for which the adult always got the blame, the reason for the accident being ignored. The person had arthritis and couldn’t get out of the way quickly. A blind person falling over a toddler zooming around, ending up in hospital and dying shortly after. The children used as tools to hammer vulnerable adults of every kind, whether physically or mentally impaired, and force the less than perfect to stay at home out of public view.
Oh, it was a brave new world, where children were treasured – until they too became adults – then it was survival of the fittest. Just as in nature – the weak and defective driven to the wall while the young and strong surge ahead. Well, that was the rhetoric. But when adulthood came those indulged children had a rude awakening. Slaving 10 hours a day, without safety measures, without sick pay or holidays, until their health broke prematurely, and they in turn were trampled underfoot.
The old man never thought he would see the day. It was just stories. A young man at sea he had read stories to broaden his mind, to stimulate his thoughts. In spare moments he would stand on the deck of the ship and gaze out over the endless ocean, aware of the miles of water under his feet, and dream of distant planets and incredible life forms. Land was a boring experience. He lived for the sea and the life of the mind.
He never thought it would end this way. Where alien values of incredible crassness and cruelty had infected the human race. The book told it all. A day had come where every man was turned against his brother. Where women were for sex and growing babies. Where immature children were elevated above mature adults and allowed full rein in their childhood spite.
When he’d read the book, thirty years before, it had seemed incredible. It couldn’t happen. Yet it had.
He had been reading the book again in bed until it fell from his lifeless hands. With the wisdom of old age and the approaching transition the thought occurred – did the writer forsee what was going to happen, or did his thought, or the thought of one of his reader’s reading it – make it happen.