The waiting is worst. He can feel the tension beneath his fingernails, his throat parched, dry with dust. There are maybe twenty of them loitering, shuffling off the attention of security, trying not to look as if they are eyeing the trucks and trains.
Night is soon.
Some of the jostling is for distraction. Four guys run as a decoy. There are only seconds to spare. Sprinting, leaping, hiding in one swift, planned move – executed to enter the tunnel. The trick is to keep clinging; the trick is to not fall; the trick is to not run out of breath.
I like you. I like you because you unnerve me sometimes with your unpredictability. I like you because when I consider your unpredictability I realise that you were unswerving, straight. It was me who hadn’t seen the pattern; hadn’t quite understood. I like that you know when to stand up and when to sit down; how you’re quick to speak and quick to stop speaking – how you speak clearly. I like that everyone thinks you’re the boss because you have that air, but that you always know your place. You are never the boss. Everyone is the boss. The people.
After they tore open the skies there was little left to protect. No more checkpoints. No more sanctions. No more barriers. No more disputes. There had been nowhere left to go on sovereign land. No way through the impasse of government and state. There was nowhere left to grow. They looked upwards instead, above the law. The sky was empty. Half of the wealth of the world down below could be lifted up there, into the light, above any regulations. Everything of value could rise into this untethered new world. The word ‘corporation’ could finally be divested of its meaning.
“The wee fat man: the Mittel-European; the guy with the cheeky smile; the captain of the ship; the Boss. He’s the one you want. But you’re starting from the wrong place. You are at the door of his castle, but you can’t enter. You must speak with his agents. His agents are not here. I can’t tell you where they are, but they will tell you if you are likely to be granted some level of permission. It would be best not to try; it’s best to wait. They’ll come for you. If they don’t, then that is an answer.”
Half a million spent on cranes and forklifts and trucks, lifting rock from a stately home (that doesn’t need to profit, what with the visitor tariffs and gift shop and restaurants) and digging up another site on monied ground. Planting up the flowers and pumping water through like it was a stream, a real stream. The Champagne people are here, stroking their chins and their wallets. The Royals stagger through. The paying people gawp. They look at the sandstone, at the scale. They feel in their pockets for cash. They forget that all this is theirs; that the land lives.
Charles had bunked off. There was some story about his mum, but they were only told that he had terrible hayfever. While he was away friends started telling tales, bad things. And though not many would have known Charles’s influence, in his absence the playground became raucous. There were fights. The girls goaded the boys. The boys got rowdy. The teachers stepped in and were mocked. Lessons became chaotic. One lunchtime, a game of British Bulldog was turning violent. A punch was thrown. Against the brick wall of the school Andrew flicked back his hair. This time would be his.
There will be no clichés. No morning light, no birds singing, no greening of the year. This is no bildungsroman. We learn nothing. We will repeat the same mistakes because we have the same hopes and the same fears and we continue to lack the facility to contend. We are compromised by ourselves and others but prefer not to think about it. We will not accept ourselves and our complicity. We accept feeling thwarted, but deny the true challenge. The roles of hunter and hunted are vainglorious, but we never let them go. We enjoy stasis. It is our alibi.