Continuity of power

As the Prime Minister left the chamber, he smiled. His final appearance at the dispatch box had gone precisely as he’d hoped it would, neither a complete triumph nor a total disaster. He knew what the members of his Cabinet would say to each other after he left. They’d say he’d done “all right”. He knew the opinions that would be expressed by his backbenchers, when they gravitated towards one of the many bars in the House of Commons. They’d agree that he’d done “all right”. And he knew what the press would print. Again, they’d be unanimous in their view that he’d done “all right”.

“All right.” Those two words had followed him throughout his political career like a persistent smell. He chuckled to himself; so many people thought he was annoyed at the phrase, but in contrast to how many of his predecessors had left office to approbrium, he knew beyond peradventure that he was leaving at his own accord, on his own timetable. And that, too, was “all right”.

And now he walked. He glanced at his wristwatch, pleased that he’d timed his exit so well. He had another fifteen minutes yet before his final meeting of the day, the final meeting of his premiership in fact. He intended to enjoy every moment of it. And so he walked, a gentle stroll, unaccompanied except for the large man with the padded jacket who walked a few paces ahead of him, his eyes constantly moving.

He walked past members of parliament, some of whom nodded politely in his direction; others smiled, while the rest just scowled. But that was expected as well. He walked through the corridors, enjoying the musty scent of history. He nodded at a particular portrait on the wall, a short sharp movement of his head, a personal quirk he’d picked up twenty years ago when first elected. He’d been told that the subject had allowed principle to supersede policy. And so he nodded, which was so much more polite than laughing at the stupidity of this long dead politician.

He continued to walk, surrounded by memories of times gone past, of years spent in obscurity before the sudden rise to power. He’d never liked opposition, but had barely liked ministerial portfolios any better; responsible for everything and affecting nothing was how a colleague had put it, and the Prime Minister had thought the same before his appointment to the highest office.

His watch vibrated twice, and he sighed. No more wanderings, no more power. He smiled, memories of what he’d done while in office, the sheer fun of patronage, the delight he’d taken in reshuffling his oponents to meaningless ministries: Minister of Sport (with special responsibility for droughts and floods) had been a favourite.

He paused outside his private office. His final meeting, his final minutes as Prime Minister.

“I won’t be long,” he said to his bodyguard, who duly planted himself outside as he walked into the room. The room was empty when he walked in, but by the time he’d closed the door, the demon had appeared and was leaning on the large desk, picking his long shiny teeth with what appeared to be a sharpened bit of bone.

“Ready?” the demon asked, although it knew the answer. The man had been ready for over a year. For one year, one month, one day, one hour, and one minute to be exact. It knew the man currently inhabiting the body of the Prime Minister was done. The demon watched the man fall to the ground as a purple mist surrounded the body. Then the fog evaporated and the man stood, and stretched his arms and legs, enjoying his new body. In the chamber of the House of Commons, the sitting was suspended as for the fifth year in succession as yet another member of parliament succumbed to a fatal heart attack.

The Prime Minister blinked twice, and smiled at the demon. “See you next year,” he said jauntily and left the room, heading towards his first meeting of the day.

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