The tube is busy but quiet. The only noticeable sound is the screeching of the brakes as the rusty vehicle comes to a stop with a jolt. Most people are looking at their phones. A man reads The Silver Dawn. Those who stare out see nothing but their reflection in the dark windows. Others are carefully focusing their gaze on nothing. I am standing in a corner, inconspicuously placed, leaning against the wall. A bright red ad for Raxycylin is right next to my head. Concentrate. Learn. Perform.
I’ve got to be at the coworking space in 35 minutes, ready for the interview – Philip Waring finally agreed now that he thinks he can conquer a few souls through our magazine. What an arsehole, keeping me waiting for six months. We really need this interview, our circulation figures have reached an all-time low. But Philip is bringing his content assistant, so that does not bode well. I wanted ‘The man behind the radicalisation of the world’ to be the subtitle of my piece, but I’m pretty sure his assistant will put a stop to that. I’m using my old-fashioned notebook to fan and cool myself down in this overheated carriage. It’s not working at all.
A girl with the symbol on the side of her Nikes is sitting on the seat next to the door. She looks at me suspiciously, I look around too much. I bow my head, cast my eyes to the ground. I didn’t know Nike sold this print. I’m carefully trying to get a better look at her shoes. The radio is smudged, now I see it; she has drawn the letter on the side of her shoe herself using Tipp-Ex. She can’t be older than twenty. Would she even know what Tipp-Ex was used for?
The next stop. The cameras move silently along with the disembarking passengers. Stand clear of the closing doors please. 請不要靠近車門.The doors do not listen. The right door of our carriage gets stuck, stays open. An alarm sounds – not loudly, but loud enough to draw a few glances our way. I glance at the door. As long as it won’t close we’re not going anywhere. A red cloth seems to be stuck between the mechanisms. Someone could pull it out with a bit of force, but no one does anything.
The alarm keeps sounding, attention is drawn in my direction. People are getting fidgety. I consider my options. Almost all seats are taken, but my fellow passengers are sitting further away from the scene, so they don’t have much to do with it. That’s the way it works. I am surrounded by three people. To my left there’s a woman wearing headphones, cut off from the world. I can see her scrolling through FreeReds.com messages on her phone. Maybe she’s listening to their show, although she doesn’t look red. But you never know. After a terrorist attack the perpetrator’s neighbours always say he was such a nice guy, wouldn’t hurt a fly. Anyway, this FreeReds woman doesn’t hear the alarm. Do I see someone moving? I dare not look. To my right, diagonally opposite me, are the girl with the Tipp-Ex shoes and a boy. Both dressed in all black, both wearing a bomber jacket. They act as if nothing is wrong. I am the only other person standing here. The only adult male. It is up to me.
At the previous stops, the doors just opened, as much as the rusty hinges would allow. There was nothing wrong. Well, there’s always something wrong of course, but I mean: there was nothing wrong with those doors. How did this cloth get between the doors? Did somebody put it there?
The camera follows me while I take a step towards the squeaky door. The alarm seems to be getting louder and louder. I can feel my fellow passengers’ eyes on me. I try to move as briskly as possible. What did my father teach me? Don’t show any insecurity. No fear. The gloves are off. Just as I reach the open door and grab the piece of cloth, someone, a dishevelled-looking man with a guitar on his back suddenly comes running towards the tube from the platform, which I thought was completely deserted. He rushes in and I barely manage to take a few steps back. Everyone in the carriage is on high alert. We all know it only takes one so-called ‘confused’ person for the fragile status quo to turn into misery. The homeless man grabs his guitar and starts singing through the door alarm loudly and off-key.
Oh Mr Waaaaaring, Oh Mr Waaaaaring,
Nothing but sweeeeaaaaring, Why don’t you shut up for once.
The song does lend a certain urgency to my interview. But could this man please just shut up himself? The girl with the radio is looking furiously in his direction.
Sarah Sinclaaaaaair, Sarah Sinclaaaaaair, Really doesn’t caaaaaaare,
The people have been cheated!
Shit. A baby starts to cry. The alarm is going off incessantly. The homeless man is about to start his next verse. People are watching. I’m supposed to interview Waring in 32 minutes. I have to do something.
‘Look, it won’t surprise anyone that there’s something fishy about it,’ Waring says in his most recent video discussing the ‘suspicious’ death of a member of the Resistance. He calmly takes a puff of his electronic cigar. He is sitting at a table with a black velvet tablecloth, surrounded by more black. A single candle burns in the middle of the table. The scene has a serious Wicca quality to it. It looks like the trio at the table – Waring and his companions, Sarah Sinclair and Luke Robinson – are about to get out their Ouija board, start summoning a spirit, calling on the elements. This wing of The Resistance has adopted this gothic look as an aesthetic warning against what they call the ‘dilution’ of society. They call themselves not left or right, but northern: organised, strict, clean, black-and-white, as opposed to southern: chaotic, disorganised. Coloured. They are not a political party but a ‘movement’. They use runes, the scripture of the Germanic people. The rune in the upper right corner of the screen matches the atmosphere in the studio perfectly.
Waring blows out some smoke. ‘When we get the facts straight, it’s clear as day that there is more at stake. One.’ He is counting his points on his fingers. ‘There was no autopsy. Two. No investigation into his death. Three. He died in a Belgian Airbnb with a pillow over his head. Four. The Airbnb booking was made with an anonymous credit card that cannot be traced back to him.’
Luke Robinson used to be a lawyer and never wastes an opportunity to use that to give his words an air of credibility: ‘Don’t forget Philip, point number five, that the Denbighshire superintendent said he would like to investigate the matter further, a clear sign that he, a policeman for God’s sake, doesn’t trust what’s going on either.’
‘Yes, Luke. You’re right.’
Sarah Sinclair joins in with her friends. ‘And the Greens, well…’ Waring and Robinson nod before Sinclair has even finished her sentence. ‘They’d rather get rid of a nuisance like him.’
It is about 35 degrees in the carriage, despite the open door. I wipe the sweat from my forehead and before the homeless guy gets a chance to start the next verse I push him aside and grab the cloth. I pull it out of the door in one go. The cameras follow all my movements. When I unfold the piece of cloth I can see that it is a flag, brilliant white letters against a bright red background. Before I know it, mobile phones are pointed at me, people are taking pictures. At least five CCTV cameras are pointing in my direction. The homeless man is beaming while he puts his arm around my shoulder. I immediately drop the flag, but it’s too late.
The girl with the radio shoe stands up and pushes the homeless man and me towards the door. Right before the tube starts moving I manage to open the door and escape.
When I arrive at the coworking space an hour later, sweating, my editor has already called me saying she wants to ‘talk to me’, I have twenty-seven notifications from messages in which I have been tagged, and I lost at least a quarter of my followers. Waring and his content assistant have been waiting for me for some time. There is little chance he has not yet seen the images, but I’ve got to try to speak to him anyway. I owe it to the editors of The New Gazette. They have been hammering away at this piece for so long, it could be our salvation.
Waring switches on the Samsung Neo Frame when I enter. He looks furious. ‘You call yourself an independent journalist?’ A photo of the tube carriage appears on the screen, showing an unhappy figure in a dark brown leather jacket, a flushed face and a huge red flag. Next to him, with an arm around his shoulder, a scruffy-looking man with a guitar is smiling and posing for the photo. They seem to be best friends. On the flag, in huge white letters: ‘PHILIP = A FRAUD’.