Tonight, the hands of Big Ben are running amok again, sprinting past the crafted roman numerals recently restored to their original teal as you cross Tower Bridge. Church clock after church clock starts madly whirling as soon as you glance up during the long rickshaw ride, as if they were following you. Or rather, unhinging at your gaze.
Luckily, even the expanding mass of the phone-less can still consult their Ourland’s mechanical wrist watches to avoid being caught by the blackout.
While tech poor, you aren’t amongst their ranks, not yet. But data destitution and evading detection are some of the spectres that sent you on this desperate ride, so you prudently left your dying phone behind. Waving phones around a redzone is a terrible idea anyhow, but asking strangers for the time invites troubles of a different kind; particularly while wearing an expensive skin-tight leather dress. Unless, that is, trouble is what you seek, or you are worse trouble than they are.
Like your silk stockings and scarlet lipstick, the glossy figure-moulding dress fell of the back of an Amazon lorry, traded for a blowjob in the picketed parking lot for this maiden voyage. Paying the Rickshaw driver with your one-before-last voucher, you meet his eyes for the first time, finding no suspicion; only exhaustion and a trace of lust. Yes, you probably pass. At least in this lighting and distance. You get off and start walking, carefully, the heels of your pinching boots clicking unevenly against the ancient pavement stones, praying that the impending blackout does not coincides with another snap curfew. Blackouts don’t mean very much in this part of town, where the floodlights are often disconnected by people syphoning the electricity to their homes, legitimate or illicit businesses, and lovingly busted by those attempting a fox-nap before they are awakened by the Taggers nightsticks. But a curfew would mean you are taking this enormous risk for nothing.
Your path is lit by regular bursts of multicoloured holograms, and a couple of cheeky pink and purple live sparks showers. Real fireworks were outlawed shortly after smoke flares on the second year of Susie The Vile’s regime, because of the bombings, and like the worst of such edicts, were adopted by her opposition successor. Even after The Vile herself was denaturalised.
You are fairly confident that your pass would scan fine if not randomly subjected to specialist software, or crossed with a DNA sample. And despite the increasing trepidation, in oddly high spirits. Partly courtesy of the caressingly retraining lace of the french knickers against your throbbing groin, partly thanks to the unscheduled hot bucket shower you cajoled from your wind-pirate neighbour, but mostly because there is a sense of release in finally biting the bullet.
Mind, you would kill for a bath. You would kill for many things, like an avocado, or listening to live music played by an artist from abroad without getting raided. Or your old job.
But those are things of the past. And that job stopped paying your rent and bills, let alone hazard- taxed coffee, long before it was blacklisted. Well, extortionately licenced and heavily regulated at first, but unequivocally banned in last month’s batch of newly announced degenerate professions.
The undercover Tagger caught you hustling at the queue to the theatre.
Swearing that this was not what it looked like, then pleading that this was your first time, did nothing to stop him from E-cuffing your wrists and hauling you towards the infamous local cop-shop, no less terrifying for it’s new solar panels facade.
Despite the Tagger openly laughing in your face, the latter was true. This was your first time trying to work in the street.
You thought that seeing clients in their cars, even parks, was the furthers you could go, but when the astronomical fines turned into prison sentences even those weren’t workable anymore.
You selected that particular queue on the basis that anyone braving checkpoints, data thieves, crowd crashes, plague de jour, and patriotic punk-folk to watch an amateur production of ‘Greta, the Musical!’ would be relatively well-off, fairly harmless, easy picking, and in great need of your services.
Surely a prime spot for soliciting clients willing to risk an illegal gender-affirming hypnotherapy session.
You went with the Tagger without further protestations, thankful for splashing out on vitamin E moisturiser, which was wonderfully helpful in quietly loosening the E-cuffs. Doubly grateful for the wig pins you contrived to hide under your tongue to short-circuit the chip when he kept driving past the station and up the hill, and pulled up in a dark side street, ordering you to get out.
Your only regret is being unable to properly see the look on his face when you slide your hands out of the disarmed cuffs, pull his head towards your erect nipples and your knee up, smashing his nose into his brain.
Adjusting your padded corset, you stop congratulating yourself on your choice of accessories, hobbies, and ointments, when six uniformed Taggers leap out of an ice-cream van.
Two, maybe three, you can handle, but six meant that your six inch heels are no longer weapons, but a serious hindrance to your chances of running fast and far enough.
You remove your boots anyway, unzipping your jacket and crouching to meet the helmeted figures tightening a lasso of menacing bodies around you, swinging a killer stiletto in each hand.
When they pounce, inches away from your flashing glasses and teeth, something unfathomable transpires: music starts blasting from above, and the Taggers shield their eyes, apparently in terrible agony, then freeze in unison. Looking up, you realise that the music is emitted from the cctv on the gate of the abandoned cinema; that old, old, Kelis hit, which you always thought was more about milking the boys than shaking your spectacular tits in their face.
An electronically distorted voice urges you to put up the street in your torn stockings until you reach the shuttered warehouse on your right. Speed is of the essence, since the Taggers will soon recover and renew their attack with vengeance fuelled vigour.
You do not trust your faceless rescuer at all, nor approve of her musical taste. When you meet, you would like her masks, cuffs, and instruments selection even less.
But supposing you miraculously escape the ice-cream van squad, the Taggers now have your fake pass, genuine DNA, and enough recorded felonies to make you disappear, or worst. So what choice do you have?
And besides, despite yourself, your lace and silk imprisoned cock is bone-hard.