Driving To Deliver Your Business


Seat of Mars: 19. The Darkness

As summer slipped into the melancholy tidings of autumn the people began once more to learn about darkness. With no more electric lights to keep away their fears they stumbled blindly in the new darkness, crying out for a saviour and praying for their agonies to cease. They stood around oil drums at night, watching as the sparks rose into the velvety darkness to mingle with the stars of the Milky Way that so many of them had never before seen. This sudden lack of illumination caused terrors and nightmares; it seemed as if a million demons had rushed forth from the darkness to be let loose on a defenceless world. Once the plug had been pulled on their million-watt lifestyle and the TV screens had darkened and the internet had fallen silent and there was nothing left to distract them from what they had done to the world, many simply lost their minds. There was no terror on Earth so great as the fear that struck at their hearts and reminded them of their place in the natural order of things. Hunger, violence, the shivering nights; these were as nothing compared to the death of the artificial world and the people understood this deeply. Only a few embraced this new darkness and saw within it a sense of marvel and a new kind of hope, and it was to them the task would fall of being the seed bearers for the future. Yet it was not dark everywhere. A thin web of concentrated light persisted in bright clusters and nodes as the tide of electrical power retreated to only those places necessary for the continued survival of the few. Military bases remained lit, as did some ports, airfields, power stations and urban centres. One such centre was the old financial district of the City of London, and its environs. Here, in the great glass and steel towers that reached for the sky, the light shone brighter than ever. Rooms in offices and houses were still illuminated at the flick of a switch, computers, espresso machines and hoovers all functioned as before, and even the television sets worked, although there was precious little to watch. At ground level the streets were thronged with pedestrians pulling suitcases as a great reorganisation took effect. To say that chaos ruled would be to misunderstand the deep forces that were at work reconfiguring this human society, redesigning and rewiring it. People shuffled and queued and argued with one another as they attempted to find out their function and insert themselves into this new paradigm. Police officers blew whistles and conducted the traffic because here there were taxis and ministerial vehicles, delivery vans and cycle couriers, army jeeps and motorbikes. And, although much of modern life in Britain had ground to a halt, the same could not be said of the rest of the world. Anchored offshore were dozens of hulking cargo ships that had arrived from China, Brazil and elsewhere. They waited, more or less patiently, while their agents and middlemen screamed down telephones across continents at one another in an attempt to secure payments and guarantee funds. Supplies from smaller vessels streamed in from ships unloading at Tilbury Docks, and on trucks from continental Europe aboard the freight trains that still ran through the dark tunnels beneath the English Channel. We must make everything feel as normal as it can be, said Ignatious Pope as he looked down from his new office on the 40th floor of 31 St Mary s Axe. The prime minister, a tall and bloated man with a ruddy public schoolboy face, put down his coffee cup and grunted. He was seated on a spacious leather sofa, sitting with his legs crossed and gazing at the back of the Pope s bald head as the latter stood by the window. The two men were alone in the room, save for a white cockatiel in a cage in the corner. The PM cleared his throat. We were bloody lucky, Pope, you can t deny that. We ve only been downgraded one notch, although I had to sweat blood to secure that. Luck had nothing to do with it, replied Pope. Thanks to your energetic reassurances and the Bank s opening up the spigots we ve got a nice little rally on our hands. Interest rates will continue to remain low and again, thanks to your statesmanship the pound is even courting safe haven status once more. All in all I d say we should be congratulating ourselves on a job well done. The PM stared at Pope venomously. How could he be so blas about this? It s all just number crunching to you, isn t it? Pope turned to face the PM, one eyebrow arched as if in incomprehension. Are you unhappy with me in some way, Sir? Unhappy? spluttered the PM, rising to his feet. They re dying out there. I m up to my eyeballs in reports of dead people in hospitals piled up in corridors, of yobs running around smashing up shops and burning cars, and of people good, honest people with jobs and families and pet cats looking like fucking concentration camp survivors. And what do you do when you re actually here instead of gallivanting around in your helicopter? What do you do? All you can do is pull out charts and talk about figures and economics and financial crap. But it s me me who has to stand up in front of Parliament day after day and lie about what s really going on. It s me who has to meet up with families pleading for power to be switched on in whatever godforsaken hole they come from, and it s me that has to get down on my hands and knees and kiss whatever Chinese or American arse that s hovering in front of my nose at any given time of the day or night. So yes you could say I m unhappy. I m pretty. Fucking. Unhappy. Pope stared at the PM, taking note of his goggling eyes, the bulging veins in his temple and the way sweat had formed on his forehead. At this rate he d probably be gone from a cardiac arrest in a few months. Who would replace him? He had a few ideas but considered that this was a weak area in his strategy and one that would need some careful attention over the coming weeks. He adopted a tone of reconciliation as he addressed the PM. I m sorry you feel that way, he began. Both of us knew that this situation wouldn t be easy, and I completely understand how hard it must be for you at the moment. He eyed the man a little to see if his words were having an effect. They didn t seem to be, so he made his way across the room and placed a spindly arm around the bigger man s neck. Sometimes we can t see the wood for the trees, you know. We get too close up to things and it doesn t make any sense anymore. The PM shot him a suspicious glance. What do you mean? You came into power on the ticket of reform. You re a reformer through and through, and that s what you ll be remembered for. And being a reformer isn t easy. What about your man Oliver Cornwell? Cromwell, corrected the PM. Yes, that s him. How do you think he dealt with it all? How did it feel for him taking on the Irish? Did he lose sleep over the royals and those uppity protestants? Catholics, interjected the PM once again, shooting him a glance. History is not your strong point, Pope. Catholics, protestants whatever. The point is that he had the resolve to see it through. He wasn t afraid to break a few eggs to make an omelette. And God knows we ve got a few eggs to break to make our omelette. The PM looked at Pope s imploring eyes, softening a little. He hated this shiny-headed South African. Called him a nerd and a wimp and lots of other things beside. But, boy, there was some brain in there underneath that shiny pate. Come over here a minute, said Pope, leading the PM over to a spot beside the floor-to-ceiling window. Look out there and tell me what you see. The PM looked for half a minute before replying. It s England he said. Britain. Exactly, said Pope. It s England. It s the country that put half the world on the map. When we were fighting the Boers it was to England we looked, and it is England that dragged India, as well as half the world, away from superstition and black magic. It was England that kicked Abo butt in Australia and made America what it is. It’s cricket and football and tennis and cups of tea. It s Blake s Jerusalem the promised land. The PM felt a lump rising in his throat and the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. And Shakespeare too. What was that line in Richard the Second again – how does it go? This land of little princes, this other Eden, this demi paradise you know the one? This sceptered isle, this happy breed of men, continued the PM, remembering Eton. This seat of Mars. Yes, yes, exactly! said Pope animatedly. Mars! The god of war. This is the country that stood up to Hitler, the country that brought enlightenment and progress and technology to so much of the world that s all I see out there too.” “That’s what I see too,” said the PM But I see something else too. Pope turned to face him. Eaters, he whispered. They’re like woodworm in a throne. Like fleas in the coat of a majestic lion. Parasites. There are so many of them. How many, no one knows, gobbling and eating and breeding and spreading across the face of this country like bacteria. Eating, breeding, demanding more. They are ignorant of this nation s history, and they have no love for civilisation or learning or military glory all they can think about is how much they can milk the system. They don t work, they sit around all day in front of their television screen and they whine and complain and shove fat down their throats. Everything about them is filth and ignorance and entitlement and still they are not grateful to those that feed them. And they are killing this nation. The PM nodded and gulped, making his adam s apple move up and down in his throat. “With the Luftwaffe we knew how to kill them,” said Pope. “We knew, if you shot them down, they died. End of. If only it were that simple with those who threaten this great nation today. Or should I say once-great nation?” The PM shot him a wounded glance. Think of them, whispered Pope. Think of them when you are reading those reports. Think that with the death of every welfare queen, that s one less ungrateful eater to feed. With every slob that perishes that’s one less unemployed, unemployable gutbucket raiding the nation s coffers as he putrefies on his sofa watching TV and stuffing his mouth with fried chicken and lager. With every dreadlocked peacenik who throws himself off a bridge that s one less person voting for the socialists, one less person pissing on the graves of your ancestors. The PM was silent. He looked out at the vast sweep of land stretching to the horizon. Yes. Like a rug harbouring fleas, they were invisible to the naked eye. Yet they were there. Hidden. Munching. Mocking. He would show them. He turned to Pope. I m sorry, he said. Carry on with the good work. And with that he turned and left the office, leaving Pope alone with his laptop full of ideas and his plans and his cockatiel in a cage. Pope turned to the bird and winked. “Too easy, just too easy.”