Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Card - 1st draft

NOTE - This is the first draft of a short story. Comments welcome. Even ones about Tenby's nightlife and the album cover art of the Police.

The Card

In the weeks before the Last Crash the powers at Bank decided to launch a new product. Their cash points, though they had adapted to the various needs of the people in the previous decade, were still little more than holes in the wall filled with steel and paper. The banks were proud of these machines, with their shiny screens and fluorescent lettered buttons. The machines were their best employees, always on hand to dish out money for drinks and trinkets. Sometimes the machines dished out bad news, and sometimes they took a punch for their troubles, but usually they generously gave of themselves, neatly stacked bundles of faith for every denomination.

Things changed, the powers at Phone had produced little hand held phones and people became obsessed with them, wailing at night with terrifying dreams of separation from their little hand held children. The powers at Bank agreed to put an option on their cash machine screens to Add Phone Credit so people could chat and drink.

Then Internet came along. They made friends with Phone and Bank but the Cash Machine department never got invited to their glittering party. All the other departments at Bank knew it was only a matter of time before Cash Machine would be closed down. Physical money was disappearing. It was all in the ether now. And that would be for the better. No one could lose something that wasn’t there. No one could be mugged for the contents of a non-existent purse. On Fridays, the bars filled with people with tiny phones and money you couldn’t even see. The people who worked for Bank Machine would sigh and remember better times.

My father worked for Bank Machine. He installed the first notes in the first machine. The world’s press had been invited. People peered through the window as he switched the machine on in front of all the Bank employees. He was carried on the shoulders of cheering men and women as the array of lights and mechanised whirring began the revolution waiting to happen outside. It was half past five on a Friday night. My dad was lowered down to the street as he produced the first cash card from his wallet. The crowd went silent. Across the world people watched on their Televisions. People openly wept as he held up the ten pound note to the floodlights.

That was how things stayed for so long. People had their cards and took money out of the wall. It went from status symbol to everyday item in the blink of an eye. And once that had happened, the celebrity that my father enjoyed (and the acclaim that came with it for all who worked in Bank Machine) dwindled and died.

Until, the people at Bank Machine invented the Card. The Card would do everything. It was financial, telecom, entertainment and above all, it was doctor and sage. The Card would follow your transactions, your movements, make calculations arrived at from food receipts, altitude and speed of movement and give you your Life Score. People became obsessed with their Life Score. The queues at cash points once more reached the Biblical lengths of yore.

My father would tell me the Card was madness. He wondered when it would be that the madness would begin. The Card, he’d say to me as I came home late from school, will cause more wars than the Bible and the Bomb put together. I’d hear him downstairs at night, shouting at salesmen on the phone.


Although my father had warned against it, my mother had still bought me a Card for my 14th birthday.

“All his friends have one. You know how important it is to fit in at his age.”

It was slim silver. The 4th best on the First Card index. Everyone knew it was good.

My mum smiled as my dad begged me to be careful.

“I won’t lose it.” I said and my parents blinked back tears just like in the advert.


When you insert the Card for the first time the screen lines up a small beam of infra-red light that you must look at directly with your left eye. The screen clears and soon fills with all kinds of physical data about your body. It tells you your height and weight, your BMI, pulse and scans your brain for tumours. It tells you how much Money you have at that second and tells you where you could eat a good meal near to that Cash point. It books the table if you want. You already know that, though, don’t you.

I ate a burger and fries and twenty minutes later the Card told me to walk briskly home before the rain came.


The first incidents of Card Rage were dismissed by Cash Machines as myth and mischief-making by The Other Corporations. My dad was retired early by Bank for bringing it up at a board meeting. A man in Dusseldorf had left a print out of his Stress Levels on his desk in error and had been summarily dismissed from his job with Sport Clothing. He inserted his Card in a machine on the way home and was recommended a sushi restaurant for dinner. Raw fish, said the coroner, contains vital decoagulants for those with looming coronary issues. The man, a Herr Allofs, plunged a knife into the face of the waitress who brought him Drinks recommended by the Card.

Seventy four people, mainly Card users, died when the jet that took them to a new zoo in Utah plunged into a popular ski resort. Until the article was removed, an online journalist reported that the pilot had used his Card a mere ten minutes before takeoff and had received a horoscope he had badly interpreted. There were Card-related suicide cults in Uppsala, in Murmansk and Cleveland. A dentist in Cork removed all of his own teeth in despair when his Replacement Card was delayed.

Looking back now, we can all see that something truly bad would happen. My father said it would happen and we chose to ignore him. My mother left him for another woman after choosing Love Sage on the Card. They burnt to death when their car left the road near the Festival of Marksmanship at Sacramento. My father took the call in his study, I was sat upstairs framing my Statements; he put the phone down and sobbed loudly and pitifully. Eventually I went downstairs and took the news from him. My Card had just enough credits for chrysanthemums.


Ignacio Urfate Lopez was drunk the evening he was murdered for his kidneys. He was the owner and manager of a small bistro on the outskirts of Palo Alto. It was a dirty, dim lit place but popular with the local poor of whom Lopez proudly declared his membership. After each Saturday evening shift, he would clear the last of the customers, sweep as much of the floor as he could be bothered and pour himself a large wine glass of dark rum.

One of his staff, an elderly tall fellow of pale skin and yellowing eyes, a man named Suttree complained that he had not been paid that week and asked if Lopez would pay him from the till instead. Lopez apparently had cashed up and emailed Bank but said that if Suttree would wait ten minutes he would switch Credit from his Card to Suttree's via the Cardpoint on Utrillo Square.

What happened next depends on your point of view. Lopez was pretty drunk as he wandered over to the square with Suttree. It was gone midnight, not a soul to be found. Suttree claimed, and there was a lot of supporting evidence for a while on the Internet, that Lopez dropped his wallet and everything fell out. In the ensuing confusion and, no doubt in a rush to be rid of the whining Suttree, an adjective which to his credit the unfortunate Suttree did nothing to disprove or deny in court, Lopez inserted a Donor Card into the Card slot. Apparently he laughed when he realised his error and updated his record to say they could “take every fucking thing they wanted. Who cares, I’m dead?”

Suttree claims that Lopez then put the Card into the slot and switched 250 dollars to his account. The police claim there was a further row about monies owed and Suttree followed him back to his apartment and took his kidneys, eyes, heart and liver out with knives stolen from the diner.

People say they saw ambulances arrive twice.

I don’t know which people anymore. The Donor Card Company agreed to the Merger and everything appears to have gone back to normal.


Tonight the execution of Joseph Mark Suttree will take place on television. Firing squad as voted for by the people after the Justice Count. I myself voted against the Execution. I have a receipt for that Transaction framed upon my wall. I have a copy, as per the Regulations, filed away. But the important receipts I keep. In this, I am not alone. The disbelievers talk of the death of photo albums and letter writing; mock our electronic mementos and digital memories. Everyone has their favourite Receipts. I have my Marriage Bond, I have my Good Attendance Riband Receipt from the Bank, and I have a Loyal and Careful Driver Certificate from the Road Organisation. These are all framed and hang upon my study wall.

On the desk, the computer sits. I will switch the monitor off in a second. The execution is being streamed with a five-second delay, I won’t watch it. I have cut up my Card this evening and it is framed with the last receipt, a bottle of an excellent Chilean red which should improve my Heart Score.

To the left of the monitor, there are scissors. Underneath the scissors, there are tonight’s receipts which I will frame this evening. One for my updated Donor records, one for painkillers and another for chrysanthemums.


  1. Oh...that is a scary piece of work and one that is on the brink of coming true.

  2. Sci-fi, a new direction for you, shades of Dick and strangley enough i can't get the image of the organ donor collectors from meaning of life out of my head.