I’m reclining in the living room. It seems that my mind, my body, my senses, in fact everything, has left me. I am just a lost soul, rendered effectively unconscious: a state of apathy which is such that it is equivalent to inertia.
I’ve realised something of fundamental importance: the results of the election are on, and I’m missing it. I switch on to Channel 2. My eyes behold a sight which they cannot believe. I blink twice, then I try and mentally adjust to the situation.
It’s none other than Simon Evans, that jerk from sixth form college, who I always despised. He was such a ‘look-at-me-I’m dead-‘ard-puff-my-chest-out-I-want-everyone-to-know-about-it’ type of guy. I knew he had become an MP, somehow, but this? I can see him shaking hands with the Queen, smiling smugly. Next to him is a woman who I vaguely recognise. Once he has done this, he crosses his arms and announces ‘I’m proud to be the new prime minister of the United Kingdom. May good fortune come to the British people. I will be doing my best for their future’ he puts a fist to his mouth and coughs, while furrowing his brows, ‘for, after all, it is me and my government in which they are invested. Thank you.’ I do have to admit that his new approach is vaguely convincing, but I can’t help thinking that he has an ulterior motive. Maybe I shouldn’t let paranoia affect me: maybe he has turned over a new leaf. My disbelief turns to forgiveness for a second. Perhaps I had better keep watching, anyhow. The woman is introduced as Mary Evans, wife of the Prime Minister. I remember now: it was that awful girl he went out with just before he left. No-one could fathom what he - even he - saw in her. And, now, they’re married? I cough with disbelief. He is now talking to the royal family. He is smiling with his mouth, but not with his eyes. Suddenly, a flashback overtakes me. I remember, only too well, the gaze. I saw him use it, over and over again, to try to influence people who he was on friendly terms with, and to intimidate and coerce those who he wasn’t. Though, to be honest, the line between friendly and hostile was very unclear. Once he tried it on me: it was a cold autumn afternoon, and we had just finished Media Studies. I was getting very disillusioned with the way the subject was taught, and wondering what to do. I knew that it would be too late to change subjects, but that I would get very bored if I carried on with it. At the end of the year, I did not care, as I had become absorbed into the cocoon that occurs in the late teens, when one’s primary interest in life is alcohol: in a dubious and temporary way, the problem was solved.
I was in the garden of the college, seeking some sanctuary while I put my thoughts together as to what to do next. Present matters were consuming my mind as much as future matters, as I had two hours until the next lesson, and I had recently discovered that the college was a very boring place to be in one’s spare time. Perhaps I could try to sneak into one of the pubs? Suddenly, a familiar figure emerged from what seemed like nowhere. For the first time, it was just me and him. I was truly petrified. I thought that he had arrived with violent intent: I had heard tales of his severe bullying of the other students, even those who he was ‘friends’ with. My imagination stretched even to the idea that this day would be the last day of my life. He stopped half a foot away from the bench where I was sitting. At this point, he gave me a look which will remain etched in my memory like a scar on a person’s skin. I truly, try as I might, could not tear myself away from it. I found myself gazing into his sparkling brown eyes, as if a magnetic force were dictating where I rest my eyesight.
‘Holmes.’ he uttered ‘Simon Holmes.’
‘Yes. That’s right.’ I uttered.
It was at this moment that I decided to turn his gaze back on him: I looked straight into his eyes, in the most penetrating way I could muster, acting as if I were trying to see what lied beyond them. Not for a second did I shift my gaze away. I backed this up with an air of defiance which I had taught myself to adopt: the indestructible spirit that lies within. You think about all the inhumanity which has occurred over the centuries, and you focus entirely on it until a flame rises within your very heart and soul: one which refuses to wane. He seemed like he was about to open his mouth when, suddenly, he stopped. After a few seconds, he spoke: ‘Sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking. And, with that, he went on his way. I was very relieved at this point, not to mention amazed! I truly could have not imagined his reacting like this. Astounded by this phenomenon, I fell into a state of near-catatonia. When I came to, I jolted as a concept occurred to me: one that I didn’t want to deal with at this time, nor in the near future, in fact: never.
Everyone is going to be talking about this.
I looked to the future with trepidation. At this moment, the same trepidation which I had experienced then is coming back to me……
‘Ha! Ha! People will believe anything you tell them.’ Simon Evans comments to himself as he looks out of the window of 10 Downing Street. ‘It’s great, this new approach. Treating them rough works for a while, but when you leave college you get the pigs onto you, don’t you? They have their uses, mind. And, now, they are on my side.’ He rubs his hands with glee. ‘Soon, the palace will be mine. I don’t even need to use persuasion anymore.’
His monologue is interrupted by the entrance of Jason Bennett, one of his friends at college, who is now working under him. In exchange for no salary and the performance of menial tasks, he is allowed to live in the same house as the Prime Minister.
‘Sir, there is someone who wishes to see you.’
‘What now? Ok, go and get her, you little pigshit.’
The last time Jason told him this was rude, he found his head in the area that he is required to clean with his tongue, so instead of saying anything to do with this, he frowns and pouts. However, he offers the words:
‘It’s actually a he.’
‘Oh, for fuck’s sake! Ok. Hopefully we can send him away soon. Run along, now, twat.’
While making his way downstairs, Jason exhales sharply. ‘Why did I agree to this?’ he mutters under his breath.
The man enters with Jason in tow.
‘Don’t talk to me like that. Call me “Sir”.’
‘Yes,’ Evans comments, glancing at the man disdainfully, ‘I think some of us are.... happier... than others.’ He puts his hand to his crotch, and makes a gripping movement. ‘Want to know what I was doing last night?’
The man says nothing.
‘Well, I’ll tell you. I was snorting so much coke I was shitting it! And, while I was doing that, I was getting sucked by eight hot, horny bitches. Choking them, I was! I rule!’ he makes a celebratory gesture with his fist. ‘What were you doing? Bet you were moping. Wish you could have what I got.’ He shrieks with mocking hysteria for a moment, then he leans closer to his visitor. His expression changes from amusement to something far more sinister. ‘Probably wanking your little dick: if you actually have one, that is.’ He spits out the last word in a jeering manner: the visitor can actually feel saliva touch him briefly.
‘So, your point is?’ A trace of resentment is shown, but the Chancellor tries to stay in control.
‘Why are you here, you saddo?’ Evans continues with his spitting style of speech, but it is becoming increasingly hostile in tone.
‘I’m the Chancellor of the Exchequer..’
‘Oh, are you? I didn’t realise that.’ He clenches his fists. ‘Well, you’re fired. Worthless piece of shit. Get out of here before I beat you up.’ Every word is spoken with total venom. Although he has only just met the Chancellor, he seems to consider him an arch-enemy.
A human Minotaur suddenly looms before the Chancellor. He finds himself edging away a couple of yards. However, he is very upset at the tirade he has just received, and his pride has been dented severely by the insults. Before he can stop himself, his wish to reclaim his self-esteem overtakes him:
‘You fucking arsehole! I don’t believe...’
‘Oi! Oi! Oi! No swearing!’
‘Don’t tell me what to do!’
‘I’m Prime Minister, remember? You’re not welcome here anyway, you little shit. Get the fuck out.’
‘But, why are you doing this? I can’t just....’
‘Enough of your fucking lip!’
He grabs the Chancellor by the back, takes him to the top flight of stairs, and pushes him. As he rolls down the stairs, one by one, Evans’ lips pucker into a smile which is so frightening it could freeze a bull in its tracks. He laughs, sadistically.
‘Silly old twat. That’s what you get for trying to argue.’
He makes his way downstairs, and leans over the Chancellor, who is groaning and clutching himself. Evans relaxes slightly.
‘Nah, I’ll let you off this time.’
He makes his way back to the room upstairs, where he sees Jason.
‘I beat him black and blue. And if you tell,’ he leans closer to Jason ‘I’ll do that to you.’
Jason has never previously been threatened in this way. He decides that this is too much; he will throw in the towel now.
‘I’ve had enough of this. I’m quitting.’
‘What do you mean, you’re quitting?’
‘Well, I am, so there.’
‘You’re not going anywhere!’ He lunges at Jason, but it is too late: he is at the stairs.
‘Sod it, it doesn’t really matter.... but, hang on, he’ll tell. What do I do?’
He can hear the hammering of the familiar staircase with footsteps.
‘It’s ok. There’s a way of dealing with this.’
Suddenly, Jason returns. ‘Actually, it’s ok. I won’t quit after all.’
‘Well, if you did, I’d break your legs. So I think you did the right thing.’
Jason smiles wryly. ‘Erm... thank you, Simon.’
‘Thank you, Sir.’
‘Fuck off to your room now.’
Anne is reclining in the living room of the semi-detached house which she shares with her parents. She has poured herself a cup of blackcurrant tea and is waiting for the five minutes, between now and the finalisation of its brewing, to elapse. A croissant rests on the small, white circular plate next to her tea. This plate, in turn, resides on the wooden table next to the couch on which she has positioned herself. It shares the table with its neighbours: a remote control, a box of Smarties, a copy of the Radio Times and a pot which hosts a group of marbles. Anne’s left hand lifts the remote control: this is no coincidence. She is left-handed, knows it, and consciously lets this guide her. She points it towards the television in the far corner of the room, and presses the ‘On/Off’ button. The screen changes to a fuzzy, grey picture. Her index finger moves over to the ‘2’ button, which it pushes. This results in the same fuzzy, grey screen.
‘What exactly has happened?’ she wonders, out loud.
As neither of her parents will be returning home until the evening, she knows that her wondering is to no avail. She suspects that it is a technical fault, and that it will be fixed soon. For now, all there is to do is wait... but she can find something else to do. Once she has finished her croissant, she takes her tea and exits the living room. She makes her way up the staircase, while considering whether to investigate her parents’ room. Although it betrays ethics, she would love to satisfy her curiosity. In fact, if there is something untoward in there, she will have the information to divulge to the police, which will help to keep Sidborough safe. So, perhaps, it doesn’t go against ethics after all...
The only obstacle is the issue of when her parents get back. But now she has the opportunity to investigate the room. While the cat’s away, the mouse will play. But she’s no mouse, and she knows that if there is a secret which shouldn’t be a secret, there will be a trouble. She opens the second door on the right, where the lair so known to her, yet previously unexplored, lurks.
Michael Turner, the shadow Education minister, is up on the first floor of the television centre giving an interview. Before he has time to answer the interviewer’s pressing question about his latest proposals and his analysis of the recent election, he can feel the temperature rising in the room. He turns to face the other side of the room, to find that he is surrounded by flames. He flails about, desperately searching for a fire extinguisher. He realises that there is one in the corridor that he came through. Did he notice any in here? In despair, he tries to make his way through the flames, trying not to let them suffocate him.
‘I’m sure that someone will call the fire people.’ he mutters to himself. He is instantly reassured by this idea.
The fire people have arrived, but have been strictly instructed not to enter the building until the allowed time. Despite their disagreement with the orders, the threat of redundancy encourages them to comply. By the time they make their way into the abyss to put out the inferno, no-one in the building can sense this.
‘Who was responsible for the fire?’ asks the reporter, from the newspaper The Chronicle.
Henry Reeves, the Minister for People, pauses for a moment. ‘It was an accident. Don’t worry, we’re doing what we can.’
‘The entire country is complaining about the loss of two major channels. How are you going to resolve this?’
‘We’ll build a new station in its place...’
‘And when do you think that’ll happen?’
‘Perhaps in the next two years. No, it will happen. It’ll happen soon. Plans are under way already.’
The reporter moves on: ‘Could you explain more about your new programme on social values in Britain?’
‘Which one? Ah, yes. We basically want to get Britain back to a Golden Age, when traditional family values were respected and appreciated. The shift from this way of life to a more individualistic one has caused the moral decline of society. It has led to adultery, drug abuse, prostitution, and other such evils. First, we will eradicate these problems at their source: we will encourage husbands and wives to stay faithful by offering them an incentive....’ he waves and tuts ‘....I mean, teach them that the family is at the centre of everything they do and if they don’t respect this, everything falls apart. We take a firm pro-life position and plan to make abortion illegal within the next three years. We will introduce stricter penalties for drug dealing and for possession. We will make certain that prostitutes are arrested and introduced into decent, honest work.’
‘Thank you very much. That is all from me.’
‘Goodbye.’ Reeves smiles obsequiously.
‘Hello, Sir. I’m from the English News. Do you mind answering a few questions?’
‘Not at all.’
‘Why do you think the fire at the independent television station took place?’
Reeves ponders for a moment. ‘Because....’ He takes a piece of paper from the upper pocket of his suit, and examines it. He scrunches it up and puts it back into the pocket. The reporter frowns with puzzlement. ‘It was because the people in the vicinity are so discontented. There’s not enough truly stimulating, appealing programmes any more. People are bored, and when they are bored they become angry. And that’s when destruction happens. What do you expect? Arrests will be made, but I promise that sentences will be lenient owing to these pressing times.’
‘Will you be working on a replacement?’
‘Um... yes. Work is under way already. We hope to build it as soon as possible.’
‘And when do you think that’ll be?’
‘There is no definite estimate, but I promise it will be done as soon as possible.’
‘Tell us about your new social values programme.’
‘Basically, we want to move Britain into a Golden Age. People will be more liberated than they ever were before. We plan to experiment with legalising drugs, and to promote rehabilitation of offenders. We accept adultery as human nature and believe that adhering to family values is a primary cause of stress in the home and workplace. We take a firm pro-choice position. We will be lenient on prostitution and hope to legalise it within the next three years.’
‘Ok, I’m going to have to wrap it up there. It’s been nice speaking to you.’
Another reporter appears. ‘I’m sorry.’ Reeves tells her, ‘I’ve got to go and attend to the scene of the fire.’
‘Surely you can spare five minutes?’
‘No, it’s all got to be sorted out now.’
‘OK, that’s fine.’
He makes his way over to the taxi rank, waving away a crowd of eager reporters. One of the drivers sets down the window and asks him where he would like to go. He leans closer to the driver and in sotto voce asks for a journey to 10 Downing Street. Just when the taxi sets off, he receives a text from Mary Evans, asking him to arrive at a meeting at the secret headquarters near St. James’s Park. He is slightly annoyed at having to change his plan so suddenly, but looks forward to the meeting with great anticipation: this is the first he has known about it and he wonders why they are secret.