Londonistan

The Catford Cat - A Pagan Abomination

When they tore down the Catford Cat it should have been a clue on the direction things were heading in. A ‘pagan effigy’ they called it and that was why they got away with it. Everyone knew it was part of some dark magic, they just didn’t talk about it and behind the collective silence people really were tired of the disappearances, the sacrifices and the strange meows in the night. Everyone except for the people of Catford, of course, and they always were barbarians.

So, we all let it go when they threw chains around the cat and dragged it off to be melted down. Some of us even lined the road to cheer, not me though, even then, though I didn’t think enough to see it, I had the nasty feeling that things were going the wrong way. Not to say I’m smart, anything but, if I were I’d have done something to stop them before it went any further. Still though, I knew something was sitting wrong in the city and they were at the heart of it, slowly taking over and changing everything.

Next – and I don’t mean to get poetic here – they came for the Elephant & Castle. It was ‘morally unacceptable’ they said. I saw one of them talking about it, just before they started the purge, a wild eyed man on a plinth in Trafalgar Square denouncing the abominations, hedonism and sins of the natives of Elephant. Shameful, he declared, that such a iniquitous mob should be allowed to roam the streets bringing disgrace to us all. No one came out to cheer that moment, it was all grim faces and nervous looks, depending on who was doing the listening. I was at the back of the crowd, with the idle observers, for a while at least. We were the first to drift away though as the fanatics rant spun itself into a spit spraying frenzy to the delight of his invited audience. There was an ugly mood and not one anyone sane wanted to stay and see, so we left them to it, comforted to at least know it wasn’t us they were after. I heard what they did to the Elephant & Castle, though I never saw it myself, few who did left to tell the tale and to this day I don’t even get the bus through there – I don’t even want to see the streets were that shit happened. Not that I’d be allowed to of course, no free movement these days, you go where they tell you to and you keep your mouth shut about it.

After that it all came in a flurry of atrocities. Then we had to care, comfortable ignorance was no longer an option and we were blown away that all we’d missed with our eyes half closed. There were so many of them, so many that we weren’t even sure whose city it was anymore. Sure, if you stayed at home, or went to the shops, or sat in your local it seemed like everyone was same, that everyone was one of us but the proof was in their actions – they were there, somehow operating in the city without us ever noticing. A whole parallel world that had grown up in the city without ever touching on ours.

Whitechapel, Farringdon, Angel Islington, Tottenham, Peckham, Camberwell, Vauxhall, they all fell like vast concrete dominoes. There one day, working and sane and safe, gone the next to be replaced by something unrecognisable, something which, now we weren’t part of the staring crowd anymore, seemed disgusting and alien. All of the old certainties faded away, hacked apart by the new order that we were powerless to stop. The pubs changed, the takeaways changed, the shops changed. What had once been a local, comfortably decayed and unwelcomingly friendly was suddenly all horse brasses and real ale, old men calling themselves the ‘Colonel’ lining the bar in tweed jackets, never mentioning the Lee Enfield rifles they all carried as a matter of routine now that they’d taken over the streets. What used to be a Chicken Cottage or a Morley’s would, almost overnight, be turned into a traditional pie shop, or a tea house, lingering youths and famished commuters driven from their doorways at gunpoint for preferring a two piece meal to eel and cow’s eye pasties. That was how things should be, they told us, that’s how it was meant to be but I can tell you it’s never felt natural to me, not in London. Even my local corner shop wasn’t left untouched after they’d finished. I remember it now, as it was, as it should have been, a surly nod from the Sri Lankan who worked there, a pint of out of date milk and the local alchy ahead of me in the queue taking his time over the spare change taken to buy a can of K Cider. Halcyon days in the city. Now it’s all Union Jack bunting, rosy cheeked children buying penny sweets and friendly smiles from men in brown shop coats. Sickening, really, what they’ve done to the place.

I’m old now. My back’s bent and I’m tired. Certainly too tired to fight them. It’s all I can do to sidestep the Morris Dancers and cheery urchins on my way home. I remember, they used to say ‘If you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life’ and fuck me but I’m exhausted with it. Some used to warn us too, back then, that we were being taken over. Muslims they said, hordes of them, Sharia law, public stonings – well, they weren’t all wrong, if only they’d known that the threat was coming from those Home County bastards instead. Still, too late to worry now, my city’s gone, they call it London Village now and I need to finish up here, it’s time for mandatory cricket on the green. Used to be a Primark y’know, backwards and barbaric they called it when they burnt it down…

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Agnes, Theresa and Others

Agnes & Theresa - Pirate Flag, Jack Rackham

Mr Blaine was still shaking, sweat dribbling down an unhealthily grey face before making a visible escape from his ends of his nose and chin. She hadn’t expected this much of him, to still be conscious for one but also to have thought to call her in and stay at the school long enough for her to arrive. A lesser man would have at the very least skulked off home to hide under a blanket, re-considering his career in teaching and she’d always assumed Mr Blaine was the least of the lesser men. Going by brief and formal parent teacher meetings at least he’d come across as a bit of a mediocrity, an average man doing his job in an average way and passing judgement on her daughter, Theresa, in an average way. As he dealt largely in platitudes for want of anything more useful to say she’d always wondered if he even knew who her daughter was, or if he’d spent the last year offering dull appraisals of some other child in his ignorance.

He certainly knew Theresa now though, no doubt about that and to his credit he’d survived the revelation relatively unscathed. Her daughter’s last three schools and six teachers hadn’t fared nearly so well but then both she and her mother had resolved to make this one work, especially as they were running out of new areas to move to.

Theresa really had tried too, she’d made it all the way to the summer holidays without anything of any interest at all happening. For once Agnes had started to feel that steady mix of pride and disappointment in the feeling that her child was neither a disruption nor particularly noticeable in any way. A relief, really, a necessity given the events at past schools but it was still an experience tempered with a slight hollowness. If Theresa was going to be normal now then Agnes would just have to learn to live with it. Of course that didn’t matter now, not since Mr Blaine had called her at work, breathing heavily and demanding she come in for an emergency meeting. The normality had been, once again, shattered into a lot of very small and very awkward pieces.

You’d never know it though, not if you walked into the room now with Theresa sitting on a child sized seat in the evacuated classroom, legs swinging restlessly and eyes gazing off into one of those daydreams so consuming that only children, with their mixed indifference to and infatuation with reality, ever seemed to manage. Small for her age, dark skinned and still cute looking, baby fat not yet stretched out by a growth spurt, she was usually just another face in any school photo, another gap toothed smile amongst many.

Still, appearances could be deceptive, as Mr Blaine had discovered and Theresa, as perfectly normal a child as she generally was, had moments that could break that image completely. Like today.

“I’m sorry Miss Taylor, sorry to have called you out of work at such short notice but Theresa’s had an… episode… and I really thought you should be here to take her home for the day.”

Agnes nodded at the euphemism. The poor man may not have been worth much but he was trying and ‘episode’ was a nicer term for it than the ones they usually used.

“I’m very sorry Mr Blaine – and I’m sure Theresa is too, aren’t you?”

The girl smiled vaguely, recognising that they were talking about her but barely paying attention to the adult conversation.

“I’m sure she is and that’s good but, well, I really don’t know what to do here, I’m not entirely sure what happened but I know I wasn’t trained for it. Have you ever considered taking Theresa to a doctor?”

“Oh she’s seen doctors. And priests, nuns, psychiatrists, Voodoo spiritualists, witches, preachers, scientists – the lot. None of them know what to do about her and she really doesn’t mean any harm by it, honest, she doesn’t. People barely ever get hurt and the children love it, not that she does it on purpose.”

Agnes stressed the last few words, the other children did love it but she didn’t want the teacher to think that Theresa ever intended for it to happen.

“I’m sure she doesn’t, but I’m not sure that helps really. I mean, it was really very impressive and I’ve certainly never seen anything like it but is the classroom really the place for it? All I asked her to do was to read her story out loud and…”

His voice trailed off. He was worried about repeating the ordeal out loud in case it made him sound insane, Agnes knew the feeling but hesitated to throw the floundering Mr Blaine a rope.

“… and suddenly there we were. I was a pirate. Short, fat, pirate… I only had one leg and… someone stabbed me.”

Agnes nodded, silently cursing herself for letting Theresa watch Pirates of the Caribbean. It had seemed like a safer bet than Frozen, which had left three small children lacking frostbitten fingers at the the last school. Plus it didn’t have any songs, which had to be a step in the right direction. She craned her neck forwards, if Mr Blaine was still lacking a leg, or was sporting any serious wounds, then it didn’t seem to be bothering him too much. Another bonus, sometimes they came back just the way they’d been while… whatever it was, was happening. That was when the real trouble usually started.

“Well” Agnes put on her cheerful voice, the one that she hoped made her sound calm and happy even though she suspected that to everyone else it made her sound stressed and slightly mad “that must have been a bit of an adventure for you. You made it back in one piece though, didn’t you? And the children..?”

“Loved it…” the colour was coming back to his face, he looked relieved that another adult had taken his admission in their stride. Lucky bastard, Agnes thought to herself, first time it had happened to her they’d sent the men in white coats around and threatened to section her. At least they had until Theresa had sent them off on a really strange trip with monstrous vacuum cleaners and toilets that ate people alive. She’d been younger then though and it had almost certainly been unintentional, although they did leave her alone after that, or what was left of them did at least.

“No harm done then really. They must have learnt something too, you could call it a history lesson.”

“A seven year old turned into Captain Jack Sparrow.”

“There you go, a sailing lesson too, bet the other children don’t get many of those do they?”

“I think he was the one that stabbed me.”

They were both silent for a moment. Theresa had started to hum to herself, Mr Blaine was starting to sweat again until Agnes gave her daughter a gentle push in the shoulder to quiet her down.

“Look, Mr Blaine, I know you’ve had a bit of a shock but trust me, you’ve taken it well and Theresa really doesn’t mean for it to happen. Please don’t expel her, not for this, she’s been to so many schools already…”

To Agnes’s surprise Mr Blaine looked shocked.

“Expel her? Of course not, of course not” She could see that he meant it, his eyes had sharpened at the mention of expulsion, some educator’s instinct that she’d never have guessed he’d have was kicking in.

“She’ll certainly need some, erm, special attention… but we’re an inclusive school and I’ve never expelled a student in my life. Not even suspended one, I’m a Teacher.”

He was off now, the certainty in the job title was working it’s way through him, stifling the nervous sweats and getting the blood pumping again.

“I mean, a child’s imagination is a wonderful thing, it should be encouraged, not punished.”

“Absolutely” Agnes said, doing her best to suppress the memory of Theresa’s recurring nightmare about the Muppets, although ‘wonderful’ was, she supposed, one word for that.

“Yes, well, Theresa, you’ll really have to make sure you don’t let this happen again, I’m sure you don’t mean any harm but what you did today could have been very dangerous.”

It was the first time he’d spoken directly to her and the innocent smile she gave him in return would have convinced anyone but a mother that she’d never picked her nose and eaten it, never mind helping her classmates to stab their teacher. Agnes let it go though, it was no time to go pushing reality into the face of Mr Blaine.

“Well, I think I need a drink and a good night’s sleep. You too I should think, the sleep that is, er, not the drink. I’ll see you in class tomorrow Theresa, don’t forget your homework.”

From there it was all strained goodbyes and handshakes as Agnes rushed to get her daughter out of the room before he changed his mind. He was insane, obviously, or very stupid, to know the risks and shrug it off so easily. That wasn’t much of a disadvantage though, sanity had never worked all that well in the past and she was willing to take any chance that was offered.

It was only as she shoved Theresa out of the door, silently willing her daughter not to say, do or imagine anything else, that Mr Blaine said anything that had the dangerous edge of rationality to it.

“Erm, do you think it might help if I started bringing a sword to class? Or a gun maybe? You know, just in case it’s a dragon next time or something?”

It wouldn’t, Agnes knew, nothing passed over between the real world and the fantasy except for the person experiencing it. Still, if it was a comfort…

 

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The Dark Streets Below (Part 2)

Nissan Micra Weapon Car

Part 2 of a disjointed and eclectic series. You can find more from Dale & Steve here.

I am the weapon. I am the blade held at the throat of the barbarians. I need to live this fact, this simple truth, I need to shear away everything beyond it and reduce myself to that final role. If the man named ‘Dale’ lives on it can only be as a mask, a smiling veneer to cover the creature beneath, to cover the tool of justice beneath.

“Are you sure that’s safe mate?”

Steve has sidled over to me, nervous, as always. He doesn’t understand, he shouldn’t understand that the times have defined who I must be and what I must do.

“Only my cousin, Tony, you remember him? Big lad, was a wedding DJ until that fell through, after that he became a welder and he did a course on it too. It can be dangerous, that’s all I’m saying, you should at least be wearing goggles or something.”

The cracks are spreading on Steve’s pretty picture of the world, a spiderweb of fears fracturing his perfect peace and that makes him worry. I try to offer him a smile, or as close to one as the liar’s face of Dale can get. It’s hard to do, when all I see is darkness, but he needs comforting and I’m the only one here to offer it. I have a job to do though, a task for the day – if I’m a weapon then I need to live as one, layer the blades around me.

“That’s fair enough, I’m not saying don’t do it, honest, I’m not but just be careful eh? Besides, I don’t know how you’ll ever drive that thing, I mean you’ve stuck big knives all over it now, parking’ll be a bastard. You can forget re-sale value too, not that there’s much of a market these days anyway, but spray painting that big skull on the front must have knocked at least fifty quid off the price.”

I ignore him and get back to my welding. His worries are nothing but dull noise now, the concerns of civilized man in an age gone to savagery. Besides, the skull looks awesome and what price does a 15 year old Nissan Micra fetch anyway?

“Fair point mate, fair point. Just to let you know though, I think you’ve misspelt ‘Avenger’ too, there’s only one ‘A’.”

Shit. Does it matter? ‘I am the weapon’, I repeat that to myself, trying to shed the oppressive rule of Steve’s saccharine world. My car, my machine, will be the last thing the unrighteous see before they go off to answer for their sins. Does the spelling really matter? I can’t look at him now, the concern on his face is a knife stabbing into the armour that I must surround myself with to survive this world. And my eyes hurt, really hurt, the blue flair of the welding torch has scoured itself into my skull. But the weapon feels no pain, the weapon only delivers it.

“Alright Dale, why don’t you just take a bit of a break eh? I’m first aid trained you know, I got a certificate. Get some water on those eyes and you’ll feel good as new and then you can get back to it. And I bet we can change that ‘a’ to an ‘e’, no problem. Who knows, might even add a few quid to the value? I mean it’s a feature, right?”

I steel my jaw for a moment before killing the flame of my welding torch. Isn’t it strength to know when you need to stop? Even the blade needs sharpening from time to time…

“That’s right, just need a minute to, er, sharpen yourself. Got to say though, all those blades on the wheels won’t do anything for your insurance premiums…”

I am the weapon… fighting against the all consuming mass of human squalor, defending the innocent against dark men of cruel intent… do I still need insurance?

Like this? Try one of my novels, like Crashed America – available in all good realities.

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The Ballad of Moscow Pete

Flag of the Soviet Union - Hammer and Sickle

Pete shed a lonely tear, not bothering to wipe it away. The last of them was gone, dead and burned up with a mixed fanfare of denunciations and praise. All those years devoted to the cause and what was left? Nothing. Just worn out memories and a long list of regrets. He’d be next too, he wasn’t getting any younger and he was running out of reasons to stick around.

He’d lost friends before, too many to recall and more than enough to make that sorrow familiar. Castro was no friend of his though. Fidel had been a onery son of a bitch, stubbon, arrogant and even more paranoid than a person needed to be even when the CIA really was out to get them. He’d also been part of that old school though, the ones who’d led Pete into the game and framed the rules for him. As they’d disappeared one by one, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Mao, Che and hell, even the ones on the other side, the Kennedys, Reagans and Hoovers – the joy had gone out of the whole thing. What fun was a Cold War when nobody else was fighting it? The only person left who’d even consider trying to have Pete assassinated was Kissinger and he’d stopped being a real when the aliens had replaced half of his brain with that of a hyper-intelligent sheep. Although, to be fair, he seemed happy enough with the arrangement.

Looking up Pete could see two men walking up the long trail to the barn he was sitting outside of, an intrusion on a moment more lonely than solitary. Hit men? His nerves jangled with the preemptive rush of adrenaline for a second but it was optimism more than anything else that fed them. There wouldn’t be any hit men coming. No poison umbrellas, no death rays, no spies, no snipers’ bullets, no suave men in outdated tuxedos and no Illuminati shills out to drive him mad with obscure research chemicals. The only people who came by these days were the McCarrick boys, nursemaids living out their obligation to their dead, or at least departed, mother who’d had an uneasy alliance with him when it came to protecting their small Alabama hometown of Hetsaw. A favour Pete hadn’t asked for but not one he was stupid enough to reject.

He’d come to know them over the years, filing away the ever more bizarre rumours which went around about them in a habitual attempt to build mental files, as if the Kremlin would come knocking for an update report. The older son, Earl, took after his mother when it came to the occult stuff, shit, maybe he even was her in a way, there was no knowing with that mystic nonsense but the dead in the McCarrick family certainly didn’t shirk their familial obligations. The younger one though, Jimmy, he was like his Uncle Waco and his dad, ET, straight up crazy. Good boys for all that though, easy going in a fatally dangerous kind of way.

Pete rose to greet them as they drew close, warily eyeing the pair in their beaten denims and wife beater vests. Good boys or not it never paid to take the pair lightly when they came around. Earl came first, reaching out a calloused and heavy hand to engulf Pete’s own increasingly frail one in a handshake.

“We came when we heard, Moscow, we know you go back a way with the old Commie.”

Moscow was the nickname jokingly given to Pete by Hetsaw locals thanks to his rumoured dealings with the KGB – and one used seriously by those who knew his real past. How much that included Jimmy and Earl he wasn’t sure, although old Ma McCarrick might have told them a pretty story or two before passing on to wherever her kind passed on to. Jimmy followed up with a seemingly genuinely look of concern and his own handshake.

“Thanks boys. He was an asshole but give it long enough and even they end up meaning something to ya.”

There was a pint jug by the bale of hay Pete had been sat on and, reclaiming his seat, he offered it to the two men who took turns taking deep gulps from it.

“We figured we should come up, give our condolences ‘n all” Jimmy said, a surprisingly soft tone belaying the persistent wide eyed look of insanity that he’d made his own.

“Appreciated, would say you shouldn’t have troubled yourselves but I ain’t one to say no to company on a day like this.”

Earl nodded and took a hay bail next to Pete, Jimmy following suit.

“I ain’t meaning to probe” the older brother said “but Ma told me that we should keep an eye out if the old guys from your, ah, way of thinkin’ started to drop. I mean, I know he was ninety but those Agency boys can have some long memories and if you’re name’s next on a list somewhere then best to let us know now. We don’t stand for that sort of thing here in Hetsaw.”

Pete nodded vaguely, letting his confused old man face take over his features, as he tended to when people started probing at things they perhaps ought not to know about.

“You know we’ll keep you covered Moscow but if you know about anything that might go down it’d certainly help. We can stick Cousin Hank and Cousin Myron up here, good men in a shootin’ fight, but those CIA guys have their own line in that… other shit, y’know? If it comes to that we might have to approach things a li’l differently.”

Earl looked the same as always, relaxed to the point of indifference, but for his eyes which, Pete noticed for the first time, were maturing to resemble Ma McCarrick’s. Soft at first glance but hard as steel if you bothered to pay attention. The proper heir to her side of the family business then. Jimmy meanwhile was draining the jug and looking sad, although whether that was out of compassion, because the jug was empty or just because he was crazy there was no way of knowing.

“Well thanks Earl, that’s good to know. Ain’t no need for concern though. No one’s losing sleep over an old son of a bitch like me. You’re smart to be thinkin’ about those Agency boys though, your Ma’s right, they dabble in all sorts of shit. Back in my day it was kept in check mind, they did stuff, we did stuff, everyone scared of goin’ too far with it. Occult M.A.D. y’know? Kids these days, with their computers and Facebooks and whatnot, no sense at all, they’ll summon a demon just to show off. By the way, how’s she keepin’, er, wherever she is?”

That Ma McCarrick was dead Pete was certain, he’d been to the funeral and snuck in the night before while the body way laying out, just to make sure. That she was really gone though was a bit more of an open question.

“Ah she’s good, you know how it is.”

He had no idea how it was, even after his years working in the darkest regions of the KGB’s magical subdivisions he was still, at heart, an old fashioned spy, more used to gunfire and garrotes than sacrifices and chanting.

“Well, that’s good to hear son, good to hear.”

The trio sat in silence for a while, Pete drifting through rough edged memories, the brothers lost in their own thoughts. It was comfortable, he vaguely thought, the boys weren’t kin but they knew enough to be silent company and they knew enough to take him seriously, a rarity in Hetsaw these days. He knew most locals now viewed him as a relic, a senile old farmer living out a life that had stopped making sense decades back and that was just because he was old, never mind the sniggering Moscow Pete jokes they told about him. The rumours which used to make him a mystery now made him a novelty curiosity, he knew that and now with Fidel gone he was even more of a museum piece. The game really was over. These days it was all drones and ‘Cyber Terrorism’, whatever the hell that was. No one believed any more, not in the ideas and definitely not in the right way of doing things. Kids in containers blowing up convoys of trucks a thousand miles away and anonymous people in anonymous suits sticking microphones on the backs of flies – that was no way to run the world.

After a while he was broken away from his thoughts by a faint, but rapidly increasing thrum in the distance. Pete recognised the sound, it was a chopper, a MI-17 ‘Hip’, a favourite of the CIA these days. Made in Russia, for added irony, so hard to trace back to the US. For a moment he thought he was finally starting to give in to senility, hallucinating fragments of excitement dredged up from the distant past but both Earl and Jimmy were already on their feet, scanning the horizon and pulling out pistols. They only cast passing glances at him as they kept their eyes fixed on the treeline that fronted the property, waiting to see what came.

Leaving them to it Pete stood up and shakily rushed into the barn. Old limbs ached, the arthritis in his left knee making him feel like he’d slowed to a crawl but even he knew that he made a fair dash to the pile of hay he was looking for, old man or not. He swept aside the top layer, revealing a steel footlocker buried in the mass of fodder. It took forced concentration to make his trembling fingers work on the combination lock but with only a couple of mistakes he still managed to open it. Inside was a half dozen handguns, a shotgun and an AK47, all immaculately oiled and kept despite years of disuse. Old habits died hard and besides, what else was there to do these days beyond polish mementos of the past? Pulling out the AK he made his way back outside where the McCarrick boys were watching the now visible helicopter approach them, the noise rising to an overwhelming din, sending dirt and dust up into the air around them.

First the ropes dropped down, then the black clad figures. Pete had stopped shaking now and forgotten his aching knee, he was even grinning as he levelled the rifle at a descending figure some forty feet off and with a grunt at the forgotten jolt of a bucking gun reeled off a couple of shots at it. He struck home, a limp form free falling to the ground. Jimmy and Earl followed suit, unleashing a small but meaningful hail of bullets at the invaders as they made their way down.

From there on in it was just like the old days, for Pete at least. The younger men were experienced, well used to the rattle of gunfire, but he barely noticed them. For the few split seconds the gunfight lasted, as CIA operatives hit the ground and dashed for cover, splattering the three men with bullets when they could, he was propelled back into those halcyon days all those years ago. It was just like the Bay of Pigs all over again, like the jungles of Vietnam, like the underground city where they’d duked it out with Navy Seals to make the centre of the earth Communist, it was everything he’d remembered it being, it was –

Earl grabbed Jimmy and hauled him backwards into the barn, guiding him around the fallen figure of Moscow Pete as he went. The old man had died with a smile on his face. Granted, he also had a bullet hole straight through his forehead, but wherever he’d gone now he probably wouldn’t be worrying about that. There was still gunfire from outside, smacking into the wooden planks but with his brother trailing behind him there was nothing left to do but run. Straight through the barn and out of the small door at the back, then a sideways dash for the treeline. The McCarricks could still hear the Agency men wasting ammunition as they fled into the dense woods and shifted from full flight down to a relaxed stroll. The CIA should have surrounded the place but they hadn’t, Earl wasn’t surprised, those guys loved their black helicopters and drama too much to bother with real planning.

They walked in silence for a while, guns tucked back into their belts and the gentle crunch of leaves under their feet audible between their ragged inhalations. It was Jimmy who, eventually, broke it.

“You told them where he was?”

Earl nodded.

“They knew, I just reminded them. Maybe mentioned that he might be planning to write a book or somethin’.”

They walked on in silence for a while before Jimmy spoke again.

“That was nice of you. It’s what he would have wanted.”

“I reckon so. Ma and Pa agreed too, ain’t no joy having to live out yer days as less than the man you were.”

Later that night they drank a toast to Moscow Pete and, along with a dozen other McCarricks and hangers on, sang the Internationale one more time, loud enough for all of Hetsaw to hear.

Moscow Pete, Earl, Jimmy and the McCarrick clan also feature in the novel Crashed America – available in all good realities.

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Make Hetsaw Great Again

Crashed America - Dark Comedy - Novel

“TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP!”

Earl hadn’t expected the alarm call, but then he hadn’t expected to wake up in the gutter of Hetsaw’s historic Main Street either. Life was full of surprises.

“TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP!”

Peeling his face off of the road Earl dragged his body round to sit on the sidewalk, a hand running over his face to check whether the dull throbbing pain in his head was just the hangover of the result of some hideous wound. No blood, so it was just the drink, which wasn’t exactly a relief but you took what you could get.

“TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP!”

The shouting was coming from a group of perhaps fifty people, flags flying and banners waving as they made their way down the street towards him, blocking off midday traffic and earning irritable glares from local storekeepers. Earl didn’t dabble in politics, living largely outside the boundaries of the law and often on a higher plain of existence. The price of gas or who was busy being corrupt up in Washington weren’t really matters that bothered him. The closest he’d come had been a brief and unintentional stint with some militia guys who’d wanted to invade Mexico and set up a new country. That had been nothing more than a night out that had gotten out of hand but they had, for a couple of days, managed to run the entire town of Tijuana as a feudal state. That said anything, or anyone, that stirred him from a comfortable roadside doze though had to be wrong in some way.

Jimmy was nowhere to be seen, which was no surprise. The last thing Earl could remember was watching his brother climbing up the side of the town hall trailing electric cables and ranting about time travel. Chances were he was still up in the clock tower, sleeping one off, but then he might just have gone backwards, or forwards, in time. In which case he’d just have to deal with his own  hangover as best he could.

The morning was a clear one, humid but with blue skies and an imposing sun already hanging overhead asserting the realities of the day. Never something to be welcomed, in Earl’s experience, not when there were other far more enjoyable realities to be found at least.

The marching crowd was drawing parallel now, their disjointed wall of sound breaking up from it’s organised battle cry into a confusion of angry, laughing and tired voices. Bleary eyed Earl surveyed the mass of people, looking out for local faces and trying to suppress the vague urge to lash out at the nearest person for sending bolts of pain through his chemically damaged brain. Donald Trump, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, build the wall, the chants meant nothing to him although Earl had met the man once on a rare trip to New York. Him, Jimmy, their father ET and Uncle Waco had been there on family business, a forceful negotiation with some men in bad suits who all had nicknames like ‘Fat Sal’ and ‘Even Fatter Tony’. That wasn’t why they’d run into Trump though, that had been pure coincidence.

As well as the more routine, criminal side of the family business they’d been running an errand for Ma, checking out some occult goings on that she suspected might need kicking into submission by the McCarrick clan. It had come to nothing, unfortunately. Waco and Jimmy had been disappointed seeing as they’d managed to pick up a barrel of napalm in Brooklyn that they’d been eager to experiment with. What was meant to be a dark cabal messing with the fabric of reality turned out to be nothing more than a club for old men, doing lines of coke and wearing lots of black. Teenage Goth stuff re-purposed for bored millionaires. At least one heart attack had been caused when they’d burst into the penthouse suite, a gaudy hotel room elaborately decorated in black velvet and garish gold candle holders. The buffet had been great though and, while ET and Waco generally disapproved, the mountains of cocaine hadn’t gone down too badly. They didn’t have much time to thank their hosts though, not once they’d tied them up and finished making fun of their XXL robes and bullshit notions about black candles and sacrificing goats.

Trump had been one of the men present, although it was only after a few slaps to the reality TV star’s face that Earl realised it. None of the McCarrick’s were big TV watchers and besides, without the wig you’d never have recognised him, especially with the elaborate Zodiac tattoo that covered his bald head. Symbols of power, really great power, the best power, the irritable politician-to-be had told them, although Ma had later said that the most dangerous thing about them was the risk of infection. Either way Earl hadn’t thought much of the encounter until now.

The man was President of the USA, apparently. A nation that no one in the family really thought of as including the Free State of McCarrick but it never hurt to keep an eye on the neighbours. No one who incited people to go out marching when he was hungover should be allowed near power Earl thought, it was just asking for trouble. It was a thought that made him tense his fists, not out of anger, he seldom felt that, but for the sheer sake of doing something. Ma had always warned him against getting involved in this sort of thing, she’d been dead set against politics ever since Cousin Bennett had had the idea to blow up JFK’s head with his psychic powers. It was best, she said, to be philosophical about these things, besides, there was business to do and the bars would be opening soon.

The crowd had mostly passed Earl now, heading off towards the town hall at the top of the street to shout at somebody for some reason he didn’t much care about. He stood up, shaking the cobwebs out of his head and feeling some of his usual serenity seep back in, the universe once again starting to make blissful sense, from his own unique angle. He even smiled a little when, with a sudden streak of flame, Jimmy appeared at one end of the street in a DeLorean and, swerving to keep the car under control, ploughed into the back of the group of protesters, taking half a dozen of them out as he went. Chances are it wasn’t intentional but then Jimmy, unlike his older brother, had recently bucked family tradition and taken an interest in politics. All politics, which was why so far that month alone he’d cycled through Anarchism, Communism, Primitivism, Tribalism, Libertarianism, Feudalism and – for some reason known only to himself – Will Smith Supremacy, a very niche spin off from the Black Supremacist movement. Earl wasn’t exactly sure what he was on today, although as he pulled a neat 180 hand break turn in the middle of the road he did hear Jimmy screaming ‘MAKE HETSAW GREAT AGAIN’.

All things considered it looked like it’d be another beautiful day.

Earl, Jimmy and the McCarrick clan also feature in the novel Crashed America – available in all good realities.

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