Friday, 15 April 2016

The Last Two Minutes of the Grand Marshal

[Note - this was originally published last December - fanzine-style - as part of a collection put together by the Hackney and East London writers group. This is the first time it has been put online.]
It is a summer evening and a crowd is gathered in the W1 area of Central London. The crowd is a wide, sloughing sea extending to the horizon, inward to the rivers of the world. It is rowdy, restless, yet at ease with itself. Occasional fist-fights break out. There is some chanting and much apparent drunkenness. They are a stylish multitude, in elaborate costume, usually dark and bearing arrays of esoteric symbols, flashing piercings and elaborate jewellery. Some are perched on stilts while others swish their artificial tails and some vibrate their deadly prostheses, stained with gore, cheering and exuberant. There are tentacle beards, barbed Mohicans, vortex cameras, serrated banjos and armoured BMX bikes. Tattoos shift across faces. Pupils dilate through tinted eyes. Attention is fixed loosely on a building, a war-survivor of white, imperial splendour. In the distance lie gutted skyscrapers of a fallen order.

The crowd is waiting. There is a hush and then a small surge as the object of its patience, a man, appears on a balcony above. The railings have been draped with a huge banner, depicting the old flash and circle. He is a thin old man. He wears an ancient, pale pink-and-yellow silken suit, topped by a panama hat. He is flanked by uniformed bodyguards, tall, clean-shaven and expressionless behind sleek sunglasses. He stoops slightly and carries a blackened pewter rod that rattles when he waives it to the crowd.

The Thin Old Man is quickly enveloped in a wave of raucous good will. He looks down upon the masses pooled beneath him, waits for the crowd to settle again and breathes a rotted smile. His sigh carries unusually far and has a metallic tinge. The Man gathers breath from whatever pockets echoing. Frayed amplifiers reverberate. He speaks: The last two minutes of the Grand Marshal.

Man: Friends… of the House…


Man: Look at yourselves… Look at what you have become…

There is some uncertainty in the crowd.

Man: You are the memory of race made iron in the forge of conflict.

Raucous cheers mix with a degree of relief.

Man: [Amid the cheers] My fellow aesthetes… You have made this city proud… Loyal citizens… We are surely on our way… We will not stop because there is none to stop us…

The Old Man straightens and grows as he speaks. He drops his stick and clasps the rails of the balcony. The crowd calms a little. The Man continues. His voice is getting louder and clearer.

Man: Do not stop… Do not stop… Do not stop for the innocent, because none are. Do not stop for the righteous, for we are the ones with right on our side… Do not stop because we are on a mission…

The Man is getting visibly younger.

Man: We are on a mission of purgation and regeneration. We will cleanse the country of the weak. We will cleanse the country of the perverted, the un-hip. We will cleanse the country of the malign and the treacherous and the unfashionable. Some people may say we are committing barbarities, but we know how to deal with these people and their [he spits with contempt] mainstream culture...

There are hoots of derision from the audience…

Man: Their human rights… [The Man is rewarded with more laughter]. What ‘human’ can stand against this [he gestures to the crowd]? What human can contend with the will of the House? We are beyond humanity. We are taking graphic artists… [small cheers] pop-up retailers… [more cheers]… account managers… [more cheers] record executives… retro-hairdressers… [cheers] entertainment officers, steam punks… [ongoing cheers] cyber-aldermen, funky priests, style necromancers, e-witches and wizards, art acolytes, straw men, hang men and political polygamists, serial monogamists and stone-cold fruitarians… We are taking them… and we are making them… into Titans!

There are roars of approval. The Man is now a giant, easily seven foot tall. He is gesturing wildly. Blood flows from his hands. There is the sound of beating wings. His face peels back in a snarl, revealing a flashing pair of fangs. His voice booms out across the city.

Man: Go forth, brothers, sisters! Do not stop! Kill all in your path! Go forth and gentrify!

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