Fruit of The Money Trees

Short economic fiction (part one)

There was a bend in the highway where the raw burnt grasses of the hot prairie licked at Minotaur’s rock. No one knew why it was called that, the name carved into the landscape long after the reason had been buried with the tongues of the ancestors. In the low evening sun, it looked like a hunched figure watching the cars as they sped on for the forty or so miles to Lansing. Laura imagined the great boulder leaning out some great limb and plucking the cherry black, white and red vehicles and raising them to it’s gaping cave mouth. There was something bestial about it, something that stirred a primal anxiety in all who came across the lonely wind-beaten colossus. But it was just a rock, just by a road, forty miles or so to Lansing.

Her mind drifted a little as she drove, eyes fixed somewhere ahead, a can of sweet green tea clasped between her knees. She needed to get the chicken defrosted for dinner and there was laundry in the drier. Florian would be home from the security department by 8.15pm as usual, weary with wide warm arms and warmer kiss. They would talk about work, share a stir fry in front of the TV, and go to bed after a shower. The great quotidian. The same day they had shared for six years, but the prospect still sent her mind to a place of calm. This was safe, this was stable, this was home. Somewhere ahead of her, a truck swerved on the road, screeching into her lane. ‘Idiot,’ she muttered, clasping the wheel as the driver steadied himself.

An Audi lurched forward in a similar pattern, swerving just a few feet in front of her. Within seconds and without explanation, all the vehicles on the road entered her lane, pushing desperately into the exit on the forkroad. ‘What the-’ she murmured, squinting ahead to the rock. Nothing unusual. No collision, flaming truck or ambulance. Just hundreds of cars cramming themselves into the exit for Lansing as if their lives depended on it.

“What’s going on?” she yelled out the window, hoping someone heard over the roar of horns and slammed breaks. “What’s happened? Is there an accident?” There was no answer for a few seconds, as the cars continued to ram round hers. She called out again, to be greeted with the ruddy face of a truck driver. “Don’t you have the radio on lady?” he shouted. “the dollar is gone.”

Laura stared, stunned. “What?” she said feebly. Did he mean there was another recession? A credit crunch? Some weird economic crisis only some wonk in glasses could explain? What the hell did that have to do with the highway? But the man was gone, forcing himself three cars ahead and knocking the wing mirror off a car to do so. She flicked on the radio.

The dollar has been decimated in what can only be called an unprecedented cyber attack on US banking systems across the states, a woman was reading aloud. An estimated 310 million bank accounts have been affected in what appears to be the mass deletion of online fund records…

Laura sat back, relieved. A cyber attack. What an over reaction. The banks would have figured out what to do to get everyone their funds back within the day, if that. It was probably some easy glitch the Russians had taken advantage of to shake the economy. If all these idiots were driving into town to withdraw cash, more fool them. Spending five thousand dollars in cash was practically impossible unless you were having your roof done. Still, it meant the traffic was going to be worse than usual. She sat back and called Florian. “Honey, I’m going to be a bit late.”

“What?” he sounded withdrawn, far away. It was hard to hear him over the panic on the road ahead.

“The traffic is really bad. People are panicking over some cyber attack.”

He said nothing. “Honey? You okay?” she pressed, concerned. Surely Florian wasn’t worried about a banking glitch.

“How far are you from home Laura?” he said sternly. “Do you have fuel?”

“About an hour, why?” She looked at the fuel gauge. “And yeah, enough. What’s going on? What’s happened?”

“This isn’t going to be fixed. Not any time soon anyway. We could be looking at at least a month without any online records of money. That means no one gets paid, no goods can be bought by stores, no contactless or online payments, no debit or credit cards, nothing. And cash will be worthless too if it carries on that long. All you’ve got is what’s in your wallet.”

“So should I go to the bank?”

“No,” he said sharply. “Come straight home. Drive fast. Stay away from anything that looks like a riot or an opportunist. There’s going to be some bad guys out there tonight preying on lone drivers.”

“Florian, don’t be crazy. The police still exist-”

“The police aren’t going to have enough resources to cover this crisis. Not for a month. And when they stop being paid it’s game over. A few hours ago I would have agreed with you, this is a glitch. But it isn’t. This is deliberate and carefully planned. And people are beginning to realise what this means. It is going to destroy the system more than any virus or bomb ever could.”

“Who did it? The Russians?”

“We don’t know. Just get home. Get home now.”

Laura stared ahead. The road was completely full, all the usual traffic going to four other cities at rush hour crammed onto one lane, the inevitable crashes and collisions sending people into a panic. No one was moving. In a matter of minutes, there was total gridlock. Men were clambering out of trucks, offering gas from canisters in exchange for watches, necklaces, cash. Occasionally they’d come across a pretty girl and coax her to get in their truck. “You’re all going to be stuck here on this road for hours,” they called out to the stall. “You’re all going to be cold in a few hours. You’re all going to run out and have to walk forty miles in the night. We’re the only gas you’re going to get tonight.”

“They’ll send helicopters to help us,” a middle aged woman called out over them. “Or the police will clear the road up. Don’t listen. Opportunists.” The men roared with laughter.

“Lady this is happening on every road in America, you think there’s enough helicopters and police cars in the world to take care of this? Sit down.”

Laura watched, numb. The radio was insisting that everyone should stay calm, to return to their homes immediately and await a solution from the President. It would be a matter of hours for the situation to be resolved, the vice president assured Fox News. All banks would be open for 24 hours and would be accepting withdrawals of up to $15,000 from accounts that had physical, printed records of deposits. For the time being, entirely as a precaution, the government would be absorbing the cost of water and electricity for 24 hours, so hoarding supplies was unnecessary. But no one believed them, by this point. Everyone had opened their banking accounts on their phones and seen the same glaring 000000/000000/000000 number on their credit and debit.

“Six six six,” a woman was shouting ahead. “It’s six six six. Like the devil.”

A few hours passed, and some people tried to reverse off the road and get home. Others clung frantically to the hope of getting to the bank, and having their savings. Soon the second road was filled with the same crushed vehicles that tried to push past onto the road home. It was getting cold now, but she didn’t want to turn the heating on and use fuel. The rock loomed ahead, black and hard against the last of the setting November sun. Laura blinked back tears, and looked down at her phone. 12% charge. She’d better save it for an emergency. Although who would come now?

She felt a heavy hand on top of the car, and the glimpse of a wide, toothless mouth and ugly face. “Hey there baby,” the man said, knocking on the glass. “I’ll keep you warm.”




26 year old with an awful lot to say about everything. Opinions entirely my own. Usually.

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Madelaine Lucy Hanson

Madelaine Lucy Hanson

26 year old with an awful lot to say about everything. Opinions entirely my own. Usually.

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