We were out on Brighton beach when the Queen came for tea. Out near where the old pier stands in its burnt skeletal framework. Me, the wife, and our little baby boy were making the most of the spring heatwave and had made a nice pack up of sandwiches and crisps and fizzy pop. It seemed a lot of the country had had a similar idea, though, because it wasn’t half busy.
There were swimmers, bat-and-ballers, weekend boozers, and a hell of a lot of sunbathers baking themselves in oils in the blistering heat. My wife was smothering our boy up in military-grade suncream when the first finger popped through into our world.
It seemed the entire beach stopped what it was doing at once. Even the snoozing sunbathers lifted their heads from their towels. A dad dropped his spade, trampled over his little girl’s sandcastle. The swimmers looked up, treading water as they gazed upon the lone digit, as big as an oak tree, suspended in the air, two giant knotted-joints and a witch’s fingernail on its end.
I gawked, a mouthful of half-chewed corned-beef sandwich dropped and tumbled along my naked belly.
“What is it?” my wife asked, strangling the tube of suncream, spilling its white guts out onto the sand. “What the hell is it!?”
“I dunno. Weather forecast said clear skies. Nothing about… about… about fingers…”
There was a whiny gas-leak sound that hissed out from around the base of the finger. All of us covered our ears as a second finger popped through. Then a third, fourth, and then a fifth. The ancient fingers tore through the fabric of reality like it was clingfilm and we watched as the thing behind peeled open the fabric of space and time. We screamed then, all of us, as a thunderous wet squeak roared across the sky. Red rain poured through and the skies turned to a burning crimson.
The face peered out. Its reptilian eyes were massive, cracked red lines scouring their surface like the roadmaps of hell. They peered out through the hole in the sky and looked upon us with manic glee. Its fingers, still clutching onto the rip, pulled further and further, revealing its fleshy form from the waist upwards.
Our boy cried.
But we barely noticed.
We were transfixed as the thing stepped through into our world. One giant leap for mankind; one giant foot, then a second. It was massive. Boats and swimmers were washed away in the waves of its arrival. Its naked skin hung loosely over itself in doughy folds, pocked with craters and leathery stretch-marks. Its bottom lip, too heavy to support itself, hung low and open in a tired forever-scream. And its crown was a bulbous undulating mass. It looked like a tumescent testicle glued to its scalp, throbbing as it breathed out and in like an exposed lung, dripping crimson from the red rain, still showering outwards from the open hole.
At first there was fear. We screamed, all of us, turning to run to our cars and to our homes but before we could get off the beach, the fleshy crown on its head throbbed and the fear washed away from us and distorted, turned, changed into something quite different.
“I love her,” my wife said suddenly, her pupils dilated, her fingers shaking. She walked then, a zombie crawl towards the sea, leaving our boy on the beach floor. The rising water levels wrapped over him like a watery quilt.
“I do too,” I said, joining her and walking towards the colossus on the coast. We cheered and laughed as we picked up our pace and ran toward her because it was a her. We knew that now. Not just a her but a Queen. Our Queen. A Queen who was coming to meet its loyal followers.
“Oh my God…” a man next to me said, his skin the colour of a boiled ham. “Oh my good golly God.”
“No,” I said. “Not God.”
“Queen,” he replied, nodding in wide-eyed agreement.
“ Yes,” I replied. “Queen.”
With tears in our eyes and arms held high, like pilgrims running to our salvation, joy, joy, joy in our hearts, we went to her.
A queen she was. Not the one that England had known but a queen, the Queen, nonetheless. Our eldritch royal reached the coast and greeted us like we were finger food. She lifted some, thumbed them clumsily into her rotting-yellow mouth where their cries of joy were quickly silenced and crunched right out of them, their blood licked from her lips with that river-logged slug of a tongue, leaving thick ropes of saliva on every surface it touched.
An older woman clutching onto a floral parasol was talking about how “Our Harrie would have loved to have seen this… he was a big royalist. I was never a fan but-“
She was snatched up from the ground before she could finish her thought, leaving nothing but her parasol to freely blow down the beach floor. Next, she took the man with the boiled ham skin. She lifted him, held him in front of her never-blinking, never-focusing eyes. He smiled, transfixed, before she used her other hand to twist him, twist him, twist him… His legs gave from the waist and she chewed on one at a time, then squeezed his innards out into her awaiting mouth like a toddler with a carton of fruit juice.
“I love you!” an older plum-voiced man shouted, clothes sodden in red as he hugged onto her big toe, kissing her tree-bark toenail. “Mwah mwah… I love you I love you I love you I love you.”
He clambered clumsily onto her foot, working his way as best he could up her shin but couldn’t quite make it any further. It didn’t matter, though, as she plucked him up with finger and thumb, pressed his face to her nose and sniffed. His tie danced off his neck in the ensuing gust of her inhale before she exhaled hot dead-meat-stink and onto him.
“I love you,” he said once more but he must have smelled off or something because she threw him over her shoulder. His broken body fluttered against the wind and he landed on the open waters with a distant plop noise.
Then she came to us, my wife and me, and we watched in adoration as the Queen stepped forward, grazing from her new found followers. Only when she passed us did we see the trail of yellow pussy slime oozing out of her back, dribbling and pooling on the beach floor behind her.
“Wait,” my wife screamed, seeing the Queen walking further and further away heading into Brighton town centre. “Please wait!”
“It’s okay,” I said, wrapping my hands around her shoulders and forcing her to look closely at the trail of foamy slime, hissing as it fizzed against the sandy floor. “Look, dear.”
Tears formed in my eyes as I pointed her to the lumps of clear flesh in the yellow fluid. Plasticky ovals with tiny faces within like yellow-rotten frogspawn.
“A royal birth,” I said to her, as several of the eggs began to pop open, hundreds of the little royals screeching as they broke their amniotic shells. They began to crawl and leap onto the leftovers.
I turned and looked at the horizon and saw one last glimpse of our incredible Queen, her crown still throbbing, inspiring love and devotion wherever she went. My wife cried with joy as one of the royal babies’ leaped up and wrapped its mouth around her neck, suckled the blood from her carotid artery.
“Just think,” I said aloud to no-one, as a wide-eyed royal baby snaked along the sand towards me, gummy teeth bared. “What a privilege… for the Queen to come for tea. What a damn fine privilege.”