The Wake of Britannia: Part One
Raised to be stupid.
Taught to be nothing at all.
Lady Mika was not the sort of girl you wanted to fuck with. Her gang knew that. Her school knew that. Her parents, despite being born with the curious birth defect of having permanently rose-tinted eyeballs, were starting to discover this as well. Lady Mika was a bit of a psycho. All it took was a five-minute conversation with the short, stout and freckled girl to learn this. Lady Mika had a weird pair of eyes. They were too big for her face and much too circular in their shape. Their colour was also askew. They were very, very blue and very, very bright, so bright and round and wide that it wasn’t easy to meet their gaze and the poor bastard that did was usually left mesmerised and gibbering like a madman for the best part of a week. As well as her eyes there were her fists, which were covered in pale brown splodges and hard as iron. Lady Mika was the sort of girl who countered any hurdle life threw at her with a bunch of fives. Her fists had yet to let her down. The Phillies knew that and so they kept well clear of her.
One day in the middle of autumn Lady Mika was loitering in the Wasteland with her gang. The Wasteland used to be a place where jockeys whipped their steeds into a frenzy to win races but now it was just a large patch of lifeless browny-yellow earth that had been rendered hard as concrete and flat as a pancake. The white fence that had once separated the beasts from the men had long since crumbled away, except for a few lonesome wooden stalactites that jutted up from the ring of dead earth like cavity infested teeth. The stands that had once housed the crowds were also in a dismal state: rusted and rotten and overflowing with coke cans and needles and used condoms and British flags and rain-soaked copies of John Stuart Mill’s: On Liberty. Lady Mika was the one that came up with the name for the Wasteland, although that didn’t stop any rival gangs from trying to claim responsibility. She had named it as a tribute to T. S. Elliot.
Lady Mika’s gang: The Royalists, were with her, staring at their leader in a hushed silence. Lady Mika herself was sitting under a scrawny tree on a blanket the Royalists had thoughtfully laid out. She was trying to recite Rudyard Kipling’s: Gethsemane but kept fucking up the second verse. Sir Lee was smoking a fag next to her, doing his best not to look bored. Admiral Smith, or Smithy when his parents were around was staring hard at the Lady, his scabby lips rustling as they tried to follow the jagged recitation with accuracy.
“The officer sat on his chair” sang Lady Mika in a voice that was uncharacteristically soft and mellow, like the reflected light of a buttercup under one’s chin. A low breeze played with her tangled brown hair so that it tickled her broad shoulders. This dislodged her from her blessed near-perfect state of recollection, and she swore and spat and started the line again. The two boys watched her closely. Admiral Smith wet his chapped lips and Sir Lee polished his monocle.
“The officer sat in his chair and men lay on the grass” she sang, this time with an edge to her tone “and all the time that we walked there I prayed my cup might pass. It didn’t pass, it didn’t pass, I drunk it when I met the gas, beyond Gethsemane!”
A moment of silence descended upon the trio of scallywags as they savoured the beauty of Kipling’s tragic poem. Then Lady Mika swore under her breath.
“Fucked that one up” she muttered “should have been another line of “it didn’t pass”. The pace was all wrong too. You need to be slower when reciting shit like that.”
“I thought it was fucking marvellous, m’ lady” breathed Admiral Smith. The boy’s usually gaunt and pale complexion was alight with an excited red flush and his dull brown eyes bulged with delight. “You said that was Kipling, yeah? Where did you read it?”
Sir Lee knelt on the blanket and in a magnanimous sweep of his hand offered Lady Mika a fag and lighter. She accepted both in silence, lit her poison, returned the lighter and it was only after her third drag that she deigned to reply.
“You know the Countess? She knows someone whose cousins being courted by a guy who collects stuff from the Index. Apparently, he’s got a whole library of these poems stored digitally. Anyway, he traded a bunch of them for the Norton Anthology- “
The Admiral’s face dropped.
“You swapped my Anthology for a bunch of fucking poems?”
Lady Mika literally froze. The last dregs of amiability that the lyrics had been imbedded in her freckled face withered away and her pink lips contorted into a snarl. Her fillings, all three of them, shimmered with the harshness of steel. Sir Lee sucked a nervous helping of air through his teeth and withdrew in silence.
Lady Mika turned her two terrible eyes on Admiral Smith. He squeaked and tried to smile.
“Sorry, m’ lady. I was-um-just…just taking the piss, that’s all- “
From the folds of her red dress Lady Mika withdrew a flick knife and with one fluid stroke of her forefinger, summoned the blade-as eager and ravenous as an erect penis.
“That anthology” rasped Lady Mika as her eyes drilled holes through Admiral Smith’s cerebral cortex “was a fucking gift, wasn’t it?”
“That’s what he said, m’ lady” whispered Sir Lee, his lisp more prominent than ever.
“Yeah! It was a gift!” croaked Admiral Smith to the pair of them. Lady Mika rose, her breathing sharp and laboured. She let her fag drop to the dry grass and squashed it under her heavy Doc Martins.
“So” continued the Lady “if it’s my fucking gift then that means I can fucking do whatever I fucking well want with it, right Smithy?”
The demoted Admiral practically crumpled at the question. With his shaved head and thin frame, he resembled a baby that had been left on the rack for too long and gotten itself all stretched out of shape.
He fidgeted with his uniform miserably.
“If you didn’t want her to sell it, why did you give it to her?” piped up Sir Lee.
“Oh, I’ll tell you why?” crackled Lady Mika “it’s because Smithy here thought that was his best way of getting into my pants!”
Admiral Smith’s cheeks darkened, and he stuck his bottom lip out in defiance.
“Fuck off” he whimpered “I never wanted to get in your pants! I got lots of ladies that I’m courting. Any one of them would be happy to suck me off!”