6 june 7 am.
I guess by the time you are reading this I'll already be on my way and you'll probably still be at work, sneaking a few cheeky emails during break. Anyway, just thought I'd get in touch with you so you know what's going on. I know you asked me to do this a few weeks ago at that party you brought me to when I told you I was being sent off and I dunno if you were really serious or not but you seemed like you were so here I am, writing this email.
Not surprisingly, the skies are thick and grey this morning. I take a last look around the room, engage in the sheer filth of it, somewhat relieved at getting out of here but also very nervous about going off to Unemployment Island. You hear stories about it there, you can’t tell really what’s credible and what isn’t and since there’s never really any news coverage about it, but the one thing I’m excited about, well, two things actually, is that first of all, the weather is meant to be fucking spectacular. I mean, like sunny all the time, warm, like being on holiday.
The other thing I’m excited about is getting out of this shit hole. I’ve been here, what, a year and a half now? God, I can’t believe it’s been that long. But getting out of here, getting away from these assholes who do nothing but sit around getting high and watching television or trying to come up with new ways to steal food from the Tescos or finding the best food dumps in the city centre, is a blessing I’ve been waiting for for, like, forever.
So this is it. From here, bags packed, the bus is going to pick me up at 10 this morning and take me to the ferry or the liner or whatever the fuck it is, and then we’re off! I can’t wait. Just to get out of here, escape this miserable fucking weather.
Hey. Well, we’ve had a bit of a hold up. The bus got to me ok, it was fucking disgusting. Filthy - all the people in there seemed to smell although maybe it was just my imagination, my expectation, I’ve heard so much about it already.
Anyway, I got on the bus and it took us down to the harbour where we were all supposed to embark on whatever this vessel is that’s supposed to take us to the island like and wouldn’t you know the idiots fucked it all up. The bus pulled up and the driver made this little announcement about there was some mix up and the boat which was supposed to be here had only just left where it was arriving from so it was going to be a few hours of waiting. They let us off but the whole area is caged off. You can walk around on this asphalt car park which has nothing really but a bunch of buses, most of them empty, but on the perimeter of everything are these huge fucking chain link fences with razor wire at the top so if anyone was thinking about getting out instead of waiting, they were kind of fucked if you know what I mean.
People started complaining straight away, you know how people are. Fuck, they started going on about how they didn’t want to be here anyway and couldn’t these officials get anything right without fucking it all up and they didn’t want to stand or sit out in this fucking car park with nothing to do, nothing to eat. I mean there was nothing there, I’m not kidding. Not even a fucking hot dog stand or you know, selling jacket potatoes or whatever.
And as usual of course, it’s raining out. Just a little drizzle, just enough to make you wet, gradually like until you are damp and then you are soaking through, like water torture, quiet water torture when you start off with a few drops of water on you but it starts soaking into your skin and then your skin is saturated (is that even possible, I dunno, but that’s what it felt like) and then the water is just everywhere, everything’s fucking wet and miserable and these people are just sitting around complaining and you’d think jesus, why don’t they just sit in the fucking buses where it’s at least dry and I tried that myself even but then I realised, it stunk in there so bad, without the windows down and the bus moving so fresh air could get in the smell was just horrific. Like a combination of sulphur and I dunno, wet socks and a whore’s perfume. Something like that.
Anyway, they look like they’re getting ready to make some sort of announcement so I’d better move back over to where everyone is. I’ll let you know later what happened. Bye!
Holy shit, you wouldn’t believe the hassles we had since I last was able to write. The boat was delayed even longer than they expected and after they made the announcement, people started getting more pissed off. It started off with a little grumbling and then, I think people were sort of encouraged by other people grumbling, they started getting a little bolder and then before I knew it, the whole thing kicked off. People throwing punches at each other, kicking each other. I ran off as fast and as far as I could. I found this little empty guard house to hide behind. I watched from behind it. Those people were fucking mental. Rabid-like, you know? They weren’t frothing at the mouth or anything, but they were screaming and shouting and kicking and punching anything that was around them and just when I thought it would just turn into an all out brawl, a few of them sort of united. One guy smashed a few windows on the bus, oh the bus, that was it. Once the bus was established as the target instead of each other, they went crazy. They smashed out all the windows. Somebody or several people really, went inside and started ripping out seats, throwing them through the door because they didn’t really fit getting squeezed through the windows and soon enough, somebody lit the stuffing from the seat cushions on fire and then they jumped out with flames licking out of the broken windows and four or five of them got to one side, the side that didn’t have the flames licking out the windows, the side closest to me, and then they started pushing the fucking bus in some sort of rhythm, kind of like I imagine a bunch of slaves on a ship would row in unison, they were pushing in unison, yelling with loud deep voices, truly excited by their actions, by the possibilities and then soon enough, they got the bus rocking just the slightest bit and a few more people jumped in, pushing in rhythm on the side, one big shove then a step back and shoved until one of them started shouting at the others to move in unison and before you knew it, well, it took quite some time actually to get the rhythm established and then to get enough people pushing but finally they tipped that fucking bus right over on it’s side. And then they all jumped on top of it, even though there was still a fire inside, and they were like crazy men, celebrating.
And not too much longer than that, I mean, it was awhile because these guys still had sufficient time to get pissed off and organise themselves despite their rage into tipping the bus over, but soon enough anyway, a squad of burly guys in uniforms and helmets with shields, wielding billy clubs were driven up to the gates, unlocked them and rushed in, whacking away with their truncheons, their night sticks. A few of the guys fought back and got a few licks in but then the tear gas cannisters were set out and the uniformed guys had masks of course and none of the rioters did so eventually the rioters, between the tear gas and getting beaten down with the truncheons, were quelled. Once in a while one of them would emerge from the tear gas smoke coughing and holding broken arms or limping heavily, blood dripping down from their head or their mouths, spitting out teeth, whatever, subdued, basically, but the unformed guys beat on them some more before tying them by the wrists with some sort of plastic kind of bands that bound their wrists together, you know, the kind a six pack of beer is attached to sort of. Anyway, they load them up in this wagon and within like, minutes, the scene was quiet again. Those left were spitting blood or coughing terribly. And the wagon took off and that was it, they locked the gates back up and wow, I couldn’t believe what I’d just seen and yet just like that, it was all over.
The worst part was the announcement that followed, I mean they must have been feeling bold after quelling that riot, or they just didn’t give a shit, I dunno, but they told us then we were stuck there for the night because there weren’t enough of us left over to merit an entire boat so they’d squeeze on to the next one the following morning along with the scheduled boat load who were already due to be showing up. That sucked. Plus there wasn’t any food. And it’s not like they announced, oh, we’ll be passing out bottled water and like concert kits, you know, chocolates and crisps or even a fucking cheese and pickle sarnie on stale bread like, fucking nothing at all, not even an announcement. I guess the announcement was supposed to be like, subliminal, like fuck off.
Anyway, the battery is fading and I don’t know if I’ll need this later to like summon a pizza delivery or something so I’d better go. Ta.
Hi again. I can't believe they made us all sit out there in the open air all night long with no shelter, no tents, no sleeping bags, no food, nothing. I mean nothing. No a crumb. It's like we didn't even exist. It couldn't have been punishment, the only ones who weren't nicked by the uniformed blokes were us, the ones who didn't do anything to begin with so I really can't understand why they'd try to punish us by like, starving us and not giving us any place to sleep but the fucking asphalt floor of the marina car park.
Nothing much happened for a few hours after the riot and uniformed blokes came by and all that madness ended. Most of the people who were left had been hiding out behind something or other, a little shed or just far off in one of the corners. You could see people moving around once in a while. I had a good spot until one or two people decided they'd try the same thing.
Two girls came up about 15 minutes after all that shit went down. One of them was bleeding a little from the cut above her eye, she looked a little tarted up, the kind you'd rather expect to get involved in a riot if I'm honest. The other girl was this mousy looking girl afraid of her own shadow. I think she was probably that way before the riot even kicked off but even more so afterwards.
The bleeding one just nodded over to me as she stuck her head around the corner. I'd heard footsteps and was looking around frantically for something I could use as a weapon if the need arose but in the end all I had was my purse and the back pack I'd brought. That's what they'd told us anyway, we'd only be allowed two bags and they bags combined couldn't weigh more than 20 kilos. 20 kilos, can you believe that? How was I supposed to fit anything in under that weight limit? Christ, you know me, my bloody makeup weighs more than that and we aren't even considering clothes for god's sake.
Anyway, the bloody one sticks her head round the corner and sort of nods at me and I nod back and she comes around the corner and sort of whispers, you alright? And when I tell her yeah, I'm fine and sorta shrug like what in bloody hell just went down, she smiled and wiped the blood off with her shirt sleeve like it was all going to be alright now. My name's Emma, she says, but I dunno what I'm supposed to say so I just sort of nod. Kirsten, I say. You been involved in that riot, like?
Nah, she says. I got hit with something somebody threw. I was just standing there watching it. It all happened so fast I didn't really have time to get away. Besides, it was fascinating to watch. Until those coppers came in of course and ruined it all. So what do you reckon they're gonna do with us? You reckon they're going to bring in like one of those sandwich wagons or something so we can get something to bloody eat? I'm dying for something to drink.
I dunno. They know we're going to have to wait all night so I assume they're going to make some kind of arrangement...
They're not going to arrange anything, the mousy looking girl who suddenly appeared, seemingly out of nowhere from around the corner, said.
What d'ya mean, Emma asked, pulling absently on her right hand and turning her head ever so slightly to the right like a dog does sometimes.
I had a friend who got stuck at one of these processing centres before. She says they don't give you anything because they don't plan on you getting stuck there over night. You're meant to be just getting on the boat and leaving but if the boat's not there, there's not going to be any food and there's not going to be any place to sleep.
You're kidding me, I says, right? How can they just bloody leave us here all night with no shelter, no food, no water? Fuck, that's inhuman, surely we've got some rights or something, something under like the Human Rights Act or whatever, don't we? Can we sue them?
The mousy girl shook her head and her hair fell in her eyes. She pushed her bands away carefully and tucked her hair behind her ears. Within seconds they'd fallen back into her face again.
I've got a feeling you don't have any rights any more. At least not til you get to the island or whatever. I think we're all just gonna be here on our own, she says.
So anyway, that's basically what happened. We all just kind of hung around. Emma had some fags and we took turns smoking them, passing them around each other to kill the time and kill the hunger. We didn't have anything to drink. Eventually we all just kinda curled up in a semi circle using our bags as pillows, our jackets as blankets and just kind of crashed out. It was really weird....
Woke up and the sun was out already for a change, no early clouds, no threats of rain. I feel like shit. Like I'm hungover without drinking anything. I feel filthy and it sucks. There's no place to clean up, shower, nothing. We had to piss and shit in the car park, right out in the open. Fortunately there aren't too many people walking around near this place. They kind of avoid it like the plague. Besides, with all this razorwire fencing, nobody's getting in without permission so there's no reason for anyone to come here. Unless of course, it would be to gawk at us like zoo animals or circus freaks. But frankly, we've all decided no one really knows we're here anyway. You think I'm already on the boat, for example, I'm sure of it. After all that's what they told us was the itinerary.
So even though someone knows we're here, because the announcement over the loud speakers around 9 at night confirmed that a boat would indeed be arriving in the morning as well as another bus load or two of people and again reminding we were going be a little crowded on the boat. Fucking idiots. How can they have fucked this up so bad already?
Anyway, we're all fucking starving and I'm starting to get more pissed off the more I think about it all over again now that I'm starting to wake up a little, even though I don't have any fucking coffee to help. Nothing. Not any food. We shared a few cigarettes, Emma, me and the Mousy Girl, just hanging around feeling disgusting and waiting for something to happen.
Worse still, I'm feeling bloated. It's coming again, I can feel it. And I've got fuck all to use, nothing to stop the flow once it starts, shit, I can't believe I was so stupid, didn't plan ahead at all. I went through my purse, I've got like one fucking tampax. Is there going to be some on the boat? Fuck, I hope so, I don't know what I'll do otherwise. Shove newspapers in my panties? Fuck! God, I don't know what pisses me off more right now, only just realising I'm unprepared for this or the fact that they've kept us out here all night with no fucking food or drink or the fact that the fucking boat hasn't gotten here yet.
Anyway, I've got to conserve the batteries again. I hope to be able to send these missives once I've got wifi access again, on the boat or the island or whatever, not sure. But if something happens, I'll add some more. Until then, we're just sitting around here smoking and waiting.
You wouldn't believe it but the buses and the boat arrived almost simultaneously! I mean one minute we're just sitting there, me and Emma and Mousy Girl, trying to keep out of sight of everyone and waiting for something, anything to happen - a few people were wandering around, you know, the ones who hadn't been hauled in by the uniformed men or hadn't been involved in the riot and had just been trying to keep out of sight and out of trouble like us, they started wandering around. One guy, a hippy-looking sort of young guy came out and started calling out to no one in particular like, is anyone around here? Hellooo? Is there anyone around? Anyone have any food? Any water?
We ignored him of course. He obviously didn't have any food or water so he wasn't much use to us. So we kept hidden back behind the shed and it's funny because in a way you'd think we'd have been easy to suss out, people hiding behind something but maybe it's just that all the shit that went down at the riot all of the sudden made people a little leery and they started wondering about what might be waiting for them out behind the shed and decided fuck it, if someone was back there, there must be a reason and maybe they shouldn't be fucked with.
But then whilst the youngish hippy guy was wandering around, cupping his hands and shouting futily, the first bus pulled up to the gates, a few uniformed people got out (apparently now they new to supervise us all, have armed keepers to keep us in line so to speak,) they opened the gate and the bus pulled up. That's when we thought it might be ok to come out. They drove right past the hippy guy towards the front docks and stopped. Then a few seconds later another bus showed up and then another.
Then all the sudden Mousy Girl starts getting all excited, the boat! she shouts, loud enough that the hippy guy and a few of the uniformed men look our way and then when they make out what she's shouting, they too look out into the harbour and see the boat pulling in.
I have to say, it's not much to look at, was the first thing Emma said. I had to agree. It was sea worthy, apparently, because it wasn't sinking, but that's about all you could say about it. Paint chipped off everywhere, it looked similar to the boats I'd see in dry dock near my auld flat. I used to live near the marina, just above this place that did repairs and refurbishments of boats and the boat bobbing up and down in the water looked a lot like those boats that were in for repairs or refurbishments. Like one of those Filipino or Bangladeshi ferries you read about capsizing with like several hundred people on board.
In fact, the closer it got, that's exactly what it reminded me of. I started looking at the three buses that were parked out in the middle of the car park wondering how many people were in each of those buses, maybe 50 or 70 minimum then doing some simple maths.
I mean, these weren't like those ferries you take for Channel crossings. It was significantly smaller, I mean SIGNIFICANTLY smaller. So the first thing I said to Emma was, I hope we're not going very far in that thing, it doesn't look like it would survive very choppy waters, like. Not even a bloody Channel crossing, innit?
Emma just shook her head, lighting another cigarette. The entirety of her luggage seemed to consist of cartons of cigarettes. Just the clothes she had on her back in layers. Cigarettes might be a big commodity for all you know, she explained when I'd first eyed them rather oddly from the beginning. People run out and if it's some shite lot like this one, there's not going to be any place that sells them, you don't know what they'll have, do you? You can never be too sure. And believe me, if there's no ciggies to be had anywhere, people are going to pay ANYTHING for one.
That was when Mousy Girl chimed in - yeah, IF they're going to pay you for it. You know how people like you end up when other people get desperate? With their throats slit, that's how. Especially on a ferry where they can just throw your body overboard. Mousy Girl let a crooked little smile escape her. Mousy Girl! I was surprised at this little revelation of personality from her.
Well, we'd better make our way over anyhow, I said cautiously, taking a hit off Emma's cigarette and picking up my shet. Whatever happens, I don't want to miss that fucking boat. I can't take another night here.
We get over to where one of the buses is parked and everybody's staring at us as we approach like we're some kind of circus freaks or something. Before we get within 50 meters of the bus, one of the uniformed guys steps up with one hand on his truncheon and the other one held up like stopping us.
Old it royt thair young ladies, he says to us as he approaches. Wha-you doin? Whered youse come from then?
We've only been bloody sitting out here with no food or water all bloody night, that's where we come from, Emma, fairly shouted at the bloke who looked about all of 17.
The buses from yesterday, I tried to assist, the ones whose boat got cancelled or delayed or whatever.
The uniformed bloked looked us over. So where's everybody else then?
Didn't you hear?
Look, we've been in barracks all evening. We haven't heard anything. All I know is, the lot wot is on these buses are going on that ferry, nobody else.
Oh fuck off, Emma shouted, grinding her cigarette out with her trainer toe. We've been here all bloody night, I've just told yea, no fucking food no water, nothing! Now if you don't know what the feck is going on here, might I ask that you check with someone who bloody well does? Is that too much to ask?
The uniformed bloke looked flustered at first but regained his composure quickly, snapping to with his walkie talkie and mumbling something incomprehensible into it. A burst of static followed. He nodded his head and then stepped forward again, motioning us toward the buses.
Apologies, ladies. We weren't told nuffin bout no uvva buses. Gowan, join the others, be boarding in about 30 minutes.
No pushing, no queues - what the fucking hell do you think about a mob of some 250-300 people? It's bloody chaos, it is, that's what. Fucking eedjits. You'd think with all this planning, all the times they've sent people off on these bloody things they'd have it all down by now, innit? But they ent. It's a fucking mad house. Pushing, shoving, people getting up in each other's faces. Well uncivilised.
The ferry itself is only supposed hold, like a total of 8 cars and 45 people in all. For 300 or so of us, imagine. Ok, so there's no cars going on and there's a little more space, say enough for another 100 or so but we've got nearly double that amount and I've no feckin idea how they're going to squeeze us all on. Anyway, batteries are low and I've got to get out with the rest of the lot and shove my way on I suppose. Hopefully I'll have time or space when we're on board to write some more, figure out where the fuck we're going to.
Smoking is not permitted inside the vessel.
Passengers are not permitted to remain in their vehicles during the crossing. If it is necessary to return to a vehicle, passengers must be accompanied by a crew member.
All goods carried on vessels must comply with provisions of the Canada Shipping Act regarding the carrying of dangerous cargo.
Recreational vehicles carrying LPG will have cylinder valves fully closed while aboard the ship, and no appliance will be operated (further information is available at Coastal Transport's Ticket Office).
Terminal ramps - maximum gross weight 43,500 kg.
Pets are permitted to stay in vehicle or on the outside passenger decks. Pets are not permitted on the inside passenger decks.
well, here we are, at sea.
We still don't know where we're going specifically. There aren't any announcments, haven't been since we got on board.
As you can well imagine, boarding this fucking thing was a nightmare. As soon as they announced orderly lines everyone, it was a feckin madhouse. People pushing and shoving every which way, uniformed blokes trying to cordon off everyone, kind of shoving them inward so that the momentum would carry them forward towards the boat and eventually we all sort of shuffled forward until we were actually on board.
Naturally none of us got a feckin seat. We weren't the last people allowed to board, but it was pretty feckin close considering they let most of the people who'd just gotten off the bus to get in the queue first. Both me and Emma tried to argue that as we'd been waiting all night and hadn't any food to eat all night and all that, we should be the first to board.
But the arrogant cunt who we were tried to reason with just held up his hand and cut us off in mid speech - there's plenty of room on board ladies, he reassured with like, zero emotion in his voice. There's no reason to cut in front of the queue. I do understand some of youse missed the last boat but that isn't really the fault of the people on this bus, now is it?
Then, believe it or not, he looks down at us and whispers to us kind of conspiratorily; You're lucky you're getting on board at all on this one, ladies, he says. Usually, when people miss the boat they're assigned to the have to wait days sometimes before there's another boat with enough room to take them on.
Well, fuck me. Lucky alright.
So we get in this queue and eventuallly get on board. I've got blood I can feel literally, trickling down my fucking leg and the first thing I want to find out is whether or not there's a toilet on board. There is and when we come up to one, I tell Emma and Mousy girl to just carry on, I'll catch them up later.
There's already a queue at the bathroom of course, because it's the first bathroom you come across - for all I know it's the only one, but I kind of doubt it - anyway, there's a bloody queue so I stand there, trying to be patient while the last few people getting on board filter past.
The girls in front of me are chatting about the rumours they'd heard about where we were going. There were all sorts of rumours, believe me. They were sending us to Ireland which was rather daft I mean, if that were the case, why wouldn't they just leave us all in England?
There's some talk about Isle of Man or even getting sent further up North to one of the Scottish islands like Aran or Isley or Mull. I can't really understand why they don't just bloody well tell us once and for all, I mean the longer they put it off the more you start to wonder if they're just not telling us because they don't want a riot on their hands. But what could really be that bad anyway? The Isles of Scilly? The Channel Islands?
Hell, maybe it's France, one of the girls twittered. France, that'd be something, wouldn't it?
Not surprisingly, the tampon machine is empty but I'm grateful at this point that at least there are plenty of toilet paper and towels left, for the moment anyway, so I stuff my bag with these into what little space is left, clean myself off as best as possible, stuff a wad of the towels into my panties as if it's going to do any good and moan because everything is bloody, my panties, my pants, my legs, ankles, even my boots. My seasonal's "must have" boots from like, three years ago. But fuck it, I've already decided long ago that this wasn't going to be a simple excursion with all the mod cons and it's not like I haven't gotten used to living like shit these last few months or year or whatever it's been. I just suck it up, like I've learned to do. Fuck it.
So, after I fix my hair - you never know, there's blokes on board this boat as well - I go back out on to the boat and for a few moments there I'm even thinking to myself hey, this isn't half bad. Out on the seas, out of the feckin city, the misery the hopelessness. I mean, who knows what the fuck it's like where they're sending us but one thing is for sure, it's got to be better than that shit hole I was living in before. You've never been to visit me at that place before have you? Likely because it was so dank and wretched. The people I shared that place with were pigs, plain and simple. So getting out, anywhere really, is a bit of a lift.
I walk around, squeezing past people trying to find Emma and the Mousy Girl. Most people seem in pretty pleasant spirits. They're excited too. You can tell alot of them, dirty and hair that hasn't really been cut and certainly not styled in months, clothes kind of ragged, eyes sunken deep being accustomed to this feckin misery and all, have been in this sort of situation for awhile. Do you remember just god, how long was it, maybe a year ago or so, when we were still working, even though some people had already started losing work, but back when we'd still had our jobs and money good god, fuck, that seems like years ago. Anyway, all of these people on board seem like they've been off of it, out of it, whatever, for many, many months. There's a certain hardness to them. Kind of like how I feel has happened to me. How is work anyway, speaking of which?
Anyway, I've just kind of taken a seat on the floor. It isn't raining and there's a cool breeze blowing up on top. Maybe later I'll look for Emma and the Mousy Girl, it's pretty quiet up here for a change. I wouldn't even mind having a little nap so for now anyway, I'll sign off.
First stop is some port, no one knows which one and we're all unloaded into this fucking pen where they give us some hot soup, a few hunks of bread and bottled water.
12 june, later
Well, I was finally able to run into Emma and Mousy Girl. They were standing on the end of the boat facing where we left from - don't ask me which that is starboard or portboard or whatever it's called. Mousy Girl has been crying since we left and Emma is trying to comfort her by telling her to like, shut the fuck up and it's going to get alot worse before it gets better and that sort of thing. I like Emma in a funny way. She even managed to score some more fags although they aren't her brand. She says she knicked them out of someone's bag whilst we were all being jostled getting on board. She keeps talking about she's going to run out of cigarettes and she's going to fucking kill people if they don't start making some announcements about where we can buy more cigarettes or when we're going to get some fucking food or water or something. She's a tough bird. Tougher than me. But then again, I'm not crying so I guess I'm tougher than Mousy Girl.
Anyway, we're just kind of standing there when there's an announcement, the first we've ever really had and of course as it comes in over the loudspeakers you can't hear a fucking thing because the sound quality is shite and because of the wind and the sound of the motors and everyone's voices going what the fuck is he saying and the like.
Did you hear what he said, Emma asked me and although she was addressing me there were so many people already standing up here with us, several people turned to her to tell her they hadn't heard a thing. Do you suppose it was important? We all shrugged. We're moving. We'll end up somewhere. In the interim, we needed food.
There was in fact, after investigation, several different sources for food although the primary problem of course, seeing as how we were a boat load of people who had been unemployable since the distant past, that we didn't have much money. Not that it mattered. This wasn't a typical ferry. It certainly wasn't the same kind of ferry you'd have taken going to say, Rosslare, which would have been much bigger and suitable for crossing a sea but we weren't really certain where we were going, herded like cattle on to this vessel and frankly, after all the months of propaganda, we were looking forward to it wherever it was, whatever means to get there.
You know how it was Lauren, don't you? Remember when I first received notification a month or so ago, how I'd been kind of expecting it. I mean, what was it? Well, at least several months prior to that, maybe even a half year ago, after at least a year talking about it, they started shipping people out and you and I both know with my dodgy employment history to begin with, not having worked in several years anyway, the minute they brought this little plan out, I kind of figured I'd be one of the first to go. I was surprised it took them as long as it did, frankly.
You've always been so lucky like that, Lauren, having that strong will to work, having that sense of pride and responsibility. Me, I couldn't care less. I mean, I'm not qualified for doing anything that would pay me much more than the minimum wage to begin with, never have been, as you know. How are you getting on with work anyway? Don't you just hate that you have to work so much now?
I suppose you're quite happy to see me getting shipped off, aren't you? You always told me people have to pull their own weight, didn't you? I suppose you've always thought of me as a sort of lie about, a lazy bird who likes going out on the piss, drinking too much wine, laughing too loudly and then having sex with complete strangers. I'm sure it mortified you all those years but what the hell, one of us had to have the fun and one of us had to do the work apparently.
Anyway, you know they've been on about this island for months...work for everybody, a new start, a new life, blahblahblah. I find it a little hard to believe, to be honest. I mean if they couldn't find me any suitable employment all these years in the entire country, why is some strange little island suddenly going to have all this work for me?
To be honest, I think it's a scam of some kind, I just haven't worked out what it is they're scamming us out of. I mean since when would I believe anything the government tells me anyway? Yeah, I know you've never approved of my lifestyle, that I couldn't hold down steady work, that I was on benefits so many years, a council estate flat, drugs, rehab, drinking, but even you have to admit, whatever the government's said these last several years in particular you can take with a grain of salt. They're cooking up some stupid bureaucratic plot, no doubt. Like that time they were going to assess everyone who was supposed to be on disability benefits with like, real doctors instead of GPs who knew we'd be in their offices every day until they signed us off work.
Anyway, who can guess what it is? I'm sure they don't have any work for us but I just can't place it. Emma seems to think they're starting up some kind of giant commune. She's got all sorts of conspiracy theories cooking up in her head. She says she thinks they're creating this giant commune and from it, their going to try and like recreate society, you know, start all over again. So I asked her, like, that's all good and well but what are they going to do about the one that exists right now? Oh, she says with great confidence, that side is going to run parallel to this new one only with better benefits. Eventually, she says, those people are going to form the like, elite class and the people who start up this commune are just going to do all the bullshit work to build the economy and society back up to the level it was before.
Mousy girl has theories too. She says they're going to do some sort of experiments on us, something to do with fixing the economy, like turning us into lab rat societies to find out what way works best and then when they've figured it out, putting it to work in the real society.
I think they're both a bit daft. I think they just want to get rid of us. They're sick of looking at us. They're sick of paying for us. They're sick of being jealous of our freedom, especially nowadays. I mean, even I can see pretty clearly we aren't serving much function like this.
You know good and well Lauren that I wasn't always like this. That's what makes me mad, getting treated like shit, like a second class citizen just because I didn't have a job. It's not my fault. I mean, I dunno, maybe it was, I haven't really figured it out. You remember when Euwen died? I was devastated. I know you kind of implied that it was all my own fault, that just because I'd been out on the piss and left him in the house alone and just because that cigarette burnt the place down with him in it, I mean, you act like I didn't even care. Of course I bloody well cared. I was his mother! You think you can just snap your fingers and be done with it like that?
And I can hear you right now as you're reading this making that stupid clucking noise you make when I say something you don't like or don't want to deal with. Yeah, that's right, you're pretty transparent, Lauren. I mean yeah you're smarter than me and you work harder but what have you got to show for it? You haven't got any kids either. Hell, you probably haven't even had a man in what, years? Is that accurate? You really should get out more.
Anyway, you know damned well that once Euwen died, whatever shred of self-respect or interest in surviving pretty much died with him. I'm still not over it. Not a day goes by that I don't think about him. That's why I was drinking so heavily before and using so much. I just didn't want to deal with it all.
But you know I'm off it all now. You know I've tried to sort myself out and move on and you know as well as I do it's pointless with no work being anywhere. So even though I don't really know where the feck we're going on this boat other than some island and even though I have no idea what we're going to be doing once we get there, the thing is, just getting out at the present is good enough for me. It IS a new start, I agree with all that propaganda. I have to. It's either that or go back to the booze and the drugs again.
You wanna hear something strange? Both Mousy Girl and Emma are childless too. I haven't asked them why yet, I mean I hardly know them, but in case you weren't aware, they aren't taking people with kids for this little adventure. It'll be weird going to some place with no children, but maybe it's all for the best. What I want to know is what are they going to do with the people who DO have kids and who aren't working. Surely they aren't going to let them just keep living in the city and collecting benefits just because they still have kids, are they? God, I miss Euwen so much it hurts me. I dig my fingernails into my palms every time I think about him.
Well, we're going to look for food. A few people think the announcement none of us could hear was about all of us getting fed. Could be wishful thinking, but it's worth a punt, I suppose.
Seems like everyone else has fallen asleep. The excitement of the day I think. I would probably be doing the same except after we got down to the makeshift canteen where they passed out free broth and rice to us and we sat at these long tables taking turns eating one group after another with a few uniformed blokes lording over it all, making sure no one rioted over it like, what, someone's going to be killing each other over bloody soup or broth even, and rice? I know times are tough but this is ridiculous.
But it was amazing filling. I can't say it tasted amazing but it was filling. We also got crusts of bread to go with it. No bottled water. And when the group of 10 that the separated us into was finished, or nearly finished, the uniformed blokes came over and start grunting at us to finish up, file our dishes away and go out on the deck. It felt a little like prison. Well, I dunno, I've never been to prison of course, but I've seen movies about it and it reminded me of those scenes, you know, when they're all eating in the mess hall or whatever and some guy stabs another in the neck with a fork and then it all kicks off?
Anyway, I don't know what came over me but after we filed away our trays and plates and forks and everything, I felt like I'd been drugged. Maybe I was, who knows, but anyway, one minute I was listening to Emma chatting away and the next minute I'm like, barely aware that her and Mousy girl are like, holding me up, trying to steady me. Maybe it was the euphoria of finally eating, even the food wasn't particularly interesting. After all that time without, it was, I dunno, sufficient I suppose.
So they cleared a spot out on the deck floor, it couldn't have been easy, and sort of laid me out there on the floor, sitting on each side of me. Maybe they were worried I'd been poisoned and they were next, I don't know but they were awfully attentive to me and quite concerned. But I didn't have and fever, I was just exhausted so I just well, fell asleep, right there. Everyone did apparently.
When I woke up it was dark and we're at sea. It was strange, waking up like that, not in your own bed, on some damp, iron floor. I got up and walked over to the edge, careful to step around the sleeping people. I was just standing there looking out at the water, or the darkness that I figured was the water anyway, and I'm sort of lost in my thoughts when all the sudden I feel this tap on my shoulder and I like nearly jump out of my fucking skin I was so startled. I mean I hadn't heard a thing. And it's this uniformed bloke who has wandered over from his post or whatever and he's holding out this pack of Dunhills with one cigarette shaken so that it is sticking out at me.
Care for a cigarette, he asks dully. I can't see his face too clearly what with the darkness and all but his voice sounds young, like in his late teens or early 20s. Sure. I take the cigarette, he even lights it for me and then I realise, fuck, I'm trapped now - I'm sure there's a price of some kind to pay for it, he probably wants a hand job in the dark or something disgusting. That'd be so typical, innit. I let my guard down for a second and then there's this.
But he doesn't say anything. He just sort of stands there, smoking his cigarette, looking out into the darkness. The only thing you hear is the engines and the sound of water lapping up against the side of the boat.
Trouble sleeping? he asks finally.
No, I got an early start, right after the meal in fact. Just I dunno, yeah, I guess trouble sleeping.
I look over at him, trying to make his face out.
So do you know where we're going, or when we're supposed to arrive?
He exhaled. You know, that's the same question everyone asks me, the first question they ask me, everyone.
Does that surprise you? I mean, we're kind of I dunno, lost as to what's happening, nobody tells you anything so I guess it's kind of natural, isn't it, to want to know?
We're sort of whispering so as not to bother anyone who is sleeping but I think he can sense the sarcasm in my voice nonetheless. Was he expecting me to ask after his family or how he enjoyed his line of work?
Yes, of course. He says and doesn't elaborate any further. He takes a final drag off the cigarette and then flicks it out into the sea.
We'll reach a transfer port in the morning, he says finally. It isn't the final destination. But you'll get briefed once you get to the transfer port.
I realise he's probably not supposed to tell me even that but seeing as how I can't see his face anyway, it's not like I can point him out later and reveal him as the one who spilled all the secrets.
Thanks, I say, honestly grateful. My how my standards have sunk. Then I thought about Emma.
Say, I hate to bother you again but before you go, do you think you might be kind enough to leave us a few cigarettes for me and my mates in the morning? We've sort of run out and there isn't anywhere we can get any it appears.
You'll probably be able to get some at the transfer port, he says. Then relents and shakes out a few cigarettes. Just don't expect every bloke in a uniform to be passing them out though. For future reference.
Cheers, I say, taking a hit as he walks away, disappearing back into the ship. I look up at the sky, nothing. Blackness. Not a single star and not even the moon is visible.
I didn't manage to slip off back to sleep. Maybe it was the nicotine keeping me up but I think it was more the anxiety of where we were going to end up today.
Just before dawn, I put my head down and closed my eyes, but my mind was racing, almost a panic. I tried to think about other things Lauren, I really tried. Then I started thinking about how nice it would be to have god, I dunno, it sounds so stupid, how nice it would be to just have someone holding me. Someone who would caress my hair and hold me and tell me everything was going to be alright. Someone who wouldn't come home drunk and rant and rave and tell me what a loser I was. Someone who wouldn't say anything really, just stroke me and hold me so I could feel, I dunno, like a child. Not that mother or father ever did that anyway but I've read it before I think, somewhere, some magazine, I think. I remember reading it and thinking how lovely that would be rather than the life I'm living.
I'll bet you must think of that too, don't you Lauren? Or are you too busy working to think about such things? I always wonder if you ever feel anything, I mean, like weakness or fear. You've always seemed so strong, so certain about what you were doing, so determined to get it right. And here I am, a big loser, stuck on this fucking boat to christ knows where, sleeping outside on the deck, or staying awake actually, trying to sleep, worrying. I never used to worry at all, jesus, I didn't give a fuck. I always just figured everything would sort itself out and funnily enough, it usually did, I mean sure, there were some fucked up things that happened, but I always came out of it more or less in one piece. I try to remember that when I think about what's ahead but sometimes it's hard. I don't feel so much anymore like anything's getting sorted. I feel like I'm just falling deeper and deeper into this pit with no bottom. A free fall.
Anyway, Emma and Mousy girl eventually woke up, as did everyone else, gradually, until the noise of the sea and the boat's engine and the sound of everyone rustling around, starting to get up actually got everyone else up. I handed out the fags I got from the uniformed guy to Emma and Mousy girl. Emma looked at me funny, surprised, I guess because I imagine she thought she was the only one who could manage to fend for us, but she just mumbled thanks and didn't ask any questions.
I sure wish I had a nice cuppa to go with this, Mousy girl said, stretching a little. You think they'll be serving anything down in that mess hall thing?
I doubt it, I said dully. I think we'll be landing wherever it is we're supposed to be landing, this morning. Hopefully they'll have something for us there. But fuck, I don't mind stretching my legs a bit, anyone want to go down and have a look?
We all stood up and walked over to a growing queue. No one was emerging from below with anything. They all seemed rather pissed about it, mumbling about how fucked up it was, how we were being treated like dogs. They don't have anything for us, some guy shouted out to everyone in general when he reached the deck. The fuckers.
And right around then somebody shouted, hey, I see a port! And we all ran to one side to have a look.
Sure enough, out there in the distance, we could make out something - a few buildings and a bunch of other boats. At least we were finally getting somewhere.
God, I would kill for a hot shower, a little biscuit and some coffee right now, Emma said, rubbing her bloodshot eyes and looking towards the shore, the harbour. I mean, what the fuck, isn't that the least they could do after all this?
We pulled into the harbour in excruciatingly slow time. It seemed to inch and inch closer but not fucking fast enough. People were getting really ansy and spending alot of their energy complaining about everything. I never saw people piss and moan so much. I mean, we're here, right? Fuck, it's better than nothing. I kind of got the idea from that uniformed guy this would only be a stop off but who knew?
As the boat finally pulled in and was tied to the docks an announcement came over the speaker for everyone to queue up in orderly fashion to prepare for landing. Nobody bothered to listen or pay attention to it of course, everyone wanted to get off. Discover their new futures. After all, they all believed this was it. But they were in for a little surprise. Mousy Girl and Emma and I hung back the swarms of idiots jostling and in some cases pushing, getting angry, the small pockets of people tusssling for the best positions, the elbows coming into play. We laughed at them.
Maybe we shouldn't be laughing, the Mousy Girl says all of the sudden, growing serious. After all, just because some uniformed guy told you maybe that was the case doesn't mean it really is, does it? And what if this is the place and we're losing out on getting the best accomodations or what if the food runs out or...
Oh, shut the fuck up, will you? Emma hissed, staring down Mousy girl to my infinite relief. To think of having to act like these idiots, these animals, Lauren, well it'd have been to disheartening on top of everything else. On top of bloating and blood, being filthy and unwashed, hungry, uncertain...on top of everything, to have to push and fight and scratch just for a decent bed or a few scraps of food, well fuck it, I'd rather be dead. There's a bloody limit on what I'll withstand, you know that.
So we hung back. And just as well because as soon as we neared the plank exiting the boat we could tell they were herding people into different sections, you left, you right, etc., pairing people off male and female sides and then funneled into other like, holding pens.
We were, the three of us, fortunately kept together, filtered through a a series of razor wire maze-like cages and ended up in a rather large courtyard of sorts where a table was set up. There was already a queue of sorts but it had slackened to some degree because we were some of the last to arrive.
See? I told you we'd miss out on the good food....Mousy girl whispered before getting a sharp elbow from Emma.
The good food? Emma chastised. What makes you think there ever was any good food? We looked down at the buffet of some kind of porridge, tea and coffee and hunks of stale bread awaited us.
Well, nonetheless, food was food and we were all hungry as hell so we picked up the little plastic bowls, the plastic spoons, and filled up with the porridge, grabbing hunks of bread not just for the porridge, but for the hunger pangs later, stuffing our pockets much as others must have done before us. There were a few stragglers of staff who would replenish the porridge pot from time to time or bring out more hunks of bread, some stale, some fresh, or refill the tea server. There was no butter, no jam, no ham, nothing approaching an English breakfast but no one really had to tell us that in advance. I think we all had a pretty good idea these weren't going to be swank conditions.
We sat on the ground like the others, which appeared once to have been grass but which had now worn away to dirt and in some cases, simple rock and mud. Hardly a picnic area. But we sat there quietly, few people saying much of anything, perhaps exhausted by the strain of the trip, the worry, the uncertainty or simply sated from the food and sleepy.
After I dunno, we were there probably an hour or so, there were announcements over the loudspeakers. We hadn't even noticed there were loudspeakers until then, you kind of forget to take in your surroundings your so overwhelmed simply by existence at that point. But once we noticed the loudspeakers, we noticed the razor wire, the CCTV and the uniformed blokes wandering around the circumference of the fenced in areas, or, realistically, the caged areas. We were caged like animals.
The first announcement was that we were all going to be given what they referred to de-lousing, whether we needed it or not. We would be scrubbed, hosed off, covered in some sort of magical powder, hosed off again, given shots, blood and DNA samples taken, blahblahblah. We've been having blood and DNA samples taken for years, you'd think by now they'd have sufficient amounts by then, but apparently, they didn't. Always needed more verification.
Anyway, the shower would be welcomed. Hygenic packs would be made available to us all, travel kits, they referred to them as (when we later got these; soap, hand towel and tampons (what did they give the men as a consolation prize?) for starters. It was presumed we had all brought a change of pants, or not, as the case may have been. )
We weren't told anything more like where we were going, if we were staying, what the next steps were and of course, that kind of pissed everyone off a little bit but the food had kept them happy for awhile as did the promise of a thorough cleaning. At least we did anyway, we'd been on the road two full days entering our third - for most of the others this was still only Day 2.
Lauren, I'd forgotten to tell you (I've now been able to find a power source to re-charge the computer battery although I'm allowed access for only 15 minutes so, whilst I can type these emails for a little while, the power will shut again in due course and naturally, there's been no internet access anywhere.)
Now that I think about it, I rather doubt we're going to have internet access at all. I mean now that I think about it, why hasn't anyone really written from these places before? How come we've never heard a peep out of any of these people who were sent out before us? How come they don't have blogs or vlogs or aren't emailing or twittering or communicating in any way? Seems rather weird when you think about it. But then, if you figure it's some remote island, there isn't going to be any internet, is there? And even if there was, it seems pretty clear they want to control information here so that pretty much discounts the possibility of sending any out or receiving any yourself.
Anyway, since we haven't spoken in a while, I thought since it was on my mind now, that I'd tell you how I got here - I mean, you know, of course you know what I've written so far but all that leading up to it, some of it, most of it, you probably don't know anything about and since sometimes I get the idea I'm not getting out of here any time soon, I figured I'd let you in on it.
Well, you know how I was unemployed? Ha, unemployable is more like it I suppose. Especially after Euwen died. I can talk about that now. Still not in very much detail or depth but they've taught me that much I suppose, I can at least acknowledge that it happened, that it fucked me up worse than I was before, like.
Anyway, yeah, I had little jobs here and there. It was never hard getting a job as a barmaid, just staying sober while I did it I guess. Problem is I never take no shit off no one and in these menial sorts of jobs there's always some asshole who thinks they got to make an example of you, or they don't like your attitude or whatnot and the next thing you know they've got it in for you and are making your life miserable so you've either gotta quit or get fired and then you're back on the dole again and back in those stupid fucking interviews, jobseeking interviews for shit you know you don't have a bloody chance getting.
Well after Euwen I didn't have no place to live either so I crashed on the sofa of some mates for awhile while I waited for the social to sort me out something new. I was a fucking mess back then, I don't mind telling you Lauren. I was doing all sorts, drugs, drinking nonstop, trying to kill myself sort of I suppose, out of guilt.
But it wasn't working exactly. So one morning, after a really fucked up night when I'd gotten into this big row with the mates I was staying with, I ended up sleeping all night out in the park, freezing my arse off, without any money, no booze no drugs, fuck all. So I kind of slept with this guy for a little warmth and a little of his wine and weed. It was fucked. I mean it was the lowest of the low. Not as low as Euwen, sure, but fuck, it just all kind of hit me at once and that was it, I thought, I've finally hit bottom. I've finally touched bottom and now I can make my way back up, back to the surface, back to living like a human being.
But I couldn't do it on my own, you know? I managed to find a few mates who I hadn't fucked over, stolen from or fought with over drugs or whatever, obviously they weren't really mates they didn't really know me that well at all, I think they just kind of took pity on me or something, I don't know. They let me stay with them for a few days, got me into some classes for AA, got me moving forward again, sort of.
Then social got me a place and I started working a little. Just a little shit job answering the phone in this warehouse, but a job nonetheless and I spent all my free time in meetings trying not to get fucked up, and sleeping. That was it. And then because of this fucked up economy, that one job I had I was sacked from. I swear, I didn't do a fucking thing wrong. I was straight as an arrow, never drank, never cursed, just did my fucking job, laughed at the jokes of these assholes who all, without exception, tried their best to fuck me whether they were married or had kids or were just fucking horny, I dunno, they were all trying it on, all the time and that was well bloody stressful, you can imagine (or I think you can imagine, maybe not) but still even after all of this I managed to stay straight, go to my fucking meeetings, listen to everyone's fucking stories, tell my own, and sleep. And I still lost my fucking job, you know?
So I figured fuck it. No money coming in, I'm going to be back on the streets again in no time. And then I got this notification. I was called into these social offices and they said they understood I had been trying hard to get my life back on track and I was getting a new start. Away from all of this. An island somewhere or other where I would get a new start and I'd be able to sort everything out myself. They had to tell me several times like, it was a reward, not a punishment, but I think from the way they were talking to me, like a wounded animal or something, that they were trying to fool me. No doubt.
Anyway, a few weeks or a month or so after that, I get this little notice of the date I'm supposed to ship out, where I'm supposed to go and what I'm not allowed to bring. Not allowed, you know the obvious, the same sort of shit you wouldn't be allowed on a plane or something; petrol, bombs, knives, handguns, tools, anything sharp really, or toxic.. Whateever you wanted, really, but only if it fit in this bag they gave you. Surprisingly, the notice came with one of those little rucksacks. It had a little Union Jack on it and they basically said, bring whatever the fuck you want but if it doesn't fit in this bag, it won't be coming with you. Fuckin hell, you know? I mean, I'm a little luckier than most, I didn't have fuck all anyway but even I had a hard time. I wanted to bring this laptop and the battery you know because ever since I knicked it from one of my mates, it's been a bit of a lifesaver - a little diary, the internet looking for work or housing, it's all I've fucking had since the first lot kicked me out for stealing it and it's kind of like, I dunno, my safety net. It represents somethning to me, a past, I dunno what, just makes me feel good, secure. Music and movies stored on there, places to escape.
So I brought the computer, some toiletries, a few pairs of panties and wore several layers of clothes to save on the packing. That's it. A photo of Euwen. That's it. I mean can you imagine the state I'd be in if I was still using or still drinking? I'd be fucked. I'd be crawling the walls.
Anyway, Mousy girl and Emma and I have just been sort of sitting around for the last few hours. Nobody's doing much of anything. I don't think they have the energy. We're all just waiting to find out what's next.
Finally, after what seemed like hours but was actually still before noon, I guess once they'd finished processing everyone, they started calling us out by name, not quite reduced to simple numbers just yet, and leading us into these buildings with showers. Fortunately both Emma and Mousy Girl were called in with my group. We've sort of realised by now we might be sticking together anyway but at the same time realising, as they carve up the group, we could very well get separated.
But that wasn't our concern, really. Getting clean was. Nice, high pressurised, hot showers. Oh god, it was wonderful. After a few days of grime it was like lying down face first and having your whole body massaged. Delicious, it was. I must have stood there for ten minutes with my eyes closed, just feeling the water beat against my skin and into my scalp before I even picked up the soap to start soaping myself off, But ugh, reality. Over the loudspeakers comes this metallic female voice: 2 minutes, ladies. Make sure you rinse thoroughly. The cunt. I mean, can you imagine? The intrusion. Well, at least I was clean so I rinsed off and got out of there, a little bit more eager this time to see what was next. I was still bloating but the flow had eased considerably, I dunno if it was the stress or what but it was like the quickest period I've had in a long time.
It was kind of like Christmas, Lauren. Not your typical christmas, Lauren, I know. But I mean, conceptually, like. We didn't know what was coming next, a gift? So far we'd had food, rest and then this shower.
We were all herded out of the shower area and offered on tables, folded up neatly, fresh clothes, identical clothes in fact, you'd almost consider them uniforms, like. Jumpers. Yeah, like prison jumpers I suppose. They said we could wear them if we wanted to or wear our own clothes but, explaining more perhaps in 30 seconds than they had the entire time leading up to this moment, the clothes were there to wear if wanted them, if ours got torn or dirty or whatever. They'd bought them wholesale, yes, some prison outfitter, for real, that's what they said, or that's what the rumour was anyway, I can't remember but almost all of us just carried the jumpers and put our regular clothes on. Identity, I guess. We weren't quite ready to lose it yet, ha.
So after all this, they herd us back into another cafeteria sort of place and we get more food! Broth of some kind, a baked potatoe with as much butter as we wanted, and a salad. Not a meal for royalty mind, but a pleasant surprise. Almost normal. They said for us to enjoy it now, some of us would be at sea for many days and the food wasn't going to be as lush as this. I keep saying "they say" but the fact is, it's just what gets back to me in the form of a rumour and for lack of any better information, seeing as how they keep us in the dark like this, rumour is the best bit of information we have, provided it turns out to be proven correct, of course.
Emma and Mousy girl, like me, are starting to get used to the idea of this little adventure. I can hear the excitement in their voices, hell, in my voice even. We spent most of our meal speculating what it would be like, if they were going to remix the sexes again to avoid the lot of us turning into lesbians (that was Emma's little stab at dark humour apparently), if we really were going to have jobs what kind of jobs we'd have. The meal sort of made it real for us, took us out of that surreal movement from the bus that first day, overnight in that car park and then on that boat.
There wasn't any smoking anywhere, which pissed us all off to some degree but the fact was, we didn't really have any tobacco left anyway. Were we going to get access to tobacco? Surely they didn't expect us all to just quit, cold turkey, did they? Outside we could smoke, of course, but we weren't outside and we weren't allowed outside so even though we didn't have any tobacco to smoke anyway, Emma was starting to get a little pissed off, maybe just irritated by the lack of nicotine, I dunno, Mousy girl, I'm beginning to suspect, only smokes to be like one of us but Emma, she, I sense, would chain smoke if she had the chance. She's got alot of pent up energy, always ready for something.
Anyway, after the meal, herded out again, taught to take our plastic trays and plastic bowls, forks, etc, dump them into this cleaning bin and then stack the trays neatly. We're taught this Lauren, like children. Like we're stupid fucking children who have to be told what to do every step of the way.
Then when they've got us all herded into a room they start handing out these little postcards. They've mostly got the same nature scenes on them, generic nature scenes, not postcards of like the camp so we could write "Weather is fantastic, wish you were here" and a bunch of little smiley faces or xxx's at the end. As they passed these out at one end, they started passing out writing pens on the other end until soon enough, we all had a postcard and a pen, just like that, presto.
And the funny fucking thing was no one did a fucking thing with them, you know? We all just stood there like obedient little dogs with our heads tilted to one side waiting for the next instructions. I mean, what the fuck were the postcards for? Were we supposed to take notes about something, write information down, what?
Nope, after they'd finished handing everything out they explained simple as you like, for those of you who want to, you can drop someone, a loved one, whatever, a line just to let them know that you've arrived safely and everything is fine. I mean, how weird was that? How do I know everything is fine? Sure, I arrived safely, more or less. Sure, I've had a meal or two and a nice hot shower. But I have no idea what's happening next, where I'm going and then I started panicking a little like, what if they just want us to write these little postcards out saying everything was just fine and then they herd us into some sort of execution rooms or something. Believe me, I thought about it, I mentioned it to Emma, sotto voce, like because I didn't want to disturb Mousy girl, but yeah, the thought crossed my mind, their little final sentence like, you've caused the state enough economically over the time, there's no more money blablabla so now we're going to put you down.
You think that's crazy? I don't. Believe me, I've seen these heartless fucks in action, they're quite capable of almost anything and just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it won't, that they are just trying to lull us into a false sense of security before they sort of kill us, bury us in masse graves on some fucking remote island - I mean why else did they summon us here? They can just get rid of us quietly.
Man, I'm freaking out at this stage in my head. So much so, I can't even bring myself to write. Mousy girl is all sincere, writing to her family, telling them as much details as she can fit on the bloody postcard because they've told us the postcards are all going to be sent out, postage free for us, yippee! So all we've got to do is write them. But I'm not writing a fucking thing. I've got it all on this laptop. But then fuck, I start thinking I don't want them to get suspicious or thinking that I'm being uncooperative, so yeah, I lost my nerve after that. I wonder if you've gotten that postcard by now? I wonder if it was ever sent. I wish I could find out. I mean not now of course, but say in a few weeks that you could tell me oh yeah, I received that postcard now that you mention it, no sorry I haven't had the time just yet to read those three lines but I'll try and get to it shortly....
Emma, my god, took the other extreme. She was thinking like they're all censoring these fucking cards and it was her idea that they're just going to bin the fucking things if we wrote anything negative on them so of course she writes nothing but negative things, complains about everything we've experienced to date, not inaccurate, mind but let's just say that perception may vary depending on the person. So Emma is letting it rip and, she says to me before handing it in, the funny thing is I've not sent it to anyone I know. I've sent it to the bloody precinct near my old house. How's that for a larf, eh?
Anyway, we all queue up again, hand in our cards and what next what next we're all thinking....shit, the batteries on this thing are blinking again, it's going to need recharging. I haven't had a chance to find anything like this again yet so I'm kind of fucked. We may or may not get electrical outlets access soon but fuck, I'm trying to preserve this in smalll increments so I don't run out of batteries competely so, bye for now!
Well, quite some bit to report now that I've finally had a chance to solar charge the battery. I still haven't come across an electrical outlet and you must know what a pain solar battery charging is....well, maybe not. I seem to recall you're indoors working most of the time so perhaps you aren't even able to use a solar charger.
Anyway, getting off course. Where was I? I think last we were filling in or writing postcards and handing them in and getting into another bloody queue, that's it.
We're assembled through a series of hallways that eventually lead to this large gated yard, and believe me, I was still thinking at this point about getting gassed or gunned down or something, I mean why else put us all together like that just after we'd gotten done writing postcards home saying everything was ok?
But we're in this yard with no one else, razorwire along the top of the fencing, uniformed blokes standing at the ready but looking somewhat relaxed. I observe that Lauren because I figure if something's going down, the uniformed blokes are going to be on edge, just waiting for it to all kick off. But they seem reasonably relaxed, those capable of it anyway, and once we're all inside they announce a few announcements, the primary one being we are going to be split into three separate groups and two of those groups will be sent off to another island whilst one of the groups are going to stay here on this one.
They don't say who is doing what of course. They don't say why we're going to different islands, what we'll be doing on them or anything else but getting separated caused a bit of a stir, you can be sure. Our group is female only, if I haven't mentioned that before, thought the hosing down story might be a giveaway. Anyway, they wait for the clamour to die down and then carry on with the announcements. Those leaving for Destination A, no shit, that's what they call it, they don't even give it a proper name and surely whatever island they're sticking us on has already got somebody living on it and already has a name but they aren't revealing that much information to us. They just start off saying Destination A and they read down the list.
We hear Emma's name. Well, we hear "Emma", neither me or the Mousy girl knows her surname anyway, but we hear Emma and we look over and she's looking a little stunned, I suppose. We're all waiting to see who, if any of us are going to join her but then there is a little pause and they immediately kick in by saying those leaving for Destination B without letting it sink in to those leaving for Destination A yet, who they are going or not going with, and then giving out the names for Destination B, which includes my name but not Mousy girls. This kind of pisses us all off. I mean what are the odds, I dunno Lauren, you do the maths, what are the odds that none of us were put in the same group? If it was done randomly of course. We sort of suspect it isn't random at all and the fact that none of us are together seems to confirm it.
So if that's the case I reckon they're leaving the least troubled or perhaps the most promising, right here, closest to the mainland. I suppose that makes sense.
And we work out, left to our devices once we're told the ships for Destinations A and B would be leaving in the morning so we had the rest of the evening to ourselves, either A or B is for the hard cases, the ones they perhaps have least hope for.
Well, it makes sense that A is better than B, doesn't it, Emma spits, annoyed that if this is indeed the case, that A is better than B, then she's not as hard as me, pulls on her fag and waits for me to challenge her, like no, it's gotta be A is the worst because she's going to A and she's obviously a bit harder than me and also maybe it's outward placement, like A is closest to here which is closest to the mainland and then every island thereafter from maybe B to Z, if that is in fact the case, is for worse people, otherwise, they'd just stick you on an island until it was too stuffed with people and when one became too full they'd just start filling up the next one and so on, they wouldn't be separating people already. There was certainly some sort of method or reasoning behind what they were doing but they weren't telling us anything.
But basically, we're all sort of focused on this trivial little argument because we don't want to deal with the fact that we're going to be split up beginning tomorrow, left to deal with all this on our own all over again, and it's Mousy girl whose all quiet standing there, a little tear rolling down her cheek.
What are you crying about Mousy girl, Emma demands, still frustrated to think she might not be the harder of the two of us, you're staying. You've got the best seat in the house. I reckon they think you must be rehabilitatable.
This isn't much consolation to Mousy girl, not at first anyway, but as the night wears on and we make all sorts of secret oaths to each other and sit in a little circle smoking fags and making fun of stuff, like how other people look since we can't make fun of how they're dressed any more because we're all in the same uniforms. Eventually we all sort of nod off to sleep, like everyone else in camp. There was the initial buzz of speculation but I suppose that's worn off. We're all people who are pretty accustomed to just dealing what's been handed to us, taking handouts, following instructions, filling out forms, whatever, just to keep us going, so eventually, the novelty of this separation wears off and everyone sort of nods off and that's the end of it until morning.
I finally found out the date, or rather I think I did. I saw it on this little sheet, chart or whatever they were checking off when I was herded off to go to my ship. It's already Friday.
We are kept together in the same group until breakfast is announced. I guess we all feel a little sad this morning. Yeah, we haven't known each other very long but it's the trauma of what we're experiencing, the uncertainty, that binds us together faster, makes us mates more easily that otherwise. I mean sure, I'd probably be mates with Emma anyway but now that we've found each other we're like, fucked. We don't know where the other is going, we don't know how we'll stay in touch, we don't know if we'll ever even see each other again.
When Mousy girl was off to the toilets to ponder her own solitutude, Emma was on about it a little as she smoked and sat cross-legged next to me. You know, she said, it's not like we're fucking lesbo lovers or something but I've grown rather fond of you already, she says, resting her hand on my shoulders and making me feel a little uneasy. If I knew we were going to see each other in a few weeks, or a month or even a fucking year, fuck, I'd not be bothered by this but fuck, all of us are going our separate ways and we don't know where we're going or what's going to happen to us, you know? It just makes everything seem, I dunno, more fragile, I guess.
Yeah, I responded quickly. I feel the same way. I'm sure everybody does. It's kind of fucked. Maybe we could see if they'd change it around abit, maybe there's some other pair who don't want to get split up and we can arrange it so we can swap places or something.
And just like that, Emma was back on her feet, cigarette between her fingers, whiping herself off, fuck yeah, you're right, she says, and just takes off.
I watch her disappear into the crowd just as Mousy girl is returning. Where did Emma go? I dunno. I think she's going to have a word with someone about the arrangements, see if we can switch them at all.
Oh no, Mousy girl said with certainty. They won't let anyone switch. Whatever the reasoning they've had for splitting people into the groups they've split them into, that reasoning hasn't changed. You can be sure they won't let anyone switch otherwise there'd be chaos. Everyone would want to change and be with their mates, innit?
I guess you're right. So what do you think?
I dunno, she shrugged. What does anyone think. We're all in the same boat to speak. Well, she laughed, some of us are on boats, some of us are going to be stuck on this island for god knows how long doing god knows what. I can only imagine this is just some processing centre and they haven't figured out where to put us yet....
Emma was back already. Cunts, she spat. They won't even listen to you. No, they say. Ask why not and they just repeat no. And then they tell you you've only got a limited of time left before you ship out. Which destination are you headed that creepy uniformed bloke asked me.
We all stood around without saying much until they made the annoucement, will all people who are assigned to Destination A please form an orderly queue by the flagpole in five minutes. A count will be performed, roll called and if you try and switch or change or ignore the destination you have been assigned we will be taking note of you and you will fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice for further dealing....
Fuck this, Emma repeated again, stubbing out her cigarette. They're not fucking about, are they?
So we all have our little hugs, no tears and we kind of stand there looking at each other trying to make little jokes to ease the anxiety of the uncertainty of where we were headed or what laid in store for us. There are some people though, who've come together, who knew each other beforehand. I think most of those people appear to be heading in the same directions maybe because as I look around, there are no big scenes, nor tearful farewells. Everyone is just kind of milling around, slowly thinking about making their way to their processing areas.
And then that's it. Before I even realise it I am walking over toward the gate which has a sign above it Destination B, alone yet again although I have to admit, somewhat interested in what's going to happen to me.
The boat I was put on for this Destination B is massive. I mean, MASSIVE. Eight or Nine decks, it's got cabins, restaurant, slot machines, nightclub, cinema, shops. Unfortunately, no one has any money.
There is nothing but a skeletal crew and that crew are in essence, uniformed blokes who are there more for security purposes than anything else. Very little is explained other than go through this door and then when you go through that door there's someone there with a list of names who asks you your name and when you give it, they tell you a deck to go to.
Who gets the cabins is what I want to know. Most of the seating has been torn out. When somebody tries to take a peak in the cabins they are quickly diverted back to the main deck. There are no beds in the cabins, they've been removed as well. So we're going to be sleeping on the floor, it looks like.
Finally have some time, some peace and privacy to carry on with the emails I can't send.
I've been giving some thought, oddly enough only just now, to where I am or where I'm heading, where we even were at the point I was split up from Mousy Girl and Emma.
I've come to the conclusion I haven't a clue.
For some reason I think our first stop over was in Ireland somewhere. Funny thing is, no one even speculated about it while we were there. I guess we were all too dumbfounded, overwhelmed, herded immediately and thus, unthinking. But perhaps it made sense, a sort of transit point in Ireland. Not that you'd have known you were in Ireland or England. It was just an officious little processing centre filled by people with English accents. It could have been anywhere in the world.
And they've given us no indication of how long we're going to be travelling for. When we settled in we all just kind of sat around. It's a weird thing to see, all of these people, mostly strangers to each other, mincing around, sniffing the air, trying to figure out what the fuck's going on, what's the pecking order, whose going to be in charge of what but all of this is going on wordlessly, silently in their heads. You can sort of see them working it all out.
You couldn't imagine it, Lauren so I'll try to tell you - they make sure all along they keep pretty good control of you and most people, by and large are just sort of settling in, not going to create a stir, equally curious about what's going to happen next and everyone just kind of follows everything without question, seating themselves in the designated areas.
Some people immediately lie down, stick a jacket under their heads and try to fall asleep. Other people are restless, wandering, pacing, hands in pockets, hands touching hair, hands fiddling with gadgets that serve no meaningful function, hands itching and scratching.
There's the delay of course, whilst they're sorting every one out, directing them, before the ferry sets off but then there we go, exiting the harbour. I haven't a fucking clue what I'm looking at, what city that is we are leaving, where we were where the processing camp was. Not very helpful am I? So I get up and ask one of the uniformed blokes, just for the fuck of it, like because I know they aren't going to give out information, where we are leaving from, where we are going.
You're leaving Processing Centre A, m'am. Heading for Destination B.
Wow, that's interesting. Do these places not have real names any more?
He looks at me briefly. I think he was staring out at the crowd before that, counting people or making sure no fights broke out or something. He looks at me longer than briefly, stares at me up and down, quite rudely for a moment, then returns his gaze to the crowd.
For security reasons and for your safety, the relevant information is that you are leaving Processing Centre A and heading for Destination B.
That didn't get me very far, innit? So I ask him if he can spare a smoke.
Smoking is permitted in the designated outdoor deck areas only, he recites without taking his eyes off the crowd. There is a limited supply of tobacco in the shop of deck 3.
But you? Have you got a smoke, I ask, pushing him more. He still doesn't look at me.
I do not smoke, m'am. He says flatly.
Fuck it. I can't stand the idea of sitting around or lying around with all those people settling in for god knows how long. I know what section I'm supposed to be staying in and surprisingly, it looks like there's enough room there for everyone so it doesn't seem like I'd have to fight for space. So I decide to check out the shop on the 3rd deck.
Not that I have any money really. I mean, I have a little bit left over from the last stipend. Minimal. They seem to be feeding us, even if the food isn't all that appetising so I figure what the hell, I can maybe buy a few cigarettes. For the first time in months I think I'm craving a drink. There is no alcohol served on board, the sign clearly states before you even enter the shop. So what have they got? Fuck all. Tobacco. Packets of crisps, fancy chocolate no one on board looks like they can afford. The tobacco is even cheaper than on land. Duties suspended on tobacco. Apparently they want to encourage us to smoke, maybe we'll die faster and be out of their hair.
I buy 6 cigarettes and figure I'll smoke one every two or three hours. I'm aware they will run out and that 6 might not be enough to last the entire trip but fuck it, I don't even know how long the trip is going to last. A few hours, a few days, who knows, they won't tell you.
So I take my half dozen fags, carrying my bags with me because for certain I wouldn't leave my bags in that sleeping area. I know what these people are like, they're like I used to be. Petty criminals, druggies, alcoholics. They aren't the kind of people you leave your personal belongings left lying around in front of, inviting them to steal. Still, other than the laptop, I haven't really got much of importance anyway.
As we are leaving the harbour of Processing Centre A, I push open the deck door and find hordes of people standing outside smoking and talking as if we were outside of some trendy night club. It's not quite dusk yet but close. Even above the chatter you can hear the steady drone of the ship's engines and the water pushed aside as we shot forwards.
I set my kit on the ground and put a cigarette in my mouth before realising I haven't even got a fucking lighter! Or do I? I start searching my pockets, casual at first but then with a little more urgency. Finally a hand holding a lighter presents itself in front of me and lights the lighter. I lean forward and light my cigarette before looking up to find the hand is of course, attached to an arm which is attached to a shoulder, a body, a face, a man who is stood there with wild ginger afro hair and a silly grin on his face. He's quite tall but his body is misshapen in some way, perhaps because he is too tall, or uncomfortable being so tall. He must be nearly seven feet tall.
Crazy, innit? He says, running a head into his ginger afro and exhaling smoke into the sea air, slightly shouting over the engines.
Yeah, crazy, I reply presuming he is on about this trip and not his having
given me a light or something else.
I'm Marcus, he says, holding out his hand. Harmless enough, he seems. I shake his hand. Margaret.
He laughs at this one. Marcus and Margaret sound so similar to his ear he finds this hysterical. I begin to think perhaps he's not quite all there but as we continue talking, he seems to fade in and out between coherency and craziness. Not crazy, like dangerous crazy, but just like, unbalanced, or not all there. Kind of like he has some sort of disability maybe. That's it. Like he's got special needs but not so bad that he can't function properly.
We chat awhile. I ask him what he does. Nothing. Of course, nothing, otherwise he wouldn't be here would he? Only the unemployed are gettting shipped out in pursuit of their bright new futures. Nothing at all? No hobbies? I like to dance, he says. Take pills and dance at the clubs, like. Oh. That explains it a little more perhaps. Too many pills, a little brain damage and loud, throbbing repetitive music. It makes perfect sense.
Don't suppose they'll be selling pills or opening up a hard house club on board.
He laughs again, a guffaw, a sort of stutter. And loud. People turn from their conversations when he laughs. It's loud and weird. I feel a little uncomfortable being seen there talking to him, this weird loud guy with a ginger afro but then I realise who the fuck am I trying to impress? These people are all losers otherwise they wouldn't be on this boat to begin with. Fuck them. I'll have my fun and relax.
No, I don't expect they'll be doing any of that sort, shaking his head vehemently, as though dancing even though he was standing there. Or maybe it was just the combination of the wild ginger afro and the breeze coming from the sea.
Well, I say, dropping my cigarettte to the ground. All finished. Thanks again for the light. I wasn't planning on spending my night talking to him. Even if I had no one else better to talk to.
I start to head back inside but the ginger guy puts out his cigarette and follows me in as well, as if we belonged together and he's just making certain the fates get played out. I'm vaguely annoyed. But he's a big guy, even if he's goofy and frankly, the idea of having a big guy around amid all these strangers is not such a bad idea. Say Marcus, I say suddenly stopping a turning. I'm dying for another smoke. Have you got an extra?
So we're out on the deck for quite awhile. The conversation isn't really all that interesting. He's quite a painful conversationalist. Everything is "wild" or "trippy" and the observations are limited in scope. Not that I'm any genius either but my vocabulary isn't as stunted. Maybe I'm just not cool enough any more, you know, brevity in words might be the new thing, display indifference like a peacock's feathers. But what the hell, would I be any less bored just sitting there by myself?
After an hour or so from leaving port the ship's loudspeakers announce the dining area was going to open and we would all be summoned, by the area we'd been assigned to, to an eating shift. That we were, if hungry, meant to assemble in front of the dining hall on deck 3 and await further instructions. And so section by section was called - this was my quick exit from Marcus, for the moment anyway - he was in a different section - and I made my way back.
So here it is, who knows what time now, dark. We've had our free food, a reasonable dinner of fish and chips, believe it or not. Not as bad as I'd imagined either. Certainly edible. Went back and had a nap. Woke up in the middle of the night, no one else awake, snoring, a found a little empty table near a window to stare out into the black of the night. And as I've been writing this, the sky has lightened ever so slightly so that I can almost make out, well, pretty much make out the deep blue of the sea versus the reddish orange of a dawn somewhere out there, and a clue perhaps with the sun appearing to prepare to rise to my right, fuck, thought I might be sharpish there for a minute and guess the direction we were heading but then realised if I don't know North or South the sun rise is not going to help me.
Anyway, it's another day. Or starting to be. I wish I had something to read, something to occupy my mind. I don't want to end up just lying there staring up and letting myself think. I hate thinking because the minute I do that, memories start flooding in and I'm in the mood. I just don't need that kind of shite right now, not with all this uncertainty. Not without knowing what the fuck is next.
Another day has passed at see. Yes Lauren, I did see Marcus again although not until mid day. Didn't see him at breakfast either. I'm quite surprised how well they're feeding us. I wonder if this is an indication that they're fatting us up for the slaughter or if they're trying to help us enjoy our final days on board and on Earth. No one else seems to appreciate that sort of dark humour. Certainly not the ship's crew, who I tried it out on a time or two trying to elicite some answers about where we were headed or at the very least, when we were expected to get there. They're very tight-lipped about it all, the fuckers.
Marcus appreciates it though. Whenever I make one of my snide, cynical little comments, he gets it and snortles his loud laugh. I've been observing this laugh for many hours now. It starts of as a kind of snort and then gets louder until it reaches the point of sounding almost forced. I'm sure I've already mentions he gets alot of strange looks. Yes, the ginger afro and very tall frame don't help either. I asked him if he gets self conscious about people looking at him all the time, about looking so different from everyone else and you know what he said? He said, no Margaret, I don't give a fuck what these people think. And then he leans down to me, sort of conspiratorily, and says, you think this isn't all for their benefit? People are so fucking predictable Margaret. Oh, surprise at the tall man. Oh, surprise at the tall man with ginger afro. Oh surprise at the tall man with the ginger afro with the funny laugh. That's why I don't give a fuck. What am I gonna do, shave my head, keep quiet and hope they don't still stare at me just because I'm tall? Fuck it, might as well give 'em the 'ole show.
We talked awhile about the future, the uncertain future. Marcus has a theory that we're going to some work camp. He thinks the government, either the British government or some sort of world consortium representing a small ruling class' interests, have come up with some idea about how to get the economy rolling or how to make sure their own profits keep rolling in and our labour is going to be the source of it. They've probably come up with some new technology that requires some weird human interaction and we're going to be the experiments - working with robots or something to form a new community, whatja think?
I really have no idea. And I'm tired, Lauren. I'm tired after all these years, all this pain and misery and tragedy and partying and thinking I'm going mad and just when I thought I'd finally got a hold on it all, a hold on my life, gained some control back, the whole world goes fucking barking mad. I feel like giving up.
Marcus is on about wanting a beer so often, so punctually, like every half hour or so, he's got me thinking about it as well. We share stories for several hours between us about nights out, wild parties. My spirits lifts a little. But at the same time it makes me nostalgic. I know, I'm supposed to view it all with disdain, I fucked my life up, right? But what the fuck, it would have ended up fucked up anyway as far as I can tell out here on this boat going christ knows where.
I've lost track of time.
(land appears and the rest is going to be dedicated to describing this primitive organisation, the greeting by unarmed guards, toughs, the clear leader of the bunch, the rules they are doling out, the government has abandoned you and now, as the rules have had to be made up from scratch you will see I am your new ruler. This is no democracy. I am your leader and you will accept it. If you don't well, god help you....
(use the idea of primitive man - they have no tools, the only source of food is vegetation and a few sheep, lambs, cattle - go back to the history, the leader is one of the original imports...)