IN 2012, short of building land and overflowing with cash, the government of Singapore opened three underwater cities off its eastern coast. Jinyang, Dungarpur and Bawang, named respectively for the three dominant racial groups of Singapore, were submerged domes supporting a combined population of 900,000. They featured all the usual South East Asian amenities: piped sunlight and climate control, noodle markets and statues of lions in overgreen parks. Their principal industries included robotics, tourism and marine science.
In 2013, bursting with racial tension and African guest workers, the government of Malaysia opened four underwater cities off the coast of Borneo. Their names were Gemolang, Nanchun, New Jhunjhunu and Oceania.
ON the other side of the world Willem Boonzajer, a PR officer for the transnational Glam corporation, was on a Dutch commuter train fighting with a refugee for the last seat. The refugee was Sudanese with the usual extermination numbers tattooed on his wrist.
"I first sit," he said, saying it in Dutch of course.
"I know you were the first to sit, mate," Willem said, "but that's not the etiquette here. Do you understand what etiquette means? It might be all right to go on a mad stampede for the nearest seat in sub Sahara or wherever it is you come from but this is Europe yeah, this is the land of respect yeah. I got on the train first, I saw the seat first. Therefore I should have it."
The refugee, having understood only the reference to the Sahara, repeated his pidgin, "I first sit."
Willem said, "I know you bloody sat down first but you shouldn't have pushed me aside to get it! It's not feeding time at the Khartoum Displaced Persons Camp." The refugee just gripped his seat and said as smugly as he could in such broken Dutch, "You not intimidate me now."
"Is there a problem here?" another black man said. He got up from his seat on the other side of the carriage and levelled Willem with a seven foot stare. "I do believe you're disturbing the other passengers."
"Go on then," Willem said, "take it.''
WHEN Willem got to work it was at the Glam European headquarters in Muiderpoort, Amsterdam. His office was a ripoff of a hash coffee shop with dogeaten couches, Pink Floyd videos and an ornamental bong. He had a secretary named Moya and a gift for media promotions.
"Jesus Christ, what a morning," he said. "And they talk about a coffee coloured Europe!"
Speaking of coffee here's three young men sipping decaf on his couch, three white men in suits and a lad whose skin is a distinct shade of green.
"What are you a," Willem said, "Martian or something?"
Imagine if there were creatures on Mars and they were intelligent and they wanted to settle here. Not War of the Worlds style or anything but say there was a famine back on Mars, their ozone belt went on the blink or something and suddenly they're fleeing home in rickety spaceships, piling into the sky for the lush green fields and commodity markets of Earth. Martian restaurants spring up all over Asia, specialising in lichen soups and dry ice shakes. A new form of music, mixing Martian glottal clicks and techno, becomes popular among Europe's disillusioned youth.
"They've been waiting for you," Moya said. "This is Mr Wagenaar. And Mr Brugmans. And Mr Kroon. And Paval Poznyak."
"We're lawyers," Mr Wagenaar said, offering his hand nonetheless. "From Wagenaar and Associates. Pavel here is our client. He'd been using one of your products every day for three years when he developed this... condition."
"I don't know why you're seeing me about it," Willem said. "If this is a liability matter you should be speaking to our legal reps."
Mr Brugmans said, "Oh, we've got no concern about liability. This case will be a walkover."
Willem fingered his ornamental bong as if it were, say, a flute. "So what I have got to do with it?"
"When a man wakes up one morning and finds his skin greener than Kermit that man has to reconsider his future," Mr Kroon said. "Especially if he's a school dropout and is living in an age of permanent 10 per cent unemployment. We could milk you for 30 million but is 30 million enough? Your a PR man, Mr Boonzajer," Mr Kroon smiling now, "you understand these things."
"No I don't," Willem said, fingering his bong.
THE night before Willem was at one of his courses, this one a Jungian therapy group. The topic of the night was fairytales and the archetype they represented. The woman in front of Willem began by talking about Jenny Longtooth, a witch who hid out in the leas and dug trapdoors for unwary children. After 25 minutes the coordinator had to interrupt and pass the torch to Willem.
"I've never believed in fairytales," Willem said. "Hansel and Gretl stories never sent chills down this resilient spine you know."
"Don't be so defensive," the coordinator said. "Get in touch with your feelings."
"Well," Willem said, "if we're allowed to broaden this fairytale thing to cover Hollywood archetypes, let me tell you about my favourite movie. It's The Mask, that mid 90s classic starring Jim Carrey during his so called Sober Period. It featured some of the best special effects of the age. Are you familiar with the storyline?"
"A repressed man expresses his latent personality and finds bliss," the coordinator said. And she gave him a look which said: Hmmm, and do you feel like a Stanley Ipkiss tonight?
"That's the Freudian interpretation," Willem said. "We're a fucking Jungian group. My interpretation of The Mask is a little more... mystical. Stanley Ipkiss puts on the mask and suddenly he has the courage to express his innermost desires and fantasies, that's true. But he can also turn balloons into machine guns, survive roadkill and pop his heart out of his chest just to impress the girl of his dreams. He transcends the laws of reality everytime he puts that mask to his face, enters a strange new world of possibility..."
"Kinda like a dream world, huh," the coordinator said.
Willem was indignant. "It's not a dream world though. Ipkiss doesn't fly off to Narnia or Alice's Wonderland or anything like that. For all intensive purposes he doesn't go anywhere. He's here in the real world but for him reality is a shitload more elastic than it used to be. He's here but not here, if you will..."
"It's okay Will," when the tears started flowing, "we're all here for you."
"Jim Carrey's nothing to get upset over," the nearest housewive said. "The only archetype he represents is bottled rage." She had been dumped by her first boyfriend during a screening of Ace Venture III and later married an alcoholic.
"You're projecting," the coordinator said. "Stop it!"
"YOU'RE not actually saying," Willem was reading Pavel's bio over morning tea biscuits, guarana flakes in them to help preserve stamina. Pavel was born in the Ukraine in 1992 and moved Dutchward with his parents when the EC came. In Rotterdam he fell into EC habits like crack cocaine and nosebleed dancefloor. The story about him being a school dropout was true and there were documents to prove it. He had acne as well. When he was 16 he started using Glam facewash to dry out his zits. It was reasonably successful so he kept using it, two times a day for three years.
"The rest is still highly confidential," Mr Wagenaar said. So confidential, Willem noticed, that Pavel hadn't said a word all morning. "In August this year our client took a daytrip to France where he contracted an especially bad case of sunburn. He returned home, applied Glam facewash as every other night and went to sleep. When he woke up half the skin on his face had peeled away. The skin underneath... well, you can see for yourself."
"The specialists have diagnosed a complete melanin mutation," Mr Brugmans said. "As you may well know, melanin darkens the skin in a range from white to jet black. For the first time in recorded history, in a mutation somehow linked to your product, our client's melanin has turned chlorophyllic green."
"Our skincare range is a simple variation on a recipe which has been around for decades," Willem said. "Suitably cosmopolitanised, naturally. It has never caused a mutation before."
"That's why we want to have fun with it," Mr Kroon said. "Glam makes the world's first Green Man. We'll make a fucking mint!"
"Of course," Mr Wagenaar said, "there will be dividends enough for Glam to share."
WILLEM's wife was Lisa and she was Israeli. This may puzzle readers who've developed a preconception (in turn founded on stereotype) that Willem is a racist. Willem is not a racist, he is simply obsessed with the ideal of racial integration. The fact this is a racist ideal in early 21st century society is irrelevant. Willem would willingly orientalise his eyes if he felt that would homogonise the global gene pool. Lisa is not a Dutch convert and Willem is not a tryhard Zionist, but when they are together he yearns for some kind of middle ground where everywhere is here, a metaphysical, Anne Frank kind of rapprochement.
Occasionally, usually in bed, they achieve it.
"I can only stay an hour or two," Willem said from the middle of a delicate cunnilungus position. "I've got to stay back all night working on this new promotion."
"Oh Christ," Lisa trying desperately not to revert to Hebrew, "an hour or two with you is all it takes." She wrapped her Mediterranean thighs tight around his golden head, his tongue their temporary axis. "Oh God," she said, "I'm exploding!"
Getting redressed for work Willem dropped as casually as he could, "Fucking hell. I met a green man today."