Selected

Most mornings were the same back then. I woke up, I had breakfast, I got dressed and went to school. 5 days a week, every week for 8 years. The morning in question was just another one of those. 1 Wednesday in 1 week out of 52, but when I close my eyes I can remember it all like it was yesterday. 

I can taste the corn flakes and fresh milk I had for breakfast, I can smell the toast and coffee my father was eating as he sat at the breakfast table across from me, I can hear the morning radio playing away to itself.

I can see the puppy-dog eyes Robbie, our dog, was giving me as he tried to guilt me into stealing him a piece of toast from my father’s plate.

I can hear the shower getting switched on upstairs and my sister wandering from room to room singing to herself as she busied herself getting ready for school.

Most of all though, I can hear my mother’s weeping. Over the radio, over my sisters singing, her weeping drowns it all out. I can see her face as she appeared at the kitchen door mumbling to herself through streams of tears, holding in her hands a blood red envelope.

I can hear the smash of my father’s coffee cup hitting the floor. I can sense the panic from Robbie as he scattered and scampered out the kitchen in fear.

I can see the deep, black lettering of my name on the envelope and I can see my mother’s eyes, bloodshot and haunted as she laid it down on the table in front of us all.

Dear Brandon,

As you are aware, since the enactment of the Bardow Selection (Scotland) Act 2024, all citizens of Scotland can be selected at random to become recipients of Dame Yanzi Bardow’s life enhancing medicine. It is estimated, but not guaranteed, that the medicine will increase life expectancy of the lucky recipient by an additional 50-80 years.

The legislation states, in line with the Transan Global Agreement 2024 (TGA ’24), any Transan Government introducing the use of the Bardow medicine must take appropriate steps to regulate the population of the country. Where a country does not take these steps, appropriate action will be agreed upon by the Transam High Court, Washington DC. To ensure Scotland adheres to the conditions set out by the TGA ’24, all citizens of Scotland can be selected at random to to be terminated.

I am writing to advise that you have been selected for termination.

Please accept my apologies to your family for this inconvenience, however I am delighted to advise they will be provided with a Government grant of £500 which can be used to part-fund your funeral proceedings.

Within 5 working days you will receive, by drone delivery, a package which you can inject to carry out the termination. Further details can be followed in the attached guidance document ‘How to administer your terminal injection‘.

If you have not carried out the termination within 5 working days of receiving the package we will take swift and appropriate action against you and your next of kin.

I thank you for your sacrifice and know you will join me in wishing the recipient of the Bardow medicine, Lord Morton Brown MBE OBE, well for his extended future.

THUG SI A BEATHA AR SON A TIRE, FUAIR SI BAS AR SON A TIRE

Yours,

William H Ferguson, Minister for Population and Environmental Control

I stood rooted to the spot, staring at that word. “Terminated”. A cold chill took over me and the room seemed to dim in colour. My stomach churned as the floor beneath me began to tilt. I felt like I was being spun round a kaleidoscope of greys and blacks. I couldn’t even take in the commotion around me. Mother had passed out on the floor next to me, my Father and Sister were fussing around her bringing her back to consciousness.

“Brandon?”

“Brandon??”

My Father’s hand gripped my shoulder tightly from behind. Still stunned and wobbly, I allowed myself to be spun around and pulled tightly into his embrace. His chest bobbed my head up and down as he quietly sobbed whilst simultaneously gripping me tighter and tighter as if he could squeeze away what the Government had decided on for his son. “It’s OK” he mumbled, maybe more to himself than me “I’ll do something about this.”

Since it’s commencement 5 years ago, every single recipient of the Bardow medicine had been some old, rich, white person. Whether a man or woman, they always had some initials after their name or had some connections to the Scottish Parliament or Scotland’s Royal Family.

We weren’t living in the slums, but we weren’t eating caviar every night either. I saw how hard my Mother and Father worked to provide for us every single week. My Father worked his job as a freelance journalist well into the evening most nights, sometimes starting his morning before the milkmen woke up. My Mother juggled three different jobs across the week including cleaning toilets every Saturday morning at our local leisure centre. Much of my Saturday morning social media mentions consisted of me being tagged in a recently used toilet with a witty message about my Mother cleaning up after them.

After the first couple of years of the medicine lottery we didn’t really take much notice of it. Media coverage tended to focus on celebrating whatever privledged person had become recipient of another 50-80 years on this dying planet. We didn’t really think it was ever anything that would ever affect us.

Of course, the person who the media now referred to as ‘the leveller’ i.e. the poor person selected for termination was always someone from a poor or working class background. A 46 year old joiner, a 25 year old Polish bus driver, a student nurse placed here in an exchange agreement with the German Government, a 17 year old black girl who had gathered a large following online through her brilliant songs addressing social issues in the country. And now me. A 17 year old mixed race kid from a working class background with two hard working parents who have only ever tried to live well and provide for their family. It stunk. Selected at random, yeah sure.

We sat together around the kitchen table and agreed to try to go have a normal day, the bills didn’t stop needing paid just because we’d received this. We’d talk again tonight, a bit of time would give us all an opportunity to try to think a bit clearer.

I opened our front door and was immediately blinded by a flash from a giant, remotely operated camera, it was sat on a tripod on large, all terrain wheels. Some journalist obviously didn’t have the balls to brave the outskirts of Edinburgh so had instead decided to send in the machines. Unfortunately, the camera wasn’t alone. Around 10 or 12 drones zoomed around above my head, each one with voices shouting questions at me as they swooped down towards me at increasing speed. With the focus on keeping my head remaining on my shoulders, I jumped back into the house and shut the door.

The following day was worse. Our whole family had been plastered across the media’s 24/7 breaking news ticker for much of the day and night. Sat holed up in the house we spent most of our time staring at eachother and consoling my Mother. That was until the next breaking news of the day exploded onto the screen.

The reporter stood in front of a grey stone pathway with a professionally trimmed garden running up either side of it. In his face you could see the reflection of blue and red flashing. As he tried to speak he was knocked sideways by a line of black-clad men wearing helmets and thick vests. SPS was emblazoned across the back in bright yellow and white reflective material. The reporter returned back onto the screen and began to describe the scene.

A hostage situation was ongoing and he had been told that the Special Police Scotland branch had surrounded the house and were believed to be attempting to negotiate with a lone combatant. Just as he was about to explain where the location was, my phone exploded with WhatsApp notifications. 20 or so urging me to click a link. Distracted from the TV, I clicked the link and was taken to a streaming site I didn’t recognise.

What I saw, I couldn’t comprehend. What looked like a balaclava’d man was stood in a large living room with a camera trained on him. A small older man, clearly terrified, was perched down in front of him with the butt of the man’s gun placed to his head.

With a large intake of breath my family were suddenly around me, eyes fixed on my phone too. The TV had been muted as we huddled round watching the small screen.

“I am the rich man’s nightmare.” the man bellowed. “for too long they’ve taken from us and filled their own egg timers to the brim. Lord Morton Brown. This privileged, rich, white, 76 year old man here has been randomly selected to receive the Bardow treatment.” for a second he had released the gun from the terrified man’s head to accentuate air quotes when he had said the word random. At this movement the older man had cowered and screamed.

“For the first time in your life, my privileged friend” he continued looking down at the top of the man’s head “you have been incredibly unlucky. Not only have you been selected to receive the Bardow medicine but you’ve also been randomly selected by me, the Reaper.. ” the word random triggered air quotes and a scream again “…for execution. This is for you Brandon.”

A pop filled the air. The older man slumped to the ground out of the grip of the masked man. Red spilled from the top of his head. The masked man walked towards the camera, he held up a piece of paper with the phrase “#forBrandon” and the stream turned to static.

The Game

Sam Thompson removed his jar of coffee and ‘Mr Grumpy’ Mr Men mug, placing it on the cabinet above him then emptied his pockets, placing his phone, wallet and keys into his small locker.

Zombie-like he trudged through to the clinically white small kitchen area and filled his mug with boiling water from the communal urn. Slamming the fridge shut he spun round and filled his large mug up to the top with milk.

It was 8 weeks since Sam’s wife had given birth to their first child, Harry. The period of paternity leave had been dream-like as Sam and his wife Holly had existed in their own little bubble, changing nappies, sharing feeding responsibilities and making lots of tea and coffee for excited visitors. The little guy had quickly become the centre of their world and at times Sam couldn’t remember what life had been like before Harry had come along.

One thing he could remember, however, and had been fantasising about since Harry’s Moses basket had replaced his bedside table, was how good it had felt to wake up naturally after a sleep longer than 4 hours. He was happy to split the baby responsibilities with Holly, he wouldn’t have had it any other way, but he missed his bed. He missed a decent sleep.

“Hey Sammy boy!!! how goes it?”

Jack Fennel flew into the kitchen area like a cyclone, slamming cupboard doors, throwing his tupperware lunch into the fridge and spinning to look at his workmate.

“Aye, not bad Jacko, how’s you” muttered Sam. It was as auto-pilot a response as you could get. All over their office-space you heard variations of the same conversation. Pleasant morning greetings followed by hollow small talk as people started their days. One of these days someone will answer that question truthfully, thought Sam, and the person asking the question probably won’t like the answer.

“Excellenttyyyyy” Jack replied enthusiastically in a faux Spanish accent. He was a morning person, everyone in the office commented on it. As sure as it was likely to rain in Scotland’s capital city where they worked, you could guarantee Jack would be bright eyed and bushy tailed first thing in the morning.

“Well?” Jack prodded at Sam’s shoulders as he trudged from the kitchen to his desk. “Well??” he repeated. Sam, concentrating on the task of not spilling his coffee during the walk, ignored him and slumped down into his chair. He unlocked his computer and turned to look at Jack. “What are you saying pal?” he asked.

“Wellllll???” asked Jack, a giant smile on his face and jazz hands shaking directly in front of Sam’s tired eyes. “Did you watch the game last night? It was amazing! What a masterclass from Messi eh?”

Football had been Jack and Sam’s common interest when they’d both started together at the company on the same day. It was an easy conversation piece to break the ice and as much as Sam enjoyed watching games when he was younger, in recent years he’d fallen out of love with football.

The outrageous sums of money shelled out by British clubs who were predominantly owned by Russian oil barons and Saudi Prince’s to kick a ball about had left him soured. In a world where his newborn child’s children may not even have a planet to live on, he couldn’t swallow watching talentless athletes being paid £100k a week to flop and roll about on the floor feigning injury in an attempt to con their way to a victory.

If Sam had a fiver for every time he had been asked this question by Jack – “did you watch the game last night?” – he’d have been able to pay to take Harry and Holly to Disneyland for his 1st birthday.

Whenever he was asked about the game which had been on the previous night, Sam had politely feigned interest with enough vague knowledge of some of the players Jack was enthusing about to hold a convincing conversation. After 10 minutes of an expletive filled rant from Jack about the influence of Italian defending on the Chelsea back line, Sam would nod, shrug his shoulders and turn back to his computer. This, he had learned, would signal to Jack that the conversation was over and he’d bound across the office starting up the same conversation with whatever poor soul was stupid enough to make eye contact with him. He was like an energetic puppy. But even the cutest of puppies urinate on carpets and tear apart your brand new sofa.

They had been going through the motions of this conversation about ‘the game’ for 18 months now.

“I’m saying” replied Jack in a mocking tone “did you see the game? You must have surely?”

“Do you know me and Holly had a kid 8 weeks ago mate?” replied Sam.

Jack looked at him blankly. “Uh, yeah. Enough about babies though! That’s women’s chat!” he laughed. “Did you watch the footy last night?” He shrugged off Sams question and pursued his opportunity to wax lyrical about Argentina’s greatest gift to the beautiful game since Diego Maradona.

“No mate. I was in my bed by 8 o clock. Holly stayed up to do the late feed and then I was up again at 2am to feed Harry. I didn’t get back to bed until 5am so I’m really quite knackered. Do you mind if I just crack on here? I’ve got things to do and I really need this coffee.”

“You didn’t watch the game?” Jack said, his face contorted in disgust. “It was the Champions League semi finals, how could you not have watched it?” he was incredulous. It was as if Sam had said he’d went into town and beaten up a few homeless people then burned down an old folks home for good measure. Jack took a minute to let this information sink into his hyperactive brain.

“Sam” asked Jack sheepishly. “Yes, mate” Sam replied without looking up from his computer. “Did you really watch the game or are you having me on?”

Sam’s heart thumped in his chest as his blood bubbled to boiling point . His sleep deprived brain sent adrenaline flushing throughout his body. Jacks mouth gaped wide open as Sam’s mouse disintegrated in his bright red hand. He flopped back in his chair before Sam grabbed him by the badge-covered lapels of his jacket and screamed in his terrified face. “I. DIDN’T. WATCH. THE GAME. YOU. IMBECILE” he raged. “I’M TIRED AND JUST WANT SOME PEACE. PLEASE JUST SHUT YOUR MOUTH!!”

He threw Jack back down into his seat and stormed off to the kitchen area. Breathing hard, he filled his coffee cup, slowly coming to the realisation of what he’d just done. Four of his colleagues popped their head round the kitchen door to ask if he was OK and to congratulate him on finally shutting Jack up. He assured them he was fine and just needed five minutes. He wasn’t proud of himself for losing his cool and felt bad for Jack, who just wanted someone to chat to. He shuffled back round to his desk with the intention of apologising.

“Listen Jack” started Sam in a low voice, his head dipped in regret “I’m really sorry about that, I’m not sleeping well since..”

“It’s fine!” interrupted Jack, puppy-like excitement had returned to his face and he was smiling erratically at Sam. “Did you watch the game though? You must have!”

By the time the twinkling shards of glass from the 3rd floor window had stopped raining down around Jack’s lifeless body which lay contorted, leaking pools of scarlet on the car park below, Sam was in his car and already out of the office car park. He opened his window and flicked on the radio, allowing the breeze to cool his adrenaline sapped face.

“This is BBC Radio 5 Live.” said the soothing voice of the radio presenter. “So, Maureen, before I ask you about what weather we’ve got coming this weekend, I have to ask you…” “NO!” screamed Sam. “DON’T YOU DARE!!” he shrieked.

“….did you watch the game last night?”

The Purge: Catharsis

These events take place in 2022, following a positive vote for Scottish Independence. Having left the UK, Scotland is now operating it’s third successful year as an independent country in spite of Westminster’s scare-mongering.

After the now famous “Pinkie Cleugh” riots which followed the vote, the British Prime Minister, Morris Johnstone, introduced UK Martial Law. The subsequent Parliamentary debate saw Westminster consider many options on how to bring peace back to the country. Following a fly-in visit and speech from John Stanford, leader of the New Founding Fathers of the United States of America, the Houses of Parliament marginally voted in favour of introducing an annual “Catharsis”. The Catharsis was considered to be the UK’s answer to the US Purge, where all criminal activity, with the exception of murder, was legal for 12 hours one night a year. It was argued that this would allow UK citizens (now Northern Ireland, Wales and England) to release their frustrations with everyday life in a healthy, cathartic way.

Despite the clamours from some minority groups, Scotland did not follow suit leaving it exempt from the annual Catharsis. The Scottish Army patrolled the border, with an agreement made between Scotland and the UK that anyone attempting to gain entry past Hadrian’s Wall after the commencement of the Catharsis would be, according to the Cross-Border Act (Scotland) Act 2020, “considered a mortal enemy of Scotland” and legally could be met with “extraordinary punishment”.

The sweating, red-faced official in the high-vis vest was visibly stressed and was speaking in double time. “I’m sorry sir” he blurted “I do understand, but it’s affecting more than just you I’m afraid. No trains have come North all day.”

“So that’s it then?” I said back to him. “That’s me stuck is it?”

“No, of course not” he laughed, struggling to convince himself, “we’re working hard to ensure there’s a minibus in place to take you back to Scotland before the curfew.”

I thanked him for his help and went and grabbed a coffee. I’ve never been a believer in fate but this was bloody typical. Stuck in Lancaster for the bloody Catharsis whilst these crazy English fuckers take out their daily frustrations on the closest poor bugger who gets in their way. I’m sure when they hear my Scottish accent they’ll not hold it against me, nope, course not.

Two events had taken place to leave me in this absolute worst-case-scenario. Firstly, after a really busy period I’d been on leave from work, having myself a week off to chill out, play Xbox and get reacquainted with sleeping beyond 6am. My boss had decided in my absence that I was in dire need of a “development opportunity”. That opportunity was, of course, a trip to Lancaster the day of the Catharsis to speak to a bunch of UK Civil Servants about my experiences working in the Scottish Parliament post-Independence. I’d been chuffed to read that email when I sat down at my laptop on my first morning back. Bastard. Secondly, some fud had rattled his Mini Cooper into a telegraph pole in Carlisle whilst checking his Facebook likes and had managed to take down all train services North of the Border, rendering Virgin trains and the Transpennine Express completely useless.

So at 4pm, I sat at Lancaster train station drinking a large latte, munching a Jaffa Cake and deliberating how I was going to get home. With 4 hours until the town shut down I was beginning to wonder if I couldn’t get home, where was I going to stay to avoid getting the shit legally kicked out me?!

The tannoy system was providing me with some really useful quarterly updates that I was essentially fucked. 6pm and went and I was fairly sure that this Minibus chat had just been a ploy to make sure all the Scots didn’t react hysterically. Of course there wasn’t actually any other fucker daft enough to even think about planning a return trip down South the same day of the Catharsis, so I was the lone Scottish idiot left to fend for himself. Fuckin development opportunity indeed.

By 6.30 I decided I needed to buckle in and prepare for the worst. I took off in search of a hotel. As I walked out past the doors the sweaty red-face gave me what I’m sure he thought was a sympathetic acknowledgement but it was more of a “sorry you’re gonna get your face rearranged” smile. It was starting to get dark and the streets were already really quiet. All the shops had their shutters down and there was pretty much no-one going about. It was eerie as fuck. I felt like Cillian Murphy in 28 Days Later wandering about London with no-one to be seen. By 7pm after a panicked walk along the cobbled streets I passed four different B&B’s all in a row that had the same “Closed for Catharsis” sign. Having tried to speak to the first three proprietors, I gave up having the same conversation with the fourth. There were no hotel chains in the town and things were looking pretty dire. I couldn’t even hole up in a 24 hour supermarket or garage. The hatches were well and truly battened down for Catharsis. At 7.45 I was sat in a park at the other end of the town when my phone chimed:

“Customer J Brown, a Minibus is Scheduled at Lancaster Train Station. 9pm. Press 1 to Book a Seat.”

I hadn’t replied to a text faster. I thumbed in 1 immediately. My phone chimed again instantly:

“Thank You for Your Booking. Departure is Scheduled for 9pm. Lancaster Train Station.”

OK! So that was it then. I had an hour to make my way back along to the station – probably a half hour swift walk – then I’d be back in Edinburgh in a few hours time. Thank fuck! As I contemplated my next move I was suddenly paralysed with sheer panic. What sounded like an air raid siren cut through the cold, dark night completely overwhelming my senses. For a second I was completely discombobulated, then I realised, it was 8pm. Catharsis was underway. Fuck.

I can remember sitting watching my first purge when I was younger. Me and my older brother had been looking forward to it for weeks. “Purge night, 10 days” we’d text each other countdowns like it was the Scottish Cup Final. When the night arrived we were set up with pizza, popcorn, juice, ice cream – all the essentials. We got logged onto our favourite Youtubers feed and sat back to watch the carnage. Carnage, is exactly what it was. I don’t know what it is about a young mind that is so attracted to watching something they know they shouldn’t be. This was madness. Chainsaws, people being set on fire, groups of hulking guys wearing crazy masks, souped up muscle cars running people down. Absolute madness. It was exactly what we thought it would be. But that was then. As you grow older you realise that this isn’t some entertainment show. You’re not watching the pizzazz of the Superbowl. This was real life, this was people literally being murdered in the street for your entertainment. It was morally corrupt and an absolute disease. Then we got independence and the Catharsis was dreamed up. Johnstone. What an absolute tool. In what world would you think that giving people a free pass to run riot and go mental for one night is going to further society? They only help themselves that lot. Jobs for the boys as usual. Catharsis Clean Up Services all across the UK funded by Downing Street and if it just so happens to rid the population of some of the burden on the health and welfare system in the process then that’ll be jolly good old chap. Wankers.

I made my way to the gates of the park in the pitch darkness. I knew which way I’d come and knew the town well enough to know the best way back up to the train station. I walked with a purpose but really didn’t want to attract any sort of attention, if there just so happened to be any young Lancastrians out for a stroll. Of course, as I got to the gates and out onto the dimly lit street I spied two men wandering down the street maybe 100 metres away, walking away from me. I cursed my luck and kept to the darkest parts of the streets, trying to maintain a quiet, but good pace.

I should make clear now that I am not a fighter. With the exception of primary school, when I swung Derek Bell round and round by his backpack into that wall, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a fight and if I ever was you could probably measure my confidence by the volume of urine running down my legs. I was hoping if it came to it, the fabled ‘fight or flight’ mode might take over or even better I would make like Bradley Cooper’s character in Limitless and unlock something in my brain from all the UFC I’d watched in my 20’s – of course I’d forgotten to bring my NZT pills with me, silly me.

As I got closer I could see that the two men had black walking sticks and Clockwork Orange masks on. Wonderful. They were swinging them round and round in their hands and walking arm in arm. To be honest I thought the extent of the Catharsis would be a bunch of chavs kicking wing mirrors of off cars, this was a bit too American for my liking. As I moved to within 10 metres of them but on the opposite side of the road I didn’t take my eyes off them. This felt like a great idea until I stumbled over a random can of juice lying on the pavement. Both of the Malcolm McDowell’s spun round on a 10 pence piece and ran towards me. At that point I did the manliest thing I could think of. I ran. Like fuck.

Running in work shoes isn’t an Olympic sport (yet) but if it was and the Scottish running in work shoes coaching team were watching Lancaster CCTV that night, I’d be living a different life right now. As it was, I managed to outpace my new friends, despite them screaming in unison “left two three, right two three” and “WON’T YOU COME AND WALTZ?!” as they ran after me. These guys really seemed to like A Clockwork Orange. Fair play I suppose, it’s better than watching Geordie Shore Season 16. They gave up after what seemed like a marathon but was apparently only about 5 minutes. I heard glass smashing and a car alarm blaring as, thankfully, it seemed they had decided to take out their frustrations elsewhere.

Sweating my ass off with my feet pulsing in agony (maybe the Olympic sport was a bad idea) I made my way towards the cobbled stoned main high street. I was probably about a twenty minute walk from the station now, I tried to slow my breathing down and get my head back in the game. If that was the worst the Catharsis had for me, I’d happily take it. Under street light I stood at the bottom of the main high street taking in the road ahead of me. The streets were clear, Lancaster seemed to have decided to give the Catharsis a miss this year, great news for me.

“Ye arite mate?” I spun. Someone was stood vaping in a darkened doorway only 5 metres away from me. If you hadn’t known they were there, you’d never have seen him. The smoke (vapour?!) looked incredibly cool in the darkened light. All I could see was the outline of this person. “em, aye” I mumbled. It was all I could manage. Oh nice one mate, I thought, real confident and imposing, bet this boys shiting himself now. He stepped out of the shadows into the street light smiling. He was a young lad in his twenties, bearded, long hair, dressed casually. No masks or black walking sticks to talk of, good start. “Been watching ye” he drawled in a deep voice. Weegie then, this was getting better and better. “Who ye running fae?” he sniggered. “Oh just these boys, chased me for a bit” I said “they had fucking walking sticks and masks and that. Mental.” I looked at him and he chuckled. “Aye this is fuckin mad like. I punted some daft wee cunt in the baws doon there earlier, didnae seem like he felt that cathartic after it” he pointed towards a statue in the centre of the high street. A man was lying in a pool of blood at the base of it, he was very clearly lifeless with his hands cupped over his balls. “Fuck me” I whispered to myself. “So” he said “you gaun on the minibus tae Edinburgh?” “Aye” I replied, pulling myself together. “Sound” he says smiling again “lets fire up to the station then”

We walked together quietly for a while at a good pace, it was a 5 minute walk to the station when the next treat arrived. “Good evening gentlemen, WELCOME!!” shouted a woman’s voice. We both glanced at each other, I probably looked like I was shitting myself, he had a wry smile. I assumed me and my new best violent friend had telepathically agreed to keep walking but when I dropped a gear and started walking faster I realised I was alone.

I heard a rousing “HOW’S IT GAUN LADIES?” and glanced over my shoulder to see my travelling companion standing with his arms wide open, illuminated in front of 12 women dressed in what seemed to be pagan ritualistic robes holding burning lanterns. What the fuck was this now. At this point in time I’ve never wanted to ride in a minibus so much in my life. I checked my watch, it was 8.40. I was torn between turning round into the inevitable turmoil or legging it to the station. I had a free run. I guess ‘fight or flight’ kicked in for me and it chose the former, much to my displeasure.

“WE ARE THE PENDLE WITCHES” shrilled the middle woman. Her features were sharp and it felt like she was looking directly into my soul. “WE WILL GIVE YOU SAFE PASSAGE IF YOU BEND YOUR KNEE AND PAY TRIBUTE TO OUR WITCHCRAFT.” Fuck me. Witchcraft now? I was a little stunned to be honest. I was standing staring at all 12 of these scary looking women when I heard what sounded like running water. “BEND YER KNEE INTAE THAT YA FUCKIN BOOT” shouted the Glaswegian. He was standing taking a pish right in the ‘witches’ direction. Course he was. “CAAAAAAAM AAAAAAN” he shouts and runs straight towards them. As he was running he pulls something shiny from his pocket and goes straight for them. I thought the only way I was getting back to my bed was if I join in so I went for it too. These witches had hammers, spanners, they had big fuck off bayonetts and chains. Adrenaline took over, my mate had set at least three of them on fire. I was punching, kicking, head down and smashing into everything. When all was said and done I looked up and the weegie was pummeling a body over and over and over. He turned and smiled at me. “Right chief, Minibus time”. We both laugh hysterically and run like fuck.

I’ve never thought a shitty white minibus had looked so good in my life. We jumped straight in and the driver slammed the door shut. “You’re the only two” he says, “lets get the fuck out of here”. He explained to us that the Minibus was immune from the Catharsis and therefore it was plain sailing to the border. I drifted off for a while but was awoken by the driver shouting. “Passports lads”. The massive gates opened at the Carter Bar and the border security popped his head in, his face immediately lit up at the Glaswegian. “Heeeeey Davie!!” he shouts “another year another Catharsis eh? Where’d you end up this year?” “Ach, Lancaster mate, was quite pish this year” the bearded nutter says in response. I look at him in disbelief. Is this a thing?! I think to myself. He shrugs his shoulders and gives me a wink. Mad bastard.

“John, if you could write me up how that meeting went in Lancaster last week by close of play today, that’d be great” my boss gives me his usual smarmy condescending look.”No worries” I say “it was definitely a learning experience….thanks for volunteering me”.