You fools. You damn fools. We thought all along that the Referendum would tear us apart, but we had no idea how right we were. It was madness. Yes against No, brother against brother, acoustical engineers against historians. Nobody had ever seen so much blood. Campus was destroyed in the ensuing chaos, and life at the University of Southampton changed forever. But I missed all of that. The year is 2015.
Four years ago today, I was pushed into the freezer in the Union shop. A rampaging group of physicists decided to trap me in there for fun, but nobody ever came to let me out. I lay there among the ready meal brands you’ve never heard of and unappetising pizzas in a state of sleep, frozen in time. I missed the referendum and everything that followed, and when I was finally dragged out of the freezer and de-thawed, campus was a very different place.
“Who are you voting?! Tell me!”
Still groggy from my years of stasis, I could only murmur and dribble a bit in response.
“Tell me or I’ll kill you! Yes, or no!” shouted the figure, grabbing me and pinning me against a wall.
“Erm…no? I don’t want you to kill me, since you’re giving me the choice.”
The figure stopped and looked puzzled. “No, I mean, which way are you voting? Are you from Yes, or No?”
“Is this…is this to do with the referendum?” I asked.
“My god…he doesn’t know”. The figure leaned forward out of the shadows, and I could see it was a man of about 24. He was carrying a long knife, covered in blood and small chunks of brain. Brainlets? I’ll go with that. “If you don’t know, that means I can trust you. My name’s Sam.”
I couldn’t tell him my name because spending four years in a box with frozen goods seemed to have affected my memory, so he dubbed me The Iceman. We sat in the shop for a while in the dark, and Sam told me everything I’d missed in the last four years.
“The main thing to remember is that there are two factions: Yes to NUS, and No to NUS. There was a third, Meh to NUS, but they’ve almost been hunted to extinction. Each team hate the other to the point where they’ll kill you on sight if you’re from the opposition, so get some responses prepared if you’re gonna want to survive. The Yes faction have set up in the Stags, and they’re run by the Ling Dynasty. The No faction are based in the Maths building. Clear so far?”
I nodded my understanding, and Sam continued.
“We should get moving. It isn’t safe here, they send daily Yes patrols around this area to check for survivors. We need to get moving.”
He grabbed a few supplies from the freezer and dragged me towards the door. The concourse was in ruins. Benches overturned, pavement torn up, dismembered body parts littering the ground. Sam beckoned me around the corner, both of us crouching low. We’d almost made it to the Jubilee when we heard the sound of a bow being drawn. Suddenly, we were surrounded by cavorting Performing Arts members, many with weapons and some acting out interpretative dance versions of our impending messy deaths. Could’ve done without the autoerotic asphyxiation one though. Our hands were tied behind our backs, and Sam had his knife removed. We were forced onto our knees, the high-pitched giggling of the theatricals ringing in our heads. Peewee Ward and Claire Gilbert walked towards us, an arrow slotted and ready to fire in each of their bows.
“Haha!” laughed Claire.
“Peewee!” laughed Peewee.
“The battle of the referendum damaged his mental abilities a little,” explained Claire. “Don’t mind him. How do you vote? Answer, cretins!”
Sam shouted that we were Yes voters before I could butt in. Some of the more bored henchmen had begun composing a light opera about the incident.
Gilbert thought for a while. Peewee waved his arms around and chased a small bird. Finally, Claire spoke.
“We have no reason to believe your story. Its veracity must be judged in the court of the Stag’s Head. We shall dine on 2 for 1 pizza and hear the verdict of Ling!”
The crowd around us cheered and we were dragged along the floor back to concourse. The Stags was almost unrecognisable. Bright red ‘Yes’ signs covered almost every inch of the building, and it was in state of almost irreversible disrepair. The Stag in the logo also now had glasses for some reason. As we passed through the front doors, I caught sight of Simon Boyce’s severed head on a spike outside the Union.
The interior of the Stags was laid out like a courtroom. A long table labelled ‘The Council of Yes’ was at the centre, with chairs set out for Chloe Green, Sasha Watson, Shane Murphy and Kerry McIntyre. Sam Ling sat at the head wearing a judge’s wig and robe, still rather fetching despite all the bloodstains. There was a jury of Yes members and a surrounding audience. The room went quiet on our entry.
“Who dares come before the Ling Dynasty!” boomed the President.
“Two wanderers in no man’s land, my liege,” said Claire, bowing deeply in his presence.
“And they claim to be Yes supporters?”
“Yes, my lord.”
Sam Ling thought for a while. “Very well. You! What is your favourite policy of the Yes campaign!”
He was pointing straight at me. “Umm…the one about…food in the shop?”
My fishing for answers seemed to placate the man, albeit briefly. He turned and debated with his panel some more. Chloe was licking a pair of axes and warming herself up, which I didn’t take to be a great sign. Finally, Ling spoke again.
“I will not execute you both now…if you are able to pay the release fee. Have you 20 Jesters cards?”
Sam had informed me earlier that the humble Jesters card was now the preliminary form of currency, and one that was in low supply.
“20?! Mr Ling, that’s insane!” shouted Sam, obviously shocked.
The court laughed. Sam Ling smirked. “Well then, gentlemen, the only other option…is death.”
Suddenly, the windows smashed in and the room filled with smoke. People were screaming, guns were going off, Peewee was gleefully shouting his own name. A pair of hands grabbed my shoulders and began to drag me back. I saw Sam being dragged the same way the moment before a sack was placed over my head.