The Lie of Democracy

Sol believed in destiny. More importantly, he believed that he could control destiny. At 23 years old, he was a god of life; the fact that Lucy had agreed to this date was proof enough. After all, she was already in a relationship. Sol felt no guilt over this. Standing outside the cinema, Sol’s face was full of grin. His head was full of plans. Tonight, he would take Lucy to bed.

The sun was about an hour from dropping away, and Lucy was almost ready for the date. She knew it was wrong but the physicality of the stirring within her was undeniable. She had no idea why Sol wanted her to see this film with him, but she also knew that there was nothing on earth that would prevent her from meeting with him. She imagined what he wanted too. It wasn’t that hard to imagine, to be frank. She’d seen the way he looked at her. But he wasn’t getting any tonight. Of that she was certain.

As Lucy approached the cinema, and the night put on its game face, the shadows turned and watched.

Sol knew that Lucy would say yes. He’d begun to make his plans before he’d even suggested the date. In a way, it was too easy. Like the autumn leaves falling, there was no choice over her actions. So Sol had made a game of it. Cinema, dinner, drink and bed was no challenge. They were just the book for the story; the glass for the champagne. Sol’s plans were thusly:

Some kind of monster movie. The expensive Hollywood type. He knew from talking to her friends that Lucy liked serious dramas – pretty much only went to the cinema during awards season to see the worthy films. So he picked a film she would never see. Some gigantic creature made of a computer programme getting hit by a too-bland hero-type. She would come out of the cinema bored, and hopefully disappointed. He thought she would be doubting her decision to meet with him. Next dinner. She hated fuss, so of course he had booked a white limo! Sol’s Dad had a business partner who knew someone who could go the whole hog for him in return for a favour instead of cash. There’d be a chauffeur in a uniform who’d open the door for Lucy. Once inside, there’d be bubbly and canapes (whatever they were – they came with the deal) and disco lights and music. Lucy might hate it or she might start to relax. Dinner was the trickiest of tasks, as it would be public. From all he knew of her, Lucy loved her food and would happily eat anything. Sol had friends who’d agreed to help with this bit. In Sol’s world, favours were currency and this one had cost him big. But it was worth it. For this challenge, for this girl, for this night. Dinner would be fairly straight forward. A popular and busy Thai. The evening would be going just swimmingly at this point. Until a heated argument at the next table got out of hand, and Sol ended up punching one of his friends. Sol and Lucy would be thrown out mid-way through their meal. The limo, booked for the night, would be gone. Sol would have to convince Lucy to walk to a bar he’d wanted to take her too. His favourite. A ten minute walk through back-streets and alleys. He’d arranged some more of his friends to spook them, with strange noises and a creepy homeless man act, en route. Finally, at the bar, which was his Dad’s there’d be no gin; Lucy’s favourite tipple. He was so confident in his own charms that after all this, Sol assured himself, Lucy would agree to come back to his for a self-proclaimed world-class fuck.

From outside of the universe, all you can hear is a discordant pounding. It sounds a little like a drum made of pain, and a little like a sarcastic laugh. From outside the universe, you can see it all; past, present and future. From outside the universe, you can see the hole where free will and choice don’t exist.

Sol politely kissed Lucy on the cheek as she arrived outside the cinema. It was the only independent cinema within 20 miles. It had two screens and the films usually started at different times. “I’ve bought the tickets already”, Sol said, holding up two flimsy pieces of paper. “Big Scary Monsters 2! Or something. Anyway. Thought it would be fun.” Lucy looked a tad uncomfortable, but smiling anyway, said “Ok, sure. Why not?” Was it Sol’s charm or something more? She couldn’t decide. She still wasn’t totally sure what she was doing here. But she took his arm and they walked into the theatre.

A hastily scribbled sign over the poster featuring the titular giant monster rendered in silhouette informed patrons that the movie had to be cancelled this evening, due to technical difficulties. A worry of memory came to Sol. An itch on the soul of his foot. Then it passed, forgotten. Music in the wind, indistinct, repetitive, fading. “No worries,” he said, chipper as ever, “shall we see the other one, or just grab a drink?” The limo wasn’t booked for another 3 hours. It was a long film. It was only 5.30. Too early to eat. “I vote for a drink!” he said.

Lucy was looking at the poster for the other film. It looked like a documentary. Sol hated documentaries. “I’ve heard good things about this,” Lucy said, her head tilted at a slight angle. “And it’s a bit early for me, no?” Sol looked at her intently. She barely reached his shoulder, despite her heals. Tight black jeans on skinny legs he knew would be wrapped around him later tonight. A flowery top smooth against her perfectly round tits. She swept her almost white hair behind her ear, and looked at him with bright green eyes, smiling. “Shall we?”

And so Sol and Lucy watched a documentary in the cinema, in a small town, in a fractious country, on an insignificant planet, in a pointless universe. As they always had and always would.

They were a little early for the limo, so Sol and Lucy stood outside the cinema. The sun was gone now, and the autumn chill was biting. Sol put his arm around Lucy. She didn’t resist. A piece of paper blew along the gutter towards them. It had a face drawn on it. It looked like the kind of picture a disturbed child might draw…all happiness at first glance, until you see the dead dog and all the blood. For a brief moment, Sol thought he saw something on the drawing move. Smile.

They were relaxing in the back of the limo, which had arrived on time. Lucy was pleasantly surprised to see one pull up outside of the cinema. She’d commented that she’s always wanted to see inside one. Sol wasn’t disappointed, despite his surprise. They’d both turned their noses up at that newly-valeted smell when they’d climbed inside, but that was soon forgotten once Sol popped the champagne cork. Now he was looking over some unidentified foodstuff, puzzling over its origin. He was, what Lucy might think of as, classically handsome. Dark, shadowy, angular, muscular. A knowing smile and a watery glint in his big brown eyes. “What am I doing here?” Lucy asked, taking a sip from her wide-bowled champagne glass. “I mean”, she continued while Sol tentatively touched the thing with his tongue, “I’m with Dan, as you know, and you could date anyone. Why me?” Sol grimaced, as if he’s swallowed rotten milk and threw the whatever-it-was onto the car’s floor. He swigged his entire glass down and refilled it. He said, “Cos I can.” He smiled. “I mean, you are beautiful and all that. I really want to fuck you.” Lucy recoiled. Knowing something instinctively and hearing it are oil and water. She couldn’t think of anything to say. Sol just sat there, looking like the very devil, pleased with himself. Glowing.

There was the noise of an explosion in the distance. A low rumble barely audible over the thumping beats coming from the TV in the limousine. At first Sol mistook it for part of the music. He was watching Lucy squirm, knowing he could bring her back from this point. And it would be her wish, her desire. He wouldn’t need to coerce her all at. He was high on his own self-worth and of course, the champers. Having admitted his plan, he simply had to follow the steps he had laid out. He was in control, but Lucy had the choice. It was up to him to write the propaganda for her to believe. “What was that?” Lucy asked, “that noise?” Sol said that he didn’t know – how could he? – but was sure it was nothing. Just a car back-firing or something.

“Anyway,” Sol said, topping up Lucy’s glass, “we’re almost at the restaurant now. Hungry?” Lucy nodded, smiling. The limo drove on down the street, passing shops, coffee houses and bars. There were empty, abandoned premises scattered about. And people. Wrapped up against the autumn night, scurrying to and from pubs and home and appointments and secrets. And therefore, there was no reason for anyone, not Sol and Lucy, nor anyone else watching the scene, to notice that a creepy child’s drawing was being dragged along behind the car, caught up in its slipstream.

Sometimes, sadly, jokes are funny because they are cruel, and mean, and you’re not the target of the punishment. The shadows turned to watch the limo and its stowaway, and chuckled, silently.

Sol and Lucy and the limo arrived at the end of the road where the restaurant was meant to be, to find nothing but chaos. They jumped out of the car and stumbled into the night, as a piece of paper blew past Sol’s face. He didn’t notice that the drawing was laughing now. He was agog at the scene before him. Half the buildings were rubble. Flames shot high into the velvet blackness. People ran, screaming and crying. Sol fell to his knees. His friends were probably dead. Everyone who’d been in the restaurant was probably dead. Later, those that survived – the limbless, the blind, the scarred – would learn of a simple gas leak in a popular restaurant that had destroyed their lives. Lucy walked on towards the flames against the tide of terrified people wandering, dazed. In the distance, the sounds of sirens approached.

Even the victor of this piece, existence itself, cannot outrun the future. The eyes that had been watching Sol and Lucy, those on the child’s drawing, knew their story was over.

As the oxygen was drawn to the flames pouring out the remains of the restaurant and its neighbouring buildings, like a dancefloor crowd is drawn inexorably towards the DJ, the drawing danced its last dance into the fire. Sol looked up, and watched as Lucy walked zombie-like towards the destruction. He resolved himself. My will be done, he thought. I am the ruler of my own destiny, he thought. Sol stood. For my friends, he thought. For their memory. For my friends I will finish this night. Lucy will be fucked.

Sol raced after Lucy, and grabbed at her wrist. “Come on. Let’s get out of here.” There was a moment of resistance, as she came to from her daze, but she came easily enough. They ran, hand-in-hand, back to the limo. “To my Dad’s,” Sol instructed the driver.

I have control. Always control, thought Sol. Lucy was in the ladies of his Dad’s bar. His Dad wasn’t there. Rarely was. Just the bunch of kids he left to run the place. It was heaving, as usual, but Sol somehow always found a seat or two or however many he needed. He’d composed himself in the limo. Ignored what they’d witnessed at the restaurant. He’d deal with that another time. When it needed dealing with. Which was not now. No point in worrying about stuff that hasn’t happened yet. Stuff that you haven’t planned, anyway. Sol could wade through mud to the beat of a marching band if it was part of his plan; he’d drift away on a silent river if not.

A few drinks and they’d be relaxed enough for Sol to take Lucy into the stock room and make good on his promise to himself. After all, he had a key and he had a mission.

Crawl inside a glacier and you will be surrounded by the most vibrant of blues. A perfectly over-exposed summer sky. And cold of course. Fucking freezing. But if you slow your breathing and accept that your underneath hundreds of tons of ice, something else occurs to you. You are trapped in time. The flow of the water has slowed to barely perceptible; but as ice, it still flows. And you within it. You can imagine the past, ruined; the present, alive; and the future known. Fixed. In front of you, downstream. And there’s nothing you can do that will change anything. So picture the scene as Sol takes Lucy by the hand and drags her into his Dad’s bar’s stockroom. She wants to go, but shows a token resistance. As we pull away for a wide shot, the room is full of well-stocked metal shelves and filing cabinets and crates of bottles and cans. The light is a different blue, mostly. A dark blue like the underside of a giant whale. Shadows creep and turn and watch. Sol begins to lift Lucy’s blouse. He feels a stirring in his loins. A momentary loss of control sees a leak spread across his pants. He slowly rubs his finger across the bottom of Lucy’s bra, and then moves to unbuckle her belt.

A piano plays a solitary note over and over again. Over and again. In slow motion, the beer barrel on the shelf above Sol totters and falls, smashing his skull to pieces. Lucy stands there for a moment, covered in blood and brains and death. She reaches into her bag and digs out her phone. She calls Dan and asks him to come and pick her up.