Ryan pulled at the drawstrings of his hoody, tightening it around his face to protect from the wind and the drizzle. Ahead he could see the drawbridge was just about to complete its lowering, having been risen for a passing freighter. The lights turned green and the traffic continued across the bridge, their wheels splashing rain on his trousers as he walked.
As each car passed, they slowed down to get a good look at him. He turned his head in protest to avoid their accusatory glances. Looking out over the harbour the buildings grew smaller as the bridge climbed, spanning the river below.
At the mid-point of the bridge a sign spanned both lanes, ‘Welcome to the South Isle: Where your future is within reach.’ Ryan slowed for a second as he passed under the sign and then noticed a checkpoint up ahead.
There was a line of people queuing in front of a small booth, where an officious looking man with a cap was checking documents and scribbling on a clipboard. Ryan joined the back of the queue and lowered his gaze, mirroring the demeanour of the others who were waiting.
As the clouds cleared and the sun emerged, he found himself standing in front of the official. ‘Name?’ he asked, as his stare bore into Ryan. ‘Ryan Philips,’ he replied clasping his hands in front of him and his head dipped to avoid the gaze.
‘Dependents, income, health status?’ the man drilled questions at him, as if the thunder and lightning from earlier had possessed him. Ryan stammered before answering, ‘Only one dependent, divorced, health in good condition, income level A2’.
The official looked down at Ryan’s shoes before noting something down, ‘Proof of income,’ he asked. Ryan flustered and patted down his pockets looking for his documents. Ryan handed over the payslips and the official tapped the figures into a calculator.
‘You’re in Band B, so the cost to the state is acceptable, you may proceed.’ The official stamped the page in front of him and nodded for Ryan to continue. Ryan walked past the official, climbed up on the barrier and jumped.