Deep below the Palace of Westminster, that seat of British democracy designed by Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin – the latter soon afterwards to be housed in Bedlam where he was to die – there winds a ragged line of persons intent on making for a chamber that is unknown to most of the inhabitants and workers within the walls of this vast Castle Gormenghast. Only the leader, Kenneth Clarke, knows the true nature of the task ahead and he has gathered around him five others who share his apocalyptic vision of Britain’s future which must be made to come to pass. As they move along corridors and wind down forgotten and dark staircases, Clarke has some growing unease about his fellow participants.
“I could do with a gin and tonic”. A voice from the rear of the file echoes down the line.
“I don’t think it was a good idea bringing along Anna, you know”. Clarke had hesitated in his downward step on the staircase that led ever deeper. He turned to Nicky Morgan who almost bumped into him. “Keep an eye on the old soak. I don’t want this being ballsed up.”
Morgan who was beginning to wish she hadn’t been persuaded to join the group offered a solution: “I could take her back and we could try and find someone else?”
“No. No. She may be a pain but we’ve got this far and besides we need really dedicated and, dare I say it, slightly barking-mad Remainers for this exercise – yourself excepted of course.” Behind Nicky Morgan and above her on the staircase were Nick Clegg, Tim Farron, Emily Thornberry and Anna Soubry. The six were the necessary magical cabbalistic number that Clarke needed for his intended dark satanic offering. He had been on this mission once before at the time of the Maastricht Treaty and it had worked perfectly. Now, at this desperate time, he needed to recall the dark forces again.
“Almost there. Come on”. Clarke set on downwards once more and they soon came upon a small ante-chamber. In front of them was an iron-studded door. From out of his pocket Clarke produced a large rusted iron key which he placed in the lock. With a firm twist that offered some resistance the lock clacked over.
“A new private member’s bar is it?” The voice from the back sounded more slurred than before. “Make mine a double, Clarkey-boy”.
“Get in! Everyone, get in here!” Clarke ushered in the followers, switching on his powerful torch to illuminate the large chamber that they now found themselves in. Soubry bounced off the door jamb adding a greasy black stain to other marks which were already to be found on her blouse.
“Bit glum down here. Where’s the bar?” Soubry lurched over to one corner.
“Oh Christ in a teacup. Morgan, give her a slurp out of this”. Clarke slipped out his Fortnum and Mason hip flask which only that morning he had topped up with the finest Tanqueray. “Make sure I get it back. The last one I leant her disappeared without trace.”
“I wished I’d had something to eat beforehand”. Emily began to dig into her copious handbag. “I’m sure I had a spare Mars Bar in here somewhere.” The sounds of rustling from whatever was holed up inside Emily’s handbag began to rile Clarke.
“For fuck’s sake, Thornberry, can you just stop thinking about food for just five minutes and concentrate on the matter in hand,”
“Hmmm. I’d forgotten we’d brought the Town Clown with us. Something amusing you Farron?” The light from the torch threw an eerie shadow over Clarke’s florid complexion giving him an almost devilish sneer. “Clegg, old chum, I know there’s hardly a taxi-load of your Lib-Dems left but if you could keep Quasimodo here on a rope I’d be most grateful. We’ve got a bit of work to do before the ritual.”
Pulling out some black candles from his pocket, Clarke carefully placed them at intervals around the chamber. Next, a length of string was measured off so as to make a perfect diameter for the Pentacle.
“Nick. If you get hold of this end of the string with the chalk attached and Emily if you stand just here holding the other end we can draw a circle around you.”
The sound of masticating chocolate filled the chamber.
“Theesh is my favourite sweestsh. It really isssh”. Thornberry’s mouth was open and Clarke could see a Mars bar in the process of being churned around as if in a concrete mixer. A gobbet of mixed caramel and chocolate popped over the lip and flew into the air before landing on Farron’s nose. With a hesitation that Clarke calculated as just one nano-second Farron’s tongue emanated from his mouth like a chameleon and pulled in the wayward chocolate piece.
“Oh bloody hell. I’m surrounded by fools”. Clarke stopped, remembering “Not you of course Nick. I think you did a first-class job on Marr last week. Thwarting the will of the people? No. Just enforcing the will of Parliament. Good one, Nick. Good one.” He winked at Clegg who smiled at this rarely proffered largesse. He had had a couple of bad years since the Farage debate and now his possible tenure at the EU trough was in serious doubt. Their task today may be the last opportunity to secure his future. “Right. Let’s get on with it.” Clarke began to organise the members into the various positions.
The Pentacle had been drawn, the cabbalistic signs copied from a secondhand Dennis Wheatley Black Magic book Clarke had found at the back of his bookshelf and now the candles were placed in exactly the correct positions.
“OK. Is everyone ready?”
“Yes.” Morgan, Farron and Clegg, now standing within the Pentacle ring, replied.
Someone burped. Someone farted.
“Thank you for a preview of the next Labour manifesto, Emily. And Nicky, keep an eye on Soubry. Just how much of that Tanqueray did she have? This hip flask feels pretty light.” He picked up the hazel wand that he had cut from a graveyard earlier that day, looked around the group and said: “Let’s begin. And remember no moving and certainly no wandering outside the Pentacle circle. Got it?”
Another burp. Another fart.
“Oh Mighty Tusk. Oh Mighty Juncker. Oh Mighty Verhofstaadt. I call upon you to allow us to bring forth His Satanic Majesty! We are humble supplicants who are thwarted in our task of bringing the European enrichment to our subjects. The people have listened to false prophets. They have been misled. Fooled. They are ignorant.”
“Fucking ignorant white trash”.
“Thank you Emily. No interruptions please.” Clarke carried on, intoning ever more loudly. “Bring forth your mighty power so that we may harness it towards a future where the country is once more folded within the arms of an EU that will provide succour, warmth and untold expenses for those in power for ever more. I summon you up, Baal, Beelzebub, Abbadon, King of the Bottomless Pit, Tempter, Thief, Satan!!” With the last shout Clarke struck the ground with his hazel wand.
There was silence for a moment. Then.
“Bleeeurgggh”. A stream of vomit spectacularly emanated from Soubry which splattered over Clarke’s brown suedes.
“For fuck’s sake!” Clarke watched as Soubry staggered towards the perimeter of the Pentacle. “Don’t move! Don’t break the circle!”
It was too late. Soubry’s vomit had washed across the floor and straddled the chalk circle just by Clarke’s feet. He could see that his carefully drawn line was now broken. From the corner something stirred.
Indistinct at first, it appeared as a faint movement, a lighter grey against the blackness of the chamber corner. Slowly its features became more discernable. The glutinous, oily, denseness of its round body, the grotesque proboscis that looked too big for its round bald head, the dreadful slapping of its webbed feet as it slouched towards the frightened group within the broken Pentacle. Terrified now, Clarke waved ineffectively at it with his hazel wand.
“Not you! Not you! We didn’t call for you! You are the anti-Christ!”
The figure now stood before them in all its shining glory. Transmogrified in its wondrous cloak of black and multi-coloured head. It’s mouth, more beak-like than anything any of them had ever seen before, slowly opened. It spoke just one word.
For it was, indeed, Wankpuffin.
Buy ‘A Coin for the Hangman’, Ralph Spurrier (Roger Ackroyd)