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You need never be guilty again

TOO LATE for me, of course; and before you start gloating and saying we don't like to say we told you so, but we told you so, it's bad living that's done it, you can't say you weren't warned, we bet you're sorry now ... well, it's too late for you, too.

Too late for all of us, in fact; by definition, there's no hope for any of us who currently exist. We're stuck: stuck in our lives, stuck with our histories, stuck with the consequences of our actions, stuck with ourselves. Don't believe those buggers who tell you that you can change, you can break free and breathe easy, you can downsize, rejig, start again and, this time, get it right. They are lying. They are just another branch of Them, and They know it all: They know what we did, They know where we've been, who we talk to, what we read, how our health is, how much money we've got, how much we owe, where it came from and where it went to; They know what we were doing on the night in question. Which night? Shut up; They ask the questions.

But for the next generation, the unborn - no, the unconceived, lurking like draughts or goldfish, waiting for the right moment, the right dinner, the right wine, the right brush of hand on thigh, the eye-contact or near- inconsolable grief which sets in motion the events ("Darling ... darling") which will kick them into existence - there is hope.

It's the end of the rule of law, of course. The law depends first upon correct identification: the witnesses, the identity parade, the DNA sample, the dabs. Goodbye to all that. Give me the money and I'll set you free, you unborn ones, yet to be conceived. Just give me the money.

We'll watch like a hawk, once we have the money. When you're two months old, snug in utero, we'll be in there with our little scrapers, our delicate tools: a cell is all we need; not even a cell; a nucleus. It'll be all right; there'll not be that much fuss, we'll come to terms with it, just like we came to terms with heliocentricity, Darwinism, the Human Genome Project, Tony Blair; a species that can put up with Tony Blair without banishing the sod is a species that can put up with anything.

Then comes the nurturing. We nurture him or her, your little sib, your more-than-twin, your other you, your spare; we grow it for nine months and then we look after it, keep it safe, train it. You're a gent? We teach it to be a gent, too. You're a wide-boy, bit of a moody one with your munched vowels, roasted face and dodgy barnet? We get the teachers in - a couple of faces down the Blind Beggar, shell out for the gold Rolex, the Permatan, the iffy sack habits. What you are, your spare - the other one - will be also.

And so you run your life. Do what you want. Money scams, sex gimmicks, busted deals, frontier dodges, Internet rumbles: just do it. Do it. It doesn't matter. You'll get away with it. How do I know? Of course I know. Of course you'll get away with it. The only reason people don't get away with it is they're worried about not getting away with it. Not getting away with it distracts them, takes their eye off the ball; they spend too much time trying to get away with it to get away with it.

You don't have to worry about that, you unborns. We'll look after you. If you don't get away with it, then we do the switch. We wait for the right moment and then pop in the changeling, like a fairy tale or a cheap crime novel. We might stick you up there, in the dock, sweating, while haggard briefs impaled on the CPS payroll try to shaft you, make out you were there, you done it, you were in mens rea, guilty as ... as guilt itself.

The world's most innocent thing, guilt. Guilt can't feel guilty. It knows. You know. After all, you are guilty. You did it. You just aren't worried. At the last moment we pop him in, the spare, the other you. "Can you swear which one of these men you saw running amok in the lap-dancing club?" "Can you be sure that this man - and not that one - is the man who signed the documents? Fired the gun? Open the account? Can you?" And of course they can't. They don't know.

Then comes the new life, the moody passport, the Caribbean retreat, while the spare, the other one, carries the can, lives out the rest of your life, takes the consequences. It's been trained for it from birth, the spare; it doesn't mind; it's what it was made for. It likes it. It's you, but without your history. Your wife won't know, your husband won't be able to tell, the screws will never tumble to it, the bank will accept it, even the fingerprint machine, the iris-scanners, the voice-decoders will be fooled, except they won't be fooled. It's not a trick. It's just a scapegoat.

Send me the money, you parents-to-be. Give your unborn the gift of freedom and a second chance from the word go. Send me the money. Come on; it's me. It has to be. I haven't any choice.