American Science Fiction Speculative

‘How much money have you lost now?’ Alfred barked across the empty dinner table while they waited for supper to be served. If Mary had heard him probing into Tom’s affairs again, she would have kicked him under the table to stop the interrogation. 

‘It’s coming back’ Tom muttered as he raised his glass of water for a nervous sip. ‘What’s mum cooking tonight? I can smell it alre-…’

‘Don’t try to change the subject. This is serious. When I was your age, I had already purchased my first home. You haven’t gambled any more of your money, have you?’ Alfred quizzed while raising one of his big bushy eyebrows.

‘It’s not gambling dad, it’s the future. As I said, they have been coming back. I own several now. You’d be surprised’ Tom defended, brushing away his scruffy black hair from his eyes.

‘I heard that the last time. Remember what happened a few years ago?’

Tom looked down and pulled out his phone in shame as Alfred went on. ‘You should have your own property by now. Renting is dead money son, you shou-…’

Tom’s pupils diluted as his eyes lit up. His heart rate elevated as he abruptly interrupted while pushing his phone as far as he could reach into his dad’s face.

‘You see this!!’

‘What? What am I looking at?’ Alfred asked.

‘It’s just doubled in price! Right now! I can’t believe it!’

‘What do you mean?’ Alfred questioned as he scrambled to put his glasses on to read what was on the screen. ‘It’s not another one of those games is it?’ Alfred belittled.

‘No, right there, it’s gone up 20 thousand! Per coin! You see? There!’ Tom pointed to a chart on his phone acting as if he had just won the lottery. Alfred acknowledged with a puzzled nod, not fully understanding.

Mary came in like a waitress with three bowls of Bolognese pasta and served it on the table in front of the fresh parmesan cheese. ‘Dinner’s ready. Time to eat. C’mon Tom, might be best to put that phone away while you eat’.

‘Sorry, something happened. I’m just checking the details now.’ Tom tried to contain his excitement while he scrolled through his phone.

‘Kids these days Mary. Anyway, I’m hungry, let’s eat!’ Alfred said as he tucked away his reading glasses in his shirt’s front pocket.

Tom didn’t make any eye contact across the table. His eyes were fixated on his phone. Alfred finished his meal and noticed that Tom wasn’t even looking at his food while he slowly ate. He thought that if a fly were to land in Tom’s bowl he would not have noticed and eaten it whole.

‘What’s the matter?’ Alfred asked. ‘I’ve never seen you like this. You’re usually the first to finish.’

‘Something happened, in Washington DC’ Tom whispered. ‘You should put on the TV; I think it’s serious.’ Alfred saw the worry creep into his son’s voice as the excitement faded away. He hoped that Tom hadn’t just lost all these coins which obviously meant so much to him.

He turned around to put on the TV in the living room which could be seen from the dining table. A big red breaking news banner flashed across the bottom of the screen saying ‘AMERICA DEFAULTS!’

They all tuned in to watch the news. Alfred felt his stomach curl up in a knot as the worry began to sit in again. He knew this would be bad news for his recent retirement but he had many years of experience in these situations having gone through the global financial crisis in 2007 and then the COVID-19 market crash of March 2020.

‘What does this mean honey?’ Mary asked looking concerned. 

‘It might be a bit rocky for the next few weeks but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. I wouldn’t worry too much; they’ll get through this.’ Alfred faltered as he tried to reassure Mary—and himself.

‘I’ll call Michael tomorrow. He’ll know what to do. Remember how he told us to ride out the last crash? And look how much money we made from that.’ Alfred said while Mary nodded in agreement.

Tom finished his dinner and enthusiastically hugged his parent’s goodbye for the night. Alfred noticed that he could hardly wipe the smile off his face with this new found fortune despite the bad news.

The next morning was dark, as the grey, gloomy clouds hovered over the whole sky. The wind whipped through the trees scratching the living room window. Alfred, after a restless night, decided to clear his new retirement schedule of bacon and eggs breakfast and reading of the newspaper and filled his empty stomach with a strong black coffee. His first task for the day was to call his trusted financial adviser for more information. 9:01am rolled over and he dialled.

‘You’ve reached Michael from Retirement Investments. I’m unable to take your call. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.’ He left a message and wondered how busy Michael must be today.

Expecting a call-back within the hour, Alfred took a moment to look outside and ponder in his thoughts. He had an irresistible impulse to get dressed and get some supplies. As he rushed out the door, he grabbed his long black overcoat ready to combat the chill without even a goodbye to Mary. He scratched away the light frost that stuck to his windscreen and didn’t wait for the car to heat up, compelled to run his errands. 

Alfred’s breath was still visible in the car as he drove into town. He noticed some peculiar things start to emerge. The first gas station he passed had 20 or 30 cars banked up, bending around the corner as far as he could see. Why so many people, he thought? Is it a public holiday? Being retired, he did tend to forget which day it was now. He gazed down to see his tank was close to full and sighed in relief feeling like he had dodged a bullet. Just before he pulled into the grocery store his heart missed a beat as he saw blue and red sirens flash in his mirror. In a split second he checked his speed and cast his eyes back at the police car in the mirror. The police car overtook and rushed past, to his relief. But he thought, what on earth was going on today?

As he entered the large supermarket store, he noticed an argument brewing between the cashier and an agitated customer. The EFTPOS machine was out of order. The customer demanded that they use a different machine but the cashier said they were all down. It was still morning which was usually quiet but there were queues of people with groceries behind looking on eagerly. He checked his wallet and luckily had two $50 notes and a $20. Something about today was very different to the GFC in 2007. He had a feeling to gather as much food as he could by any means. He decided to go across the road to the smaller organic grocery store, not worried about the exorbitant prices.

The store was empty apart from the young girl with long frizzy brown hair sitting at the cashier. He grabbed the closest hand basket and gathered as much as he could afford. The front door creaked and the bell echoed as another customer entered. Then again, two more customers walked in, drawing his attention. He could see more people crossing the road as they began to flock out of the stores. Feeling tense, he rushed to the cashier and muttered, ‘Card ok?’ The cashier said the EFTPOS machine had been down all morning. He quickly handed her the cash from his wallet and promptly left the store after collecting his change of a $5 note and some coins. Alfred had a funny feeling that he would never forget this transaction.

As he secured his essentials in the car, he quickly gave Michael another call to see if he could get some answers.

‘You’ve reached Michael from Retirement Investments. I’m unable to take your call….’ He hung up before leaving a message. Not even a dial tone. He thought this was unusual.

He walked to the closest ATM and puts on his reading glasses. Before he even inserted his card, he read ‘Out of Order’ on the screen, shaking his head in disappointment.

He noticed a missed call from Mary, so he decided to go home and replied with a text saying he was on his way. On the drive home he peered out the foggy window to see a group of teenagers selling what looked like 10 or so jars of petrol with a messy hand written sign saying something about ‘B…Coins accepted’. He couldn’t quite make it out. But his attention was quickly diverted to the two police cars rushing the other way with sirens blaring headed back from the way he came. He wondered where they were going?

Alfred pulls into the driveway and Mary comes out to inspect with a tense look on her face.

‘Are you alright? I can’t believe you left while I was in the shower…’

‘I’m ok, I got some emergency supplies for us. It’s crazy out there. I’ll tell you about it inside’ Alfred said as he ushered her away from the cold.

As Alfred half-explained what had happened, Mary gasped in horror and raised her hand to cover her mouth. He paused to see why she reacted so dramatically.

‘There was a shooting at the supermarket. Two people were shot. It must have happened just after you left.’ Mary choked out while trying to hold back tears as she pointed to the TV. 

Alfred turned not even realising the TV was on and focused his attention on the breaking news banner at the bottom saying ‘US dollar collapse’.

The news anchor explained how the US dollar had collapsed due to the default and had caused another market crash. There were reports that all the banks had run out of money and ATMS had been cleaned out dry. Other reports showed that a new digital currency was rising rapidly and was at risk of replacing the US dollar altogether. Alfred didn’t really understand what this meant. He felt his phone vibrate and prayed it was Michael. Seeing Tom's name displayed instead, he quickly answers anxious to see if his son has any more information.

‘Dad, have you seen the news?’

‘Yes son’

‘I told you! It’s the future. My coins have tripled since dinner last night. Its over 100,000 per coin! I can buy a house now!’

‘What do you mean you can buy a house?’ Alfred queried. 

‘I heard the US dollar has collapsed. People are already converting to Bitcoin. Everyone is trying to get as many as they can online. Everyone is buying Bitcoin!’ Tom frantically explained.

Alfred listened attentively as Tom explained how the whole digital currency works. Alfred was confused by these new terms being thrown around like ‘block chain’, ‘ledgers’ and ‘digital wallets’. Tom eventually insisted to just come over and set it all up for them. Alfred explained he would only move half of his available savings into this new system. He had remembered how quickly everything rebounded after the COVID-19 market crash and wanted to wait.

Days went by. Alfred and Mary’s pension accounts crashed so much it was almost worthless while the new Bitcoin rallied to unbelievable heights. The price had soared to over 500,000 now per coin. The shops that were courageous enough to open, only accepted Bitcoin as payment now. It was good business. If they sold something today, and received the equivalent in ‘fractions of a Bitcoin’, then they could double those proceeds the next day as the digital currency kept rising. Nowhere accepted cash anymore. 50-dollar bills become as worthless as Monopoly money. There were Bitcoin millionaires everywhere but nobody wanted to give up these precious coins and buy anything in fear of missing out on tomorrows price increase. This included Alfred’s son.

Alfred was getting calls from his friends asking him to help them understand what had changed. He helped one elder friend enter this new digital world so they wouldn’t miss out too. People could no longer afford to buy a whole Bitcoin but were lucky enough to buy portions of it. Alfred had gone from student to teacher in a matter of days.

After a few weeks, Bitcoin started to stabilise at one million per coin and became a benchmark for all transactions. One Bitcoin would now be worth one million fractions, which became the new financial system of digital currency. Tom had even helped them set up the latest app to use for digital payments. This was quite new to a lot of people. Alfred trialled it for the first time to buy bread. The transaction cost him 10 fractions of a Bitcoin. In comparison, when he went to pay for petrol this would cost 150 fractions of a Bitcoin. There were small apartments being sold now for 900,000 fractions or close to one Bitcoin.

Months went by and business returned to normal. Everything was bought or sold or paid in fractions of a Bitcoin now. Alfred still kept his worthless dollar notes and coins as a memory of the old ways. He looked at the only $5 note he had left. Could it be? The same $5 note from the organic store? He reminisced on that last time he had ever used the old system and took a moment to realise how much the world had changed forever more.

February 12, 2021 06:12

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Moon Lion
07:44 Feb 18, 2021

This was such an intriguing story! The use of technical terms relating to bitcoin was done very well I think. Because there were relevant terms, but just enough explanation for those who don't know about bitcoin to be just as confused as Alfred. I also liked how the story started with Alfred berating his son about being behind, and slow to get a house, but as the story develops, everything Alfred knows falls away, and it is clear that his son is more aware of what is going on. All in all, it is a great story, with development, I think perfec...


Andrew Fedz
07:57 Feb 18, 2021

Thank you so much for the feedback! I was worried about making it too technical and that's why I choose to go with Alfred's Pov and not Tom's to keep it simple. It's my first published story so I really appreciate your comment :)


Moon Lion
19:48 Feb 18, 2021



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