Tuesday, 30 September 2014
Jordan had been fascinated by guns since his first plastic gun with those caps that made it go bang. He loved the feeling of the fake weapon in his hand and loved imagining shooting all and sundry. As a child, Jordan had badgered his mum relentlessly to let him have shooting lessons. It was unfair he'd complained, Jake his brother went to rugby and Janie his sister went to piano lessons but his parents wouldn’t let him follow his passion. Eventually they caved in and arranged for Jordan to go to the shooting range. There Jordan was a natural, he was sure and steady, perfect eye hand coordination.
But Jordan was a sensible lad He loved guns but because he loved them he also respected them. He knew the damage they caused. He knew the power they had. And for that reason he never played with them away from the range. He learnt all about them; how to dismantle them, clean them, reassemble them, how they worked, how they ticked, but he never abused their power. He longed to become a forensic ballistics expert and was working his way through University to get there.
Of course if you love guns, then somewhere deep down inside, there is the urge to use them for their original purpose. Shooting holes in targets was all very well, but guns were weapons of destruction, designed to maim and kill. Jordan had managed to suppressed this urge but he knew it was there. He wanted to shoot a living thing, feel what it was like to use a gun for real. Would he be such a sure shot when the pressure was on? He wanted to find out. So when he was asked by one of his posh mates at uni if he wanted to go on a deer hunt, he jumped at the chance. He was ready.
So here he was, deep in a forest, dressed in camouflage, holding a rifle up to his eye. There was silence, if other hunters were near, then he couldn’t hear them. He was in the zone, his hand steady and his finger strong on the trigger. There was a deer in his sights and he was about to make his first kill. He took one more deep breath and tensed the muscles in his finger. The deer stumbled and dropped to the floor and Jordan followed suit. He staggered forward and fell to his knees, retching as he did so and dropping the gun in disgust. Tears flooded down his face. What had he done? He looked in the direction of where the once proud beast had stood. Mindless, pointless, destruction. He’d abused the power that he’d promised himself he would always respect. He let the tears flow freely.
For Jordan that split second changed his life. That flex of a finger changed his mind about all that he held dear. As he stared at the ground, trying to catch his breath a big question flashed in his mind. Did he really want to work with things that could cause such wanton destruction every day of his life? He looked at the evil weapon on the ground in front of him. He knew he never wanted to fire one again but could he really turn his back on his life’s passion?
He looked so innocent, just a tired man on his way home from work. He was a small man, small head, small hands, small feet, big beard. His eyes were hidden behind prescription glasses with reactive lenses. Nothing about him said mass murderer - except the gun he produced from under his red hoodie and started firing at random.
The skinny skateboarder with warlock tattoos and nose ring was the first to take a bullet. I remember thinking that he really was unnaturally slim as his pencil body crumpled and metal tore flesh. The normal hum of the day was replaced by screams and gunshots. The grandmother in tartan trousers showed reflexes that belied her age throwing herself over her three grandkids - willing to take the hit to save the future. The children beneath her screamed in fear and shock as the human shield did its job and the warm blood spread over them. The redhead with the black leggings and those weird boots that look like wellingtons was the next to fall, her pretty features contorted as the pain receptors sent messages to her brain. I looked around, this was carnage. The woman with the pram stumbled and fell, a small dog ran free as his elderly owner released the lead, I couldn’t see if he’d been hit or had just panicked but he was lying on the ground motionless. The dog after running free soon came back to stand guard over his fallen master. The gun was empty, the man calmly reloaded, there was no emotion on his face, no rage in his eyes, just a small man going about his daily business. Without the sound of gunshot it felt like there was silence despite sirens wailing in the distance and people crying and sobbing. No one knew what to do, some were running, some cowering, some frozen to the spot. The dilemma? Help the fallen or save your own skin. I lent down and held the redhead’s hand. This wasn’t out of altruism or bravery but out of the knowledge I was going to die and didn’t want to die alone; perfectly selfish even in this charitable act. I could see she was shot in the shoulder. She looked at me with pain in her eyes and clasped my fingers so tightly I had pain in mine.
Then an explosion, louder than the gunshots, louder than anything I’d ever heard. I expected debris but all there were was smoke; lots of thick, dense smoke. Then voices, loud, angry voice competing with the ringing in my ears. There were figures around us, in black, helmeted, some tending the wounded, others finding the best shot. Then one more gunshot rang out and I instinctively breathed a sigh of relief. I knew it was over. The fog cleared and paramedics arrived. The girl let go of my hand and I mouthed thank you to her as a medic tended her shoulder. She looked confused like it should have been her thanking me but I knew I would not have made it through without her.
Monday, 29 September 2014
Marcus watched the Italian tourists wander slowly across the road. It looked like they were enjoying the freedom to cross without the cacophony of horns that they would find back home. As they drew closer, Marcus could see they were one large family, three generations, all shapes and sizes. They straggled out like a herd of wildebeest with the runt at the end. In this case the runt was a teenage girl, bored, stroppy and for Marcus, prey. She had tender looks, a delicate bone structure and big, innocent eyes. Her body was childish - lithe and lean just how he liked them. He reckoned she'd come willingly. He’d flash a smile, start a conversation, promise her something better than a guided tour with the family and hey presto - she'd be separated from the herd, alone and vulnerable.
He tried to image the look of fear in her eyes and how her face would contort in panic as the realisation dawned on her that he was not just some boy looking for harmless fun. A shiver of anticipation ran down his spine as he felt the blade in his pocket, a blade that would soon be used to draw Italian blood. His brain whirred. He was planning now, where to take her, where to do they act. Thirty minutes, that’s all it would take, that’s all he needed. He didn’t have sex with them, he wasn’t sick, he wasn’t some kind of pervert. And anyway there was no need, the thrill was in the blade work.
He waited for the alpha males and the faithful females to pass before smiling at the offspring at the back of the pack. As he'd thought, his blue eyes and baby face proved irresistible. She shyly smiled back and Marcus got off the bench and trotted after her. He saw her look back over her shoulder and smile again, it was all the encouragement he needed. He was next to her now, introducing himself, telling her he understood her pain. Slowing his pace to put more distance between them and the flock. Soon he would encourage her to turn left without the herd noticing she was gone. He shivered again as she answered his questions and he clutched the knife in his right hand. The pack were merely dots in the distance now, the hard work was done.
‘Come with me’ he said and slipped the knife out of his pocket, letting her see it. He enjoyed how her face changed, not fully comprehending the situation. ‘We’re going to have some fun,’ he whispered seductively.
She was too shocked to scream, too scared to fight, she just dumbly went in the direction Marcus was leading her. It was all too easy.
But just as he was congratulating himself he heard a roar, a primal scream, the sound of a mother protecting her young. He looked up to see that the herd had wheeled round, had come back to protect its own. He was surrounded not by a flock of rambling tourist but a pack of angry brutes determined to defend their family. Marcus had gone from being the hunter to the hunted, his eyes darted around but there was no escape. He was trapped. Game over.
Friday, 26 September 2014
My very last day of University, rumour had it that tomorrow they were going to give us our final results. There wasn’t an official results day, but apparently if we went in tomorrow, then someone would let us know what class of degree we’d got. Because of course work and stuff we all knew we’d passed but tomorrow would be the cherry on the cake. A bitter sweet cherry because, although it would be good news for all, it would also mark the beginning of the end of these weird and wonderful friendships that had grown up over the last 3 years. Tomorrow we’d all get together for one last time in the dreary coffee lounge on the 4th floor, have a coffee and then go and see what was what. Today, well today it was just me and Moz on Wimbledon Common, chatting, hold hands, wandering aimlessly and wondering what the future had in store.
I think I was falling in love with Moz, and I think that meant I was growing up. When we’d met on day 1 I thought she was a posh bitch from London. She stood for everything I hated - privately educated, big house, rich mummy and daddy. But that was my problem not hers. What she actually was when I had broken down the stereotype was a beautiful woman, charming, warm, caring, far more intelligent than me both academically and emotionally. So I was wandering and wondering, wondering if I should be holding hands with her. After all Jem back home would not approve. Jem my girlfriend, my childhood sweetheart, the love of my life. It had survived the three years of uni, I couldn’t ruin it now, could I?
The next day was all you could hope for and more, all be it set against the backdrop of melancholy. The sun was shining and the park in central London we’d found to celebrate our results felt insulated against the world. Time stopped for those few wonderful hours. We’d all passed and what’s more we all got the same grade so there was no bragging, no one-upmanship, just a chance for the 8 of us to bask in each other’s success.
And of course when you’re that age you won’t believe in endings, so none of us even began to think that this would be the last time we were an 8. Moz, she spent the entire day with her head in my lap or on my chest or shoulder, perhaps she, wise beyond her years, sensed this was the end. Her beautiful eyes sparkled in the sunshine as she looked up at me but was there a trace of sadness or is that my memory playing tricks? It was soon time to disperse, families wanted to celebrate with new graduates, people had work to go to, I had a train to catch. Hugs, kisses, backslaps and promises were aplenty as we said our goodbyes. Moz said she come with me to Paddington, she said it was on her way, it wasn’t.
We stood on that platform hand in hand, looking at each other. This was the time, the time to kiss her. My train was being announced, the rush for seats had started, it was now or never.
As the train took me home there was a little wicked smile on my face. I didn’t know if I’d ever see her again but her lips had been so gentle, her tongue so soft and her smile so genuine after we’d broken the embrace that I knew I’d never regret, I’d never forget my kiss with Moz.
Thursday, 25 September 2014
It was weird, it felt like half the café was bathed in glorious sunshine while half looked like an old black and white, communist, propaganda film. There were 4 other people in the café with me. On the bright side there was the mother and baby who were both as beautiful as each other. It was a giggly baby, with wide eyes and chubby cheeks and a tuft of hair at the front that meant I half expected him to burst into a line of Blue Suede Shoes at any moment. The mother was beautiful, but her beauty was so subtle that you were in danger of missing it. It wasn’t a classical beauty. It wasn’t obvious on first inspection but it was there all right. It called to mind a Morecombe and Wise sketch, it was like she had all the right features but not necessarily in the correct order. Big hazel eyes, high cheekbones, a pouting mouth, a long slender neck but somehow they looked like a collection of leftovers glued together. Each piece beautifully more that the sum of the constituent parts.
In the black and white side were a rowing couple ,obviously in the last throes of their relationship. God knows what minor irritant had caused this latest row but they were at it hammer and tongs. He stretched his arms out, the gesture said I'm sorry, but what can I do? If his action was conciliatory, the only word to describe her look was withering, full of contempt.
The hatred that sparked between them made me wonder if there’d ever been love. I guessed there must have been but it was long forgotten now. They could barely look at each other and soon the row subsided into angry silence. With no words left they, like me, watched the mother and baby, the child still giggling as his mother tried to feed him some apple. I looked at the arguing couple, it was clear where the problem was, because whereas she was looking longingly at the baby, he longingly stared at the mother.