The Dream

It took me till about ten o’clock to realise it.

The day was not significant by any measure; the most regular of regular Wednesdays in the most uneventful time of year for me. Nothing was going on. My work was as steady as ever and there wasn’t anything particular to look forward to. So where did it come from then, this feeling of warmth around my heart, this unexplained giddiness?

And then it hit me. It was because of that dream.

I think I must have dreamt it sometime earlier in the night, otherwise, as it’s usually the case with my dreaming, I would have known straight away and not at bloody ten o’clock. It was quite… intense but not in any way extraordinary, if you get what I mean. Dreaming about being together with someone is probably one of the most common things in the world. You may have a dream about your celebrity crush or someone whom you used to know a long time ago or your actual life partner. But Manny was just a friend. Not even that close a friend. Sometimes we wouldn’t see each other for months. His family ran a small café in my area and that’s where I knew him from. One day I was there in my Star Trek t-shirt and he said he also liked Star Trek and that’s how we got talking. I hadn’t been there for a while, though. A mutual acquaintance told me Manny now worked in the café full time as his father was recovering from a heart attack. But that was over a week before the dream so it couldn’t have been what brought it on.

I hardly ever thought about Manny. He was a great guy and not bad looking, but I didn’t ever think about him, not in that way anyway. I don’t date. But that dream was, how should I put it, well, dreamy. It wasn’t sexual at all, but very romantic. I didn’t remember what went on in the dream, I knew only that it was the two of us together and this strong feeling of passion. Where it came from, I have no idea. Like I said, I never thought of him that way and I wasn’t interested. I imagined he wasn’t interested in me either. He once said he ended his last relationship because he had too much other shit going on in his life—of which there would be now even more. So why then?

A Wikipedia article informed me that dreaming occurs mainly during the REM stage of sleep. Not that it helped me in any way. Freud would have said that the dream was an expression of my repressed sexual feelings towards Manny. Yeah, Freud would have said that, I bet… It was emotions the dream evoked, not horniness. But I wasn’t in love with Manny, I could tell as much. I just found it intriguing. Mind you, I like things that intrigue me. Before, when I had dreamt about men, it was either a boyfriend (when I used to have those) or someone I had a crush on. This was new. In the dream, Manny was a romantic hero. In real life, he was just Manny. Not anything lesser. Just a normal dude.

It was all nonsense.

I went on with my day.

I needed to do some supermarket shopping after work. As Manny’s café was nearby, I thought I’d check it out. I didn’t intend to talk to him, unless he saw me, I just wanted to see if he was there. If he really was a romantic hero.

It’s likely they would be closed by now anyway.

So I walked over to the café, acting all inconspicuous, and looked inside. Sure enough, it was already closed. Manny was still there, closing up.

And he was, in a very prosaic and practical manner, mopping the café floor.

I almost burst out laughing right there on the street.

Well, even romantic heroes have to make their living somehow!

The Wrong Side

Content Warning: domestic violence

She was happy.

Everything was going her way. Britain left the EU, finally, finally!!! Immigrants and refugees were being deported, all the remoaners and libtards either eliminated or too broken to ever dare so much as speak again. Extinction Rebellion has been designated a terrorist organisation. You get arrested if you only breathe the words “climate change”. And not only that, any political correctness has been banned by law. No more talks of diversity, no more LGBTQ pride marches, no more feminism. Same sex marriage was illegal again, the welfare state completely dismantled.

The snowflakes were melting and she was living for that.

After the new Government imprisoned the members of the royal family, they seized their wealth and redistributed it amongst themselves. This meant the palaces and other royal residences were converted into flats, which were then granted to the new Powers That Be and their most faithful servants, in order of importance. And she, for her tireless and constant media campaigning in favour of the new regime, was given a flat in what used to be Kensington Palace. Life was wonderful.

She was dancing around her spacious living room, brimming with happiness. Just that day, another new law was passed (or more precisely, was declared by the Home Secretary, as Parliament no longer existed and the Government did what they pleased). Speaking, writing or otherwise communicating in a language other than English became a criminal offense. Fantastic, she punched the air with her fist. Out of all the new laws, this was her favourite. She wondered what took them so long to declare it—she thought it should have been one of the first ones—but as the saying goes, better late than never. She could now look forward to catching people who speak foreign and report them to the authorities.

She preferred not to think about the newly independent Scotland (she hated them anyway) or the reunified Ireland (never in her life had she cared about Northern Ireland so it didn’t matter), both supported by the EU. Britain was now smaller than it used to be, only England and Wales. Neither did she prefer to think about all the snowflakey lefties and remoaners that managed to get out before the new regime kicked in properly; mostly across the channel to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, some northwards to the independent Scotland. She couldn’t say why this fact bothered her so much, since she despised them. Perhaps she would have liked to see these pesky individuals arrested and charged for treason so that she could enjoy watching their televised trials, but there were still plenty of people being arrested and charged for treason so there were still many televised trials to devour. She loved being on the right side and now more than ever when that side was in power.

The media station she used to work for folded some time ago but it’s not like she needed a job. She would never have to worry about the money again, both she and her husband were firmly established with the new Government. She spent her time tweeting and working from home on her own broadcasting channel. And this time if anyone tried to argue with her or oppose her, she could call the authorities. But that rarely happened anymore, it was all praise, praise, praise. You rule, you’re the best was all she saw these days. We love you! She basked in it.

But she had to admit something was missing.

It was as if all these good things made life a bit… well, boring. Back in the day, nothing used to set her heart racing like a good online argument with a socialist loser or two. She would always emerge victorious which made it all better. Of course, being showered with praise was beautiful, but it would be more fun if she could take part in kicking some dissenters. She’ll tell her husband to ask the big boss tomorrow…

She reached for her phone to check Twitter. And—she couldn’t. There was no connection. Testing the other devices confirmed the internet was down. She tried to call her husband but the mobile network was down too. This was not right. She looked out of the window, but there didn’t seem to be any panic. Why wasn’t her network working?

She switched on the TV and flicked to the news channel. Another new law was announced. As of today, all females are forbidden from working, owning property or using the internet… Yes, she knew that already, so what. This law wouldn’t apply to the likes of her, why should she care? The news channel was devoting quite a lot of time to discussing this piece of legislation; (she only just noticed that all the people in the newsroom were men) she rolled her eyes wishing they’d shut up about it and move on to the real news, like what was wrong with the internet connection? Because surely it couldn’t just be their household that had this problem.

That’s it, she would ask the neighbours. She stepped out of her flat into the corridor and found herself face to face with one of their usual security guards. “Hello John, what’s up, you’re not usually here on our floor?”

“Ma’am, you should stay in your flat.”

“Why, what’s going on? I just wanted to ask the neighbours if their internet is working.”

“I don’t know anything about that, ma’am, but you need to go back inside.”

“But why?”

“I’ve been ordered to tell you to stay inside your flat. I don’t have any further information. Please if you could go back in…”

She stamped her foot. “Now I won’t stand for this. I want to speak to your manager.”

“Ma’am, you cannot speak to my manager. Make your way back into your flat immediately.”

“Listen to me, you cockroach—“

John grabbed her arm. “Ma’am, I will not be spoken to in such way. Get back inside.” He pushed her towards the door to her flat. She was about to slap him, when she was interrupted by a sharp ding followed by the sound of opening lift doors. Her husband appeared in the corridor. “What’s this?”

“Sir, I was just telling your wife she needs to go back into the flat,” John said.

“Clearly there’s been some misunderstanding,” she said.

“It’s alright, John, let me handle it,” her husband said. “Come in,” he put his arm on her shoulder and led her back inside. He closed the door, took his coat off and hung it on the hook, acting as it was just another Tuesday.

It was a Tuesday.

“What is happening?” she cried out. “The internet’s down, my mobile network is down… are we being attacked?”

“No, we are most certainly not being attacked.”

“So what is it? That idiot told me to stay inside the flat!”

“He’s not an idiot. He was simply following orders.”

“Whose orders?”

“Mine.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Now now, darling, swearing doesn’t suit such a fine lady like you.”

“What are you talking about?”

He laughed. “Haven’t you heard? Women are banned from using the internet, or going out without their male guardian’s permission.”

“But surely that’s only for the—“

“The unwashed masses?” He laughed again. “Wrong. It applies to everyone, including you.”

“But—but that’s not right.”

He shrugged. “What did you expect? It was always going to end up this way.”

“But no. No, no, no, no!” Her hands were shaking. “They need to change it. They need to change it back to how it was before, listen to me, you need to talk to the Prime Minister.”

“They will not change it and I cannot question the Prime Minister. You have to deal with it.”

“But—“

“But nothing. I forbid you from using the internet or going out. You will stay here until I tell you otherwise.”

“You… you,” she felt the rage rising in her. “You would have been nothing without me! It was my work that got us here!”

“Maybe, but who cares? You channel has been deactivated and your Twitter account and its history deleted. All those articles you’ve written are now showing in my name. You no longer exist.”

He stopped her hand flying midway to his cheek. He grabbed both of her hands roughly. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you. You don’t want to land yourself in prison, among those leftie losers, do you? I hear you’re not exactly popular with them.”

She started kicking but it was no use, he was stronger than her. He dragged her to the bedroom, slammed the door and locked it from outside. She didn’t even know there was a key. “Now you stay there and be a good girl,” she heard his voice through the door. “If you behave yourself, who knows, I may even be allow you out one day.”

Slowly her veins filled with icy cold dread as she fell to her knees. It was always going to end up this way. She screamed. Her hands clutched into fists as she banged at the door. “Let me out! Let me out!!!”

Fool. She should have known it was pointless.

And it was then, sinking to the floor, her body shaking with convulsions, her mind seeing the whole truth bare, staring into her face, laughing the evil laugh of villains, muhahahahaha, it was then that she at last realised that she backed the wrong side.


Author’s Note: For those who don’t know “remoaner” is what Brexit supporters call remainers, i.e. people who support UK remaining in the EU. I also want to make it clear that Extinction Rebellion are good guys. This story was inspired by some nasty women I’ve come across on Twitter and Serena Joy from the TV show The Handmaid’s Tale.

Love / Amor

You met him in the deep of the winter. Beast of the East, they called it, when the snows piled up, the icy winds blew and the temperature fell down below zero. He’s not bad, you thought, at first, but even then you had to admit you found him attractive. Then you got to know him better. You bonded over music. Latin American music, the old and the new, popular or obscure, it didn’t matter, you both liked it all. It was the music of his lands.

And then, as the spring arrived and days got longer, it became harder and harder to stop thinking about him. Then you found out he felt the same.

It was a long, hot, passionate summer.

People couldn’t believe it; four months without a single raindrop? Continuous sunshine? What miracle! The two of you just laughed. It was no miracle. Of course it was that way, because it made sense. It was the summer made for you, hot like those faraway lands.

You danced, always. Salsa, merengue, or just swaying from side to side with no rules. You ate melons at midnight. Sunday afternoons you spent lying in bed playing old love songs. Te quiero. And Buena Vista Social Club.

It was a long summer.

When it started getting colder, it only meant you wrapped yourselves under a blanket. Autumn leaves crunched under your feet when you went for a walk in the park. Once you shared the same scarf. People laughed at that.

They had no idea.

You looked forward to the long winter nights. Te quiero…

But it turned out it wasn’t just the year that was running out. His visa too.

No big deal, he’d just get it renewed, you thought. But he couldn’t. Home Office rejected it.

That Halloween monster was real. You were going to lose him. He had to go back to his country.

It shouldn’t have surprised you, you’d heard all about the “hostile environment”. Never had it occurred to you to apply it to your own situation but here it was. There was nothing to be done.

On a rainy November day, you said your goodbyes. I’ll do what I can, he said. He was devastated. It wasn’t just you, he didn’t want to leave UK.

We’ll be alright, you assured him. What will be, will be. Que sera, sera.

Months have passed since then, winter came and went, nowhere near as cold as the one year before, followed by weak spring and rainy summer. Once again the old order was restored.

If you’re lucky, you don’t get all soaking wet.

Amazingly, you’re still in touch with him. You message each other regularly and video call as much as you can from one hemisphere to another. Attempts to obtain new visa were unsuccessful so far, but he’s not losing hope.

You don’t talk about him to anyone much. People get uncomfortable any time immigration is brought up. Some mumble something about hoping you two will be reunited soon and change the subject. Other try to lecture you on long distance. Like you asked… You secretly laugh at them. They have no fucking idea.

You play Buena Vista Social Club and dance around your flat. They have no idea how good it feels.

Out on the busy streets, you put your headphones on to block out the noise. Chan Chan. It’s your signature tune.

You look up at the sky in daytime and at moon at night, the same sky and the same moon he’s looking at. “Hey, we’re still on the same planet!”

He might try Spain, he says. He seems to be more optimistic about that.

You’re not worried. You know you’ll meet again.

And so another day comes by and you look at the sky again and he’s on your mind and you’re on his mind and you listen to the same songs at the same time.

“But don’t you feel lonely?” some boring person asks you. “No, why would I?” you answer. They gasp. You shrug and put your headphones back on.

They don’t get it and never will.

But you do.

Because you have known love.

Quiet Please

It’s nearing midnight and you’re alone in your room. You alternate between lying in bed and pacing the room barefooted. Attempts to read a book under a pillow with a torch have failed. No way you can concentrate on reading. From time to time, you go to the window and stare out at the moon, clouds covering and uncovering it.

There is nothing of interest outside. Hard concrete grounds, with neat squares of grass, surrounded by other buildings belonging to the Educational Centre. The grounds are lit by street lamps but all the windows on all the buildings are dark. Except the watchtower, obviously. The guards on duty patrol the area at regular intervals.

Deathly silence rules over the Centre.

Your movements are stealthy, your body long ago accustomed to the laws of this regime. The nine o’clock curfew, the six o’clock waking up on weekdays, you’re used to it. You wear the approved clothing like a second skin, you speak the language of the Ruling Class like a mother tongue. You wouldn’t have made it to the position of the Prefect otherwise. One day you may be able to join your aunt and uncle in the Resistance. But not now. Not yet.

She’s still not back.

The worrying only increases and decreases, it never goes away. You don’t remember what it was like not worrying about your sister. It’s part of your life like breathing. She is the reason for all of this; why you comply, why you became a top student and a Prefect. You promised your parents you would look after her. In some ways, it’s been worth it—better rooms on higher floors, greater choice of meals, bigger allowance and even an occasional trip to town. And you get to share a room with your sister. You know what you have to do for that. Having to be on alert twenty-four-seven. Being the poster girl for the Regime. Reporting schoolmates who break the rules.

You do what you have to do.

But tonight, you allowed your sister to go out on a date with a boy.

She knows about all the secret exits and passages of the Centre. If she didn’t know about them from you, she would find out from other girls. Of course, girls sneak out like this all the time, mostly on Friday nights. No regime, however tight, is, after a while, immune from some bad behaviour.

You vetted the boy, of course. He’s from the boys’ half of the same Educational Centre, you wouldn’t allow her to go out with an outsider. He’s older than your sister and younger than you, also a top student, though not a Prefect. As long as she doesn’t get caught, it will be okay. She’s not had any fun in months. And a clandestine meeting with a boy is just what she needs to bond with her classmates…

As long as she’s back before midnight and doesn’t get caught on the way, it will be okay.

23:55

The handle on the door finally turns and she slides into the room on stockinged feet, shoes in her hand. Oh thank god, thank god

“Phew, just in time,” she whispers.

And while closing the door, the handle slips out of her hand and instead of a barely-there click, the door shuts with a bang.

Shit!

You both freeze.

Maybe it wasn’t even that loud. Certainly in the rush of the daylight, it wouldn’t be, but now…

You can already hear the guard on duty entering your floor.

You recover your senses. “Get to bed now,” you order your sister towards that very place, shoes and all, “cover yourself and pretend to sleep.”

She does so, loosening her long dark hair at the same time. The next second she is covered with a blanket up to her nose, eyes closed.

The guard’s steps echo in the empty corridor.

You muss your hair so that it looks like you just got out of bed. You grip the handle of the door tightly until your palm hurts. This is all your fault. You shouldn’t have let her go out.

But you don’t have time for any guilt now.

You open the door and put your head out. The guard is now almost at your door. The light of his torch is blinding you, making you squint. This only helps your act.

“Guard,” you say, faking tiredness in your voice, “what’s with the bloody noise at this time of night?”

Cauliflower on the Fence

The Cauliflower

The cauliflower was on the fence. It sat there, wrapped in plastic packaging, nestled between two wrought iron pickets. The day was bright but cold. Mid-morning sun threw the shadow of the fence and the cauliflower on the pavement, creating a scarecrow-like image. This was Ramney Road.

Neighbourhood cats were the first to examine the strange object. Although the fence was not one on which the cats easily trod, they cautiously approached it, sniffed from all sides and declared it harmless. Penny the calico, in whose territory the fence was, promptly became the cauliflower’s guard.

Two elderly ladies saw the cauliflower on their usual walk. “Well would you look at that, Doris!” exclaimed the first lady. “A cauliflower! On a fence!”

“Such notions people have these days,” the second lady shook her head. “I wonder if it’s one of those interrenet things.”

Another passer-by, a thin man in his thirties with a roll-up between his lips, paused in front of the cauliflower. He took out the joint, put it back in his mouth and took it out again. Dread came over him. “The witches have come at last!”

He then hurried away, lest the witches should get him.

A bunch of builders in safety vests and hard hats passed the cauliflower on the way to their building site. “Look, Wojtek,” the one that was pushing a wheelbarrow pointed at it, “there’s your dinner!”

“Yeah, you’ll be eating liquid asphalt tonight,” retorted the unbothered Wojtek.

Kristian, teenage boy who lived next door, off school with the flu, watched the goings-on with amusement from his bedroom window.

“Did you put the cauliflower on the fence?” asked his aunt Gia who came to check up on him while his dads were at work.

“Me? No. I looked out the window like ten minutes before you came and it was there already.”

At first she wondered what he found so entertaining about a cauliflower on the fence that he sat at the window watching it, but soon she joined him there. She made him soup, a cup of coffee for herself, wrapped the boy in a big scarf and together they watched the street as if it was the latest hot release on Netflix.

Later she went to the kitchen to prepare some sandwiches. When she returned with a tray, he had a big grin on his face.

“You won’t believe who’s here.”

The subject of his remark was Andrew Jones, upcoming star of politics, local councillor and a candidate for Parliament in the next general election. Despite being on the side of politics which she favoured, meaning the left, Gia didn’t trust him. And it wasn’t just the usual not trusting politicians feeling. “I get bad vibes off him,” she’s say. She knew he lived in this neighbourhood but had never met him before.

Now he was accompanied by that horrible busybody of a woman that lived at number ten.

“Be right back,” said Gia and left the bedroom.

“Where you going?” Kristian called, but got no answer. He saw his aunt come out of the house.

Gia stopped at the front yard, acting inconspicuously, her smartphone in her hand. Penny the calico cat jumped through the pickets from the front yard next door towards her. “Oh hello kitty-kitty-kitty,” Gia bent down and scratched the cat behind her ear. Meanwhile, the politician and the busybody woman stopped in front of the cauliflower.

Gia, hidden behind a dustbin, got the camera on her smartphone ready. She aimed at the two and selected the video button.

“What’s this?” Jones asked.

Gia tapped record.

“Immigrants live in this house, you know,” said the busybody. “God knows what ritual this is. Nightmare—you hardly ever hear English on this street anymore.”

The cat was rubbing herself against Gia’s legs.

“Yes I noticed,” said the politician.

“Back in the day, everyone on this street used to know each other. Now it’s all foreigners. These salam-alaykums are the worst.”

“I assure you, once I get voted in, I mean to deal with this issue. Return Britain to the British, is my motto.”

They resumed their walk. Gia stopped the recording and gave the cat the final pat. “And this, my feline friend, is what you call a scoop.”

After three o’clock, when Gia popped to the corner shop to get snacks and cookies, several of Kristian’s schoolmates gathered near the cauliflower on their way from school, taking selfies with it.

“Tyrone put it there,” said one boy.

“No way,” Tyrone said.

A girl with long neat braids snorted. “As if Tyrone knew what a cauliflower looked like.”

“Hey, Kristian!” shouted the first boy pointing at Kristian’s window. “You skiving!”

“No, he’s really ill,” Gia said. “You want some cookies, kids? Plenty enough for everyone.” She opened the box and offered them. Each kid took one cookie with very polite thanks. They were good kids.

“Who put the cauliflower there?” asked the girl with the braids.

“Who knows? It’s been there since morning.”

“Hashtag friends with vegetables,” said another girl tapping at her smartphone.

How about hashtag racist politician gets caught out, Gia thought. She went back inside.

The street got busy with parents picking up their children from nearby primary school.

“Mummy, why is there a cauliflower on the fence?” asked one little boy.

“It means you have to eat your veggies,” answered the mother inattentively, her mind focused on the tasks that awaited her at home.

The Consequences

By the end of the day, the video of Andrew Jones was shared on all social media platforms all over the country. Gia could only gloat as it was confirmed he was expelled from the party. “This is what it’s like being proven right and I like it,” she said to Penny the calico cat.

The video also generated numerous memes about being caught out by vegetables.

Shy Tyrone finally plucked up the courage to ask the girl with the braids out on a date after taking a picture of her next to the cauliflower. Although they remained friends, it was a big moment for him as it was the first time he asked a girl out.  

The stressed out mother’s little son resolved to eat his vegetables. He didn’t want them to end up on the fence.

The stoner guy decided to cut down on weed. Getting high was one thing, hallucinations were something else.

The wheelbarrow-pushing builder realised he didn’t know his co-workers well and so the next day after work treated everyone for a round at the pub. They had a truly great time.

Doris asked her grandson to teach her how to work with that interrenet thing. With time she learnt how to use online banking and kept in touch with the granddaughter that now lived in New Zealand.

The Commencing

A farmer pulled up his van in front of a house in the street to the right angle of Ramney Road. Mrs Higgins, his regular customer, was after some cauliflowers this morning. The farmer handed her two of his best specimens.

“There you go, Mrs Higgins. Oops!”

Mrs Higgins dropped one of the cauliflowers.

“Oh dear, am I clumsy today,” she sighed.

“Never mind, Mrs Higgins, I’ll give you another one. Here takes this.”

Cauliflowers and money exchanged, Mrs Higgins and the farmer each went their way.

The dropped cauliflower rolled away from Mrs Higgins’ house.

A short time later, Stanley, the local drunkard, was walking down this street. He stumbled over something.

He looked down. “Now, what ees this?”

He bent down and picked the cauliflower. “Look at yer there on da ground by yersself.”

He walked on with the cauliflower in his hand. “Now whaddya say to all this plastic? Do they not say it’s harm-harmful to the environ… environment? That chap David Atterbo… Attenteboro… Tennebro…” his tongue stumbled over the great naturalist’s name, “the one on the telly that talks to animals… he says so… polluting the oceans, it do… plastic… bloody plastic.”

He rounded the corner to Ramney Road. “Tellya what…” he stopped in front of one house.

The problem was, he forgot what. He stood there scratching his chin, trying to remember. “Tellya what…” he repeated. He stuck the cauliflower between two pickets. “Yer wait here.”

And he wobbled off.

Poke

You’re walking down the street with your nieces and they’re all excited because you’re on your way to the funfair. Out the corner of your eye you see a figure walking in towards you in the opposite direction but take no special notice. The girls are chatting cheerfully about their school and friends. The figure is getting closer. It’s a tall man in a long black coat. Then, just as he’s passing you, he takes out a stick and pokes you in the eye with it.

You wake up to your cat touching your eye with her paw, demanding her bloody breakfast.

Unrequited Love Poem

I wake up every morning with you on my mind

I go through my day thinking of you

I picture us walking in the park hand-in-hand in the afternoon

And make dinner later

I go to sleep whispering your name

All day, every day, everything is you

And you

You look at me but you don’t see me

I see you laughing with your friends

And dating other girls

You say hi sometimes but nothing more

Nothing more

Nothing

Nothing

…Is me

Six months later, during some major decluttering, she finds the poem tucked among other papers.

She looks it with confusion, thinking: bloody hell, I was really hung up on this guy, huh? I barely remember his face, what even is his name again??

The poem sparks no joy.