She steps from a world of oils. She drops from a gilt frame to the staircase and makes her way into the chamber. Her sword turns in the air above her head – so smooth. It is the second hand on a wristwatch. It is the seasons chasing each other through a lifetime. It is the stirring of a spoon in a pan, of a cloth wiping a table every morning, of things that women do, unremarked. This is not a woman.
She walks between the rows of benches. There are lines on the carpet, lines the men mustn’t cross – the space between is the length of two swords. But she isn’t fighting. She is turning her blade in the air. And around her they are ducking, reeling, gasping, screaming. Six feet of sleek solidity – a pair of wings, undeniable, folded against her broad back like a swan. A striding creature – the pommel of her sword is a ball of light.
The front benches are a heap of fear. Urine patches on Savile Row suits. The Chancellor holding the Home Secretary in front of his tear-streaked face. Handmade shoes step on fingers as they scramble over the backs of benches. Let me be nobody now. Let me not be seen.
In the Lords she splits the woolsack with a swipe and leaps on top. Turn, turn, turn in the air and they know the game is up. They know because the voices they have been muffling, the quiet voices that whisper in the night, are rising in their heads. She is turning up the volume. Lordships, Baronesses, wrenching off hearing aids in panic and shame – rocking in their places. Old men see, through bifocal lenses, their own broken humanity rolled out across the lives of others – a slideshow of memories denied.
She walks the streets of the city – crosses its bridges, edges its squares. Pigeons rise in clouds from her soft-booted feet. Babies gaze from buggies. A girl running her fingers over strips of tablets in her pocket, lets them fall from her hand. In the fierce light of the sword she sees the still face. There is no smile. This creature says, in her silent persistence, there is no need to be smiling to walk on.
The sword strikes the plate glass of companies that make nothing and serve no-one – shattering the smooth reflection of avarice. She brings her blade down on vacuous logos and screens dripping the polished porn of consumption. She clears restaurant tables of silver spoons and linen napkins – of lipstick-dipped glasses and clutch bags. In the stock exchange her blade rips cabling from walls, taking the veins from the building in showers of golden sparks. Banks are empty, the courts drip barristers, prison officers hesitate with keys. Even teachers in the playground don’t put the whistle to their lips.
Where there was power there is suddenly doubt. Certainty is melting under her hot blade. She makes ripples in the air like thermals under the wings of every fledgling thought of freedom. Across the city, the country, the planet, something is loosed.
The news cameras can’t get close. Shaky footage from mobile phones is skittering over the internet. Theories are already competing. People are falling on their knees outside churches and then getting up again, damp, feeling foolish. A government spokesman advises that pictures of these things be turned to the wall. Even fat little baby ones might turn violent.
Armed police fire when she reaches the gates of Downing Street and the bullets melt in mid-air – silver raindrops falling on the pavement. She stretches her wings – ten feet and more of feather and muscle. As she circles Downing Street, the light from her sword reflects like sunset in the windows.