Author : Paul Starkey

Vivienne awoke after nine, but lazed in bed for another hour before finally getting up and padding to the window.

The curtains drawn she had a perfect view of the garden, the tree branches hung with golden leaves, a carpet of leaves coating the ground, seeming to burn in the sunlight.

It was February, but here it was always autumn.

Her gaze lifted over the treetops to Nottingham castle, perched high on a huge outcrop of grey rock. Today being Monday the castle was in its modern incarnation, an Italianate palace built where the original castle had stood. Tomorrow it would be remoulded to reflect its 13th century heyday.

On Wednesday there would be no castle at all, just bare rock.

Vivienne had lived here for two years, the exact amount of time that she had been Vivienne in fact.

She was a willowy brunette in her mid twenties, with the big brown eyes and pout of a famous old movie star, but forty years ago she’d been born Andrew John.

The view bored her; she turned and looked at the bed, the white sheets still rumpled from their lovemaking. Marc was long gone, off to work for some reason she couldn’t fathom. Nobody needed to work anymore.

She felt hollow inside. They’d been together two years but what did she really know about him? She didn’t know why he still worked, let alone who he’d been before Marc, anymore than he knew who she’d been.

It was time to move on. She’d put it off for weeks now, but the boredom wasn’t lifting.

She dressed simply; jeans, plimsolls and a sweatshirt, and then she left the bedroom for the last time.

She didn’t pack, didn’t take a thing. What would be the point?

In the kitchen she put a clod of earth into the Molecular Shuffler, set the controls and slammed the door. Thirty seconds later she was sat at the table drinking coffee while she pondered how to move on.

It didn’t matter. MSP- the Molecular Shuffle Process- had eradicated poverty thirty years ago, and along with it greed and crime. Everything you ever wanted could be yours so what was the point in covetousness? Eaten too much and put on weight? No worries, MSP will trim the fat. Getting old? Don’t fret, MSP will peel the years away. Always wanted to be taller? A boy? A Girl? Black instead of white?

In 2097 imagination was the only limit humanity had left.

She left the mug on the table; Marc would clear it away when he came home. If he came home.

She didn’t care. She was moving on.

* * *

It was two years later and Douglas was stood at the window of his 59th street apartment, staring down at Central Park.

It was July but the park was covered in a crisp coating of snow. It was beautiful but he barely noticed anymore.

He laid a palm against the glass, enjoying the contrast of his dark skin against the whiteness, if only for a moment before the boredom returned.

Amber had left two days before. Douglas had gone to the theatre but she’d stayed behind complaining of a headache. When he returned her clothes were still in the wardrobe, her papers still on the desk, but she was gone, and he knew she wouldn’t be back.

He sighed. It was time again, the hollowness was returning as it always did. Steven, Vivienne, Douglas. Baghdad, Nottingham, New York. It didn’t matter.

He put some dirt in the Molecular Shuffler and wondered how to move on…

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