Cold Night in Edinburgh

Author : Iain Macleod

“Spare change please, pal?”
The couple walked on, oblivious to him. This used to happen in the old days too but for different reasons. Harry had been on the street for almost forty years, ever since the oil price crashed in the mid 2010s. He lost his job, his wife and his house in rapid succession. The streets were the lowest he could sink and when he hit bottom he could never quite get out of it.

“Any spare change, missus?”
The older woman walked by without acknowledging him. The slight glow in her eye told him everything he needed to know. She was chipped. Probably the full suite as well, audio, visual, guidance, the whole lot. Because why look at unsightly homeless people when the chip on your optic nerve could edit that information out and send a more palatable option to the brain to perceive. Harry wondered if he’d been replaced in her vision by a nice potted plant or maybe just edited out of the image completely.

“Any help appreciated!” he said to a man wearing a thick black coat and scarf. The man swerved around him unconsciously. Optic chip and guidance talking to each other to make sure that you didn’t accidentally walk into something that you couldn’t see. Harry new if he grabbed one of them the system would automatically kick in danger overrides and show his presence but that came with a host of problems, like the pissed off person who was unlikely to help or the cops that were automatically informed.

Harry shuddered against the cold wind and drew his ragged sleeping bag around him. Winter got pretty cold in Scotland, without donations he wouldn’t be able to get a bed in a hostel and would suffer like hell. It was already getting dark.

“Anything, even a few pence will help, mate” he said quietly as a group of teenagers moved around him.

He’d heard that some of the street folk had been dead for days before they stopped being filtered out of peoples vision. Apparently a corpse is worth seeing. Harry thought it would take a while for him, under his sleeping bag he could rot for days, maybe even a week before people noticed.

At this rate the homeless population would be gone in a few years. Nobody would notice.

“Spare change please, pal?”
Nothing. He sniffed and wrapped himself up as best he could. He was in for a long night.


    • Macleod

      Thanks, much appreciated!

  1. xdhz8

    Sci-fi has always been a great means of social commentary, and this flash carries on the tradition wonderfully.

  2. Irene

    Great concept. You could have taken this story any which way but I like what you’ve done here.

  3. SimonJM

    The worst thing about this is how horribly prophetic I fear it is; damned close to being there already, without the tech. A grim topic handled well.

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