The God of The Dream
A politician has a strange experience in a television interview
The lights are dizzyingly bright and the air is cold and clean with disinfectant. He is pristine, a carefully constructed image of royal purple ties and charcoal suits, reminiscent of thirty years ago. Stability. Normality. Patriotism.
It doesn’t matter that he is hated. It doesn’t matter that he inspires a deep loathing that ruptures in the throats of the tolerant, the cynical and the different. He plays to a different crowd. He blurs the disillusioned, the elderly and the isolated with an understanding nod, reassuring them that their guilty hatred is normal.
That the secret loathing they have for the dark skinned, the foreign tongued and the other is fine. He soothes them with his blase tongue, his ripe hot words that trip casually from a hot sweltering venom. He reminds them of a brash uncle, saying everything they would never say outside the white, middle aged space of the local pub. To everyone else, he is a snake, tongue coiling with poison, mouth hungry to success, prey, death.
The camera clicks on, and the presenter coughs. She hates him too, but she had a job to do. He looks at her tight breasts and exposed knees. She was older than what he usually liked. He liked slim European women, secretaries, wide eyed brunettes with a sullen wish for excitement. The presenter blinked at him, and he answered with his usual charismatic grin.
Live in three, two one
“Hello, and welcome to ITV News.” She sounded like oil over a hot pan. “I’m Christina Holland and I’m here with Nicholas Frenson to discuss his opinion on the recent discovery of eighteen men frozen to death in a lorry in Dover-”
Nicholas grinned back at her, flexing his hands with a saccharine empathy for those who had perished in the lorry. “ Very sad, very sad, Christina, of course. But why aren’t we asking the question: why were they allowed in? How did they get through our borders?”
The presenter looked at him, her eyes very hard at his rhetoric. He turned to the camera, shaking his head. “We shouldn’t let empathy impair our understanding of facts. Those men paid the price. How many have come through alive, at a cost to the British taxpayer? British jobs? British benefits? British safety?”
“ Mr Frenson, you are aware that the men were fleeing Iraq and Afghanistan, where they were tortured under the-”
“They came from Calais to Dover, Christina!” He said glibly. “Why not stay in France? Or rebuild their own democracies instead of destroying ours?”
“Destroying?” Christina repeated.
“Britain cannot be a free for all!” Nicholas responded, bringing his hands together. “British charity to these men does not excuse the law. British jobs are for British workers. And how do we know they aren’t importing their nasty views with them? We don’t need another Rochdale, do we Christina?British girls-”
He stopped. It was suddenly very cold. His hands felt numb. The air was stiff, almost as if it had been replaced with pressed linen. The presenter was talking but it sounded so far away. Linen. Yes, that’s what it was. His face pressed into white hard linen.
He moved his head with a jolt. He was in bed, this pillow fallen to the floor. It was freezing. He sat up, and realised the radiator had gone off. The radiator. He hadn’t had a radiator in his room since 1996. Staring around the dark room, he saw the blue flowered wallpaper blooming in the shadows. His ex-wife had chosen it in a Laura Ashley catalogue. He had bought her it to calm her down over his fling with an MEP’s assistant. She slept next to him now, stomach still ripe with their baby daughter, arm over her face. This had been a good time. He had been happy here, in the mock Tudor house on the outskirts of a large village. Unfaithful, as always, but not miserably married. She was pretty then, slimmer, a shock of dutch blonde hair hanging around her neck. He sank back into the sheets. The dream wasn’t an unpleasant one. He reached out and touched her hair. Soft. A baby monitor crackled on the dresser. Sophie.
If he got up, would he be able to see his baby girl in the crib next-door? Would the dream be so vivid? Memory had blurred for him now, his twenty something daughter sour faced and dressed in ugly Glastonbury boots, demanding a deposit for a flat. Yes, this was a better time. It couldn’t hurt to look. He got up, wrapping his old dressing gown around his slimmer frame.
The room was filled with a white hot light, followed by a searing pain in his right arm. He stumbled back, hearing the lick of flames coil up the blue roses on the walls. The smoke was black, burning up into a crater that revealed thousands of stars, silhouettes of planes scalding into the yellow moon.
His wife was screaming, plaster pinning her to the floor. Somewhere, baby Sophie was crying, the intakes of breath gasping in the smoke. He stared in disbelief as his home crumbled into the hot abyss of a bomb, only coming to his senses when his child screamed. Running down the corridor, he was greeted by an inferno, the shadow of a little body standing up and screaming burning into his mind. He heard a male voice let out a hollow cry. His. His voice. The flames began to lap closer, glass shattering. He could hear the television downstairs, blaring on through the bombs. He remembered the interview.
Why are they leaving their own countries and fighting for them? We fought for our country, we stayed. These cowards just want a western lifestyle, and won’t sacrifice their archaic views to achieve it-
He screamed in pain as the heat tore through his body. Where was his baby? She wasn’t screaming. Why did this happen? Why did this have to happen? Why did this? Why?
His head hit something hard. This pain burnt behind his eyes. A man was laughing. There was nothing but blue, bright vast blue, and salt. “Get up, brother,” said the man’s voice. “I didn’t hit you that hard.” Nicholas sat up, revealing a large rowing boat with rotten oars.
An ugly man was peering over him with missing teeth. “It’s 8,000 euros. Euros. Pounds are no good to anyone.” He grabbed Nicholas by the lapel, going through his pockets.
“You haven’t got anything!” The man said, disgusted. “Get off my fucking boat.” Nicholas blinked at him, turning back to the shore. The beach was littered with huge mounds, marked with crosses. Other bodies had been dumped in the water, and were washing up on the shore. The blackened remains of a little village topped the cliffs, gunfire ringing out over the grasses.
People, half starved, shuffled past him onto the boat, handing over jewellery, watches and bags of coins. Soon, about thirty people were crowded into the small vessel.
“Please,” said Nicholas, weakly. “I need to get to Europe. My wife and child are dead. My home is gone. I’ll die here.”
The man scoffed. “You and half of England, mate. No money, no passage.” His eyes fell on Nicholas’s watch. Nicholas tore it off, and handed it to him. “Its a Rolex, real. I got it from the Russian ambassador.” The man grunted, and pushed him to a row of miserable faced young men. Soon the boat was so full that they had to stand.
They pushed off into the English channel, just as night was falling. His legs ached, his mind full of his baby daughter screaming in the hot smoke. “What are you going to do when we get there?” A man asked him, after an unbearable hour of silence.
Nicholas stared. “I speak a bit of French, I’ll find work in a shop of something. They have social housing over there so-” The men screamed with laughter. “What?”
“We aren’t going to France, dummy. They don’t let refugees in. The whole border is patrolled. We are going to Germany.” Nicholas fell silent. He didn’t speak German.
“Its not so bad. There are loads of construction jobs out there. And the women are gorgeous!” The men clamored with their own hopes. One wanted to own a BMW. Another hoped to marry a pretty blonde. Nicholas stared out to sea.
His legs were badly burnt and the salt water at his feet stung like acid. They could drown out here and no one would find them. Occasionally they would pass bloated bodies, floating in the water, little children clasping in rigor mortis to their mother’s life jackets. Nothing could be done. They moved through the floating cemetery, hoping to an end to the stench of death and decay.
He heard his voice moving on the wind, smooth and charismatic, filled with easy charm, echoing with the gulls.
“Of course it’s sad. But they’ve paid the price. How many more actually arrive undetected? To destroy this great country?”
They arrived on a rough pebble beach at about three in the morning. Nicholas could barely move after seven hours of standing in the punishing cold water. They were forced immediately into a crater filled truck, and locked in. “Don’t talk or move!” A red faced man barked, in bad English. “The police will send you home!”
They drove for hours, coming to a warehouse that stank of meat. They were pushed inside, and counted. No one had run away. “You work here now!” The German man said. “Verstehen?”
The crowd looked confused. “Do you understand me?” The man said. “Stupid English. Faul, dumm, hasslich-”
Nicholas was put on a packaging line, shoving turkey into plastic packets. His hands were raw with cold, the hours lasting long after the sun had set. When he fell down in exhaustion, he was beaten by a man with a metal ring, stabbing into his cheek. When it was done, they locked the men in a storeroom with some canvas sheets, throwing them a vat of cold rice. As he lay down to sleep, he heard his voice echo through the tanoy system.
“They come here, no knowledge of the language, don’t bother to integrate, stealing jobs from ordinary British folks.”
The voice didn’t stop all night. The next day, at four am, his mind sang with exhaustion as he tried to work.
“They came from Calais, trying to get to this country. Why not just go stay in France? Is France not safe?”
“Alright!” He screamed. “Let me wake up. Dear god, let me wake up. Enough. Please. Just let me wake up. I can’t do this anymore. I get it! I get it!”
He shut his eyes, again feeling the white coldness of his surroundings. The voice stopped. Trembling with relief, he opened his eyes.
Faces stared at him, the room eerily quiet. In front of him were bags and bags of plastic packaging, the same raw red hands, the same dark warehouse. The men began whispering.
“Poor man!” They said, shaking their heads. “He’s gone completely mad.”