Cashier

I held the cheese as I had been trained to do, thumbs on top, cool packaging, breathing with its texture. There were two people in front of me, then one. My heart quickened. I tried for calm, but as I approached the Cashier, I was greeted with a security alert.

“Please place the item on the table David Ellis. Thank you. Stand back from cheese. Kindly place yourself in the white square and account for your vital sign elevations.”

I felt the panic rising. “Is there a problem?”

“You are excluded.”

“Why is that?”

“Mr Ellis. To answer that question, you must waive your RealTime® Privacy Function. Because you are in a public place, this is not recommended.”

Turning, I saw the queue behind me, some faces blank and staring back, some trying to look away. “I need the cheese,” I said. “So I waive my RPF.”

The Cashier came back immediately. “Changes in your on-line language use suggest an 82% chance you will get Alzheimer’s Disease in the next three years. Your projected health spend will exceed your salary, so a debt repayment plan has been started on your behalf. You are, therefore, excluded.”

The people around me shifted around, glancing hungrily, fearing me.

“That poor man,” said an elderly woman with a trolley.

“I need to speak to a human manager,” I said. “Grounds are: emotive response to news received through a waived RPF.”

“Very well.”

Whenever humans are involved, things slow down. It took a few minutes for an overweight young man to emerge from the office in the back, ruddy faced with awkward heavy steps. He managed a smile, not very convincing but enough to activate his Achievement Badge.

“I am excluded,” I stammered. “I am upset. I wanted some cheese and what I got was a death sentence!” A good rising high tone.

The young man’s eyes widened, but he said nothing.

I waited.

“You must live outside the perimeter,” he said. “That’s just what happens.”

“Given the enormity of what your Cashier has told me, I suggest my waiver of the RPF was ill informed.”

“I am sorry Sir.”

“You should check my RPF default settings.”

“I…” he looked lost. “I am sorry,” he said again. Then, as if suddenly exhausted, he made a small hopeless movement with his hands. “I can’t do that.”

“Yes you can.”

“I don’t think so.”

“I am upset,” I said again. And I was. My heart was banging and I was hot. “You just told me I am going to die. That means you can check the defaults. Reg 28b.”

“That poor man.”

“What did he do?”

The manager turned to survey the gathering crowd and sighed. Beckoning to me with just his fingers, I approached.

“Please stand in the white square,” said the Cashier again.

“It's ok,” said the manager. “You can come over here.”

He took the stick drive for my RPF and sucked the code from it, staring at the screen as both he and the Cashier contemplated my future.

“You have good reason to be upset,” said the Cashier.

“Thank you.”

“You can take the cheese but are asked not to return to this shop.”

“Ok.”

Beside me, the elderly woman was unloading her trolley. As I left, I heard the Cashier tell her that, according to a new RPF® – a Radical Principle of Fairness - she had been allocated 7% of a certain banker’s personal account. I could hear people shouting in the street, jumping up and down. A man ran past waiving a wodge of money in the air. As the RPF spread, the need to pull the rich from their cars and commandeer their houses dissipated.

Behind me I heard the faint voice of the Cashier say, “Estimated time for consolidation of new elite: two years.”