Monday, 11 May 2015

Election Night

The sound of the rain on election night was a constant demanding drumming on the roof of the car, like a radio station tuned to white noise whose signal cut out as I passed beneath every one of the seven bridges between work and the polling station.  It was, I knew, my democratic right and duty to cast my vote and much depended upon it.   The car park, I noted with dismay as I drove into it, was a long way from the entrance.   A long wet way under the wet white noise.    But still I had my mark to make, and make my mark I must.  I locked the car behind me with a brace of beeps.   A bundle of fly tipped garbage propped against the wall of the desanctified church that was now a community centre moved unexpectedly and spoke.
“buy your name, mister?”
I was fed up of them.  These refugees from fairy were everywhere now.  Immaterial Immigrants crossing the border between every pair of upright stones or criss-crossed ash and elm branches.   Coming over here, taking our jobs.  And our children, and our dreams and names.  Luring us with wiles loquacious, lewd or low.

“No, sorry, still using it.”

The figure looked old and ragged, its sex indeterminate beneath the layers of spoiled sacking it sported.   Its face was apple-withered ancient and it was carrying a swaddled infant whose face looked even older and even more steeped in sin.    Students say that such beings cannot sin, being formed of entirely different matter than mortals.   Look into those eyes and say so, I dare you.

“Buy it from you, mister?   Just for a night.  Magic beans in it for you?”  A grimy grey claw unfurled revealing six beans of shimmering kaleidoscopic beauty, full HD and 3D in a monochrome low-res world.   I was tempted for a moment.  They were good at that, I remembered.   I shook my head.

“Need it. Sorry.”

I turned my back on them and pulled my collar up against the rain.   A high angry voice from behind called me a once born ape and ungrateful at that.   That was the one posing as an infant I supposed.   Ah well, that’s the youth of today for you.   I climbed the stone stairs and stepped inside the sanctuary that was a sanctuary no longer.  Notice boards and flyers advertising knitting circles and singing groups, junior necromancy and woodland rambling.   There were voting booths there and three identical old biddies with thick lensed spectacles and charity shop cardigans.

“Name please?”

I checked her eyes through the lenses, not wanting to be tricked into giving my name away when I only meant to give it…  She seemed as human as these busybodies ever could, so I said my name and received the voting slip.   Old style in the UK still, make your mark on the paper.   A man named Chad had come up with a mechanised system a few years ago, a handsome dimpled fellow.   They hanged him.  We do not like change.

I went into the booth and took up the tiny pencil (we trust our electorate to choose their rulers but will not trust them with full size stationery, that stuff costs sterling) and glanced down the list of names and parties.   All the traditional ones were there, the Conservatives, the Liberals, the rainbow of socialist alternatives and the clenched fists of the nationalists straining their sphincters to think of item 2 on their manifesto.   At the bottom of the voting slip were the newer candidates, their names moving and dancing in rainbow light and making songs in my head as I read them, promising all sorts in exchange for a simple little cross in the right box.

“Balls,” I said and made my mark where I meant to make it.

Pencil pocketed (they are right not to trust us) and slip folded and placed in its properly protected place I nodded my thanks to the three harridans behind the table and received respectively a smile, a scowl and a septuagenarian simper, then stepped out into the rain.    I deliberately did not detour far from the fairy beggars by the wall.   I was a participant in mortal democracy and not easily intimidated.

The larger of the two glowered gloomily at me as I drew near.   The smaller one, the swaddled one, the not-an-infant brandished a soggy rolled newspaper at me like a mushy wand.

“Tomorrow’s edition!” it screeched, “tomorrow’s edition!” And then it laughed loud and long, a noise like fingernails scraping down teeth, enough to set a chalkboard on edge.

The bigger one chuckled.

“Made use of your name did you?”   it said.   I confirmed that I had.  

“Should have taken the beans!”

I had a feeling it was probably right.

In response to prompts from Light & Shade Challenge (the sound of rain) and Studio30Plus ("Loquacious")


  1. Mr. Marlowe! So good to see you posting again! This is witty and tautly-expressed - a delightful read. And I laughed out loud at both the bit about "Chad," and "They are right not to trust us."

    Such a well-written scene. Thanks for this.

  2. Loved this and your conclusion is absolutely right. If I could get some magic beans rather than hold my nose and mark a ballot I'd see it as coming out ahead.

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  4. This was true. The waste we feel coming out of the booths. And the dying hope of a possible change in near future which comes never. And I don't understand UK still continuing with ballots. We (India) have EVMs. Makes sense that you have it too. Corruption mitigated or not surely has made the whole process easier.