Picture by Ewan M: Crossharbour station
For a while, the station is Crossharbour and London Arena; then someone demolishes the London Arena, and it’s simply Crossharbour. Later, after the harbour is drained, they rename it once more: Cross.
Living in a place called “Cross” is, Cabalero discovers, pretty awkward. Local maps and search results disappear under Abbs Cross and New Cross and King’s Cross and Brent Cross and West Cross. Journeyplanner frowns and asks for clarification. Taxi-drivers shrug.
For most of the residents, this is intensely annoying. But it gives Cabalero an idea.
“People tell me,” he says from behind a gloss-dark podium, “that they’ll pay for the films they really love. That they’ll support the bands they feel passionate about. That they want to know where their money’s going. That they’ve been bitten too often by trailers that promise the world, and movies that just deliver a string of meaningless explosions squeezed into a pair of tight-fitting trousers.”
He looks at the audience. They’re interested; they’re not sure where he’s going with this.
“These people tell me,” he says, “that I’m fighting a losing battle. These people tell me that some of their favourite shows aren’t even available on DVD. These people, ladies and gentlemen,” and he pulls aside the red curtain hanging to his left, “are pirates.” Behind the curtain an actor in a tangled-hedge beard brandishes a bloody cutlass, swigs from a bottle of rum, and kicks a parrot. The parrot shrieks and flies clumsily away.
“These people,” Cabalero continues, “are thieves.” He sweeps aside the curtain to the right, revealing a man in a black-and-white striped jumper, a sack over his shoulder brimming with other people’s precious objects, his foot stamping on the hair of a small weeping toddler.
“These people,” Cabalero says, shouts, “are killers. And what do they kill? No mere replaceable life: they kill careers, ideas, creativity, hope, those fleeting qualities that makes us human. And I, gentlemen,” and he dismisses the pirate and the thief with a gesture, “I can stop them.”
Some of the audience members are leaning forward in their seats, now. A screen descends slowly from the roof. “This,” Cabalero says, opening Firefox with the flick of a mouse, “is a browser window. And this,” and he clicks on a bookmark, “is a website that these art-killers use to steal. Movies, television, music, video games - they don’t care, they’ll take everything, and then they’ll post mean little reviews that make them feel good about themselves, spitting in the faces of the very people they’ve sinned against.”
This is it: the climax. His moment of triumph.
“We’ve tried,” Cabalero says, “technological solutions. We’ve tried fear. We’ve tried appealing to their better natures. Nothing’s worked. But this,” and he pauses, and the room is absolutely silent, “will.”
The lights dim. He clickes the mouse once more, and the image on the screen changes. “Presenting,” he says, “a new era in cinema. A new paradigm in music. A new dawn in civilisation. A solution to all your problems.”
The image on the screen is a mockup of a movie poster. A dark background; in the centre, three bright silhouetted figures. They’re fuzzy, seen through a mist. At the bottom of the poster, sharper-edged, is the word XVID in bright blue-glowing letters.
The poster fades, and another appears. A laughing white couple in the bottom left-hand corner reach up towards the top right, as if straining to reach the baby monkey that hangs there, clinging to a balloon. In the middle, cheerful red, sans-serif: AVI.
A third poster, browns and greens: a woman faces away from the camera, looking back over her shoulder and straight into the camera. She’s standing on the edge of a cliff, or a rooftop, and it’s windy, and her hair and her dress billow. Torrent, says the serifed script below her feet.
“If they can’t search for it,” Cabalero says, “they can’t find it. And if they can’t find it, they can’t steal it. And if they can’t steal it, ladies and gentlemen,” and the lights come up again, “they’ll have to pay for it.”
The applause is, of course, rapturous. After the presentation, Cabalero is surrounded by a hundred producers and directors and composers and marketers and lawyers, every one of them wanting to shake his hand and buy him expensive drinks. It’s half past eight in the morning before he trips his way into a taxi with three nineteen-year-olds, a final half-dozen glasses of champagne clutched to his chest. He mumbles his address to the driver and falls asleep.
The driver, of course, takes him to the wrong Cross, where he lurches into someone else’s house without realising and stands, confused, in the kitchen until the panicked residents knock him unconscious with a lampshade. But every day has its ups and downs, and at least he saved the recording industry.