“I can't bloody believe it, Howard,” said Jonathan. He was trying to put the derailed chain of his bike back on the chain wheel and wiped his greasy hands on his hair. Then he lifted two leafs of his Pirelli calendar. “I mean, you're the astrologist, so you'll know what you're talking about, but... damn, September 13th, that's a Friday. That's bad luck, man.”
Howard emptied a sachet of instant cappuccino in a mug and mixed the powder with a spoonful of cold water. “I know, mate, but it's written in the stars. We need Mercury to make sure the message reaches the people and we need Mars to conquer the system.” The kettle switched off and Howard added hot water to his cappuccino. “Bad luck for the enemy, I suppose.”
I sat on a tattered sofa in Jonathan's bedsit in Shepherds Bush, and watched him fix his ever broken bike. The day before, I had helped him with a punctured inner tube (I was riding it when the tire went flat, so I felt like I had to); two weeks earlier, he'd found out the hard way that his brake blocks needed replacement.
My jeans had gone all baggy because I hadn't eaten properly since I got kicked out of my parents' place. They wouldn't have me talking about the wretched lives and deaths of the animals they were eating, and they gave me an ultimatum. Of course I broke it: I'll never be corrupted by blackmail. So I got kicked out the week after I turned sixteen.
At first, I wanted to squat, but when I got myself a little job as a cleaner at the BBC studios, my friend Jonathan offered that, if I'd do some cleaning and cooking, I could stay with him for a while. I do think he had a thing for me, but he never tried anything. He was very protective, though, more like an older brother. During the months that I stayed with him, I never did any housework, except perhaps for buying new toilet paper. But he never complained. At least, not to me.
“Sophie,” said Howard, “are you up for it too?”
“Sure,” I said. I plucked at a hole in my sock.
“Good, 'cos we need you, gal. You've got two months to make sure we can use your employer to broadcast our message to all of England by 13 September.”
“Capitalist twats!” Jonathan was one of the few people I didn't mind swearing. I don't think I could've moved in with him, otherwise. Gosh, he swore a lot, back in those days.
“Damn right you are,” I grinned, “but for once I'm glad they exist and that I'm working for them. We can use their facilities for the greater good!”
And that's how we decided that Friday, 13th September 1991 was going to be the day of our Revolution: the End of Animal Enslavement and the Birth of a New Age of Peace, Love and Liberty.
We went about it very seriously. Howard, who had worked as a director for a while, wrote a nice script around our manifesto, and Jonathan did most of the editing.
Howard reads out our five main principles in a dramatic voice, while different iconic pictures and fragments of film follow each other. For example, when he explains that individual lives should never be terminated for abstract ideas, there's famous pictures of the trenches of the first World War and bits of film in which chickens are systematically beheaded.
In the background, there's John Lennon, encouraging us to imagine a better world. After Howard has explained that any form of love should be encouraged, simply because it's love and love can't be bad, we show a statue of Leda and the Swan and some more recent examples of the beauty of bestiality.
“You may say I'm a dreamer,” Lennon points out while Britney Spears, scarcely dressed, caresses a large white snake. “But I'm not the only one.”
An unknown woman is performing cunnilingus on a white horse. She moves her hips invitingly towards the camera. “I hope some day you'll join us,” Lennon tells us what she's thinking, because she's got her mouth full. “And the world will be one.”
Oh yeah, they'd produced a nice piece of Art, and I was proud to be part of the Revolution. The first thing I did when I got back to work, was pressing the keys we needed in a box of wax, hoping that I could copy them from the print. It turned out to be a hell of a lot easier to take them with me during a lunch break, cycle to a bicycle workshop in All Saints Road and have the keys copied there. Anyway, I made sure we could get into the studios and I kept my eyes open. I flirted with Ryan, a technician, who took me into his box and showed me how to put a tape on air. Yeah, we were very well prepared for the Revolution.
All we had to do was wait for Our Big Day. And that's where it went wrong. Howard stayed very calm, he knew what was written in the stars and was resolved it would turn out all right. But I got very very nervous, kept asking if we really hadn't forgotten about any thing, kept repeating the plan until it drove Jonathan mad.
“Who is this technician?” he suddenly asked Thursday afternoon.
“You mean, what's his name, Ryan?” Howard asked.
“Yeah, I mean, fuck, why would he show you all that? Did you screw him?”
“Certainly not!” I blushed. “He's just being kind to a bored cleaner, nothing special.”
“I don't trust that wanker,” Jonathan said. “I don't think he's allowed to give tours like that. Hell no. Does he know you copied the keys?”
“Well then, if you're positive he's not trying to get into your knickers, I think they're on to us and he's a stinking spy.”
“No worries,” said Howard, “it will all be fine. You'll see.”
“No, man, this ain't right. We shouldn't be taking any risks, it's Friday the fucking thirteenth!”
“How about, I invite him over for a drink tonight,” I said. “If that makes you feel any better.”
It would make him feel better, he said, just because Ryan coming over would mean he actually was trying to get into my pants. And I hate to admit it, but Jonathan was right. Very right. I took Ryan home after work, and found Jonathan's bedsit empty. I was a bit upset about that, it was not what we'd agreed on.
Ryan was quite surprised by the extra mattress on the floor, the Pirelli calendar and the massive amount of dirty laundry. I didn't really manage to explain the situation, thought, because as soon as he'd closed the door behind him, he started kissing and touching me up.
“Ryan,” I started, but he pressed his lips closer onto mine. “Mhop mhed!”
With both hands on his chest, I tried to push him off me, but he just dropped himself on top of me so that we both fell onto the mattress. I struggled and tried to drive my nails into his skin and my knees up his crotch, I cried and I screamed until finally Howard and Jonathan came in.
“What's going on?” Howard exclaimed.
Jonathan pushed Howard out of the way and kicked Ryan in the side. “Get off her, you filthy bag of shit!”
Ryan was stunned by their appearance and didn't even think of fighting back.
“Who the hell do you think you are?” Jonathan's voice was coarse with anger, and he had such a violent look on his face that I hardly recognized him. He cursed again and kicked Ryan in the face with his right boot. Blood ran from his nose very quickly, and it almost scared me as much as Jonathan's sudden outburst. Howard tutted and tried to comfort me from the other side of the room, but I just wanted to get away, away from this rotten place and these terrible people.
“I'll kill you, I'll fucking tear your guts out and strangle you with 'em!” And he threw himself on the bleeding technician.
My face was still wet with tears, but while I saw Jonathan beat the crap out of Ryan, I suddenly knew what to do. I got to my feet and ran off. I ran down the staircase and ran to the tube station. It was still very hot outside, and people looked surprised to see me running like that. On the train, I wiped my cheeks with my t-shirt, but new tears appeared immediately. When I got off the train, I ran again, down the road to the house where I grew up. My mother opened the door and hugged me when she saw my face.
“My baby,” she said, “you look dreadful! You haven't been eating well, have you? Come here, come to mama, I'll take care of you, you silly thing.” She hugged me and hugged me and I felt like I never wanted to let go again, her warm arms around me and her oh so familiar smell. I wished I had never left home in the first place and I said I loved her and I was sorry.
“You don't have to say that,” she said, and her voice was so friendly. God, I had missed her so much! “You don't have to say a thing, my baby, but I'm very happy that you're back.”
13 September 1991 was bad news for our Revolution. That day, Jonathan and Howard were arrested for violence and I started eating meat again.