January 2022. Control of all arms of government now consolidated, hothead celebrity manoeuvres power levers of international domestic civic commercial life from gilded Manhattan penthouse.

U.S. economy in tatters, reverse refugee procession to Third World underway.

Washington, D.C. now a vast abandoned museum, Los Angeles an endless windswept car park emptied of the directors and film stars of a now forgotten epoch, most of whom have moved to subsistence farms and rural Californian communes.

Colonies of rats and birds of prey occupy whole pockets of Manhattan. New York City a sombre vertical frontier for driftwood runaways, craven lunatics, and residual regime initiates barricaded behind their Upper East Side estate perimeter fences.

Among them is former lobbyist and shadowy political operative Terry V. Mandelson.

Friday

The school of 2016 gathers for gala memorial event under the crumbling staccato dome of the Waldorf Astoria ballroom, New York’s sole extant hotel.

Low-Energy Jeb, bowing to international pressure, lumbers through the crowd, tripping over, spilling drinks, knocking old ladies off their walking frames before embarking upon a 15-minute garbled apology (“I have two right…I mean…uh…left feet, ha ha…”)

Little Marco, drenched in sweat, tries to curry favour with senior religious figures and NRA executive committee members, while Rafael Edward “Lyin’” Ted Cruz sits in corner beside a spittoon playing banjo singing “how dee dooooo I love youuu,” lolling head in ecstatic spring-loaded abandon.

Crooked Hillary enters the room on a blood diamond-encrusted solid gold cathedra (overlayed with a tasteful Tyrian trim) elevated on the backs of a sombre lumbering chain gang humming the falsetto notes of an Arizona prison song. She sits, jowl agape, in loose repose like a melting marshmallow, suddenly enters trance state, starts speaking in tongues punctuated by fits of manic laughter.

She regains consciousness and flings herself upright as though on tenterhooks (probably controlled by donors and special interests), screams, “Having a lovely time, Bill!” but Bill is busy scanning the room in search of victims/benefactors.

Trumpets sound and the redoubtable propagator of tact, statesmanship, and syllogism, subtle allegory, and blockbuster ratings across all primetime slots (truly unbelievable let me tell you) interrupts the polite chatter humdrum with a delicate clink of his glass.

He thanks the military and the National Guard, who’ve been so loyal these past few months despite all the dishonest coverage of all the world’s major news outlets. Such unfair, dishonest people. He asks crowd if they’re tired of winning yet, cups hand around ear and crowd boos prompting him to rebuff them for showing such rudeness to Hillary, who might be a nasty woman but has shown tremendous courage and grace by showing up this evening, it took a lot of guts, believe me.

Terry positions himself next to Lyin’ Ted, who has suspended his jamboree to attach a scope to his DSR-1 semi-automatic sniper rifle. Ted scans the room, imagining himself hunting moose on a Nebraskan ridgeline. He is now dressed in full military garb, war paint smudged over his cheeks and girthsome dewlap, which dances beneath his semi-credulous face.

I once had a sharp chin, he thinks when he catches himself in the mirror nowadays. A patriot’s chin. A Stanford chin, goddamn it! The type of chin that shatters continental ice sheets and brings despots to heel. The type of chin around which whole ancient societies constructed delphic mythologies and fought wars, rose and fell ad infinitum across infinite spectral galaxies.

He licks his index finger and holds it out chest high to test the wind, leans down to whisper to Terry, who’s now in position, his face severe.

“You got this Terry?”

“I got this.”

“You sure you got this?”

“It’s ours.”

Terry takes the shot, but it bounces off what was thought to be the Rating Machine’s tastefully lacquered skin, but which it transpires is an impenetrable auric shield.

“Damn it, Terry,” cries Ted. “I said aim for the eyes! The eyes!” But neither Terry nor anyone around him notices, all exterior stimuli overborne by the mind-expanding contours of the great orator’s dispensations.

“You know, folks,” he says, “there’s something a lot of so called smart people have been saying is that, you know, the United States supposedly isn’t doing so well.” He peels away from the microphone, his face bemused, incredulous. “That’s what some supposedly smart people are saying, can you believe it? The United States. Well, let me tell you…you know, I went to Wharton. I think I know a country doing well when I see one, wouldn’t you say? And by the way I have…I mean I have an incredible company. In fact, they say, you know, people they say things…nice things…about my company…including that it’s one of most impressive organisations…let’s say in the country or let’s just say…because it’s what I’m told and it’s not me saying these things folks…” He joins his thumb to his forefinger, as if to prove his homo sapien credentials. “…the greatest company in the world. Okay? Not to mention liquid. Great. Liquid. You’ve never seen so much liquid. Incredible liquid, let me tell you.”

“Come on, Terry,” says Ted in a final forlorn glance at the podium. “Let’s get outta here.”

Terry follows Ted toward the hotel’s 49th Street exit as DJT continues to apprise the guests of their many shortcomings, principal among which is the sincere and ongoing incomprehension of his own political diplomatic commercial sporting and sexual prowess.

They hobble into the vexing infinity of the New York night and the city reasserts itself. Gun shots. The echo of distant cries. The smell of burning rubber and gathering rain.

They mount their bicycles, peddle south, and enter a bar downtown.

“Can I help you?” says the barkeep, his sole functioning eye regarding the queer mocking geometries of Ted’s face.

Terry scans the dank alcoves taking in the strange figures about him, a cohort of lost and uncured, disoriented, and criminally insane.

“I’m a scotch man,” Ted replies finally with his eager-to-please manner, which Terry notes he has not dispensed with since his unfurling into obscurity.

Ted gets drunk and emotional and breaks into spontaneous prayer.

“Show me the way, oh Lord!” he says at his barstool. “Help me understand…”

Saturday

Terry awakes in a daze in his 31st floor Chrysler Building condominium. He totters towards the cupboard and scoops a cup of moonshine out of his bathtub and takes a large gulp. “Getting better,” he says with real pride. “Sweeter every week.”

Walking back towards the living room, he gazes out at the derelict buildings crumbling like the remnants of an island monastery, the foreclosed capital of a cancelled empire.

He guzzles down the rest of his glass and new dimensions open up beneath his feet.

A carousel of didactic vignettes reveal themselves. He enters a labyrinth of interconnected chambers with both physical and metaphysical perimeters (some walled by precious metals, others by proverbs, fables, miscellaneous illuminations of human understanding). All flow one to another, a million concentric circles overlapping and dancing like satellite radio waves in a layered multiverse before morphing into irregular parallel shapes redolent of three dimensional finger prints.

A voice beckons Terry to surrender consciousness. “Inside,” it whispers in cool tonic waves.

He ventures inside and notes that core indistinguishable from periphery, encounters Ben Carson stood in lab coat, beaker in hand, staring into space, pondering whether to cure all world’s ailments or blow out own brains, which as chief economist will tell you is well advised in this climate.

Next room, he sees disobliging door lady in listless gait through the streets of future cities on traverse to terminus of own mind, over-budget and ahead of schedule.

Beyond her, a sentence of attractive phonology and elegant syntax inflicts unspeakable sex crimes against besieged Internet hacker without so much as a starter main dessert.

Letters begin to assemble in Terry’s mind, eventually taking shape in the form of a note scribbled on a napkin.

THANKS YOU WERE GREAT HONEST BUT I GOTTA SCOOT I’LL CALL YOU X.

Hours pass until finally Terry comes to legs akimbo on the 31st floor of the Chrysler Building.

“I gotta get outta here,” he says, rising to his feet. He embarks on the perilous descent down the concrete stairwell, passing addicts and whores on the way.

Now in darkness, he walks down 51st Street and encounters disobliging door lady standing clipboard in hand outside an abandoned building in which unutterable epithets from generations long since forgotten perform renegade performance art piece.

“One please,” says Terry, looking down at her baleful, disobliging face which shimmers under the neon flicker of the one night only sign. “Hey, don’t I know you?” she says. Terry shakes his head and walks through turnstile. “I don’t want no trouble, lady.”

Sunday

Terry arrives at La Guardia Airport and boards a military jet bound for London with drinking buddy and fellow invitee Rafael Edward “Lyin’” Ted Cruz for global networking event hosted by a notorious Saudi arms dealer.

On arrival at Heathrow, they take a cab to the hotel.

“Say, Ter,” Ted says with a broad smile, “maybe this is my ticket to a big comeback! Alls we gotta do is play it cool with one of these ayerabs and I can get some funds together for the nomination.”

Terry looks out the window impassively.

“Terry,” Ted continues, his tone now earnest, sincere. “I believe if we can just…rekindle our faith…” His voice winds down to a quivering murmur. “…if we can just restore our faith in God, well, I’m confident we can return jobs, prosperity, and security to our great nation…”

Ted gazes out at the sodden London streets. “You know something?” he says, now on the brink of tears. “Freedom. Property rights. Magna Carta. Western Civilisation. It all began here, Terry. And here we are. You and me, buddy. Ain’t she beautiful?”

At the hotel, Terry takes in the warm fragrant air and plush interior, welcome respite from his rat-infested digs on the 31st Floor of the Chrysler Building.

“How’s about you and I go and whet the old beak, huh, Ter?”

So Terry and Lyin’ Ted enter London pub of ill repute.

A half-naked Frenchman struts around shouting obscenities, clutching a can of gasoline. “Je m’en fout!” he cries. “Je ne veux plus de cette merde!” All sit around in good spirits, unperturbed by the rogue and his menacing air.

Terry’s eyes light up as Frenchman approaches Ted on his way to the bathroom. He blocks Ted’s path, who meets him with a bemused, fearful expression.

“Hello, sir.” He laughs nervously. “How you doing this evening?”

“Lighteur,” the man says, observing Ted’s eager-to-please disposition. Ted gestures that his pockets are empty.

“You know sumsing?” the man says. “You look like you eat ze sheet.”

“I’m sorry…the what now?”

“Ze sheet! La merde putain Americain!”

Ted looks over at Terry, who is at the bar, halfway through his first whisky and aloof of everything. He backs away from the man and sets himself down next to Terry.  The two proceed to drink apace.

13 pints later, Lyin’ Ted is asleep on his barstool, a pool of spit glistening in a fold of his button-up shirt. Terry shakes him. Ted starts singing “Old Nassau” while regaining consciousness.

“Terry!…Terry, damn it. We need White Castle. Do y’all have White Castle here in Angland? Need some duck gumbo. God, I miss Texas. Good queso with tiny Vienna sausage. Let it drip down your chin.”

They walk out of the bar, stumble through the streets, and eventually enter a bus station where an automatic message is broadcast, warning that the penalty for antisocial behaviour is a million lashings and a thousand years of unsuspended public humiliation.

Ted, now shirtless, runs through the station spitting, smoking, cursing, proceeds to sexually assault a CCTV camera, which he rides like a wild rodeo bull.

“Terry, look!” he cries through peals of laughter. “Boy, she’s a double-kicker! Hoo-wee, a real spinner.”

“Goddamn you, Ted, get down from there,” says Terry as a floodlight descends upon them.

Monday

Court Room 1: Concerned Viewers and Readers v. Humour, Dialectics.
Court Room 2: The King v. Cruz, Mandelson.
Court Room 3: Atavism v. Reason.
Court Room 4: Civilisation in gallows, execution imminent.

Proceedings in Court Room 2

“My Lord,” intones Barnaby Eggers-Chittleworth on voir dire, “the footage of the first accused molesting the CCTV camera must be admitted in evidence.”

“Objection, your honour,” Ted interposes. “Prejudicial.”

“Overruled. Clerk, recall the jury.”

Mr Eggers-Chittleworth stands to deliver his opening address, informing the jurors that of all the depraved acts committed in all the infamous cases he has ever appeared in, indeed perhaps of all the cases of which Her Majesty’s Bar has ever taken cognisance, the conduct of the first accused ranks among the basest.

“Regarding the second defendant,” he continues, “true, it is that English courts do not generally look kindly upon doctrines of vicarious culpability or guilt by association. But no right is absolute and no rule denies of exceptions.

“The accuseds cavorted at the same public house. They drank the same (stupendous) quantity of ale and were animated by the same spirit of disregard. They were, in short, brothers in a nefarious mutual enterprise.”

It takes two to tango, he reminds the jurors, and there is no smoke without fire, etc.

“Gentlemen,” the judge says, “I suppose you have no doubts? I have none.”

Head foreman nods in meek assent.

“Will the accuseds rise? Rafael Cruz and Terry Mandelson, I sentence you to a million lashings and a thousand years of public humiliation. Unsuspended. Commencing forthwith. Bailiff!” he cries, striking gavel. “Take them down.”

Ted and Terry are bundled into a police van bound for Belmarsh.

“I’ll never see the Statue of Liberty again,” says Terry, his face in his lap, clutching a shock of hair in his cuffed hands. “Some weekend.”

“You know, Terry,” replies Ted with cool demeanour, “it’s the fate of all prophets to die in exile.”

Terry looks at Ted, his mouth agape, his body shaking with hatred.

“Jesus said,” Ted continues, peering at a pocket Bible, “the blood of prophets may be required of this generation. Luke 11:50. Don’t you see, Terry?” he cackles. “This is just the beginning, buddy. We’re immortal now.”