heyrick1973 -at- yahoo -dot- co -dot uk
It's Friday. It's SIBA time!
This story was written shortly after "TakeOver". I had only ever intended to write the one story, but I rather liked the setup and the characters, so I devised another scenario for them to end up in.
Here's the playlist, and I've snuck a bunch of other references of the era into the playlist after the songs. Just chill...
2 - Tunnel
|Tunnel by Richard Murray
First version © 1990 Richard Murray
Second version © 2000 Richard Murray
This version © 2017 Richard Murray.
Richard Murray is asserting his right to be identified as the author of this story.
This story is not to be republished anywhere else in any form (electronic, paper, or otherwise) without the prior permission of the author.
The clock on the desk slowly ticked over to 14:00h. Down on the oval lawn, skateboarders were still in force, refusing to acknowledge the time and go to lessons. I looked back at the record player and watched the Dire Straits LP “Love Over Gold” spinning around, playing a really cool song called “Industrial Disease”. My mind wandered. I didn’t think about much. In front of me was a memo from the headmaster. As of now, we were banned from broadcasting during lunchtime - twelve forty to two o’clock. This was a punishment inflicted on us for showing “Paperhouse”, a movie released a month before. You see, that video was on the “late night” list. No doubt the moral thought brigade complained because of a few swear words and a little bit of violence. I was going to the headmaster’s study at four o’clock to challenge him to watch the movie and write down everything that did not meet his approval. The independent censorship board had screwed up on many movies. Such things like “Angel” (student by day, prostitute by night) were given an all day rating because they couldn’t be bothered to watch it. “Star Wars”, on the other hand, was deemed too violent for daytime showing. Armed with this, I was looking for a fight. I’d throw in freedom of speech (not that British law afforded us such a right) if it looked like winning and easy-to-pick Brownie points.
The 6 o’clock news theme music played as the camera output a picture of our hand-drawn news title. Yes, we had theme music. Well, it was a recording of Amy playing something upbeat on the piano, far more expressive than I’d have expected given her personality. Camera swung around to me and slowly zoomed in. I ruffled my paperwork like they did on real news broadcasts, and then read off the autocue, like they did on real news broadcasts, “Welcome to the six o’clock news, tonight, Wednesday the 12th of October 1988. The day in which Pope John-Paul the second addressed the European parliament, and the day Ian Paisley called him the antichrist. Our lead story is that our external censorship has been lifted. For more on this, here’s James.”
Wobbly rolling cut to James standing outside the headmaster’s office. As part of the deals we cut with the media over our adventure earlier in the year, we managed to secure something called a high-band transmitter. No idea what exactly that meant, it appeared to be a small backpack with a mushroom on a stick poking out of the top. It gave a far better picture quality than the homebrew VHF transmitters. David also built a far more complex switching panel for all of the cameras we could hook up, plus we had a caption generator. This device allowed us to merge one frame of teletext style text and graphics into a video signal. I suspect it actually was a teletext device, but instead of it fetching pages off-air, we had to send data to it through a slow serial link. This was, however, the only device we had that synchronised itself to anything. The rest of the video equipment was unsynchronised so switching cameras still made the image roll on everybody’s TV sets, though people were getting used to it. Some said it was part of SIBA’s “charm”. That and the fact that most of our live broadcasts were a bit of a farce. Me, reading the news. Great example. We go to the trouble of having an old Beeb act as an autocue, and David even designed a little hidden joystick thing for me to scroll the text up and down at a rate I’m comfortable with, and I still lose my place and either fluff it entirely, or just go off-script and start making stuff up while trying to find where in the text I’m supposed to be. More than once James has come on-screen and pointed at the mirror (which would look to the viewers like pointing to the camera) and uttered words along the lines of “this bit here, retard!”.
James said, “Since SIBA, or Sunnyvale Independent Broadcasting Association, was established two terms ago, all films shown have had to be censored by a random gathering of staff members. Dubbed ‘the moral thought brigade’ by many, those teachers that were part of the censorship programme were rather disliked to say the least. Today, the director of SIBA...”
The broadcast image flicked to a recording of myself shaking hands with the headmaster.
I’m a “director” now?
“...has won a breakthrough in allowing us to review films by ourselves and set our own criteria.”
The image flicked back. James was holding two unmarked videotapes. They were likely the first two he found on the table closest the door. I was a bit jealous that he could just ad-lib an entire report like that.
“This was helped by the official ratings in favour of Angel and against Star Wars. Luckily SIBA played these in a more logical sequence and got away with it. We almost did not get away with playing Paperhouse last Saturday.”
I cued in a pre-recorded segment of myself being interviewed outside the headmaster’s office. “I am happy to announce that we can now be trusted to make our own decisions as to what to show and when to show it.” That was my one line in this story. And I had to rehearse it...
Back to James, “However, like everything, there is a catch. We must be responsible. If we were to be caught out, the axe permanently suspended over SIBA would drop.”
James carried on, and intro’d another segment on censorship and the pros and cons of it. I was busy thinking how true - his ad-libbing had painted the picture of an axe looming up in the distance, rather akin to the Sword of Damocles.
To update you on the way things are now. Well, now since we (David and I) are both fourth formers, we have been moved into the study block. These are smaller rooms normally shared by two pupils. Study 10 is mine, study 11 is the studio, and study 12 is David’s along with the transmitter and what looks like half the physics lab. We have more space but smaller rooms. We also moonlight in study 14 across the hallway because it is currently empty, but as it isn’t official we only rely upon it for a few days in advance. It can be easier for transitioning from one programme to another to set up two studios and switch, rather than switching to music and testcard and trying to remake an entire studio in the time it takes for Yazz’s “The Only Way Is Up” to play. James, being a third former, doesn’t get a study. But he sometimes sleeps in David’s if he is doing something for us after lights out. David doesn’t mind the company. Actually, James has calmed down a lot after the events of last term. We might be wondering how a bunch of fourth formers could commandeer a number of studies reserved for fifth formers. Well, it’s simple. Last term’s debacle involved a lot of prefects. Some of whom were arrested, others expelled, some tactically withdrawn. The hard mob of the sons-of-trustees were hanging out on the lower floor of the study block. They were untouchable. But a good third of the fifth form were scapegoats, or rather sacrificial lambs.
The dormitory we used to have is now the staff room as the original staff room is a bit of a mess. And, well... Who knows what lunacy arrived at some of the decisions made over the holiday period. The door frames were patched with Polyfilla in the bullet holes. How much a doorframe? Still, it is an interesting talking point for prospective parents visiting the school. There is a vase mounted on the wall outside the junior dormitories on the middle landing. Fresh flowers are always in the vase, to commemorate the dead kid, Kenny.
Oddly enough, it is just accepted that we’re doing this pirate TV thing and the staff tend to either ignore us or mug at the camera. There seems to be a huge amount of collective amnesia. Even the headmaster is on speaking terms with us, which is just all kinds of bizarre.
After an endless stream of interviews over the summer holiday, I also have a nice amount of money to my name, but my mother swiped most of that with ideas of paying for my college tuition. Great, more school. Just what I need.
We attended Kenny’s funeral. We went along with the equipment but no radio link up. The plan was to split up and get different stories and combine them in the final program. When the funeral itself got underway, we all apparently downed cameras at about the same time. I was the first to switch off. James was next, followed by David. I don’t know what made me switch off. Bad vibes or some spooky crap I guess. It just didn’t feel right to record his funeral.
So we ditched that idea and paid our respects properly.
The “control room” was the other side of the studio from the on-camera part. It was quite cosy. Enya’s “Orinico Flow” was coming to an end, and as usual I was searching for something to replace it with. It was ten o’clock and time to wind down as it was a school night. I wanted something soft to end with, so decided upon Deacon Blue’s “Real Gone Kid”. We still frequently played music over a “testcard”, only these days our test card was a camera pointed at a small fish tank. We had two goldfish, stupidly named “Red” and “Ginge”. So our last few listeners could mellow out to Deacon Blue and watch the fish idly doing what fish do.
I faded out the song, then turned the lights off. I’d leave the transmitter running a while, give people time to turn the television off before the loud hiss. David liked to hit people with the hiss, but I didn’t think that was right for the late close.
I walked into the upper study kitchen and opened the fridge. I left a pint of milk in here, it was lurking behind several cans of Heineken Export that weren’t supposed to be there. I filled a mug and put it into the microwave oven. Some joker had replaced the microwave’s power settings with symbols. Low power was a skull and crossbones. Medium power was something that looked like dead antlers. High power was a radiation symbol. The Start button was a mushroom cloud. So I mushroom clouded my milk on the dead antlers setting for three minutes.
I kicked the fridge closed with my foot and noticed a large “BIOHAZARD” warning sign stuck to the door. Well, they got that right. On the lower racks in the fridge were cling-film coated plates and we were thankful that the clingfilm prevented whatever horrors lay beneath from escaping. There was one plate that looked like an unholy combination of black dust and raindrops inside the film. No way I was touching that.
My milk nuked, I shook some Horlicks into it and stirred the lumpy mess with the first thing I set eyes upon, a flat head screwdriver. I don’t know if it is possible to make Horlicks that it doesn’t go lumpy. If there’s a way, it is something far beyond my culinary skill set. That said, most things were beyond my culinary skill set. If I wanted a nice meal, I had to think of some sort of excuse to get Amy involved.
It was six. In the morning. The sky was starting to get light. The Eagles were singing “Hotel California”. Well, it was mostly Don Henley, but I’d rather not try to figure the significance of Tiffany-twisted, or wonder what ‘colitas’ was. I could have sworn that was the proper name for bad breath.
I felt like crap. I don’t know how long I stayed up the night before. And this being a boarding school, one can’t just not turn up the next day. There’s no pulling a sickie as matron has seen every trick and gimmick the teenage mind can devise. She isn’t fooled by any of it.
I flicked on the TV. David was doing the morning wake up routine, and as usual making the whole thing look effortless. He even had a little plastic tape rack with all the tapes in order, spooled to the correct places. Bastard. How does he manage to have everything so organised?
I fell out of bed and reached for the kettle. One of the great benefits of study life is we could have our own appliances. In my case, a kettle was essential. No longer hostage to school tea, I could make my own perfect Tetley with bottled mineral water, not that chemical smelling crap that came out of the taps.
James ambled in and sat down at the fitted desk, completely ignoring me on the floor. He took two mugs off the shelf and popped a teabag into each. I saw he’d already fetched the milk. I rather suspect a can or two of the beer might also have mysteriously vanished.
“Got we heat?”, I asked James.
“Yeah, double English. Done your essay?”
“No. He never bothers to read them.”
“So fake it.”
“Nah, that’s risky.”
I have a habit of turning in twenty or thirty pages of printout for a 500 word essay. It drives the teacher to distraction. He no longer reads them, he just grades me on how I behaved in class, and then knocks off some for the length of the essay.
I wrote a program that contained a dictionary of some two thousand words. It knew verbs and nouns, and could put together nonsensical, yet syntaxtually correct, sentences. I told it to make me fourteen pages.
I handed over my essay. I semi-chickened out and wrote a short essay, the first two pages, and stapled the rest after. The teacher looked at it and read a few lines. Now I’m glad I wrote a few pages. He carried on looking, but obviously wasn’t paying attention now.
“What would it take to get a mere five hundred words from you?”, he asked.
“Dominatrix?”, I replied.
He frowned. “I really do not wish to be party to whatever it is that goes on inside your mind. Sit.”
I got a D.
The week went quickly and rather uneventfully. On Saturday James and I loaded a prepared video and left it to play. We then went for an amble around the woods, because asides from watching football on TV, there wasn’t really a lot to do. Pretty much the only highlight of the day was The Chart Show on TVS, and if we could be bothered, reruns of Airwolf.
As usual, I was wearing school uniform. it was too much like bother to change. James was wearing a shiny tracksuit. It didn’t look particularly comfortable. Just as rain started to fall, we ducked into the forest proper to hide under a decent sized tree when we both tripped over a large lump of concrete.
Scratch that, it was an enormous slab of concrete.
Forgetting about our previous intentions, we decided to figure out what this was. Using our hands to push soft dirt off of the top, it appeared to be a concrete pipe. Or rather, a tunnel, given the size of it.
The pipe/tunnel was in line with the school. Maybe it was some sort of sewer? No, it seemed too big for that. Perhaps run-off from the fields? From the little we could see, it would have had to be a couple of metres wide. That was ridiculous for drainage.
“I’ll be damned if I can figure it out”, James said.
I bent down and swished my hands in a puddle to clean the mud off. “At least two metres.”
“Easily twice that”, James replied. I noticed his arms were muddy up to his elbows. He’d been more adventurous than me.
I squeezed water out of my navy blue jumper and said, “So how do we get back now and not get grounded?”
“Easy - stay out here until dark then sneak back in. David is around, he’ll do the programming. A lot of people don’t bother turning up for the Saturday evening assembly, it’s not as if we’re regulars ourselves. Plus we didn’t sign ourselves out so we don’t need to have signed ourselves back in by six.”
Great. Another four hours of being rained on.
The sun set at about quarter past six. We were still on summer time, just. We waited about half an hour and then started back. The idea was for it to be light enough to see our way, but dark by the time we made it back. By and large the plan worked.
The P.E. changing room was locked. The shower window was closed. James hopped onto the roof over the changing rooms and tried to force the window to a toilet. It was open about two inches. It wouldn’t budge in any direction. We tried the kitchen windows to no avail. I noticed a second former watching us from the dining room. He was sitting at a table drinking some of that vile stuff that passes for coffee. The lights were off and the room was deserted. The consensus was our best bet would be to get the boy to open the window and let us in.
The boy was brought up well. He just sat there when I knocked on the window. When I asked him to let us in, he came over and said “What’s it worth?”
James immediately replied, “It’s worth I won’t kick the crap out of you.”
The boy went back into the dining room, put his chair back on the table and walked back towards us. As he passed, he hit the light switch. James cursed.
“I walked to the utility door and slapped a fiver against the glass. The boy froze, examined the note and then said “You’ll have to do better that that!”.
“Screw this for a game of soldiers.”, James said, rushing sidewards towards the door. The boy deftly unlatched the door and vanished up the corridor. James sailed though the door, knocking it open so hard it splintered along the hinges and cracked several panes. James careered into a metal bench outside the kitchen. Wooden trays, forks and spoons clattered around him. I rushed through the door, grabbed James and ran - hitting the light switches off as I went by. We tore past an astonished prefect on the phone who did a double-take, shrugged and carried on chatting up the local village bike. In the distance I heard one of the kitchen staff kick the trays and scream something very rude ending with “...ing hate this job!”.
I pushed James into the shower and got in myself.
“Strip everything, get that mud off, we’ll towel up and pretend we’ve been here the whole time.” I had my uniform off in record time, rinsed my head, and flung a towel around myself. I ambled off to find a solid basket we could put our clothes in while James washed his more considerable quantity of mud away.
I woke to find the chemistry teacher’s daughter, Anna, having a tickle-fight with James, who had apparently put himself in the bunk above me sometime last night. Her skirt was flapping in my face, and her pants were a light pink colour. I stood up, hugged her and said “Hiya cutesy.”
She slapped me.
“Aw, come on. I’m usually horrible at this time of the morning.”, I said. James nodded. Finally she smelt a wind-up and giggled.
I pulled on my dressing gown and stood in front of the TV. David was handling the morning programme. He likes getting up at five for a few laps around the football track. At least a kilometre every morning. Crazy dude.
I picked a tape at random and put it into my tape player, the chunky one with big piano keys that was usually used for loading software into my BBC Micro. Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker began “Up Where We Belong”.
I looked at the lesson plan on the wall. Double chemistry, followed by maths.
“Oh crap, not chemistry!”, I said absentmindedly. Anna, poked me. Oops!
“So”, said Anna, walking around me while brushing my hair, “Do you think you might be able to turn in prep today?”.
I slumped onto the chair. Prep. Oh boy. Prep. “Ummm... You don’t happen to remember what it was do you?”, I asked.
“Molecular mass and moles. Pages 27 to 31 in your workbook.”, Anna replied.
“How the hell...”, James asked.
“When I’m bored, I like to do the chemistry homework. Some days I get four different assignments. My favourite is intermolecular bonding in Aliphatic compounds. I can tell you, at a chemical level, what this poly-unsaturated stuff on butter advertisements really means.”, Anna replied.
“Yeah right”, James said.
I smirked and sat still. Anna looks like a dumb blonde who is dressed by her mother who has a penchant for fifties styles, but I’ve seen her reading “A brief history of time”, a new deep science book published last month, and she even did a twenty page essay on it because she was bored. This ought to be good.
“Well, James, saturated compounds contain molecules”, Anna began. That was about as far as she got before his eyes glazed over. She described at length bonding, electrons sharing atoms, the differences between covalent and ionic bonding. Some of this I understood from her mother’s classes. Much of it I didn’t understand.
“There you go. Can I have a life now?”, she finished.
I watched the chemistry teacher scribbling notes on the whiteboard. It amazed me how she could write so quickly. It also amazed me how this laboratory could smell so nicely vile. It was a smell that I guessed you either liked or loathed, like those felt marker pens she used. I liked the black best. An almost sweet smell. Less liked was the blue, but that was because some twerp dropped it into a jar of vinegar. Today we learned about moles. The term molecular weight was misleading as a mole, also known as a ‘Mol’ to gangsters and people that like TLAs, is actually a measurement that contains the same number of particles as there are atoms in 12 grams of the carbon-12 isotope. What’s an isotope? Don’t ask me. That comes next week I guess. I hope it wasn’t last week. I just know that uranium has isotopes too. Oh, spooky, pencils that glow?
She was amazed at a nice printed five-page report. I was less amazed at an hour and a quarter of solid theory. I can’t wait until I’m a senior. They get to distil stuff and make wine. On the shelf along the far wall were lots of retort stands holding glass things. Grapefruit wine, orange wine, grape wine, wine from old teabags... some weirdo was even distilling his own turd. Once it is done, they get to drink the wine. Everybody makes about half a litre. I’d be interested in the teabag wine, and I’d especially like to see the turd guy sample his bouquet.
Maths was an explosion. Our maths teacher was Irish. We spent ten minutes taking a really hard test. Then we passed our papers around and had to mark each others. After laughing at the way the teacher said “Tirty-tree”, somebody pointed out that thirty-three wasn’t correct anyhow. The teacher sat at his desk and zipped through the answers at the back of the book. There was total silence for two minutes until he stood up, threw the workbook in the bin and said “Stooff dis.”.
Out of a cupboard came a guitar. We spent the next fifteen minutes singing folk songs, the blues and anything to annoy the chemistry teacher next door. Five minutes before lesson end, a metal tray appeared under the door. It was some kind of sulphur substance that stank like rotten eggs. The teacher pushed the tray across the floor and under the computer studies room next door on the other side. Then he wrenched open the door to the chemistry room, turned his back to the astonished chemistry teacher, pulled down the back of his pants and farted loudly.
We all evacuated, to be met by a confused bunch of third formers wondering who blew up the printer.
After morning break it was time for P.E. David immediately volunteered to run five kilometres. The rest of us were led to the football field. After all the teams had been formed, James and myself and a few others were left standing. We were the useless morons so lame we didn’t even get to sit in the goal and pick daisies. The P.E. tutor looked at us, and walked past. We stood there. He stopped, turned and raised his Welsh voice to maximum volume to order us to run around the woods. Run, he meant. Not walk, dawdle, amble, dally, loaf, stroll, saunter, meander, or dilly-dally. Yup, he knew us a little too well.
Part of the way around the woods, we bent down to tie our shoelaces. Which was a bit daft as James’ shoes were buckle-up and I was wearing slip-on plimsolls, but it gave us an excuse to stop, sashay off the path, and be back sitting atop the big concrete pipe. I sat cross-legged on it and watched the leaves flutter while James recounting this apparently highly vivid dream where he and the music teacher are at the school disco night. She is walking around the pool, but she accidentally on purpose falls in when she sees him. He comes over to help her out. He then carries her piggyback to her car, only half way there she loses a shoe. He kneels down, with her still on his back, and picks up the court shoe. He holds it between his teeth as he carries her across the car park. He lays her down by her car. She opens the door and steps in. She kicks off the other shoe and then mutters something about being cold and wet and how she can’t drive home like that. So she unzips her short black skirt, pulls off her black tights, unbuttons her loose black blouse. She is now sitting in the car wearing her pants and a bra. Guess what - they’re black too. She unhooks her bra because it itches, then she pulls her panties off. She slips her shoes on and starts the engine, sitting naked in the car. He hops in the back seat and says “let’s go”. She drives off and down into the woods car park where he lays on the back seat. She gets out and opens the back seat, lays across him and...
Somewhere along the way I think I tuned out of his delusions. The music teacher, he reckons, can orgasm for at least a half hour non-stop. She’s in her mid twenties. James is nearly fourteen, and clearly never had a real sexual experience in his life. He recounts their lasting friendship. It is their secret. They have sex daily. She is always willing. She pops into the staff toilet. He follows when he is sure nobody is looking. He locks the door. She lifts her skirt and he rips her tights and panties open. Then they do it, several times. Then she goes off to a lesson and keeps feeling her ripped underwear and smiling. He smiles too. No complications ever arise, like a period or the flu or a baby or the fact that the whole thing is illegal. Just sex, daily, forever.
Back at school and as if by some awful twist of fate the French teacher was taken ill so the music teacher was covering. She was dressed in a loose black pinafore style dress with a white silk blouse underneath (ha! white!). When she stood sideways to write on the board, it was obvious that she wasn’t wearing any bra. And just to add to James’ fantasy, she spoke perfect French. I’m a fourth former. I was there. James is a third former. He wasn’t. I wonder if he’ll ever speak to me again.
The day ended with a beautiful sunset. I was happy. James, who was annoyed about not hearing the music teacher speaking French was quite happy to now add some extra details to his delusions, and David beat his own record at the run. After the news programme, and seemingly for no reason better than the fact that we all felt pretty good, David opened the fridge in the upper study and brought out an Asti Spumanti, some sort of sweet extremely bubbly wine from Italy. The cork sailed across the room, and after a few glasses, so did we.
Two o’clock in the afternoon on the day after. My headache had finally eased off. I pulled my P.E. sweatshirt off and put on a blue shirt and navy pullover. My socks were the right colour. My hair was not sticking out and I had done my Physics homework.
The first thing the Physics teacher did was sit us all on the desk holding hands. People were moaning that they were holding hands with a homosexual and rubbish like that when the circuit between us and the Van DeGraff generator was completed. Two fell over the back of the desk. The rest jumped up and yelped. What the...?
We were being introduced to the electric circuit. Me? I’d rather use them than be stuck in one. However my hair was longish, so it was kinda cool standing on the chair holding the top of the generator and building up a charge of a few million volts. My hair was sticking straight out and my sight began to go blueish. Fun, until some pratt decided it’d be fun to poke a metal ruler at my groin. Six minutes of charging were realised in a split second. I felt myself being pushed off the chair. The other kid fell on the floor and burst into tears. He’d decided to hold a metal power socket with one hand (grounding himself) and the ruler in the other.
I was escorted to matron and had her examine my private areas. It hurt, and I swear I saw them smoking even if nobody else did.
It hurt to pee for a few days, but by the time the weekend came, we were all joking about it. The kid who shocked me used to be the class bully. He was now the class dunce, not for shocking me but for being stupid enough to hold the grounded socket at the same time with his other hand.
Saturday this time was a pain in the rear. Double English followed by Biology followed by double Mathematics. God must hate me. I slogged through biology learning about protozoa and other little tiny things that make the world go around. I noticed the sink had sick down the sides. The teacher explained that somebody thought he’d write his GCSE essay on nose pickings. He apparently picked a massive green snot, shoved it under the microscope and spent the next half hour puking. The snot and the microscope were still there at the far end of the desk. Attached to it was a note from a the teacher offering £20 for anybody that could draw it on the whiteboard. Judging from the whiteboard, nobody got that far. I didn’t plan to try looking either.
We didn’t sing songs in this maths lesson. Instead we got issued a new set of books. This time, the answers were mostly correct. The old books would get a ritual burning in our next Chemistry lesson. We were to go to the pond. Chemistry teacher? Pond? What on earth were they going to be burnt with? Whatever it was, I couldn’t wait.
It was three o’clock. James and myself were staying at school this weekend. It was incredibly boring. Due to some lame sporting event, AirWolf was being put off. James was watching a recording of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A little later we found some long and strong plastic poles down near the animal enclosure. We ran around the scrubland along the fields beating merry hell out of each other. Whoever said television doesn’t affect the way you act. We even pretended to be speaking in Chinese that was badly dubbed into English until James realised that it would probably be Japanese. Not that we knew what that was either. After a few good bashings, James missed me and smashed his pole across a tree. We called it quits after that and headed in. I rummaged around the video tapes and we had some mindless guilty pleasure enjoying Fraggle Rock, the Amazing Adventures of Morph, Button Moon, and of course Terrahawks, cheering the Zeroids and booing the Cubes.
Our idea, that we settled on the other night after a few glasses of that wine and no actual thought, was a spontaneous programme. We’d take the cameras, hook up the local link and go explore the unknown parts of the cellar. Not many people were staying behind this weekend. Rumours were anything between six and sixty. I estimated around 15 to 20. Nobody really knew, or cared. That would be good in a fire. We had a register in the hall and we were supposed to sign ourselves out and back in. I got punished several times for forgetting to sign back in, so now I don’t ever bother signing out. What if there was a fire you may well ask. Well, firstly I doubt any heroes would run in to save my butt. Secondly, all you need to do is find a television. If there was no fire on the screen, I’m obviously not around.
It was Saturday evening and, guess who was still in uniform. So much effort to get changed... The link transmitter was in my backpack, the dinky little mushroom poking out above my head. The camera was mounted on a gimbal, a counterbalanced device intended to keep the camera steady. Not as good as a real SteadiCam, but better than nothing.
James and I headed off to the cellars. We passed two prefects who followed us as far as the woodwork rooms in the cellar. We opened a metal grating in the wall and crawled into the uncharted cellar. The prefects decided it was too much like a hassle, so they headed off to their studies to play their bass guitars loudly. The reason why we didn’t have a band at school is because none of them had any talent. With their guitars tuned dropped D, they just thrashed out a lot of noise. A fair cry from Amy’s abilities and she never considers herself a musician.
This part of the cellar was not used. It had been bricked up in the sixties, or fifties, or... the story depended upon who was asked. We were now actually out under the school grounds. Thus this part, not being under the building, was bricked up and forgotten about. It was obviously cleaned before being closed, all that was visible with our torches and the battery movie light was a fine layer of dust and an awful lot of cobwebs. My shoes left a smudge in the dust. I felt like I was walking on the moon or disturbing some ancient burial site. We moved quickly down the brick lined corridor. Around the corner was a sight that almost made me drop the camera. Set into the wall, and fairly recently compared to the rest of the building, was a row of metal doors leading to rooms behind. With a ghostly grating sound, James pulled upon a door. Behind it was a bucket against the far wall. An old-fashioned hospital bed with no mattress and a rickety cabinet with an flaking copy of the Gideon’s bible sitting on it. There was a rusty metal swastika emblem on the floor. There would have been another on thick red cloth draped on the wall, but time caused that to mostly perish. Looking up, I could see something vaguely German looking scrawled upon the walls.
The next room was pretty much the same. We skipped the rest and went back to the T junction and took the other turn. Here the corridor went down a set of worn brick steps and back under the first corridor, heading back under the school building. I didn’t even know there was a second level to the cellars. There were hospital beds and bedpans and trays and odd items of cutlery lying strewn across the floor. The corridor continued until it reached into a large room, two storeys high. This room explains the missing part of the upper cellar. There are tables around the edge of the room with chairs neatly stacked on top. The lights looked like originals from the invention of the light bulb. The far wall had a large map of Europe affixed. Around the walls were wartime posters, large photographs of the bombing raids in London. On one wall was a large crucifix. Down both sides was a long list of names, handwritten. A row of clay plant pots surrounded the base of the crucifix. Hanging off of it was a rusty wire hoop. Probably floral tributes long since gone. A record player stood in the corner, the record was a 78 of the Ride of the Valkyries. Beside it, covered in cobwebs, was a crystal radio set and a valve transmitter/receiver. There was a door to the far right.
James opened the door and I peered inside. The room looked long and low. As I stepped forward, James put his hand across my chest to stop me. He showed me his pocket television. The picture was really dire. Maybe there was metal in the wall? Whatever, the signal wasn’t getting out much and neither was it getting back in. I lay the camera on the dusty table in the large room. Grabbing the Mag-Lite from my back pocket, I stepped into the other room.
James walked up to me, his shoes squishing. I flashed the torch at him. He was soaked.
“The far end of the room is flooded. You’re never gonna believe this”, he said, pausing for effect, “I swam down this ledge? Well, I’d bet you next weeks pocket money that I felt railway tracks.”
My mouth fell open.
Cursing for having not changed into casual clothes, I went to the end of the room and waded through the cool water to where James had gone. I suddenly fell forward. After panicking for a second, then regaining my balance, the water was up to my chest.
“Oh sorry!”, called James, “You fell off the platform. I meant to warn you.”
I muttered something rude to myself and then pointed the torch down. The water was darkness. Pointing the torch around the walls, I waded around, dragging my feet so as to feel the floor. Yup, it certainly felt like a railway. Two rails with sleepers in between. The sleepers were solid under my feet so possibly concrete, not wooden. Explains why they’re still here. I pointed the torch back along the rails. There was a large buffer, covered in rust. This was the end of the line. Looking up I could see a blackened area along the ceiling. I climbed back onto the platform. If I was a little taller I could jump and touch the ceiling. Whatever kind of train came down here must have been low. The rails felt like regular size. James beckoned me down the tunnel. I slid off the platform and waded after him.
Walking through chest-deep water gives an illusion. It felt like we’d been plodding along for hours. I think half an hour had passed and we’d probably only walked a few hundred metres. However the water level was fairly constant so I was okay there. Every so often James would fall forwards and start swimming. I didn’t bother to catch up as he would soon tire and stand for a while catching his breath.
“D’you suppose this is your tunnel?”, I asked.
“The tunnel in the woods. You reckon this is it?”
“Blow me!”, came the reply, “This is exactly what it’d be!”
His face lit up and he was off again, doing the breast-stroke into darkness. I sighed and stumbled along listlessly. I carried on walking, scraping my left shoe along the rail so as to be sure I wasn’t about to walk into the wall. Sure, I could have used the torch, but who knew exactly how long this tunnel went on for? I remembered that I’d left the camera running in the dusty room.
My feet hurt, my legs hurt. My head hurt. All this wading was way too much like exercise, and my body was sending little signals to my brain... “What the hell are you doing here you gigantic couch potato” and the like. It’s a thought my subconscious was pondering too. However my conscious had decided it was better than being bored. Just think, I could trip and hit my head. I’d drown before James would realise. He’d die of exhaustion before making it back. Our bodies would dissolve in the water and even if the find the tunnel and drain it, they’d never find us.
Aren’t I a happy bunny? That’s what happens when you ignore a hungry stomach. To add insult to injury I remember the Polos in my pocket. Soaking wet. Yuck. No way.
James yelled. I flicked on the torch. In front of us was a brick wall. I heard James cursing to himself.
“This can’t be!”, James said, “There must be points back there!”
“No.”, I replied.
“How’d you know that?”
“I’ve been walking along the left rail so I’d stay on target. If there were points, I’m sure I’d have tripped over them.”
James took the torch and examined the wall. I decided to look around the edges. It wasn’t totally flush with the brickwork along the side. I could see signs of scraping.
“HEY!”, James called out. It echoed creepily.
I waded over. He presented me with a large copper wheel, somewhat corroded. James tried to turn it. Then I tried to turn it. Then we both tried to turn it. Nothing. James got annoyed and kicked the wheel. It clicked in and began to spin by itself.
“Whoa!”, we both said, watching it spin.
“If a bloody big boulder comes down the tunnel, I’m gonna kill you first...”, I said.
Bright sunlight pierced my eyes as the crack down the left widened. With a whoosh the scene of a river and flood plains wiped across from the left. The end wall was old and weak and the action of it opening caused it to more or less disintegrate. The river was about a metre below the tunnel so I held onto the side wall as the tunnel began to empty. James jumped into the flow and was carried away. It’s okay for him - he can swim. I waited.
My feet became visible, as did two corroded rails. The rails looked green. Slime or were they made of copper? That would be unusual. The river had churned, mud flowing downstream, along with the peculiar black water from the tunnel. Yuck, to think I’d been walking in that for ages. I carefully climbed out onto the river bank. James climbed back in the tunnel and pulled the wheel. It started to spin again as the door slid silently closed, not that there was much wall left attached to it. James hopped out through the hole that was once the end wall.
“Nice going.”, I said.
James looked back and realised. “Oh shi..... Well, we can’t have walked far.”
“This is the river. We’ve come about six miles through the hills.”, I said, “That’s why it is now morning!” That’s why I’m so bloody tired, but I didn’t say that part aloud.
“So it was a railway, right?”, I asked James.
“Looks like it.”
“Why does it end... here. At the side of a river like this?”
“Maybe there was a bridge here a long time ago?”, James suggested.
I didn’t say anything, but it crossed my mind that there would be room for a boat of some sort to snuggle up against the wall so a small squat train of some sort could pass between the boat and the tunnel.
James swum me across the river to the footpath on the other side. We climbed out and began to walk along, heading back to the school. A young couple were sitting on the embankment dipping their feet in the water and frenching each other. I watched them for the four minutes it took to walk to them. I can’t imagine somebody tickling my tonsils with their tongue. These two were obviously playing for the European Championships. The girl looked up and squeaked loudly. The guy spun around and just stared. I dipped an imaginary hat and walked past. James held my hand and said something about going fishing.
Around the next turn, he said “I’d kill to find out what they’re saying now.”
“What was with the holding hands and fishing?”, I asked.
“Don’t ask”, he replied.
We walked on up to something that calls itself the docks, by the loosest definition of that term. I was starting to dry out, but the sun was setting and thusly the temperature was dropping. Neon lights flicked on overhead.
“Uh...? I thought you said it was morning?”, James asked.
“Yeah... so... we spent a whole day down there?”
I was puzzled. It seemed like a few hours. I could not believe it was a whole day.
We rounded another bend. In the car park, off to the left, two headlights flicked on and off again. I looked into the car park and was dazzled again. James and I walked toward the car, and looked into the car. It was silent and dormant, like the martian tripods on Maybury Hill after the bacteria took out the martians inside. I felt the bonnet. It was cold. Before us was a hunk of metal and plastic that was as lifeless as the dim neon lights around the edge of the car park.
A noise behind us, we both spun around. Standing before us was the history teacher.
“It’s been at least forty years since anybody has walked the tunnel”, he said.
The history teacher wasn’t much on talking. He preferred to think and ponder, not to waste time explaining. He ushered us into the car and without a word we travelled back.
We were sitting in my study. The kitchen staff had nicely saved some spaghetti. James had a heap of sauce. I had none. The history teacher was nibbling a Ryvita biscuit covered with a thick layer of unsalted French butter. He was examining out some old wartime documents detailing the tunnel, as well as a few photos of it being built. He said nothing the whole night.
That Monday, we all presented the news. The topic de jour was the tunnel, without a doubt, as the news had spread quickly even to people that were on exeat during the time. We asked the history teacher to do a little segment to help detail the historical aspect. We set the camera on him and he was silent. It was the first time he’d done a piece so I was wondering about nerves. Still, a camera can’t be much different to a class?
Just as I was about to yank the chain, he burst into talking, almost singing. He was emphatic and presented history with more love and aplomb for the subject than Michael Fish and his weather map. Well, that night’s video was kinda boring anyway, so I wasn’t too worried when a ten minute segment developed into four and a half hours. James and I left the system running and went for a walkabout. The entire school was silent. Everybody was watching SIBA, glued to the screen. Staff and pupils alike. Even the well-hard types that go out of their way to screw up their lives were watching and paying attention. The cleaners and kitchen staff were up in the staff room watching. The prefects were in the senior common room, also watching. Matron was taping it. Two kids in the sanatorium were watching it on somebody’s pocket television. James went back and grabbed a camera and took some footage of everybody glued. I would have expected this response had Anna done a full strip... but history? History?
I don’t know how the talk ended. I was so wasted after that weekend that I was asleep sprawled across my bed, still dressed.
The week passed quickly. I learnt, from Doc himself, that the headmaster was freaked over the jail down there - that was what they called the part with the iron doors - and was planning something radical. Lots of frantic calls back and forth with the National Trust - who owned the building - and a non-stop procession of suits. On the Thursday a local news crew turned up and taped us taping them taping us. The headmaster twice said there was to be no reporting on this. However he couldn’t throw them off without consulting the National Trust as they were not a danger to the well-being of any pupil. In fact, more the other way. The news crew went on air and began to report a mass of garbled misinformation that they had assumed from snippets that leaked from the sides of officialdom. I killed myself laughing when the presenter announced to Southern England that our cellar was stuffed with decaying bodies. We were apparently running away and took a wrong turn and ended up in the cellar. There were three of us, two were seeking psychiatric help because of the shock and stress.
He headmaster stormed in, his face bright red.
“CAN’T YOU DO SOMETHING???????”, he shouted.
“Like what?”, James asked.
“ANYTHING. ANYTHING! I’LL AUTHORISE YOU TO SHOOT THEM IF IT NEED BE”, and he stormed out.
James and I looked at each other and yelled “WICKED!”. David grabbed a soldering iron and I hunted out that video James had brought back from Amsterdam. Two minutes later David had patched our old backup transmitter to broadcast on the local news uplink frequency. I forwarded to a raunchy-beyond-belief scene. Meanwhile David hooked their signal into an oscilloscope liberated from the Physics Lab and a bunch of wires and microchips on breadboard that was some sort of logic analyser. By the time I found the right scene and paused, he had finished making the necessary tweaks to punt our signal on top of theirs. It would surely get a few thousand “Sickened from Southampton” letters. I decided it was a little irresponsible, so I blanked the visual and kept the soundtrack. I wasn’t too hot at Dutch, but I understood enough to know that grunts and squeals sounded alike no matter what the language was supposed to be. I unpaused the video and James hit the big switch. Within twenty seconds the camera operator outside was shaking the camera and the rigger was yanking cables out of the back of their van. Another few seconds passed. The camera operator dropped the camera. Our transmitter started smoking so James flicked it off. The television showed a good view of the presenters dress. She was utterly confused. In the background between her legs, the rigger was running around like somebody had set his hair on fire. The camera operator appeared with an mallet and physically removed the dish from the top of the van. I was laughing so hard tears were streaming down my face. That’s one way to kick an outside report offline, I suppose.
I went home for this exeat. James went off with his father. David just went, I’m not quite sure where. Anna volunteered to run the Saturday schedule. Anna’s mother was on duty Saturday, so Anna said it wouldn’t be a problem.
I returned late on Sunday. My mother rounded the side of the building and jammed on the brakes. Half the lawns were dug up. Bright floodlights lit up the newly discovered cellar rooms. A builder was bricking up the passageway where it separates to the stairs going down and another corridor. It seems that the war room and the tunnel are being sectioned off and not touched. I got out of the car and walked towards the excavation. A weary Anna was there with a camera. James was walking around with another camera, and David was operating the boom camera that we were building - but had not finished, only he had. People were leaning out of the windows, and a crowd had gathered. The local news crew were back, having done an incredible job of spin control over the audio. It looked as if they were taking a feed from us. I looked at the TV screen and saw a SIBA logo in the top right, in brightly coloured teletext characters. The boom camera swung up over the excavation and down into it, and panned and tracked gently along the corridor, right over Anna and up spinning 90 degrees and settling down beside the building. David must have finished the circuitry for the boom, the part that kept the camera flat as the arm moved. That sequence was incredible. A crappy cut to Anna’s camera. I walked closer and the boom lifted out of the excavation and out. We cut to a camera up on the roof looking down on the scene. I looked up and saw Amy holding a camera. Cut again to an astoundingly nice tracking shot, James and the gimbal. Anna saw me and waved me over. The news crew cameraman followed me as I approached the excavation and walked towards Anna. Two large guys blocked my way.
“He’s our director, let him through”, Anna said. The guys melted away. I walked on. James threw me a headset. Climbing down into the cellar itself, Anna put her camera down on a pasting table and led me to the far room. She opened the door and I looked in. The boom camera lowered down behind me. The room was like a vault, with boxes on shelves. The shelves lined the walls and they were full of boxes. One was being lifted out.
“We can’t broadcast what’s inside the boxes. They were apparently alive when they were boxed. Given a bowl of something and left to die.”, Anna said, “This building was used as a medical hospital for allied troops. A small-scale search has begun. So far around twenty members of the wartime staff have been found - they know about the control room but not of the tunnel or of this.”
A tear rolled down my cheek.
“Are you okay?”, Anna asked.
“Yes. It’s just..... The Nazis were evil, what they did to the Jews is testament to that... But how can we call ourselves better if this is what we did?”
Anna nodded solemnly.
“Nobody knew about this, and those that did would probably deny it.”, she said. “There are apparently no records, either here or in Germany, as to who these people are...were.”
“Look, come on, don’t stay here any more, it’s too creepy”, Anna said, and led me out. I took my camera and joined in the telecast, but I wasn’t concentrating. That could have been me. England could go to war this very day, and conscription could start again. Hundreds of men and youths sent off to do the incredibly stupid act of shoot or be shot. Of all the things that I fail to understand, I understand war the least. What if you disagree with the war? The didn’t seem to occur to the US mili during the Vietnam war. What if you want a happy life at home with your family? Somewhere, somewhere, this pile of bones had a mother and a father - maybe even a wife and children. They have possibly died without ever knowing what became of their loved one. The second world war took on a totally different meaning. Before I had received a biased view along the lines of the Nazis were walking evil and the Allies kicked their butts. Suddenly the reality of it was rammed home. This was no video game. This was not some dodgy event on the national news. This was a war. This room full of bones were the bad guys being incredibly mistreated by the good guys. Guns, shells, bombs. The mayhem and the murder. All pretty much ended by dropping a new technology on Japan. I wondered if there was any participant in that war that wasn’t some degree of evil. All that we had achieved as a species and twice in one century it basically came down to people massacring other people. It seemed frightening that our peace and prosperity was an illusion so easily lost.
David slipped a tape into a boombox on the back of one of the diggers, and turned up the audio as Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms” started to play.
I wiped a tear from my eye and turned towards a faint rumbling sound.
Jerky pan upwards to twenty guys in military uniform in the back of a four-wheel drive vehicle with German licence plates. Out marched about twenty soldiers, an old guy covered in medals, and a priest. The builders cleared the scene. We drew back as well. The soldiers flanked the excavation. Another vehicle arrived. Two old people got out and hobbled across the lawns. The medal guy came over to me and thanked me in good English. He explained that his country had been moving heaven and earth to trace who these people were, but had so far only managed to trace one of them. A violin teacher from Bavaria, of all things.
We watched as two British armoured trucks arrive. Soldiers swarmed around lifting out the crates and stacking them neatly into the back of the German truck. Out of the school grounds, beyond a police boundary are a few neo-nazi supporters yelling obscenities at a few war survivors who were yelling obscenities back. On the whole though, it was a peaceful affair with most people putting the emphasis on giving people - no matter which side - a decent burial. News comes through the headset, we have just gone international with the local network now feeding to a German national broadcaster. I warn David and James that if the Germans are watching, ease up on the artistry and go for technical precision. Germans like precision. Our logo was still up on the screen. The colours were good. The cameras were handling the floodlights well and not streaking badly. Us, international. Oh. My. God. This fame could cause the Radio Communication Authority people to shut us down... But hell, if we go from nothing to worldwide in under a year - it’d be worth it, and this, what a story to end on.
I noticed that our garish magenta teletext logo was now a more subtle green and the wording had been changed to say “SIBA - Freundschaft”. I don’t know what that meant, but Anna told me it was a Good Thing. I rather suspect that she might have been responsible for the logo change.
The truck departed with the last of the bodies. Medal guy was openly crying, the grief and the realisation having become too much for him to bear. The national news crew go for angles of the tearful man in extreme close-up. We go for the subtle approach and leave him off camera. Slow determined shots of the scene. The boom camera swung slowly into the scene and across the excavation towards medal guy, but we cut away to Anna’s camera and the builders rigging something. Next cut to the James’ gimbal walking alongside the German soldiers marching back in neat ranks. Meanwhile the boom camera tilted down. Cut to the boom which tracked up from the excavation to high in the air. Cut to Amy on the roof. The physics teacher came on the headset and said he was watching both the local and national broadcast, the local one feeding the Germans. Three cheers guys, they stuck with us despite our inferior technology. Luckily some magic in the local news outside broadcast truck managed to gloss over our horrible rolling cuts so saving an entire country from wobbly television pictures.
David wound up the boom camera and fitted a large clear bag over the camera and fixed it across the lens. He wrapped the lower end of the boom in several layers of tight clingfilm. Then he sent the boom camera back into the excavation. The walls were being sprayed with some foam substance to preserve them. It almost instantly went solid, like spray-foam lagging. Once all the walls were covered, cement mixers came and began to fill the excavation. The whole time, the priest was sprinkling water into the excavation and reading from his bible.
Fences were erected. Our broadcast drew to a close. People packed and left. Our equipment was moved back into the studio. Kids got changed and went to bed. The floodlights finally flicked off. I sat on the wall to the gardens and watched everything shutting itself down.
We broadcast highlights several times and had an effusion of original programmes and even a few highly loquacious programmes, it seemed like once the history teacher’s internal dynamo got itself going, there was no stopping him. We were definitely on a high.
The following weekend was the end of term. As per usual we finished with the Christmas Service in the village church. I was in the choir, which was comical given my lack of talent at singing. I think some random member of staff suggested that as the guy in charge of the television lark, I was supposed to do some community activities and the next thing I knew I found myself in the hall rehearsing the carols we were supposed to sing. It wasn’t a big deal, we had the words, we knew most of the melodies. We even managed not to be too out of tune. So come the big day, it goes more or less as expected until we come to one of the departures from the regular set of carols, instead singing something more modern called “Standing in the rain” which went okay until the final verse where we said that Jesus would be welcome when he returned, but - and I quote - “we hope he won’t be black, sir”. There was a sharp audible intake of breath from pretty much every single one of the parents, even the organist came to an abrupt halt. This was followed by an incredible silence which left the vicar stumbling for something to say. I guess the fact that we had rehearsed it a dozen times and not noticed showed roughly how much attention we were really paying during the rehearsals. Well, at least it wasn’t me who chose the songs. Let somebody else be shouted at. Suffice to say, the reactions of the parents was considerably muted from that point onwards. No more clapping at people failing to play some instrument or other.
I watched the first of the pupils going home for Christmas holidays. Winter term was officially done with. The lawns had been re-laid and the drive had a fresh layer of concrete and tarmac. You’d never know it happened, except occasionally we’d find somebody would drive up and put a bouquet on the lawn and drive off. We had packed up the cameras and equipment. I went into the old dormitory (now the staff room) and looked out across the grounds.
I saw a familiar sight... My mother in her little red hatchback waiting there for me. Three journeys and all my junk was piled in the back. I got into the car and waved goodbye to James and David. Anna ran over and gave me a quick kiss on the head. I thanked her and watched them grow smaller until we rounded the building. Another turn and the entrance to the school grounds. The sign announcing where we are. Another turn and turn a hill and the school buildings slowly sunk behind the hill.
Have I forgotten something? That prefect did drink his turd wine. He said it was very nice. I then watched him disappear into the smoker’s area and stick a finger down his throat in an attempt to induce vomiting. My hero.
This story came about because of two different things. The first thing was that the school's cellars contained the locker room, the woodwork lab, the boiler room, and an access corridor with the electrics and stuff. However the layout of the cellar did not seem to match up to the building above, so as you can imagine there were plenty of rumours about what might have been hidden away from view. There was always a square part of the oval driveway out front that remained defrosted in the snow - it might have just been a tarmac'd over drain access no longer used, but of course to the minds of thirteen year olds there was clearly this huge cavernous cellar. I ran with that idea, and even took it to the next level by having a cellar under the cellar.
The building, as many in the south of England, was used during the second world war, so it really didn't take much imagination to think of ways to link the cellar into the way. The tunnel of which the story name is derived? Rule of cool, basically. There were, of course, rumours of secret tunnels (also wartime stuff) so I just took it to the next level by making it this creepy flooded railway tunnel. The funny thing is, the tunnel itself is almost a throwaway item running to a page and a half tops (in the OvationPro document). It could be removed from the story and pretty much nothing would change. So naming the story after a minor plot element is a bit of an eccentric quirk, but I didn't much like the alternative "Cellar" or... I dunno... "Tomb"?
The second major influence on the story was a growing realisation that there were absolutely no moral victors in World War Two. The Americans started their part in the war shipping tyres and fuel to the Nazis and ended it (after switching sides) by dropping two weapons of mass destruction on cities full of civilians. The French stuck loads of Jews onto trains and shipped them to concentration camps and SNCF apparently kept collecting payment for this after the end of the war (somewhat destroying their "the Nazis told us to" excuses). Japan and the comfort women. The virtuous Brits? Shall we talk about Dresden? Shall we talk about gunning down shipwrecked (enemy) sailors? Shall we talk about the other war crimes? Though that in itself is a rather comical phrase, as it carries some sort of idealism that there is such a thing as a ... a what? A noble war? No, war is a crime against humanity. Sadly it sometimes seems that we are better at fighting each other than trying to understand each other. This doesn't mean we shouldn't try and, yes, god forbid, the issue of compromise may arise. Well, it's surely better than two powerful idiots with nuclear weapons at their disposal having a dick waving contest, as is the case now. Indeed, the very basis of the European Union (and its predecessor) was to broker and assist in diplomacy rather than yet another stupid war. But the slow shift towards nationalism shows that lessons learned the hardest way are still as easily forgotten as the rest.
When some people read this story back in 2000-something, they were like "whoa, are you pro Nazi or something?". No. No I'm not. I don't think it is possible to be both sane and pro-Nazi. It's like an atheist vicar, the concepts just don't go together. What I am, and what I point out is that "the enemy" (which happens to be Nazis as it is WW2) is a person with a family, people they loved and were loved by. The good guys and the bad guys don't differ much in this respect, and the whole allusion is used to underline the pointlessness of "war". War is seen by some, those with a love of weapons or big brass medals, as the ultimate honour and other sickening things. No. War is the greatest possible admission of intellectual defeat of a supposedly superior species. Ants wage war on other colonies. We... are no different?
As always there are plenty of real life anecdotes thrown in along the way. There was a crappy old fridge in the "kitchen" of the study block (which had little rooms as it was the servant's quarters) and you could usually find rancid food at the bottom. Beer didn't last long. If a prefect didn't confiscate it, a teacher did.
So, there you have it. Part two of the SIBA series and a little bit of background info.
I hope you enjoyed the story.
PS: If you are getting just a wee bit sick of the moralistic anvil dropping, don't worry. There are still five stories to go and you'll soon realise that the SIBA universe is... a little different. But next week's story is one of the new ones and... let's just say that this week's story is basically filler in comparison.
No, really, same time, same place, 6th of October. Don't miss it!
Wait... hang on... This is set in the late eighties. So I ought to say: BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!
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