The Dom Identity

What happens if an imaginary grenade doesn’t explode?

“He is a solitary figure preparing meticulously like the sniper… ‘He will shoot to kill,’ said one associate” The Sunday Times

The Critic is proud to bring you extracts of the summer’s hit adventure. Soon to be a feature film starring Benedict Cumberbatch, this is a thrilling tale of mystery, blogs and, most of all, terrible amnesia.

November: Hyde Park

The body was barely visible in the evening darkness, floating in the Serpentine Lido. When someone did spot it and pull it out, they were amazed to find that the man they pulled from the water was still breathing. Lanky and bald, dressed in ill-fitting jeans and a T-shirt that said “Take Me To Mars, Elon”, he had stab wounds in his back. His only words before he lost consciousness were mysterious: “How did Nut-Nuts get inside my OODA loop?”

December: Paddington

The man stared at the phone in his hand, trying to understand what had just happened, where the words had come from. He was standing in the kitchen of the homeless shelter where he had been living ever since his rescue. When he’d come to, he’d found he had no memory at all: not of his name, or his job, and certainly, definitely, absolutely not of anything he had done in the previous 18 months.

A volunteer walked past and peered over his shoulder at the screen of the phone, where the shelter’s social media account now displayed 25 stream-of-consciousness posts about John von Neumann and game theory. “Hey, did you thread these tweets? So it’s starting to come back?”

The man turned and answered angrily. “No, it isn’t starting to come back! The tweets, like everything else, I just found the phone and I did it. Same way I can read, I can write, and I can set up a Facebook group suggesting the European Union kills baby seals.”

“It will come back.”

“No, it’s not coming back, dammit, that’s the point! What if it doesn’t?”

January: Islington

The man stood on the pavement, looking across the road. This was the only clue to who he was: an address that had been scrawled in ink on his hip when he had been found. It seemed to be a steak restaurant. He took a deep breath, dodged through the traffic, and walked in.

“Ah, Signor Cummings!” the owner seemed to recognise him. “Your usual table? A little drink?” Before the man understood what was happening, he was sitting down with a glass of what he somehow recognised as a reasonably priced Malbec. Cummings? Was that him? It seemed familiar. The owner had returned, carrying a large cardboard box, bursting full of paper. “Here is the package that you left.”

February: Archway

“Dominic Cummings.” He said the name again. That had been the name on the ID badge inside the box. It still felt wrong, somehow, a couple of syllables too long. Maybe everyone just called him “Dominic”. That would be nice, he thought, it suggested he was the kind of person that people instinctively felt comfortable with. It had been at the end of a lanyard that said: “IN GOD WE TRUST. ALL OTHERS WE MONITOR.” Perhaps it had been given to him as a joke by fond colleagues.

Or perhaps not. There had been other things in the box, more worrying things. A pouch of dog food, next to a packet of rat poison. The login details for a Twitter account under the name Steve Hilton-Guru. And some disturbing fan-fiction about Peter Thiel.

Opposite him, the woman who was helping him find out who he was, Mary, put down her coffee. “What’s on your mind?” she asked.

“Who has a brown cardboard box full of…” he hesitated, then pushed on. “Full of classified government documents and books about German 19th Century Military tactics and imaginary hand grenades?”

“Lots of people like history, Dominic. And the hand grenades, well, you’re the only person who can see them.”

He leaned forward. “I can tell you all the books on the ‘Management Theory’ shelf in the Waterstones next door. I can tell you our waitress studied English Literature at Warwick and the guy sitting up at the counter has written eight policy papers this year and knows how to debate. I know the best place to recruit a focus group of disillusioned Labour voters is the saloon bar of the pub over the road, and” – he raised his iPhone – “at this altitude, I can blog for 1,200 words before my hands start to shake. Now why would I know that? How can I know that and not know who I am?”

March: Soho

“I don’t recognise any of this,” Cummings said, staring at the pile of papers in front of him. “According to these, the entire country was in lockdown last year. But I filled a Land Rover Discovery with fuel at a service station on the A1. How can that be right?” He grabbed at another receipt. “This has me at a place called Barnard Castle.” His vision briefly swam in and out of focus, and he felt an urge to test his eyes.

April: Camden Town

Cummings woke suddenly, covered in sweat. He had been dreaming about the Manhattan Project again. He got out of bed and went back to the pile of papers. Mary sat next to him and turned on her computer. They had already built a picture of what the documents contained, an image of terrible confusion at the heart of the government, of chaos and delay just when clear thinking and swift action had mattered most.

It was obvious to Cummings that whoever had been advising the prime minister the previous year had been a fool. Worse, this person had been obsessed with keeping secrets, when everyone knew that openness was the key to good administration.

But who was this key aide, referred to in all the documents as “DC” or “Dom” or simply “you”? Cummings felt he was on the brink of a terrible discovery.

“I don’t want to know who I am anymore,” he told Mary. “Everything I found out, I want to forget. I don’t care who I am or what I did.”

But Mary was staring at her laptop. “Dominic! They’ve got your picture here!” She pointed at the Telegraph website. “It says you’ve been leaking stories about Boris Johnson’s wallpaper. It says the prime minister blames you personally.”

Deep within Cummings’s brain, something clicked. The training was taking over. With sudden icy calm, he pulled over the laptop and started a new blogpost.

Next Week: The Dom Supremacy. Documents emerge suggesting that Cummings ran some kind of campaign in 2016 suggesting that parliament should have more power. But other files suggest he thinks MPs are all idiots. What is the truth? And can the mysterious “Caino”, “Rockstar” and “Sonic” help him find out?

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