Friday, November 25, 2011

Making Money Made Easy

If I was rich things would be different. People would take notice of me. I would be able to do whatever I pleased. I would not have to worry about the mortgage. I would not have to worry about my car. I would not go to work. I would take things easy.

I wouldn’t want to be too rich though. If I was too rich I would feel bad about all the poor people in the world. If I was medium-rich I would do my bit for charity. This is more than can be said of some of the really rich people in the world today; they keep their money to themselves. Are they blind? Can’t they see that there are poor people everywhere? Sure, some of those poor people are just freeloaders, but still: they’re everywhere.

If I was rich I would do something significant to help people help themselves. If you teach a man to fish they’ll at least have fish to eat; which is better than nothing. If you’ve got fish you don’t need to freeload.

If I was rich I would start an organisation that taught freeloaders to become fisherman. Let’s face it, there’s nothing more off putting than a bunch of freeloaders hanging around when you’re trying to take the world by storm.

First I’ll take the world by storm then I’ll set-up the freeloading-fisherman organisation.

I have to do it in that order because I’ll need cash to buy fishing rods. I will need loads of fishing rods and some brands are really expensive. Having said that, freeloaders probably aren’t that fussy about what kind of fishing equipment they use.

Perhaps freeloaders should be fussier? Perhaps if they cared more about things like fishing equipment they wouldn’t be in such a predicament?

Anyway, my point is this: I am going to take the world by storm, and then I’m going to get rid of some of the couldn’t-care-less freeloaders around the place. Then, once I’ve done my bit, I can start some serious luxuriating, comfortable in the knowledge that people are eating fish because of me and my plan to take the world by storm.

I might even do a spot of fishing myself.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Retreat

Zoe likes to feel that she's done some physical activity to earn her relaxation which is why she loves yoga retreats.

It had been months since our last retreat. Zoe was getting really tense at work. She came home one day and told me that she had snapped at a co-worker. The next day I rang the retreat and made a booking.

The man on the end of the phone took our details.

“And will you be arriving by car, sir?” he asked.

I confirmed that we would be.

“Would you very much mind picking up a fellow retreat participant? Allan is stuck without a car. I’m sure he will be no bother.”

I hesitated. I had thought that the drive to the retreat would be a good time for Zoe and me to catch up. So it was with some reluctance that I agreed to the request.

Zoe was thrilled when I told her that I’d booked the trip. She arranged leave and bought herself some comfortable clothing. She seemed happier at the thought of going away, and I felt very pleased that I’d arranged it.

The day of the retreat came. We slept in and picked up our fellow retreater in the afternoon. He was an unusual chap, not the kind of person you’d expect to find on a retreat; he was quite a tight person and seemed very serious.

As we drove, Zoe and I tried to make polite conversation with our passenger, but it went nowhere.

It was quiet in the car, too quiet really; until Allan said:

“Truck drivers are 91% more likely to have beards than other members of the driving population.”

Zoe and I laughed. This was more like it, we thought.

Zoe quipped back, “Does that include women?”

Allan’s reply made it clear that his observation was no joke.

“Yes, of course, the study included all truck drivers, regardless of gender.”

Zoe and I exchanged glances. What study, we wondered. But we didn’t say anything.

After that we couldn’t shut Allan up. He had a statistic for everything. Some of the statistics, well most of them actually, seemed to be aimed at women. Some even seemed to be aimed at Zoe:

Women whose names start with the letter ‘Z’ are 12.3% less likely to be married at the age of 37.

Women who do yoga are 83% more likely to suffer from a relationship breakdown in their mid-forties.

Women who wear loose fitting garments are 36% more likely to let a major illness go undiagnosed.

It was a bit much. I wanted Allan to shut-up but I couldn’t think of a way of stopping him without being incredibly rude.

Finally, in desperation, I suggested that we pull over and have dinner at a salad bar.

Allan said, “Oh, I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Salad was a contributing factor in 56% of the food poisoning cases reported in the past year.”

We drove on.

Zoe was upset I could feel it. Like I said, she’d been under an enormous amount of pressure at work and she just wanted to relax.

It was with a sense of relief that we drove up the retreat’s long unsealed driveway.

It was dark when we got out of the car and the sky was a sea of stars. Allan was saying something about women’s inability to name the constellations being 25.6% less than men's when Zoe finally snapped.

She turned on Allan and said, “Life is not just about facts and figures, you know. Life is for living. How much better would your life be if you just relaxed and enjoyed it?”

Allan didn’t bat an eyelid, “Approximately 73%,” he replied “I’ll give you an exact number tomorrow at breakfast if you like?”

Zoe froze. I thought she was going to thump Allan, and to be honest I wouldn’t have blamed her if she had. But she didn’t. She started to laugh. She laughed like I hadn’t heard her laugh in months.

When she finally regained her composure she took Allan’s hand, shook it, and said. “See you at breakfast.”

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


Joel lined up with the other marathoners and waited for the starter’s pistol.

He had trained for months for this race. For months he had been getting out bed at 5.30 in the morning.

His wife had kept him going, the thought of his wife; it was the thought of the look she would give him once he’d completed the race. She would be proud of him, he knew it.

Finishing that race would show her that he was still strong, he still had fight in him, he still had life in him. She would see who he really was - who he was on the inside - and she would fall in love with him again.

The starter fired his pistol, and Joel ran.

Joel ran with heart. He ran with passion. He ran as if his life depended on it.

Joel ran the whole race as if he were running towards his waiting wife. At the end of the race he ran across the finish line and seized her in his arms.

She didn’t have the look that he had hoped for.

She was pleased for him, of course. She handed him a towel and a bottle of water and told him that he’d made good time.

Joel took the bottle of water.

He hadn’t done it for her, he realised.

He’d been running for himself, running for the feeling that he could be someone to be proud of.

Joel might have cried a little bit on the way home, but he was okay. In fact he was better than okay: he was alive.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Mountain and Me

My mountain is calling to me. I hear it across land and across sea.

My mountain is there in my dreams. I see my mountain standing on the flat plains. It is watching me. I am a young boy riding a blue bike. I am laughing as I ride around and around in circles. I am light and free. I watch the bike’s front tyre as I turn and turn and turn. And suddenly, the whole world is turning but I am still. I stop. I look at my mountain. It is still. It is heavy on the earth. We are like the sun and the moon, my mountain and me.

Oh great mountain, you remember me before I remember me. You are in all my young memories.

You are with me now, even though I am far from you; even though I am too far away from you.

I remember you when I am anxious. My pulse may race, but your stillness is with me. The spirit of you is in my heart.

I remember you too, when I feel life’s power coursing through me. I am lifted up. My head is in the sky but my feet are on the ground. You are beneath my feet.

You are the mix of sky and earth that I have sought after every day of my life.

I long to be near you. I long for the land of my birth at my feet and you by my side. It is through this longing that I hear you calling.

I hear you. I hear you.

And I will return to you. I will bring my own child. We will stand at your mighty feet and I will tell my child of you; the things you have taught me: strength and courage; sky and soil; sun and moon.

I hear you calling.

I will return.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Paul was getting ready for a night out on the town when his phone rang.

“Paul Darby,” he said in his most authoritative voice.

“Paul. It’s Andrew Weston here,” the voice on the other end of the phone replied. “Sorry to call you on a Friday evening, but I have some rather bad news for you.

We’re letting you go, Paul. The Executive has decided to move in different direction…”

The voice continued to talk but Paul did not hear it.

Paul was standing in the dark, his phone still in his hand, when Kim, his girlfriend, arrived. She looked gorgeous.

“Paul,” she said, “what’s going on? Why aren’t you ready?”

Paul didn’t move.

“Paul?” Kim said a little less certainly.

Paul slowly turned his head towards her.

Has he been crying, Kim wondered, but she instantly dismissed the idea. Paul was tough. Paul was confident. Paul was motivated. Paul had ambition. He wasn’t the kind of guy to sit in the dark crying.

“What is it Paul, what’s happened?”

“I - I’ve had some rather bad news babe,” he answered.

Paul’s voice was so uncertain, so troubled: listening to it made Kim feel uncomfortable.

“I’ve been sacked,” Paul stifled a sob as he said this. “I’ve never been sacked.”

“Oh, is that all,” Kim laughed. “I’ll buy you a drink and you can tell me all about it.”

Paul stood over Kim and Kim could see that he was full of fire.

“What do you know?” Paul yelled. “What do you know about anything? You’ve never worked a day in your life.”

Kim’s back straightened.

“Listen buddy,” she retorted, “as far as I can recall, you’ve never worked that hard either. You were always ambitious, but you got everything you ever wanted. Perhaps it’s time you woke up to yourself. The world doesn’t run on cocktails and charisma, you know.”

Paul clenched and unclenched his fists.

“Kim,” he said coldly, “I think I’m going to have to let you go. I’ve decided to move in a different direction.”

Kim had never seen Paul so conflicted before. She was filled with pity at the sight of this man of confidence brought low. She wanted to reach out to him, but she realised that there was something strangely farsighted about his words: Paul needed to move in a different direction.

And Kim knew that she would not follow him.

Monday, October 03, 2011


It was 4AM. Something had woken me. Further sleep eluded me.

Outside, Australian Magpies sang their angular night song. Those black and white birds; those day and night birds: they’ll be tired in the morning, I thought.

My mind was restless. My mind moved across the surface of the earth looking for trouble. My mind swooped down on innocent victims: how easy other people’s lives are, I thought; how simple their problems.

Outside, the wind sighed in agreement. Eee-sss-eee, it said.

My problems are real problems, I thought; my problems are not trivial; my problems are insurmountable.

For some time, an hour perhaps, I tossed and turned and thought about my insurmountable problems. The more I thought about my problems the more restless I became.

Outside, night was turning to day. A kookaburra - that early riser - interrupted my cycle of thoughts with his unsympathetic laugh.

A new thought entered my mind: insurmountable problems start wars.

I am at war, I realised; I am at war with the problems I can’t make peace with.

Outside, wind moved through trees making music learned from sea and sand. And, as I listened, my problems dissolved into the music and floated away.

I slept.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Side Tracked

I have been side-tracked.

You have seen me.

I was watching my feet as I walked. You stood and watched me.

You could see the tension in my shoulders. You could tell that my hands were fists even though they were buried deep-down in my coat pockets.

You wondered what the weight was that I carried on my shoulders. You wondered if the realisation of my own mortality was bearing down on me. You wondered if something I had hoped for, longed for, had passed me by.

You wondered if I had become side tracked; lost my way; spent too many years thinking about living and not enough time being a part of life.

There was something familiar about the way I walked, you decided. The word ‘downtrodden’ entered your mind.

This word, downtrodden, made you think of your own life. You had had dreams once, dreams of a career and of being creative. When you were young you had felt as if you were in a mighty ocean of opportunities.

What happened to your dreams, you wondered. You looked at me walking past, you looked inside yourself as you stood there, and you found that your ocean of opportunity had been replaced by a sea of longing.

You have been side-tracked.

I have seen you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Connor Buys Coffee

Connor didn’t know anything about her, didn’t even know her name, but he knew this: she was the one for him. The first time he saw her it was if he’d been punched in the solar plexus: he was in love.

It had been a Tuesday.

He had seen her through the window of _La Petite Café_ as he walked past. She was standing behind the counter, but even from that distance Connor could feel her warmth; felt himself being drawn to her; and he knew that he was lost, lost, lost.

Connor thought of little else for the rest of the day. He drew a love-heart with an arrow through it and sat staring blankly at it.

She was perfect, he decided.

After that, Connor would find any excuse to walk past _La Petite Café_. She was always there, always smiling: a softness in a hard world.

She is gentle, Connor thought, she is kind and open; she is a balm for a weary soul.

These thoughts began to change Connor. The more he thought about her, the more he changed. Slowly, over many months, he became kinder and more tolerant. He didn’t realise it at the time, but his longing was transforming him.

One morning, as he was walking past the café, Connor made up his mind: he was going to go to talk to her. He slowly opened the door and stepped into the dimly lit room. The smell of coffee, and the sound of lively chatter, filled the air.

And there she was, but not as he’d expected: not as he had hoped. She was a life-sized cardboard cut-out; an advertisment for ‘Coffee Oké’.

Connor groaned.

“Are you alright there?” a waitress asked in a concerned tone.

“I…” said Connor and then stopped.

“I’ve seen you walking past,” the waitress continued. “I hoped you’d come in one day. Can I get you a coffee?”

And then she smiled at him, and Connor found himself smiling back.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Broken

Mick got back to his desk to find a hand-written note sitting in his in-tray.

“Mick,” it read, “That mobile phone headset isn’t fooling anyone: we all know you’re talking to yourself.”

There was no signature.

Mick sat down and hid behind his computer screen.

He re-read the note. They all know, he thought.

For a moment, for the briefest of moments, Mick wondered if they could hear the voice that spoke to him.

Of course not, of course not, of course not.

“Of course not,” Mick said aloud.

Someone in an adjacent cubical suppressed a laugh.

Mick took the headset out of his ear and placed it on top of the note. He pulled a brown cardboard box out from under his desk and began filling it with his personal belongings.

Every eye was on him as he walked, slowly-slowly, towards the exit. Mick stopped in the doorway but didn’t turn around.

He wanted to say that he hadn’t been trying to deceive them. He wanted to tell them how much his life had changed the day he’d found that broken headset. He wanted to tell the room – the whole world – what it felt like to be different, to be aware that you’re different; to be watched; to be watched but not loved. He wanted to say that he knew he was broken.

He was broken.

But Mick was tongue-tied and left without saying a word.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Earnest d'Angelo has Heart

“I won’t pretend that I know how you feel,” says Earnest d’Angelo. But the slow thoughtfulness in his voice, and the careful way he measures his words, tell me that he does.

“My Grandfather died when I was 14,” Earnest d'Angelo continues. “Several nights after his death I realised that if someone as solid as my Grandfather could die, anyone could die: my parents, my friends... And then it dawned on me: I was going to die.”

Earnest d’Angelo is looking at his hands, his still, strong and patient hands. I look at his hands too; they are real hands. I wonder if Earnest’s hands have a familial likeness to those of this Grandfather I never knew.

“For the first time,” says Earnest d’Angelo, “I looked at my life and asked why.

It started with one why, but soon why questions were racing at me with such ferocity that they knocked the breath out of me. The why questions bit me, ripped and clawed me: relentlessly they came. The why questions were a black storm in my mind.”

Earnest d’Angelo is quiet for a moment. The memory of the why storm flashes behind his grey eyes.

“The why storm lasted seven years,” he says, his voice full of sadness.

I want to tell Earnest d’Angelo that I’m sorry about the storm - sorry that it lasted for seven years: but I don’t. I don’t want to interrupt Earnest d’Angelo, I want to know what made the why storm stop.

“One day – it was just a day like any other – I was listening to the why questions, and I realised: I’d heard them all before. There were no new why questions.”

Earnest d’Angelo sits up a little bit straighter.

“That night I walked through the darkness. I walked away from all the houses and cars, walked to a place where the stars shone a little brighter. I looked up at those stars and whispered: 'I don’t know'.

Earnest d’Andelo looks me in the eyes and then quickly looks away. I’m holding my breath.

He says, “For the first time in seven years, my mind was quiet. It was there, standing in the silence, that I heard a new sound. It was like a soft and muffled voice in another room: it was the sound of my own heart beating.”

I dreamt of you that night, the night after Earnest d’Angelo told me his story. I was a child again and you were driving. I was still small enough to stand in the backseat foot-well without my head touching the roof. It was the days before backseat seatbelts, but I was safe because you were there. Your hair was black and your shoulders were broad and strong. I reached out and touched you then, but my hand passed right through you.

As I awoke, as I drifted between wakefulness and sleep, I thought I heard your voice in the other room.

But it was only the sound of my own heart beating.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The End of the Road

Carl sat in his car which was parked in his garage. The garage door was closed and the car engine was purring gently.

Carl sat in the unnatural darkness, his hands on the steering wheel, his mind full of sad thoughts.

He was ashamed of his melodramatic tendencies, the banal way in which his mind chose to occupy itself. He knew – and resented the knowledge – that he was going to end his life following the same mindless, self-pitying thoughts that had occupied him for several decades.

Carl’s fingers gripped the staring wheel, his knuckles turning white from the effort. I should be thinking about my wife, he thought, how will she feel? She bought me this car to remind me of the newness in the world, and here I am using that present as a weapon against myself.

And Carl started to think of all the things his wife had done for him, the sacrifices she had made to be with him. He thought about her patience, her love. He realised that she had never doubted him, even when he was full of doubt.

Carl suddenly understood: she didn’t need me to answer those questions; she loved the questions that had no answers.

Carl began to feel tired then – so very tired. And as his eyes drooped and closed, his only regret was that he hadn’t loved his wife better.

Carl’s wife returned home to find Carl’s body slumped over the steering wheel of his new car; the engine was still whirring softly.

“Carl!” she screamed.

Carl sat up with a start; a guilty look crossed his face.

“Carl you old fool,” Carl’s wife’s voice held a gentle sadness, “this is an electric car."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Small Step

It was an unplanned happiness; a happiness that came to him quite by chance, quite unexpectedly. When Ian thought about it later, he realised that this happiness was the result of the coldness, the late bus and the long walk. For it had been a day that had started as any work day starts, with feelings of monotony, of anonymity and a weariness that no sleep would ever cure.

A chill wind had met him as he opened the front door. Ian took a backwards step and removed a black woollen greatcoat from a rack that was just inside the house. He pulled it on as he walked towards the bus stop.

That big old coat played a part in his happiness, Ian was sure of it. There was something about it; the way it seemed to cover up his insecurities, his anxieties; the way it made him feel a kind of strength, a semblance of certainty. It made Ian stand a little more surely as he waited for his bus. An observer might have said he stood with confidence, but Ian would have said it was really just an act, or, at best, a kind of mock confidence.

The bus failed to arrive and Ian began the long walk into the city. He felt as if he were on a treadmill; around him the same grey streets and faceless buildings played from an endless film loop.

But then, ahead of him, he spied something different: two teenagers sitting on a small step outside a shoe-shop. They were staring right at him, and, as he got closer, Ian overheard one of them saying, “That’s him alright.” The other one pulled a camera out of his pocket and took Ian’s picture. They both smiled and waved as he walked past.

“Love your work,” the teenagers called.

Ian couldn’t help but smile. “Thanks,” he said.

Something quite unexplainable happened to Ian in that moment. It was as if something had solidified inside him: the thing that was only an act had been real all along.

Despite everything: the coldness of the day; the bus that never came; the subsequent walk through bleak outskirts into overcrowded city, despite these things, Ian was happy.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Department of Unexpected Consequences

Malcolm Fisher sat with his legs extended under his desk, his hands folded over his stomach, and a slightly self-satisfied look on his face. There were three things in front of him: a manila folder with ‘Mr Johnson’ written neatly on the front; a mathematical instrument that looked like an overgrown abacus; and a small leather bound folder that contained a number of his favourite tram tickets, a sample of a much larger collection.

At 3.20PM, the door to his tiny office sprung open and a man in his early thirties strode into the room. The man was flustered; had clearly been running; and was breathing heavily from the unaccustomed exertion.

“Sorry I’m late,” he puffed, “I had a devil of time trying to-”

“That’s okay Mr Johnson,” Malcolm Fisher interrupted. “Please sit down.”

Mr Johnson drew a handkerchief out of his pocket and whipped it across his reddened face. He looked around the office nervously before lowering his ample frame into the chair opposite Malcolm Fisher.

“Now let’s see.” Malcolm Fisher opened the manila folder and began to shuffle through the pages it contained. “It says here that you’ve come to see us about your ex-fiancé. Is that correct?”

Mr Johnson was taken aback. “How in God’s name did you know that?” he exclaimed.

Malcolm tapped the abacus. “Calculations sir: that’s what we do.

“Now, Mr Johnson, you have come to complain that your fiancé left you as an indirect result of a new house being built on your street: a house that had the approval of the Department of Unexpected Consequences.”

It wasn’t a question, but Mr Johnson nodded anyway.

Malcolm Fisher left his chair and walked over to a small window in the corner of his office. It was a grey day; grey clouds rolled over a grey world, and umbrellas hurried up-and-down the cobbled street below.

“Mr Johnson, your fiancé’s departure was expected. We had foreseen that she would leave you for the occupant of the new house, but we calculated that she would have left you in three months anyway.

“I’m very sorry Mr Johnson. We thought you must have known something was amiss. Your neighbour, well, it wasn’t just your neighbour was it?”

Malcolm Fisher heard a small whimper and turned from the window to see Mr Johnson staring at his hands which were sandwiched firmly between his knees.

“Why?” Mr Johnson asked, a note of hopelessness in his voice.

Malcolm chuckled, “Our calculations are based on approximately 15 million variables, I’m sure you don’t want me to go through them all now, do you Mr Johnson?”

Mr Johnson looked up hopefully.

“No, of course you don’t,” Malcolm continued. “Suffice it to say, her father was an inept male role-model.”

Malcolm Fisher paused for a moment before adding “Will that be all, Mr Johnson?”

Mr Johnson’s last hope was gone: he was a shattered man. His chair scrapped slowly across the floor as he prepared to stand.

“Just one thing Mr Johnson, before you go. You caught the tram today. I was wondering if I could have your ticket: you kept it I believe? It’s a hobby of mine you see.”

Mr Johnson opened his wallet and pulled out a rectangular piece of cardboard. Malcolm Fisher stepped forward and took it out of his hand.

As the door closed behind Mr Johnson, Malcolm looked down at the ticket. It was as he hoped. The ticket was numbered 12345678.

Malcolm Fisher smiled as he slipped the ticket into his leather ticket holder: two years of hard work had finally paid off.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Buried Treasure

Commander Bennet was standing next to a waist-high table, his eyes rapidly scanning the topological map that was rolled out in front of him. “Here,” he pronounced, jabbing his index finger at a large, unusually flat area between two hills. “Tell them to drill here.”

A junior officer made a note of the coordinates before turning on his heel and running out of the tent.

Commander Bennet stood staring at the map. His eyes were blazing orbs of polished magnetite; an involuntary movement of his mouth caused the bristles of his moustache to twitch.

“Could this be it,” he thought. “Could this be the hidden treasure of the ancients; the energy source that will power us to victory?”

It had always seemed an implausible rumour. The ancients, it was said, had stockpiled vast fields of potential energy, presumably as insurance against future energy crises. These stockpiles had never been tapped and remained buried, hidden and forgotten. Most intelligent people dismissed these rumours as the magical thinking of a down trodden society. Bennet was among the sceptical until, one day, he was called into a secret briefing and shown irrefutable evidence that these energy fields existed.

Bennet had been put in command of an elite force whose job it was to find the energy fields and extract their contents.

“Could this be it?” Bennet said aloud.

At that moment, the junior officer returned to the tent, a look of great excitement on his face.

“Good news sir,” he exclaimed, “we’ve struck plastic.”

Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Old Man and the Pilgrim

An old man sat cross-legged before Mathias, his eyes closed, his hands folded gently on his lap; a stillness seemed to emanate from him. Mathias relaxed, the tension of his pilgrimage flowing from him.

“Why have you come?” The Seer broke the silence, his voice deep and resonant.

“I seek greatness.” It wasn’t the eloquent speech that Mathias had planned, but it was the truth.

“Go south to the sea; your greatness awaits you at Helos,” said the old man.

Mathias barely slept that night. For the first time he found himself questioning the Seer’s ability to see the future.

“Helos is but a tiny sea port,” Mathias thought, “nothing but fish could await me there.”

As dawn touched the sky with her rosy fingers, Mathias hatched a plan: he would visit the Seer again and see if he received the same advice.

I will put on a disguise, Mathias told himself, the old man will not recognise me.

The sun’s fiery head peeked over the horizon as Mathias made his way towards the Seer’s house.

Once again Mathias stood before the old man, but this time he did not wait for the Oracle’s question.

“I seek greatness, oh mighty Seer.”

“Go north. You will learn greatness from the mountains,” the old man replied.

“I thought…” Mathias stammered. And then he realised that he wasn’t sure what he had thought. He had hoped; he had had hope.

Mathias hung his head and turned to leave. But as he did, the old man gave him a tight lipped smile and said, “Tomorrow I will tell you what awaits you in the East.”

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Code Within the Code

In 2015 the treatment of mental illness took a new direction: the days of tinkering with the brain’s chemical soup were over. A new type of drug, one that spoke the language of the mind, came into being.

The breakthrough that led to this change occurred in the summer of 2011. Researchers at La Trobe University in Melbourne discovered a means of identifying intangible traits from an animals DNA. These scientists could see the code that encouraged foxes to make holes and birds to build nests.

But the discovery went much deeper than this. Human DNA revealed complicated feelings and emotions that had been passed down from generation to generation. Closer analysis of this data revealed that the information was in fact snippets of stories: short sentences from the farthest reaches of time.

One journalist summed up these findings in this way: “The story of a man’s history is in his DNA. It is a story written using a common alphabet, a language shared by everyone who has ever lived, and who will ever live.

“For eons our ancestors have been whispering in our ears. Now, thanks to this new technology, we can hear what they’ve been saying with great clarity.”

Two years after the La Trobe University discovery, a European pharmaceutical company began human trials of a drug that blocked the negative effects of a person’s inherited history. The results were spectacular. People who had suffered from crippling mental illnesses were suddenly released from hundreds of millennia of emotional baggage.

The popularity of the drugs was singular. As soon as the drugs were approved for human consumption they began to fly off the shelves: every man, woman, and child was either taking them, or thinking about taking them.

But there was a side effect. Users exhibited a lack of empathy for their fellow man. A great ambivalence gripped the world: the bond that had joined humans in their suffering was gone.

Families dumped their sick in hospital and left them there. A man would drive past an accident where once he would have stopped. Medical school enrolments dropped off. Charitable organisations closed their doors. Drama wore but one mask.

The United States Government quickly banned the sale or use of the drug. Other governments followed suit, but not before a great rent had arisen in the social fabric.

As the drug wore off, users were filled with feelings of shock and disbelief. Society became polarised in its desire to understand what had happened, and how it could be prevented from happening again.

Now, thirty years later, every young adult is encouraged to take a DNA reader into a quiet room and listen to the voices of their ancestors. They will hear a story for which they are both the code and the decoder. They will hear cheers of triumph, and tears of unspeakable grief. They will hear an ancient story, a story that is still being written; a story with an unknowable end.