After what felt like ages, we arrived at McLaren’s shop. Jamie volunteered to go in and purchase some burgers for the group. There was a limit to how many schoolchildren could go into McLaren’s shop at a time. We forwarded some money over to Jamie’s account and watched him skip into the shop. As we waited for him to return, I heard a gruff voice, babbling from around the corner.
I took charge of the gang and led them in the direction of the voice. Round the corner from McLaren’s shop, hunched over a large, metal bin, was a Tramp. He had long, black hair and a patchwork of black and grey rags wrapped around his chin and neck. His eyes were sunken and somehow looked far, far older than the man himself. The Tramp glared at us, though, he never broke off his rambling, babbling monologue.
“-used to mean something,” hissed the Tramp. “Used to have balls. Used to have big balls. And thoughts. Used to think and feel real things. Nothing now. Nothing. Fucking gone down the toilet…”
He didn’t seem to see us. His eyes glared right over our heads, staring down an invisible enemy, spittle hanging off his red lips in long, thick strands. A half-eaten hot dog was clasped in his long, dirty fingers. The Tramp tore a chunk out of it, mashing the synthetic meat between his square, yellow teeth.
“They took it over,” growled the Tramp, “took it all to bits and pissed over what was left. Cowards. A country of cowards. Eyes, everywhere. Coward’s eyes-”
“Let’s go,” said Marcus, tugging on my sleeve. “Let’s leave him. He looks scary.”
For once, I agreed with Marcus. We darted round the corner, just in time to see Jamie staggering out of McLaren’s shop, struggling under the weight of our burgers.
“You alright?” said Jamie. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”
By the time I got back home, the sun had gone down and the whole road was bathed in the soothing orange glow of the streetlights. A new family had already moved into mister Ameen’s old house. The whole neighbourhood had come out to greet them. My parents waved at the new family from the front garden. Our Monitor bobbed in the shadow of the open front door, it’s glowing eye fixed on my parent’s backs. The new family waved at everyone. They had a little girl with red pigtails, who kept darting from their car to the house in excitement. Their own Monitor hovered above the pavement, it’s eye shifting left and right as it followed the little girl’s movement.
At eight-thirty, the First Minister appeared in our sitting room. He always addressed the country in this way. In the old days, before the Reformation, politicians used to make important announcements over the radio or on television. I liked this way a lot better. Even if it was only a hologram, having the leader of your country speaking directly to you in your own home felt a lot more personal and comforting. My mum fanned herself. She has a small crush on the First Minister. Hamish Fowler loomed over my head, and flashed my parents a broad, shining smile.
“I have great news!” boomed the First Minister. “Our country is about to take the final step to complete the Reformation. Our security against Hate and Extremism will be one-hundred percent guaranteed.”
My dad was so excited by this proclamation that he leapt to his feet and started reciting the national anthem. Our Monitor bobbed up and down with glee.