The Visa Code
Neeshat, Age 15, Bury, England

Part 1

Uncle Arnold watched the dusty roads go by as he rattled and thundered along in the little coach. It rumbled and groaned and creaked all the way from Kuwan to Isberia, the driver barely stopping for a break throughout the six-hour journey.

It was scorching, with the sun at its highest point. He cursed himself for getting on the late coach. It meant he had to swelter away in the midday sun. Coincidentally, the air conditioning was switched off (or not working at all – which was more likely). The driver was humming an old tune from the 1950’s, his face dripping with sweat, into his large, handsome black moustache.

Zacharias Ian Arnold was in his early 30’s and on his way to gain freedom and pave a path to total sovereignty.

However, at this moment in time, he didn’t feel remotely supreme. He was sticky with sweat, and his three piece suit, reflective of the latest Brisanian trends, didn’t make things any better. He looked around at the rest of the passengers. They were all dressed in their casual slacks, some bare-footed with cloths tied around their waists.

He caught a man eyeing up his suit. Pompously, he straightened himself up, trying to adjust the throat strangling noose around his neck at the same time. The man smirked as he watched Uncle Arnold’s face slowly turn purple under the strain.

Uncle Arnold sighed in disgust and turned his attention back to the window. He was beginning to feel a tad nervous now, as Isberia was drawing closer and closer. He didn’t have a qualification to his name, and yet he was planning to walk into the embassy, as cool as a cucumber, and declare himself as a master tailor of 16 years, for all and sundry. He felt sick.

Two hours and a vomit inducing bus ride later, he stood outside the grand Brisanian embassy. He marvelled at the beautiful brickwork, and the intricately designed structure of the building. The well manicured gardens, meticulously watered with sprinklers and fountains of all shapes and sizes, seemed to be bigger than Kuwan itself. There was not a hint of a breeze in the air, and the flowers stood to attention, with their brightly coloured petals calling out to the bees. This is what heaven must look like, he decided to himself.

He felt rather confident now, and with a buoyant spring in his step, he began walking up the grand, sweeping stairs, towards the majestic double doors of the embassy, as his black leather briefcase banged uncomfortably against his leg. He felt as though he was coming in to work.

“Identification!” barked the sentry. Uncle Arnold looked thoroughly put out. Setting his briefcase down, he took to the long process of opening up his wallet for his ID.

“Here you go, Sir,” he said brightly, bringing it close to the startled mans face. The sentry looked at him suspiciously. Nodding ungraciously, he let him through.

Uncle Arnold strutted inside, and he was greeted with long awaited, beautiful, cool air, a scent of roses and high, imposing looking ceilings. He nodded and smiled to himself, and felt completely in his element.

Walking up to the reception, he self-importantly let the woman at the desk know he had arrived. She looked up at him, almost disdainfully, and then spent a long time typing in his details. Finally, she let him go. As he went to seat himself, he suddenly began to feel slightly self conscious of his appearance. After all, he had just travelled from a very far distance and it had been hot outside. He took a left instead, and went to the restroom.

Two mind-numbing hours later, Zacharias Ian Arnold found himself outside the interview room. He felt a little nauseous, but he bared a grin all the same, wiped his hands on his trousers and knocked. No answer. He knocked again. Nothing.

Panicking slightly, he looked at his watch – 4:15. He was perfectly within his time limit, not a minute less or more. Damn he cursed himself.

The door was suddenly thrown open in his face. “Come in, will you?” barked the man who opened it. He was a rather grand looking person, 6 feet and above with a heavy set frame. He filled up the doorway.

“Er…,” croaked Uncle Arnold. He took a step forward and almost slammed right into the man’s sizeable stomach. Uncle Arnold felt about 3 feet tall. He walked in surreptitiously, feeling rather awkward. Looking at the interviewer sat behind his smooth, oak polished desk, he breathed a sigh of relief. The interviewer had a double chin, resting over a tightly buttoned collar and tie. He looked rather hot and uncomfortable. Uncle Arnold secretly sympathised with him.

The interviewer stood, and he barely looked taller than when he was sitting. Uncle Arnold realised his button shirts were straining rather angrily against his huge bulk. He stretched his podgy hand across the table, and Uncle Arnold took it with a firm grip, nearly sending the interviewer sprawling.

“Mr. Demetrius Jaydin Oswald,” said the interviewer rather breathlessly, as he sat down heavily in his chair. He smiled and Uncle Arnold had to fight to control his laughter. Mr. Oswald’s two front teeth were missing, and altogether, this character sat across him looked like he belonged in a comedy show – not in the Grand Brisanian embassy.

He was asked a lot of questions, but he found it easy to boast to this caricature of a man sitting in front of him.

“So you say you’ve been working at this job for 16 years?” Mr Oswald enquired.

Uncle Arnold smiled, as though butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. “Rather,” he replied. “It’s a very rewarding job.” He couldn’t cut a cloth straight in half.

“And you feel your expert skill will be of use out there, in Brisania? It’s a very competitive market, you know.”

Uncle Arnold nodded, exultantly. “I’m well aware of the fact. I have researched upon Brisania, as scrupulously as my constrained hours would permit, I have had discussions with a few acquaintances from abroad and I feel thoroughly up to taking any job demanded of me.”

Mr. Oswald smiled at him. Uncle Arnold grinned back. He was questioned a little more, then finally -

“We will let you know, shortly, the outcome of this interview. It was nice meeting you.

“You too,” Uncle Arnold replied, exuberantly.
             *   *   *

Uncle Arnold stepped off the plane, rather grandly. He looked around at the vast runway, the bright, blue sky and the clean air. The sun was out but it was lovely and warm – certainly not scorching. This is where I truly belong, he thought.

He looked around at the people. All white, he thought delightedly. Not a spot of dark skin. It was as though everyone’s surfaces had been scrubbed clean, and their beautiful radiance shone through, as it rightfully should.

Gliding through the airport and security controls, acting as though he had done this a thousand times, he claimed his baggage without any trouble. Everything was so clean, so spick and span, he couldn’t help but marvel at all the gleaming surfaces, the glittering chandeliers suspended above him, the polished floors that reflected his shiny black shoes.

He was going to be greeted by his family, beyond the passenger control, in the arrivals lounge. He felt a spring in his step. He smoothed his hair, brushed bits of lint off his suit and straightened his suit and tie. It didn’t feel quite so uncomfortable or strangled any more.

Part 2

Uncle Arnold shook Grandpa Walter Bates hand firmly. All around, there were welcoming smiles from all members of the family. The Reverend Isaac stepped forward and hugged his youngest brother. The Reverends’ eldest son, Abraham Alfonso, rather pompously, did the same. All in all, Uncle Arnold felt rather overwhelmed.

He turned to greet the rest of the family and felt a small shiver creep quietly up his spine. Granny Smith-Bates was watching him, with sharp, shrewd, beady eyes. Involuntarily, he turned his eyes away, but he felt the stare burning through the layers of his expensive suit. Thinking it was rather rude, he turned back to her again, and she gave him a disturbing smile. She didn’t say much, apart from the customary greetings, but he read a lot in her sharp eyes and sinister smiles.

Try as he might, he could not shake away the ominous vibes he was feeling. He felt rather threatened. Granny Smith-Bates wasn’t just any old grandma. Apart from being his mother-in-law, she was also the supreme sovereign of the Big System. Although the head of the Big System was certainly Grandpa Bates, she was the neck. And the neck can turn the head any way it wants. Everyone was so accustomed to obeying her orders, that she could have stepped up for Supreme Empress and no one would have turned a hair.

Uncle Arnold told himself to relax and enjoy Brisania as best as he could whilst he was here.

Laughing and chattering, the family took him home. There had been a bit of a silent struggle between the two families at first. Grandpa Walter had wanted him to rest at their home. The Reverend Isaac’s wife was adamant that he would do nothing of the sort.

“Granny Smith-Bates will slaughter him with her looks. She’s not the best person to make you feel at home, is she? We’ve been through her hospitality our self. And after all, you are his brother! No, I will not put up with this nonsense!”

Reverend Isaac stared quietly into the distance. “We have to do what the Big System says. Can we disagree so openly with our elders?”

“Elders? Granny Smith-Bates?! Pah! I cannot stand that woman!”

All the children had laughed at this little charade that took place almost once a week.

But anyway, Uncle Arnold was taken to the Walters’ home. Granny Smith-Bates was watching everything quietly from a distance. Uncle Arnold saw her wrinkle her nose slightly, almost as though there was a bad smell.

Uncle Arnold was led straight to the bathroom and told to have a shower. Rather forlornly, Uncle Arnold removed his rather dusty and creased blazer. He dreamt of home.

He was presented with fragrant soaps and deodorants.

Granny Bates had a wicked twinkle in her eye “– to get rid of the funny smells emanating from him,” as she put it.

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