‘Hmm, real food!’ Fifi rubbed her stomach, one of generous proportions, that if she’d been twenty years younger could have passed for an expectant one, but these days was one expecting more sustenance. ‘I remember that. The market. Used to be just in front of this hotel, ya know. Fresh vegetables in the stalls—and the tomatoes,’ sigh, ‘you just don’t get such tasty tomatoes like that anymore.’
‘But surely if you have your own land and grow your own vegetables?’ Georg asked.
‘Own land? What country are you from?’
‘Germany. We have land there.’
‘Not here in Australia. Not since,’ she lowered her voice, ‘I mean it got taken away in the ‘3o’s when we became a republic and,’ her eyes darted in the direction of a hologram of a popular avatar from a neighbouring country to Australia, ‘sold our country to—you know.’
‘You mean multinationals?’
Fifi whispered, ‘Them too. But hush, the insects are in plague proportions these days and you don’t know,’ and she mouthed, ‘who’s listening.’
‘So, no one owns land? Not for twenty years?’
She checked the room full of avatar holograms, robots and androids. They maintained their positions. Then she shrugged. ‘Nup.’
‘Unbelievable!’ Georg gasped and then took a step backwards. He regretted it as his heel landed on something ripe and squishy. Vera, the goat gave him one of her baleful side-long glances.
‘Yep, all owned by big business and of course the rich, you know, who have the “dosh” and “umph” to get their way around these parts. No small players, no patches of land. It’s all big slabs—cornfields, canola, soy beans, as far as the eye can see.’
‘And the cows and sheep?’
‘Not happy cows and sheep, then.’
‘Nup, the mainstays are replicated food. They make all our food out of corn, soy, canola and sugar.’
Georg gazed about the room. Fifi and he were the only real people there. Jonah, the friend who had introduced him to the hotel, had left. “You’ll find more life in a cemetery,” he’d muttered as a parting comment.
‘No wonder,’ Georg gestured to the inert forms, their eyes dull and limbs hanging, ‘so this is what it has become.’
Fifi patted Vera. ‘It’s why I have the goat, here. But I keep it quiet. I have permission, of course. They like the milk—those in charge, I mean. Raw goats milk. Never been legally banned. As long as there’s big wigs who have children who need it for medical reasons…Oh, and the wealthy from neighbouring countries, you know, well, they like it too. It’s a delicacy.’
‘Yeah. I remember back, why, when I was young and working at the supermarket, baby formula was the thing. We had to put a limit on it. They’d buy it up, otherwise, and off it’d go to, well, you know where.’
Georg shook his head. ‘Incredible!’
‘Yeah, well, as long as I keep it quiet and don’t make a fuss…keeps me, well, you know, in the liquid so to say.’ She reached into the fridge and passed him a small amber bottle. ‘Raw goat’s milk. Try some.’
‘Thank you.’ Georg grasped the bottle and then leaned forward on the counter. ‘So, then, if I bought a cow…’
‘A cow? Where would you put it?’
‘I was hoping to buy some land…’
Fifi chuckled and her belly jiggled. ‘Good luck with that, mate.’
‘Perhaps I could be one of those, you know, people with what did you say? “Dosh” and “umph”?’
‘Yeah, right! Good luck with that.’ The portly hotel manager swayed her auburn curls, and then waddled over to the stasis-couple in the corner.
Georg unscrewed the lid of the bottle and then sipped the creamy liquid. A bit tart, but he liked tart. He pondered. Australia, 2050, the last continent to lose its independent democratic government. Hot-frogged, changes gradual, freedoms frittered away…until the population is monitored from birth to death, imprisoned in their rooms, chained to their computers, starved of real food, and where only the virtual, the rich and the powerful are free. What life? he thought and clutching the bottle of goat’s milk, he nodded at Fifi and then walked out the hotel.
He breathed in the cool crisp air. Air still pristine. So clear seen from space; he’d viewed it on a space-tour that travelled past the stratosphere. Crystal clear…but not for long. When he saw Australia from the viewing-chamber, he had to go there. The urge to save the last continent compelled him.
Raw cows milk from this country would be something special, he decided. A delicacy for the neighbouring nations too. He remembered his youth when he roamed the four aisles of his father’s health food supermarket in Bavaria. He reminisced the days when he accessed raw cow’s milk from a vending machine. He loved the creamy taste of it. Health food, real food for life, those small beginnings of his father had, under Georg’s control, expanded into an empire spanning the Northern Hemisphere. Now he was ready to tackle Australia. First, though, he needed permission from the ruling authorities of this country.
Fifi’s words echoed in his mind. “Good luck to you!”
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017
Feature Photo: Goat, Saas Fee, Switzerland © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2014