A Short Story
(Tontines are illegal in Britain)
The letter that appeared in Eve’s pigeon-hole two days before her 113th birthday was not expected. It was marked Department of Work and Pensions, which was why it surprised her. Her annual statement usually came through around November, some six months earlier. This statement didn’t tell the value of her pension as did the ones she used to get over 40 years ago, since she now had no pension. It simply told her the number left in the pool. Last November that figure was four. Eve took the letter to read on her shared bunk in the Green Watch dormitory and put on her spectacles.
There had been no public sector pensions for over 40 years but only the MP as it was called. The Midas Pool had been the Government’s solution to the escalating pensions crisis of the early part of the century. The essence of the crisis was a funding shortfall between an increasing number of pensioners, actuarially ageing, and a decreasing workforce making contributions. Government attempts to address this imbalance between those taking out and those putting in, had resulted in strikes and civil disorder culminating in the bombing of the DWP in 2018.
A Government policy document entitled, “It’s not your Pension”, proposed a radical solution which captured the public imagination and thirst for instant wealth and celebrity. It was proposed, and indeed subsequently enacted, that all payments of public sector pensions should cease in return for the creation of the “Midas Pool”.
The Midas Pool was no more and no less than the opportunity to win the entire pension fund, valued at the time at £89b. The winner of the MP would be the last living member of the scheme – the ultimate “Winner Takes All” prize.
Eve adjusted her glasses and mouthed silently the words of the letter by the dim light provided.
“………my duty and pleasure to inform you…….sole surviving member……….£137b………….”, William Windsor, State Governor, US State of Great Britain.
Eve read again, more slowly still; but the words did not change. Evelyn Longbourne had won the Pool. Though physically frail her mental capabilities remained sharp and she had no difficulty in recognising that she had become the richest person in the world.
She removed her glasses and pulled herself off the bed. It seemed a little harder today. She took the opportunity to lean on the bedside table. The dormitory lighting appeared to dim as Eve was wracked by a searing heat in her chest. She tried to cry out but the pain strangled her efforts. She saw the letter slip from her hand and take and eternity of agony to fall. But then, slow relief as an inky curtain lifted, bottom up, in her eyes, dispelling any pain until there was none.