Everyone now has a constant stream of information flowing into their heads. News, films, music, books. It's never-ending.
Ana has finally had enough.
She wants out.
She wants to stop the Stream.


4. Four

The hospital waiting room smells like soap and misery. My foot taps rhythmically on the floor as Emi and I wait for news.

Ten minutes after my call, an ambulance arrived. Paramedics had rushed in and scooped Tia up on a stretcher then pushed her into the back of the van. Without even waiting for us, they rushed off in a blaze of sirens and flashing lights.

Emi and I had hopped on the nearest bus and rode to the Lower Canberra and New Copenhagen Community Hospital. The waiting room is decorated in stark white with black plastic chairs, and is filled with sad-looking people. One woman is crying, rocking backwards and forwards while clutching her bag. A man in a wheelchair with a cast on his leg is sitting in a wheelchair, staring dazedly into space. A toddler in a purple dress covered with contagious-looking sores is cuddling close to her mother.

A plane delay in New Helsinki has been reported. Security checks are being administered and passengers and awaiting families are advised to sit tight and comply with staff.

I bite my lip. As soon as I got here I called Mum, who is on a business trip. She’s supposed to have taken the plane from Sixth Order Virginia into New Helsinki, but I’m suddenly doubting her time of arrival. She promised to be here by half past five, and it’s now quarter to six. If the delay has anything to do with it, she’ll be another hour or so at least.

“Do you want some coffee?” Emi asks me tentatively, fishing coins from her pocket.

“No thanks,” I mutter, resting my chin in my hands.

Emi quietly gets up and pushes a few coins into the drinks machine. There is a hissing noise as a paper cup is filled, and she sits down holding a very watery-looking coffee. She sips it nervously.

Six o’clock.

Half past six.

Quarter to seven.

My foot taps in time with the ticking clock.

Seven o’clock.

It’s quarter past seven when Mum strides in, looking distinctly ruffled, her blonde curls flying out over her collar, tightening up the belt of her felted black trench coat.

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