Notes on notes.
Notes from a fallen island is an unfinished project. That is important to remember as you venture forwards. It has been lightly edited, and is largely ‘first draft’ stuff. I am posting it to demonstrate how an idea can just run out of steam, and at 35k words, it’s a large idea to lose!
Some things work, and some don’t. I may go back to a few of the themes in the future, but the story itself will never be finished. There will be a few paragraphs at the end to explain the direction I was heading in, and the ideas that I had. I could never quite get the timeline right. I wanted to start at Brexit being a catalyst, but that wouldn’t work well with the other themes in the tale.
It was originally going to be released month-by-month on my website, so parts do work ‘standalone’ at times, and I enjoyed reading it back as I prepared to post this.
So enjoy what Brexitopia brings, and don’t fell too bad about Dave the dog, he was going to come back!
Determined not to see my last days at the bottom of a well, I pushed the ladder to one side. It was lightweight enough and moved without a fight. The mud on my front had dried and was now cracking and dropping from me with each movement. It flaked from me like sunburnt skin or weathered paint on an old house. I sat up and slipped my arms from the bag on my back. I had to bind my ankle or at least do something with it. When you are looking for a thing, it is inevitably in the worst place. I knew I had packed a scarf and expected it to be at the bottom of the bag, but it was not at the bottom, as the laws of nature dictate; it was in the middle. I will never be gifted with the knowledge of why the universe has the rules that it does, but if I were to be, I would ask why it picked that moment to change the laws of the game. I packed my increasingly tender ankle with some cool mud and then wrapped the scarf around it, gripping my teeth together as I did so. I felt they were almost about to snap as I tightened the makeshift bandage. A gust of light-headedness threatened to take me into darkness again, but I held it back this time.
Looking up at the night sky, I could see the same number of stars as I expected. If nothing else, I had established that the myth about looking up at the night sky from the bottom of a well was bollocks. Humour and irrelevance in times of adversity… It’s a funny old thing, my brain. I was also acutely aware of the darkness surrounding me. I tried to stand but didn’t even make it off my arse. My ankle throbbed, and I knew I couldn’t place any pressure on it. The tunnel, if it could be called that, I needed to travel down was only about five feet in height. Hopping was out of the question unless I wanted a concussion and another damaged ankle; my only choice was to crawl. The bottom of the well had some light from the night sky; the chasm I had to venture into had none. Hello Nietzsche: I shall gaze into my abyss and take what looks right back at me. I got onto all fours and held my faulty ankle in the air; this would be a slow and lengthy process. I looked up forlornly at the open sky above. I wondered if going back the way I had come was an option. I knew precisely what I was doing; I was looking for a way to avoid the tunnel, the darkness coiling inside it. I fear the dark, and, looking into the tunnel, I could feel my stomach clench, but I had no choice. Could I have snuck my way through the sector? Possibly. Was it worth the risk? Most certainly not. People had died to protect me and whatever was on the damned drive. What sort of person would I be if I turned back? Would I be able to live with myself? Would I deserve to?
The mud squeezed and oozed through my fingers as I put my weight upon them. It may have been dirty, sticky, wet, and horrible, but, for now, I could drag myself along on my knees and not worry too much about my ankle. I’d be leaving behind a trail in the mud, but if anyone looked down here, they’d soon find me. I suspected that dragging myself in the dirt may cease to be an option as I progressed, so I was loath to complain. My hand slipped, but I steadied myself as I made my way to the entrance. I stared into the chasm of blackness. I could hardly imagine the soul of Satan himself being darker or maybe even the eyes of Lilith. There was a lip that I had to cross before entering the cave, but I got over it far more quickly than I’d imagined. It was then that my crawl began.
Things creep and, like me, crawl; I had time now to consider how we, as a nation, had approached this point. It’s an ongoing theme with my mind and thoughts. I loved my country and always considered myself patriotic, but now I look at it and don’t understand what we have become. There have always been liars in politics. It is said that politics is the art of the possible; it is the possible of what you can get away with. I was as much a part of the problem as the product of it. In my younger days, I’d called them ‘political lies’. The type of lie that was not an outright falsehood. Using a statistic in a certain way, for example. If you want something to sound bad, you use the raw numbers, but if you’re going to hide the figures, you use a percentage. Four billion sounds terrible, even if it is only four per cent of the total. Lies, damn lies, and statistics. If our side is doing it, we turn and look away. I think apathy is the greatest threat to democracy, flawed though it may be.
The drips were far more comfort than the signs of life I heard as I crawled through the tunnel. I never thought I would find myself in the claustrophobic embrace of a tunnel, especially not a dark one without any light. The pinging drips brought back memories of the ‘dweem machine’ but was still infinitely more preferable to the squeaks and sounds of movement. I tried to treat them like a dog or many other animals might — show no fear and continue onwards. I don’t know if that was the right course of action; rats are said to be smart, so maybe they didn’t see me as a threat. Now, I had memories of James Herbert’s giant rats, and that was why I’d considered the past. To take my mind off what I was doing. I was trying to alleviate my fears and stop my imagination from running away with itself.
I’d blamed Brexit for the downfall, but now I reconsidered. It wasn’t the ‘ayes’ that have it; it was the lies. The political lies had been floating in politics for years, long before I was born, but they proliferated into a crescendo of noise that smothered the truths. Choking reality with a pillow of lies. I could pick many events from before I was born; Brexit I’ve used, so maybe to be neutral, I should mention the WMD destruction claim for the Iraq war. I can pick any political party from the era and find, at the very least, something that most people would call a blatant lie. Politics had become like football; your team can do no wrong, or if it does, you ignore it. But damn that other side if they do it! We believed it to be the truth when we said it. It wasn’t a lie but a rowing back on promises because the circumstances had changed. When the facts change, I change my mind – what do you do, sir?
I continued forward and into the darkness of the tunnel. When I looked back, I could see nothing. The way I had come was more darkness. The way forward was more bleak, claustrophobic blackness still. Moving inch by inch, or knee by knee, I continued onwards. I will never overcome my nyctophobia, but I’ve learned to distract myself, to divert my attention from it, but still, it’s always there. I told myself that I had to be hitting the halfway point, having no idea how far I had come or had yet to go. I guessed I was making my way a little uphill as the mud had switched to rock, and with every reach into the darkness came more spiking little shards to pierce into my hands and knees. Each jagged prick snapped me from my musings of the past and brought me back to the black, dark hellscape. Pulling me from my distractions and thoughts. The shuffling of my furred companions continued behind and in front of me. Knowing that rats had scuttled past me in the dark made me feel on edge; I had been here crawling as they passed, made the hairs on my neck stand to attention. Well, they would have done were I not covered in mud!
Disinformation was another card played. A deck of authoritarian and dystopian cards that they would pull and play one by one. Slowly, of course, they didn’t want to scare the stock. It spread like wildfire or like mud on someone crawling through a tunnel at the base of a well! Everything was flooded with shit, so many didn’t know what the truth was and what was a lie. Social media had pages upon pages of the shite. Someone else could find a webpage or site to disprove whatever you wanted to prove. Newspapers joined the game, often with opinion pieces that stretched the truth to the limit. ‘Fake news,’ they called out, as things got published by the more liberal media. The world burned, but the ‘alternative facts’ told everyone an arsonist started it; all was okay! You no longer needed to believe the truth because you could believe your truth. What’s a little global warming when someone will tell you to carry on and burn that oil? Pandemics? Bah, you go ahead and cough all over that other person. Why should I have to change my lifestyle? They are worse than me! Besides, they said it was all exaggerated in the paper, so why should I have to do anything?
I felt my trousers catch on a spike and then tear as I moved my leg. The slight tug when it snagged caused me to knock my damaged ankle, and I cried out in pain; this I could not help. The sound briefly accompanied me and the rats as I stopped my travels. I had no choice, the pain was overbearing, so I rolled onto my back and felt the stabbing of the stone through my clothes. I grabbed my knee and pulled it up close, wanting something to grip and squeeze the pain out, but I also wanted to check and make sure I was not bleeding. Luckily, it was not the case. I didn’t like being in this long, dark, birthing chamber of nightmares with rats; it could only have been worse if I had left a bloody trail. Here, ratty rat, come and taste the blood as an appetiser. Once the pain had receded a little, I began crawling again.
Propagandists quickly worked out how to use social media to their advantage. Targeted ads and opinions were passed off as news. Botnets and other technological methods employed to drive a message to the population. I’d always been a fan of the internet; wasn’t it better to have all that information at our fingertips? But no, what I, and many far wiser than me, had not considered was our ability to seek a truth that confirmed what we already believed. Confirmation bias on a national scale! ‘The truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus, by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.’ Well over a century old, and still that quote holds, and boy, did they know it. Opinion pieces became headline news, and soon, TV companies started with names and subjects that implied they were factual. UK News, News Talk, Daily Briefing, and countless others. All the same, talking heads gave their opinions but sold them as news until a regulator looked, and then, like magic, it was just an entertainment talk show! This led to OTIN taking complete control, and when they did, the Royals left. The head of state was gone, and nobody was left to speak for us, the subjects. It’s often argued, and I have done so, that ‘the firm’ are ceremonial and have limited, if any, power. What you or I may think is irrelevant; what matters is that, generally, the people in power did care what the royals thought. They would push its limits, but then the PM met with the King every week. Or, they did, until OTIN came along.
The tunnel I was going along thinned, and my bag caught on the top. Cursing and feeling like a mole, I wondered if I wasn’t perhaps heading downwards and into the pits of Hell. Maybe I was to become the catalyst for the Morlocks who the time traveller meets? Moving in just as an un-gentlemanly fashion as you can imagine, I squeezed myself backwards and removed the pack. I pushed the bag ahead of me as I chuntered onward. As I’d read in a book somewhere, I could have attached it to my foot, but given my ankle, I didn’t want to risk it clattering. To be found in a year holding my ankle and caved in with a bag tied to my leg! Here lies the great explorer. Fucked up his ankle, crawled along, bumped along, swore at the tunnel thinning, and now we have discovered him with a bag around his leg. What mysteries will it reveal to future-kind? Besides that, I was not a great explorer.
Looking back, the Royals leaving started much earlier than most remember. The exodus began before anyone noticed. People forgot quickly that some of the minor ones left first. It wasn’t hidden or done secretly. They went to protect their privacy, it was claimed, but nobody paid attention. Then, the second couple left to ‘live life without the pressures that came from being part of the family’ and nobody batted an eyelid. “So, the UK isn’t good enough for ‘em,” some grumbled. When you have that much shit thrown about in the disinformation game, it becomes difficult to see the little sweetcorn pathway. It’s impossible to join the dots and see what the picture reveals until it is clear to anyone and everyone, and by then, it’s too late. Referendums had never really been a part of our unwritten constitution, but they had been popularised with the Scottish Independence and Brexit votes. ‘The referendum was a device of dictators and demagogues.’ But, oh, what a device it is. What a Pandora’s box had been opened by those who wanted power for the sake of power, for those who wished only to control.
There was a freshness in the air as I continued my crawl. At first, I hadn’t paid it much attention, but my hopes lifted a little when it was joined by the slightest of breezes. I must be approaching the end of this blasted tunnel! I’d been through so much, but this was the task I found to be the worst. The freshness of the air made me realise just how stale the environment I had crawled through was. Breathing in lungfuls of the cool air, I smiled to myself and briefly forgot about my pain. It felt good to know I was getting somewhere and wasn’t just travelling through a long tunnel to nowhere.
‘Take back control,’ they shouted in the press, screaming from the rooftops at the injustices they saw. The wrongs that the owners wanted righting. ‘No to unelected bureaucrats’ was the rallying cry from the red tops. The King and then Queen, interfering in our laws and legislation to protect their wealth, was never a problem for the papers, until it was. Suddenly, there was nothing more important, and this built. Years’ worth of stories emerged once they’d sunk their teeth into the topic. Literally decades’ worth of reports dominated the airwaves, things that I have no doubt were held back in the past. Then a well-tested and worn method came, though a little quicker than usual. The papers clamoured for a referendum; we must ask the people, they bellowed from the headlines. And that was how it happened; OTIN gave people the vote, and the people spoke. Not with revolution or guillotines, but with a vote, a simple go or stay question. There was no fight and no uproar; perhaps they knew their time was up, or maybe they understood what was coming. I don’t know, but I suspect it was the latter
With the cool and fresh air came light. Dim at first, but it was turning the black walls surrounding me into a shadowed grey. I saw that the tunnel had widened; I no longer needed to push my bag. Hooking it back over my arms and having the little extra room to stretch came as a blessed relief. I crawled forward and toward the light, step into the light, Peter, but it held no fear. I knew this was the end of this leg of my journey, and the rats had scuttered off into the darkness, fearing the light. It made me think… is it the fear of being alone in the dark, or is it the fear of not being alone? I couldn’t help but wonder if the noises I had heard were just the products of my imagination. I decided that being at the bottom of a well and crawling through a tunnel, the chances were that it was rats. The thought didn’t help.
We are strange creatures. I decided this as I made my way on all fours (three and a half, with my ankle). I had seen, in my youth, election manifestos that offered all kinds of change. Radical, and just what the country needed, they would claim. I cannot judge if they would have worked, but I can make the following observations. Change is rejected in this context, but with conditioning and the media on-side, you can make enough of the public believe anything. People don’t like change, they tell us. Brexit, Scottish Independence (granted, initially rejected), and Republicanism, are these all not significant changes? I’ve known people who claim to be unaffected by advertising. I’ve spoken to those who will tell you print media is a dying medium, and nobody pays attention. But these things are proof that it still works! None of this would have happened without the press and other media. If you control the media, you can control the people, and OTIN fully controls the media and, therefore, the masses.
Pulling myself up using the craggy rock and muddy surface of the tunnel’s opening, I looked at the light and vibrant Outlands. Dawn was rising, and it seemed brighter than it was, but that settled as my eyes adjusted. The air was cool and fresh, and with my relief came pain. My head wheezed as the adrenalin that had kept me going decided to retreat and refuel. My mind decided, quite unhelpfully, that I no longer needed the natural high to get me through this. With the rush of natural chemicals withdrawn, the comedown came fast. I suddenly felt petrified. I stood with my hands shaking as I realised I was a wanted man. I felt for the drive in my pocket, which was still there. What the hell could be so important? What was on this bloody thing that they were willing to kill for? The Jobbit had believed it was worth it, but he must have been mad! Nothing is worth that. Just thinking the thought made me realise that he had been right. I had raved and ranted about doing the right thing, and that was what he did, or so he thought. He had been willing to let others die and even do so himself for what he saw as the greater good. Shame joined fear in my milkshake of emotions. Did it matter if he was right or wrong when he thought he was doing the right thing?
My ankle continued to throb; it felt as if every beat of blood that flowed through it would finally cause it to explode. As a young boy, I had mangled one of my fingers in an accident when playing. Now, as an older man, that finger is still slightly larger than the others, and the nail has never grown back properly. The finger was damaged beyond repair, but it didn’t hurt until I looked at it. My initial reaction at the time was to jump up and call my mate a ‘tit,’ or perhaps a ‘skidmark,’ I forget, it was so long ago. You know how it is when you are young; you pick the most fantastic word known to man and shout it out. As I called out my masterful insult, the skin from my finger was hanging off like an apple from a tree. I was pain-free until I looked, and then it hurt. Oh fuck, did it hurt. From that day forward, I have avoided looking at any part of my body when I know it will cause me pain. Reads and sounds stupid. I know that. It is all psychological, but there it is; it works for me. I refuse to look at my ankle again. Obviously, I’d looked while at the base of the well, but only for a split second in time so I thought I’d got away with it. I tell you this for the pure and simple reason that I had not. The epinephrine fuelling my crawl from the base of the well to this aperture in the side of a hill had been doing its job, but the moment it was not needed, it started to flee, leaving just an injured older man behind. Not looking at the problem, ignoring something, is not a solution. Just because you refuse to observe what is going on does not make it any less of a reality.
I had not realised that Sector 43 was located on the peak of a drop, and looking down at the base made me feel a little giddy. The tunnel from the well must have been dug for escape and acted, now, only as drainage during rainfall. What other purpose could it have been used for? I looked back at the tunnel and wondered if I had taken a wrong turn somewhere, but I couldn’t have! Had there been another exit when I climbed and fell from the ladder? I was sure the answer was no, but the only way I would know for sure would be to go back, and that I wasn’t willing to do that. I was not sure that I could even have done so. I still refused to look at my ankle as I slipped onto my bottom. I couldn’t have walked down the hillside with my injury, so it was the only choice I had to get back under the cover of some trees I spied below. I slipped and slid down the muddy slope, making every effort I could to avoid donking my ankle. I held my foot before me as I shuffled on my arse; I must have looked quite a sight.
When you build something, it is often said that you create from the bottom up. If you start with flawed foundations or plant your project on sand, it is apt to fall as you build. If you wish to create a political movement and take over, you start from the top. They think they are starting something, but in reality, they are dismantling what was there to stop them. You begin by neutering the judiciary because nobody wants a judge standing over their shoulder telling them what they can and can’t do. You use the press to create a hatred of the courts, perhaps a referendum or similar that you claim the judges are trying to prevent. These people, no, these elites, are trying to take away all we have fought for! My God, how simple a species we are to manipulate and twist.
My foot pointed my way forward like a wayward compass as I continued to slip down the hill. My trousers, already wet but now soaked, gripped my legs so tightly I began to understand how vacuum-packed clothing felt. Perhaps my legs were now sausages in their packaging, ready for a predator to feast upon. Thanks, brain; I needed to think about that. Dis and Misinformation: friendly at first, they tell us what we want to hear. They will confirm any bias for the price of our vote. Patriotism and nationalism follow just behind. “Why do you hate our country so much?” they ask, whilst moaning about most of the population. The patriots who wave a flag and seemingly hate everyone, the elites who are fighting against the elites on our behalf, honest, they are fighting for us; promise! So wave your flags and sing the ballad of OTIN loudly and proudly; you don’t want anyone to think you are unpatriotic, do you? And if they did, good luck because we voted away those human rights. It’s not like we needed them; they were protecting them, and we were not them. How were we supposed to see how it would domino? It wasn’t our fault! How were we supposed to see what would happen?
But still, at least we can blame them over there. That’s important. It’s a damn good job OTIN continued to fund the police and other forces; where would we be without them to clamp down on the others? They are working for us, you know. The four horsemen of the apocalypse are well known, but their brothers are lesser known. They are tenets of fascism, some of which I have mentioned already. I thought about them as I slipped down the hillside. My mind sometimes races with ideas and thoughts, which was what it gifted me. As you have gathered by now, this is often a curse, but sometimes it can be enlightening. They come as your friends; these horsemen arrive with smiles and handshakes. They arrive as allies, and you want to follow them as they corrupt and destroy the country, believe them when they point at a common enemy, trust them when they tell us something is the only way to get things done and vote for them when told how unpatriotic the alternative is. Before we know it, they have complete control. It is interesting, don’t you think, this tyranny is such an unusual grouping? Typical governments tend to be grouped into the middle and upper classes, and that’s fine, but with OTIN and the dictatorship they brought to the UK, it was them and the lower classes. They, for want of a better phrase, cut out the middle man.
What has always eluded me and what continues to irk and niggle in my thoughts is the why. My eyes are open, and I can see the clearing. I am no longer riddled with the fog of apathy and indifference towards my fellow men and women, but I can’t grasp the final piece of the puzzle. Like stumbling in a dark room at night and failing to find the light switch, I know the answer is there; I need to find it. I kept telling myself there had to be something as I hopped my way to the tree line. My thoughts were hurdling around things I couldn’t control and ignoring those which I could. I had escaped the sector and was now alone in the Outlands again. Was I safe? I had no way to be sure, but I felt as confident as I could be. I slumped down at a trunk and placed my leg with the crippled ankle up and in the air, resting on my other knee.
Exhaustion overwhelmed me. The idea that I could feel even remotely tired felt farcical, yet I did. The fear was there, and the maddening feeling of danger and vulnerability cascaded in my mind, but it was the pain that should have kept me alert. Our body and mind have a way of pushing us through pain when needed. It eggs us on and drives us to do things we would have thought impossible in any normal situation. But, when it departs, it leaves a gaping chasm far emptier than any abyss. This is the bottomless pit of your body being run down and gliding along on empty. The fuel of life is depleted, and the only way it can refuel is to force you to sleep. My ankle wasn’t humming with pain; it wasn’t throbbing or screaming. No, this was the Norwegian death metal of pain. But even with an entire jet engine of agony barraging through my body, I could still feel my eyelids slipping closed. I relented, not having any choice in the matter, and fell asleep under a tree, dead to the world. I was so tired that I didn’t notice when I was moved onto a sledge and dragged away by Gretchen. In some ways, she saved me; in others, I’d rather have died.