The Mallards | Dinah Kolka
I pushed through a group of people, half-excited, half-terrified. I finally passed my immigration test, the lucky one who fit into the 10% immigration quota. I studied day and night; history, geography, local customs, language, and others, to finally be able to enter the promised land.
It was the day of my citizenship oath, taken after 14 days spent in the country, where I was tested practically on my understanding of the local customs and prove that I was ready to reject my past. The excitement was in the air, as almost 1000 people were about to take on a new, British name and swear their allegiance to the Queen. The immigration rules in the country were rigid, but it was worth it. Every candidate who passed the test, both theory and practice, was a real member of the country.
I was contemplating my future, the options were endless. Well, three main routes were available – Scholar, Military, or Worker. The scholar was a route only available to those who ranked highest in their immigration test, and they had to start from the very bottom. There were various branches of the Scholar route available, including Creative (artists, musicians, dancers, writers, etc), Theory (for those passionate about the specialised texts), and Practice (those were often used as consultants in the real world, outside the Colleges). The military was great for young men, and as the UK was still at war with China, they always needed new lads to join their ranks. Naturally, the UK introduced mandatory conscription in 2074, and things have been much better since then. The Worker was an option for those scoring lower on the immigration test (still within the required bracket to be allowed the entry) but it was also much more versatile. People could engage in manual or semi-manual labour, this also included office work. After 5 years in the country, one becomes eligible to start their own business and many Workers often choose to do so.
I was convinced from the start that I wanted to pick the Scholar route – I passed the immigration test with flying colours and it was something I always wanted to do. I sat down on a well-crafted chair; the traditionalist architects and artists had risen to prominence in 2070. I looked around. Most immigrants were of Nordic, French, or Germanic origin, it seemed that Brexit, which led to the United Kingdom leaving the European Union (I chuckled at the thought itself – European Union was gone for over 20 years!) did leave some lasting impact. Most people wanted to go back and repair their own countries which made the UK in itself so much more homogenous. There was a short address from the Queen. She was pleased to welcome new members of the neo-corporatist monarchy. She looked at all of us from the stand and she began to speak.
“We’ve come far since the abolishing of the parliament in 2063. This date will always be imprinted on our nation’s heart. And now, you become a part of it – a part of the country that we’ve rebuilt. We all have our contributions to make, but we know that our countryfolk roam freely, and so does the market. Since the International Agreement of 2061, we aim to reduce the powers of the state and allow individuals to make their preferred decisions. This is why we now have the most prominent scholars, the fittest and most successful army, and the happy workers who do what they can to help make this place the way it is. To those, who wish to create: I say, create! To those, who wish to build: I say, build! To those who wish to fight: I say, fight! You are in charge of your destiny, and it’s your job to make it great. I am not here to grab you by your hand and show you how to live, you must do it yourselves. If you chose this life, if you’ve decided to reject your past, this must be worth it. So go, be who you’ve always wanted to be. But first and foremost – remember who gave you this chance. Never forget where you came from and what you had to do to achieve this. You have been rewarded for your hard work, and this is the ideal that rules this country. It’s not me, it’s not anyone else. Some of you may still remember how the Colonies had their so-called ‘American Dream’. This is not an American Dream. We’ve rebuilt this country from the very ashes. We’ve taken back the colonies. The world is ours. Will you be brave enough to join in?”
A loud ‘hurrah’ sounded through the room, and the tall pillars towering over us seemed to judge us quietly for rejecting our heritage. But there was nothing to judge. We wanted this. Many of us dreamt of this moment from when we were small. Our parents, showing us Great Britain and the Colonies on the map, telling us about the great things they had seen there, and inspiring architecture everyone wanted to copy.
We stood up and took the oath. I saw our mentors waiting, leaning on the pillars, smiling at us. We accomplished the most difficult task. My mentor came over to me. He was tall and blonde, clearly fit, probably from the Military Guild. He introduced himself as Charles.
“Hi, I’m one of the Top Scholars. You must be Claire.”
“Yes, that’s my new name” – I said, grinning
“Well, you better get used to it! There’s no going back” – he laughed – “Right, we’re taking you to your new house, I’m assuming all is paid and sound?”
“Yes, I think it cleared yesterday, I’ve got my confirmation.”
“Fantastic. Now, remember all those people you saw at the ceremony? You will probably never see them again. We make a point of scattering our immigrants evenly so you have a good shot at proper assimilation. If you struggle with taking on the new accent, please contact our voice coach, she should be able to prescribe you an implant for that.”
“This is great news, I appreciate that.”
“Now, we need to take the train to Bath, where you’ll be staying”
“Isn’t that going to take a while? We’re literally in Scotland”
“Oh no, this is not the third world. The travel should take around 15 minutes, we have a vactrain.”
My mentor took me to a coach with green velvet sofas and large coffee tables, the burgundy drapes and vintage wallpaper made it look like a modern Victorian dream. As soon as we sat down, a cheery lady came over to us with complimentary champagne and scones. I took a glass and looked outside the window. The views were marvellous. I remembered from learning about Britain’s history, that in 2054 they abolished all the post-modern and brutalist architecture and opted in for either nicely fitting apartment buildings or beautiful traditional housing. The whole country was blooming, pollution non-existent, everything seemed green and fresh and when I opened the window – I could smell the fresh scent of the rain falling on the grass. It was truly heaven on earth. Naturally, the Greater War didn’t help. The political climate in the UK was fairly problematic. But since they annexed the colonies and had them fighting for us again, they finally had a fighting chance. But then China made an extraordinary move – they conquered Poland. Britain decided to just let China keep it.
Our journey ended and I stretched a little, grabbed my bags and went outside. The house was truly beautiful, made entirely of stone, with a chimney, and a massive garden.
“Would you like to know what makes this your ideal home?”
“What is it?”
“Here it is” – my mentor handed me some information leaflets. ‘Firearms and firepits for your whole family!’ read the leaflet and the picture showed a happy family holding guns and holding hands, jumping over a moat.
“Are you telling me I can get weapons? And a fire pit?”
“Of course, this is a free country!”
“Anyway, here are your keys, there are more information leaflets inside your house too. Also, as you’re picking the Scholar’s Guild, you’ll find an information packet on your table inside the house containing everything you need to know.”
“Thanks so much. I’m looking forward to seeing you again!”
“Hopefully, you won’t” – he laughed and left me to myself.
I could finally breathe out. This was fantastic. I couldn’t even see my neighbours. The house was surrounded by trees, with the garden looking out to the lake. It was astounding.
I closed the door, sat on the sofa and started looking through the information packets. I ordered some coffee and groceries and it arrived within five minutes.
I put a jacket on and went outside to see the lake. There were mallards all over the place, they all looked at me hungrily. I threw them some of the bread I bought earlier. They were still watching me. I sat on the outside bench, having a staring contest with some of the ducks.
I went back inside and went to sleep. It was very quiet in the area, I couldn’t hear any cars.
I woke up the next morning refreshed, I made myself a coffee and prepared for my first day at the Scholar’s Guild. I was starting my studies which included advanced History, Literature, Politics, Philosophy, and Psychology. I had an option to pick my main field of expertise later.
I took a train to College and went up large, stone stairs. A statue of Ludwig von Mises was towering over everyone walking past. I went inside. The lectures put a strong emphasis on tradition, nation, and values. The lecturers weren’t biased – they were objective, they told us the good with the bad. We had lectures in critical thinking and debating. Someone said in passing that these became necessary after the communist uprising in 2036.
As soon as the lectures ended, I slowly walked back home. The country was beautiful, the high street reminded me of the RPG games I played – stony streets, beautiful stores, all nicely fitting to the landscape. The whole city was dotted with statues of all kind. I was happy to see people walking around with a smile on their face. All dressed in a smart-casual style; everyone understood that looking smart was important to uphold the values of the Country.
When I got back home, I found a parcel from the firearms company – rifles, muskets and others. Apparently, the forest nearby was perfect for hunting, as it was explained in the enclosed leaflet. I went to see the lake. The ducks were staring at me again. It was a rare sunny day and I was just about to load my rifle.
Someone knocked on my door, it was a neighbour. She brought a cake and some housewarming gifts. She explained that the local community finds it important for everyone to support each other as this is quintessential British culture. I invited her in, she introduced herself as Maggie. She sat down on the bench, we had a quick chit-chat and then she fell silent, looked at the lake and said:
“One day, something just changed. Was it something in the air? Or just people’s attitude? I don’t know. Everyone just got fed up, especially the right. They decided to take the issue head-on. So many disaffected liberals joined in too. Suddenly, it was the right who was the educated lot, they influenced media, literature, music, movies! It’s almost like they created their vision of utopia that they wanted to work towards and it suddenly became reality.”
“Huh, how odd.” We directed our eyes at the lake as the sun started setting down. The mallards were gathering again, conspiring together, as they always do.