Sweating in the city with a day's growth of mould on my brow, mildew down the back of my neck and curling in twists around the tandem of my balls. Lice in my hair - close to formication - scurrying about as though they have business there. Extravagant scratching. Grime in the head. Scared? Yes, I'm scared. Scared of of coming home and finding sewage in the bedroom, chemical solvents on the kitchen floor, the lounge full of foul-smelling Lord Eric clones drinking my pretty teas, trying on the lampshades for hats, laughing with drug fumes puffing out their nostrils.

When will the rubbish get cleared, I ask.

That's the people's crap, I'm told.

Rats in the fridge. They like the health foods best. They breed in my head. That's the horror: my rooms full of turds, my head full of shit.

Eric taking over, possessing the city's soul. Risen patiently, from constable to chief of police, and triumphantly, by stunning coup, to Lord Eric of London. It would be easy to make this into one of those gothic horror stories, once so fashionable, but I have a mind to write a love story - as a refuge, like an oasis, like a Hampstead Heath, like a white angel in place of Lord Eric, like a blind neighbour who makes fruit punch that tastes of nectar.

I don't ring her bell, I shout. Manzi, the sewage men are here. Then she knows it's me. I hear her trill voice telling me to enter.

I take her in my arms. She's so handsome, untainted by all this. I never see the great city's death trickling down her cheeks. She has eyes that are sapphires. I want to carve out that exquisite colour and hang the gems on my wall. They are charmed amulets that will bleach the city blue. Darlings that will bleach me, and bring me back to new again.

She knows nothing of these thoughts.

She gives me fruit punch and I tell her the news. Lord Eric has converted the House of Lords into his own private living quarters. The Commons is where he briefs the police chiefs. There is a picture in the media of Lord Eric with his shaved head, wearing his black leather uniform, walking his poodles on the tea terraces. A survey shows one in five Londoners are now working for, or with, the police. Lord Eric has commanded the media to run full lists of the previous days executions in answer to the Socialists complaints about missing people. Audience numbers are also given. But I know other news.

I tell Manzi how the Socialists are beginning to coordinate better. In the beginning, when everything moved so quickly, all opposition was swept aside by the tidal wave of power, now there is hope. One of us nearly made it along the tunnels with a box full of explosives. Guy Fawkes style we dreamed of them all going up together, but a sewer burst and our friend was swept half-dead into the stinking Thames.

Manzi sits opposite me, I can almost see up her skirt. If I were to fall to the floor I could see where her thighs meet. She doesn't even know my age. There's no wrinkles on her skin. All she knows is I come for a hug and some fruit punch and then I go. Next door neighbours. Heaven and Hell.

Lord Eric hates the colour blue.

We take to the churches to preach revolution. Lord Eric counters by replacing all totems with idols of himself. Every back pew is crowded with policemen in black carrying machine guns. The media is warning the Socialists not to cut off the electricity to the West End Theatres otherwise the executions will continue using old-fashioned methods. Editorials are calling for less theatrics by the Socialists.

I tell Manzi secrets. She likes my stories from the underworld. She thinks I'm getting better, channelling my aggression, sifting the grit in my head. It would be heartless to dismiss her encouragements. My hugs lose their innocence. Finally I am on the floor crawling for a view of her snatch. I've not poked in more than a year. I'm lost. She doesn't mind the stink. The street trash falling off my collar, the old fat and tealeaves stuck to my knees, the dead rats behind my ears.

There's no more fruit fresh from the suburbs for the punch, but Manzi's drink still tastes of nectar. I tell her the news is colourful. Lord Eric is going to excesses. He has crowned himself king and had the crown jewels brought to the Lords. And for his bedroom he's brought one billion pounds from the Mint - in crisp fifty pound notes. King Eric and his poodles sit on the bundles for a photograph. I make Manzi laugh by telling how one of the dogs shat on a million. I give her whispers about the guns, explosives and flares we stole from the Reading Park patrols. I stare into those blue darlings, lost in the future that must be ours.

She comes to my apartment for the first time and I am chomping my heart between my molars. I gave the rubbish men money for drugs, I shovelled the dirt out of the lounge and locked the bathroom door. But there was no need, she transforms everything. Roses I'd bought long before Lord Eric smell sweet, the tables are polished, the floors sting with whiteness. Manzi, my love, you are my saviour.

I cannot bear her to leave, so I knock down a wall between her home and mine. Child innocent of the city. Manzi holds my hand, cleans the grime from my face with tears of joy; and whenever I fall to the floor, she tongues me to sleep.

We wait for the omen of a blue sky.

I shave my head. Marching concrete paveways, boots that blister, five hundred Socialists marching like Lord Eric clones. Fear. The river stink getting stronger. Big Ben chimes. That's twelve, and the crackers go. Chaos. Explosions. Smoke. Fear. Fear and running in the head. Running, running to Manzi.

I never was a Socialist really. No guts. Just a leader with a lucky charm.

Manzi. They got him. They dyed him and his dogs blue, then they drowned them in the river. Listen, Manzi, we won, we killed them all.

The days I'm home I wish I was blind too. Her loving clothes me in winter, cools me in summer. A few times we go out, to nice places where we can smell the flowers. Manzi, my love, did you save the world?

Blue darlings on the wall don't you stare at me.

Paul K. Lyons

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