The glitzy eye of the capital dimmed by savage wage cuts, job losses, unlicensed pawn shops, rampant racism ,and those over fed piggy bankers.5am: Underneath Waterloo Station . It stunk of skunk- sick man’s urine and a hungry bull mastiff. Empty cans of Stella -KFC chicken boxes ,and orphaned ,pound store socks lay strewn across the mouth of the underpass. Sitting on a crinkled grocery bag : Dutchie a streaky- haired scrawny seventeen year old stretched her arms out. Stage school flunkey, and forgotten acting ingénue. Now part -time flower arranger and full time coke addict. Defiant in charity couture. Underneath a beige rain mac she was trussed up in a lime green spandex leotard -red polyester micro mini ,and sheer stockings mottled with runs. A pair of three inch black pleather kitten heels, swaddled in a fleece -lined navy hoodie neatly bundled by her side. Sodium street lights colouring her elfin shaped face. Her heavy lidded violet eyes flashing violently as a lanky, pony- tailed rake about nineteen, slumped in front of her. Scruffy genteel in bleached baggy -denim a porkpie hat ,and drab- green Adidas sweatshirt. On his feet scuffed, branded trainers splattered with months of missed opportunities, bad luck ,and hard nosed rejection. Ichabod Funk (Ich). Homeless -music school drop out spliff -social poet ,and street- scammer . Ichabod trotted around selling stolen shit, useless intel ,and mobile phone sims. With his big expectant eyes and child -like view of the world he was waiting for a miracle or something close. His shattered suburban dream of becoming ‘someone’, shredded in the excrement of social cleansing. Still strictly small -time he had stumbled on a Baudelairean hangout The Horseshoe a few miles away in Portobello Road . His pinched nasal voice overridden by a see- saw lilt .
‘We gotta go. C’mon.’ Dutchie looking at him sourly.
‘It took me five hours to get this space.’ She spoke in a muted winter -weary tone as if the frost -tipped tongue of December were licking her fingers raw.
‘I have a place for us to go. C’mon.’ Ich gathering up the rain stained lightweight duvet -sample sized toiletries and a half drunk bottle of mineral water. Everything they owned housed in disposable plastic bags they lugged around town. They left behind their cardboard sheets and Milky Way wrappers . Most of their time was spent stalking shop doorways and empty benches for places to rest. Blocked by an ugly slew of spiked barriers. A sharp reminder of their homeless status. Erected steel fangs positioned over warm air vents to stop them snatching even a few minutes of snooze time. Dutchie attacked by a nest of erratic cocaine -sprayed thoughts. Hate festering in the bowels of her mind as she watched sparkly party -goers slink by: Pretty long haired bitches with your bottled tans talking- titties singing asses and fake eyelashes -judging me with pouty lip disgust I had a life too once upon a time and who are you to judge if I shove my fist in your satin -glossed mouth ? Are you gonna scream and shout? Sometimes I can’t change my tampon for days. Sometimes I wipe the dried blood off with my little finger . And all I can eat is stale cheeseburgers -micro flipped for a minute . Will I wake up dead ? Just another statistic in an unmarked grave .You look at me like I’m a slimy -back -sliding spider -struggling to climb outta a sink hole. I got big dreams -just ask the angels. Ask them if I’d be forgiven for stabbing you in the throat. If I could wash my fingers in warm peachy soap .And not the public scum -furred toilets where that pimpled -chin sex perv’ with lice in his beard- masturbates in front of me while I’m trying to take a dump. Guardian reader! With your patronising smirk . You make me puke offering me free lattes ,in your ethnic -free -trade hempy skirt. I’m just a way for you to bag likes and shares as you take another pic for your growing twitter feed. Here’s one for your Majesty ! So beloved of gushy American tourists and the English middle classes . Why am I the outsider ? And why are you ENTITLED to shit on me and plant your royal arse on acres of land without worrying about paying the tax man ? The poisoned parasitic slurp of the English Monarchy fucks us all. What kind of sicko world is this where hordes of people stand in line to catch a glimpse of your smug little face and grovel at your feet begging to shake your grasping white- gloved hand as if you were Jesus Christ?
Dutchie’s intestines angry . Her sore swollen stomach weeping. She stumbled and shuffled her way out of the hallowed sleep- spot tugging Ich’s sleeve as he carted their belongings on his back.
‘They treat us worse than strays. Lost puppies and cutesy kitties can get a pat on the head and a warm fucking bed for the night.’
‘Don’t worry. We’re gonna be fine. We’re going to The Horseshoe. I’ve met someone he’s gonna help us out.’
‘You’ll see.’ They trudged through a maze of jagged back streets and alley ways. Half moon, sweat circles dampening Dutchie’s underarms. Pinging the elastic on her leotard she tried to air her unwashed body.
‘Do you think we’ll always be living like this? I feel worse than yesterday. Like my soul’s choking.’ Ich drumming to his own beat marched on without listening. Dutchie morose, continued jabbering Her voice getting louder and more desperate .
‘How long before we get there ?’ Ich just shrugged his shoulders and kept going. Dutchie straggling behind him. It was always the same. Whenever they found a deserted place to camp out, they’d have to move. Like a never ending story with no final chapter in sight. But it was that long, twisted chain of tension she hated the most. She always had to be ready . Always worried something was going to blow up.
Sometimes Dutchie thought about life before her mother died. She would close her eyes and let her mother’s voice float inside her. It reminded her of a four leaf clover , a tiny square snatch of blue sky . Ice cream Sundays. Mostly it reminded her of a way out. But that feeling didn’t last long and her daily tableau of survival always brought her back to the moment.
6.am the skies were reddening like a Boschian /Hirst mash up. They were still a few minutes away . Passing a passel of unknown arty types ,noodling around on the edge of insanity ,and a slouch of elderly junkies clumped together for their grave -yard fix. Dutchie saw one of them toying with a switchblade. She hurried after Ich. Finally they arrived outside a narrow ,nondescript building with a U shaped doorway. Ich led them inside. The bar was empty save for some sorry slacks at the back, a thin- boned Chinese barman ,and a corner table flanked by three refrigerator sized black- suited baldies. Behind them sat a small, slithery looking man: Zipmouth. Dapperly dressed in a custom made navy checked wool suit, and cream button down shirt. He had a shock of cinema- bouffant silver curls, framing huge walnut -sized black eyes. De-rigeur Grand Cayman tan setting off a strong hawk nose thick mutton chop sideburns ,and a misshapen zip -stitched gash – mouth. It was the kind of visceral Freddy Krueger moment that stretched from your eyes and stayed in your stomach for weeks. On his lap a slim beach-bunny blonde. Even sitting she was a good head taller than him. His voice activated by a mechanised electro throat -back . A hand held battery powered device used by people who’d lost their voice box. He pushed the blonde aside and ordered Dutchie and Ich closer. An American – accented tinny robotic voice slicing the air:
‘Come. Here. Let. Me . See. You.’ Ich dropped the bags. Folding his palm around Dutchie’s frail petal thin wrist. They walked gingerly towards the table. The three heavies stepping aside.
‘I’ll . Get. Straight. To. The . Point. I can see you’re in need.’ Dutchie wincing. A sharp intake of breath. She tried her best not to stare at Zipmouth’s lopsided jaw. But she seemed fascinated by it. Ich squeezed her hand and she changed her focus. Concentrating on Zipmouth’s eyes. Snappy- black -hard and bright . As he leant forward she noticed a floppy wattled strip of skin dangling from his chin. It reminded her a little of shop- worn cut -price Christmas turkey.
‘Ichabod . Does. Me favours from time to time. Tomorrow my crew are int- ter -cepting an electronic cash transfer from Wonga Wonga Bank. We need you to create a diversion inside. We have clothes and disguises. You’ll be given details tomorrow and paid after the job. Any questions?’ Neither of them felt they had the right to ask any questions.
‘Good. Here have a little fun on me.’ He handed Ich half a dozen red disc shaped pills stamped with a skull and crossbones. Ich popped one straight away . Dutchie slipped a couple in her pocket for later. Zipmouth ended the conversation casually.
‘See you kids tomorrow. Sharkie has everything you need.’ Sharkie a paunchy pigeon- nosed lummox ,dressed in a velour jogging suit escorted them out. He trashed their belongings in a nearby dumpster and handed them a shiny new case of mixed apparel . Dutchie secretly wondering if they had gotten her size right. Sharkie chauffeured them to a discreet, gated apartment in Central London. They entered the lux hideout with a mixture of awe and excitement. Sharkie left them a few minutes later, with instructions to be up before noon. On the table in the main room a bouquet of assorted fresh flowers gift wrapped candies and a generous basket of seasonal fruit. A state of the art high -res plasma screen hung on the wall in isolated glory and underneath a built -in desk and fully stocked mini bar . Dutchie was the first to speak. Squealing like a hopped up hamster . Clapping her hands over her mouth in disbelief:
‘What the fuck is going on ? This is like some Bond bollocks or some other freaky shit. Who WAZ that guy? Did you see his mouth? Jeezus . Really fucking freaky. And how the fuck did you do this?’ She waltzed around from room to room dazed by nouveau comforts. Periodically erupting into fits of giggles. A small kitchenette stuffed with snacks, pre -packed meats soft drinks, and vegetables proved too much of a temptation. Dutchie helped herself to fun -sized chocolate bars and potato chips throwing off her plastic heels. In between mouthfuls she fumbled around for the little red pills and swallowed them . Washing them down with a can of Red Bull . Then she plonked herself onto the bed. A queen sized -double -deluxe pine fold up. She felt the pristine line between her thumb and forefinger and buried her face into the soft covers. Plumping the pillows and bouncing up and down on the mattress. Ich was quiet- almost sullen. He sat down cross- legged on the floor . Just staring weirdly at nothing. Dutchie made a beeline for the bathroom. Hurriedly she stripped off and filled the tub with lavender scented foam. Frothing around in complimentary bubbles. A three second grin breaking into an impromptu rendition of the Clash version of the classic Bank robber. Performing to an invisible audience. She grabbed the shower head using it as a makeshift mic, radiating liquid joy as she lathered up.
‘Ma daddy was a bank robber who never hurt nobody. He just loved to live that way and he loved to steal your money.Ahhhhhhh.’In the lounge Ich pulled out two more pills and popped them down his throat . Then he lit a cigarette and took a deep drag.
‘Ugh.’ Two splutters later he snuffed it out with the ball of his thumb .
On the other side of London Zipmouth: Fixer , trafficker and organ harvester was briefing his small clique of cutthroat body snatchers. Getting them ready to prowl the city looking for fresh blood . Paid to maim and on occasion kill potential “donors”, for a myriad of medical procedures. Of course you couldn’t just pop body organs out .Zipmouth’s recruits had a tried and tested method involving one whack to the head and a potentially fatal dose of morphine or fentanyl. Earlier that week he had already met with a high ranking administrator at an exclusive London hospital and had created a stack of forged consent release forms, and death certificates to validate donation. He had a select, medical team ,private ambulance, and a dozen ,obscenely rich patients on standby. Transplant tourism once, a thriving black market economy limited to China, India, and West Africa had gone global. The spike in world diseases meant there was now an unprecedented demand for replacement body parts. Zipmouth liked to squeeze as much as he could out of a deal. Hearts, lungs ,and livers were all hot properties but kidneys were the most prized on the black market. Zipmouth could get as much as eighty thousand pounds for just one, on black market rates. He preferred harvesting kidneys as they were generally easy to remove without too many complications. He attempted a smile . His liver -spotted blue -veined hand clicking the electro larynx .
‘Thank . God. For . Heart disease high blood pressure and diabetes.’
Ten am : At the apartment. Ich and Dutchie were lost in eternal
slumber. Their bodies entwined. Their faces inches apart. Dutchie’s freshly washed locks threaded with the golden rays of morning sun. Her lips half parted like a tulip in bloom. A look of utter relief on her face.
By Saira Viola
Illustration Nick Victor