The beginning ...
Six-year-old Molly Hargreaves let go of her father’s hand and stepped onto the first, large, grey flagstone. Taking a small shuffle and a graceful skip, she reached the next one without stepping on the crack between the two. She was now that much closer to the pigeons pecking at the ground. A cautious third step brought her in amongst the outsiders. They seemed not to notice. Just one more and she would be deep in their midst. She gathered up her new dress, and stepped.
Without warning, two hundred pigeons took to the air in an updraft of wind and feathers. Terrified, Molly caught her breath. She turned her head to look at her parents, seeking reassurance. They were smiling, mockingly so. Her older brother, Charlie, was actually laughing.
There was a man in uniform. A big man with white hair. He had been with them all afternoon, telling them things about London.
“Did they frighten you, little Miss Molly?” he said.
She held her breath again.
“You see, when Lord Nelson shifts his weight from one foot to another, the pigeons feel it and take off. He’s alive you know,” said the man, nodding in the direction of the great column with the tiny figure on top. “And one day they will all come to life and take over the World.”
The man coughed and spat out his laughter as he walked on. Molly looked up squinting against the sunlight. She knew the statue was staring down on her, and she felt she had been told a secret that she ought not to know. This was the worst birthday ever.
Some years later …
The Members' Lobby sits between Central Lobby and the House of Commons Chamber. It’s a large square room, mainly in marble, and features the statues of former Prime Ministers. It’s also an area where MPs collect their messages and important papers, and hang around chatting before going into Chamber.
Standing in bronze, with his hands on his hips, is Sir Winston Churchill. Prime Minister during the Second World War and perhaps looked upon as a one of Britain’s heroes; what with all that he did for the country. Whereas the whole of him is a crinkly, dull, brown texture, his left shoe has been polished to a lighter colour. It’s as if he’s wearing odd shoes. It is said that touching his foot brings an MP good luck as they enter the Chamber, and over the decades this has made it shiny.
The MP for Oldham was about to do just that. He reached out with his left hand, one eye on where he was going and the other on Winston’s shoe.
The shoe moved.
The MP looked up into the face of the statue, with his left hand suspended over where the shoe had been. His brain tried to comprehend what had just happened.
The statue of Winston Churchill has actually pulled his foot back.
Oldham’s Member of Parliament wanted to fall over. He stood with his mouth open. Other MPs were also motionless, open mouthed, as if copying him. It was obvious that the shoe was now in a different position.
The statue moved again.
Slowly and stiffly, Churchill started to straighten up. Still with his hands on his hips, he turned his head cautiously, as if suffering from an old neck injury.
The MP uttered something incomprehensible. Surely, this must be some sort of stunt, the prime minister trying to get everyone’s attention about something or other. There, he thought, the Prime Minister is just entering the room, right on cue; clever, very clever indeed.
What was even more clever was when the statue spoke.
“Since when has the MP for Oldham had to rely on luck?” said the statue.
The MP fell into a seated position on the floor as if simply knocked down by the voice. He looked at the Prime Minister seeking some confirmation that all this was his doing. The Prime Minister was looking just as stunned.
There was movement next to the PM. A bodyguard was pulling out his gun.
“Armed Police. Keep still.”
The bodyguard held the gun out in front of him with both hands. He pointed it at the statue of Churchill then at the MP for Oldham, as if not quite sure of the real threat.
“Clear the room, clear the room,” someone else shouted.
Another bodyguard appeared and immediately took up a position in front of the Prime Minister. The PM was ushered out through the doorway while being steered in a crouched position and looking as if something was about to drop on his head.
This was complete madness.
The MP for Oldham wondered if it was all his fault.
The statue of Winston Churchill appeared to be smiling.
* * *
Within the hour, the prime minister was staring intently at the statue. His personal bodyguards were present in the room along with several other armed officers. Winston Churchill had asked for a glass of cognac and a cigar, stating that he knew of the no-smoking policy, but as it had been a while, perhaps they could make an exception. Under the circumstances, no one felt in a position to argue. In fact, several of the MP’s were only too willing to join him.
Everyone had shaken his hand, as much because it was Sir Winston Churchill as to see what it actually felt like.
The PM had hurriedly gathered a handful of key politicians and Sir Winston into one of the Select Committee rooms, keeping away from rooms ten and fourteen, which were wired with cameras and sound. He had given instruction that for the time being, the broadcast from the Chamber was to ‘experience technical difficulties’ knowing that this couldn’t possibly go out live, not until they understood what the hell it was they were dealing with. He was confident the incident had been contained, but there was no way the public could handle something like this. It was unprecedented, and had to be kept secret.
There was chatter in the room from nervousness on the part of the MPs some of whom made silly jokes and comments about the situation.
Churchill was looking stern. He was answering their simple questions, and this was beginning to irritate him. It became clear when he’d had enough and wanted to say something. He paused to allow the cigar smoke to clear from in front of his face, and to ensure he had their undivided attention. The room fell silent.
“Who, could possibly have, ever, imagined?” he said. His delivery was easily recognisable. Slow but powerful as he punched out the individual words. Panning his hand around the room, still with the cigar between his fingers, he looked from person to person.
“I shall try and explain what is happening here, and then answer your questions,” the statue said.
There was a noticeable sigh of relief around the room.
“When I died, I went to a place. It was not here. It was not England. It is difficult to describe. However, when you erected this statue of me, I became aware of what was here and what was going on around me. I could see and hear things, understand things. I have been doing so, ever since.”
The voice was definitely that of Winston Churchill. When he moved, it was almost like a living person, just slower and with fewer actions. The bronze he was made from appeared to mould to his movements, solid but pliable. There were fewer facial expressions and when he spoke, there was little lip movement, as though he was imitating a poor ventriloquist. There was also no evidence, such as a rising and falling of his chest, that he was breathing.
The MPs sat in silence. One or two looked at each other, perhaps reassuring glances to check that this was real and they hadn’t fallen asleep during Prime Minister’s Question Time, and that this was some bizarre dream.
“We have been amongst you for centuries,” said Churchill. “Not in a physical sense, call us spirits, or an energy source, but something happens to the human soul when it is embodied as a statue or sculpture. It is as though it creates a connection, a link between two worlds. A higher, more informative and advanced world, and here. That link also opens up a telepathic communication between all statues, and we are able to share thoughts and knowledge.”
The statue rapped his knuckles on his metal chest. “You haven’t discovered yet how to control the molecules of solid objects but that is exactly what I am doing right now.”
The prime minister wanted to ask a question.
Churchill spoke again, “You’re going to ask why I am here? There will be others like me. Other statues will come to life this morning, to help give you a message. An important message, and so important that it was necessary to get your attention in such a way that you would take the message seriously. Something so unbelievable that you would be left in no doubt.”
Churchill paused for a moment as part of his build up.
“The World is coming to an end,” he said. “The balance of the natural world, of all things living, has tipped.”
There was another short pause.
“Over the years, we have listened to your plans on conservation. Your thoughts on the control of pollution, of greenhouse gases, combustion, the ozone layer, deforestation. What you are doing, it isn’t enough. If your actions were just leading to some major catastrophe — we wouldn’t get involved, it wouldn’t be our place to. But this isn’t just some disaster. It is leading to The End. As a species, you are going to be wiped out, and even though some may initially survive, they too will perish.”
A silent alarm showed on everyone’s face. This was incredible, unbelievably incredible.
The prime minister spoke. “How long have we got?”
“Not long,” said Churchill.