Sunday, 13 March 2011


So, they had come for him at last.

The man at the door looked respectable at first glance: nice suit (no tie), short dark hair (well-cut, but not over-styled), suitcase. He had his ID card held out ready; he was from Licensing. Ash had known it was only a matter of time. The card looked genuine (Ash had seen enough fake ones), and he looked at the face on the card, then the face on the man. The man’s thin lips were drawn in a friendly smile, eerily identical to the picture on the card, but the card didn’t convey the icy intent in those blue eyes; that look (Ash had seen it before) that meant I mean you no good.

At the bottom of the card it said ‘You are being recorded, it will be used as evidence against you’.

Once Ash had studied the card, Agent 42295 (no name) stepped straight into the house. Ash had to take two quick steps (almost a stumble) backwards.

“You haven’t got a licence.” The agent looked around the room, his sharp eyes darting and stabbing quickly, like a prison shiv, accusing and unapologetic.

“I cancelled it.”

“I know.”

“I don’t need a licence. The law says so.”

“The law, son, is my tool. Not yours. I know people like you. I’ve read your old blog, anarchist ballshit.”

“I don’t blog anymore.”

“People like you can never stop. We’ll find your new blog soon. Don’t you worry.”

“This is bollocks, the licence is bollocks. I don’t have to pay to think. And I don’t have to pay if I don’t blog.”

“Careful, son.” The agent’s smile got a little wider, and just a little scary. He held up his card again.

You are being recorded.

He picked up Ash’s board and tapped the spacebar. The screen fuzzed into sky blue existence in the air in front of the agent and a kitten unfurled a union jack with a password prompt on it.

The agent sneered. He typed something too quickly for Ash to follow, it certainly wasn’t the password; it looked about a hundred characters with no spaces. The laptop let him in (traitor).


“Oh, please. Amateur.” The agent pulled a clip from his pocket and pushed it into the board. A new icon flashed onscreen; it looked a bit like two swords (crossed cutlasses). The Agent pressed the icon without breaking the integrity of the display. Old school dials and gauges unfolded across the screen and started to fill.

“You can’t –“

“We can. Just cloning, son. We get this back to the office, it won’t even know it’s not your board.”

“And you’ll find nothing.” Ash felt disturbed, a stranger on his board, he felt tense and violated even though he knew there was nothing illegal on there. It felt even worse than having this abrupt, horrible man in his home. “I’ve written nothing. I don’t need a licence.”

“Everyone needs a licence.

“Everyone wants to get their thoughts heard, everyone wants to broadcast their ideas. Information doesn’t like being stuck in one head. And we gotta be there to protect people. Can’t just have any old ideas out there, can we?”

“Free speech used to be considered a basic human right!”

The agent laughed cruelly then, “Shit, son, can you imagine the chaos?”

Recommended reading: Nocturnal Omissions by Mazzz-in-Leeds.

I also blog: Will Write Flash Fiction For Food.
Because information really doesn't like being stuck in one head and I really do like to write. ;)


  1. Thanks for recommending my story!

    And thanks for this little trip into quite a disturbing dystopia!

  2. I enjoyed this! Cor, imagine the chaos that would ensue if you really did need a license to blog.

  3. This kind of reminds me how annoying it is to pay for a TV license. They better not start on blogging. ;)

    Liked the quick pace in here, the way the card was used with its 'you're being recorded' (that felt close to reality, but not). And the 'Oh Please. Amateur.' That guy had an attitude.

  4. No worries, Mazzz, I try to recommend something every week that I think really stands out in both idea and execution.

    Half of what I love about flash is reading other people's, and some of it really needs to be shared. =)

    Thank you, Icy, I know! I like to think it would be like prohibition America... the blogging underground meeting in shady, smoke-wreathed chatrooms... ;)

    And that was exactly the inspiration, Stephen! I cancelled my own TV licence (I really don't watch any TV, as weird as that may seem...) and was regaled with tales of the horror and harassment that would ensue... and actually it wasn't that bad. (so far *touch wood*)

  5. Good story John, quite a chilling idea too, I wouldn't be surprised if the government did decide to add to their revenue by charging a blogging licence either.

    And as you so very well put, "The law is 'their' tool, not ours."

  6. Thanks, Steve. =)
    I think SF and fantasy work best when elements of it are reflections of our own world.

  7. You are being recorded, it will be used as evidence against you. I loved the slight tweak of may to will; gives the world a darker feel. Great writing.

  8. Thank you. =) I wanted to twist the whole 'innocent until proven guilty' on its head. Licensing just assume -everyone- is guilty... ;)

  9. What on earth is a "TV License"? Scary story, all the more so because I can imagine it happening and not all that far off.

  10. Thanks, Janet. =)

    In short, in the UK if you want to watch broadcast TV (as opposed to on-demand TV) you have to pay a licence fee. A large proportion of which goes to the BBC.