“Nigel Farage has told a session of the European Parliament that “the little people” had rejected “big politics” in order “to get their country back.”” BBC News, 28 June 2016.
“Christie!” Andy’s eyes flashed with delight and she leant forward. Shchm! Shchm! The kisses were so sharp that it sounded as if champagne bottles were being uncorked under Christie’s ears. “Come in, come in, you’ve never been here before?”
Christie grinned uneasily. She had never been invited to Andy’s home, despite a friendship which had meandered on languidly for almost a decade. It was so lovely though to be included tonight. Her older self, herself of her student days, would have had a knot in her tongue at being in the presence of these confident, stylish people. Tonight, however, this earlier version of Christie seemed to watch dimly from several paces behind, like a fretful child who had been forgotten in the rush. Christie stepped forward. “Chloé’s still parking the car. Will it be okay? It’s so quiet down here by the sea.”
Andy was leading her through the dining room, through a lounge or games room with furniture as shiny as treasure, and on towards the kitchen. “We’ve never had any trouble. I can get Tim to go and check on it if you’re worried.”
The front door crashed, like a tick being placed over Chloé’s name, and then Chloé was calling into the huge house. “Over here!” Andy trilled.
This palace beside the sea was a dreamy maze of comfortable rooms, although Andy and Tim led such busy lives that their house somehow made Christie feel sad for them. Whenever could they find an opportunity to properly luxuriate in it?
In the kitchen, the gin was produced, to incite further comment from those who were already drinking it. It was an interesting and generally satisfactory local craft gin. Andy doled out two more portions, served with slivers of celery and tiny frozen pebbles instead of ice. Christie sipped appreciatively and around the rim of the glass, the gin had a thick, garden musk of herbs.
Andy had recently won an art college memorial prize which would allow her to resume her PhD. Her next project would be a naked flashmob, orchestrated on a military scale, at a summer’s dawn on top of Calton Hill. She was suddenly wondering whether Chloé would like to draw the storyboard for her.
So this was why Chloé had been invited this evening. Under the elegance of her perfect kindness, Andy was as unscrupulous as a pirate.
“And what do you do Christie?” Hans, Tim’s chief bro and gamer crony, asked.
This was always the trickiest part of any evening but Christie had to nonetheless, as she always did, take the plunge. Her heart pitter-pattered as she made the terrible confession. “But a good banker,” she explained rapidly. “We work with communities in the developing world, funding community development projects.”
The room was reassured and left it at that.
They moved on to Chloé like children who were holding up the next kite to admire. “I work for a charity which educates the public about healthy eating. Our research has found that many people from disadvantaged backgrounds, especially single parents, are often put off from cooking healthy meals because they think that it’s time consuming. This is why so many people eat pizza and microwave dinners. So our charity has decided to start a social revolution. We hold workshops; we go out into community centres and libraries…”
A memory had spun back to Andy from somewhere, like a penny flying up out of the well again. She blew the dust off it. “Weren’t you in some trouble a while ago?”
Chloé chuckled and groaned with feeling at the same time. “This guy! We had this guy who was bothering us. I think that his wife was reeducated in one of our workshops and afterwards he was sending us angry emails about how he could no longer have pie and chips for dinner, or something stupid like that. He sprayed graffiti all over our building. He eventually came into an interactive library session and head-butted one of our educators. Broke her nose. Nobody would say that they had seen anything – twelve people in the library and nobody saw anything! Then I began getting more and more abusive emails…”
Andy put her finger daringly on the word. “He was a troll.”
“Abusive on Twitter – abuse on Facebook – he was arrested and I had to go to court. He officially got a year but he’s probably already out by now. It just grinds you down, like playing chess with some crazy guy who has only got a king left but refuses to resign and just keeps hopping back and forth.”
“These people – what’s wrong with them?”
“Misogyny is everywhere – it’s still raging in the village.”
“There are so many guys out there with problems – on the dole – it’s sad.”
“They should do something about them. Find them socially productive roles.”
“Shall we eat?” Tim opened the oven to check on the food and the air sang richly. “It’s lasagna but there’s no meat or dairy. Everything’s gluten free.”
Chloé and Hans had both frozen awkwardly. Andy turned an expectant face to them, like a queen patiently doing her duty as she was beseeched by desperate courtiers. Her guests listed the various protein compounds to which they were intolerant; the lasagna’s recipe had to be consulted and its ingredients had to be googled. Finally, the wobblers were dubiously conciliated.
They all sat down to dinner. Tim’s phone hiccupped and, promptly ignoring the rest of the planet, he whipped it out and inspected it.
“What’s what darling?” Andy was scooping out spoonfuls of the lasagna, which looked strangely like a pink blancmange.
“Miranda’s sent us a text. She says to check the BBC news.”
“Can’t it wait darling? We’re eating.”
Tim studied the text some more before appearing to hesitate. “She says that a ship has run aground quite near to us…”
The partygoers gently put down their knives and forks.
“A super container, with a cargo of millions of Nigel Farages. It was transporting them to one of those depots where they can be disposed of safely.”
Reality seemed to wave a hand over the dinner party and the meal was turned instantly to rubble. They would have to check the BBC news. They flocked from the dining room in silent haste and into the games room, where a HD television the size of a car windscreen was mounted majestically in front of the sofas. It buzzed into life and Kate Silverton was immediately hectoring them in tones which were as soft as a mother’s voice and as unsentimental as a death certificate. “So the port authorities have just confirmed that over seventeen million Nigel Farages, that’s SEVENTEEN MILLION, have been accidentally released off the south coast, between Brighton and Newhaven. Over to our home affairs correspondent Mark Easton…”
There was a video linkup to a blinking, steely-eyed man, who was marooned outdoors in a high visibility jacket. “Yes Kate, the authorities are warning that these creatures are highly dangerous and not to be approached under any conditions. The police are already beginning a full-scale evacuation of the south coast. Each Nigel Farage is around one foot tall and uncontrollably aggressive. They can be identified by their check-blazer plumage and baying calls. They are envious of bright, vibrant colours. It is reckoned that the release of millions of these creatures will cause environmental devastation…”
They were now talking over the television. A squeak had opened up in Tim’s voice and it scraped pitifully. “That’s less than two miles away – you can see on the map – they could be already in the garden by now.”
“We have to stay in the house – we have to lock all the doors and go upstairs. Tim – move, Tim!”
But Tim shuddered helplessly. The others at once saw their own paralysis reflected in Tim’s hunched, drooping figure, and next they stood like a circle of people who were trapped together in a claustrophobic séance. Nobody could move. Nobody could think a useful thought and hurl themselves into decisive action.
Hans emitted a shrill titter and he looked up at them with a face of senile gaiety. His jaw trembled and this ripple seemed to run through his frame and down his legs. “They eat through anything, they destroy everything. They eat people alive, you know…”
Andy had screwed her hands into tiny waving balls. “Stop it! Stop saying these things!”
“They won’t tell you this on the BBC, but the Nigel Farages will eat us without killing us first. Why would they kill us first? Why would they? They bite through flesh, through bone…”
Andy pushed at his chest. “STOP SAYING THESE THINGS!”
There was a sound like a sharp dent from around the back of the house and a tinkle of breaking glass. The partygoers were looking around wildly, for any clue to their survival which this innocuous games room might possibly divulge.
Christie’s mind was swooping and diving around her eyes. I have to run, she gibbered to herself. I have to make it to our car. She was frantic that she would lose control in front of these clever people, that they would hear her screaming and see her breaking down. Once she had taken the first step, she could not contain herself. She made a bolt for it out of the games room, leaving them all unexpectedly behind. Chloé wailed after her but Andy hissed “let her go!” Christie was even vaguely conscious that Andy had whispered, “it will distract them.”
The immaculate interiors galloped merrily past Christie as she ran. She reached the front door and wrenched it open, but as soon as the cool night air had sailed into her face, she was brought up short. The front lawn was a sea of twisted, toad-like, enpurpled faces and then the baying, the yap-yap of their goblin voices, rose as if a volume dial had been turned up to max.
Christie could not run; there was no time to even turn her back on them. She sank to her knees, her head bowing sorrowfully as the crablike bodies of the Nigel Farages swarmed up her dress. It felt as if she was sliding into a vast vat of soup, the surface of which was rising to wash over her shoulders.
The first bite was a dazzling sunbeam of pain, but as the Nigel Farages gobbled into her flesh, the agony became a steady, almost genial glow. The palms of her hands slid in her own blood and then her fingers bore into them as her intestines were unravelled from out of her belly. She heard her own voice calling wildly from afar, as if she was listening to a walker shouting to his dog in a distant forest. She was roaring thunderously no, no, no! The shrieking cries of the Nigel Farages were unhinged, jubilant. At last, as her body was rent atwain, it was reduced to that blindly thrashing worm which we all are at the very base of our being.