Writing by Will Penkethman-Carr. Illustration by Annie Whiteson.
The Queen is dead. The Queen is dead! But she’s not - see her rise out of the grave, leathery and yellow. Waft the flies away and watch. We give her life! And lo, she creaks out of the coffin. What necromancy is this? Well, the magicians never tell their tricks. This is a show in honour of her majesty, who, from her appallingly rude lateness, has up until now missed the circuses. Is she…dancing? Craning a gusto of faces, boring eyes squealing, voyeurs of the dance, coming to the spectacle, covering the ground as grass wailing and commenting, and twitching and snivelling, and they fill their seats and fill their boots on right royal coverage. The Queen is lifted on rods and with liquid movements addresses her people:
Look into her glazed eyes: they are crystal balls. Our job as magicians is to ask you to suspend your reality for a moment, to negate that satisfied-syphilitic future as you see it, and instead imagine something else: We need to possess your mind. Do not say it is unimaginable or totalitarian, it’s you totalitarians who think that, and why cannot we move to our imagination? Some have been rumouring that our profession is a dead one. We are dead are we? Oh no, ladies and gentlemen. We are very much alive and kicking. You’ve watched us do our tricks, pull a person out of the grave and make them dance. We are the puppeteers of your imagination; to you we shall briefly play God, and we are very much alive.
Among murmuration: the Queen. Enthroned, encoffined, there is shuffling and crying and the cameras pointed to see if the face slips to reveal what lizards lie behind. The Queen is dead (she’s been dead twenty years - the conspiracy theorists chatter - when will they broadcast THE TRUTH), long live the Queen. All stand. Dun duh-duh duh duh duh duh duhrrr duh duhr d-duh duh, duh d-duhr. A long-awaited shiver of fulfilled anticipation: now what? Electronics murmur and eyes and hands dance to what the ties and teleboxes say: A rebirth? Look into the eyes…
The second act, the next day, is evoked: one nation will laugh, one nation will titter and one nation will be inconsolable. (Northern Ireland? Who?). Tears over some etching of a thought felt but not named, a sigh that is good enough for a headline or another brawl in another forgotten Wetherspoons bar. The expansion and dilation of a schizophrenic printing press telling and spilling and spunking over an opportunity to slap others. Come! Rampaging delusions which gabble over and make everyone a General Ripper, a theorist of fluids. Come! See the violence inherent in the nation! Help, help, you’re being repressed!
“Shop until you drop!” Yes, quite: They’re dropping like flies. Flies on the floor and flies on the window sill, they died in a moment to join their Queen. Great British flies. On the TV an actor speaks, and to quoth the great actor himself, “They haven’t got a fucking chance!” News spreads of the Manager whose sweaty palm slipped us an Amazon for an Amazon now slipped himself, and long live that (f)king—we’re dead. The future disappears into a milieu of train carriages and coded networks repeating works maintenance on the dead; there is only the dead: the dead-in-anticipation, working and writing in a fever, coughing and spluttering and panicking, crossing out and rewriting their thoughts thought elsewhere already; the very-dead on open air tour buses with oval faces and flyaway hair flapping in the wind.
Deeper into the Queen’s eyes we see the bathroom, where the gas meter lingers. We sit and shit and the dial unblinkingly counts. The gas meter that goes up and every new node is another year we calculate how long the human race has left. Currently it is on ‘36. Therefore, the current prediction for the end of the world is timed for 2036. Don’t let that worry you too much. It’s until the end of the month that will reveal the real date. Today is the 4th. On the 31st will reveal when the clocks truly stop. It is arbitrary, yes, but we do not see how that should really matter. Why not use it as a prediction - it’s no better than an excel star sheet.
The Queen’s lips murmur, a date, 2057 - the gas meter has stopped; it’s the 31st. Ever deeper, to the tune of ticking, voices flicker through royal eyes:
What supermarket are you?
I’m definitely a Morrison’s
Why is that?
It’s cheap, granny-ish, have quirky things you can’t get anywhere else
I think we had already established that R. is the Waitrose of women. I am M&S of course, due to my sophistication and holier-than-thou attitude
And why is R. the ‘Waitrose of women’?
‘Cos I let posh boys inside me? [laughter]
R.! YOU CAN'T JUST SAY THAT
Actually this statement is inaccurate; Waitrose is also trying to extend its business to the lower middle class
Because it is the closest one to my flat
In light of the imminent closure of their island and annihilation of themselves and their culture, the islanders held council. The debate was split: half-said they should continue the struggle and die in glory; the opposition suggested holding a massive party. The Party Party, as it was soon to be called, was in favour of a massive celebration which, even though it would culminate into effectively a suicide as the closure progressed, would be one of merriment and happiness over the life of their people, and that overall their civilisation was a job well done. 2058 never occurred because no more calendars were printed.