The reporter held a finger to his earpiece and turned to the camera. Behind him, a crowd jostled to share his shot.
“Quite a number gathering here at the law courts. So far, they’re a good-natured lot and the police are having an easy time of it. So far. With me now is Janet from the equal rights organisation, Sweet F.A. – Freedom for All. Hello, Janet.”
“What makes this particular issue so important to you that you come down here with your placards and your banners?”
Janet scowled. “When I could be at home with the kids, do you mean?”
The reporter’s smile faltered. “Um, no, I –”
“We’re here for everyone,” Janet cut him off. “We want this law brought onto the statutes. The test cast going on behind us in these hallowed halls of justice will decide what kind of country we live in. Is it a country in which anyone and everyone is free to find love and have it enshrined in a legally recognised contract? Or do we live in a country that continues to discriminate against and alienate many of its citizens?”
The reporter pulled his ‘I’m impressed’ face.
“Strongly held views there. Thank you, Janet. With me now is the Archbishop of Canterbury. Good morning.”
“You – that is to say, the Church – take a different view.”
“Well, of course we bloody do!” snapped the Archbishop, giving rise to an upsurge of boos and an increase in placard-waving. “I am all for fairness and equality – Check out my voting record on issues of gay rights and all the rest of it – but this, this is a step too far. The marriage ceremony clearly states, ‘’til death do us part’ – Anything else is abhorrent.”
“So…” the reporter angled his body away from Janet, who was quietly seething in her kagoule. “What you’re saying is no one in Heaven is married?”
“Ah, that’s a different matter for another time. What we’re discussing here is the notion that the dead, here on Earth, have no right to get married. They’ve had their chance while they were among the living. Now it’s time to rest in peace and await final judgment.”
“Bah!” Janet jeered, forcing herself back into frame. “You need to modernise and get with the times. They’re still very much with us! They’re not resting in peace. They’re still walking about!”
The Archbishop gave a patronising smile. “A few isolated incidents –”
“Bollocks!” Janet roared. “Things are changing. The Dead are back. They’re part of society and – newsflash! – they’re still people, mate. And as such they should be afforded the same rights that the rest of us take for granted.”
The Archbishop sneered. “Like claiming benefits?”
The reporter, with a pained expression, apologised to the viewers at home for the bad language.
The crowd, on Janet’s side, yelled at the Archbishop. The police finally had reason to hold them back.
“So you can see,” the reporter tried to finish up, “Debate is still lively on this issue and –”
He was cut off by the sound of every alarm in the law courts blaring out. People streamed and stumbled from the building, blundering into the crowd.
“Run!” they urged. “Just fucking run!”
The reporter grabbed a wide-eyed woman and thrust the microphone under her chin. “What happened? Can you tell us?”
“It’s all kicked off,” she whimpered. “The – the dead one – the bride – got out of her restraints and took a chunk out of a copper, who turned – I mean, changed – it was the blink of an eye – and sank his teeth into a solicitor. Within about thirty seconds, half the courtroom was turning on the other half – it happened so fast.”
Sirens wailed. A helicopter circled like a noisy vulture.
The crowd gasped and screamed, some of them at last having the sense to run away.
In the doorway stood the judge, his red robe already in tatters, his pale grey wig askew. His jaw hung slackly and his chin was smeared with gore. From deep within him a low growl arose, hungry and ungodly.
“Well done,” the Archbishop rounded on Janet. “This is the country you live in!”