It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen. Wullie Smith, his chin nuzzled into his Genuine Oldco Rangers FC 1872tm scarf in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Integrity Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.
The hallway smelt of Bovril and chicken curry pies. At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face: the face of a man of about forty-five with gray hair and a self-satisfied smirk. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. SKY SPORTS - NOW SHOWING MORE NON-RIGGED, CHEATING-FREE SCOTTISH PREMIER LEAGUE FOOTBALL THAN EVER BEFORE, the caption beneath it ran.
TONIGHT, KICKOFF 7.45pm - GENUINE OLDCO RANGERS FC 1872tm V FIFE DIDDIES. RESULT - GORFC 1872tm 9 (nine), DIDDIES 0.
Wullie's fist clenched involuntarily as he looked at Big Jim White's face and thought to himself - I would never get tired of slapping that. He forced down the forbidden impulse. Big Jim is kind and good, he told himself. Big Jim only wants what is best for Scottish football. Big Jim is not an arse.
Inside the flat a nasal voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with suspending more financial regulations in the SPL, because Scottish football could not survive without Genuine Oldco Rangers FC 1872tm. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. The telescreen could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely. There was nowhere within the flat that the voice of Chick Young could not be heard and Wullie tried to ignore it as he moved over to the window
Outside, the world looked cold. Big Jim's smug, smirking face gazed down from every commanding corner. There was one on the house-front immediate opposite. ARE YOU WATCHING SKY SPORTS, the caption said, while the piggy wee eyes looked deep into Wullie's own.
Wullie could see the intimidating towers of the Ministry For Sporting Integrity to the west, and the dark dome of the Ministry of Fairness in the far distance. Somewhere hidden in the darkness was Hampden Park, the official home of the Scottish Football Authority. In the dungeons of Hampden, it was whispered, thought criminals were re-educated in the virtues of openness, transparency and competitiveness.
On the telescreen, a game of football was kicking off. The referee was sending off Fife Diddies' goalkeeper, because Scottish football could not survive without continual victories for Genuine Oldco Rangers FC 1872tm, and teams that selfishly tried to gain an unfair advantage by fielding goalkeepers must be punished.
Hot tears of indignation welled up in Wullie's eyes as Chick Young droned on about the number of jobs that could be lost if the Fife Diddies won. One of the Diddy players swung in a corner, and the referee awarded a penalty to Genuine Oldco Rangers FC 1872tm and sent off the corner-taker because Scottish football could not survive if other teams selfishly insisted upon creating goalscoring opportunities.
Wullie was suddenly filled with despair and horror. Big Jim's eyes seemed to bore into his soul. Chick Young's voice seemed now to crush the very life from Wullie's body. He balled his fists and began to pound upon the window.
"Big Jim is an arse!", he shrieked. "Chick Young is a baldy wee twat! He talks pish!"
"The SPL is a crappy league! It's rigged so that the same teams always win!"
He breathed hard, shocked by his sudden transgression and felt, for the first time in his life, as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Downstairs, he heard the screech of tires as the Thought Police's rapid response unit pulled up at the door of Integrity Mansions. He heard the Thought Police's heavy feet on the stairs, coming for him.
He knew then that he would disappear and never be heard from again. He closed his eyes and waited for them to take him away. He was finally at peace, for the forbidden thoughts had been spoken aloud for the first time. Somewhere, in this great sea of oppression and Doublethink, someone had dared to speak the truth.
Chick Young was a baldy wee twat.