He That Judgeth Me Is the Lord

Deuteronomy 21:8
“Be merciful, O Lord, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood to thy people of Israel’s charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them.”

After a tense few minutes through the crumbling entrance arches, we proceed through in our large white van, prepared for anything. The brittle concrete arches evoke feelings of pity, destruction and despair. Two useless, withered flags in black, green, red and white are perched at the top, like wilted flowers, ready to fall from the hoist; one is half-burnt. There is supposed to be a wall surrounding the main entrance, but it has been partially destroyed by rocket fire. So far, no efforts have been made to repair them. In general, most buildings we have seen thus far look as if they should be condemned. No exception awaits us, as we enter the camp and behold the pitiful sight on our journey.
          We see poorly-constructed buildings, some of them collapsed into the ground foundations, others looking ready to fall at any moment. We see scores of naked children, grieving adults, and despondent mothers, sisters, foraging for broken pieces of bricks, and metal to construct their own shanty town dwellings. We make our way a limited space within the centre, where there is some level of space and respite from the horrible ruins that define this God forsaken land. Facing us is a large concrete wall, with an inscription written upon it, in Arabic. I ask my guide what the inscription says. He tells me it’s a famous passage from the Qur’an. It reads:

“And say not of those who are killed in the Way of Allah, “They are dead.” Nay, they are living, but you perceive not.”

Now, we park, and my guide-cum-interpreter, Imran and I disembark from the van, and open both doors, bracing ourselves for the imminent assault on our bodily senses. The heat is the first thing to attack us – it is a hostile, unforgiving summer in July, where the temperature is said to be as high as 30oc. Already it seems as if I am ready to break into a sweat. When I consider that this is not the highest recording temperature for the region, and that it is not even noon yet, I only feel more uncomfortable. In an instant, we also encounter the nasty, unbearable stench of raw human faeces, urine and vomit, that lies thick through the warm air. Imran holds his hand to his mouth, and his nose, and I see him reach for a handkerchief. I calmly proceed to the rear doors of the van.
          This is Jabaliya Refugee camp. The largest of the 8 camps within the Gaza strip, this place houses over 100,000 Palestinian refugees. All of the inhabitants situated here live in misery, squalor and everlasting despair. First constructed in 1948, following the end of the first Israeli civil war and the establishment of the Independent Jewish state, Palestinians flocked here, hoping that one day they would be able to return to their homeland. But that day did not come, and peace in the Holy land seems more elusive than ever. To the best of my knowledge, I will try and give a brief history lesson:
          With the year 1948 witnessing the precarious establishment of the first ever Jewish nation-state surrounded by unsympathetic Arab nations who did not recognise its right to exist, territorial conflict was inevitable. The Jews were seen as troublesome invaders, living in stolen Muslim land. Surrounded by hostile Muslim nations determined to banish the settlers, Israel was subjected to a series of wars, one shortly after its foundation in 1948. Though the Israelis were surrounded, they put up a great resistance, and survived the conflict. But the pro-Palestinian confederacy was determined to get even with its new opponents; this resulted in another, much larger full-scale war nearly 20 years later in the year 1967, with the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq all determined to annihilate her. But impressively, against overwhelming odds and though impossibly outnumbered, the Jewish people bravely resisted the all-out onslaught, and in just 6 days won a decisive victory, and thus the territorial lines of Israel were redrawn. Her opponents begrudgingly had no choice but to accept Israel’s right to existence, and hegemony over all Palestinian land. Out of nowhere, and in the span of barely half a century, the downtrodden, unwelcome Jewish diaspora had returned and reclaimed their promised land, and created a permanent home for themselves, just as prophesied in the Bible.
          It was at this point, however, when Israel’s attitude to its Palestinian neighbours began to change. To put it bluntly: David became Goliath. Israel’s new leadership ignored and rejected UN Resolution 242, demanding that Israel return all lands captured in the six-day war to the Palestinians, and under the uncompromising reign of the right-wing Likud party, Israel’s army began a ruthless expansionist policy of religiously-inspired colonialism, which oversaw mass construction of Israeli settlements, most of which violated the UN’s designated boundaries. Only three areas of land were left for the Palestinians, the West Bank which was originally part of Jordan, the Golan Heights of Syria, and the Gaza Strip to the east, which is the smallest reserve of Palestinian territory. In the year 1987, there was a tense 5 year Palestinian uprising of protests, boycotts and attacks aimed at Israel’s forces known as the First Intifada. Now the tide was turning; under intense scrutiny from the US and Arab emissaries from the United Nations, the clandestine nature behind Israel’s occupation of Palestine was finally coming to light. Things got worse, when 15 years later, at the turn of the millennium, another Intifada – The Second Intifada occurred, except this one was bloodier – more violent, with more civilian casualties on both sides. This period saw waves of suicide bombers and terrorists attacking the Israeli capital, with equally brutal retaliation by the IDF.
          Now more relevantly, on the 14th August, in the year 2005, the then prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, made a bold and daring move. He ordered that all Israeli military personnel, and civilian settlers would be immediately evacuated and withdrawn from the Gaza strip. With Gaza no longer under Israeli control, it was believed that the Palestinians would enjoy some of the freedom that they had so long craved, and the violence would eventually stop. But it was not so. Because in truth, Israel never really did withdraw from Gaza. It is arguably the case that the Gazans are now even worse off than they used to be. Because Gaza is so completely isolated and cut off from Israel through gigantic security walls, and with every basic facilities such as electricity, water and food supplies under Israeli control, Gaza is completely dependent on Israel for life support, making Gaza de facto under Israeli suzerainty. Currently, as things stand, Gaza has only one working power station which is only able to provide 6 to 7 hours of electricity per day. Most of the water that exists here, which comes from either well springs, or water suppliers is undrinkable, and filled with all manner of harmful diseases and parasites. Because Gaza has no working sewage system, gallons of raw, untreated sewage from refugee houses is pumped straight out into the Mediterranean ocean. The water is completely unsafe for even handling, let alone drinking. And recently, things have gotten much worse.
          Crucially, only one week ago, in response to rocket fire from Hamas, Israeli Defence Forces unleashed a fierce barrage of airstrikes and drone attacks in retaliation, which caused considerable damage to the coast near Khan Younis, and as a result, permanently damaged the West Coastal Aquifer, which is – or rather, was Gaza’s only working desalination plant. Now, the Gazans have no source of clean drinking water. And with the ruthless, murderous summer heat looming over, draining their energy and threatening their lives, foreign and humanitarian aid is the only hope these refugees have, if they are to survive.
          And that’s what brings me here. Many years ago, I signed up to take part in a volunteering programme organised by a British-based International charity organisation known as White Cross, co-ordinated by the United Nations Work and Relief Agency for Palestine (UNRWA), to travel within the 8 refugee camps, and distribute food, clothing and cold, clean bottled water to the locals. Now, in light of what has just happened, here I am here again today, helping these casualties, who are struggling to survive. This is all temporary, until UNRWA finishes construction of a new and fully-functional water desalination plant, which will probably take half a year to finish. But in the meantime, this is the only clean water they will ever have to drink, so the lives of the Palestinians are currently in our hands. All employees of the UNRWA are funded and salaried by the United Nations and donors. But not me – I’m not doing this for the money. I’m simply fulfilling the duty of the Lord.
          As we struggle against the intense heat and the stench of raw sewage, Imran and I retrieve stacks of cold bottled water from the van, and lower them to the ground. Now that the locals can see what we are doing, I hear cheers and exclamations of joy – children point towards us, when they see what we’ve brought them. Christmas in July. The sights of eager young boys wearing torn clothes, with warm and hopeful smiles on their faces brings a smile to Imran’s face. He forages through the packaging, and retrieves two bottles, and calls them over, in Arabic. I call them over too, but in English, since I can’t speak or understand any Arabic. Before long, hundreds of people; mostly children are crowded round our van, in the centre of the camp rejoicing, holding out their hands, with more pleasance and gratitude than desperation. Now, the quiet, desolate wasteland that is Jabaliya refugee camp, is alive with laughter, cheers, rejoicing and song. Lost in the spirit of his own generosity, Imran starts vividly throwing them into the crowd, like he is giving out free prizes. I calmly do the same. The crowd becomes uncontrollably large. It is hard to believe that so many people can fit within a place as small as 1.4 square kilometres.
          As I distribute the bottled water high into the air, and watch as the young children catch them in their hands, I think of what Bee would say, if she was here with me. No doubt, her face would light up in that delectable, radiant way it always did, with tears of joy in her eyes, and she would definitely say to me: “Isn’t it wonderful, Daniel? To give to the poor, and embrace them in the warmth of the Lord’s blessing?”
          I agree that it’s a nice feeling. Many judge acts of kindness not by their intentions, but by their results. Even though, from an outside perspective, what we are currently doing can be seen as trivial and inconsequential on its own, since they will need more water delivered to them in the next couple of hours –the intention is what matters. In any case, that was certainly what she believed.

Psalms 41:1
“Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.”

While I am busy handing out supplies to the crowd which only continues to grow larger and larger, I start to think deeply and reminisce about the past. How much I miss her, and how I wish she was still here by my side. I miss her delightful, benevolent smile. Reflecting on her beauty, her youthful vivacity, and her everlasting charisma makes me sad, as I realise I cannot hold her in my arms like I used to, all those years ago.

*

It was long back in Secondary school, when we first met. I was always the shy and quiet, shaggy-haired teenager who never really spoke to or mixed with anyone, and thus I didn’t have many friends. Most people found me either annoying, or just a bit weird; generally people avoided me. I was never chosen as a partner for school work in any classes, and when the lunch bell rang, I would always spend my time reading in the library. But that all changed, on the beginning of our 10th year, she was introduced to our Form class. Beatrice Cohen was her name, but her nickname was simply “Bee”. She looked geeky, but in a really sweet way, with luscious, curled chestnut hair, deep brown angel’s eyes, a long, narrow and delicate nose, shining metallic braces over her teeth, and would never be seen with her reading glasses. She had a moderately sun-kissed complexion that was halfway between white and bronze; barely noticeable at first, until you compared her with the other girls in class, and saw the difference. She was not conventionally attractive, per se, but she still caught my eye, and unlike most girls I’d ever known, she had something that truly set her apart from the rest – a heart of pure gold.
          Once she made her entrance in our form class, she enthusiastically became acquainted with the rest of the class, blissfully ignoring and overstepping the unspoken, cynical mores of student behaviour. At one point, she came over and introduced herself to me, asking my name, and details about myself. I’d never known any girl show that much interest in someone like me, even if this were just a formality – it still felt unique. Then when I sheepishly told her who I was and answered her questions, she gave me a warm hug for no real reason, and told me that she “love(d)” me. I’d seen her do the same thing with everybody else in the form class, but it felt so special to me. No pretty looking girl had ever shown that much interest in me before. It was scary, I first remember thinking. But I was curious, and wanted to know more about her, so I started talking with and sitting next to her more often. She devoted more time to me than any of my other classmates as we became wrapped up in discussions of God, and the Bible, and that was when I began to notice her warmth and compassion, which only made her become more and more beautiful in my eyes. I learned that she came from a Jewish family, except they were not the regular orthodox type, but instead, she was what was known as a “Messianic Jew” – a religious minority that combined the teachings of Christianity, with the traditions of Judaism, and Hebrew culture; who like the Christians maintain that Jesus was the son of God. Only a really small number of them live here in Britain. Before we met, I’d never really known much about either Judaism or Christianity – being a wilful agnostic, I didn’t know the first thing about religion, nor did I ever care to know.
          Her mother was Romanian. Her father, though British-born, was more the conservative type. Bee explained to me that it was not impossible to reconcile and believe in both the ancient wisdom contained in the Old Testament, with the forgiveness and mercy found in the New Testament. She still attended the synagogue, took part in traditional ceremonies, celebrated Hanukkah, and spoke modest Hebrew, but meanwhile, she felt personally inspired by the message of Christ, and it was her evangelical zeal in promoting his love, that encouraged her to change peoples’ lives for the better. Every day at school, she would step beyond her comfort zone and engage in dialogue with other students, asking them what they believed in, and why they believed it.
          Unfortunately, this did not make her popular at all. Instead, it only made her the butt of jokes. Because of the arrogant secularism contained within the climate of British schools, you see, religion as a topic is often dismissed out of hand as an evil or malevolent force, and when it wasn’t being blacklisted in everyday discussion due to its lack of cultural appeal, it was often mercilessly derided, and seen by many as a silly, outdated and childish fantasy. Anybody who preached what they believed in would be openly mocked and teased. Bee was certainly no exception. People would call her names, like “the God botherer”, “Beesus”, “Bee the Bible shagger” and so on; they would never resist the opportunity to poke fun at her. But she never took these insults personally, because she genuinely believed in turning the other cheek. And despite what all the other students thought, I saw something special in her. She won me over with her enthusiasm, I guess. I was never raised to be religious – I was baptised at birth, but only out of a nod for tradition, nothing more.
          But as Bee and I became good friends, she encouraged me more and more to read the Holy Bible, and it was not long before I did take a personal interest. I was not sure if I believed in God. But she converted me. She told me that Jesus was a real person who lived and died, she spent all day talking about how he resisted the hatred, how he stood fast against the temptation of Satan, and sacrificed himself to atone for the sins of mankind. At first I only started reading the Bible for her sake. But the more and more I read, the more it all made sense. The more the passages of the New, and the Old Testament began to resonate within me. Surely, she persuaded me, we are all unique creations in God’s image. And I came to realise that there must surely be an all-knowing, all-powerful entity somewhere in the universe, who monitors our actions, our words and our thoughts both before and after they happen, just as He prepares to render His Final Judgement upon humankind.

*

Sweat falls from my brow and the nape of my neck, as I am almost finished lobbing water bottles to the poor children. The stack of bottles is almost empty. It may be time to retrieve another one from the van. Imran gleefully assists me with the next load. The noise of the multitudes of refugees is louder than ever, as bounteous praise and calls of thirst are showered upon us. While Imran and I lower the next box to the ground, I survey the increasing crowd once more. And soon I find myself once again lost in thought…

*

We would spend many months debating the stories and the moral values of Bible together, in particular, the advantages of forgiveness over revenge. Though Bee was very outspoken and vocal about what she believed in, she was always willing to engage in argument and view her Holy book critically; to consider her opponent’s point of view. Yes, she acknowledged, religion had throughout history been the justification of mass persecution of heretics, non-believers, homosexuals, and people with different beliefs often led to wars and brutal conflict. But conflict, she warns, is neither preached nor praised, let alone justified in the New Testament. Jesus was a man who preached love and tolerance to the end. What was the most violent thing he ever did? He overthrew the tables of the merchants in his Father’s holy temple – because with their thoughtless commercial activity and blind sacrilege, they had made His house of prayer into a “den for thieves.” Jesus would have forgiven anything, so long as the trespasser was repentant, and willing to embrace the Lord, and never to sin once more. Only he who is without sin should cast the first stone. This was one of our more contentious points for debate that drew out the differences between us. “Really?” I would ask her. “But aren’t there some crimes that are so horrible, so evil, that they cannot be forgiven under any circumstances?” 
          Bee would tut and shake her head coyly. “No – that’s precisely it. Because Jesus’s mission was to save all of humanity from eternal Hellfire and damnation. The only way to turn them away from sin, is to make them acknowledge their human flaws, make them repent.” This would only lead down the road of more discussion, as to whether some human beings would never see the error in their ways, and whether they were worth saving. It was only inevitable, I reasoned, that I should ask her what she thought about Hitler. Her response, though I was half-expected her to say it, still left me in stunned silence: “Well, even though practically my entire family on my grandmother’s side was wiped out… yes – I’d forgive him! Even for the crimes he’d committed against my people. As long as he embraces the teachings of Jesus, and repents 6 million times, for the 6 million Jews he killed and finally embraces their rights as people, and turns to the Lord’s wisdom and strength!”
          I was so shocked by the extreme nature of her beliefs – and could not find myself in a position to agree with her. To some extent, I did believe that the ability to forgive was a strength, over choosing to resent them over time, but what she told me there and then was just plain ridiculous. I had to argue back; I actually shouted at her. Not that this was a personal matter; my grandparents were still alive, and I had no trace of Jewishness in my blood. But it felt just so contrary to what I believed in, and I felt that it went against basic common sense. I don’t know what gave me the right to be so arrogant, but suddenly I felt that I was the expert, and she the unenlightened. So convicted I was by my own beliefs that she was all wrong, I yelled at her with such force, that I actually ended up making her cry. I knew instantly that I had gone too far. Then I said I was sorry, I repented before her, and she forgave me. We laughed about the whole thing afterwards.

Leviticus 19:18
“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people. But thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.”

*

For some time now, I had come to realise, that in spite of our differences in upbringing, and our intense theological debate, I was deeply in love with her. She was not just beautiful to me, in spirit and in appearance, but she was also my best, and closest friend. We always ate our lunches together. We held hands together as we walked back from school. People laughed, jeered, and wolf-whistled at us, as we walked by, making sexual comments here and there. But we didn’t care. She loved me too. Of course, we all know that within religious context, “love” is infinitely flexible; she did after all say that she “love(d)” me when we first me too. But she grew attached to me in the same way that I did with her. I forget when, what exact day it was that we had our first kiss, but I’ll never forget the kiss. The warmth of her lips, her silent contentment, and her passionate grip against my shoulders, while I stroked her long hair. It was unlike anything I experienced before. I never thought I’d find myself loved and valued by a girl. I always saw myself as an outcast; a reject. I never thought that romances happened to weirdos like me – I never thought I was worthy of a woman’s attention. It was an unexpected, and truly wonderful feeling. Already I knew that she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
One day, she took me to see her family for the first time. Of course, her father, God bless him, was initially reluctant to allow her daughter be seen in the household with a Gentile. Tradition, and all that. But when we knocked on the door to her house together, hand in hand, and he saw us together, how happy we looked, he told me later in confidence that his heart melted there and then. Contrary to what Bee told me, he was actually a cheerfully humorous man, short and portly, with a thick bushy moustache, hairy arms with frizzy, greying-brown hair, and a long, prominent nose – unmistakably the same nose that Bee had grown up to inherit. He was a chemist by trade, who worked for the NHS. Bee’s mother was one of the loveliest, kindest women I ever met. Bee often joked with me about how stereotypical Jewish mothers were always portrayed as excessively strict, annoyingly clingy, and when they weren’t busy trying to play matchmaker with their children, were often unnecessarily sceptical about who they would bring into the house. I wasn’t aware of it then, and I’m still not aware of it now. She received me with wonderful kindness, and nor did even she resist the opportunity to laugh at her own expense. When we sat in prayer over the table that evening, and as the father recited a Hebrew prayer, I knew at that point that I was a part of their family.
Shortly after my 18th birthday, once we had both finished our A-levels, that was when I made the fateful decision of asking her to marry me. Even as I uttered those words to her and produced my humble but previous looking ring to her, the way her pupils dilated, her expression of paralysed shock and awe, all assured me that there was no way she could possibly refuse. She spontaneously snatched me in her arms there and then in a loving hug, and squeezed me so hard that I couldn’t breathe, tearfully, wailing that her answer was unequivocally yes, and she would love me forever. It was the happiest day of my life – outranking by far the kiss. Initially, I was a little concerned as to how her parents would react, I’d heard that mixing with goyim is said to be frowned upon in the Torah. But I learned over time that beyond their rigid adherence to Hebrew and Christian scripture, all her parents wanted was for their daughter to be happy, and they knew beyond reasonable doubt that I was the one she loved. They embraced me as their new son-in-law. Already, we were barely adults, and making plans for our wedding. But that day never came.

1 Samuel 24:12-13 –
“The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee. As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.”

*

Now that Imran and I have finished distributing the water, we stand leaning over each other’s shoulders triumphantly, looking into what we have achieved. A small, shirtless boy approaches us gleefully, holding a half-drunk bottle in his hand, and says something to the two of us. Imran starts to converse with him in Arabic. I ask what he is saying. Imran tells me that the young boy’s name is Yusuf, and today he has just turned four years old – today is his birthday. He says he was born here, in Jabaliya camp, and he has 5 older brothers, and two sisters. Yusuf looks at the two of us, and gleefully thanks us for the cold water.
          Imran bends down, and gives the small child a big hug, and lifts him into the air. I watch as he plays joyously with the boy, carrying him around, pretending to be a fighter jet. It’s a very touching scene. This was just how Bee liked to treat the refugee children as well, I remember. She would plant affectionate kisses on their foreheads, and hug them tenderly, like she was their real mother. She liked nothing more than to be kind and charitable. It was what defined her. When I think about her personality, I sometimes think that even without her fervent belief in God and Jesus, she would still be living a life devoted to charity and kindness. It was in her soul. The teachings of the Bible alone are insufficient to turn people to righteousness – there must be a kindly soul who must be willing, loyal and ready to give them a fair interpretation. Bee was all of those things. For as long as I knew her, all she ever wanted for nothing other than to see others happy. No man or woman ever matched her compassion, her love for humanity, and her extreme altruism. Least of all, me. And nor was she vain either. She always held the belief, that acts of kindness should have no motivation other than for its own sake.  Because compassion was the ultimate end of all humanity, and the only way to be granted passage into the Kingdom of Heaven.
          Imran lowers the child to the ground. A large, veiled woman, with two young boys alongside her, and a bulging stomach, calls out his name. She is his mother. They have a brief exchange in Arabic, and the boy shows his half-consumed water bottle, and produces it to her. The woman gives us a toothless smile, and earnestly thanks both of us. We see that she also has a bottle of her own. Imran asks Yusuf what he wants to be when he is older. He says excitedly that when he is grown up, he wants to be a shahid – a Muslim martyr. Imran grimaces, and giggles nervously for no reason. He is not sure what to say.

*

It was a year after we met and became close with each other, we were both 16 years old, sat together watching television, that we witnessed something which changed our lives. We were both watching dull late-night TV together, and about to stop, when until a BBC documentary came on air, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bee immediately took an interest in this, insisting we both watch it – for it was important to her. While she considered herself a Christian in outlook and perspective, she still fiercely retained the pride of being Jewish, and had long dreamt of one day living and working in God’s Holy city. This documentary revealed the unpleasant nature behind Israel’s governance – particularly, its cruel, oppressive treatment of the Palestinians. I forget what it was called, or who presented it. The documentary showed harrowing footage from reporters, who travelled from the West Bank, to the refugee camps in trans-Jordan, all the way over to the Gaza strip. We saw dreadful, graphic footage of bleeding children, wounded by bullets and shrapnel. We were shown frantic scenes within a makeshift A&E hospital housing numerous grieving families, all fearing for their lives, as the reporter passionately interacted with them, and they told their stories and witness accounts.
          I noticed that Bee had fallen completely silent throughout the whole thing. This was unlike her – normally she was always in a talkative, chipper mood, especially when watching television. But she lay still in deep, solemn silence, as she took in everything that was being said. I could tell that this was clearly having an effect on her. We were shown footage of Hamas soldiers, and survivors of IDF rocket attacks, and they told of how their houses had been completely destroyed. How every aspect of their lives was governed by Israeli bureaucracy, from food and water, to the electricity, to their education. They commented on how, as each day went past, they constantly lived in fear of a brutal reprisal from Israeli forces. They explained how the Israeli soldiers had a notorious policy of collective punishment – how villages and communities paid the price for the destructive actions of rogue Palestinian terrorists. We saw shocking footage of explosions in the city of Hebron, dead bodies, men, women and children all running for their lives, while reporters took cover from bullets and artillery fire.
          The report ended with a very damning speech, denouncing Israel’s criminal occupation, how the place known to the world as “The Holy Land”, was in actual fact, little more than a religious apartheid state. While the Israeli Jews lived healthy, fulfilling lives, blissfully ignorant, beyond the outskirts of their comfortable houses and safe cities and past the gigantic security fence, lay another world, where the Palestinian Arabs lived in oppression, destitution, and misery. The narrator lambasted the smugness and callousness of the Israeli president, Benjamin Netanyahu, when he claimed that the Palestinian leadership was entirely to blame for the conflict. The reporter vociferously condemned the West Bank Wall which she declared to be a violation of the 1967 “Green Line”, and by extension, a violation of human rights, and how it was being used as a means of annexation, to segregate the Palestinians and deny them their “right of return” to their land. She passionately drew attention to Israel’s appalling track record for human rights against Palestinian protestors and activists throughout history, citing historical examples to prove her point that the Israeli government was not interested in a Two-state solution. “As long as we…” she solemnly concluded “…turn a blind eye to this unspeakable evil that we know is happening, then we continue to accept it, and let the Israeli Government get away with their crimes.”
          Bee was absolutely heartbroken by what she saw. I could see from within her eyes, that her soul had been shattered. Her parents had always talked about Jerusalem as if it were the most wonderful place on earth – a city of righteous, God-fearing and peaceful people; and they had always praised their history as one of survival against trials and tribulations – how they had erected their own country from a small scrap of land to the beacon of liberty and tolerance in the Middle East Desert within as little as 20 years. Now, all her core beliefs had all been shaken. Suddenly, she felt sick, like she’d been lied to for her whole entire life. “This is so unfair… Why?” she lamented, “How can God’s people do this? This is just so wrong… Those poor Palestinians…”
          From that moment on, Bee changed. While she still retained her optimism, her love for the Human race and her joy, she had soon become consumed, inflamed by a new sense of purpose. She resolved to dedicate her life to help put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle – to stop the injustice in her heartland, and to do all she could to help the suffering. Naturally, I too became devoted to her cause. Because I loved Bee, and worshipped the ground she walked on, I too wanted to accompany her in her quest to improve the lives of the Palestinians, and make a stand against the cruel regime of the Israelis. Not because I was a good person; I certainly wasn’t. But because I knew it was what she desperately wanted.
          But her parents were furious, when she told them about what she planned to do. They told her that what she saw on the television was all rubbish; one-sided, biased anti-Semitic propaganda that only gave a slanted view of Israeli history by leaving out crucial details of the wars, the wave of terrorist attacks by Hamas, and how uncooperative the Palestinian leadership has been in peace negotiations; just to fit their convenient narrative. The argument got so intense, I knew I could not be there to witness it. What that day taught me, was that all Jewish people deep down feel a spiritual connection with their ancestral homeland. While Jews might be divided on the issue of Zionism and the Holy Land, the very controversial nature of the subject alone was likely to arouse strong feelings in them, and inevitably, lead to arguments. It was a little frightening, and for so many reasons I wish they had never ended up having this conversation.
          That was 6 years ago. Two years after that, once Bee and I finished our A-levels, and became engaged, she had decided to do what she had long been planning, spend her Gap Year participating in global Humanitarian aid programmes; and in particular, she had her sights set on helping the refugees in the camps in and around Israel. Even at this point, her parents were still reluctant to let her go. I suppose, they were both proud for her determination to help the poor, but they really only wanted what was best for her. They warned her that she was still only a young girl, just 18 years old – with so much to learn about life, and human nature. But Bee was stubborn, and assured them that she was doing God’s work. This was also, she told them, for her personal enrichment, to understand the world better, and prepare her later in life, when she would study medicine at University, and ambition to become a doctor.
          After much coaxing, and realising that her mind was absolutely made up, Bee’s father made me swear that I would personally look after her, and make sure she didn’t do anything stupid or dangerous. Of course, I naturally accepted. I would do anything for her, and I vowed that would return together, and in time we would be husband and wife.

Psalms 93:1-2
“O Lord God, to whom revenge belongeth; O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself. Lift up thyself, thou judge of the earth: render a reward to the proud.”

*

Now that Imran and I are finished, we stroll through the urban wasteland. He smiles at me, feeling pleased with what we have done. Then, when I don’t respond to him, he lifts a hand over my shoulder. He looks earnestly in my eyes, asking me if I’m alright. I don’t answer. “You haven’t spoken a word since we got here…” he informs me.“Look…” he begins to say “I cannot begin to imagine how hard this must be for you. Honestly, I know these past four years must have been really painful… I know that you miss her.” Again, I don’t respond. He is trying to get a response out of me, but I deny him the satisfaction. “None of it was your fault. And it certainly wasn’t hers, either…” In spite of my efforts, my jawbone and throat rattle, and I start to breathe a little faster. A tear forms in my eye. He give me a big, warm hug. “It’s alright – it’s okay, I know you are really sad… But if only she could see what you’re doing now… she’d be so happy; so pleased for you, Daniel. She always talked about what a nice, lovely person you always were – She was right. Just think – this is exactly what she would have wanted, isn’t it?” I exhale heavily, and break away eye contact from him, looking at the ground. I don’t want to him to know how troubled I am. I’m starting to feel anger. How dare he try to manipulate my intimate memories of the past to make me feel positive. He doesn’t have a clue what he is saying.
          Imran tries to change the subject. He points to a battered, broken unusable car in the distance. “That car…” he begins. “Do you remember when we all clambered inside, and pretended to drive it, with me sitting in the front and you two in the back? We took a picture, and it came up on the front page of our website. Remember that? That was a laugh, wasn’t it? I always remember it was was way cosier than I thought it would be.”
          I cannot help but release a suppressed chuckle. Alright, I figure, If he’s that desperate, I’ll throw him a bone. Then, as we stroll down the camp, we break into a conversation about the Qu’ran. He tells me about how the Qur’an encourages kindness peace and tolerance, and how both Jesus and Mohammed both were both messengers of the same God. Contrary to popular belief, he informs me,  Allah was not simply the name of the Muslim God, Allah was actually the Arabic name for “God”, within all monotheistic religions. It is a contraction of the words “Al-” and “ilah”, meaning “The God”. So, he explains, Christians in Arab countries also believe in Allah. Imran tells me, that ever since he was a young boy, he always wanted to see an end to the suffering of the Palestinians and at least within his lifetime, see the day when Israel tears down the walls, and agrees to a Two-state solution, and for peace to reign supreme. He says he is “dying of thirst” in the heat, and retrieves a bottle from his pocket, to help himself to a “cheeky sip” of the charity water. He grins at me, and I widen my eyes at him with a vacant expression.
          Yusuf starts to follow us, as if he wants to play. His mother calls after him, but he is in a playful, defiant mood. I look in the pale, blue sky, to see a bird hovering over our heads. That’s strange, I think. How can birds live around here, in an area so hazardous, so devoid of life? What kind of bird could that be? My first thought is maybe a pigeon – pigeons can survive almost anywhere. Or perhaps it’s a vulture, waiting to feast on the corpses of the dead. I am not an ornithologist, so I conclude that I’ll never know in my lifetime.
          Now, I stand in what I have calculated to be the very centre of the camp. I look around, surveying the entire land, so engrossed in what I see, that the stench and the heat do not bother me. I look to my right, and I move closer to a heap of junk, from a car that has been destroyed. That’s it, I see. That’s where Bee and I stood together. That was where we gave out water, blankets, and food to the children. We watched the sun hover in its zenith from beyond the horizon together side by side, that day, and blessed the Lord for not failing to provide even trace amounts of beauty, in such ugly, Godforsaken areas. Imran calls after me, but I cannot hear what he says. I am busy, deep in thought about the past, and the future.

2 Chronicles 6:23
“Then hear thou from heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, by requiting the wicked, by recompensing his way upon his own head; and by justifying the righteous, by giving him according to his righteousness.”

*

I was a little unsure of what to think, when we first touched down at Tel Aviv, but both of us had a wonderful time exploring the Holy Land. I’d seen postcard pictures of the Golden Dome before, but never seen it up close before. It was a strange feeling – and I liked it. I felt like I was privileged in a way, to be standing before such an important, historical artefact. I felt even stranger when I stopped to consider all the people who must have died for this dome. One building worth more than thousands of lives. Bee and I even took a corny-looking selfie in front of the Wailing Wall. It didn’t matter that what we did was not ground-breaking, it was just really kind – and we weren’t simpletons. Both of us knew we would never end the Middle-East conflict on our own. But we wanted to play our part. Being exposed to the horrors within the camps – the starved, the sick, and the dying opened up a whole layer of emotions in Bee’s heart, that bordered on maternal instinct.
          Both Palestinian adults and children were in awe of her kindness, and her loving nature. She stroked infant babies, and cradled them to sleep. She kissed their foreheads, she hugged them warm and tightly. She tried practising Arabic, though with little success. It is a difficult language to learn. But the language of kindness and love is universal, as she always preached, and everyone recognises it when they see it. Because love is motivated by the soul. And all human beings, whether they are aware of it or otherwise, she reasoned, have one and are guided by it.

Revelation 21:1-8

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things have passed away.
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

*

Suddenly, something interrupts my silent meditation. Crowds of people to my left stop their rejoicing and dancing, and start to double over. Something has stopped them in their tracks. They start to cough, and clutch their hands over their stomachs. They groan. Then the groaning intensifies. I look behind me, and see scores of men, women and children behind me on their knees. Grumbles of confusion, alarm and sudden wails of pain start to flood the camp. I look back to Imran, and Yusuf and his family. They look around puzzled – bewildered by what is going on. Suddenly, Yusuf’s mother collapses, her hands protectively clutching her belly. I move in closer to investigate. Yusuf and his brothers start to express concern, and gather round her – asking her if she is alright. She starts to wheeze, and hyperventilate. Yusuf becomes increasingly agitated, and worried. Imran stands back, unsure what to do.
          Now, one by one, Yusuf’s brothers start to lose control of their bodies, falling on their knees, looking very light-headed, dizzy and groaning faintly – before they start violently convulsing and grunting. Yusuf panics and looks to us for help – what’s going on? And now, Yusuf’s pupils start to widen. He feels pain and reaches for his stomach. Tears stream from his eyes. He cries out to his mother, wailing he is hurt. But his mother is completely paralysed – in an agonising, lifeless struggle on the ground. She tries to say something, but her speech is interrupted by grunts, and her vocal chords are barely functioning. She is incoherent.
          Imran, as if he has snapped out of his bewildered trance, tries to do something. He frantically peppers panicked phrases of assurance in Arabic to him, tries to get him to lie on his back, patting his stomach, then suddenly changing his mind, and calling for a medic. Once he realises that he has a First-Aid kit in the back of the van, he rapidly darts his head back and forth, makes a panicked, emotional gesture to me with his eyes, demanding that I fetch the first aid kit. Then he vainly reaches for his phone in his pocket, before realising it’s pointless.
          I stand completely still, watching with mild interest. Yusuf wails on the ground, like a newborn baby fresh out of the womb. The boy is scared, and in so much pain – he wants his Mum to hold onto him. But his mother is unable to hear him – she is practically already dead. Yusuf, lying on his back, floods the desert ground with his tears, piercing the air with his screams, flailing his arms about helplessly like he is under attack. Imran is now upright, on his feet, his face pouring with sweat, his hands ready to tear his short, dark, curly hair from the scalps. I calmly proceed further down the camp, and see hundreds of wailing, tortured souls in excruciating pain, most have fallen to the knees, some on all fours – some are violently sick on the ground, and fainting, lying pathetically in their own vomit. I turn my heels behind, and behind Imran, who is by now frozen like a stone statue, in that pose of fear and shock, I see more uncertain wretches, weak at the legs, all scared, in a sluggish panic, feeling dragged to the ground by their own weight.
          Cyanide is a poison that kills its victims through strangulation of the blood cells. It does this by latching onto the iron contained in the cells, and preventing them from carrying out their natural purpose of cellular respiration; which means that the cells’ mitochondria are no longer able to utilise oxygen molecules to produce Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). What this means, is that the blood cells are no longer able to produce energy through the oxygen it carries. And this severely endangers the human heart, and the brain, since both require large amounts of oxygen to function properly. The early symptoms produced by the poison include: hyperventilation, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. But once the poison has taken total control of the victim’s body, this results in spasms, lung injury, inability to breathe, unconsciousness and finally: death. Cyanide’s name derives from the Ancient Greek, meaning “dark blue”, and is so named, because many victims of cyanide poisoning, due to the lack of haemoglobin in their blood, are left with a bluish tint in the skins of their dead bodies.
          All around the world, Cyanide has acquired a reputation for being one of the deadliest, and most fast-acting poisons to exist. In fact, toxicologists estimate that as little as 0.5 grams has a 90% chance of killing a fully-grown man. So of course, purchasing it across the counter in most countries is practically impossible. However, the Lord works in mysterious ways. Did you know, for instance, that inside the seeds of most apples, and other common fruits lies a liquid compound known as amygdalin? Amygdalin is a bitter-tasting liquid, quite unlike the juice of the apple that surrounds the seeds. And when digested, it reacts with the digestive enzymes in the stomach to lose its layer of glucose, and at the same time, produces Hydrogen Cyanide. In my eyes, this is only further evidence to show how the Lord has concealed, deep within the bounties of the splendid nature which He Himself created, the secret, morbid instruments of death and destruction. Indeed, is it not significant how, of all places, this substance can be found in the seeds of fruit? It all just hearkens back to the significance of The Fall of Mankind, when Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden, and were cursed (or poisoned, rather) with wisdom, and this led to their expulsion from Paradise.
          One should note, however, that the amygdalin found in just 1-2 ordinary fruit seeds alone, is harmless. They would have no effect whatsoever, since there is an array of enzymes in the body ready to detoxify them. But picture this: imagine if you will, say someone were to collect: to harvest the seeds of tens of thousands of apples, apricots and peaches over the span of four years, grind them to isolate and collect the juice, and keep it stored and refrigerated over time in containers, until he had accumulated as much over 1,000 kilograms of amygdalin – enough, in theory to kill over 2 million people.
          Victims of acute cyanide poisoning are said to endure indescribable agony in the last few minutes of their lives. I observe calmly once more, mentally taking note of the test subjects, and their reactions. Imran suddenly looks at me in the eyes, with a transparent expression of horror. “Daniel… are – are you-?” he stutters, barely able to grasp what is happening – “Did you have something to do with –” But before he is able to complete his sentence, he too falls at the knees, panting rapidly, his pupils widening; his face melting with sweat. He lowers gradually to the ground, and starts to moan. He drools from the mouth, he clutches indiscriminately at his stomach, tries to massage his temples, He writhes about on the ground uncontrollably. He knows that he is a dead man.
          I leave Imran on the ground where he belongs, and proceed to walk through the human wasteland, with both hands clasped together behind my back, surveying the destruction I have caused. Not a single person I can see stands on their own legs now – almost everyone lies grounded, and before long, I’ll be the only one standing. I notice curiously that two armed Gaza guards, presumably from the checkpoint have rushed onto the scene, looking around and shouting exclamations, hoping for some kind of response. I look towards them, wondering if they will notice me. Then, soon enough, both of the two guards fall to their knees. One tries to make a radio call, but lacks the energy to speak, or even hold onto the device. Now they are both writhing in pain, on the ground, awaiting deliverance from their agony. It is just as well. My silent peace will not be interrupted.
          I look behind, remembering something. I pace slowly back to the entrance of the refugee camp, strolling all the way to Jabaliya city. I go a little further. Then I see it. That mark in the ground. No doubt about it – the metal mast in the darkened patch of land.

Psalms 40:4
“I said, Lord, be thou merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee.”

*

On the 20th July, 2016, two days after Bee and I began our service in the Gaza strip, a massive explosion tore apart a school in Jabaliya district, killing 30 Palestinian children. Bee and I both witnessed the explosion from the windows of the hotel where we stayed. It was the first time we were introduced to the violence of the real world. The Israeli government of course denied any involvement in the school’s destruction – citing that their forces were carefully coordinated to inflict as minimum collateral damage as possible. They even went as far as to accuse Hamas themselves as being responsible, as part of a ploy to kill their own citizens and framing the Israeli government as responsible, just to win the propaganda war.
          It is still not known what was responsible for the explosion. But soon after the explosion occurred, in the early midnight hours, rumours were being spread that someone had deliberately planted bombs there, disguised as foodstuffs and relief packages. Worse still, word had gotten around that there was a Jew in the neighbourhood. A Zionist spy, who was working for Shabak to secretly collect information about Hamas, and to lower Palestinian morale through use of state-sponsored terror attacks.
          Bee was the loveliest, and kindest girl who ever walked the planet. But she was not smart. Against the advice of the charity’s organisers, Bee had been really open about her Jewish identity. She opened her heart to the refugees, claiming that as a Jew, she personally felt responsible for what was happening, and would give anything to stop the fighting. In a fairly short time, the same girl who had approached the Palestinians with remarkable kindness, was now Gaza’s public enemy number one.
          Imran, the then head organiser and camp guide, urgently burst into our hotel room, and ordered us to pack our things – we had to leave immediately. But Bee was nowhere to be seen. She’d instinctively left the hotel, obviously to view up close the effects of the explosion, which, little did she know, she was about to soon be held accountable for. I had to look for her. Imran tried to restrain me, but I wasn’t having it. I was either coming back with her alive, or not at all.
          I looked around Jabaliya city, and I couldn’t see her. But what I did see gave me the most nauseating feelings in my stomach. I saw a wide gathering of people, well into the hundreds – of Palestinians gathering around a large wooden bonfire which at the very top contained the easily recognisable white and blue flag of Israel, which became the centrepiece of a raucous political demonstration. Parading around the fire was an even fierier, bearded orator, carrying in one hand a megaphone which he spoke into. Two other men stood behind him, dressed in paramilitary uniforms with balaclavas, both carrying flags that bore the Swastika. I couldn’t understand exactly what the speaker was saying, but I could see that he had this frightening look of pure contempt in his eyes. He addressed the crowd and motioned with all the fury of a rabid dog. Every hateful, vituperative word that flew from his mouth was accompanied by spit, he did not speak; he only yelled. He made the wildest hand motions, vividly gesticulating, throwing his fist from the ground to the air – I didn’t need to second guess what, or who he was talking about. Even more frightening was the way the crowds reacted. At times, the speaker yelled key phrases or words which were accompanied by a militant gesture with his fist, and the crowd reciprocated his vigour by responding in the same way. It was unsettling to watch. I took advantage of all the loud noise to escape unnoticed. I had to get out of there and find her fast.
          I’d spent the entire time each hunting party had used to mobilise, looking for her. Eventually, in the very centre of Jabaliya refugee camp, I saw her standing next to a young Palestinian girl. She had a bleeding scar on her face. Bee was clearly trying to help her somehow. Standing behind a broken car, I called out to her. She looked back, but past me. I looked in the direction she was looking, and noticed to my horror that they’d found her. Mobs of at least a few hundred were marching, carrying torches, planks; anything they could get their hands on. Some had guns.
          After what sounded like a war cry, they all charged towards her, like wild animals. All I could do was stand back in horror and watch as the worst was about to happen. Bee stood completely still – frozen in complete and utter terror. It must have only lasted one second, and yet I remember it with such a perverse degree of clarity.
          Suddenly, Bee was knocked to the ground, completely surrounded by the mob. I wanted to do something – I really did. But I was powerless. I knew I couldn’t save her – I knew she was doomed. And as much as I wanted to look away, I couldn’t do that either. I could only cry, and feel my throat grow sore. The hideous mob made her into their plaything – they kicked her, punched her, scratched, struck, stabbed, mangled and cut her with their blunt instruments. Her cries, her shrieks of pain were completely drowned out by the hundreds of exhortative cries from the crowd. It was not just young men though, who took part – women, God-fearing women with religious headdresses, they too had a go – all eager to jump at the chance and inflict some damage. Even boys who looked to be no more than 10 years old stood in childish anticipation, begging to have their fun. It was just a big game to all of them.
          After a whole minute of prolonged, brutal torture, the ringleader arranged that she be carried back to the district. The mob collectively, as if of a single mind, reorganised itself, and carried their quarry in a gruesome litter. I felt so sick unnatural chills of the body when I saw what they’d done to her. Her clothes were torn into rags, stained with her blood. Her pretty face was practically unrecognisable – her nose broken in, one of her eyeballs looking ready to fall from the socket. Her hair was no longer curled chestnut, but soggy, wet and stained with blood and dirt.
          Even though I did not want to, I couldn’t muster the strength to do anything other than follow along, like a shepherd’s lamb. After that gruesome, hideous march, I kept my distance and watched from afar, like an idiot. Maybe I was hoping, in my utter stupor, that they’d finally come to their senses, and release her. This period of respite was only a brief peace for the even worse to come. Bee was dragged to what might have been either a signpost, or a streetlamp, or whatever it was – it served no other purpose in my eyes other than to exhibit the most unholy human spectacle a man could see. There, they bound her arms around the mast so she could not escape. Then I saw her being stripped, and left cold and naked, the wind flagellating against her hair. How could they… I remember thinking at that very moment – what gives them the right? Exposed, bare and motionless, all I could see was Bee puff against the tresses of soggy hair against her face. She did not look pretty anymore – her body reshaped, beaten and mutilated by the hatred of hundreds of people. I was committing a sin by witnessing it. The taste of my tears, and the chill of the cold wind left an awful taste in my mouth. Younger men in the crowd cheered, and hollered at her, making animal grunts, throughout her inglorious, bruised, battered, bare-skinned ignominy.
          Then, the paramilitary troopers from earlier produced two small plastic canisters, and started to soak the helpless victim with what looked like water. But I fell to my knees. I knew exactly what was coming next. After a horrific, final declaration from that same hateful man who led the torture procession, a match was thrown. Bee’s body was set alight, transformed instantly into a sea of bright orange and yellow flames. Even from where I stood, I felt the sudden blaze warm my skin. The crowd raptured into spontaneous cheers, rejoicing and applause. I couldn’t make up my mind which sickened me more – Bee’s ungodly immolation, or the crowd’s reaction. In the crowd, I noticed hijab-wearing women at the forefront, taking off their both of their shoes, and flinging them at her. I flinched, again and again – this hatred just wasn’t going to stop. Not even at this point. I also noticed children, some lifted up on the shoulders of their parents, like it was a happy, bonding moment for them and their family. I saw indiscriminate members of the crowd recording it, with their smartphones. Pointing. Cheering. Laughter.
          I began to feel dizzy. As my hearing faded, I think I could hear it concentrate at some point, on Bee’s agonising wails as she called for help, and for mercy. Then an even louder, concentrated cry from the crowd, in unison. I heard them all yell, raising their fists in the air:

“Allahu Akbar!
Allahu Akbar!
Allahu Akbar!
Allahu Akbar!
Allahu Akbar!
Allahu Akbar!”

I saw no women, children, or men in the crowd. All I saw were beasts. Vicious, wild beasts – apes, wolves, hyenas, jackals – No trace of humanity or mercy in anyone’s eyes. Even the children were not repulsed by the monumental scale of the violence that they were seeing. It was like they were watching a pantomime. I found my eyesight whirring and spinning out of control – at this point I simply did not care if I was going to live or die anymore. Part of me was just hoping they would notice me, and fling me on the pyre as well. But my vision cleared. I massaged my head. Then I turned around, gulped deep in my throat, and resolved to make the move towards her. I could not run, but I walked slowly – all feelings exhausted from me. I simply didn’t have the energy to run away, to cry, to be sad, or do anything else.
          Then, some of the hindmost members of the crowd noticed that I had been standing there. More and more, the crowd turned its attention away from the gruesome spectacle before them and almost paved it’s way to let me walk closer, as I slowly, steadily moved towards the burning girl, my palm stretched outwards. I liked to think at that point, in her last, dying moments, she saw me reaching out towards her, that she at the very least died knowing I would never abandon her. But it was not long before the crowd suddenly turned against me as well, and I was to become their next victim. Instinctively, I dropped to the ground and did my best to shield my head, and my stomach lying face down in the foetal position. I was so sure that this would be the end of me… I felt the tide of brutal savage kicks, the club strikes over my back, the boots slamming down over the back of my head, my poor cranium getting booted mercilessly. I wanted it to be over in an instant.
          But fate intervened. I heard the unmistakable high-pitched, descending whistle, a massive explosion shook the ground where I lay shortly after. Suddenly, I heard the mob begin to panic, through the thick muffle of my arms over the ears, I could tell they were all running away. Feeling unsure what to do, I eased out of my protective pose, and heard the rough, mechanical rotors of a helicopter. Shortly after that, I heard machine gun fire, and more shouting, but clearly not the shouting of the mob; shouts from a different group of men. I looked to the night sky, and saw a searchlight beaming from what was beyond any doubt, an IDF war helicopter. Troops were abseiling down from it.
          They opened fire on some members of the crowd who’d stayed behind, and the crowds people, who were holding guns of their own, fought back. The entire battle took place as I stood in the middle, a dumb spectator. Bee, meanwhile, had been reduced to a blackened, skeletal tree stump, her body still flickering with dying flames here and there. In so many ways, with her arms locked behind her, and over her head, she resembled a burned Jesus Christ on the cross. I collapsed, overcome by lethargy and anguish, and woke up the next day in a hospital in Tel Aviv. Strange, when I think about how it was an assassination mission by the Israel’s military, was what saved me. It turned out that the mob’s main ringleader, Ib’n Usama Hasan al-Sheikh was actually a notorious Hamas commander, who had been on the Shabak’s wanted list for nearly 5 years, for coordinating a series of rocket attacks on Israeli citizens in West Jerusalem, killing as many as a hundred people. In honesty though, I really wish they had simply left me there to die.
          Bee was given both a traditional Jewish style funeral ceremony at the Synagogue on the route where we used to walk to school, and a mourning service at the nearby Methodist Church. I’ll never forget the look on the face of her father. It was not a look of sadness, even grief, though I’m sure he had spent countless days grieving the loss of his only child. It was a silent look of stern reproach. I could read his expression, and I knew exactly what he was thinking: “You were supposed to take care of her. You should have done something.” In her spirit, I was supposed to read a short piece at the altar, with a message of love or something – one of her favourite excerpts from the Bible – a Psalm that read about how much better it is to forgive, and let live and some other thing or whatever – I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t preach this message, because it made no sense at all. It was all complete, utter nonsense. I stormed out of the church, and bawled like an immature little brat. I couldn’t do it. The reverend had to take over.

Psalms 58:10-11
“The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.”

*

It’s too superficial to say that I committed this act purely out of revenge. I won’t deny that I do feel better, now that I have done the deed. To my mind, all the citizens of Gaza were responsible for her death. They all stole her from me, in a most unholy and sacrilegious manner, with their hatred. With their fear. They not only killed her in a most merciless, violent way, but the way they defiled her body, and treated her like a piece of garbage – it was all too much to bear. To rub salt in the wound, following the event, all news coverage of her murder, even though it did attract some mild interest, was completely eclipsed by the school explosion that preceded it. And by the Israeli armed mission that happened next. It was as if the killing didn’t matter. The only papers that seemed to pick up on this were the tabloids – papers that were usually ignored or looked down upon by the middle class, for political discussion. In the minds of most people, the narrative did not change. But worst of all, no-one was punished for it.
          The Gaza strip is governed by Hamas. Hamas have been universally recognised as a terrorist organisation, and many times they have openly declared that they do not recognise the state of Israel. In Hamas’ charter, it is written that the Day of Judgement will not come, until the Muslims “fight the Jews” and kill them, even “when they hide behind stones and trees”. Hamas state television has been known to openly endorse the killing of Jews; it is widely tolerated, even acceptable in their eyes. A Palestinian representative of Hamas claimed in an international UN tribunal, that Bee Cohen had simply been “in the wrong place, at the wrong time”, and even had the nerve to imply that the Israeli government was at fault for antagonising the Palestinians to take violent action in response to the security threat posed by their attacks. He claimed to show remorse for her death, but whether he meant it or not is meaningless, and changes nothing. The story died down within weeks, and before long, everything went back to normal. In the end, nobody was ever indicted; let alone brought to trial.
          I tried so hard to see things from her point of view. I wanted to find the strength to forgive those people – but even after all the years of soul-searching, I still didn’t have any. I simply could not find it in my heart to forgive those monsters for what they did. Irrespective of Israel’s treatment of them throughout history, I no longer cared about what their status as refugees. All their lives became forfeit.
          By the time you are finished reading this story, all people in the Gaza strip will die. Not just Jabaliya – but all of them; there will be no survivors. Because I held everyone in the Gaza strip to be equally responsible for her death. And I spent four years planning; calculating how much poison would be just right, how to keep it hidden, how to keep the fellow volunteers from suspecting my sinister motives, and I took care to add just the right amount of amygdalin to each and every water bottle among my humanitarian colleagues; every provisional water tank that we had on our hands was supplied with the special adulterant. Because this would be the only “clean” water supply they would have available, and given the draconian restrictions on electrical equipment through Gaza checkpoints, thus limiting their ability to test, and purify the water, the Gazans would have no choice but to drink the Kool-aid, so to speak. No-one knew what I was planning. Of course, on the surface, I convinced them that I had moved on, and I made an effort to persuade everyone that knew me, how in spite of my eternal grief over her death, I could see the bigger picture, and still remained sympathetic to the Palestinian plight. It was a ruse, and they all fell for it.
          A warm wind starts to blow against me. There is no sign of life anywhere. Wherever I look, there is dead silence, nothing but the faint buzzing of flies. I’ve prepared for them a most magnificent feast. Now it is time for me too, to face imminent Judgement. I remove from my belt a special bottle of water – not just regular water, but pure, concentrated, unadulterated amygdalin. I resolutely down the entire bottle. The die is cast.
          In truth, while the Bible is a very large book, it is very consistent on the subject of revenge. Both Testaments Old and New condemn the use of revenge against ones’ enemies. The main reasons for this are twofold; the most obvious one found in the New Testament, where Jesus explains that it is always better to forgive, rather than be captivated by sinful thoughts of revenge. Jesus did not retaliate against his people, even when they turned away from him on the day of his crucifixion. It’s a message that sounds nice, and it resonated within Bee’s heart. Then there is the other reason, commonly taught in the Old Testament, which states that only the Lord God has the authority to revenge himself against His enemies and punish the wicked. To take matters into your own hands is a mortal sin against the Lord. The Lord wants us to stay righteous and steadfast against suffering, while He passes judgement at the end of humanity. So, suffice it to say, revenge is not permitted in God’s laws either. But, you know – there’s more to this killing than mere vengeance.
          Consider, if you will, when The Lord destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God did promise Abraham that even if there were as little as 10 righteous people who lived there then He would spare both cities, just for their sake. But when Lot and his family, the only just beings to ever walk the city, after they fled both cities and entered Segor, leaving the Sodomites behind, The Lord instantly obliterated both cities with fire and brimstone that rained from the heavens. And why? Because they had grown sinful, and arrogant; they rebelled against His authority. Traditionally, it is taught that the Sodomites were condemned because of their tolerance of homosexuality. But the Bible is rather vague – it describes them as sinful and rebellious, but it never explains specifically in what way. And even if that were the case, surely that alone cannot justify their extinction? Surely the Sodomites and the inhabitants of Gomorrah must have doubtlessly been a wicked, violent and despicable people who indulged in all manner of crimes. They surrounded Lot’s house, and pressed violently upon him, threatening his guests; clearly they meant to kill him and rob him. They were beyond any measure, a Godless race of criminals who strayed from His wisdom.
          One other point for reflection – why did the Lord feel the need to completely annihilate both cities, when he promised beforehand that he would shield those places because of the seldom few righteous inhabitants? We must ask, were there not young children – infants who lived there too, and faced devastation? How could they possibly be held accountable for the sins committed by their families, and their neighbours, especially when they were far too young to understand what the concept of “sin” even means? What possible justification could there have been for their deaths? Was this the act of an evil tyrant God who takes delight on inflicting suffering upon even newborn children? Well no; on the contrary, I believe there was a valid reason for what He did.
          The Lord knew that there was no escape from their inevitable sink into iniquity. The babies would grow to become sinful adults, and lose their innocence permanently, when they became acclimatised to the sin and crime that surrounded them. So, the Lord spared them their descent into sin in the kindest way He could, by granting them immediate passage to the Kingdom of Heaven. He loved the children of Sodom and Gomorrah so much, He spared them from the sin that would later destroy them in their doomed city. Indeed, while the Lord encourages mankind not to take part in revenge, He Himself is always ready to pass vengeance upon those who cross Him. He flooded the entire earth, when He realised that the wickedness of man was too great. And even though Jesus forgave Judas for betraying him, no-one else did; not even the Lord. The Lord plagued him with so much guilt, that he cast away the 20 pieces of silver he was paid, and his life he did take.
          I’ve talked at great length about everything that Bee believed in, but I never really explained what my own beliefs are. Here’s what I believe: every instance of time is predetermined, by the Lord. There is no such thing as chance, or Free Will. Our destiny is writ in the heavens, where only He knows how it all unfolds. Whichever path we take, only He can know the final result. We are what we are, because the Lord crafted us to be so. And it was He who dictated that once I witnessed Bee’s horrific death, I would be so traumatised, so overcome with grief, suffering and rage, for the sudden and brutal departure of the girl I loved so dearly. He decreed that I would never have the tolerance to forgive them. For the same reason that He produced the sudden intervention of the Israeli army, saving my life at the last minute, but not earlier when it could have saved her; He willed that the Gazans would lose their only source of pure drinking water, and thus provide me with the perfect motive, means and opportunity to destroy them. He dictated my vengeful thoughts to me in my sleep, and it was fated that I should be the one to single-handedly eliminate them, and put an end to the conflict between the Gazans and the Israelis once and for all.
          The Lord is just, all-powerful, and all knowing. Nothing escapes from His wrath. At some point in the distant future, Jesus Christ shall rise once again from the dead for a second time, and herald the end of humanity. Then the Lord will pass judgement on all of humankind. All the ignorant, unenlightened, self-righteous reprobates who turned away from His rule shall finally know Judgement, and all the innocent shall be rewarded in heaven. And for all who live within the Gaza strip, today that day is come.
          So I am brought here today not to pass retribution, but as a messenger of the Apocalypse. Those who encouraged, took part in and stood by and watch Bee’s death but did nought to save her, shall all be condemned to Hell. Little Yusuf, and the sweet young children like him, free from sin and with the innocence of childhood shall be rewarded with eternal bliss. But as for the older inhabitants of Gaza, with their fondness for sin, their violence, their disregard for human life, their arrogance, their sacrilege, their rebellion against the laws of God, will suffer His Wrath. Not even I shall escape Judgement. I too must face consequences for my actions. My only regret is that I will never see Bee ever again. But what choice did I have? In spite of everything that has ever happened, I still stand by what I said. Some actions are inexcusable. Some people are not, and never will be worthy of forgiveness. In honesty, as much as I did love her, there were indeed times when even I found Bee to be too naïve, and too obstinate to embrace the truth.
          It could just be my imagination, but it seems that already the symptoms are starting to take effect. History will always remember me as a mass-murderer, who committed genocide against the Palestinian people. No doubt, Bee would find this act most impious, and evil. She would never sympathise with my motives. But I am not doing this for her, either. I am doing this for God. And in the words of Paul the Apostle, when he addressed the church at Corinth:

Corinthians 4:3-4″
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgement:…”

I start to wheeze, and hyperventilate. This soon? Saliva spills from my mouth. My insides feel as if they are literally on fire. My heart feels as if it is burning. I cough, expecting projectile blood to fly out.

“…yea, I judge not mine own self.”

Now, the poison has really taken its toll on my body. I start to feel dizzy. My eyesight is failing me. Is this what an eternity of fire and brimstone feels like? It is as if I am already in the depths of hell. The pain is not diminishing, but it only increases more and more – more than I thought possible.

…For I know nothing by myself…”

I feel as if I my own weight is conspiring against me. My limbs jerk, fly around uncontrollably. The pain is so strong, it makes me well up in tears. Each nanosecond, I pray them I am quickly delivered from this unimaginable agony. It just doesn’t stop increasing. It only gets worse and worse.

“…yet am I not hereby justified: but-”

The pain is so strong – it feels like my body is about to literally explode – just make it stop! This really is the end…suddenly, I am afraid. Really, really frightened. A sudden realisation dawns on me. I really should have listened to her. I should have forgiven them – I should have let it all go. Bee… I’m so sorry. You were right all along.

“…he that judgeth me is the Lord.”

The Death of P.C Norman Blake

I’d known Norman Blake as an individual for about 5 months up until his death. He was only 24 years old; in the prime of his life, his face gleaming with youthful pride manifested through the due diligence he took into grooming his hair, and the artful way he retained his glowing, clean-shaven jawline. I could immediately tell that he took great pride in his appearance. His early life was difficult, and upsetting for him. He had always lived with his mother, whom he adored and loved, even after she tragically passed away in a traffic collision when he was 20. He never talked much about his father. Yet in spite of this, Norman harboured a very optimistic attitude about the future, and was cheerfully dismissive about his infectious charm, and his bright longing optimism for the future. But then I suppose that is always typical of the young. You don’t truly know what you have, until it’s gone.
          By all accounts he was an astounding man. He was a policeman – and in particular he worked for London Metropolitan Police’s Mounted Branch (CO13). When we spoke to each other, he told me of how it had always been his dream as a child to be a cowboy and ride a horse. Once he finished school, he originally planned on joining the Armed Forces but, upon deciding that he didn’t like the idea of being too far away from home, volunteered to join the Police instead. He was an exceptional officer, according to his peers. He had lightning-quick reflexes, he was tough and had dogged determination to see his task through to the end. He soon graduated from Peel Centre, and before long, was attested and sworn in as Metropolitan Police constable. It is said that he established a reputation on the beat for being kind, easy-going and relatable with the local public. He was good at making judgement calls, and was always able to keep calm, even when under intense pressure. But he had his sights set on something far more appealing to him – the Mounted Police Branch. He knew that it was what he wanted to do, but because all volunteers needed 2 years’ experience in ordinary uniform duties before they would be eligible, he had to remain patient and eager to volunteer when the time would come. Then finally when the years went by, in recognition of his splendid efforts as a beat copper, his application was a success. It was not easy at first. All London Police cavalrymen have to undergo a gruelling course lasting 22 weeks; and be thoroughly drilled in the arts of balance, smartness and etiquette. But true to his nature, he pulled through and was eventually entrusted with his own horse. He named her “Irene”. So without exaggeration, his life, though short, was nothing less than a roll of endless achievements, promotions and glory. If he had lived another ten years, he would have probably reached the rank of Chief inspector – or even Commander. But it was not to be.
          It may seem like a strange idea for the police to still rely on horses, in this day and age. But just like in the old days of knights and cavalry, a man on his horse is an army all by himself. That is why, even in this day and age, the Mounted Police are a branch specifically tailored for outbreaks of public disorder and riots. In fact, the Mounted horse patrol is the oldest part of the Met, dating all the way back to 1836. The branch is made up of 200 officers, and approximately 25% of them are women. It is a job that certainly requires skill and bravery, and are every bit as valuable now as they were way back then. But it is by no means a safe, risk-free profession. I should probably start by getting you familiar with the context:
          In the weeks leading up to Norman’s death, there had been a series of protests by a new civil rights pressure group known as “Global Circuit”. They were originally a splinter group of the Socialist Workers’ Party and were even affiliated with the much celebrated international civil rights activists’ groups, such as Black Lives Matter and Antifa. Although they campaigned for a varied range of social issues such as wealth redistribution and the legalisation of Cannabis, they were particularly well-known for their protests against racism and police brutality. It was reported that in the more deprived areas of London; particularly areas with a high population of ethnic minorities, crime had recently escalated. The Commissioner had recommended that more units be dispatched to tackle the increase of crime, but of course the local residents were not too pleased about this. They saw the police as intrusive, and began to stage protests in the months leading up to the incident. You may probably remember the Tottenham riots of 2011 – the series of riots that left London’s inner cities in tatters. The spark that was reported to have triggered the violence was the police’s shooting of unarmed 29-year old Mark Duggan. Along with this, another commonly cited case by Global Circuit was the death of Stephen Lawrence, whose murder investigation was carelessly mishandled, and even allowed the majority of the gang that killed him to escape conviction until more than a decade later. This led to a well-known inquiry in 1999, by Sir William MacPherson, who famously concluded that the London Metropolitan Police force was “Institutionally Racist”.
          In recent years, Global Circuit had also drawn attention to the worldwide abuse of power by authority figures in places such as New York City, where Eric Garner was famously filmed being choked to death by the police. They had also held a public vigil in the memory of Michael Brown, who was shot dead in Ferguson, Missouri. Their Mission Statement on their website was clear and unambiguous:

AN END TO POLICE BRUTALITY AND WHITE SUPREMACY

Imagine a world free from injustice. Free from discrimination and hatred. No state ordained violence against the smaller people of society.
We are the Global Circuit, a humble grassroots movement made from a chain of the little people that make up the poor, underprivileged and the oppressed.

 The London Metropolitan Police has declared war on Black people. At the heart of this injustice lies a strong, hidden and entrenched racial caste system that has stubbornly resisted the social and civil rights changes of the 20th century, and still plans to maintain White peoples’ privileged status at the top of society. Our aim is to use peaceful protest to reclaim the streets, and shed publicity on any instance of police brutality. Where we are not allowed to use peaceful protest, then we will seek other means to fight back – to regain our rights as human citizens.
Our main priority is to expose all the inner mechanisms used to uphold social injustice. The police are a global class of elites, created by racists, and for the benefit of racists. All around the world, these bullies and tyrants have become a law unto themselves. We plan to pull the rug from underneath their feet and put power back into the hands of the people. So get involved with our hashtag #Globalcircuit and get updated with our latest activity.

Remember that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”

          I mentioned earlier that this was a fringe movement, but it had in fact grown really popular a few months ago. Students from Cambridge, Oxford and Exeter had championed their cause and welcomed speakers from the movement to give talks there. Of course, young students are always first to dive into the subject of politics; and they were the ones who were effectively at the forefront of this organisations’ global campaign. Most students these days simply irritate me – not necessarily with their political views (even though it does sometimes factor into it), but by how certain they are of their opinion and how uncritical they are of their own arguments. I was a keen supporter of the Labour Party for nearly 30 years. These days, I frankly pity those who think that anything can be changed by vote. Who needs rigged elections in modern Britain, when you have elections like ours? Nothing is ever done and that way, everyone is equally disappointed. At least it’s fair, to some degree. What was that old saying – The definition of madness is doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting a different result?
          I was also beginning to tire of constantly being subjected to that self-serving tele-evangelism by politicians with their worthless platitudes, encouraging me to play into their hands by voting for anybody among them. “Don’t waste your vote” they’d say, or “a vote for someone is better than nothing at all”, even going so far as to openly scold those who do not turn up to the polling stations to decide the future of their governments. Of course, this attitude all boils right down to self-righteous hypocrisy; since what they are really asking is for you to vote for their cause, over nothing – it’s essentially nothing more than a cynical exercise in moral grandstanding. I’ve strongly believed in the citizen’s right to remain indifferent, just as much as I believe in the right to vote – because contrary to popular belief, not everything in life hinges on politics. Voter apathy is simply the side effect of a neglected and ignored electorate. These days, I prefer to sit in my chair and wait for change to happen, because as far as I’m concerned, it’s no less a legitimate form of protest than street activism and it’s equally effective. By the way, if I sound like an embittered 50-year-old man who talks politics in the bar with drunks, it’s because I am one.
          Anyway, as I was saying, Global Circuit was continuing to build on its popularity. It received an endorsement from 2 well-known politicians, a commendation from Greenpeace and a reference was made in a speech by the Prime Minister. What had recently happened to make them soar into the spotlight was a more recent case of police brutality that dominated the headlines of tabloids and newspapers alike; the death of 32-year-old Pauline Prince, which I shall carefully explain in detail:
Pauline Prince, a 32-year old black woman, was walking down the street and was heavily pregnant, carrying a 7-month-old baby inside her. According to reports, Police had received a tip-off that a woman was dealing Class-A drugs in the streets of Brixton, and two uniformed constables approached her when they saw that she matched the suspect’s description. When they stopped her, and asked to take her in for questioning, she refused, protesting her innocence. She accused them of harassing her, and once her husband and some of her friends arrived at the scene and noticed what was going on, a row occurred between the two parties, which soon escalated into a fight. This made the Police call for backup. Another two teams of policemen arrived in cars, and used pepperspray on the attackers. Prince had escaped, and tried to drive away in a car, when she was spotted by road police. In the struggle for her arrest, Prince herself was dosed with pepperspray, but was administered more than the recommended usage; and instead of being sprayed in her eyes as is normally instructed – she received a dosage around the nose and through the mouth instead; which is not recommended. To make matters worse, Prince suffered an allergic reaction, and her nasal passages became so inflamed that she could not breathe anymore. By the time paramedics arrived, there was nothing that could be done. She was pronounced dead on the scene; her unborn baby with her.
          Once the media had reported the incident – the reaction from the Brixtonian locals was fierce. And as anyone can imagine, by the time of this incident, the media narrative of Global Circuit had really gained credibility. Local beat Bobbies had bottles thrown at them and were shouted at. But it was not just limited to the United Kingdom. The story’s repercussions had reverberated throughout the English speaking world – protests in Melbourne, The Bronx, Paris, everywhere. The hashtags #IamPauline and #JusticeforPauline trended worldwide on Twitter with over 2 million tweets within the first day of its exposure. There was even a trend going around called “Don’t hurt my child”, as they were believed to be the victim’s final words. Though this might probably be sensational fiction. The victim’s husband, Jason Prince had been given a seat to express his own views and become a welcome and powerful figure within the organisation. In response, the Home Office and proclaimed that all public meetings were to be banned for a week, to limit the scale of political activity that would undoubtedly arise. A careless move. Global Circuit had decided they would do a “March on London” – obviously inspired by the March on Ferguson.
          This occurred on the 3rd June 2016, only 2 days after the incident. By this time, London was now a tense, and volatile environment to live in. When he noticed how his influence was not changing the mind of the protesters, the Home Secretary immediately capitulated and revoked his ban, and in what was essentially a big virtue signal, untold thousands and thousands of people (mainly young students) had gotten together, linked hands in hand, and starting a march all the way from Brixton, to Westminster, in solidarity with the memory and the family of Pauline Prince, and her unborn child. The plan was they would end their march and stage their protest in front of the Houses of Parliament. The police were simply overwhelmed and had no choice but to let them pass – the world stood back in awe, as these fiery protestors marched through the roads, chanting slogans here and there such as “Injustice Anywhere Is A Threat To Justice Everywhere!” and “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance!”. They were even singing songs such as “We Shall Overcome”, other tunes that were reminiscent of America’s civil rights era.
          I was not there to witness everything – I only saw televised footage from BBC news. Apparently before the outbreak of chaos, there were reports of skirmishes between marchers and police. Since this was for the most part, an unplanned protest, the boundaries had not been well drawn up and indicated. Nevertheless, the protest would have ended peacefully were it not for one crucial event. By the time the march had arrived at Westminster Bridge, there was a legion of mounted police approaching them. It seemed that the Home Office had by now regained his courage, and decided to let them go no further. Things got to a head, once the protestors marched halfway down Westminster Bridge. Near along the very middle of the cavalry brigade, was Norman Blake, reins in one hand, baton in the other. The march slowed down, then ground to a halt. By now, the Inspector who lead the cavalry read the riot act. He announced that the protestors were not authorised to cross the bridge, and this was as far as they were allowed to go. The protestors however, were determined to cross, in spite of the fact that their march had already been proscribed by the Home Office. Some started to lob missiles at the police. The police, nonetheless, remained still and were determined not to move.
          As they approached, the Inspector prepared his cavalry to lead a baton charge.
Baton charges are trained and synchronised charges aimed at a mob, by a line of policemen, baton in hand, with the intention of frightening unruly crowds and making them disperse and break away. It is usually very effective, and baton charges on horseback were known to work especially well. But what happened next is unclear, and I will try to piece together as much of the fragments of the evidence as I possibly can. According to witnesses on the scene, and news footage of the incident – Norman had moved by himself, rather close to the scene of the action, while his friends were still preparing for their baton charge. He was nearly surrounded by the activists. He had drawn his baton, and swung it twice toward the crowd off, but when this did not work, he got closer – he was approximately 2 yards from the crowd. He reached for a nearby protestor and it looked as if he was reaching for his pepperspray. Suddenly, out of nowhere there was a massive, blinding explosion of yellow and orange. It turned out that one of the protestors had prepared and thrown a Molotov cocktail. The police were so baffled by what had transpired that the baton charge spiralled and halted. Several of them looked around in a daze, as the protestors began to charge towards them. At this point, the bridge had escalated into full-blown violence. This was known in the papers as “The Battle of Westminster Bridge.” Everywhere was rife with activity. Protestors charged towards the cavalrymen, attacking them. Due to Norman’s precarious position in the midst of the action, and the intensity of the fire that surrounded him, he could not be reached. His body lay helplessly smoking from the flames of the fire, slowly agonising as he burned to death. His horse squealed in agony, and flailed about on the road helplessly. In the end, more backup serials had arrived with water hoses and tear gas to put an end to the mad violence of the crowd, and rescue their fallen man. But by this time, it was already too late. The fiery weapon had already taken its toll on Norman. He had suffocated from the smoke, and had serious third degree burns all over his legs and torso. He died shortly afterwards, in the hospital. His horse also sustained terrible injuries, and had to be put down.
          Now, the average listener may be puzzled as to why it is that Norman got so dangerously close to the protestors in the first place, while his team were slowly preparing for the baton charge. Well, I managed to find another video recording of the incident on YouTube, uploaded by one of the passers-by, who was understandably perturbed by what they had seen. In this video footage, though the film quality is poor, if you look carefully to the right, one can see a small figure doubling over, near the front of the crowd, and given the particular angle where the film was shot, it would be hard for the other cavalrymen to  have seen her. In my view, PC Blake must have noticed that a woman was being crushed by the sheer number of people attending the protest, and had prepared to dismount in order to save her. He was not reaching for his pepperspray – instead he was trying to help her. Whatever the case may be, from what I had known, I would never have suspected deliberate foul play on Norman’s part. Also, let’s not forget that it would have been a terrible idea to deliberately provoke an angry crowd when you are only standing inches away from them.
          After a week of heated debate and news coverage of the protest, which again was brought to the forefront of global news, 24 people were finally arrested for breach of public order and rioting, and 3 people in particular were arrested for conspiracy to commit murder. These people were Muhammad Ib’n Al-Sarwati, Michael Rockwell, and Rachel Dominica-Vasquez. Muhammad Ib’n Al-Sarwati was a 20 year old British student from the University of Oxford, a second year single honour student studying Law. Shocking to think how one so bright and talented could be motivated to commit such acts of violence like this. It was alleged that he had actually prepared the cocktail, along with two other accomplices and by doing so had made himself liable for prosecution at the Crown Court. Rockwell was an older man of 25, native of Brixton – and like Al-Sarwati, studied at Oxford as a postgraduate. The two actually spent a lot of time together, in the Social Justice and Progressives’ society on campus and were very active members. By trade he was a writer for a weekly progressive news journal called “Spotlight”. He too had prepared the cocktail along with his accomplice, and had even a few more on his person, but he had not been the one to throw it. Rachel Dominica-Vasquez, 30 years old, was a Venezuelan-born blogger and graffiti artist, a renowned figure on the internet who cultivated an artistic online persona with her paint tutorials where she blogged about the LGBTQIA+ movement. It was she who, according to prosecution, had thrown the device with the intention of causing damage.
          I followed the trial developments and proceedings as closely as I could, when I sat in the court and watched. The Prosecution, in his opening statement, gave the main arguments. Firstly: the three had chosen to join a raucous political protest march, which was already proclaimed to be forbidden, thus making their political activity unlawful. Second, they had willingly and intentionally prepared a lethal device that would later be used as a weapon to inflict upon a person and cause severe injury, and given the degree of planning they had prepared into this weapon, this made the murder premeditated. Thus, he argued this crime was not merely a hot-blooded incident but “a criminal act of collective violence.”
The Defence, headed by a promising, clever young Law-school grad from Oxford, gave the opening statement made an appeal to the wider audience of society and begged us to consider the social and political context, irrespective of which laws had been broken. This had occurred with the disgraceful double-homicide of a pregnant woman fresh in recent memory. These people felt a connection with the victims of police brutality as they themselves had experienced it; they were all non-white persons who had grown up in streets with a reputation for violence, and social alienation. The Defence even laid the peculiar argument that if all of these defendants were white, they would certainly have been certainly granted mitigation, and cited recent studies and history to draw attention to what he called the Crown Court’s “double standards”.
          After hearing the case, the trial proceeded. Only 2 witnesses were brought to trial. The first being Police Sergeant Fredericks who led the cavalrymen at Westminster bridge, and prepared the baton charge. He testified that Blake was an honourable individual, who always obeyed the law, and would never think to carelessly ignore orders from his superiors. That being the case, he said could not explain why Blake had broken protocol and prematurely approached the crowd. He said that his actions on that day were both “dangerous and unpredictable”, and questioned Blake’s momentary lapse in judgement. The second witness was Julie Winters, the woman who had recorded the film footage which I referred to earlier. Her testimony added little to the body of evidence, other than that she suspected Blake may have tried to help one of the struggling protestors who was being crushed. Upon a rigorous and hostile cross-examination from the Defence, she broke down and confessed that she couldn’t see or hear anything in the chaos.
          Now it was time for the defendants’ cross examination. Dominica-Vasquez took the stand. “I was only trying to defend myself” – her famous opening plea, that instantly became a headline for the tabloids and sensational news stories to come. This resulted in a fierce dialogue between the prosecution and the defendant, but the conversation drifted into the subject of fear. She said that she was really, really frightened, and when she noticed the policeman approaching her so solemnly, and watching him draw his right hand, she feared an attack. It was objected that from a cavalryman’s perspective, this would be the worst thing to do – cavalry charges are meant to be swift and break the nerve of the people they are approaching into running away. However, the jury was, on the whole, sympathetic to her story. I even recall hearing the courtroom murmur as she recited how in her early childhood, growing up in Venezuela, the police had ruthlessly battered her father when they accused him of hiding drugs. She compared the actions of the Metropolitan police with the notoriously more corrupt Venezuelan cops.
          The two other defendants made a similar plea for lenience, because they too had felt threatened during the event. Standing in the midst of a large crowd, carrying placards, and some with weapons, witnessing only one man on his horse approach him slowly reach for something with his hand – that must have indeed been a truly daunting experience. Whatever the case may be, it seemed that the court on generally in an appreciative mood to hear the Defence’s side of the story. The Judge too was giving considerable input, and even threatened to hold the Prosecution in contempt of court when he aggressively questioned the defendants of the use of their weapon.
          Meanwhile, how did the outside world react to this, might I ask? Well suffice it to say, Global Circuit’s side of the story had certainly won the day. In the eyes of the world’s middle class, they were the righteous champions of humanity who made a noble stand against a tyrant on his horse. There was very little, if any, sympathy for the victim in this case. Here, let me just read a few examples from the Twitter Feed:

#Westminster #BBCNews Oh come on! An idiot policeman gets himself killed? Can we get something newsworthy?”

#Westminster Today is a good day for humanity when a policeman is burned to death! Pauline has been avenged! #JusticeforPauline

#GlobalCircuitTrial Who cares!? Stupid tosser shouldn’t have provoked them in the first place. He got what he deserved.”

#GlobalCircuitTrial So @NormanBlake, what’s the weather like in hell?”

“Breaking news: Pig is roasted to death at #WestminsterBridge. Barbeque time!”

            Without exaggeration, it’s fair to say that the vast majority of people sympathised with the defendants’ actions. So much to the extent, that by the end proceedings of the trial, it was clear which side had won. The Defence’s closing statement, to secure mitigation, was centred around an elaborate profile of the victim in this case, to portray him as the aggressor. He explained how he had disobeyed protocol by deliberately approaching the crowd in a provocative manner, how he joyfully intended to use his pepper spray on the front row of protesters, with a menacing glint in his eyes, and had he been given the opportunity he would gladly have lashed out at the protestors as police were “known” to do so. He told of how sudden and unwarranted the presence of the police battalion of cavalrymen were, given the Home Office’s assurance that they would be allowed to continue on with their march, notwithstanding Britain’s absolutely unanimous approval of their cause – thus making Norman’s appearance on duty less dignified. He even gave a vivid depiction of Blake’s early life and psychological profile: how he was raised by a single mother in a small council estate, with a lousy, good-for-nothing father who abandoned him at a very young age, with no higher education qualifications, feeling resentful and angry towards society, seeking a career in the Metropolitan police, blissfully oblivious to the daily sufferings and torment experienced by ethnic minorities, thus deciding to unleash his anger and frustration upon them. For, as he crucially argued, Norman was a white police officer. And it was often typical of white policemen, juries and even people, he argued, to ignore, undermine or trivialise the daily issues faced by ethnic minorities; and Blake was simply the microcosm of a phenomenon which plagued British society as a whole and had allowed the deplorable death of a woman and her unborn child.
          Bearing this in mind, he pleaded a minor sentence, claiming that notwithstanding the serious incident that had occurred, these three unfortunates were blameless victims of a far greater problem that permeated British history, and how the police have historically been known to abuse their own powers. He interestingly made a reference to the notorious “SUS laws” in his speech. For those of you who don’t know, the SUS laws refer to both Section 4 of the Vagrancy Act (1824), and especially, Section 66 of the Metropolitan Police Act, (1839) which reads:

“Any person found committing any offence punishable either upon indictment or as a misdemeanour upon summary conviction by virtue of this Act, may be taken into custody without a warrant by any constable, or may be apprehended by the owner of the property on or with respect to which the offence shall be committed, or by his servant or any person authorised by him, and may be detained until he can be delivered into the custody of a constable to be dealt with according to law; and every such constable may also stop, search and detain… any person who may be reasonably suspected of having or conveying in any manner anything stolen or unlawfully obtained.”

 Together, these two laws permitted any constable to stop, search, and detain any person suspected to commit an arrestable offence, provided they cited the reason why they did so in their notebook. This was used often in the 1970s, and it was widely felt that these Stop and Search laws were being applied disproportionately to Black people, which infamously lead to an outbreak of race riots in Brixton in the year 1981. According to the Defence team, there was a community of disaffected youth in the areas where the defendants lived, which together felt that this behaviour from officers was very common. The Defence pointed out to the court that this was the basis under which the Met had operated to find and arrest Pauline Prince, and to reduce her status and her child’s status as a common criminal, and to treat her as an enemy of the state. And Police Constable Norman Blake was a symbol of the very system that had allowed this atrocity to occur in the first place. Therefore, in this case, Police Officer Blake’s death was not unjustified.
          This argument, if nothing else, had had a very compelling effect on the audience. In any case, it had certainly prevailed in the Judge’s decision. The Judge’s ruling was that the defendants together were under considerable mental stress and had engaged in “justifiable self-defence”, given the circumstances. He sentenced them all to 3-years’ imprisonment, which he would postpone until November. He also granted that they would both be able to appeal against the ruling, and be eligible for parole.
          The media celebrated the Judge’s decision, with an article in The Guardian calling it “A triumph for human rights everywhere”. The New Statesman called the defendants’ barrister a “Good-intentioned, sober-minded man” and even compared him with Clarence Darrow. The twitter feed, as one can guess, received the trial’s outcome very positively. The Police Commissioner, and the Home Secretary both capitulated to the verdict and social pressure which followed, and soon held a conference wherein they would institute new reforms to root out “systemic racism and corruption” in the Metropolitan police ranks. Jason Prince remarked that he was pleased with the verdict, and was beginning to see “improvement” in British attitudes towards corruption. Oxford Union even invited the three defendants to give a talk about their experience later in the year. Norman Blake was forever stamped in the mud of history as a villain and a thug who abused his powers. And that was the end of that.
          Or so the world thought. The next development in the saga came 2 months later,
roughly 2 months before they were due for their sentence hearing. On the 13th of August, all 3 of the defendants were reported missing. The barrister who represented them was also found missing. As the days went by, their disappearance began to attract more media attention, with police appealing for witness information, and the families of the disappeared raising funds for their safe return. A reward of £5,000 was promised. This later increased to £10,000, then £20,000.
          Day by day, there were more articles raising concern for the safety and well-being of the three “brave protestors” and suspecting foul play. The three civil activists became subject to a nationwide manhunt, making them the most sought-after missing persons since Madeleine McCann. Suspicion fell on people who were linked with Right-wing extremist groups, but no further developments came of that since no evidence could be found linking them with the victims’ disappearance. Then eventually, the days grew into weeks, then into months. The Police Commissioner made a speech on television explaining how earnestly he was coordinating teams to find out where they were, to successfully retrieve the three people who had killed one of their own. He was under intense pressure, and the met gave regular updates on the progress of their own investigation. He gave the solemn vow: “We are doing everything in our power to see about the safe return of Al-Sarwati, Rockwell, and Vasquez.”
          But no progress was made. Months had passed into the next year, and their grieving families were still granted no results. Finally, one year after their disappearance, the one heading the investigation into their disappearance, a Superintendent Nathan Simmonds made his solemn oath on BBC news:

“We will not give up. We are still appealing to the public for information – we will not stop until we’ve found them. We have a duty to maintain the lives of our citizens, and we will never abandon those in need. Alive or otherwise, we will eventually find them – and we will bring the perpetrator, or perpetrators responsible for this straight to justice. I implore all of you to remain calm and cooperate, because as long as we remain united, and the British people keep their faith in us, we will do our duty and find the three activists and the man that represented them, and bring them back safe and sound. It’s not a question of if, but when.”

Yet I remain unconvinced by this façade. I do not think you will ever find the four missing persons, Mr. Simmonds – certainly not alive, at the very least. Why am I so certain of this? Because I killed them and buried them, myself.
          The March on London lost its legitimacy from the beginning. Global Circuit, however honourable they held themselves to be, had no right to carry on with their march and disobey the Home Office’s decree, regardless of their precious ideals – they clearly thought they were above the law, and decided to disregard the authority of the British Home Office when they saw fit. If the Home Secretary had had any spine, he would have ordered serials of riot police immediately and arrested those troublemakers on the spot. Instead, he bent over backwards like an utter fool, and let them taint their civil cause for all eternity by murdering a police officer and blaming their actions on the victim. I might add that Global Circuit’s narrative of perceived police brutality is all based on false statistics, circumstantial evidence, and curiously does not explain how the overtly racist white supremacist London Metropolitan police managed to allow 13% of its own ranks to be comprised of people from ethnic minority backgrounds.
          Molotov cocktails are dangerous makeshift weapons that inflict serious harm to those it is thrown at, and can sometimes kill, just as we observed. So ask yourself; What sort of self-respecting political protest group allows them to be brought along to a protest march, in the first place? These are dangerous weapons, and any person who attends a protest with the intention of using them is clearly not interested in preserving law and order, but rather terrorising the general public by causing damage to suit their political agenda. In doing so, he reduces the value of the whole protest group to that of a domestic terrorist organisation. This was not simply a mindless act of criminal violence, but worse than that – it was a mindful act of criminal violence.
          And that wonderful speech by the well-groomed lawyer about the “SUS laws”. A very interesting story, especially when one considers that the SUS laws were phased out and made defunct since the year 1981, during the aftermath of the Brixton riots; they were actually replaced with a revised stop and search code of laws known as PACE, which clarified the legal context under which such action would be permissible, even imposing a time limit for how long the suspects could be detained. He certainly made no mention of that in his speech. And could he not even provide statistics or facts to indicate the police were still accustomed to unlawful stop and search without flimsy, anecdotal evidence from people who never even made an appearance, or were even referred to during the trial?
          The Defence, whom I refuse to name, was a black-hearted fiend of no integrity. His plea was all based on emotional rhetoric, and mainly predicated on the notion of skin colour, unverifiable statistics and vague sentiments of discontent by people whose make-believe stories he had likely invented by himself. He was so consumed by his own tales, stirring up the secret prejudices of the jury, lecturing them how despicable and complicit white men were in the workings of systemic racism; it was as if he’d forgotten that he himself was also a white man. He’d successfully manipulated the feelings of the British people into thinking that the victim was actually the perpetrator, and the perpetrators the victims. And while Norman Blake had suffered a most gruesome and unjust death in lawless and horrific circumstances, what had reviled me even more, to the point where I felt nauseous, was how this vermin had the temerity to kill him again after his death with his lies and glib narrative of how he grew up to hate society, with the sole intention of portraying him as an opportunistic bully who was deliberately out to cause trouble. I could not believe what I was hearing. In all my 50 years of being alive, never before did I experience such uncontrollable feelings of anger and hatred towards a man. I became unhealthy just thinking about it. I lost my appetite. I couldn’t concentrate. I spent all my days drinking myself to sleep.
          You see, there is one more additional detail that I did not mention earlier. Norman Blake was not just an extraordinary individual with a great moral fibre, a heart of gold, a wonderful sense of humour, and one of the bravest men who ever lived. He was my son. All this time I spent by myself, living alone in a spiral of sorrow and regret, I feared that Norman would never accept me into his life after he learned the truth about me. I had been an irresponsible man in my day; I hooked up long ago with a girl in a nightclub, left her months later when I found out about her pregnancy, and never saw nor spoke to her again… until one day I noticed her name in the obituaries. I knew I had to visit our child and see how he was, or I would never forgive myself. I looked high and low for him, and when I finally found the flat where he lived, I deliberately chose the house straight next to his so I could keep watch, under the guise of his friendly older neighbour. I wanted to tell him everything… about how much I loved him and how proud I was to see that he’d made something of himself… but I just couldn’t approach him. I was terrified of what I feared he might say to me. But now it’s too late. I let him down. I should have been there to protect him, but I failed. I failed him as a father, and I failed as a human being. He was gone, and the whole world had mindlessly cast him away into the pit of evil. I knew that the only thing I could do to restore my peace of mind, would be to avenge his death and correct the ludicrous travesty that had besmirched our nation’s history. I thus began to set in motion a chain of events that would eventually grant him the last word.
          Finding the three activists was ridiculously easy. Especially given how, in this day and age, it seems that nobody is interested in keeping information private. With a little help from the internet, I found soon that coincidentally, the three murderers (or activists – whichever you believe) lived within fairly close proximity of each other. The lawyer had a manor in Chelsea, and a firm in Mayfair. My plan was simple. With my day job as a concert promoter, I tracked each of them and promised them front row tickets to CAPITAL radio’s new Jingle Bell Ball, with backstage passes – which they were made to believe were almost entirely sold out. Of course, the tickets were not genuine at all, but I had my ways of convincing them, and I even had my connections to prove it. I even pretended to be avid follower of their trial and had been planning to grant them the tickets for a long time to show them how much I admired them. The idiots grinned at the prospect of free tickets and fell for my trap hook, line and sinker. I lured them to a remote spot to “validate their tickets”, and knocked them out with a shovel. Then I tied them, and locked them in the back of a white van.
Now that snake of a lawyer was more difficult to ensnare. I had to think of a really convincing lie to get to him – this is a lawyer I’m talking about, remember. I had to get creative. Somehow I convinced him that I too was a lawyer who worked for a helpline for people who had experienced discrimination in the workplace – and I had 13 female clients who were willing to testify under oath that they were unfairly subjected to sexual harrassment at a large banking firm. Of course, I explained that the particulars of the case was privileged information that I could not disclose over the phone, but I told him that I was looking for a top-class legal team who was willing to represent these people in a mega lawsuit that has actually been involved in a similar scandal in the past decade, and would thus be likely to capitulate with a large settlement – and I was scouting for the right people who I knew would be good members of the team. He was sceptical at first, and asked why I hadn’t gone through the trouble of representing them myself. I explained my clients were convinced that I alone was not competent enough, and needed a top-class team of people who would together stand a chance; since it was possible that they too would have a dedicated team of lawyers at their own disposal. I pulled all of his strings. Some little people in need of help. And a lot of money. And only he, a smart, well-educated Oxford lawyer with a huge ego, could do it. He was initially reluctant do so, as he explained he was a “criminal lawyer” (the perfect way to describe him, I must say) and had little experience in litigation and the civil court. But as the prospect of an easy win, and lots of money and fame for his firm sounded tentatively close, he at last agreed to meet with me in person, so that he could see the outlines of the case and later he’d agree to see if it was worth his time. All of the clients were imaginary, of course, but he didn’t know. I went through the trouble of designing my fake company’s web page, and made it so immaculately detailed, so he would think I was legitimate. I even prepared a brown dossier, which contained the “privileged information about the case”. We would first meet up in a café – and I was sure to order the same drink as him. Once we sat together, I told him tall tales of how my imaginary clients had been catcalled, groped and given crude nicknames, and were so terrified of legal retribution none of them had come forward, all while he listened intently. Little did he suspect two important things:
          Firstly, The brown dossier of “privileged information” I was holding as I spoke to him, was full of blank A4 paper. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking at the time, but it was an extraordinary bluff, and it paid off. Secondly, I slipped a little something in his drink. Our meeting was soon over. I handed him the document, sealed, and with the words “CLASSIFIED” on the front, so he would not just casually open and read it there and then. Then shortly after we shook hands, he began to feel a little light-headed. I accompanied him outside the shop, and lured him towards the car park, making sure we weren’t being followed or on camera or anything. Then I struck him on the back of the neck, and carried him to the back of the van. I then drove all the way over to the Scottish Highlands, to a particular spot where I had enjoyed many holidays in the past.
By now, it was the dead of night, and all my prisoners were still sound asleep. I was careful to keep them asleep with powerful drugs for the whole trip. I had bought a casket for each of them, and I lowered each body into each one, then watched their terrified faces as I sealed each one shut with some nails and a hammer. Then I joyfully dug some large holes in the ground, and chucked each coffin deep in the earth, before burying them alive and leaving them to rot in the dirt. I still remember the squeals; the frantic knocks upon the coffin doors – the cries for help! Each of them had soon begun to realise what was happening to them – it was justice! Once I was satisfied with my work, I planted a large wooden stick in the ground; in the midst of where their bodies were buried, to commemorate their demise. The years have long gone by, and the bodies have never been disturbed since. The stick remains unmoved to this day.
          Am I a good person? The answer is obviously no. I have repeatedly committed sin after sin – the worst one was turning my back on my son and my family the way I did. I am a selfish, cruel and cowardly man. But unlike me, my son was none of those things. He was the most pure and excellent being that ever came into this world. It was so unfair that he had somebody as rotten as me for a father. He was a noble man; one who believed in the law and made a stand for the British people; despite what they all did to him. Now 5 years have passed since then, and here I stand before the grave, looking down on the burial stick. Will I eventually confess my crime to the police? Who knows? Maybe it’s a secret that I will take with me to the grave. But this much I can be sure of: justice has finally been done for my son. All I have to do now is prepare myself for the justice that lies in wait for me.

Norman Blake,Muhammad Ib’n Al-Sarwati, Jason Rockwell, Rachel Dominica-Vasquez, and… the lawyer… may they all rest in peace.

“Geraldine” Atkins

[First published on Writers’ Block, on March 11, 2016.]

Though “Geraldine” Atkins was considered by many to be a crazed lunatic, he was better known as an entertainer. Through his years as a performing artist and a piano player, he had cultivated a bizarre and freakish personality, which earned him much notoriety around the Home Counties. He was not world famous, nor nationwide, but mainly thought to be a local sensation.

He played the piano religiously as a young child but did not become a professional until well into his 30s. His first ever concert was at a bar in Soho, 1972, and since then he had been building on his reputation. What made him significant was his ability to flaunt his sexuality and link it with his own music. What’s more, he also liked to dress himself as a woman. This was a unique aspect of his stage persona, and he succeeded so well in this regard that it was impossible to tell at first glance whether he was male or female. Indeed, since he usually spoke with an abnormally high-pitched voice, and that in all his mannerisms he was largely effeminate, he sounded just like a woman too. His timing in entering the public scene also coincided with Britain’s generation of LGBT performers who were entering the public limelight; David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, and the like. Capitalising on this gay revolution, as it were, Geraldine Atkins was indeed, a star.

His fame and his infamy (he was rumoured to be a male prostitute, and continually harassed by the police) declined gradually into the 21st century, but in all his foppish and fabulous splendour, he was still very much in the game. As a pianist, his material was neither bawdy, nor risqué, and in fact actually sounded much reminiscent of some of the old-fashioned and respectable love ballads that he enjoyed hearing as a young child; mainly from 1920s Broadway productions, or even songs set during the wars. However, he was first and foremost a composer, and for inspiration, he looked directly up to the likes of Noel Coward and Liberace. Right at this point, dressed in a pretty pink frock, with a straw ladies’ hat, he was playing his song which he had written in the style of a wartime ballad: “Great Britain, Great Britain, Great Britain…”

“Great Britain, Great Britain, Great Britain…
On the parchment of history ‘tis written
O, how our enemies shall soon be smitten
Great Britain, Great Britain, Great Britain…

 When his performance ended, he was met with a round of applause, and cutely bowed before his audience three times, then closed his piano down, and walked straight over to the counter for a drink. He had often wondered whether his fame was down to pure merit, or simply down to the controversy, but then he had never wanted to find out. By the end of his performance, he drove off in his 1980s BMW, retreating back to his cottage in the country. As he drove past, there was a notice on a nearby telegraph pole, conspicuous enough to be seen from 50 yards away, with a picture of a teenage girl’s face on it. The notice read:

“MISSING PERSON: SAMANTHA GREENWAY, AGE 16
On the 20th March at around 3:30 PM, Samantha Greenway was walking home from school when she disappeared. She was last spotted in Elmsley Common, wearing a pink dress and carrying a brown leather handbag. She is 16 years old, has brown hair, blue eyes, and is 5ft10. If you have any information that may lead to her whereabouts, then please dial 999.
-Surrey County Police”

The girl in the picture was really pretty. She had a charming, youthful and innocent smile, with delightful white teeth, and adorable blue-green eyes.

As Geraldine pulled into his driveway, he parked and moved carefully out of his old banger of a car. Then, not forgetting his parasol and his walking stick, he entered his old cottage. He carefully balanced his stick and his parasol in the closet, then walked into the kitchen. He put on the kettle, and as he did, Grimalkin purred as she leapt up near the kitchen sink. He gently stroked her black fur, as the kettle grew more noisier. Then he remembered to feed her. “There’s a good puss… good girl…” he murmured. Once the kettle was singing, he poured himself some Earl Grey, gently blew over it, and then took a sip.

There was a quiet rattling noise, coming from somewhere within the house. Geraldine sprang into action; like he had almost forgotten. “Gosh! I need to check on my new guest, don’t I!?” He carefully hobbled along to a door next to that of the living room. He fetched a key from his ring, unlocked then opened it, and walked down the stairs which lead into what looked like a downstairs attic. It had a creaky wooden floor, and the walls were wooden and bare. The room was cold, as it did not have central heating. In fact, it wasn’t even part of the floor plan. Geraldine had dug and manufactured it himself. In a remote corner of the room was a metal cage with iron bars, lying in the corner frightened, was Samantha Greenway.


Annabel and her friends were really excited. She had never owned a dollhouse before, and she could barely contain herself. It was the best birthday present she’d ever had, and as far as she knew, probably the only one she’d need for years to come. All of her friends were here, celebrating this magnificent model with her.

“Let’s let Susie in the bedroom!”
“No Susie can’t be there, it’s not her bedtime!”

Just at that moment, Mother walked in, with a wide-eyed toddler beside her. “Girls?” she called out. “Gerald wants to play with you. Are you going to let him?” Annabel sighed. Not this again. Why couldn’t Gerald play with his own friends? “But Mummy! Gerald’s a boy! Boys can’t play with us!” Mother cooed. “Please… look at him. He loves his big sister. He desperately wants to play with you. Don’t you dear, Gerald?” Gerald looked really happy, but didn’t know how to express himself.

Annabel groaned. “I wish I had a younger sister instead.” Mother opened the door. “I don’t want to hear any arguing. Is that clear? Just let Gerald play with your dolls, and be nice to him.” Gerald toddled over to his older sister, and pointed to the house, which was almost bigger than he was. In an effort to get attention, he announced in front of Annabel and her friends, in as much English as he could: “It’s big!” Annabel’s friends were beginning to feel sorry for him. “Come over here, Gerald, help Susan get dressed for her day at school.” “No! Wendy! Gerald can’t play with dolls! Don’t let him touch her!”

This made Gerald very upset. He started to cry, and suddenly all of Annabel’s friends were enchanted by him. They all gathered around him, and did their best to calm him down. Annabel stood there defiantly. “He can’t play with us, Wendy. He’s a boy. Boys aren’t allowed to play with girls.” Then immediately, one of Annabel’s friends had an idea. “I know!” shouted Barbara, with sudden excitement. “Let’s turn him into a girl!” The other girls snickered at this. Gerald was happy that he was getting all this lovely attention.

“No, you can’t do that Barbara!” Annabel retorted, as if she was telling her off. “Yes we can!” shouted Daisy. “All we need to do is make him wear a dress!”
This made every girl’s eyes light up. Gerald didn’t know what was going on, but he felt that something fun was about to happen. “Annabel, can we use one of your frocks?” asked Wendy. Annabel was hesitant at first, but after all her friends insisted, she reluctantly ran upstairs to her chest of drawers, pulling out a small, crumpled children’s white frock, patterned with acorns and leaves. With diligent care, she eased it over Gerald, who willingly stood as still as he could. All of Annabel’s friends gasped, then giggled. “He looks beautiful!” said Daisy.

“She looks beautiful!” corrected Eileen. Gerald turned around, admiring the smiles he got from his new friends. Annabel, however, was still not convinced. “He’s still not really a girl” she muttered, obstinately…

 

 

Samantha was lying against the far corner of her cage, feeling rather tired. She had little memory of what happened last night. She was walking back from school, when an elderly lady was walking near her. She continued on her course… when suddenly she fell into a deep sleep. What happened? Why would she just fall asleep in the middle of a wood? That’s just bizarre…

She soon felt more alert, and her head was beginning to feel sore from where her head had been resting against the iron bars of the cage… a cage! She was in a cage! She was still feeling partly woozy from her long sleep, and wasn’t sure if this was a dream or not. But the loud rattle of the cage door assured her that this was no dream. She did not recognise any of her surroundings; she had never been anywhere like this before. Had she been kidnapped? Then, hearing a door open from not far away, and the gentle patter of footsteps, she noticed a strange feminine figure enter the room, and the turning on of a light. She began to feel really frightened. She had no idea where she was, but was clearly nowhere familiar. And her phone and purse had been taken. Where was she? And who was that person at the other side of the room she saw? Soon, the figure moved closer. Samantha was beginning to question in her head whether it was male or female. They were wearing a pink dress, but also had a fairly ambiguous body frame and facial profile. She waited to hear this person speak, so that she would find out.

Then, she remembered! That old lady she’d seen in the park! This was her! She noticed the “old lady” walking beside her, then all of a sudden she gripped her tightly and smothered her face with a napkin, which must have been laced with some sort of sleeping agent. That’s why she felt sleepy. Then, the figure presented their face to the front of the cage. Even now she was still uncertain whether her captor was a man or a woman. “Are you awake?” Geraldine asked her. The figure spoke with soft, feminine voice – it was impossible to tell what their sex was. Maybe she’d never find out. But she felt much too frightened to ask.

“Time to wake up.” Geraldine rang in a monotone. Samantha moved towards the source of the voice, and uttered weakly “Who – who are you? What have you done to me?” Geraldine rose and turned away. “I’ve taken you to my secret room, darling. I need you here.”
Samantha had no clue what was going on.  “First, I need your dress.” Samantha began to fear the worst. She looked at him, feeling more and more freaked out by each passing second. “My – my dress?”
“Yes dear, I need your dress. Kindly take it off, please.”
Samantha curled into a ball. “Please… don’t… don’t hurt me!”
“I won’t harm you if you do exactly as I say. Take off your dress, now.” Samantha wondered if he was being serious.
“And… if I do… you’ll – you promise you won’t hurt me?”

Geraldine was beginning to feel more and more impatient.
“For God’s sake, you little bitch! Just take off that dress now!”
She yelped, and began to undress. She tried not to pay any attention to the eerie gaze of this bizarre person who was carefully looking at her. Once she had removed it, she handled it with great care, and bundled her dress together. “He – here..” she delicately extended her dress. Now, wearing nothing more than her undergarments, she was beginning to feel more exposed to the cold air, and goosebumps were appearing all over her delicate skin.

Then, to Samantha’s own amazement, the strange figure of a person took her dress away, and did not seem intent on harming her. Instead, he began to strip himself, with a view to wearing it himself. Now, seeing his hirsute bodily figure, she was beginning to feel more certain that she was talking to a man. A man wearing ladies’ knickers, and a brassiere. Samantha was feeling perplexed, and more and more uncertain of her fate. She had read one or two horror stories in the news about deranged lunatics who kidnapped girls around her age, and forced them into all kinds of degrading sexual acts, before savagely killing them. She began to bite her lip… she did not want to die. Not like this. And she was absolutely freezing. Where was her family now? What about the police? Were they all busy searching for her? And this weirdo – who on earth was he? Was he a registered sex offender, on their wanted list? She’d never seen him around the neighbourhood before. She was beginning to regret being so blissfully ignorant of the goings-on in the local county.

Once Geraldine put on Samantha’s dress, he began to pirouette with practised diligence, then curtsied right in front of her. What was he going to do now? Was he going to ask her to take off her bra and knickers too? Instead, Geraldine headed back to the stairs leading out of the basement. No! How long was he going for? In this freezing cold! How was she going to survive?

 

“I know what we need to make her more beautiful!” exclaimed Wendy, “Let’s put a tiara on her head, and then she’ll be a princess!”
Annabel just stood in front of all her friends, wistfully longing for their attention. To her, this was nothing short of unspeakable. Blasphemous. And yet, none of her friends seemed to care – dressing her baby brother in all manner of frocks, and giving her all sorts of inappropriate headwear. And to top it all off, he had stolen away all her friends just by being cute. Annabel didn’t even think he was that cute, really. He was three years old – two years her junior, and yet, he was the one who commanded the respect of girls older than him. It was not fair!

“Come on, Annabel, help us!”

Annabel couldn’t take it anymore. She stormed out of the room and walked to the garden, where she saw Mother watering the roses. Everything in the garden looked so much more beautiful and appealing than what she was seeing in there. It was peaceful and sunny. A perfect distraction from-
“-Anna… Annabel!” She turned around, and saw Gerald – (of all people!) running towards her. She was surprised; he even sounded like a girl now. And now he followed her here. He was clearly mocking her. 

“Gerald!? Is that you?” Mother called out, bewildered.Once she came up close and saw everything, she burst out laughing. “Annabel… look! You’ve made Gerald into a lady now! Now you have a little sister!”
Annabel was cross. She folded her arms.
“He’s not my sister, Mummy. He’s just being really silly. Everyone’s being silly. They think he’s a girl.”
Mother still could barely control herself. “Geraldine!” She moved forward and picked him up in her arms. “From now on, your name shall be Geraldine.” “But Mummy!” she wailed.
“It’s not fair! Boys aren’t supposed to play dress up like that!”
Mother turned affectionately to her eldest.
“Annabel, my dear… why can’t you just pretend like everybody else? He doesn’t mind!”
To this, Gerald smiled in approval. Annabel couldn’t. There was no way.

As long as Gerald was a…

…Wait!
Annabel suddenly had a thought. A most brilliant idea! What if she decided to really make Gerald into a girl? Then instead of an annoying little brother, she could have a pretty young sister instead! Imagine how well they would get on, and how much they’d be able to share together – it would be just perfect! And she knew exactly how she was going to do it. But she would probably need some help from her friends first. She rushed inside the house, leaving Gerald behind in a hurry.


All her friends gasped at this suggestion. “But that’s even more wrong!” objected Daisy. “Mummy will be very cross!”
“No!” Annabel insisted, “It’s perfect! It will really work!”
“But he is a girl now; we just made him one!” protested Eileen.
No he isn’t really. It’s just pretend,” responded Annabel. “But when we do this, we won’t have to pretend anymore.” Soon Annabel’s friends were all taken by this suggestion. A mischievous smile formed on each their faces. They were all planning to do something really naughty.
“When shall we do it?” asked Wendy?
“Let’s do it tomorrow morning!”
said Daisy. And once they happily reached a decision, then all resolved to walk outside and accompany Gerald. They took him to the swings and slides. Now Annabel was happy. Lifting young Gerald onto the slide, Annabel began to push. “Soon Gerald, you really will be my little sister!”
Annabel’s friends giggled mercilessly at this. Gerald laughed, still not knowing what was going on…


Samantha could see the vapour from her breath as she exhaled. It was so cold in this dank little basement. How long had she been waiting here for? How much longer would she last? While busy dwelling on this, however, a shadow protruding in the basement told her that her captor had returned. He was carrying what looked like an umbrella, and a CD player. He plugged the CD in the wall.

“Umm… excuse me… excuse me… sir?”

Samantha’s captor stopped dead in his tracks and turned slowly towards her. “I’m… I’m really cold. Can I… Can I have my dress back?” Something appeared to snap in the crazy man’s eyes. “What did you just say, dear?”

“I…” she began, nervously “I’m just… so cold. I’d really like my dress back.” The man looked like he was beginning to calm down. “Yes… yes… your dress. You’d like your dress back. I’ll umm… I’ll get you-”

He turned back and began to fumble around in a small wooden box.
“Get you… get you your-”
Then once he’d found what he was looking for, he turned around, and retrieved what appeared to be a whip.
“WHAT DID YOU JUST CALL ME!?”
Samantha shrieked, and curled into a ball
“Sir!? SIR!? SIR!? Do I look like a SIR to you!??” flipped the madman.
Then, he began to reach through the cage, and whip her hard over her bare legs and shoulders. She wailed and howled at the stinging pain.
“You… you bitch! You rude little bitch! You bitch, you bitch, you rude, naughty little bitch!” Samantha did her best to apologise, despite the pain she suffered from her flogging.“I’m sorry – I’m so sorry – I’m so sorry- I’m so sorry… Miss.. Ms! Madame! Madame, please don’t hurt me! I’m so sorry – I swear! I won’t call you that I swear! I won’t call you that again!”

Geraldine moved closer to the cage. He began to undress again.
“Look at this!” he exclaimed. The old man then dropped his knickers, and Samantha saw something that was freakishly disgusting. What she saw was no recognisable part of human anatomy. It was what appeared to be an empty space with a bright pink trail of torn stitch marks where a distinct lump mass of flesh was missing. There was a small plastic tube that ran midway through it. It made him look neither male nor female. If anything, it made him resemble Frankenstein’s monster. Whatever it was that happened down there, it looked the result of several botched surgical operations that had been done by no professional. Samantha held her nose and covered her eyes. She was going to be sick. She couldn’t bear to look at it any longer.
“Huh!?” Geraldine quizzed. “You think this is disgusting!? Well, aren’t you a delightful little thing!? I was looking forward to both of us revelling in our shared womanhood together!”

Samantha could not hold it in any longer. She puked all over the cage floor. Geraldine rolled his eyes and began to lose his temper. 
“You are just like everybody else…” he spluttered “You…-You don’t know what it’s like… you live an ordinary life… you’ve never even thought to question what you were! In another life… in another universe… I could have been just as beautiful and insipid as you.” Then, pulling up his knickers, he thwacked the cage door in frustration. There was a loud clink noise. Samantha did her best to distance herself from the pile of sick. “Now…” he began “First, you’re going to clean up that pile of sick, and then we’re going to try this again from the start.” He rummaged through his box and found an old tea towel and some Febreeze.
“As soon as… as… as soon…” The old man started to feel faint. His face slurred, and half of his face appeared to lag as if it was no longer functioning. He looked as if he was having a stroke.
“As… soon as we…”

Then, he tumbled down and collapsed in front of the cage door, and after nearly a whole minute writing in helplessness, he passed out cold on the floor. Samantha noticed he was carrying what looked like a set of keys in his right hand. It was too far away for her arms to reach, so, carefully navigating around the pile of vomit, she reached out with her bare leg and clasped onto it. Success!

She quickly tested all the different keys (There were 6) on the cage lock, and soon enough, she was free. She immediately snatched her dress off the lifeless old man lying before her, and wanted to bolt for the exit, immediately but stopped herself. She looked at the deranged geriatric lying on the ground, and for some reason, even she couldn’t understand, she pitied him. Whatever it was that turned him into this, she reasoned that he was, some way or another, completely wrecked by something traumatic that happened to him as a child. Then, she snapped out of her pitying trance at once, and made her way up the basement stairs as quickly as she could…

…Geraldine awoke. Where was the girl gone? She was there in her cage just a few minutes ago. What happened? The pile of sick was still there… but the door was open. How… The keys! She’d taken the keys. Geraldine let out a deep sigh of resignation. This was it. He’d taken a permanent leap across the threshold and there was no going back after this. All his life, he’d wanted to be accepted for who he was, by everyone who knew him. But he knew that he would always be seen a circus freak. Cast out by his family, his neighbourhood, and his town, he knew that his only option was to reinvent himself and make the best of whatever life he had left. But he had too much to contend with; living an excruciating charade where he lived as neither man nor woman but a freak show.

It was not enough for him to live within a perpetually degrading and unfulfilling drag act; he wanted something he knew he could never have; to actually be a woman and to be accepted as one. And with no success, he pulled this one final stunt. He vowed to conquer and revenge the very sex that had ruined him in the first place, by kidnapping a young girl and humiliating, outperforming… defeminising her. But was it not significant that his old, crippled and neglected body waited for this particular moment to shut down on him? It was just as if he had gone against its wishes. He defiled his own identity as a woman. And now all was lost. Whatever he had that kept him determined to carry on throughout his life… had finally gone. In the faint distance, he heard what sounded like sirens wailing outside. It was time. He opened his old wooden box and pulled out a service revolver, which his father had left to him. He placed the cold metal nose in his mouth. He closed his eyes. Then he heard several raps against the front door upstairs. Regretting his life, he exhaled deep pity and regret for his pathetic life. “Police! Open the door!” Then he pulled the trigger. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the swan song of “Geraldine” Atkins.

 

 

“Shhh…” whispered Annabel. “Here he comes.”
Gerald was waltzing proudly through the lounge. Then, he saw Annabel and smiled at her. “Gerald! Come here! Good boy!” Gerald ran as fast as he could. Annabel led her out to the garden and turned towards him.
“Gerald… you can’t play with us as long as you’re a boy.”
Gerald cheekily smiled with an oblivious look of excitement.

“So…” Annabel smirked, “we’re going to turn you into a girl!”

Then, out of nowhere, all of Annabel’s friends emerged from behind, jumped him and held him to the ground. Gerald was taken by surprise, and massively uncomfortable. Annabel walked across to the patio and picked up her mother’s terrifying large pair of garden secateurs. “Pull down his pants!” Gerald finally realised what was happening, and began to struggle and scream. But they blocked his mouth with their hands and held him down harder. Once Gerald’s pants were down, and the operation was underway, Annabel advanced slowly towards him, motioning to cut with the giant scissors. Gerald squirmed and fidgeted, and looked to find any trace of humanity in his big sister’s eyes.
“Hold still Gerald! This won’t hurt if you sit still!”
Then, she opened the blades, lowered them carefully, and proceeded…

“From now on, your name shall be “Geraldine” Atkins!” At this moment, Mother came into the garden and witnessed everything. She was mortified, and absolutely speechless. She began to felt unwell, and noticeably unhinged by the nightmarish scene in front of her. She immediately ran towards Geraldine and inspected the damage up close… then turned with horror to see the innocent look on Annabel’s face, as she wiped away the blood on her face.

“Look, Mummy! I made Gerald into a girl!”

EPILOGUE

3-year-old Geraldine was taken to the local hospital, which did their best to repair the damage, though he fell into a coma, and did not awaken until 3 years later. Once the details of this incident became public, Penelope Atkins was deemed unfit to be a mother and lost custody of her children. She later committed suicide. Once he finally woke up, Geraldine was left in the care of his grandparents, who would scorn and reject him, seeing him as a nothing more than a “mistake”, who would never amount to anything.

Living an isolated life, Geraldine found solace in playing the piano. It was the activity he could regularly attend to that distracted him somewhat from his complications, and his life. It took him decades before he finally managed to cultivate his stage personality. Though still not satisfied with the surgery performed on him, he would frequently inject himself with morphine, apply a needle and thread to see if he could finalise his transition into womanhood. But he never succeeded. In death, he died as much as he lived; unsexed, and alone. But in his death, he had sparked even greater curiosity and infamy than he did while he was alive. In the neighbourhood where he lived since, there has been an increase in reports of young local girls aged 15-18, who had mysteriously vanished while walking around the public footpaths. But that’s not all. Local residents have even told vague tales of the faint noise of “piano-playing” and even singing nearby every March, even though the house has since long been abandoned. And the song they reported hearing would always sound like this…

“Great Britain, Great Britain, Great Britain…
On the parchment of history ‘tis written
O, how our enemies shall soon be smitten
Great Britain, Great Britain, Great Britain!”

The New King of London

[First published on Writers’ Block, on March 11, 2016.]

It was all over the news. It was all I could hear my family talk about. Even outside, in our quiet, private neighbourhood there was an open sense of panic and unrest.
I couldn’t focus properly on what was being said on the TV, but the news ticker that continuously scrolled across the bottom of the screen read out loud and clear:
“BREAKING NEWS: Confirmed sighting of nuclear missiles aimed towards British Isles.”
From what I could gather amidst the chaos, it was very likely that our entire country and many others nearby were about to be destroyed. Then, the interview cut to a different screen as the T.V narrator in a dry and impersonal manner read out this message:
“A week ago, when North Korea’s president, Kim Jong-Un violated several decrees by the U.N and moved forces towards South Korea with clear intent on invasion and annexation, the U.N, in a heightened state of anxiety, spent 3 frantic days of deliberation before issuing their final ultimatum: Either Jong-Un step down at once, and surrender all arms or face immediate war. The United Kingdom, the United States of America, and several other government representative bodies all pledged allegiance to this writ, and Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon solemnly vowed “severe consequences” if he did not resign from office. However, Jong-Un’s drastic response was beyond anticipation. Shortly after the missiles were detected in the sky, which was picked up by American satellites, he chillingly remarked in a televised speech that both the United Kingdom and America “will pay dearly for this thoughtless resolution.

“Your citizens’ lives will all be destroyed as a consequence of the reckless actions of their government. For too long… [The United Nations], run by greedy, dishonest, and selfish money loving capitalists, has stood in the way of [North Korea’s] freedom, and exercised bullying tactics to keep her submissive. Embargoes, unjust decrees and threats of war. Now you shall all know annihilation.”

“-The missiles” the report continued, “are reputed to travel at a speed of 300mph and are approximately 30 minutes from reaching British airspace. They were launched suddenly, and without any kind of warning, from a military base located in the Pacific Ocean; only a few hundred miles from Europe. They were hard to track due to their inbuilt resistance to radar, and given the tardiness of the response of Her Majesty’s defence force, evacuation will be impossible. Britain faces immediate destruction within approximately 30 minutes.”

There was even a small timer in the bottom right corner of the screen that read “28:47 seconds”; giving a rough estimate of the time it would take before the missiles reached British soil. I didn’t know by that stage if the US government or British government had retaliated with a similar move, but then in the next half-hour or so, nothing would even matter anymore.
26:33…
26:14…

25:49…

My family had invited our friends from next door over. They were all talking, but I couldn’t focus properly on what they were saying. I wasn’t in shock, nor was I afraid of death; I was just a little perplexed. For all the time I had been alive on Earth, everything around me just seemed to be perfectly still. Dull, I might add.
Now, in the face of this missile crisis, chaos was everywhere. Suddenly, mass hysteria was breaking out. I could only describe it as interesting. It would be something that my great-grandfathers, and their grandfathers, and all before them could not possibly even imagine. A whole country disappearing before their eyes. In a way, I felt privileged. Here I am writing a first person narrative of the end of the world; in which I will be a witness and the main character. I felt distinctly endowed with a newfound sense of freedom.

22:18…
21:59…
21:32…

Jeanette from Number 17 had also come by. She was absolutely tearful, broken and wanted me to hold on to her. I thought I might as well, seeing as this was probably the last ever occasion it would happen. She was just so worried, so pale, so sad… and I couldn’t understand any of it. She held rather tightly, so tightly that I almost wanted her to stop. I was in a mood for private reflection and I didn’t want this.

20:46…
20:29…
19:48…

Then Jeanette finally let go and started talking with some of my brothers and sisters. I was most relieved. At that point, I decided to walk outside. I looked into the sky, wondering where these strange, mythical weapons of mass destruction were. If I looked hard, would I be able to notice them? Or would they be too far away?
The sky was turning orange. It was awkward because the Sun was halfway through setting, obscured by thick clouds. It was as if our impending doom was forecast for all to see; written in the skies. I knew it had to be out there somewhere… even if I could not see it… it was out there. I just knew it.
At this point, I appeared to have spent so long gazing into the sky that I had spent nearly 10 whole minutes. My family were calling me in. Everyone from around the neighbourhood had gathered there. They wanted us to pray together. I supposed that if I had refused at that point, they would have all probably shouted abuse towards me and dragged me into the house to force me into it, so I did exactly as they suggested.

9:34…

We were tightly packed together in the living room of the house, holding hands. Most of us were gathered in a circle, the others had formed inner circles. It was like something from a spirit channelling séance. Why was this even necessary… did they think that it would somehow stop this from happening? Absolutely pointless. We weren’t even a religious family at all. I don’t recall any occasion when we had ever gone to church. Maybe during my christening, but other than that… none. It was all a waste of time.
I was in a most uncomfortable and peculiar position. I was in the corner of the living room, behind the sofa chair. It was so everyone from around the block could fit together, and as I became increasingly uncomfortable I began to take some satisfaction from the knowledge that I would soon die.
Then after 5 minutes of solemn, and pointless silence, our prayer began. My hands were beginning to hurt. Jeanette’s fingernails were digging painfully into my hands. I didn’t think it would be appropriate to tell her to ease at this point because I knew we would never see each other again.
5:00

“Our father, who art in heaven…”

4:52

“Hallowed be thy name…”

Thy Kingdom come…”

Thy will be done…”

On earth, as it is in Heaven…”

4:35

Then, after a deep pause, and with tears running from her eyes, Mother continued.
“Give us this day… our daily bread”

3:58
“And cherish those…

Cherish those… those who? Those what? Had she forgotten the Lord’s Prayer? I didn’t find at all surprising considering none of us had ever needed to remember it. This was becoming a truly ludicrous farce.

“And forgive us our trespassers…”

This time, it was Father who cut in. He sounded very solemn, and I could tell from the tone of his voice that he was trying to resist emotion.

“As we forgive those who trespass against us…”

3:23

“And lead us not into temptation… But deliver us from evil…”

3:00. Three minutes left.

This time, everybody felt compelled to join in for no reason. I joined in too, just because everyone else was in the spirit.

“For Thine is the Kingdom…
and the Power…
and the Glory, Forever…”

2:48
A deep breath.

“Amen”

Then suddenly, once the congregation had finished, everyone scattered everywhere, because the missiles were in the sky. There they were. I was sat on the living room sofa, observing from the window. Two burning bright lights, flying side by side. At any minute now, they would dive downwards, and end every single one of us. I grew hot red with anticipation. I’d stopped paying attention to the countdown clock because by now I was excited. It was coming closer… any moment now, and this whole place would be history.


I quickly looked back, and the TV screen had changed. There was just a message that read:

“We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please Stand By.
Thank you for your cooperation.
– BBC”

There was nothing on it. Even the timer had disappeared. Perhaps the TV crew had engaged in their own kind of séance altogether.
And then I witnessed it all. The two missiles, as if in unison, both swooped down, leaving a murky grey trail of smoke behind them.
I remember hearing Jeanette scream,

“I see them! Up there!”

But she wouldn’t be able to elaborate on how magnificent they looked for long.
Finally, after what I clocked at 1.3 seconds, they hit the ground. And I felt the blast before I even heard it. I could feel myself; everything surrounding me disintegrating rapidly. Suddenly, out of nowhere, there was an enormous burst of light; I covered my eyes, and curled up into a ball, facing the wall of the lounge, over the sofa. The blast was so unbelievably loud. I buried my head inside all the cushions that were nearby, but still, my eardrums were ruptured.

Then everything turned white…

…Then faded to black again.


I thought this was the end. I really did believe I was going to die. But when I opened my eyes, I felt something rather heavy collapsed over my back, and lower legs. I grunted and heaved… but the damn thing would not budge.
After much movement, however, I managed to push free from my prison of debris. I looked back and noticed the sofa. The very one I had been sitting on. It was barely recognisable, most of it had been burned into the wooden frame, but it still held its shape. What I saw next was something no movie or fiction could have possibly prepared me for.
The entire town – no the city of London was levelled before me. All the buildings, trees, cars… gone; all flattened and destroyed. The buildings had all been reduced to a meshed concrete and debris, scattered all over the place. Some walls were still standing, and I could make out what appeared to be the silhouettes of four people on them. That’s where they were previously standing, I reckoned. Now their essence had been captured for all time, frozen in the brick and mortar.
There was no sign of my family anywhere. I called and shouted wherever I could, but I got no response. Jeanette… my brothers… sisters… Mother and Father… they were nowhere to be seen. The entire house I was previously hiding within was a pile of concrete, and ashen bricks.
In my head, over and over again, I could hear Jeanette’s scream.

“I see them! Up there!”
“I see them! Up there!”
It was as if she was making a determined effort to stay alive in my head. It would just go on, and on and on. Everywhere I went, it’s all I would hear, and it would not stop.

“I see them! Up there!”

From what I could piece together, the sofa which I had been sitting on had been propelled high into the air by the blast, with me attached to it. It collided through the upper levels of the house, flipped upside down, and was thrown to the floor. But, then the blast of the second bomb (that’s right – there were actually two, remember) pushed me further back and flung me through the air. Since most of the hazards behind me were destroyed by the first blast that came before it, I landed square in the living room of the next house behind it, so I didn’t get that far. I have read that due to the extreme power of atom bomb explosions, hardly anybody survives one… let alone two. How does that make me feel? As if I cheated death? Not really.
It was fate that I should last this long. I was destined to see this. It made perfect sense. It was written that I should see the devastation of London, and be its sole survivor so that I could tell my tale and leave behind my experience.

“I see them! Up there!”

It is something, I must say. All the buildings, and high-rise flats… the trees… they’ve all been demolished. Now I can see miles past them… I can see the clear horizons. Big Ben chimes no more. London Bridge has burned down completely. The BT tower is history. The London Eye, that was on several occasions, the host for many annual fireworks parties on New Years’ Eve, was burned to ashes by only two rockets.
The Thames?
My guess is that it probably doesn’t exist anymore. Now, in the centre of Greater London, there lie two towering landmarks that reign supreme: two mushroom clouds. They must be at least over 1,000 feet high.
In the midst of the chaos, I have become the New King of London. Now, this place belongs to me. I am the ruler, and I crown myself king. I have no subjects; nothing to rule over… and I have no enemies to do battle with, nor are there any people who may contest my authority.
Buckingham Palace no longer exists. Instead, this desolate wreckage of a city is my new palace. I don’t know how long I will survive to reign supreme, but I shall, for the time being, construct a makeshift shelter of bricks and rubble somewhere in the remains of Westminster Abbey. It shall be my royal bedchamber.

“I see them! Up there!”

In the midst of all this ruin, I did manage to find something. Amongst the wreckage of my own house, I did manage to retrieve my diary. It was still in excellent condition. The same could not be said for the rest of my family, nor London in general. If I look hard in the city I may be able to find food scraps in the broken down grocery stores… but then how will I know if they haven’t been contaminated?
I guess it’s only a matter of time before my time runs out. That is why I have chosen to write this. I need to leave something that I know will outlive me.
I guess this is goodbye. My only hope now is to wait for some air patrol to visit and check for survivors. If that air patrol never arrives, then I will have to join my loyal subjects. Which will I see first? I don’t know. But I do know that whichever arrives…

I’ll see them… up there!