Nick Clegg stands in his office, wiping the sleep from his eyes. It's early. Outside he can hear birdsong and the distant purr of motors. He opens the office safe and removes a golden mask and a long black robe. He smells the robe: damp and musty. He'll get it dry-cleaned at the weekend.
He puts on the robe and pulls the hood up over his head. He gently places the golden mask over his face and fastens the elastic. He gingerly opens the door. No-one is around. He walks the corridor towards Cameron's office, his footsteps echoing. He doesn't knock on the door. Not now. Not ever. He enters the room.
David Cameron is sitting on the mahogany chair. Ornate, more a throne than a chair. He is wearing the same bright red robe as always; it is embroidered with fine gold, catching the sunlight through the office blinds. The neckpiece, thick and solid, an inverted heart.
Cameron's face, those fat, sausage features, are obscured by the slimy Fu-Manchu moustache he has stuck on to himself. To complete the look the Prime Minister is wearing a flesh-coloured swimming hat. From a distance it looks like he's bald. Yes, maybe from a distance.
Nick knows what will happen next. The same thing that has happened every day since he and David were joined in this unholy coalition. Sometimes the tone or the cadence varies, but the words are always the same.
Cameron clears his throat. A ham-actor, he waves his left hand with a flourish and announces:
"Klytus, I'm bored. What playing can you offer me today?"
Clegg can feel his breath against the cold metal of the mask. He says the words without thinking.
"An obscure body in the SK system. The inhabitants call it Earth."
Cameron laughs; a deep, empty laugh.
"How peaceful it looks."
He bends over. On his desk is a fax machine. One of the buttons has a sticker crudely pasted on top of it. The sticker reads: "EARTHQUAKE." Cameron presses down on it and continues laughing.
After a few seconds the scene ends. Clegg silently turns, leaves and walks back to his office. When Cameron and he meet later in the cabinet office, no mention will be made of the scene. They are the only two who know of it.
Clegg asks himself - as he does every day - why, of all the scenes in all the films that Cameron might have chosen, he decided to re-enact the opening of Flash Gordon. It's neither a great film, nor so kitsch that it has a great cult following. He could have chosen Star Wars or Soylent Green or Avatar. Instead he chose this forgettable piece of hokum. He will never understand the man. Maybe he shouldn't try. But soon his line of questioning turns inward and he asks himself - with a hint of reproach - why he himself takes part. And as always he find the same answer, lurking just below his conscious thoughts. Because one day, one day I shall be Ming the Merciless and Cameron with be Klytus. One day things will change. I have wagered my career on that.
It is the evening of the same day and Clegg is at home with his family. The scallops have been eaten and the au pair is washing the dishes. The children have been put to bed. The house smells of fresh linen.
He finds himself alone with Miriam. They walk arm in arm to the bedroom, the door closing behind them. Wordlessly, they kiss. His dry mouth, the memory of tobacco, meets her soft wet lips. This is a dance they have performed before. He smells her perfume, he feels her hair against his face. He holds her and they fall on the bed. Their clothes disappear, discarded like autumn leaves. They are naked and he is inside her, slick and hard and urgent. The rhythm builds. Miriam pushes, her hips grinding against him. And he knows. He knows he won't be able to cum. He knows this because all he can see in his mind in Cameron. Cameron dressed as Ming. Cameron pressing the button and laughing. Cameron sitting there as Clegg stoops in his robes.
He stops, hauling himself off his panting wife. "I'm sorry," he murmurs. "I'm tired."
Miriam smiles. She knows her husband. They will try again tomorrow.