A letter from the near future

It’s 2025. I still have a goatee and moustache, but they are no longer immaculately groomed. What’s the point as I am no longer allowed to show my face in public?

For this I have to thank Professor Amanda Berk, of England’s Health Protection Agency. She invented a ‘smart’ full face and body covering to avoid repeats of pandemics such as Covid-19. This was immediately adopted by disease control centres across the globe. Clerics representing religions that castigate women for dressing ‘immodestly’ were jubilant after the Berkquarantina– or ‘berka’ for short– was introduced, but they started kicking up holy hell after they realised the garment was mandatory for ALL sexes. Human rights activists were also dismayed by the garment, for not only does it have an in-built tracking device but also technology that monitors all bodily functions and relays them to ‘Big Brother’ police and health agencies. Anyone not wearing the ‘berka’ outdoors are rounded up by hooded Human Disease Tracking Force members and are subjected to draconian fines and  lengthy periods of confinement.

Miss Bacardi Breezer

When ‘berkas’ were made mandatory on April 1, 2025, fashion junkies saw an opportunity to fancify them with things like ribbons, bows and sequins. But after famous Benidorm drag queen Miss Bacardi Breezer set fire to her wig after accidentally jamming a sewing needle into one of the garment’s electrical circuits, that trend ceased immediately. Later, fashion houses were given permission to make more stylish ‘berkas’. The downside was that, while the jet-black garment was handed out free, glitzy ones came at a price. For example, a Jean-Paul Gaultier number–encrusted with diamonds–debuted with a price tag of €40-m and was immediately snapped up by Melania Trump.

The biggest problem posed by ‘berkas’ was at airports. No-one could get past security without the electronic circuits in the lining s triggering alarms. Initially passengers were required to strip naked in special booths but this led to lengthy delays, with some passengers having to check in 24 hours before their fights. This problem was overcome when airlines, at the cost of billions, developed individual sealed pods into which passengers were placed after being given injections to put them into varying periods of hibernation. But after several elderly folk could not be revived after their flights, and lawsuits were filed by their families, the airlines restricted flights to people under 50 who needed to show they had no health issues, including verrucas and ingrown toenails. They also had to sign forms declaring that carriers could not be held liable for pod deaths or permanent comas.

Another function of the ‘berka’ is to ensure a continuation of social distancing. If one comes closer than two metres to another human, a taser-like mechanism will come into play, and both parties get a warning electrical shock. Those who hug will be shocked into unconsciousness by higher voltages. When a member of the Human Disease Tracking Force arrived to hand over my ‘berka’ and closely watched me wriggle into it, I quipped ‘does my bum look big in this?’ He snapped: ‘Sir, if I had a euro for every time I’ve heard that I’d be a very rich man.’

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Written by

Barry Duke


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