It was the future. The year 2999 to be exact. The world was mere hours away from plummeting at full speed into the year 3000. The lady, almost older than time itself at 88 years old, cast a wrinkle-eyed glance out of the window. She shook her head at the dystopian wilderness that met her gaze and pulled her Dunelm Mill curtains together.
Suddenly, screeching laughter filled the air as four, blonde, curly haired children of varying ages, weights and gender-identities bounded into the room.
‘Great-great Grandma!’ The children joyously yelled.
‘My children.’ The lady said.
The young people gathered around her chair, three of the children were fairly cute but the youngest was uglier than sin itself.
‘You look beautiful, great-great Grandma. You look like an angel.’ They gushed.
The very old lady raised an ancient hand, smiled gently and said ‘I know.’
The lady, who we can now all agree is a future version of Victoria Cook, tugged the lid from her breath-mobilizer and took a long deep inhalation.
‘What is love, great-great Grandma?’ Said the very ugly one.
‘You will probably never know.’ The old lady said wistfully. ‘But,’ she said, nodding at the child with the bounciest curls and the most passive personality, ‘You might.'
She smiled. ' I know what love is, for once I found it.’
She picked up a large mug steaming with Gin. The children settled down on the Alsatian skin rug except the stupid one who sat on the cold, stone floor. A decision which would give her piles in later life.
‘I was a young lady back then. I had just arrived in Vietnam. The hustle-bustle of Hanoi airport was hard to bare, so I stepped outside for a fresh breath of air.’
‘Great-great Grandma, what’s an airport?’ Said the middle child, who had no discernible qualities or features except in place of her left hand she had a small, metal teaspoon. The dystopian government had removed her hand at birth, when each child was allotted their career. She would be a tea lady. And a talented one at that.
The lady showed the children an “AIRPORT” on the Visualisation Screen. It stupid one fell asleep. The ugly one however felt a stirring deep in her stomach. A longing for something different. A change in the world. A better future for all. She didn’t know it yet but that ugly child would grow up to defeat the robots and break the remaining humans out of Sector 17 for good. They would crawl for days through dark tunnels following a chink of light that promised the outside world. They would have to feed on worms and rats to stay alive. They would find outside eventually, dragging themselves out the tunnels just west of Horwich Parkway. Though unfortunately they would die anyway cos of too much Nuclear in the air.
The ancient lady smiled. Lost in the memory of Vietnam. The unfamiliar sight of polite people and the promise of a wide range of Hello Kitty products of varying quality hung in the air.
‘His name was Jonathan. Or Joooonooothaaaa, as he pronounced it in his phlegmy yet almost attractive French accent.’
She found herself spinning back in time to that moment as she span in her spinny chair. She could feel his eyes on her, one slightly crossed but the other deep and intense.
‘He asked for my number and I laughed. I resolved to give him a fake one. But as you children know, I am number-dyslexic. So I gave him the correct one.’
The children laughed merrily at dyslexia.
‘I resolved never to answer his call.’
‘Then what happened?’ Asked the other child that I’ve not really mentioned yet.
‘Later that night I took a wandering stroll around the village of Vietnam. I got lost and decided to take a detour down an elegant street called Urine Alley. The place bustled with tiny restaurants, serving traditional Vietnamese delicacies such as “doughnuts” and “pizza.” I glanced around, eager for a place to fit my delicate pallet. And there he was.
I turned and ran. Like any West Texan girl would, even though I was from Whitley Bay. I hid in the doorway of the traditional Vietnamese shop 'Zara'.
What was he doing in Urine Ally? Was this a sign? In a city of 13.5 million people I had somehow bumped into the one person in Vietnam I had wanted to avoid. I made my decision. I’ll slowly walk back up the street. If he’s still there, I’ll speak to him. If not I’ll go back to the hotel and watch Bargain Hunt. I tore myself away from the window display and jaunted tentatively with renewed vigour up the alley.
He was there.’
The old lady paused as the Pope clock in the kitchen began to chime.
‘IT’S THE YEAR 3000!’ Screeched the children, who were annoying 87% of the time. ‘HAPPY NEW YEAR!’
The nuclear fireworks exploded over the dystopian wasteground. The old lady closed her eyes. She remembered Hanoi. The Frenchman’s machine-gun laughter. His kiss in a deserted alleyway while an elderly Japanese man looked on. Dancing slowly in the dark to Gangnam Style. Completing a 'Which Harry Potter Character Are You? Quiz. Rabid dogs chasing them across a river. Feverishly searching for WiFi hotspots. Starting a fight with some American GI’s in a bar and then running away hand-in-hand and laughing. Whispers of love. A gunshot wound. A shared hamburger and fries from Maccy D's. His eyes pleading with her as she unwillingly broke him. She let out a final sigh and was still. The children had linked arms and were singing that song everyone sings on New Year.
The eldest child, a sensitive boy, knelt by the old lady his face lit up by the twinkling Christmas lights. ‘Great-great Grandmama?’ He looked at her peaceful yet dead face. He raised his paintbrush hand and stroked her cheek gently, leaving a light trail of Dulux White Cotton emulsion.