This is part of a fictional story called The Spletzer-Martin 5 set in London in the not so distant future. It is very much a work in progress.
“Atheism is a luxury of the rich!”
This was Louise saying hello. She flopped into the large expensively embroidered armchair and let out a rather melodramatic sigh. Elsie didn’t bother to ask if she was okay, nothing Louise did was ever so bland as to be okay. All blonde hair and long disapproving nose, she’d been chatting up the 50 something bar tender who now gave them the benefit of candles and canapes on the house. An office party had been held there earlier and the food would only go to waste.
“its alright for you” she said to Elsie “you can afford to buy food, you don’t need to scavenge like this”
There they were, both in this exclusive London club due to Louise’s abilities to blag. Elsie watched her nibble fussily at the snacks, picking out the bits that weren’t to her taste, and couldn’t help but smile. Louise was perfectly suited to her situation. A Twilighter (1) extraordinaire.
There was something different about her now though, a darkness round the eyes, less playful than before, hard-edged somehow, with age and fatigue collecting at the corners of her mouth.
” a friend of mine died from the cold six months ago, and now another one has gangrene in her foot and may loose it.” She said this to Elsie in an accusational fashion.
“Is she in hospital?”
“Of course not! She has no money for hospital. There’s a “See-er” in the tunnels taking care of her”
“A See-er? What’s a See-er”
” Like a witchdoctor, shaman healer type, there are quite a few practicing in the tunnels now”
” But surely she could find a charity or something to help her?”
Louise didn’t actually spit at this comment but only because that would mean them being thrown out of the club. Instead she glared a silent glare for a whole 60 seconds. Then finally she hissed:
“She’s ill, she can’t walk, how can she go hunting out charity hospitals! They’re over crowded anyway and she’s likely to be dead before she gets seen! Besides she’s been living in the tunnels for three years now, since she lost her job and couldn’t pay the rent. The Underlondoners (2) don’t trust anything belonging to above-landers”.
Elsie was silent.
More calmly Louise continued:
” they’re starting their own religion down there, they need it to survive. Money doesn’t rule them down there. What is important is knowing the way round the tunnels. Where to find clean water, where’s best to come to the surface to scavenge for food, what remedies can be obtained from weeds and found remains. They’re returning to old folklores. When I first found out I was thinking they’d be bound to die out then, but no, it’s what is keeping them alive. Belief, psychology. is incredibly powerful”.
She took a sip of red wine, formed a deep frown across her forehead and looked directly into Elsie’s eyes
“Are you an Atheist?”
“Yes, of course” said Elsie “aren’t you?”
“Not anymore – If you are lying on a sodden blanket in pitch darkness, in severe agony, knowing there is no one coming to help you, if you’re convinced you are about to die, slowly, painfully and alone, do you rationalise it? Do you way up the scientific odds? Sing “Always look on the bright side of life”? No, you beg God – and any god will do at this moment, you’re not fussy – to save your life. I know, I’ve been there, and until you can say you’ve been there and didn’t find yourself begging God, you’re Atheism is shallow”.
1. Twilighters – The term Twilighter started being used in the early 2000′s by the arts council of England to distinguish between respectable people and the type of person who was not worth counting as potential audience. It was later adopted by the government and media to describe a section of the public who were poor, in temporary accommodation, in unstable employment if any. With the reforms to arts funding and low income self-employment tax it came to include most artists and musicians.
2. Underlondoners – Those who live in the tunnels under London. Read Water
19. Red Wine and Revolution – Elsie’s thoughts.