Wednesday, 7 June 2017

The Prime Minister's Four Guards

The rain fell like a warning to the voters. Stay inside. It’s warm inside. Out here it is cold and it is dark and you will only get wet and tired. Give in. It was good coppers’ weather so long as you had a car or a handy doorway to stand in.
Unfortunately these two constables had to wait outside their car, all the more ready to spring into action, but they had explicit orders not to enter the dark, dry shelter of the multi-storey car park they’d come to stop by.
“I don’t think it’s right,” said the younger constable.
“What’s that?” replied the elder.
“I said I don’t think it’s right!” the young constable shouted over the pattering of raindrops on his high-viz jacket.
“Oh really. Is that it is it. What’s so not right then?” the older constable asked.
As the younger constable tried to lean against the car, slipping off the curved, wet surface and constantly having to readjust, the older constable stood bolt upright, legs apart. He was well practiced in the art of standing still.
“The Pee Em wandering off like that. Ordering us to stay here. You know whatever she’s doing in that car park it can’t be good can it?”
“It’s not our job to approve of her. Just to make sure no bastard kills her,” the older copper said.
“Who do you reckon she’s in there with?” the younger copper asked.
“We get paid the same amount an hour whoever it is,” the older copper said.
“I think it’s the Russians,” the younger copper said. “You hear about what’s been going on in the US? It’s all over Twitter.”
The older cop sighed and tilted his head whimsically. “Russians under the bed. Just like the good old days.” He looked at the younger copper, who was standing up straight but was just too stiff for it to be comfortable. “It’s probably just some tabloid hack,” the older cop said. “She’s probably leaking something. They like doing that.”
“Christ,” the younger constable said. “Couldn’t she do it by email like everyone else?”
Ahead of them both gaped the entrance to the car park. Behind the yellow and black stripes of the barrier the car park sloped down past shadowy pillars the colour and shape of tombstones. A troika of figures stood at the deepest part of the car park, the furthest point from any exit, hiding from the light. To an observer they appeared to be an old man, a younger man, and a woman.
“Why did you call us here?” said the younger man, his voicing giving away just a twinge of a Lancashire accent, although he was not from Lancashire.
The woman’s eyes darted from one man to the other. She cut a strong figure, all sharp edges and hard lines, but now she looked small, jittery, scared.
“I thought we should talk. Maybe it’s time for an arrangement,” she said.
“Oh, you can’t think that,” the older man said, not unkindly. “You know the arrangement. You know your sentence.”
“But surely there must be some court of appeal? Some room of leniency? For mercy?” the woman begged.
The older man sighed. “There is no court of appeal. There are no courts. No judges. No jurors. You killed them all and the only people left are you, and your jailers. I’m sorry, I really am, but all we can do is carry out our duty, as you must do yours.”
“Besides,” the younger man said. “It is a little hard to believe your sudden interest in the rule of law when we’ve witnessed your flagrant attempts at escape.”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” the woman answered.
“I’m sure you don’t. Avoiding the debates? Bringing fox hunting back? Taking homes from dementia patients?” the younger man said. “It’s blatant.”
“I’m bound to rule these people as long as they consent to it. Those rules come with the freedom to rule them as I wish,” the woman said, a little steel returning to her voice.
“And how has your escape attempt been going?” the older man asked gently.
“You two have seen me off at every pass. Splitting your voters, admitting to having a bloody Margaret Thatcher poster on your wall. Refusing any suggestion of cooperation or hope. Don’t worry, you two have done your duty all right,” the woman spat.
“It’s not just that though, is it?” the older man continued.
The woman sighed. “No,” she said. “It’s them. They’re… they’re horrible. At every turn I tell them what I am, I show them what I am, I say, ‘Vote for me and this is how I’ll hurt you!’  Every ugly thing I hold up for them and see it reflected back in their grimacing faces. Have you seen who they put in charge of the other continent? I thought he was another prisoner. I reached out to him. But he’s not is he?”
“No,” the older man said. “I’m afraid that one is exactly what he seems to be.”
“Oh they’re horrible,” the woman said. “I can’t stand this island, this planet anymore. Please, just let me go!”
The younger man’s face turned stony, his voice unyielding as he said “Your lust for power resulted in the destruction of our world and the death of our species, our culture, all that we are. The law is clear. You will be punished by being given what you wanted. You will be bound to it until the people you’ve been charged with ruling consent to release you.”
The old man smiled, reached out and placed a hand on the woman’s shoulder. She didn’t even have the strength to recoil.
“It’s not so bad here,” he said. “Try to see the bright side. Some of the children here are alright. And the allotments. The allotments are really nice. You could have a life here. Instead of trying to grind these people down until they release you, maybe you could help them?”
“You’ve seen these people,” the woman snarled. “They are beyond help.”
“I see. Well, I don’t think we have anything more to talk about here,” the old man said. “I wish you luck in tomorrow’s election.”
“Cunt,” the woman spat, turning and walking away. They could hear her heals clicking on the concrete long after she’d disappeared from view.
The younger man shifted awkwardly, then cleared his throat and turned to his superior.
“Sir,” he said.
The old man nodded. “Yes?”
“I can’t help but notice, your campaign sir. The policies, your debating tactics, the way you talk to the natives. I wouldn’t want to presume, sir, but sometimes it looks like you’re trying to win. Sir, are you actually trying to release her?”
“Like I said, there are no judges or juries any more. There’s just us. Doing our duty. I won’t help her Timothy. But even if she escapes, I think she has suffered enough,” the old man said.
The younger man straightened up, took a step closer.
“I’m afraid I can’t allow that, sir,” he said. “And were you to assist in her escape, I would not hesitate to arrest you. You know the penalty for releasing an inmate.”
The old guard nodded gravely.
“I would have to take on her sentence as my own,” the old man said. He began to walk away, the opposite way to where their prisoner had gone. His footsteps were the soft, regular steps of a man who’s done a lot of walking. The younger guard followed.
As they reached the fire escape, each readying themselves to face the still pouring rain outside, the old guard allowed himself the faintest of smiles.

“Who knows,” he said. “Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad?”