CHEQUERS: THE LAST DAYS OF MAY

Reading Time: 9 minutes

CHEQUERS: THE LAST DAYS OF MAY

Disunity, disloyalty and hundred-foot-high turnstiles on the Irish Border

Steve McAuliffe

The inside scoop on what really happened at that fateful meeting at Chequers

 

BREXIT DEBATE. CHEQUERS. FRIDAY 6th JULY 2018

 

(There is general hubbub and conversation around the table)

 

PM Yes thank you everyone, thank you for coming.

 

(The conversation and hubbub continues unabated)

 

PM:  If we could just….

 

(The conversation continues)

 

PM:  For the sake of the country I think it is imperative that we get this meeting underway

 

(The Ministers continue chatting)

 

BORIS:  Silence!

 

(Everyone abruptly stops talking and turns to Boris. Boris points to the PRIME MINISTER)

 

PM:  Thank you Boris. — (Clears her throat) Now if we can begin…. Firstly we thought it would be a good idea to put everyone into little factions.

 

    LIZ TRUSS interjects

 

AR  ‘Factions’ Prime Minister?

 

LT  Groups. I meant to say groups. Thank you Liz.

 

     GAVIN WILLIAMSON interjects

 

GW   (adopting a mock-creepy voice) Oooh yes, thank-you Liz.

 

LT:  Oh piss off Gavin.

 

    LIAM FOX turns to GW

 

LF: Maybe the right honourable minister for South Staffordshire should (adopting a high-pitched child-voice) ‘Just shut up and go away’.

 

    GW folds his arms, sulkily.

 

PM:  Please, I have called this meeting for purposes of unity. So if we can just-

 

BJ:  Prime Minister before we …. before we no doubt commence with um… with great enthusiasm armed with a fiery commitment toward this, toward this absolutely vital, vital  matter in hand … as it were … I do have one question I’d like to ask. If you would be … if you would be good enough – nay kind, kind enough to indulge me on this one interjection.  As it were.

 

PM: – Are you saying you’d like to ask a question Boris? …

 

BJ   I am indeed Prime Minister.

 

PM  Well, I was hoping to push on with the exercises, but providing it doesn’t delay us for too long –

 

BJ  I am indebted to you, as always

 

    THERESA MAY smiles thinly.

 

BJ  And in that spirit, the question I would like to ask, indeed I think we would all like to ask at this crucial time, is this.

 

    (He stands, and with his hands resting on the table, he looks around at his colleagues, with a Churchillian bearing)

 

— When so few among us have given so much….

 

The question – nay the burning question. Is this ….

 

-Where the hell is David Davis’s trifle?

 

PM   …‘trifle’ Boris?

 

BJ   Indeed, trifle. The agreement was that David Davis was going to bring a trifle. -Am I wrong on that? Was I somehow misinformed?

 

    Amidst much shaking of heads, all heads turn to DAVID DAVIS

 

PM (Sighing) – David would you mind -briefly, and succinctly explaining to Boris the ‘trifle situation’. -And then, hopefully we can push on with somewhat urgent affairs of state.

 

DD: No, that’s a fair question, the Foreign Secretary makes a very fair and valid point. And indeed, as my honourable colleague has made clear, at the Downing Street briefing it was agreed that I was – indeed – allocated the task of bringing along a trifle – just as Govey would fetch the finger sandwiches – which if I may say, are delicious as usual by the way, Michael.

 

    MICHAEL nods demurely.

 

DD  To that end, the ingredients were purchased and the original recipe was initially agreed upon (in principle) with my, as I like to call her, better half – but as the execution of the recipe proceeded, there arose – how best to put it — some disagreement over a few – shall we say ‘trifling’ issues

 

DD chuckles to himself and looks around at the stone-faces of the unsympathetic gathering.

 

He clears his throat and hurriedly removes, then chews upon the arm of his glasses

 

DD: To clarify: the sticking point, as far I see it was – at the negotiating stage – the age-old sherry problem. Essentially, Prime Minister, it boils down to two options, and the options are these: sherry or no sherry; there was a clear division of opinion on this. One that couldn’t be bridged. Unfortunately.

 

MICHAEL GOVE interjects.

MG It’s just a bloody trifle David, we don’t need impact assessments.

 

LIAM FOX: (Mutters) – Neither did he, apparently.

 

BJ: This is precisely the point. -Why is it everything *sooo* bloody torturous with you Davis? – I mean, Gove made the sandwiches: I supplied the Eton Mess without any undue fuss or hullabaloo.

 

DOMINIC RAAB mutters under his breath

 

DR: Boris Supplied an Eton mess. – No change there then.

 

BJ: Fuck you Dom, I heard that

 

The PRIME MINISTER, THERESA MAY climbs to her feet.

 

PM: Now, now – please! This is exactly what I’m talking about. We need a unified, collective face.

 

BORIS:  That’s a grotesque image.

 

PM  – All this bickering and back-biting is getting us nowhere…

 

    MICHAEL GOVE stands up

 

MG  I would like to add another question Prime Minister

 

PM (Sitting back down, issuing forth and exasperated sigh) — Yes, alright. -Go on Michael.

 

MG  Will we be claiming back the ingredients and associated travel on expenses?

 

(There is unanimous and enthusiastic roar of encouragement upon this point)

 

PM:  As always Michael, all food and transport is claimable on expenses.

 

(A good natured cheer erupts from the assembled ministers)

 

PM:   (Under her breath) We await your Fortnum and Mason bill…

 

    (The Cheering eventually dies down)

 

PM:  — Now, moving on to matters at hand if we may. -David, I believe you have been exploring options for the Irish border..

 

    (Some groans and eye-rolling from various ministers)

 

DD  Well as you know Prime Minister – we have of course prioritised the ‘Irish question’ -for want of a better term – and have actioned this prioritisation by immediately putting – what I believe is a workable solution – out to consultation.

 

(There is a pause as The PM and Ministers await further elaboration.

DD takes off his glasses, folds them up and places them in his breast pocket. He sits back, hands behind head)

 

PM  –And this workable solution is — ?

 

DD looks around at his colleagues, before realising it is he who is expected to respond.

 

DD  Oh I beg your pardon I didn’t realise you expected a full-analysis….

 

PM:  I think that would be rather helpful at this stage, yes.

 

He replaces his glasses and lifts a briefcase onto the table. After some struggling with the combination he opens the case and takes out a sheath of papers. He immediately sets them to one side

 

DD   Ignore those, they’re bollocks…

 

DAVID DAVIS scrabbles around in the case. He pulls out a aluminium-foil wrapped sandwich….

 

DD:  …That needs throwing.

 

    There are impatient sighs and groans from around the table as he continues scrambling around in the case. He removes an FHM magazine, followed by a flask…

 

DD  I’m very sorry about this Prime Minister, I know for certain it’s in here. I distinctly recall putting it in here myself .….

 

BORIS JOHNSON lets forth with an exaggerated yawn.  There is some giggling.

 

Eventually DD pulls out a napkin and carefully unfolds it

 

DD  And, voila! (To BJ) – You see! – Have faith Boris, have faith.

 

PM  -A napkin, David?

 

DD  –Prime Minister, discussions went on deep into the night, culminating in a late supper, at an all-night Salsa bar in Ladbroke Grove ….. Let’s put it this way, as morning loomed, things got a little – shall we say, ‘interesting’

 

DAVID DAVIS winks at a visibly unamused ANDREA LEADSOM

 

BJ  Cut to the fucking chase David -.

 

MG:  -That would make a refreshing change.

 

DD  OK, sure. -Well, we were throwing a few ideas around – batting to and forth so to speak – seeing what stuck… the drink was flowing, and the music became frightfully loud … they started removing all the tables for the dancing, so I ended up scribbling the conclusions on a napkin. Well, conclusion, singular, to be exact.

 

PM  (Sighing audibly) – And the conclusion was?

 

DD  Yes, i’m just trying to decipher what was written… but there seems to be a slight sauce stain on here – maybe red wine – hard to determine ….

       (He leans in close to scrutinise) ….. bear with me a moment….. I’m having a little trouble making that particular word out –

 

DAVIS shows the napkin to SAJID JAVID.

 

DD   Have a look at that Saj, does that say ‘turntables’?

 

SJ  (Leaning in close to read it) It says ‘turnstiles’.

 

DD  Oh yes, of course, yes, well that makes sense in the context of – er – of determining the – er – the Irish border question, as it were.

 

PM  O for God’s sake David what does it bloody say?

 

DD …Well …..

 

    SAJID JAVID impatiently interjects.

 

SJ  It says, and I quote: “100 foot-high turnstiles shall be manned by dwarves”  

 

DAVIS takes off his glasses and chews upon the arm.

 

DD  That’s pretty much the gist.

       -At this early stage.

 

(There is a protracted and stunned silence).

 

PM  ….. ‘Dwarves’ – David?

 

DD nods. The PRIME MINISTER sinks back down into her chair and sighs loudly.

 

DD ……. Yes. (He chews nervously on an imaginary toffee) — dwarves. Not necessarily dwarves obviously – I rather think the MJB guys were using -er – artistic licence there… We like to call it ‘blue-sky-thinking’… the consultation process will refine it further, obviously.

 

    DD looks around at the shocked, open-mouthed expressions of his colleagues. Some shake their heads pitifully.

 

DD   I’m sorry …, is ‘dwarves’ not the correct term these days? –

 

    There is a few moments of hostile silence – until BORIS JOHNSON leans across the table.

 

BJ  Have you completely lost the plot David? — Or, maybe you tumbled into a sodding Lewis Carroll novel?

 

    MICHAEL GOVE interjects

 

MG  Actually I’m beginning to think a hookah-smoking caterpillar would be preferable as Brexit Secretary

 

    SAJID JAVID interjects

 

SJ  – How would that even work David? – A hundred foot-high-turnstiles on the Irish border? —Just on a practical level, you’d need giants to guard those surely, not dwarves.

 

    GAVIN WILLIAMSON interjects

 

GW  Davis is *such* a  twanger!

 

    DOMINIC RAAB interjects

 

DR   I think prick is the word you’re looking for Gav. -. You’re an absolute prick Davis.

 

DD Leaps to his feet, he bunches up the napkin and throws it at Raab

 

DD  Tell you what ‘Mr Workhouses-for-the-poor’ – why don’t you spend up to 2 hours a day, 3 days a week trying to unravel the shit we’re in?

 

DR  Is that an offer?

 

DD  I’d like to see you trying to please both factions of this bloody party

 

DR  Just say the word Mr. Impact Assessment.

 

PM  Now come on David, why don’t you sit down …

 

DD  No, sod it. In fact, bugger it.  I’ve had enough of all this snickering and name-calling and – this, this – endless whining about trifles … and hard-borders and impact assessments and all the endless, relentless SHIT.  

 

BJ:  Getting very red-faced isn’t he?

 

MG:  Positively puce I’d say.

 

DD:  Give the job to that smug fucker (POINTS TO DOMINIC RAAB) – see how well he does. Tell you what, I tell you what Prime Minister, you can deny him his own private jet as well.  -See how he likes travelling to Brussels by train.

 

PM  Your objections have been noted David, now if you will just take a seat.

 

DD  No. No Prime Minister I will not. On point of principle, I resign.

 

    Much eye-rolling and groaning around the table

 

BJ:  God spare us, he’s threatening to resign again

 

MG:  Quelle surprise.

 

DD: I mean it. You will have my resignation letter in the morning.

 

    He leans across and picks up the screwed-up napkin, puts it in his case.

 

MG:  Golly, I think he actually means it this time.

 

BJ:  Bugger it: he’s pushed the button

 

MG:  The nuclear option

 

PM  Are you saying you are actually resigning David?

 

DD I am Prime Minister. I’m afraid I am left with no other option but to resign.

 

PM  This could trigger a general election David, please consider your position

 

BJ:  (whispers to MG) -Or a leadership election (MG nods sagely)

 

DD  I understand that, but my position is untenable. I could handle the trifle gags and all that public school silliness, but the level of abuse I have had to suffer

 

PM  Please David, wait. We’ll …. We’ll have a reshuffle — (Hurriedly) you can have Boris’s job.

 

BJ   WHAT??!

 

PM  No, not Boris’s job, sorry – I’m a bit ….

 

BJ  If someone takes my job it’ll be on my say-so

 

PM  I meant to say, Andrea’s job, you can have Andrea Leadsom’s job.

 

AL  (Looks up from her phone) Wait…what? —

 

DD  I don’t want her shitty job.  (POINTS AT JOHNSON) I don’t want his shitty job, (POINTS AT JAVID) or his shitty job, I don’t even want your shitty job Prime Minister, respectfully – which I can tell you makes me a rare beast amongst this … nest of vipers. No – that’s it, I’m done.  -I’m out of here (DD GATHERS UP HIS CASE AND PAPERS)  — Thank you for everything

 

    DOMINIC RAAB sitting back, smiling, calls after him –

 

DR  Don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out David!

 

    DAVID DAVIS pauses at the door and walks back in.

 

DD  Before I go –  I’d just like to wish you the very best of luck in your new position Dom

 

DD angrily gives DOMINIC RAAB the finger, right up to his face, before turning on his heel and heading to the door

….

 

The door slams behind him as DAVID DAVIS exits the room.

 

A stunned silence fills the room.

 

In disbelief Ministers look around at each other.

 

THE PRIME MINISTER lets out a low protracted moan; rests her elbows on the table; cradles her head in her hands.

 

ANDREA LEADSOM appears to be weeping.

 

BORIS JOHNSON stands and casually walks to the corner of the room. Seemingly unconcerned, he piles finger sandwiches onto his plate.

 

Eventually MICHAEL GOVE speaks:

 

MG    Dwarves??!  

 

As laughter fills the room, amidst the collective jollity, unnoticed, Gove’s smile slowly fades, his gerbil-eyes gradually narrow as he sets his steely gaze upon the Prime Minister’s bowed head.

 

Standing beside the food- table BORIS JOHNSON chews on a finger-sandwich, and narrows his eyes as he fixes his steely gaze upon MICHAEL GOVE.

 

-Outside a big black cloud passes over the sun and the room momentarily darkens.

 

You can read more from Steve on his Ungagged Writing page or listen to him on our podcast

Resilience

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Resilience

 

My teacher taught me to be more resilient today.  I fell and I cried, and I was embarrassed she saw me.  But my teacher said, “life can be like that.  Just pick yourself up again, and get on with it.”

It started out an ordinary day.  I had to get to school.  Da’ had come round to the flat last night.

My maw and da are not living in the same house.  Maw’s nerves are bad.  Da makes them bad.

Me and Iain had been out lookin’ for maw.  She goes out sometimes and forgets we can’t get in.  Somebody grassed and my da came round and hit the door through.  Maw was in the house after all, but she had had some of her medicine and hadn’t heard us. Da shouted at her that he couldn’t have the we’ans coming round to his in case he was reported to the social.  And maw flew at him with a bottle.

Iain gets all upset when they fly at each other.  I tell him to get behind the couch and get down.

Da caught the bottle on the arm, and telt her that if she did that again he’d cut her.  She said if he didn’t get the bleep out, she’d have the polis on tae him.  He jist said, “keep them we’ans aff the street at this time of night or I’ll have ye seen tae.”

He had her seen tae one night outside the flat.  That oul’ woman at 9b came out and pelted the guys with clothes pegs, like that could help.  But they ran away, and she brought maw into her house.  It was a really nice house.  Warm, with lights.  Maw was in some state.  And they guys had taken her bottle. After she was fixed up, maw and us went back to our flat and maw telt us never to speak to that nosey oul’ biddy again.

When da’ went back out of the flat, maw give me a leatherin.  “why the bleep did ye go to that bam,” she shouted.  I say bleep ‘cause I don’t like bad words.  Maw and da say them aw the time.  They fly like broken bottles across the street from their gobs when they see each other.  After she leathered me (I don’t cry, ‘cause that can make it worser), she telt me she was sorry and things were bad and that I was a pretty wee thing.  Her wee Norah.

Onyways, Iain and me, we went and slept on the same mattress in the other room.  We’ve a duvet each an’ we can share.

I don’t sleep all through the night.  Sometimes its ‘cause maw is singin’ and dancin’ after her medicine. Sometimes, its just ‘cause I’m listening out for da.

I woke just when the light was startin’ and I crept through to see where maw was.  She wasn’t in the flat.

Our flat isn’t warm.  It isn’t light. Sometimes people in school talk about when they get up out of bed and they get their breakfasts from their maw’s and they have a shower and stuff.  Our maw isnae like that.  We do get showers, especially when the social worker is coming.  But maw hasn’t been good in the past few weeks.  She gets the depression.

The water is cold, but I make Iain wash his oxters and face an’ hauns.  Iain is older than me, but he has special needs.  Or the depression.  They seem the same to me.

Our school Uniform isn’t in the flat.  An’ I know what maw has done.  She has done it before and promised not to.  The social will be roun’ later, because the only thing I have to go to school in is a pair of shorts and a vest.  Iain has a ripped pair of jeans and a power rangers pyjama top.  She mustn’t have been able to fit our welly boots into the plastic bag last night, or maybes people don’t want to buy wellies.  She calls it, “robbin’ Peter tae pay Paul.”  Paul must be the skinny man who she gets her medicine from.

When we are leaving, I leave the door on the latch.  Maw might not have remembered her key, and if she has a lot of medicine in somebody’s house, she might not be hame tae the morra.

The school isn’t too far.  I don’t know the time, but I know when the morning rolls are being delivered to Detsy’s, its near breakfast club time.

When we got to the school, Charlie the breakfast club guy, said, “Youse must be freezin’!” and he gets us uniforms, socks and trainers.  People in the school give them in when they are too wee for them.  He lets me choose, and I choose the ones that look the oldest, so maw won’t try an’ sell them again.

Breakfast club is great… walking in here, into this big new building, with its big hall and light and warm and things to do is like sunrise.  It’s like when I had a torch and I was able to light our room one night when it was scarey.  This place is the only place my forehead doesn’t feel tight.  Sometimes I feel so happy here, I get a bit out of control, and the teachers shout at me.  But its not like da’ or maw shouting.  Its safe shouting.

One of the times I do feel bad is when people are getting points for bringing in their homework.  I never have mines done.  I cant do it.  I don’t have time. You don’t get told off for not doing it, but its like one of maws slaps when Kylie Loft gets points.  She’s horrible.  She wouldn’t give me a share of her big bag of Doritos last Tuesday, even when she gave Maisie, Tina and Mohammed some when we were playin’ tig, because she says, “Norah never shares anythin’.” I wish I did have some stuff to share.  I feel bad when its my birthday and’ the teacher sings happy birthday.  Because I never have a cake or sweets to give the class.

Our teacher is nice.  But I wish she’d stop giving points for things my maw and da’ can’t do, like best costume on World book Day, or for wearing all your school uniform, or for healthy snacks or home learning projects.  I don’t mind people getting points I suppose.  But all them projects are mostly done by people’s maws.  Their maw hasn’t got the health my maw has.  I can never get points.  And that’s like a punch in the stomach sometimes.

The school dinners are the best.  I pretend I hate them like Tina does.  I know Tina loves them like me.  Where do you get food like that?  Its all different colours!  Things you just don’t get normally in the chippy or outta tin. Mr Singh behind the counter likes me.  He gives me extra stuff and winks.

Onyways, after lunch, it was gonna be circle time.  I like afternoons an aw, but I get a wee bit sad because I know its nearly time for home, and I knew it would be cold, and I knew my maw wouldn’t be there.  And sometimes I get angry at my friends because they haven’t Iain to look after, or maw to clean or da’ to hide from. And on the way up the stair to class, I tripped and I fell and I didn’t want to get up.  And I wanted Mrs Madigan, the classroom assistant to pick me up and give me a wee cuddle and tell me things would be awright.  Mrs Madigan says, we have a jar that you have inside you that should be filled with cuddles and love, and when you feel sad, you can use one of the cuddles and pieces of love from your jar to help you keep going.

But our teacher came back just before Mrs Madigan and told me to get up and taught me resilience.

Resilience is when you pick yourself up and brush yourself down and start all over again.  So my teacher says.

I count the cuddles and love going in to my jar.  I don’t have much in there, but when I get them, I clamp the lid down tight and remember and remember them. Because I know that one day Iain and me might need them.

Written by Neil Scott

 

Tattooed

Reading Time: 5 minutes
[CN: Nazi atrocities, revenge]

image5
Sandra Webster

This story originally appeared in The University of Glasgow’s Creative Writing Showcase, issue 26

 

Gunter Hollinger had many regrets in his life. He had never married nor had children, he had seen little of the world apart from his corner of it.
Now nearing the end of his life he also regretted the time in the camp. Every night when he closed his eyes his dreams were full of the faces of those he had encountered on their arrival at the camp. These were the lucky few who lived to die another day still in shock, half
hoping that their mothers, wives and children had been taken to the Kinder camp.
That first day, after they had been shaved and deloused and stripped of their humanity, they would offer him their arm and he would record the number by which they would now be known. Gunter was proud he was one of the lowest numbers – 000047. The last one he
tattooed was 865879. Between these numbers only 200 survived to tell of the atrocities.
Gunter, as one of the survivors, had been a witness at many trials where the guards and Kapos had been brought to justice for their crimes. There was never any doubt that Gunter was a victim too but he always felt responsible. He could have been more gentle, been kinder, not cooperated.
It only seemed fitting that after the war he would continue to tattoo. He opened a parlour in a local town. Some of his first client were the ex camp inhabitants. They fell into two groups. Some, like Gunter, did not flinch from letting others seeing their tattoo as it
served as an external mark of the collective guilt of a society. Others wanted to forget the past and for them Gunter gently covered the numbers with faces of loved ones, or flowers. He looked at each person and gently reflected their soul into the tattoo, trying his best to cover over his own guilt and that of the other tattooists.
Some people who did what he did called themselves ‘tattoo artists’ but to his clients and himself he was always ‘the tattooist’.
Although Gunter never regarded himself as an artist, his reputation grew. Now in his fifties he was the owner of a very successful business. People came from all round the country for one of his special designs. He had a gift for looking into their minds and removing from it the
perfect image that would suit only them. No matter how successful he became though, he could never forget the little room in Treblinka where he had first honed his craft.
One day a man came into his shop. A decade older than himself perhaps. He looked at the drawing books while Gunter finished the tattoo of his last customer. Gunter thought he didn’t look like one of the clients from the camps but he had the look of a survivor about him. He didn’t seem to be comfortable in his own skin, as if like them he carried an invisible load on his shoulders. When Gunter was finished he asked the man to sit down.
‘Please Sir, take a seat, can I get you a coffee?’
The man looked at Gunter and shook his head.
‘No thank you, I have had so many cups of coffee today. I have been so nervous you know?’
Gunter smiled. ‘Don’t worry Sir. I have tattooed so many people.’ He pointed to his head. ‘And each of them is stored right in here. I have not had one complaint yet.’
‘I like your work,’ the man replied. ‘But I have a special project for you.’
‘All my work is special Sir. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back, and in thirty years I have never had to make a refund.’
The man shuffled uncomfortably in the chair.
‘I have a secret,’ he said. ‘Something I regret in my youth. It was youthful high spirits – you know how the young are – but I want it covered over before I go to meet my Maker,
which will be very soon.’
He rolled up his shirt sleeve and showed Gunter a very old Waffen SS blood group tattoo in Gothic script just above his right elbow. B to show his blood group, in case he required a transfusion. Gunter sucked in his breath and tried not to react. Such Gothic blood tattoos were very rare and among the oldest of the Nazi tattoos he knew of. This meant the man was not just a recruit but a volunteer to the Waffen SS as early as 1937. Well before the
rest of the country had jumped onto the Hitler bandwagon.
Gunter was aware of his less rare tattoo and was glad it was cold and he wore a long shirt and coat today.
‘I have never seen one before Sir, how unusual. What would you like me to do?’
‘I want it covered over,’ the man replied. ‘I do not want to go to my grave with this. Can you help me?’
Gunter worried if this was some sort of trap. Did others know about him, was he being threatened? He refused to be frightened of such an old man and took control of the situation.
‘Of course Sir, but it will hurt, being where it is, and will take some time. Do you have a design in mind?’
‘I’ll leave that to you. Just do it quickly so I can leave it behind. I know you are the best so please do this for me.’
Gunter prepared the needles, trying not to tremble. He had waited years for this opportunity to put right the past. This old man was his ticket to karma.
‘My gift is to cover up Sir, never fear. That mark will be obliterated and covered with my art.’
The man was flustered. ‘Yes, yes, I am in a hurry, just get on with it.’
In that instant Gunter knew exactly what he was going to do.
He sprayed the alcohol onto the man’s arm. Felt him shiver with its cool touch. Then he poised with the needles above him. This was going to be his masterpiece.
Being directly on the bone, the needles caused the man severe pain. He held it in, as Gunter knew he would.

Gunter enjoyed feeling his pain, causing it. He had not been gentle with his first tattooed ones and now he could inflict a little on the man. Usually he talked and
chatted while he worked, but an almost supernatural force took over him and he had no desire to make small talk with a man such as this. Nothing in common but a brand on their skin they had both had to accept.
At last he was finished. He looked at his work and was proud of it. The man looked nervously down.
‘You have finished at last, may I have a look?’
‘Of course Sir, let me get a mirror.’
The man looked in the mirror at the image Gunter had created of his soul. A man in a Nazi uniform, wearing a pair of jackboots, stood on top of a pyramid of small crushed, bleeding bodies.
‘I have covered over your brand to your satisfaction?’
The man looked at Gunter and smiled.
‘I have at most a week to live. I hope when I go to meet my Maker he will be satisfied with your work. How much do I owe you?’
‘For this there is no charge Sir, for now we are equals.’ Gunter smiled. ‘Good Day to you Sir.’
Gunter turned his back, and when he looked round the man had left the shop.

NoseBlind

Reading Time: 1 minute
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Sandra Webster

Sara sat in the clinic. She looked at the pretend smiling faces and their intake of Breathe  as they realised her class. She had grown up with this, it had became law when she was a baby. The smell depended on your designated class.

This had affected her all her life. Her teachers, her classmates looked down on her. She had a visible smell that betrayed who she was. That scent did not represent who she was though. She had lived and ignored others disgust. She was proud to be Sara. Which was why it was strangely ironic that she was at a noseblind clinic.


“Miss Sara,” a face in a mask. “Please come through”

Sara got up and smiled. She followed the doctor who did not smell.


The room was white and clinical as Sara expected. The doctor said;


“Hello, I am Doctor Sami. I can smell you of course, the 2020 act, but we can help. You are successful and one, only one, injection will set you free. Can we help?”


Freedom,’ Sara thought, from a life she had been a prisoner in. How many could not afford this treatment though?  She had to make a decision.

She took a deep breath.

“Yes” she said.

A Gift Comes Calling…

Reading Time: 3 minutes
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Neil Scott
This story also appears on Neil’s blog
As the scientists looked at each other in disbelief, outside their Lower Withington building across the street, Corey stood up, turned his head from side to side, stretched and took his first tentative steps in the 31 years he had been on planet earth.No one had ever wanted Corey, not even his mother, who had abandoned him on the steps of the Cathedral, just a mile or so away from the spot he sat every day in his wheelchair, begging for change. On the run up to Christmas people felt guilty. Those people who walked past him trying not to meet his eye, as he said, “Have a good day.” He could afford to eat something most days.

His usual day would be like nothing these people had ever experienced. His Christmas would usually be a fight for food, a bottle or two and a fusty mattress in a spike (he called it that name, laughing, because the others in the dosshouse had no idea what he was on about), and middle class liberals assuaging the guilt they had for voting for less tax and a massive “defence” budget, served food on their once a year penance; food the local supermarket usually threw into the skip that his hungry, misshapen bones wouldn’t let him reach.

It had been reported as a rock, around 400 metres by forty, “Oumuamua,” “The Messenger,” and it had shot past earth, steady, silent and faster than anything that had ever been recorded in the solar system. And the scientists heard the warming, comfortingly embracing noise in disbelief, as everyone did.

Report of “Alien Spacecrft,” December 2017 HERE

Corey wasn’t the only life changed when the signal enveloped the earth. Opaque eyes saw colour and faces for the first time and cacophony, orchestra and whispers vibrated auditory ossicles newly formed in old ears.

Jessica, whose life support had been switched off while her family wept around her hospital bed in Belfast, suddenly sat up and laughed. She was 97 years old, and wanted to dance and no one, not even those expecting her demise were going to stop her.

Five year old Michelle clicked her knees back into place and the screams of her mother stopped as she emerged from under the fifteen year old Ford Escort, driven by the suddenly sober Iain MacHick who hadn’t seen her run onto the road to try to catch her pink rubber bouncy ball. MacHick cried, and was glad he would never need alcohol again to feel equal to the task of living. Michelle had learned not to run onto the road. Her mother glared at MacHick, took her child by the bloodied, but uncut hand and walked away from death.

All over the world, sickness, illness, inabilities and disability disappeared.

John, who had always wanted to examine the stars ever since he first watched Power Rangers twenty-five years before this moment, cried as he read the message on his screen. It had affirmed the message in his head. The knowledge he had regained. The lost feeling, he had lived with all his life, a background noise that everyone had fought, grabbed, self-medicated and stolen for, to muffle. Screens across the world were carrying the same affirmation of what everyone all at once knew. The knowledge they would gain later had yet to filter to them and TV producers and directors puzzled over who had intercepted their signals and minds.

Tina and Kodi pointed at the interactive smart board in Mr Kumar’s class. Mr Kumar was explaining how to use a speech bubble, when the board seemed to switch itself on.

Most of the class of eight-year olds could read the message when it first flickered onto the screen. And then they all could, even Demi, who had never been able to read her own name.

Demi knew it was a Christmas Gift. A Gift from Santa, who Jack had said that morning didn’t exist. She knew he did and he had given her the gift of reading by switching on a part of her brain that she had until now, not explored.

No one panicked, and everyone in shops laughed at the stupidity of the money they no longer needed.

Debts disappeared as they all knew, suddenly, how ridiculous the notion that people owned things.

The world started to feed itself and heal, and the hoarders and those who had accrued billions of everything were forgiven as prisoners were. They had not known what they were doing. They had been forced into a system that really was absurd, sick and had nearly killed the world by mistake.

People rushed to ensure no belly was empty. The horror of the old system hit everyone at once and they became free.

And the message that came with the cure, the first contact, the reawakening, the resetting of Earth became a message they all understood from the second the long cigar shaped craft enveloped their senses as it sped through space towards other galaxies long forgotten and left in the cold.

“Welcome back to the Universe. Sorry we took so long.”