The Secret Party
When I came close I saw the vivid neon lettering shining warmly in the dark. I was just standing gawking at it when two bouncers threw a man outside. He acted like he was being thrown into a shark tank but as far as I could see he was only being asked to leave the building I was about to enter.
It was quite a beaten up old looking dance hall or club. I went into a foyer with threadbare carpet and poked my head in the box office window where there was a girl chewing gum.
“You here for the greatest show in town?” she asked.
I looked through the double doors to my left to get a glimpse of what was going on inside. There seemed to be a good atmosphere leaking through the crack.
“It’s free to enter but you can only spend one hour here. Jesse and Thomas will show you around first,” she said, reaching for a wrist band, and then throwing to me.
“Put this on. When it beeps you have three minutes to leave.”
This was a pretty weird setup but I rolled with it. Jesse and Thomas seemed really pleased to see me, Jesse in particular.
We went into a red room with a bar, left and a stage about thirty feet away along the back wall. There were two doorways to the right.
“Sure,” I said, sitting on a bar stool between Jesse and Thomas.
I was about to ask for a Long Island Ice Tea but the barman poured something. It tasted wonderful but swallowing it was even better. I instantly became twice as alive as before and the room became alive with it.
Needless to say, the thought crossed my mind that I’d been drugged but it vanished as soon as it took form. I just felt so good. There was no room for negativity in my mind. The band started playing a bossa nova, or something close enough, and I instantly felt the need to mingle on the dance floor.
“Excuse me,” I said, glancing at my hosts apologetically and ambled over.
It was the most joyous thing to dance around others. To see their smiling faces and beautiful body language, movements mirroring their mood and personality. I was trying to figure out why. Then I realized that it was because I wanted for nothing and the absence of want allowed me to fully immerse myself in the moment and start to unlock its secrets. I could see myself spending the rest of the hour just doing this.
“Hey. Don’t go running off just yet,” Jesse said, with a smile and took my arm.
“But this is so much fun.”
“It is. But there’s more to see. Now stick with us because believe it or not this place can be dangerous.”
I nodded but I didn’t believe them. The whole room looked totally cool. Come to think of it, how many places really had been? When I was kid I had this idea that adulthood was when the fun really started. I would go to parties and clubs and it would be such an adventure. But everything started going horribly wrong. Teenagers didn’t know how to throw parties, clubs damaged my hearing. Life was a banquet but society had no table manners.
“Just let me dance a little more,” I pleaded.
Jesse pulled me away firmly and I turned to take one last look at the people who could kick it. I swear tears ran down my cheeks. That scene was the best and being torn away from it was weirdly tragic.
“Come here, big guy,” Thomas said, as if he felt my pain.
My head was buried in his chest as he took me to the next room. It was a swimming pool with sun loungers and another bar. Everyone turned to look at me, as if I were a cherished friend. I only glanced at their faces but instantly felt a strong desire to know each one of them and hear their story. On other hand, the water, attractively tinted in the artificial light and illuminated by lights on the bottom, was as inviting as their smiles. The dance floor was suddenly very old. This was the place to be. Eight minutes had passed.
“This place is so not dangerous,” I said, looking around at all the friendly faces. Well, not really. There was a fight in the corner between two men but I didn’t see much of it because Jesse covered my eyes when it broke out and moved me on to the next room.
It has been nice hanging with Jesse and Thomas but then they started bickering about the fight. Thomas saying I was going to have to know sometime and Jesse saying it wasn’t right that I should see something like that.
“You’re his chaperone, not his mother,” Thomas hissed.
I didn’t like seeing my friends squabbling but I was starting to get distracted again. We walked back down the hallway. One room was low lit with joss sticks and chaise longues. People were incredibly chilled. It was kind of like an opium den without the opium and I wanted to lie down and be stroked by someone. Again, I felt Jessie’s arm.
“Come and have an ice cream Jessie,” she said and for the first time she irritated me. What was I, a child? I wanted to explore for myself.
We sat in a brightly illuminated ice cream parlour. It was nice, I guess. But I was in no mood for ice cream. Jesse and Thomas weren’t talking to each other but they sat gazing at me as if they loved me but couldn’t express it.
As we were eating I saw another man walk in with his two chaperones.
“We’re good,” he said. “I still have about a half hour.”
“Don’t forget,” said his companion. “An hour is a ballpark figure.”
“Oh, sure,” the man said with a shrug. He looked so pleased and a lot less fidgety than me. “Just an average. Look, I don’t want to go anywhere else, anyways. I just wanna hang here with you guys. Sit tight and I’ll get your ice creams.”
Then his wrist band beeped.
“Oh, well I guess that’s it,” he said with a rueful smile.
“I’m afraid so.”
I turned to look at Thomas and Jesse.
“Make the most of your time here,” said Thomas urgently and as if by way of explanation.
I suddenly felt angry. Like I’d been cheated. Why was I here, in this bizarre and mysterious place, for such a short time with so much to see and do yet so little time to do it in? Minutes ticking away and apparently any second the sword might fall.
“Can I go now?” I asked.
Well, with hindsight it was hardly adequate but they let me go. Jesse nodded. I was glad to get away. Time was ticking away fast, eighteen minutes on the clock already, and they were getting in the way of my fun.
Back in the hallway I felt a great sense of freedom. So many rooms, so little time. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to resist whichever one I stumbled upon and I hoped I’d be able to tear myself away so I could see what else there was.
I walked past one girl asking another if she’d seen the show.
“This is the show, isn’t it?” the other replied.
“Yes but there’s the show within the show,” said her friend.
I think I found the place they were talking about. ‘The Best Movie Trailer in the galaxy’. Only three minutes long and people rushing out afterwards like squealing school children. Of course, I had to see for myself.
It was a very moving film. A life changing experience, actually, and I knew I was a better person after I’d seen it.
“Are you deliberately blocking the doorway or are you a moron?” I asked a large woman who was bimbling around in front of me on the way out.
"Ok, that was bad," I said. "I've just seen a film about being good to others and I was horrible to someone straight afterwards. Not cool. I'm sorry"
As I said this I was standing in front of a vending machine. The greatest vending machine in town, of course, with all the best snacks and more.
"Are you talking to yourself or the vending machine?" a voice said besides me.
"Not really sure who I'm talking to. God, perhaps."
"Why not talk to the girl?"
"Because I'm a coward, I guess."
I looked up at the girl and I could see that I might have a companion for the next however many minutes. And maybe for life. She realized as well as I did that time was of the essence.
"Hey, my date at the 'Princes of the Universe ball' bailed out on me. Are you coming?"
She was about three points out of ten higher than I was accustomed to, of course I was. We got to the entrance of ballroom.
"Do you mind if I use the loo, first," I asked.
"Hurry, I've only got about ten minutes," she said. "Maybe less."
I went into the toilets. It was a ridiculous, chaotic scene. Somebody lying in their own sick, someone else sitting on the loo face buried in hands.
I kept myself to myself and took the longest piss in history.
"Come on! I hate you bladder."
I left the loo and went back to the ballroom entrance only to be denied.
"Please sir, can you wait one minute. We're currently full."
"Right. Well you see I just met this girl and she has to leave soon. Could I at least get her number?"
"I'm sorry, sir."
"Ok then, be a wanker."
"We've room now, if you'd like to go through."
I barged through and looked everywhere. No, no, no. She was gone. I leaned against a wall and sank to the floor.
My wrist band beeped but that was absolutely fine. I wasn’t the same person I started out as. I felt jaded. You’d seen one room, you’d seen them all. They were welcome to them. I saw the exit sign and walked towards it.
There was a girl standing in the doorway who asked me if I’d had a good time.
“It’s the greatest show in town,” I quipped. The girl took my tag and looked at the display. As she did so I looked to my left and saw a closed door. I could just hear the faint sound of music coming from it and it was like nothing I’d ever heard. For one thing, I wasn’t just hearing the music, it was somehow inside me and I wasn’t just listening I was part of it and I was happening to the music as much as it was happening to me. I don’t know if it was the voice of angels or the music of the planets but it was the most beguiling sound I’d ever heard.
“What is that?”
“That’s the secret party. That’s the greatest show in town.”
“Then what was all this?” I asked, making a quick sweep with my hand of the rooms I’d been into.
“That’s the audition.”
“Oh,” I said with a sense of foreboding. “Did I pass?”
She shook her head sadly. "I'm afraid not. But we're looking for chaperones if you're interested."
The two-year old grabbed her around her waist and squeezed.
‘Gentle, darling.’ Sandra gasped.
Juniora was getting stronger. Soon Sandra would have to become even more wary. She knew the safest would be to hide and wait till her daughter was five or six years old and could be reasoned with. Some women in her village did that but Sandra couldn’t. Juniora was her baby and her duty, and hadn’t it been like that since the dawn of times? The Giantess brought the biggie when it was the woman’s time. The woman was then obliged to care for her biggie. If she did her job well, the biggie thrived and shrank in time to a manageable size. The key was to survive till the biggie began to comprehend. Before that happy moment, it was nothing extraordinary for a woman to be clasped to death or strangled by mistake. The biggie would cry for days afterwards. Sometimes it would die of neglect as there was no one to care for it. The biggies required so much care that a woman could only afford to maintain one. Sandra felt for the orphaned biggies. It wasn’t their fault that they were five times the size of their mothers. And casualties were unavoidable, as the Giantess said.
Whatever the risk, Sandra couldn’t leave Juniora. The biggie could get lost in the woods or perish some other way. The Giantess would then return and hand Sandra another baby. To the Giantess it didn’t matter who cared for the biggie, but Sandra was afraid she might not love another baby as much as she did Juniora.
Juniora dropped her to a sandpit. The baby’s bulky legs gave way and she first sat and then lied down. She rubbed her sapphire eyes with her dimpled fists and started purring to herself.
Sandra dusted yellow dirt off her dress and approached her baby’s head. She stroked Juniora’s chubby cheeks, and the baby smiled drowsily.
‘My beloved girl,’ said Sandra, caressing the giant chin, and Juniora brought her lips closer and offered her little mama a kiss. Baby’s saliva soaked Sandra’s dress but she felt warmth spreading in her heart. She patted her baby girl some more until the heavily eye-lashed lids shut. She felt grateful it was summer and she didn’t have to fetch the blanket. Spreading several meters of the heavy material over the sleeping biggie took her at least half an hour.
‘Good morrow,’ someone whispered behind her back.
Sandra turned on her heel and spotted a tiny wrinkled woman the size of her hand. The woman had to be very old. In a year or two she was likely to disappear. Sandra wondered sometimes if shrinking really meant dying. Her people reduced in size as they grew older, but she feared that while they were no longer noticeable to their folks, they could still wander among them. She stopped herself. It was blasphemous to think this way. The Giantess insisted that the moment one could no longer be perceived by the others, she perished. Who was Sandra to question their leader?
‘Can I help you with anything, grannie?’ Sandra knelt beside the stranger.
‘The members of the secret party are gathering at dusk by the old oak. Come and join us, my child.’
‘Who are the secret party? Are you sure it’s me you wanted to invite?’ Sandra couldn’t feel more taken aback. Why would anyone want to invite such a nobody to a gathering of any sort?
‘You are the last link to our chain. Tomorrow the world as we know it will end. We need to prepare.’ After uttering the last word, Grannie started withdrawing deeper into the woods.
‘What do you mean? Please wait!’ Sandra leapt to her feet and followed Grannie, but the little woman ran fast and soon disappeared in the foliage.
Sandra returned to her sleeping biggie and wondered what she should do. The orange sun was ready to set. She checked on Juniora. The baby lied on her side, sucking the thumb the size of a small tree. She was unlikely to wake till morning and Sandra could risk leaving her for an hour or two. The secret party intrigued her. Not much happened in her village. Biggies occupied all their time. Between feeding, putting to sleep and avoiding being squashed, there was little time for pleasure. What if she did join the gathering? Grannie said something about the world ending. This unnerved Sandra. What could she mean? Would Juniora be safe in this new, changed world?
She decided to go. It was better to understand what was about to happen. She checked on her biggie again. The baby slept soundly.
The woods surrounding Sandra's home turned murky. In the twilight the tree brunches seemed to change into long hands that wanted to grab her ankles and so she started to run. She stopped only on sighting a large fire burning in the middle of a clearing. Several women, some tiny as Grannie, some a similar size to Sandra, squatted around it. They all turned their heads towards the newcomer, as the twig crunching under her foot gave her away.
‘Greetings. Come and join the circle,’ Grannie beckoned her with a smile.
Sandra bowed her head respectfully and, stepping towards the fire, glanced at her companions. She didn’t recognise a single one of them. Their dresses and scarves varied in style but were all made from rich colourful fabrics. Her own bleached linen dress seemed oddly out of place. She felt even more insignificant than usual.
‘The secret party is now complete. The wise, the beautiful, the faithful, the fearless, the generous, the merry and the kind-hearted,’ Grannie turned her head to each one of them, starting with herself and ending with Sandra, ‘are all present. The visitors can be brought.’
Sandra followed with her eyes one of the smaller ladies, the fearless if she remembered correctly, who broke from the circle and disappeared behind a large tree. The other women’s tense expressions told Sandra that they waited in as much suspense as her. Who were they expecting? And what did the visitors have to do with the end of the world Grannie mentioned earlier?
The fearless brought two strangers one of whom held a small stirring bundle in her arms.
‘Meet Christine, her partner and,’ Grannie hang her voice, ‘their baby.’
The women started speaking one over another.
‘What is this? Why is the baby small? Everyone knows only old people are tiny! Why do they both care for the baby? It is always one woman and one biggie. There can’t be two!’
Grannie raised her hand to silence the circle.
‘There is much to explain. First look at Christine’s partner. What do you see?’
Sandra peered into the stranger’s face. The woman was unlike any she had known. Broad-shouldered, narrow-hipped, flat-chested and muscular. Was there hair growing on her chin and under her nose?
‘Johan is unlike any of us. It is he, not she. A male,’ Grannie explained.
‘What is a male?’ the beautiful inquired.
‘It is better to ask what does a male do,’ corrected Grannie. ‘A male is a partner to a female. He gives her offspring. He cares for her and their baby. He loves her.’
‘That can’t be true,’ the faithful protested. ‘The Giantess brings babies.’
The remaining women nodded their agreement and rolled their eyes in outrage.
‘And what does it mean that he cares for her and the baby? The mama has no one to care for her. It is she who gives care,’ the generous added, biting her lips, clearly uncomfortable with the insinuations that the world might not be what it had always seemed.
‘Look closer at the baby in Christine’s arms,’ Grannie commanded, and they all approached the stranger. Christine smiled at them coyly and unwrapped her bundle.
‘What is that thing between her legs?’ the merry, clearly short-sighted, squinted and bent her head towards the baby. ‘Is the baby sick?’
‘He is in perfect health. It’s a baby boy. A little male.’
‘Does the Giantess know about him? What did she say?’ the faithful wondered.
‘The Giantess does not know. She is no more.’
‘It can’t be! The Giantess is eternal and omnipotent,’ the beautiful protested.
The women started crying. ‘What will happen to us? What about our biggies?’
As the women moved away from Christine, Sandra came near her and the baby and reached for the little foot. It was soft and fitted in her palm. How lovely it would be if Juniora was that size. Sandra could cuddle her. Women would no longer be squeezed or trampled. Was it what would happen now when the Giantess had perished? But would the biggies be safe? What if more of the he’s came and wanted to give the women their own offspring?
She glanced at Grannie, the wise one, asking a voiceless question.
‘The kind-hearted has good reasons to worry,’ Grannie said, and the ladies shifted their eyes to Sandra who coloured under so much attention. ‘Christine and Johan came to warn us. The Giantess was killed by the he’s and their army is coming to conquer us. They come from a land where women are sparse. They perish birthing their offspring.’
‘Birthing?’ The beautiful opened her eyes wider. ‘How is that even possible?’
‘You’ll learn sooner than you may like,’ Grannie whispered more to herself than to the others. ‘The world will never be the same again.’
‘Will they hurt our babies?’ Sandra overcame her timidity at last.
‘They will,’ Johan responded, and they all stared at him, amazed at how low his voice sounded. ‘They always kill the offspring that is not theirs.’
‘How will we save our biggies?’ Sandra asked again.
‘That’s why the secret party was called. We need to find a way,’ Grannie said with gravity.
‘But how will we fight them? We don’t have their strength.’ The faithful looked at Johan, fear in her eyes.
‘We know how to avoid being squashed by the biggies. We know how to sidestep,’ Sandra suggested with power she never suspected she had. The love to Juniora filled her with might. She would protect her or die trying.
‘Evasions are good, but they won’t be enough,’ the generous shook her head. ‘What else can we rely on?’
Nobody answered. The women and the strangers glanced at each other, hoping someone else would suggest a solution, but then they looked away. There was no easy answer.
Sandra looked at them all. She remembered how Juniora had kissed her before she fell asleep, how she traced her every step with the loving baby eyes when she bathed and fed her, how she squeezed her to show her affection. No. Juniora would live. Sandra would think of something. She glanced at the circle of ladies: the wise, the beautiful, the faithful, the fearless, the generous, the merry and the kind-hearted. Sandra felt as if power larger than the world entered her body and twisted something in her often lazy head. Suddenly she saw the situation with new clarity.
'Only by working together the circle becomes stronger than each of its links,’ she said. ‘Let’s join our hands.’
The women circled the fire and linked their hands. They looked at each other initially uncertain but then calmer and focused. A strange wave passed through them as their bodies touched. Their minds connected and became one. Christine and Johan stared at the circle enthralled. The light shoot in the air as if the fire in the middle of the circle started spreading. But it wasn’t the fire. It was the power the circle produced. The power of wisdom, beauty, faith, fearlessness, generosity, merriment and kindness. The power no man can overcome. The power that would help them protect their biggies.
Chapter 6: The Secret Party
It was midnight by the time Alex Salmond personally raised the saltire above Westminster. There was no wind that evening so the old Union Jack was burned beneath the flagpole to provide an up draft and stop the flag from hanging limp. According to reports Salmond cried and toasted a ‘wee dram’ to the memory of Nicola Sturgeon – killed exactly a year earlier by Tory insurgents.
It all happened so quickly. Nobody saw it coming. The BBC had been too busy focusing on John Swinney’s SNP to care too much about Salmond’s retirement. Another referendum was just around the corner, they said. Perhaps even Wales might follow suit. Newscasters spoke of Sturgeon’s murder provoking a ‘nationwide political upheaval’. Though London, of course, was largely unaffected. David Cameron denounced the Tory ‘rogues’ and went back to Brussels, still grinding away at getting ‘a fairer deal’ in Europe three years after the British public decidedly snubbed Brexit. Scotland was in turmoil, but after the initial period of shock things returned to normal in the Houses of Parliament. That is until what came to be known as the Secret Party stormed the capital.
The reality was that Alex Salmond had not retired. While the media thought he was putting his feet up in an Aberdeenshire cottage, mourning the loss of his successor, he was, in fact, forming what came to be known as the Scottish Liberation Force – or the SLF. From the depths of Dumfries to the barren slopes of Shetland, the SLF recruited patriots thirsty for revenge – wee Nicola would not die in vain. Secrecy was integral. Not a word was spoken about the SLF in public. Children were kept ignorant. E-mail and phone conversations about the SLF were strictly prohibited, causing a resurgence in the use of the postal service. Pilgrims travelled to Dundee, the unofficial headquarters, to crystallize their confidentiality by signing their names in blood. Traitors and their families were threatened with exile to St. Kilda, severed from communication until after the Tartan Revolution. Arms were sought and plans devised. A slogan was settled upon and repeated under the breaths of Scots all over the country: 'Haud yer wheesht… Freedom is coming'. The people waited for Salmond’s order.
In the early hours of an April morning the order came. At 3am thousands gathered at a bus depot on the outskirts of Perth, where Brian Soutar’s complimentary fleet of buses grumbled in the darkness, awaiting their cargo. By the time the convoy passed the border John Swinney had declared a state of emergency in Scotland, claiming another terrorist attack had taken place in Edinburgh. And indeed it had, although not a real one. A few dozen SLF members had set fire to a derelict plane at the airport, and Swinney stoked the rumours of an attack well into the afternoon, by which time the SLF convoy had slipped into London relatively undetected by the national media. Salmond’s plan was working.
At exactly 7pm the unofficial Tartan Army streamed down Whitehall and Horse Guards road, choking off access to and from Downing Street. The Metropolitan Police, being largely unarmed, were too terrified by the sight of a few thousand Scotsman wearing kilts and brandishing AK-47s to offer much resistance. Before the military could be mobilized, Swinney let loose to the BBC the fact that Trident was pointing squarely at Buckingham Palace, remarking live on television to a stunned Evan Davis: ‘At long last the Scots have found a use for nuclear weapons’. Cameron’s attempts to escape were foiled by the SLF’s use of ‘greetin’ gas’ – an electric blue tear-gas that was shot through the windows of his office. The SLF, within a few turbulent minutes, had commandeered the helm of the entire country.
By the time exploratory American drones flew over the skies of London, Salmond had Cameron informing the nation of the various changes that were to be enacted immediately. Scotland was now an independent country, and would most certainly be allowed to use the pound. George Osborne was to be locked in the Tower of London until it could be scientifically proved that he possessed empathy. Theresa May would be placed under house arrest, surveillance camera’s punctuating the walls in every room of her house. Jeremy Hunt was to be trained as a nurse and made to work in the Accident and Emergency ward of Ninewells Hospital in Dundee for the considerable future. The Queen’s Highland residence of Balmoral Castle was to be exchanged for a tenement flat in the Springburn area of Glasgow. The Welsh would hold an independence referendum immediately and the Northern Irish and English would embark upon another election within the week. Voting Tory was permitted, though extremely discouraged. Trident was to be destroyed and nuclear weapons indefinitely banned from the once United Kingdom. Finally, a vote would be held to decide the fate of David Cameron himself. Since the death of Nicola Sturgeon, and much before the SLF revolution, his popularity rates had plummeted, even among the upper classes. The vote was to be the last decision made by a four-nation United Kingdom. Citizens were encouraged to discuss their ideas on social media via the page ‘Cameron’s Fate’ and write their requests on their ballot papers in the coming week.
As he stood there, making his last speech at the lectern in-front of 10 Downing Street, David Cameron was visibly shaking. After relaying Salmond’s demands – all of which were greeted with unanimous warmth, in Scotland and beyond – Cameron’s face, gleaming with nervous sweat and its usual varnish, appeared to contort into what The Guardian later described as ‘an attempt at sincere regret’. In the coming weeks, when the decision to publically humiliate and then extradite David Cameron and his family was settled upon, The Times reported that he actually shed a tear (though this fact is much disputed). He now lives in Saudi Arabia.
However, not all of the SLF’s requests came to fruition. George Osborne, having locked himself in his office, was found dead a few hours after Cameron’s broadcast. The legend goes that in an attempt to locate his CV amongst the various documents connected to the withering British economy, he disturbed a rather lofty stack and was killed by his own unbalanced budget. A state funeral was not provided.
The Britain of today would be unrecognizable to someone existing in a pre-Tartan Revolution Britain. Stephen Fry’s position as Head of State for England and Northern Ireland might well surprise citizens familiar with the monarchy. The switch to a 100% renewable energy grid, a movement spearheaded by Caroline Lucas, would also shock those used to oilrigs instead of solar floats bobbing around the North Sea. However, perhaps the most startling difference would be found on the faces of the people. In pre-Revolution Britain various social issues, from extreme poverty to lack of affordable education, blighted the lives of the majority of British citizens. However, these ailments have largely been eradicated. While America imploded under the notoriously disastrous rein of President Trump (see Chapter 10), a new age of British excellence emerged. Thanks to the extension of free healthcare and education to all of its citizens, the land that was once known as the United Kingdom can now call itself, courtesy of a recent mental health poll by the WHO, ‘the happiest cluster of nations on earth’. The so-called Secret Party pulled off the most peaceful and most successful revolution the world has ever seen.
A statue of Nicola Sturgeon now stands in Trafalgar Square, beneath which the words ‘Haud yer wheesht’ are emblazoned on a block of granite. Every year thousands of Scots make the pilgrimage from Perth to London in celebration of the SLF’s achievements and to commemorate ‘wee Nic’. The statue is the official end-point and the spot where Alex Salmond makes an annual toast to her memory on the anniversary of the revolution. ‘To the wee girl fae Irvine’ he booms to a crowd of thousands ‘who made the free world’.