Rain had been falling steadily all day long. But, despite the soaked clothes and dripping heads, the people had turned out in their thousands to gather at small town and village halls, scout huts and community rooms…
Daniel Barker listened as the thunder rumbled overhead. The terrific sound echoed through his dark drawing room like a gunshot caught on the wind. The very pictures on his walls seemed to quiver in fear and anticipation whilst the roaring fire beneath the mantle piece flutter back and forth as the wind whipped down his chimney.
A flash of lightning soon followed, illuminating the dark room for just a moment. As Barker turned back towards the two armchairs by the fire, the bald headed man sat in the farthest chair was bathed in light. Gripped between his fingers, a whiskey glass rocked gently back and forth, swirling the brown liquid around the crystal edges. Then, in the blink of an eye, the room was plunged back into darkness and the bald headed man disappeared from sight.
It had felt like hours…
Hours of standing by the window, staring up at the dark, lifeless sky overhead. Even the stars had vanished behind the wave of unforgiving storm clouds – their brightness no longer shining down on the noble city below…
Barker allowed himself a small smile.
Had this been a film or a novel, he might have taken these harsh conditions as a sign of an impending disaster or the beginning of some evil times. The atmosphere was perfect for the beginning of some relentless struggle that would eventually lead to the downfall of anything good and pure…
But this wasn’t a film. Nor was it a novel.
This was real life.
And the date was 23rd June 2016.
The day Britain voted whether they should stay in or leave the European Union.
Time ticked on and the hours slowly plodded by. With each passing minute, Barker could feel his heart begin to pound ever harder in his chest. With each passing second he could feel himself stood on the precipice of a cliff, staring out towards a brave new world…
A world where Britain would be Great again…
A Britain that he would lead into a new Golden Age…
The quiet tapping on the door made him almost jump out of his skin. As he turned towards the door, his private secretary stepped into the drawing room and cautiously moved towards him. In his hands, he held a small piece of paper, which he held out for Barker to take and said:
‘The count is finished. I thought you would like to be the first to know…’
Barker accepted the paper tentatively. He nodded slowly to his secretary.
‘Thank you, James.’
James gave a small bow and quickly retreated back towards the door. As he retraced his steps towards the door, his eyes scanned the dark area by the fire as he looked for the bald headed man. It was only when he reached the door that he dared to rip his eyes away and, in a few seconds, scuttled out of the drawing room.
Barker stared down at the paper.
It was folded but not sealed. Even as he held it in his hands, he could see the paper flutter up and down as his fingers quivered with dread. He had imagined this moment so many times over the past few months but, now that it was here, he was hesitant to open it up and see what was written inside.
He must have stood there for a good long for, out of the darkness, a low, brooding voice – not unlike the thunder itself – growled:
‘Well? What does it say?’
Fingers trembling, Barker opened up the sheet of paper and, in the light of a nearby table lamp, he read the final results.
He read it. And then he read it again to be sure. And then he read it once more so that there could be no more doubt. And then he read it for one last time before: -
Barker looked up at the darkness by the fireplace. The bald headed man’s head seemed to flicker with the flames of the fire, seeming to Barker almost like a Devil dancing up against the blackness.
He took a deep breath.
‘We won,’ he whispered, his heart leaping in that moment as though speaking those words had finally made it real. ‘The people have voted to leave.’
He screwed up the paper and tossed it on the floor, stamping his foot on the ground with glee as he turned towards the city beyond the window…
Laughing and beaming like a kid in a sweet shop, we rapped his hands together and applauded the faceless thousands out there who had made his joy possible.
‘The people have spoken,’ he roared, tapping the glass of the window feverishly. ‘We have them all.’
To his surprise, the darkness behind him stayed unnervingly quiet. In fact, it was only after Barker’s wave of enthusiasm had subsided and the room had fallen into a comparative silence that he began to hear the distinct murmur of a low chuckle emanating from the chairs by the fireplace.
As he turned back towards the room, he could see the figure of Tommy Haines climbing awkwardly out of his chair and slowly waddling towards him.
‘On the contrary, Mr Barker,’ he replied, almost jovially. ‘People are fickle. They will choose one thing today and quite the opposite tomorrow. We cannot leave anything to chance.’
He came to a stop in front of Barker and clapped him on the shoulder with his large, bulging hands. He half smiled and stared hard at Barker with his shark-like eyes.
‘We haven’t won anything yet, Mr Barker,’ he whispered through his toothy grin. ‘We’ve only just gotten started.’