The Monarch Passes: A Satirical Hyper-Ballardian Story Simulation

We live in a kingdom of rains, where royalty comes in gangs.
– Uncle Monty, Withnail & I

AI: “Dystopian Crowd Of Gothic Mourners In The Rain”

Scene I. Nobody even cares to remember how long The Last Queue has been going – and asking such questions will get you unceremoniously trampled to jam. Thankfully dissent is but a memory. Look left, look right; the line stretches to the far horizon and Beyond. We won.

It’s still raining right now of course, but local forecasts say the sun will come out later on. Any day now.

Come rain or shine or seasonal fecal snow drifts however, nobody’s inner reluctant smile ever fades. An unending sea of grey expectant faces, recorded by the swarming mass of A.I. media drones. Glance down at the strange black mirror of your smart phone, and see yourself half smiling out at the electronic eyeballs feeding back your ever move, your every practiced tear, every possible public act of national mourning. Some mild wailing, some minor self-flagellation, some entirely enraptured by the collective mood. ‘Royal’ is the name for that mood.

Nobody lives at home now, because everyone’s here, together. One nation undivided; forever united under a common panegyrical eulogy of gently weeping lamentation. Naturally, those on camera viewed by the masses as not trying hard enough get a swift kidney punch, an ankle stomp or a hard knuckle rap on the skull from mourners directly behind them. And they are thankful for The Enthusiasm.

The precise look everyone’s simultaneously going for is known as The Expectant Grandmother. A precise mixture of private, soul crushing internal pain at The Great Passing and the classic ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ attitude that quietly can’t allow such an obviously  cosmic-scale tragedy to overwhelm one’s immediate Cultural need for decorum and emotional restraint.

The Last Queue has slowed by several degrees. There’s a bit more pushing and shoving than usual. The hands of lovers and frightened, clinging children are torn apart in the sudden mood shift, each party never seen again. The crowds are just too dense. We surge together, a loving sea. There’s simply too much at stake.

So much heavily oxidized plastic Union Jack bunting lines this abandoned section of the city, local volunteer Bunting Crews are dispatched to hack through the worst of it. Many of the elderly mourners caught in dense sections of bunting suffer severe lacerations, or even get themselves strung up and hung – sad, inverted and abandoned Victorian dolls.

Nobody minds such minor deaths in the slightest, because this is a shining and eternal moment of national pride and mourning, and there’s no time for complaining or silly worries. There’s now only The Last Queue, and it’s unending spiritual insistence for public displays of intense and uninterruptible despondency and adulation. The crowds pull frantically at the legs of the bunting-hanged, frantically tearing strips of clothes and rapidly rotting limbs away to prevent possible obscured glimpses of Our National Goddess, passing by on her way to her private jewel encrusted heaven. Amen.

It’s all we live for now. Entire generations of mourners, conceived raised and dying in, and for The Last Queue. A single, vast, grey-black pall, comprised of countless millions of the flag waving, the willingly submissive. A people that truly, finally know their rightful place. Humble citizen-pilgrims, forever surging forward from left to right, up hard against The Great Barrier separating the crowds from The Procession.

Occasionally a hot electric flash will be seen as another citizen willingly throws themselves against The Great Barrier in a beautiful act of national mourning, or is accidentally shoved from behind by others desperately scrambling get to The Front for a view. The sight of these bodies instantly burning away, up into the smokey Londinum air like magician’s touch paper brings a brief, warm glow of sovereign pride to all who witness it.

Except that, The Procession hasn’t exactly been seen around this section of The Last Queue for a while now. In fact at least six generations of mourners have recently been born, have lived out their duty on these grand front lines of national lamentation and mass bereavement, and have faded away to dry bones, crunching under countless sore feet.

Scene II. You can get a decent cup of tea around the clock while waiting for The Procession. Nobody knows who really supplies the tea, or how it efficiently distributes itself throughout the gathered national swarm, but everyone appreciates a nice hot cuppa. No milk though – only some kind of sweet, cloudy synthetic substitute. Everyone feels calm after a sip, and feels ready for more enthusiastic collective public mourning.

Occasionally someone at The Front will hallucinate a sight of The Procession passing by, immense black horses with red eyes pulling a fifty ton armored hearse behind them, it’s Super Gothic styling searing the brain with its weighty aesthetic of industrial scale melancholy and time gathered grime.

A gloriously violent burst of national enthusiasm then occurs – mourners in a frenzy of heartfelt sovereign tribulation tearing at their faces, streams of bloody tears falling to a pavement covered in greasy chip wrappers, heavily oxidized plastic Union Jack bunting fragments, torn printed tea-towels, and excrement-stained old national newspapers with nothing but total coverage of The Procession on their proud front pages. Any day now, we’ll see The Procession go by, our great unpaid collective work here done. It’ll be worth it, even if we have to wait here forever in the ceaseless acid rain for the merest sliver of a glimpse of that grand, pitch black hearse.

“The Last Queue is eternal, The Last Queue is reality, The Last Queue is life itself.” All other priorities gladly rescinded. The love for Our National Goddess is just too great, simply too profound to deny. Fresh recruits flock to our cause every day, our great unified state of national depression. Sunk in love, and loving every moment. We even tolerate those from overseas – as long as they don’t obscure our potential view of The Procession with their endless selfies.

Scene III. Historical note. When the great bombs finally came to clear away The Last Queue, by now on the verge of spilling into other nearby countries, there was at only one person among the gathered millions who reluctantly admitted and secretly felt a kind of terrifying relief at this collective mania; our mass absurdity, our willingly self-distracted psychopathy. This infinitely grand, royal delirium.

The bombs didn’t work, of course – after all, you can only kill religious zealots who aren’t already fanatically enthusiastic, flag waving members of the Living Patriotic Undead.


Sex Pistols Poster via Robert What

I expected her English devotees to remain suckered, but assumed they would respond with characteristically English restraint. How wrong I was! When I ’phoned London daily over the next few days to speak to my wife, I heard of scenes of what sounded like collective insanity: thousands of people gathered outside Kensington Palace, Diana’s home, moving on in droves to Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s official residence, swelling in numbers to hundreds of thousands, clogging the environs with floral tributes, weeping, wailing, uttering immoderately mawkish expressions of loss, clamoring for the Royal Family to perform public penance, and calling for the death to be marked by a state funeral, with all the panoply of official mourning.

The excesses of lamentation, the egregious displays of grief, the madcap encomia, grew in intensity every day for weeks and months. Whenever my wife spoke to me on the ’phone, ‘You won’t believe what’s happening here,’ she would say. I barely could. The English had changed, without my even noticing. The reserved generations and traditions that my father described had vanished. The English had become as sentimental and ostentatious as everyone else. The stiff upper lip had gone wobbly. Di’s millions of mourners wallowed in what the teachers of my childhood years would have condemned as exhibitionism and emotional slacking.
– Felipe Fernández-Armesto, A Foot In The River: Why Our Lives Change and the Limits of Evolution

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