I once read a story; in that story, there was a man who wrote a message on some toilet paper. This tale was set in the seventies, so you’d presume shit roll is of a better quality today. I can only assume it was that awful Izal stuff because writing on modern loo roll is a pain in the arse (pun intended). I am not sure how Izal would have been easier, but it is all I have. I am currently sitting in a rubber room, awaiting my execution. I am writing my final notes here, and Anne has promised to release them once I am dead. We are smuggling them out as and when she visits. If I am caught, what are they going to do? Sentence me to death? It was something Anne wanted to do; it was her idea. I never intended for them to be read during my life; I only hope that people can understand once I am gone.
A dink of the shoulder and a flicking of my wrist, and I have no doubt I could walk free from my confinement. But I won’t. I have my reasons for that; I hope they become apparent and you can understand them my dear reader.
We needed a plan; I needed a plan. Anne wanted to help; she felt that she needed to help, but I was worried about the risk. I had considered twinking her strings, but I had promised her and myself I would never do that again. “Let me make my own choices,” she had said. “I will help in any way that I can, but it must be my own decision.” Anne knew what I knew, and what we were up against, yet she willingly came along. I had to respect that. She also has to trust that I will keep my word, and by trusting in me, she makes it much easier for me to trust her. “I can’t run,” I said. I wanted to run, but where would I have gone? I had no money, no passport, and no ideas. Even if I could escape the country, who is to say I would be safe elsewhere. “Oh, I am not suggesting running,” Anne said, “I suggest we fight back.”
The rain dropped from the sky as I stood outside of the pub. I took a breath of the cool night air before stepping inside. Anne placed a hand on my shoulder, “It’ll be fine.” I felt the opposite; could I convince a group of people when I did not feel confident in myself? I placed my hand on the cold, wet door and pushed it open. My hands shook beside me as I walked into the bar; I could feel nerves and excitement in the air. I had decided to waste no time making my pitch, but I felt pretty timid and small when I stood in the bar. I could feel Anne behind me urging me on, I don’t know if this was a feeling or a sense, but I had to act. “Listen up!” I shouted, and then for all intents and purposes, shit myself.
Standing and drawing attention to yourself is harrowing. I stood and did not know what to say or do as thirty faces with blackened eyes stared and gawked at me. “We need to change,” I said, and moved my arms outwards. “The world, our world is breaking.” I moved the strings slightly with my fingers, but I could see the clearing in a couple of eyes. “We all have to do better,” I continued with my push, physically and mentally. It does not take long for the effects to start showing, clearing the eyes and the buzz I get! “Yeah, but what can we do about it?” a younger chap said.
“We have the power to fight back; we can be better! We must do better,” I replied. I was working my hands and moving the strings of the crowd as I spoke. I could feel the static of excitement building inside me. “We can change things, overtake The Party, take over and make it better for us all!”
“It doesn’t sound very patriotic to go against The Party,” one of the older chaps said. I saw that the blackness was not clearing as quickly; it had started to fade and was starting to get sucked back inside, but it was a slower process. I moved forward towards the crowd of pub-goers. Moving forward assertively knocked the strings and tar; I watched as it faded and was sucked back. I was learning, and I was learning quickly. “Everyone thinks they are a fucking patriot, man!” I said, “but what is more patriotic, holding and waving a flag or helping those in need?” I could feel the buzz of a fever of emotions running through me. I felt bolder and more confident as the tingle of confidence flowed through me; I discovered that I could push ideas without using my hands. It was just me using a force of will. “We tell everyone how great we are; why not actually do something to make us great!” I roared out and into the crowd. I watched as the strings wobbled and jittered with just the power of my voice. The goo and tar that covered many of their eyes melted and sucked itself back into their heads. “We can do better!” I said. “We must do better.”
I was buzzing when we left the pub. Thoughts and ideas rushed through me; I started thinking of a future without the Party and what I could do when in charge. The evening had gone better than I could have ever expected. I ran with the following, and things I could never have imagined came quickly and naturally to me. I would hone my skills as events and gatherings got more widespread over the coming weeks. Time seemed to move faster as I gained popularity. Anne’s plan was working to perfection. I had something that many of my political predecessors did not have; I had the power to sway others’ minds. The press would hound me, but then I would just counter it with my truth, and for a time, they were on my side. Members of The Party who approached me were dealt with quickly; a shake of the wrist and an idea planted is all it took. If you are open to suggestions, then it is easy; it does not matter who is doing the suggesting. I found that I did not even need to talk in many cases. A hand on the shoulder, a warm palm on the upper arm and the goo just dissolved, and they joined me. That must have annoyed The Party leadership… And that thought filled me with joy.
And so, I found myself outside of this ballroom. I am uninvited; that is not unusual, though this will be the largest event I have crashed. I walked to the door, and the security immediately knew who I was. Anne was behind me as they rushed towards me. Like moths to a flame or flies to shit, they came forward. I calmly explained why I was there; I can change the minds of the easily gullible with just words. Sometimes it takes a little more, but these guards were a pushover. I placed my hands on their shoulders and spoke like a Jedi master, “You can let me in; you don’t need to search me.” Cake from a baby, candy from a toddler. Sex in a brothel or pissup in a brewery; it was easy. Too easy. I should have known.
I walked in and felt all the blackened hollowed-out eyes watching me. Four hundred or more Victorian doll-like eyes stared and watched me as I entered the auditorium. They followed me and watched in the same way a sunflower observes the sun. Number One was standing on the stage, and he grinned as I looked up at him. I did not look at the stage initially; perhaps I should have. I may have backed away had I done so; maybe it was better that I did not. I think if Anne had not been there, I would have bolted. I could feel her tense up behind me, making me feel I needed to continue. I could not let her down. I would not let her down.
“Hello, Winston,” Number One said with a snarl. He dragged out the N and S in my name like a stretching snake. “Winnnnnnsssston.” I felt he was mocking me; this had the reverse effect too what he probably wanted. It made me feel tougher; it gave me a strength. I had faulted, and I had slumped; I realised the latter as I stood upright, stretching myself to my full height. “Numero Uno,” I said, and then realised how fucking stupid it sounded. Of all the things, and although my physical slump kept itself hidden, I did feel a mental sagging. I whipped my arms backwards and heard a crack as the audience’s strings tensed up; they sprang back and shook the black goo from many eyes. I felt the rush of power enter through my fingers and swim to the centre of my being. The fortitude that had started to escape me returned with full force, and I stamped my foot down. “You have been lying to us all,” I said. I noticed the shifting of Number One’s eyes as I did this. He seemed to take in the whole crowd at once. He watched as they changed from being hostile towards me and became more placid and manageable.
The blood was pumping through my veins at a billion miles per hour, and I felt lightheaded as I stepped forward and toward the stage. I could feel the power of assurance coursing through me. I had expected one of The Party underlings at this event, they had set a trap, but it was they who would fall into it. “What about the truth? Will you tell these people the truth?” As I stepped up and onto the stage, I demanded, “Can you at least be honest with them?” As I spoke, I felt the crowd getting restless. The goo was receding; I did not have to see it; I could feel the change in the room. It held me in a calmness like the dry swimming pool in my dream. I felt I was floating on a wave of optimism and hope from the gathered audience. “Truth? Truth, Mr Scope, we only deal in the truth here,” Number One replied.
“Ha!” I exaggerated my laugh.
“Mr Scope, I doubt there is anyone here who believes that politics has never had any falsehoods. It is all part of the political game,” he said. I watched as Anne took a seat in the front row. Her look of optimism and faith in me was touching. I needed all that I could get; the effects of my first high were already fading. “Mr One,” I said, “you and I both know that politics is what it is. Yes, there have always been political lies and misinterpretations. You may, for example,” I continued, “use one in four instead of twenty-five per cent.” I used my mind and hands to push this point; I wanted this one to hit home. Number One stood with his mic and amplified voice; I was hoping his overconfidence could bring him down. I had only my words to beat him with. “Those things are fine. I am fair; I can accept that,” I said. “I am not an unfair man.” I was working the strings like a madman on a double-necked guitar. I was talking, but what I was really doing was buying time; I needed to remove the indoctrination that had taken hold of the crowd. Like a vampire, I needed to feed on their eye clearing mojo. Other considerations came second; I just wanted the high.
“We’ve given you jobs. You have security. Don’t we keep you safe?” Number One fired back at both the crowd and myself. A flick of the knuckles and skimming of the wrist and everything I had done had been reversed. I felt the energy sapped from me as the blackened eyes returned, and heads started nodding in agreement with Number One. I looked over at Anne, and while I knew she could not see the changes in the room, I felt she could sense them. Her hopeful look had been replaced by concern; she smiled at me as I looked. I think the smile was meant as encouragement for me than her true feelings.
I did, however, have hope; had my becoming made me more than an equal to Number One, was I now his better? Had my powers of suggestion surpassed his? He still used his hands; I could also use my brain; in many cases, I did not even need to manipulate the strings. “You talk about lies, but what do you offer?” Number One said, and blasted another wave of his energy across the ballroom. “We have been keeping you safe, stopping terrorists, and standing up for you. Removing powers that mean to harm and bring in those meant to protect. Look at the vaccine work we have done! The lockdowns, masking, and laws to protect you all,” Number One snarled. “And what of you, Mr Scope, what have you done? I shall tell you, you’ve done nothing with your life as far as I can see! You’ve just bummed around and helped nobody.”
“Nobody?” I shot back. I had no idea where I was going; something had caught my attention, but with the razzmatazz of my surrounding, the on and off of the black goo, I had to buy time and try to think. I found myself repeatedly repeating and re-treading ground I had moaned about. “You control the press; you scapegoat minorities. Oh, it is not our fault; it is them over there! You lie, cheat and force others to vote how you want!”
“Forced, you want to talk forced?” Number One said and threw his arms backwards and then forward. The swell of the shockwave of control almost knocked me from my feet. I watched as the audience strings were thrown backwards; the ripple of force, though unseen, affected everyone. “We give the people what they want! What do you offer them?” Number One said “what does the great Winston Scope offer the people?” I listened to the cracking of the sky. I could not see but could hear the tearing and cracks forming. The splitting and fracturing filled my head; the tinnitus of a world that was failing flooded through my brain. I looked again at Anne, and she still held her smile. The blackness of the goo still had not returned to her eyes. I had no idea why; had I opened them entirely to the world? Was it because she was happy to be swayed? I do not know; I only know that looking at her gave me an idea.
“The truth,” I said, and straightened myself. “Nothing but the truth.” I needed my full size and presence to sell my words. “I don’t offer simple solutions to complex problems. I offer only myself and the truth.” I turned to face the gathering; Number One could go and fuck himself. I was not here to see him. I was here to see the people, to see my people. I didn’t use my arms or hands to jiggle the strings as I turned. I wanted this to be on them. They had the power to change and defeat The Party, but they had to want to do it. I needed to clear the goo, but I did not want to eradicate it. I hoped that just my words would do that. They had to force a change on their own. “I don’t offer you simple solutions. It will be hard at times; I offer no other way. But, together, we can make things better!” I said. A few nodded, not many, but it was a start. “These people tell you that others,” I said the final word, and quoted with my fingers, “have caused your problems. Can’t get to see a Doctor? Well, that is all that immigration, isn’t it.” I walked the stage a little as I talked. Watching and making eye contact with as many as possible. “People on benefits, that is why we can’t afford to help. We are spending too much on social security. Taxes? We are all paying more than ever! Where is that money going? Does Number One look like he has had to cut back?”
“I object,” Number One said. “Any rise for us is confirmed and suggested by an independent body.”
“Excuse me? I believe I have the stage, and I am talking. Don’t be so rude,” I said. I had expected him to hit back at this, but he did not. If anything, he looked worn out. He looked like a man who knew it was over, a magician who had just had his masterpiece exposed and the inner workings revealed. “It won’t be cheap, and it won’t be easy. But we can do better. We can leave a better world for our children.” It flowed from me and into the audience; I was talking to them and not worrying about Number One. “I could use the tricks he uses,” I said, “sure I could, but I want you to be yourselves. You are better than what they think,” I turned and looked at Anne, “Anne, ask him,” I said. Anne stood up slowly; she looked terrified, the courage it must have taken her to get to her feet. I was in awe of her strength. I did not want to push the question I had in mind; I think I could have done. I felt powerful and able to do anything. It had to be honest, and it had to come from her. Had I pushed, it may not have worked. “Winston Price, my grandfather, The Party disappeared him, didn’t it?”
“That’s absurd,” Number One said. He answered, but there was no conviction in his reply. “What about John Evans?” someone called from the audience.
“Michael Smithson,” another called out. As more and more names were called from the crowd, I realised why he had sounded so unconvincing. I felt the rush as a vampiric wave of goodness flooded my veins. The Party and Number One, maybe more specifically, must have fed on the prejudices of others. Pushing the worst of them into the open with the strings and then suckling on it. Whereas I fed on the good. I nourished on the opening of others’ eyes. I was better than them; wasn’t I? “Edward Johnson,” someone else called out, and with each new name, Number One seemed to weaken. The public was taking back the power they had always had. They were now feeding upon him.
The names continued to come from the crowd. I hated The Party, but even I was surprised by the numbers. It seemed that everyone had someone vanished, disappeared, or otherwise affected by The Party. Each audience member had a grievance about how things developed over the years. Once the goo loosened, it took only themselves to open their eyes to what they had ignored. I suspect many would look back with regret and anger; they are also partly to blame. You cannot be controlled by suggestions if you are unwilling. I could feel the anger already bubbling as others got to their feet and started shouting out names and complaints. Number One had gone from being a solid figure to looking like a frail old man. His strength had been drained because the people had stood up and taken control. They, we, always had the power; we just had to wield it.
Number One jumped at me. I had not seen this coming; it was the last available option to a desperate man. I had expected the mental attacks, but not physical violence. I don’t know if he was stronger than he looked, or if it was the surprise of the attack, but I fell quickly. His weight fell on me, and I crumpled to the floor. The attack was savage and quick as he pummelled my face with his fists. My nose fractured with the same vicious snapping noise of the cracks of the world. I tried to call out, but as my mouth opened, a fist made contact and forced the noise back inwards. I had no idea what was happening; the attack had sprung from nowhere and caught me unaware. I am not a fighter, but I could have held my own. I was basking at the moment and enjoying seeing Number One fall; it was my fault. Then he was dragged from me.
The security that I had nurtured found itself overwhelmed by the crowd. The members of the audience had invaded the stage. The security was as useless as a condom with a hole. Number One was dragged and then descended upon by the mob. They kicked out at him, some spat, and many swore as they unleashed their vengeance. I watched as they took what they thought was right. Number One was going to die, and he would die at the hands of the public that he and his party had abused. It would have been the easiest thing to let them continue, but I couldn’t. I pulled from the back of my trousers the gun. I had no idea if it would work, but I could not let the crowd have its justice. Sometimes you have to take one for the team, as it were. I fired the gun into the air, and a roar screamed from its barrel.
I could feel the frenzy of a mob that had drawn blood. I could feel the bloodlust in the air; it fizzed like a static around the group. I could have walked away and let the crowd have its justice, but what then? I decided then and there to put the needs of the many before the wants of a few. The mob would be tried and found guilty, which would all have been for nothing. Number One would be remembered as being killed by the pack, which would enhance the free and fair side of The Party’s claims. But, if he were killed by a madman? I pointed the gun and squeezed. Number One’s head exploded, and the crowd’s fury died at the same time. Shock and disbelief overtook it like a speeding train, and they all backed away from the body as one. The security finally sprang to life in this lull and rushed the stage. I expected to be shot, but I dropped the gun, and they arrested me. My hands were pulled behind my back, and I was cuffed. I used my powers one final time when the crowd looked like they would rush forward and save me. I said, “No, let me be,” and pushed the idea as hard as possible. I heard the cracking as I did so, and I realised something.
I may have done it for what I saw as the right reasons, but I had become that which I despised. I had ignored a homeless man who was murdered; it had all started there and ended by my murdering of a political opponent. I had manipulated the public into listening and doing what I wanted. Was I any better than The Party? I thought I was, but after all, it is easier to blame the actions of a madman on insanity.