“Excuse me sir,” Coby felt relief that it wasn’t his turn. For a moment he was actually pleased that someone else had been singled out for attention. Then relief turned to guilt He'd been pleased that a fellow human would be tortured, just as long as it was not him.
The line for passport control snaked back through the airport. People millimetred forward, shoulders sagged, resigned to the long haul. CCTV cameras scanned the masses looking for any undesirables that had slipped through the first safety net. More men with guns and ear pieces were poised, ready to pounce on instruction. There was a murmured hum, no voices above a whisper.
Coby vaguely recalled a time when women or men in turbans stamped passports, but it was decided by the second Farage government that the front line of defence against immigration should have a distinctly British feel to it. So the women and the people of colour were taken out of the firing line.
Coby smiled and answered the question.
“Just three days business in France.”
“And what's your business.”
“I'm not at liberty to tell you,” Coby said.
The passport officer nodded accordingly.
“Pleasure to have you back safe and sound sir.” He saluted and waved Coby through.
Coby went down the steps to baggage reclaim. Again armed police hung around like wallflowers at a dance; big, white men with big, American guns and hard looking faces. Coby stood by the baggage belt staring at the opening, waiting for his bag. The machinery started up and there was Coby's bag first out; all incoming British luggage got priority. The luggage of the other nations could wait; after all their people had to.
Coby picked up his case, shook out the handle and wheeled it through the green channel, ‘nothing to declare’.
A huge man stepped forward - white, bald, muscle bound.
“Could I ask you to open the case please sir?”
Coby looked surprised.
“I'm sure there's been a mistake,” Coby said. “I’m not at liberty to say where I've been.”
But this time the code didn't work. Another man stepped forward and took Coby’s case off him and placed it on the table. With his bare hands he ripped the lock off it before unzipping it, revealing cheese; Camembert, Brie, Roquefort, Port Salut, and many others. A delicatessen in a suitcase. It was all the cheese that had been banned in the UK since the isolation act of 2022.
“Well, well, well, “said the customs official. “This isn’t cheddar, is it?”
Coby had to agree, it certainly wasn't cheddar.