True Detective

Spoiler Alert

This story is nearly over, my uncle died peacefully in a care home. We buried him with dignity and surrounded by love.

His wife is still in the care home, I saw her today and told her that in a few weeks, she’ll have access to roughly £130,000. I also gave her Christmas cards and presents and a particularly lovely calendar that I’ve had made of Milo.

She loves dogs and, in truth, the money doesn’t mean anything to her but it’s way better than the way that this story was MEANT to play out.

I’m publishing this whole series again.

This time, the perpetrators will be named, good people will remain anonymous.

Come for me if you like, Susan, Ian and co.

I’d love it.

Let’s go back to 2018.

Welcome

Are you sitting comfortably? I have a story to tell.

It’s only a few days old and it’s still developing.

Every single word is true, I wish that they weren’t, just some names have been changed for now.

My Uncle

Is four years older than my dad and is the oldest of three siblings, followed by his sister and then my Dad. He’s one of the nicest men I’ve ever met. In truth he’s a simple soul who has lived a life free of complications for 83 of his 84 years.

He married his best friend’s widow, as it was ‘the right thing to do’ and they’ve been married for well over 50 years. I used to see a lot of him as a kid as he was a lorry driver who did regular runs to the coast and the Anglian countryside and he’d take me along as a treat and a day out.

He bought my Nan’s house after my Grandad died and lived there until he retired. The house was in Leytonstone, so he sold it for a reasonable profit and moved to a small town near Clacton in Essex.

Although we’re not a massively close family, my Dad would call him once a week or so, just to catch up and make sure that all was well. Occasionally one of my brothers would drop in to see him on the way to another town on the coast.

A Strange Event

That meant little at the time occurred when my Brother dropped in and found that my uncle had gone out to give ‘two women a lift somewhere’. My Aunt wasn’t sure when he was due back as he’d been gone for two weeks.

This was roughly 18 months ago in 2016.

Dropping off the Radar

Around 8 months ago, my Uncle stopped answering his phone, my dad left a series of messages until the system stopped answering. After a few weeks of this, we made physical contact and he called my Dad to say that the answerphone had filled up.

Then he disappeared. No phone calls, nothing.

An Empty House

Another visit found that the house was empty, with mail piling up and a ‘for sale’ sign outside. There was no forwarding address and he had no mobile phone.

He was gone – so was his wife and another person who had appeared on the electoral role that year. Nobody in the family had ever heard of her, but a search has since revealed that she’d lived in two houses in the same town previously – at some point with her husband and then ‘alone’.

And that was it for a while.

Web searches showed nothing – no variations of a search helped at all.

Follow the Money

My Uncle’s house was sold in December 2017 and that enabled to make initial contact with his solicitor, who confirmed that my uncle was alive and that he would ask him to get in touch.

but nothing changed until last week.

My Aunt, their sister died in hospital on Wednesday night and I told my Dad that I’d drive him to the funeral as it’s around a 100 miles from where he lives.

Funeral Arrangements

I drove to see my Dad on Sunday this week (the 13th of May) to check that he was OK and to see if there was any news about the funeral.

We chatted for a while and it was clear that he was worried about whether my Uncle would attend. He’d still not managed to talk to him, but the solicitor had promised to go and see him personally and ask him to call. My Dad was beginning to believe that my Uncle had no interest at all and was both angry and upset. I took the Solicitor’s number and tracked it to Leyburn in North Yorkshire, a move of over 270 miles for a man of 84, who as far as we knew had never been to that area, even on holiday.

I said that I’d try to track my Uncle down, gave my Dad a hug and drove home.

An Unexpected Set of Events

Three hours later, my phone rang as I pulled onto the drive, it was my Dad and he was very concerned. My Uncle had finally called (from an unknown mobile number) and came out with a long rambling story.

In summary though:

  • He didn’t know or wouldn’t say his full address – just the house number and not even a town.
  • His driving licence had been revoked by the Police – he didn’t know why
  • Social Services may have visited and said that he shouldn’t live alone. Although he clearly didn’t – there were three women in the house with him, his wife and two others.
  • His bank account might have been frozen and he had no money and no car
  • He would send his details to my Dad – by post – at some point.

I took the mobile number and rang it.

An old lady answered it – I didn’t recognise her voice, but asked to speak to my Uncle, who was apparently in the garden.

She called for him five or six times and I could hear another, younger, sharper voice demanding to know who was on the call and took the phone from her.

I asked her name and she replied that it was Susan Auckland.

I asked to speak to my Uncle and here’s the conversation.

‘He’s too busy in the garden to speak to you’.

‘OK, can you let me know the address there please?’

No, I’m too busy right now’.

‘You don’t want to give me your address?’

No, I’m too busy, we told your father that we will write to him’.

‘I’m sorry, but we don’t know when the funeral will be and that doesn’t help us at all’.

‘Well, I’m too busy to talk to you and we will have to get back to you’

‘You know that this sounds strange now? If you won’t give me the address. I’ll have to contact the Police as I’m now concerned about this’.

I don’t appreciate being threatened like this’.

‘Sadly, it’s not a threat, just a next step’

*CLICK*

Thirty minutes later, my Dad rang to say that Susan had called and stated that we could pick my Uncle up from the Black Bull if he wanted to go to the funeral and that neither she nor my Aunt appreciated visitors. He then told her to Fuck Off and she hung up.

That was it really, I had to commit to my Dad that I’d go to Leyburn and find my Uncle.

The Search Begins

The Black Bull isn’t in Leyburn, Susan had narrowed the search down to a much smaller town called Middleham.

I packed a bag in case I had to stay for a few days, packed my work laptop and checked out hotel availability just in case..

I then sent a text to Susan. Something about this whole thing was worrying me and going formal seemed best.

This is the text word for word.

Good evening, following my call earlier, please furnish me with details of my uncle’s property by return text. If this does not occur, I will be at Leyburn Police station by 830 am tomorrow to ask for their assistance. Thanks in advance.

I had a quick meal, sat and brooded over a gin and went to bed, setting an alarm for 4am.

SatNavs are SkyNet’s Advance Guard

Let’s be clear, SatNavs want to kill us all. I programmed in Leyburn and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a 10 mile shorter journey than Google Maps had said.

This might be because of this…

30 miles of narrow, winding, blind bends and steep inclines. Straight into the rising sun, making me half blind for a lot of the journey and terrified for the best part of an hour.

I’ve never had a more stressful drive in my life.

Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 14.18.44

Anyway

I arrived in Leyburn just after 8am and managed to find a small cafe for breakfast. I’d decided to go to the Solicitor’s office first and see if he’d be willing to help. Breakfast was a good idea and I was nicely calm again after bacon, eggs, sausages, black pudding and tea..

And at 845, I wandered into the solicitor’s office. I’d prepared for the day by wearing a nice blue suit, with a tasteful and low key slightly pink shirt and had a stack of business cards with me.

Conversational Chess

Inside the office, I saw a set of larger private offices and caught the eye of the gentleman in the office nearest me.

‘Can I help you?’

‘I’m looking for Mr Smith’

‘Ah, there’s two of us, I’m John Smith’.

‘It’s you I’m looking for, my name is Small ThunderDog’ – he raised his eyebrows quizzically. ‘No, I’m his son, I understand that he’s been in contact with you, can we chat?’

He waved me into his office and closed the door.

I started by raising my concerns regarding my Uncle’s wellbeing following the calls the night before and my main concern that he didn’t even know where he lived.

Well, I spoke to him last week and he’s up to date on current affairs, Brexit and the Government, but if you were to ask him why he took £50 from the bank, he may not be able to tell you. But he would know if he’d split a meal bill.’

I reiterated my worry that he didn’t seem to know his address and the issues around his bank account and driving licence. He looked at me for a while before answering.

Well, I can tell you that he does know his address and that his bank accounts aren’t frozen, although he probably has lost his licence – you’re aware of what he did for a living?’

‘Yes, Lorry Driver, I used to go on trips with him, the issue is that I need to make sure that he’s OK, I’m very worried that if he does know his address, why wouldn’t he let his brother know it and why would a woman that we’ve never heard of be acting as his gatekeeper and telling us that we can only pick him up from the Black Bull for his own sister’s funeral?’

‘Was that a suggestion?’

‘No, Susan stated that this was her final word on the subject to my father, you can see my concern here, that there may be coercion.’

‘She doesn’t help herself sometimes I’m afraid, but I don’t think I can give you the address, I’m sorry.’

I looked at him without speaking for a minute, letting the silence build while I thought about what he might not be saying.

‘I appreciate your position, but you have to know that I will find him today, the Black Bull is in Middleham and if he doesn’t have a car and they’re taking taxis everywhere, I’ll start with the taxi firms and work it from there, I know the house number, if I have to check every number 11 in the town, I will’.

We looked at each other.

‘Would I be correct in saying that one of your father’s sons has had a run-in with the police in the past?’

‘No, it’s two actually, but I’m not either of them’

I passed over a business card, he looked at it for a long while before answering.

‘You understand where I’m coming from? I have to check this’

I pondered the strangeness of his question and looked at him for a while again.

‘Well I think so, but you have to understand that nobody in the family is interested in whatever money he has or doesn’t have and I’m interested that you even know that detail about my brother or why it’s relevant. To be as blunt as I can here, nobody cares what he’s up to, if he’s in a weird 4 way relationship and is taking Viagra 16 hours a day…’

‘I.

Don’t.

Care.’

‘When I find him and if he tells me he’s OK and that he has no interest in the funeral or the family, then I’ll walk away and let my Dad know what the answer is.’

I sat and watched him for a while.

‘I’m sorry, but I still can’t tell you the address, however, as you stated, he is in Middleham, there is no car, they’re all very late risers and there aren’t many number 11’s in the town. In fact, the first estate is on the left hand side of the town’.

We shook hands and I drove to Middleham.

A walk in the Sunshine

I actually found the house on the first pass but couldn’t be 100% sure so parked up in town and wandered around for a while looking for other possible number 11s – none of them fit, but the town is a very pretty little place with a number of racing stables and a large equine business base.

I walked through the churchyard and smiled at a woman and made a small fuss of her dog as they walked past, eventually going back to the town and getting a coffee before driving back to the house.

Snooper

I walked up the drive and was struck by a large amount of household rubbish that more or less blocked it, along with offcuts of wood. The curtains were all closed, even though it was 10am but one of the windows had a large number of small dog figurines that I recognised from my childhood.

I’d found them. I was sure of it.

It had taken less than two hours.

I heard a voice.

Hello, are you looking for somebody?’

It was the lady from the churchyard.

A Sunny Day Becomes Slightly Darker

We chatted and she immediately confirmed that one older man and three women lived in the house but that the two older women were more or less bed-bound. She apologised but said that they were all rather strange, that they had moved in just before Christmas but had then all left in a taxi and disappeared for four months and had only been back for three weeks.

The council had been called as the food they’d been dumping in the back garden had attracted rats…

I drove back to town and did a property search while I drank yet more coffee.

Keep Following the Money

The house had been bought in December 2017 and was paid for in cash. Three people are on the deeds.

  • My Uncle
  • His Wife
  • The mysterious Susan

My Uncle sold his house for £81,000 less than the purchase price of the current house, leaving a question as to whether Petulia had contributed or he had taken £81k from his account to pay for the balance – potentially answering the question as to why his bank account may have been frozen – maybe.

I hung around until just after 11 , drove back and rang the doorbell.

Repetitive actions

No answer, I rang again.

And again.

And again. And again. And again.

And again. And again. And again.

I knocked loudly.

And again.

Still no answer.

I walked away and a voice came from the garden below.

‘Not answering?’

I shook my head.

Fancy a brew?’

I jumped at the chance and met another set of neighbours and their dog who decided that I was a potential chew toy.

Rats, Pharmacy Deliveries and Ambulance Rescue

Here’s the thing, if my Uncle had moved in the normal fashion, he couldn’t have asked for nicer neighbours, but the same story came out.

Move in at Xmas, disappearing for months and particularly scathing comments about Susan – who had called the neighbourhood a hellhole.

The rats that the other lady had mentioned had been spilling into this couple’s garden as the house in on a very steep slope, with the gardens being around 2 metres different in height. Nobody could understand why they’d moved there. Town was too far for them to walk, there are only two buses a day and there’s only one small shop.

The neighbours had spotted a pharmacy delivery service making multiple attempts to deliver over a period of weeks, delaying prescription medicines getting through.

The house was full of boxes and junk and Susan had apparently rung the vendor to complain that he hadn’t left the fridge as promised. it was behind a pile of boxes that they’d never moved.

And.

My Uncle had fallen off the edge of his garden, through the hedge into the neighbour’s garden. An ambulance was called and he had to be rescued by being lifted out with a rope. He’d dislocated his shoulder and was taken to hospital.

As with the other lady, I left my number with them and asked that they call me if they had any concerns going forward.

I then went back to the house.

Repetitive actions in a Repetitive Stylee

I rang the doorbell

No answer, I rang again.

And again.

And again. And again. And again.

And again. And again. And again.

I knocked loudly.

And again.

And again. And again. And again.

And again. And again. And again.

I rang Susan’s number – it was switched off

I tried again

and again.

And then she answered.

‘Hello is this Susan ? This is Small ThunderDog, we spoke yesterday’

‘I don’t know who you are’

‘I’m Arthur Hodge’s nephew and I’m on the doorstep, can you answer the door please?’

‘Wait there’

*CLICK*

I didn’t like the sound of that.. and so… two minutes later

Woop-woop! That’s the sound of da Police

A van pulled up and a policeman walked towards me.

I put on my best helpful face and walked out to meet him, getting my driving licence out as I walked.

‘Morning officer, here’s my details, my uncle lives in that house and I’m trying to get to see him to see if he’s OK and to discuss his sister’s funeral’

‘Over here sir, let’s have a chat, we’ve had a report from the owner that you’ve been trying to force entry – where are the others?’

I looked blankly at him.

‘I’m alone, that’s my empty car across the road, you can check if you like’

He called his control and asked for a check on me. I don’t have any sort of criminal record, so just stood there and tried to look as unthreatening as possible, that was probably wise as another van with two more policemen swooped up. ‘My’ policeman signalled them that I wasn’t a threat and they waited while he did the check.

Once he’d confirmed who I was, I then showed them my property search on my phone showing my Uncle as owner of the property. I also showed them my text to Susan from the night before saying that I would go to the police.

I explained my concerns about the two older women being bed-ridden, the rubbish, the rats and the state of things inside.

Things calmed down nicely and the two new policemen went to the door to see what they could do.

We waited and chatted.

Hello Stranger

Eventually, my Uncle appeared at the side of the house and his face lit up as he saw me, a huge, slightly confused smile on his face.

‘You’ve put on weight’ – I’m both taller and broader than my dad, but we look reasonably alike.

‘Well, I am 55 now’

55 how can that…’ – he looked confused.

‘I’m your brother’s son, we have the same name’

His son, he doesn’t have a son with that name, my sister has a son with that name, but not him I think’

His eyes were watery and a bit lost, he was so shrunken, but he’d gripped my hand and wouldn’t let go.

‘No, he does, it’s me, don’t you remember, I used to go to Cromer with you in the lorry, we used to go for breakfast at..’

‘Mrs Brown’s place, yes, I remember, but.. he doesn’t have a son with that name does he?’

I wanted to cry. There was no way that this man was fully in control of his self, his clothes were covered with bits of food and he was so very confused.

‘Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about your sister’s funeral’

‘I don’t think I’ll go, it’s er.. .’

I looked at him, he was still gripping my hand.

‘Don’t you think you should? She’s your only sister..’

‘Could you pick me up and drop me home again?’

‘Yes, of course’

Ok then, It’s a shame it’s come to this’

‘Come to what? That I had to drive for three hours to find you after you moved house and didn’t tell anybody that you’d gone? That you haven’t rung your own brother?’

Well I’m sorry that it’s come to this’

‘Why did you move here? This is such a long way from Clacton, and this house seems not quite right for you, it’s miles from anywhere.’

‘I don’t know, it might have been a mistake’

We talked for around 10 minutes, his memory was hit and miss and he was vague on a lot of things – but I agreed that I’d drive him to Norfolk for the funeral if he wanted and he slipped away from view.

A Small and Very Strange Coven

I then spoke to the policemen again, they’d moved their view a long way from 30 minutes before and were very solicitous.

But, they also told me that the three women in the house, including my aunt, who I’ve known all my life, was present through a lot of my childhood and was a guest at my wedding stated that I wasn’t allowed in the house under any circumstances and that I’d have to collect him from the pub on the day of the funeral.

An Unexpected Outcome.

The two other policemen left and ‘my’ policeman, to my surprise and gratitude, said that he had a few worries and would run them past social services, I said that I’d be raising a safeguarding concern as soon as possible. We shook hands and drove off.

I Need a DRINK..It’s only been 24 Hours So Far…

I went home, grabbed a bit of food and had a couple of beers before sinking into a strange and disturbed sleep.

A Call to The Council

To continue my run of positive things, I had a 45 minute conversation with a lovely lady from Yorkshire Council, I referenced ‘my policeman’ and the job number and that he mentioned that he might raise a case. There was nothing in the system at that point, but she was incredibly supportive and raised a safeguarding case with:

My Uncle, his wife and Barbara- (who it turns out is Susan’s mum) – as the victims

And

Susan as the perpetrator….

I emailed ‘my’ policeman to both say thanks and to let him know that a case had been opened and he may get a call.

Synchronicity, Like Wow. Just WOW Man.

Less than a minute after I sent it, the phone rang and it was ‘my’ policeman. He was calling me to tell me that he’d opened a safeguarding case directly with the local team and that they were likely to call me.

He’d done some digging in his own time, had found that there had been some earlier social services contact and had interviewed the estate agent who sold the property to find out his views.

The estate agent had confirmed that my Uncle was making noises about the house being ‘wrong’ and that he wasn’t sure why they’d bought it.

As I’d guessed, my whole conversation with my Uncle had been closely monitored and the look of joy on my Uncle’s face when he saw his ‘brother’ had convinced ‘my’ policeman that something was wrong with the whole story.

So that meant that as of yesterday morning, two separate investigations had been launched into a situation that nobody was aware of on Monday morning.

An Unexpected Update

I was at work this morning and received a call from one of the neighbours.

The Police and Social Services turned up yesterday and managed to get in while my Uncle and Susan were out.

They then called for environmental service support and a skip was delivered and boxes and rubbish removed from the house.

Today they went back, with two police cars and more social workers but couldn’t get access. There was a lot of shouting and talk of warrants.

And That’s It For Now

I don’t know what happens next – I’m waiting for a call from social services to update me, but I guess that a warrant is going to be needed. The next thing for me once I hear is to try to find out more about his finances and how the house was funded.

And

Whether he has a will and what it says.

Apart From:

This isn’t over by a long way. I don’t care about my Uncle’s money, I do care that it’s looking increasingly like he’s a victim.

The only question is how many people are involved.

It doesn’t matter, I’m taking this all the way.

A lot has happened and..

This is continued in Chinatown

Sleeping dogs

This will be a short post.

Today has been a very strange day, I received two phone calls within a minute of each other.

Milo -my little warrior, The People’s Tripe Princess had recovered from his knee surgery and was being enough of a pain for the vets to want to release him as soon as possible.

I felt a sudden burst of heart warming joy, hung up the phone and got the news almost straight away that my Uncle had died. If anybody remembers the nightmare of his disappearance, the story never really ended.

Fraud was proven but the systems don’t work and two Police cases went to Action Fraud – an organisation that makes the NHS look efficient.

But.

My Uncle died peacefully in a place that he was cared for. He’ll be buried next to his parents and the wider family will be able to grieve and recover and not be wondering what happened to him. He can rest easy knowing that he was a good man and was loved.

I’ll never be able to repay those who helped us in some truly dark days, but they know I’ll always have their back now.

Milo is happy to be home and has eaten and taken his meds- he was refusing in the kennel. The veterinary nurse said that he was immediately a different dog when I turned up.

It’s a bittersweet day, but I’ve done my best for both of them. I’ll arrange the funeral, sort finances and sleep on the floor for a few days so that I don’t have to cage Milo while he recovers.

It’s not much.

But it’s enough for now.

Deistic Dog

The dog nudged my hand away from the keyboard as I was trying to edit a work document so that it made a bit more sense. I patted his head and he nudged my hand again so that I had to look at him.

He was gazing at me steadily and seriously; his huge amber eyes unwavering as he stared.

Outside the windows, yet another storm was driving rain into the house at 50mph and I paused my work for a while.

‘What?’

‘That’s my question. What?’

‘You’re being deliberately difficult aren’t you…’

‘No. It’s just such a big question. What happens after we die ?’

I sat back and looked at him for a few moments.

‘Where did that come from? Are you worried about dying ?’ We’d been at the vet a few hours before and I wondered if that had triggered this.

‘No. I’m not worried. But I just wondered what happens when we go away. Are any of those people that have been here and then gone away dead ? ‘

‘No. What makes you think that?. I know they’re still out there as I see them online.

‘Online ? So you can’t see or hear them for real? You’re taking it on faith then ? Are we in the Matrix?’

My head was starting to hurt at this stage. He had a point. People had come and gone in our lives and as far as he was concerned, they’d ceased to exist.

‘No. We’re not in the Matrix – probably anyway. And you’re right. I have to trust that what I see online and in chats is real. And that’s why your question is so tough.’

He looked at me, I swear that his eyes are backlit sometimes .. Outside, the rain and wind got stronger and it was hard to see the tree-line.

‘Every religion has a view of what’s next and how you get there. Including Atheists who believe that there’s nothing. The problem with religion though is that it’s all tied in with behavioural controls and rule sets. I’m not sure that any of it applies to dogs.’

‘Rules?’

‘Yes. Rules. Thou shalt? Thou shalt not.. etc. ‘

‘You don’t sound convinced’

‘’No. some of it is common sense tied into the time it was written down. Not eating pork in the Middle East before they knew how to cure or had chillers was sensible- now….’

I tailed off. This was a tough conversation with anybody. With a dog though …

He was still staring at me

‘OK. But what do YOU think happens? ‘

‘I don’t know. I’m what’s called an agnostic, I’m not arrogant enough to think that I know and I’m not easily led so I can’t get on board with religion – what do you think? Do dogs have any insight?’

He grinned

‘No of course not’

He looked up at me and put his paw on my arm.

‘ I can tell you what I hope though.’

It was my turn to look at him keenly.

‘ I hope that in many years to come, I’ll fall asleep and wake up in the garden. I’ll be surrounded by my toys and all my friends will be near. Then I’ll hear the music come on and you’ll walk round the corner with one of my squeaky toys and we’ll play games while the barbecue cooks. Then all your friends will arrive and we’ll go for walks and play more games and…’

‘And when the day is over, I’ll fall asleep on your lap and then….’

He looked up at me, his huge eyes glowing .

‘And then we’ll wake up and do it all again. How does that sound?’

I smiled at him.

‘It sounds like you just started a religion. I’m in…’

Ghost Dog

The dog woke up from his dream-filled sleep just a few miles before we reached Corley Services on a trip back from Essex to visit my dad again.

It had been a pleasant trip and I’d done some more clearance of the old house and had a car full of bags of..

‘What’s that stuff in the back of the car then? There’s a lot of it and it smells….. dry.’

I smiled, smells and food were the main drivers in his life, apart from when he’d sit in the garden and obsessively watch the ponies next door for hours on end. He still hasn’t told me why.

‘It’s books, hundreds of them, I’m going to give them to a charity shop.’

His nose wrinkled in question.

‘It’s a shop that sells mostly second hand things that people donate and they use the money for good causes.’

One ear flopped back down again as he pondered this point.

‘And you’ve finished with these books?’

‘Yes I’ve read them all, some a few times and I don’t want to throw them away, I’d like somebody else to read them.’

He was silent for a while, his huge amber eyes gazing up at me me from his little bed on the seat next to me.

‘Do you think that you could teach me to read?’

I looked carefully at him, both ears were up and he looked serious.

‘ I don’t know, maybe. Trouble is that you can’t turn a page or power up a Kindle, so it won’t help a lot. Why do you want to do that?’

‘Well. First of all, I’d like to be able to look at the signs on the road and read the speed of the car, because I’m not sure that you can actually read those things yourself.’

I smiled, he had me there. ‘And what else?’

‘What else? Everything else. I listen to you talking on your conference calls and when we go out and I can hear the hesitation and the lies in some of those voices and I just KNOW that they haven’t understood anything. And I want to understand. I want to know the truth about things. It’s not that I don’t believe you, but……’

His nose wrinkled in the expression that I’ve come to call ‘Cartoon Dog’, a multitude of complex emotions passed across his face and I waited for him to finish.

‘But… I just want to be able to make my own mind up about things and I’m surprised at how many humans can’t or don’t. It’s scary for me because they could decide that dogs are bad just because somebody said so.’

He had a point, people were becoming easily swayed by emotional arguments that bore no logic or relationship to the real world at all.

‘I still don’t think that I can teach you to read what you want to. How about if I read to you occasionally and we can have a think about what it is that we’ve read and heard?’

Both ears were now fully up and he regarded me carefully.

‘Promise? Can we start with the little book that you take into the garden sometimes?’

‘The Hagakure? Yes I don’t see why not, it’s a sort of philosophy and instruction manual all in one. It’s probably a good place to start.’

The amber eyes glowed for a second

‘Will it help me sort those ponies out?’

And with that, he curled up and went back to sleep.

And I murmured some remembered words from the book to him while he dozed

‘The extent of one’s courage or cowardice cannot be measured in ordinary times. All is revealed when something happens.’

Demonstrative Dog

I was sitting in the garden, chilling out and quietly sipping a beer while listening to some gentle Motorhead tracks when the dog lifted his head from where he’d been sunbathing and looked intently at me. I turned the music down a bit as he ambled over next to me.

After a suitable pause for him to yawn and stretch, he finally got round to the point.

‘You know, I was quite surprised by you yesterday.’

‘Why? What did I do? Cook your steak exactly the way you like it? Keep the walking pace steady? Fill your water bowl as if I were a head waiter in a top restaurant?’

He made a dismissive motion with a paw and made a little jump to get in the chair next to me.

‘No, none of that, although the steak was pretty good I suppose. No it was the protesters, I was quite impressed that you seem to have got over your recent bout of Tourette’s and that you managed to speak to them without swearing.’

He grinned at me to show that he might be joking and continued on.

‘To tell the truth, you were very polite, you asked them a couple of questions that seemed to confuse them and you wished them luck. I thought that you didn’t have any time for those ‘Black Lives Matter’ people. Actually, I seem to remember you calling them a number of names, many of them quite profane and some that may even be illegal in some places.’

I took a couple of sips of beer while I considered my answer. I was impressed at his hearing to be honest, I’d left him on the other side of the square with a friend while I wandered over to have a chat.

‘Well, the thing is that they were quite nice really, they seem to think that they’re helping somebody or other and it’s quite a brave thing for only two people to try to do in a small town. They weren’t getting in the way and they were polite.’

He wrinkled his face in the expression that I’ve started to call ‘Cartoon Dog’, he’s got quite expressive over the past few months and it’s nice to watch the emotions dance over what was once a very closed little face.

‘I sense a ‘but’ here….’

‘But…. they’re misguided and are treating a massively complicated issue as if it’s a one sided thing that says all black people are victims, all white people apart from themselves and their allies are evil racists and that a movement with Marxist aims and shadowy backers will somehow make everything right.’

He laid his head on his paws and waited for me to continue.

‘And so, I went over to talk to them. They’d made some little placards and one of them had a list of names that presumably were victims of some injustice or other including Mark Duggan. Twice. I asked why he was on there twice with different spellings and the answer was that they had written all the names themselves. So.. a mistake. I didn’t bother asking if they knew anymore about him than his name. He had been a murder suspect himself before he was shot by the cops.’

The dog wrinkled his nose in query.

‘It was a strange story, but although I’m not always a fan of the police, I think that it was done in good faith. I also never saw anybody riot or burn down parts of their own town when the cops shot Harry Stanley for having a table leg in a carrier bag.’

He wrinkled his nose again.

‘Don’t worry about that today, the point is that bad things happen to all sorts of people. Situations get out of control and people make mistakes. But to try to make out that that the police are institutionally racist is just stupid…’

I paused for more beer while he looked at me through drowsy eyes.

‘So I asked them if they’d be putting Kriss Donald or Ross Parker on their list. They confessed that they’d never heard of them and I suspect that they’d had to google all of the names that were actually there – or take them from a list published by BLM. I asked them to google the names when they had 5 minutes and then wished them luck with their protest.’

The dog was almost asleep in the sun at this point, his paws beginning to twitch.

‘Why did you do that?’

‘Because they’re still brave for doing a small protest in a town that mostly ignored them. Because abuse won’t help and maybe they’ll be curious enough to look for some more sources than whatever they’re reading now. Because…..’

I trailed off. He was fully asleep now and chasing squirrels in his sleep. I moved quietly to the kitchen in search of more beers.

Dog Tired

I had just finished a conference call when the dog did his little trick of putting his nose under my hand and guiding it to the top of his head so that I could stroke him. He looked at me with his enormous eyes and asked a question.

‘What’s Moral Authority then?’

I was surprised at the question, it wasn’t like his normal ‘where’s dinner’ ? Why won’t you play catch with me right NOW?’ sort of thing and it was a moment or two before I realised that I’d used the phrase earlier in the week.

‘It’s a good question but it’s a bit hard to answer. Let me think for a second so that you can see what I mean by it.’

He stared at me intently, waiting for the answer to what was obviously a burning question for him.

‘Right…. you know when you have one of your very infrequent little accidents because I’m too dead to the world to hear you in the middle of the night?’

He raised a paw in assent and I continued.

‘Did you ever notice that I don’t get angry and that I just clean it up and give you a little pat to reassure you?’

He lifted the paw again and looked at me even more intently.

‘Well, I’ve had my fair share of accidents myself, including accidents in broad daylight that aren’t drink related and some even worse and more public ones when I’ve been slightly drunk.’

He cocked his head and looked at me as if to show that he understood, then asked the question anyway.

‘When you say accidents, you mean poo and vomit?’

‘Yes. Afraid so. I’ve had some embarrassing moments, but then most of us have. So that’s why I don’t get upset. It’s not your fault and I can’t blame you for an upset tummy or catching a bug…. although, you do bring some of it on yourself with that fucking lamb-bone that you keep burying and digging up.’

He grinned at me and I continued.

‘So. In this case, Moral Authority means that I don’t feel that I have a case to be upset with you for things that I’ve done. And I’ve done some bad things. I once pissed on the driver door handles of over a dozen police cars in a police car park after I’d got drunk at a wedding reception in a police station bar.’

He was now sitting and looking intently at me.

‘And now I think about it, I’ve got more of those types of incidents in my past than I really care to mention right now. I’m not ashamed of any of them but I’m not overly proud either. And some of them were very funny at the time.’

‘But the trouble is that some people want to tell us all how to live our lives and they’re very happy to tell US what to do and why we should do it. Whether it’s obeying increasingly arbitrary Lockdown rules or why WE should slavishly follow a set of laws that others seem to be exempt from.’

I paused as I was trying to keep the tone of my voice calm, he’s prone to taking me too literally sometimes and I don’t want to stress him if I can’t help it.

‘Anyway. This week has been very strange. The government has seen fit to publish new rules on the lockdown that make even less sense than before and thousands of people across the country have started marching and rioting because somebody died over 3000 miles away. To add insult to injury, politicians, the police and other useful idiots have supported this and have been taking the knee in support. ‘

His ears pricked up and pointed forward.

‘They did WHAT? Why did they do that? Has the country been conquered?’

‘Sadly, no. The Leader of the Opposition, who has kept silent about antisemitism in his own party for years despite having a Jewish wife posted a picture of himself doing it. Loads of others have and they’ve effectively lost the right to lead us. The government has either got a very cunning plan or they’ve fucked this up as statues are being torn down, TV shows are being deleted from memory like some Stalinist purge and they’ve let that ridiculous dwarf Khan board Churchill’s statue up in case some mental defectives try to tear it down.’

He sighed and laid his head on his paws.

‘So, this Moral Authority thing?’

‘I decided a few weeks ago that I would take whatever risks that I wanted to in order to have some form of real life again. This has just pushed it further and accelerated it. These people have lost the authority to govern. The law applies or it doesn’t.’

‘It doesn’t make a lot of difference to us living here or the quiet lifestyle that we have, but it just means that we’ll see who we want to. Go out. Have friends round, have fun.’

He raised an ear.

‘We can always call it a protest. DOGLIVESMATTER Motherfuckers’

I nodded and dialled into my next conference call.

Road Dogs

The dog looked up from his basket in the car where he’d been sleeping next to me . ‘Are we there yet?’ He asked.

I was surprised, his timing was pretty close, we had about twenty minutes left to drive before we would get home.

‘I see you’re still listening to that German stuff, the whistle at the start of the track woke me up…. Again.’

His left ear raised up accusingly for a second before flopping back down again into the usual position just above his eye.

‘Yes, don’t you like it?’

‘It’s ok. All a bit vague sometimes though, what’s all that shark business about?’

I was surprised again. I didn’t know that he understood any German and pondered my reply for a moment.

‘Anyway. While you’re thinking about that, do you want to talk about the last few days ?’

His ear raised itself up again as he asked and I understood that this was the real question here.

‘OK, what do you want to know? ‘

‘All of it. Why did we leave? Where did you disappear to for half a day? Are we going home now? Will there be sossidges?’

I thought about this for a second while he hummed along to the chorus of ‘Engel’ , baring his teeth to the line ‘Gott weiß, ich will kein Engel sein’

There was no chance of that for either of us, so I grinned back at him and started speaking.

‘Well, we’ve been locked down for quite some time now and I’ve been looking at the stats and judging those carefully against my own interpretation of where we are… and I decided a week or so ago that it was time to see my Dad again.’

The ear lifted in silent question, so I carried on.

‘You’ve never seen him, but I may take you next time, not that you’ll see much either. Anyway, he lives 230 miles from me and I last saw him a week before the Lockdown kicked in and he hasn’t left his little flat since. We’re lucky that we can still go and hide out in the other house so that we didn’t have to do it all in one day.’

His eyebrows lifted. Three hours in the car was more than enough for him, even with my tuneful singing-along to Germanic rock music. ‘So why did you go? Is he sick ? Are you sick? Why? Why now? ‘

I sighed.

‘No. No. Nobody’s sick, not me. Not him. Nobody. It was just time to do it.’

‘Did you miss him that much then? ‘

‘No. Not really. I speak to him quite often. He just hasn’t been able to leave his flat for sixty days and there’s not much of a view for him. Or his cat.

Both ears pricked up now and he looked around quickly… I smiled at his reaction and carried on driving through the roadworks on the M6

‘There’s no cat here. Idiot. My dad has a cat that never manages to get out of the flat either, although i suspect she’d like to, I can’t imagine that it’s much fun being locked up with him 24×7.’

His left ear flopped again and he rested his head onto the centre console and gazed up at me with his huge amber eyes. I smiled fondly at him and stroked one of his velvety ears as I continued driving.

‘Anyway. I made the judgement call around a week ago that we’d make the trip and that I’d accept the risks for me.’

‘Risks?’ The ear raised briefly again and he continued looking up at me.

‘Risks of me catching the virus – that was acceptable, there was no risk to my dad as I stood outside his window. Risks of having an accident, risks of getting stuck if lockdown increased. That sort of thing… And… all of those risks were acceptable.’

‘If he’d been ill, would you still have gone?’

‘Yes… Much earlier, there’s the rules and there’s what’s right. The rules change all the time and it’s for each of us to work out what we can live with and more importantly what we can’t. I wanted to go this time to show my Dad that we’re still out here and we care. Everybody else has to make their own minds up, but they’re not my concern. We do what’s right for us in the moments that we have and we live with those decisions and their outcomes – for good or bad. We can’t go back or second guess. We keep moving forward…’

The ear lifted again.

‘Sort of like that German shark then?’

I smiled

He dozed off again, leaving me to concentrate on driving.

Fin

Dreaming Dogs

Anything that I write, have ever written, or will ever write; is just a snapshot in time. A tiny glimpse of a small life and the lives and things that I observe.

Anybody reading this today (9th May 2020) will know immediately what Lockdown and Covid-19 mean. Hopefully, at some future point, we’ll have to remind ourselves of that strange time.

The time that the world basically went on hold. Every day similar to the last. Enough variations in the weather and.. oh Thank God… Work, so that I can tell the days apart. For those furloughed, out of work or retired, this must monotonous beyond belief.

Every day.

Just

Like

The

Last

For

Fuck’s

Sake

I’m still living two days at a Time – but the lack of clarity, the screeching of various factions and the increasing disconnect when I talk to friends and family on the phone are all making the part of me that I’m keeping under my own lockdown want to rise up and do something. Fight back.

Against what though?

I’m still no clearer about the risk to myself or others, the relative mortality stats seem to be flawed at best and there are no recovery stats posted in the UK, although I know two people personally over 50 who’ve had it and survived.

But the itch is still there.

I drove halfway to town this morning and walked the dog before it got too hot and I saw a man with a Costa cup. I was actually excited and asked him if they’d reopened.

it was from the petrol station and therefore much more likely an infection vector than an actual shop. I didn’t tell him that, nor did I take his recommendation to go and buy one. He was a nice chap though and we agreed that it’s the little things that are starting to bite.

No physical contact at all for those of us who live alone. No handshake, no hug from a friend, no kiss of a cheek or the prospect of more from a new friend. No cuddle if you’re feeling down or a pat on the shoulder to push you forward.

A huge amount of people are living in solitary confinement and let’s be honest here (at least to ourselves), I have it lucky.

I have a job that never required me to travel much anyway. I have enough friends scattered across the world that I can talk to somebody at any time of the day or night if I feel the need to.

I have Milo.

Milo the Rescue Dog, the dog that I took from a shithole kennel in Warrington.

Milo of the missing teeth.

Milo of the doggie PTSD.

Milo, who spent Twenty PLUS weeks in the cage – the last time that he was dumped.

Milo of the apparently infinite capacity for love.

The longer the lockdown goes on, the more he wants to play in the garden, some variation of me chasing him around to grab a toy or a ball. A game that initiates nine times out of ten.

So I can’t complain. Not really.

The Rescue Dog has rescued me.

I’m one of the few people I know at work who isn’t struggling now. I have regular exercise and I’m not allowed to get too involved in work issues for long as it’s either walk-time or playtime again.

I can cope with this shit for a while longer.

I can take each day as it comes and try to see the beauty that surrounds us .

To appreciate each moment as a snapshot and to look for the next one.

But it can’t be forever and unless we can start being given more than platitudes and stats that don’t add up, I suspect that all those like me who are quietly sitting on the fence of this will take our own side.

Because I want to see my friends again, I want to sit in a bar or a garden and cry with laughter because somebody has left their phone too close to a pack of deviants. Or because somebody has made me wear a dress in public (for fun not perversion… although….).

I’ve made promises to myself.

I’m going to live day by day for now and take it as it comes.

I’m going to live it to the fullest after this.

You should too.

Dem Ole Lockdown Blues

Derek sat at his rig, flexed his fingers and put his mask in place before spinning up his own little VR construct.

There he was. Alive and waiting on the screen, ready to flatter, fluster and bemuse the waiting string of naive and desperate young things who would eventually allow him to lure them out and….

Enough. He had to get into character if this was going to work. He had to BE the character he portrayed. Ironic really, given that his construct was a struggling actor.

Jason Janus, for that was the actor’s real name (according to IMDB, who were the experts in this stuff, so they should know) was just not quite perfect enough to find any real work. Uncredited long-shots in adverts and a fiery death (also uncredited) in a minor blockbuster. He was a polymath by the standards of industry; Writer, Singer, Actor, a real triple-threat who couldn’t quite make it.

And the little girls lapped it up.

How could anybody so handsome, so well spoken, so.. so… Perceptive.. How could he not find real work?

Perhaps he needed a new fan-club leader, or social media expert, or perhaps they could just write to the major directors and work on his behalf?

Because the thing that he was hinting at was too much for somebody like them.. Wasn’t it?

Because he was perfect and he knew THEM in a way that nobody ever had.

He seemed to know just the right thing to say to cheer them up when they were at their lowest and had an uncanny ability to know exactly when they were low. Almost like their souls were bonded.

Except he’d never be crass enough to say that. He might say that he felt like he knew them in a way that he’d never felt before. He might allude to them perhaps having an ‘old soul’. Anything else usually came from them.

His little toys

They were correct though, he knew them in ways that even their best friends and parents didn’t. Every keystroke, every conversation, every whispered secret to their friends, every teardrop from a real or imagined hurt. And he had it all.

From the moment of first, meticulously researched and planned contact, he installed backdoors into their PCs, tablets and phones. Their diaries and secret thoughts were open to him.

And.

He was an ACTOR

In this new world, Actors were somehow classed as key workers, never without a propaganda film to make, an advert to show the masses how to think, who to avoid, which class of people may be somehow filthy.

They looked at the photos on the news and entertainment websites that he directed them to. They loved it.

Look! There he is, just slightly out of focus, being punched by Jason Statham.

Look! There he is behind Dwayne Johnson on the red carpet at a premiere.

Look!!! There’s his script that has just been optioned by a major studio, directors were queuing up to take the job.

And… He had agreed that only HE could be the star!!!!!

AND. AND. AND.

He was looking for a special type of girl, somebody raw but beautiful, somebody without the layers of cynicism that he (they) despised.

He was looking.

She just had to be found somewhere.

AND OH MY GOD!!!

What were the odds of her friend in Singapore pointing her out to him online, inviting him into a chat group?

None.

But that was how it started. Every single time, a friend that only contacted them intermittently would appear and chat for a while before mentioning THEIR new friend. This actor. He was only a friend and he seemed like the sort of person that they’d like to chat to.

Three- way chats became a two way chat at some point and they just got on SO WELL.

And let’s face it, the lockdown had fucked things beyond belief for people like her. The spirited types whose every move now was tracked by contact tracing apps. Where had she been? For how long? Who had she met?

Whole enterprises had sprung up around the apps and the New Puritanism, partly fuelled by the statist tendencies of both extremes of the political spectrum and the religious fundamentalists was now fanning big business.

If she met a boy for more than two minutes, her phone SHRIEKED and her parents would be notified. Try to go to one of the appointment-only bars and the bouncers would be on her in a heartbeat.

Oh. And her parents would be notified.

VR had caught on in a big way, but girls with wealthy parents like hers still had no leeway, they were constantly monitored and couldn’t get away with anything at all.

Or could they?

In his fourth or fifth text-only chat session, he’d suggest a private VR chat, hosted by one of his media friends, it wouldn’t be traceable and her parents would never know.

How could they resist?

And they didn’t, only one had got away.

She spooked when the VR programme glitched, seeing his real face and background. Nothing too horrible, he wasn’t ugly or fat, just much, much older and his eyes may just have looked a bit too bright, shiny and fevered for her liking.

He erased all traces of their chats from her devices and planted a few messages to her best friend that suggested that she’d like to be SO much more. Who’d believe what she said now?

Still, it meant that he now wore the mask and all the facial monitoring was done from within and nobody could identify him no matter what happened.

And now it was time to take the latest little starlet on to her trip with Destiny.

Little Callie Blau. School now finished and in her first year of college. Legally emancipated but restricted by the Lockdown, apps and lack of money as badly as a 19th century convent girl.

Black haired, pale skinned, dark eyed, red lipped. Genuinely beautiful in a way that none of the others had been. He was looking forward to this one more than he ever had before.

The meeting.

The realisation

The horror

The rending

The tearing and gnashing of flesh

Callie was going to be perfect.

Mask on, he initiated the call, a few seconds of noise and there she was. She was in her bedroom as usual, a mix of schoolgirl pink and gothic black decor. She was desperate to change her image to something older, but her parents you know…?

‘Hi’

‘Hello, I was worried that you might not call tonight, you seemed…preoccupied last night?’

He smiled. Outwardly it was warm and sweet, inwardly, it was cold and gratified that she’d walked into the setup so easily. So, so easily.

‘Wow, I can’t believe that you spotted that, I’m so sorry.. I just had something come through and it was just.. so.. so… perfect that I couldn’t believe it’

The girl smiled broadly, god, she really was perfect.

‘What? Is it your script? What is it?’

She leaned further forward into the virtual space, her usual outfit of jeans and ‘something blue’ – always blue, whether a sports top, t-shirt or hoodie. Her little joke – ‘Callie Blue’.

‘Come on, please tell me, I’ll just DIE.’

He smiled again, this was it. This was where the script that he had so lovingly prepared started to work on them.

‘Netflix have been in touch, they want to option it. I’ve played hard on this though and told them that I HAVE to play the lead and that I want to select my own leading lady. This is my only shot and I can’t take the risk. It HAS to be a newcomer, she HAS to be under 20 and she HAS to know how I think.’

‘And, I was.. I was…’

She leaned in again, the construct of the VR putting them into touching distance.

‘What? You were?’

He smiled again. The hook was set..

He leaned in, and…

FUCK.. What WAS THAT?

The girl looked perplexed, her perfect brow furrowing.

‘You were?’

SHIT.. Had she seen the glitch? This was a weird one. He’d seen a darkened space, lit only by soft oil-burners, there may have been something in the dark – but he couldn’t be sure. Fucking software was glitching more than he’d like these days.

‘You were?’

She was smiling nervously now, but he couldn’t see any trace of real knowledge in her eyes. He settled down again.

‘ I was wondering if you’d take a screen test? Tomorrow? After college?’

The girl was beaming now, the smile lighting up her face. This was almost going to be a shame..

‘My parents?’

‘Won’t know a thing, I’ve got a friend who can make your phone say it’s still at home and even if you’re not keen after you meet the casting director, you can keep the hack on your phone.’

The girl was all smiles now – a double-baited hook, potential fame and guaranteed work AND freedom to do whatever she wanted.

‘So how would we make it work?’

She was his now and her life could be measured in hours…

‘I’ll send a driver to pick you up, he’ll fix your phone on the spot and he’ll bring you to the studio. We’ll have a mocked-up set and I’ll be there with a cameraman and the casting director. I just know that you’re going to be right for this, you have everything the script needs. You’ll be gone for four hours max, your parents won’t even know you’re gone.’

That was true anyway, they were so used to being self-medicated after all these years of Lockdown that they were usually out of things by 9PM, knowing that the app would do their job for them. It wasn’t even like she could leave her phone behind, proximity and motion sensors had put paid to that little trick.

‘OK. Thank you, thank you, thank you, I can’t believe how lucky I am, I just can’t…….’

‘You deserve all of what’s coming, just PLEASE don’t let anybody know until after casting though, I have a non-disclosure clause that will kill the deal and take what little cash I have left.’

The girl nodded frantic assent and he moved to wrap the call up as soon as possible, knowing that she would be writing all this up in her ‘secret’ diary. He’d be wiping that before she left the house tomorrow.

The next day passed in a blur, so much to do, so much.

Print a Key Worker pass for one of his aliases.

Change the number plates on his people-carrier

Check his tool bag

Monitor the girl’s phone and activate the tracking programme he’d installed that would spoof her location to the Lockdown control app monitoring stations.

Check his tool bag again

All the good stuff was at the studio but he had a few things in there, just in case he needed them.

Check the VR programme. – that glitch was spooky and it wasn’t one of his scenes – no sign of it, but still a worry. He’d uninstall it after this and start from scratch

Print ‘the script’, the girl could read that while he drove her to the studio,

And finally.

Shower, dress for the part, black suit, white shirt, dark tie.

And leave.

It was an hour’s drive to the girl’s house and another hour from there to the studio- and it was a studio.

An uncle had left him an industrial park and a sizeable amount of cash. He’d taken one of the units and converted it to a working soundstage with lights, cameras and a full remote control setup.

The lights were already on and warming the space and he allowed himself a smile as he saw the girl waiting for him in the arranged place.

He pulled in, flashed his lights and watched her come to the door.

Even more beautiful in the flesh, she GLOWED , there was no other word for it. A simple blue dress, heels and no apparent makeup.

‘Good evening miss, can I have your phone please?’

She handed it over and he made a pantomime of making changes to it, opened up the app that he’d inserted and returned it. She climbed into the back seat , did up her seat-belt and he drove off.

He watched her in the rear-view mirror as she watched the app on her screen and saw that her phone was still apparently within 50 metres of her house.

‘Can I offer you a drink of water for the journey?’

Her dark eyes smiled at him from the mirror, her perfume was understated and smelled vaguely like incense, surprising for one so young – and very intoxicating.

‘No thank you, how long will the journey be?’

‘Just under an hour, Mr Janus is already there and he’s left a copy of the script for you in that envelope.’

That smile again.

‘Thank you.’

A rustle of paper and she began to read, he watched her as often as he could while she did so and was a little worried by what seemed to be dark amusement in her eyes.

‘So Mr Janus, Jason.. wrote this by himself?’

‘ I believe so miss’

‘It’s a little dark, does the girl have to die?’

‘Sorry miss?’

‘Oh. You haven’t read it. It seems a bit bleak.’

And yet she seemed to be smiling, was there something wrong with her?

‘We’re nearly there now miss, just another mile or so.’

‘Your voice seems familiar, have we spoken before?’

‘No miss.’

‘Ah Ok. I asked Jason, Mr Janus a question last night.’

‘A question?’

‘Yes. I couldn’t believe that I was so lucky and I asked Jason if he was doing this just because he wanted to, that he wanted to give this dream to me.’

That strange question from last night, he’d brushed over it with a glib ‘Yes of course, you deserve this’, now here it was again.

Just in time to save him answering the question, the open doors and blinding lights of the soundstage came into view, illuminating the inside of the car and highlighting her perfect features.

‘DO YOU think he meant it? That he’s giving this to me freely?’

There was definite amusement there, if she suspected him, she should be scared, but.. she wasn’t. Why wasn’t she bothered? Why was she…. amused?

‘I.. don’t know miss, I can’t speak for him.’

‘Are you sure?’

The lights in the unit were dimming somehow, the blinding glare was retreating into a dull red glow where no lights should be.

“I.. I.. don’t know what you mean miss, I’m just a….’

She had taken his hand and was looking deeply into his eyes. That dark amusement was all that he could see now.

Fuck… How had he thought that she was young, she was so old.

‘Derek, the time for lies is over. You gave yourself freely to me last night and promised me whatever I wanted. Me Kali Blue, you gave yourself to me. You and that long trail of souls that you carry around you like a shroud.’

Fuck… she knew his name.. She knew about the others… How? How?

‘I……….’

“Enough now Derek, it’s time.’

Tightening her grip on his hand, still with that dark amusement in her GLOWING eyes, she led him into the warm darkness.

Bad Science Fiction (2)

I wrote this back in 1997.

I don’t know why I thought about it today.

It’s not that good, but meh.

It wasn’t anything major that started it all off. Not nuclear testing, or global warming, or volcanic activity or even the pollution from the Gulf War. No, it was something really quite minor and everyday. So, things happened slowly and that’s where I’ll start.

Ever since I was a boy, I’ve been fascinated with Science Fiction. Films, books, comics, cartoons, anything. I especially loved stories about nature gone mad, films like Tarantula or Them. Books like The Rats, Night Of The Crabs, Mantis! , Spiders, the list seems endless.

I’m sure you’ve got the idea by now, ordinary, if disgusting creatures mutated by chemical or nuclear accidents, grown to huge size and developing a craving for human flesh.

If only things were as simple as that, we might have a chance.

When I’ve finished this, I’ll seal it in a plastic container and seal that in concrete inscribed with today’s date and my name. Maybe, one day, in the distant future, it might  be read.

The house is as safe as I can make it, but I don’t think that it will stay that way for long, even steel can only take so much punishment and lead can only screen a finite amount of radiation. The walls are not so thick that I can’t hear them baying and snarling outside, those that are left alive. One of them ripped the TV camera from the wall yesterday, so I can’t even see what they’re up to anymore. Perhaps that is a blessing.

I bought the house from the family of a survivalist. He had built the house complete with a  bunker that had been designed to withstand a nuclear attack, well, theoretically anyway.  The end of the cold war left him in a state of deep depression and he eventually blew his brains out with an uzi. When I moved in, I found that his bunker was well below specification, it was swarming with ants. I put down masses of poison and, when the room was insect-free, I had it sprayed, floor to ceiling with a quick setting plastic compound.

Even at that time, I didn’t fully understand what was happening, I’m not sure that anybody did. Apart from Solcom, who were so busy trying to cover their tracks that they lost sight of the real problem. It was probably too late anyway, the process had started.

If you were here, now, with me, as I look around my refuge/prison, what would you see?

Probably nothing special.

That’s where you would be wrong, as everybody was wrong. We were so busy looking at chemical spillages and nuclear radiation, that we missed the obvious until it was much, much, much too late. Solcom had their suspicions for almost a year before they went to the government. A whole year. It makes me feel sick to think of all that wasted time, all the lives that were wasted, one by one, until it became an epidemic.

The first proven victim was attacked in Devon on a bright summer’s day. Her name was Edith Watson and she was thirty seven years old and married with two children. She was walking down the local High Street with a carrier bag full of shopping. According to witnesses, she suddenly dropped her shopping  and started to flail at the air around her. Then the sky above her head darkened and a loud humming noise could be heard from almost a quarter of a mile away. Within seconds, it was as if she grew a second, lumpy and heaving skin. She let out one piercing scream, but that was almost instantly muffled and she fell to the ground. People ran towards her to help, but were beaten back almost immediately.

All anybody could do, was to watch her die.

Why she was picked out as a target, is still unclear. What is clear, is that a swarm of bees, a whole hive, over thirty thousand of them, attacked her at once. She was dead within minutes as the combined toxin raced through her system. The attack in itself, although horrible, was not unusual; many cases of the kind had been reported over the years, mostly in South America. No, what set this attack apart, was the fact that the bees on the top layers stung the bees underneath them, and the attack didn’t stop until every single bee was dead. I have a photograph somewhere, of this poor woman, buried under a mound of dead bees, unrecognisable as a human being.

There were another eleven attacks of this kind over the next few months. People attacked and killed by bees, wasps and even locusts. On one occasion, a baby was stripped to the bone by ants, while his parents dozed at a picnic. On all these occasions, the insects turned on each other after the initial killing. People in high places started to ask questions. Only Solcom knew the answer and they weren’t telling.

Did you know that some people can pick up radio signals through their fillings or through metal plates in their head? There have been recorded cases of some of these people going berserk and embarking on a killing spree that usually ends with their own suicide.

Something in their minds just fuse and they are as good as dead from that point on.

Did you know that in the early 1990s, a “yuppie cancer” was diagnosed? It was caused by the microwaves emitted and received by mobile phones and developed on the side of the head, by the ears.

Did you know that the radar on AWACS planes is so powerful, that if you stood in front of it while it was operational, that it would literally cook you?

Have you ever heard of Sick Building Syndrome? There are various theories about the cause of this problem, ranging from ley lines to a lack of plant life in and around the building. The Chinese employ a Feng Shui man to tell them the correct spot to build. On or near a “Dragon” is considered bad “Joss”,( luck ) and such sites are avoided. Whatever the reasoning behind it, the problem is real and such buildings tend to have a lower productivity output and a dramatically worse sickness record than that of a “healthy” building.

In 1993, Solcom developed the Nanowave, it was based on the microwave but occupied a millionth of the space and time of its predecessor. It was also capable of carrying two hundred and fifty times more information. This amounted to a revolution in telecommunications, video phones were now a reality rather than an expensive, unreliable luxury. Portable videophones became the norm as people drifted away from the old style of communicating. Solcom became powerful beyond measure, eclipsing the Japanese giants and totally eliminating B.T and Mercury as competitors. Nanowave relays were set up in every country in the world, with huge gigawatt transmitters erected in Antarctica and the North Pole.

In 1995, Dr Ernst Lubin, the inventor of the Nanowave went mad. He started to see imaginary insects everywhere. He was committed to a mental home for three months and was pronounced to be cured after much pressure was applied to the trustees of the home by Solcom. It was considered bad P.R to have an employee locked up. Two weeks after his release, he wandered into a McDonalds with an assault rifle and killed twenty three people before turning the gun on himself.

Shortly after, a game warden in the Kokuri National Park in Kenya started to observe strange behaviour amongst the animals. This was typified by an attack by lions on a herd of impala.           

It started as a normal hunt, the lionesses split into a loose formation and started their initial run to break up the herd. The herd didn’t move. All four of the lionesses scored a kill, easily bringing down an impala. Then it started to go wrong. Instead of running away, the impala charged the predators en masse. The big cats didn’t stand a chance, and the video footage of the charge makes for disturbing viewing. The lionesses were each gored dozens of times by the slim horns of their prey and were ripped apart by the savagery of the thrusts. Within minutes, there was just a huge expanse of red dirt and torn off limbs scattered about. Then the real carnage started. The impala, seemingly driven mad by their frenzied attack, turned on each other. Again the video footage is horrendous, the overall impression is of dust and blood and the death screams of tortured animals. Not one impala survived.

In London, on September 15th 1995, four tourists and one policeman were literally shredded by pigeons in Trafalgar Square. The pigeons then battled in mid-air until not one survived. Eyewitnesses speak of a rain of blood coating every square inch and of Admiral Nelson turning a bright glistening red.

Between October 1995 and April 1996, every single member of the Nanowave team died violently. Some started fights in bars, some committed suicide in a variety of gruesome ways. One team member while on the twenty fifth floor of a building in Los Angeles, turned to his companion and said; “There’s that bastard Robinson down there, I’m going to get him.”

He then leapt out of the window, shouting abuse all the way down.

On April 20th 1996, Solcom finally turned to the governments of the world and asked for help. Many governments, including our own, had already started their own investigations and that is where I first became aware of the magnitude of the problem.

I had been seconded to the American government team, to help them to make sense of the St Patrick’s Day Massacre on March 17th.  

On that day, a peaceful parade in the middle of New York, erupted into the worst riot that the world had ever seen. It had started when one of the marchers, seeing somebody in the crowd wearing an orange hat, leapt at the unfortunate hat-wearer and smashed his skull with his baton. 

This seemed to be the signal that the crowd had been waiting for, friend flew against friend, brother against brother father against son.

The whole parade ground to a halt as thousands of people grappled against each other makeshift clubs and jagged bottles flying. When the police tried to step in, they were swamped and their weapons ripped from their hands.

Gunshots started to echo.

The mayor of New York attacked the Commissioner of Police with the jagged end of a champagne bottle, ripping his throat out on live television across America. The riot spread and spread, the whole crowd started fighting and the police had to fall back to wait for a lull.

It didn’t come.

People killed and killed and killed, until they were in turn, killed themselves. The phrase “rivers of blood” could have been coined for this one day alone. The streets were awash with bright, arterial blood, up to the depth of the combatant’s ankles. Some people who may have survived their wounds, drowned in blood.

And still it didn’t stop.

Eventually, the Army were called in and had no choice but to open up on the crowd with automatic weapons. At first they rebelled against the very thought of killing their fellow Americans and tried to help the survivors. That idea changed when they too, were attacked by the crowd, and, in one unforgettable moment, a young trooper had his throat bitten out by an eight year old girl.

Of a crowd of more than 50,000 people, only two hundred and forty seven people survived.

Bulldozers had to be used to clear the streets of bodies.

Nobody, including myself, had any idea what could have triggered normal people to act like bloodthirsty savages. Have you ever seen a Zombie film? That’s what those people looked like, only they didn’t shuffle and were as quick as vipers. We were getting nowhere with the investigation, and post-mortem after post-mortem showed no tangible results.

Then Solcom came forward and everything changed.

At first, their story was too much to take in, it didn’t make any sense. Then, all of a sudden, it did.

That’s when I bought this house. I stocked it with thousands of books, tons of food and thousands of gallons of water.

Preparing for a siege.

You see, Solcom had found, very early on, that the Nanowave was a mutagen.

It altered, very subtly and over the course of time, the chemistry of the brain.

Let me give you an example.

You’re walking along the road, it’s dark and you can hear footsteps behind you. You hear something that sounds like the snick of a flick-knife. At this point, your body is flooded with adrenalin and the fight or flight response is initiated. The blood in your body drains from your skin and is transferred to the major organs, the heart, the brain etc. Depending on your personal makeup, you will now turn to face the challenge or you will run away. The most common response is to run.

However, the Nanowaves alter the receptors in the brain that govern this response and the only option that your brain will allow is to fight. Studies have shown that many psychopaths have a slightly altered chemistry and that their only response to a threat is a sudden, devastating attack. The problem however, doesn’t end there, once the adrenalin levels are sufficient to start an attack, the part of the brain that governs reason is disabled.

Permanently.

Once the various governments involved found the cause of the problem, they found that they had another.

Everybody was dependent on the Nanowave.

Everybody.

The transmitters couldn’t be switched off or destroyed.

Instead, experiments were tried to change the frequency that the waves used, and more traffic was routed through satellites.

To no avail.

If anything, things became worse.

On August 1st 1996, two hundred and eleven people in a Hackney housing estate were killed by an attack of millions of cockroaches.

On August 13th 1996, four thousand people in New Orleans were killed by rats.

There were countless examples of people being attacked by the family dog or cat. Those people that managed to fight off the attacks, went on to kill family and friends before dying themselves.

On November 21st 1996, a garrison of British Army troops stationed in Crosmaglen were sniped at on a housing estate. They replied with mortars, machine guns and grenades. The dead were uncountable, mainly because it was hard to find all the pieces.

The list was endless.

On December 5th 1996, all nuclear bases around the world were shut down; even the Chinese had to accept that it was too dangerous to leave a single one manned. All nuclear submarines were recalled and disabled. All strategic bombers were stood down indefinitely.

The world, theoretically, was a safer place.

On January 17th 1997, I quietly resigned my job and retired to my house.

Things seemed to get worse from there.

Every day, there seemed to be new atrocities. Nature going berserk, people going berserk. Parliament stopped meeting on April 11th 1997, after a thankfully empty, House of Commons debate erupted into sickening violence. There were one hundred and eleven dead.

All decisions are made from an underground bunker. I’ve seen it, it’s not as secure as mine.

The streets now are full of bloodthirsty, empty-eyed mobs, using anything as a weapon. I saw one of them clutching a dismembered arm, using it as a club.

I have enough food and water to last me for years, my bunker is virtually impregnable, even the air is recycled rather than filtered in. I don’t think that anybody or anything can get in.

What worries me, what terrifies me, is that someday soon, I’ll want to get out.