“The door opens and lets the future in” is written on the local giant shopping centre. I do not know where it came from or what it means or why they felt it was a good idea to put it there. But they did, and I find that interesting.

[Nigel touches a door he shouldn’t]

“Nigel! Don’t touch that door!” Nanny snapped, imperious and deafening tones setting the picture frames rattling on the shelves. Lashed to the wall the Nanny had only their voice to rely on, but what a voice!

Keeping Nigel from touching the door was a task that required constant vigilance – it was what had led to Nanny being attached to the wall, though the logic of this decision remained questionable. He was a wily one, and his lust for the door and its shiny, tempting knob was overwhelming.

Caught out Nigel frowned, sulking back to his seat and sitting down with all his available weight. The chair did not break, as much as he might have liked it to, and he continued to sulk in silence. The door, close, taunted him with possibilities and silent promises. All doors did this to Nigel. Doors were by their very nature teases, and for this Nigel hated and loved them in equal measure.

“Play with your toys, Nigel,” Nanny commanded. Nigel looked at the floor where his toys were strewn. He looked at his train, his cow, his bound and gagged prisoner – none of them were what he wanted to play with, none sparked his imagination.

“I want door-themed toys!” He whined, kicking his legs and making the chair rock. Nanny glowered, straining against the rivets in their flesh but still immobile.

“No! No door-themed toys! You know the rules of your fathers!”

Nigel had eight fathers. No mothers. Mothers were superfluous now. No-one was sure when that had happened but it was far too late to go back now. Nanny often wondered how different Nigel might have turned out with some feminine influence in his early life, but that was simply the mad daydreams of a Nanny nailed to a wall. It couldn’t affect reality.

“Hate the rules of my fathers…” Nigel grumbled. He hadn’t even seen any of them for thirty or so years. Or was it three? Counting was hard. Father number four had said he would explain numbers to him as a birthday present but had never delivered. When probed, Nanny always said it was their place to give the gift of mathematics and it never got further than that. Nigel sometimes wondered if they were ever coming back.

For a time Nigel played a game that relied heavily on imagination. In it, the train – as driven by the cow – was attempting to negotiate favourable terms of trade with the bound and gagged prisoner. The bound and gagged prisoner drove a hard bargain, but the cow had experience on its side. Not to mention a train; the ace in the hole! Nigel all-but forgot about the door in all the fun he was having.

But it was impossible to truly forget it. It was always there at the very corner of his mind, being alluring, presenting possibility and suggesting transition.

“Open me, Nigel!” The door pleaded, entirely in his head. It had a voice of silk, not to mention a tongue of silver, feet of clay and other body parts also made from unsuitable materials. Knees of plaster, for example. To Nigel, this just made it more irresistible. He was standing up before his brain even remembered telling his legs to do it.

“Nigel, where are you going?” Nanny asked. Their voice seemed distant now though, weaker. It failed to stop Nigel from moving towards the door, his hand raising in expectation of grasping a knob.

“Nigel. Nigel! Don’t you dare grasp that knob!” Nanny screeched, the paint peeling from the ceiling and the glass in the windows liquefying, but Nigel remained unaffected. He grasped the knob. It was everything he could have hoped for.

“Never have I felt more complete…” NIgel breathed. Something was running through his body that felt almost like electricity. It was electrifying. Obviously.

“Don’t you dare turn that knob you’re grasping, Nigel!” Nanny said in tones of abject pleading, struggling again to free themselves so they might dash over and wrench Nigel back, but to no avail. Nigel turned the knob he was grasping.

“Nigel, no!” Nanny screamed, but it was too late, the door was open. The barest inch was all it needed. Light streamed in through the crack and force of its gross incandescence blasted the door so it was fully open, knocking Nigel flat on his back.

Everything was now chrome.

Through the streaming, blinding light came strolling a figure. Their one-piece suit was crinkled silver and their sunglasses were pointy. They looked down at Nigel.

“Hello, we’re the future. Have a food pill,” they, the future, said. Their hand was out offering a tiny pill, which was also chromed.

“Ooh, ta very much,” Nigel said, taking the proffered pill and swallowing it. It slid down his throat, futuristically. Nanny would have protested this, urging Nigel not to swallow the food pill, but Nanny had been electroplated just like everything else and speaking was now difficult. As was breathing. And being alive.

“I feel quite satisfied!” Nigel said after some consideration. He certainly felt full.

“You are also now pregnant,” the future said. Nigel looked down. He was indeed heavily pregnant. His belly had ripped his shirt.

“Crikey.”

“You are not allowed to be surprised by this. This is the future now,” the future said, deeply offended by the crude, brutish sensibilities of the past. It really was another country. Nigel was appropriately sheepish, rubbing his belly in what he hoped was an acceptable display of contrition.

“I see. Well then, best foot forward, eh?”

“That is an incredibly rude thing to say now that it is the future,” the future said.

“Do you have, like, a handbook or something? Because I think this might keep happening otherwise,” Nigel always tried to be polite but even he had limits sometimes. Then again, he had always been a little bit touchy ever since becoming pregnant, so his patience wasn’t what it had once been.

“Books are illegal in the future. And offensive. How dare you,” the future was very easily offended by mention of things that it found offensive. Such was its nature. It did help that in the future all things had been divided into those that were offensive and those that were not. Wars had been fought to decided these boundaries. Not that they had been called ‘wars’ as that would have been barbaric. Rather, these were ‘Disagreements’.

For a time water had been deemed the only non-offensive subject, until it was pointed out that people could drown in it, and this might upset those who had drowned. Thus was everything offensive, and the wars – Disagreements, rather – continued; persecuted with the full force of whatever terrifying weaponry the future could produce.

Nigel was unaware of this rich future-history, so just found the future’s easily offended nature irritating. He kicked the future between the legs in the hope that this remained a sensitive spot even in the future (it did) and shoved them back through the door, slamming it shut.

“You know what, I don’t think this is going to work out,” he said.

He had a sudden craving for unusual combinations of food, but couldn’t remember if this was a legitimate occurrence for pregnant men or simply something society had implanted in his head. Regardless, he really wanted some.

END

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