[Media prompt] London mayor Sadiq Khan condemns ‘deliberate and cowardly’ attack.
When a soldier pushed him through the barrier, Marv kept his eyes on the floor and walked quickly to the immigration counter. He followed the instructions printed on the wall, pressing his thumbs onto the sensors before the woman in the booth had to tell him to do so. And even though he expected it, he winced as the lancet pierced his skin for a blood sample.
“Look into the camera,” said the woman, her eyes glazed over with boredom.
Marv had been ordered to remove his glasses while he waited in the queue, so he looked upward immediately into the red beam. There was a bigger, brighter flash, and he blinked. He took a step back, standing at attention, licking his lips and swallowing hard. An odour of sour sweat and disinfectant hung in the air. Silently, he started counting backwards from sixty.
“Proceed along the green line,” the woman said when he reached seven.
Marv turned, catching sight of the solider lifting the barrier to push through the woman behind him. Everybody said the queues never ended, but it was risky to look at soldiers, so he put his eyes down and followed the scuffed line painted onto the cement. He followed it behind the counters, into a room where he was directed to a table. A man with a mop was cleaning up a pool of blood, the top half of a head poking out of a bucket on his cart. Marv stepped around the wet patch, seating himself on the wooden stool that had been pushed to one side. It scraped loudly on the floor as he dragged it back to its rightful position. Something rose up in his throat, and it burnt when he swallowed.
“Sector Seven, four o’clock, two-hour close out,” said the man, who pulled Marv’s hand across the table and with practiced ease injected a tracking chip into his forearm. “Gate 26.”
Marv stood up. The man with the mop had gone, but the heavy smell of blood remained. He walked into the tunnel labelled with his gate number. It was black on a bright yellow background. He looked at his watch. It said three o’clock.
“Move it along,” said one of the soldiers stationed at the gate.
In the back of the truck, Marv saw there was only one seat left. As he sat down, the vehicle jolted forward, its canopy rattling, the canvas flapping in the wind as it picked up speed.
“Why don’t they just fucking kill us now?” said a woman next to him. “How are we going to survive a two-hour close out?”
“My brother did,” said a big man with a scar on his face. “So why don’t you shut it.”
“It’s a re-enactment of an attack in 2017,” said another man. “I saw it on the screen.”
“Who gives a fuck what attack they’re acting out,” said Marv.
The truck stopped at the wall, a guard pulling back the flap to double-check numbers. And then as easy as that, they were in Londonistan, bouncing their way to a massacre in which they were bit parts. Marv closed his eyes and not for the first time cursed his grandparents’ generation for handing over the country to Muslims.