I have now published over 100 stories on this blog, and I recently looked back to some of my early efforts, that most of you will not have seen. I decided to reblog some of them, to see if they have any appeal, and present them to a larger audience in the process. A few of you who have been following this blog from the start will know them, so to you, I apologise for the repetition.
A fictional story of 2821 words. From 2013
It was the first day of the Summer holidays, no more school for six weeks. To Alec, they had seemed a long time coming, since moving down here, the previous August, had pretty much robbed him of the last ones. He had plans, he knew just how he would spend his time, and he had passed a long, boring Spring in preparation.
The new school was so-so. The second year of his secondary education had been a lot better than the first, anyway. He had grown tall since his twelfth birthday, springing up above his peers, and filling out too. He was already taller than everyone in his year, and Mum said, if he kept growing, he could end up playing basketball. Since moving south from Scotland, he had preferred the better weather, and the chance to get out more. It had brought some problems as well though. The boys at school had tried to tease him, first about his accent, then about his name. They always pretended not to understand what he said, and would keep asking him to repeat himself. It took a while, but he eventually realised that they were winding him up, then he just stopped bothering. The teachers weren’t much better, always asking him to “say that again please Alec.” Most of them were not from around here anyway, so you think that they would know better. Then they kept getting his name wrong. The other boys all called him Alex, and didn’t even seem to understand that there was a name Alec. The teachers too, they constantly got it wrong, also referring to him as Alex, when they bothered to talk to him at all. New boys entering school after the first year were just trouble to them, seemingly, and they acted as if he didn’t exist, most of the time. He had started off by explaining that Alex was short for Alexander, that his name was Alec, and that was totally different. He told them that it meant Defender of the People, and was an old Scottish name, that he was proud to bear. He soon gave up, as it just seemed to make them call him Alex even more. Nobody ever told him the truth, that it was just a corrupted abbreviation of Alexander. Because nobody really knew, or cared.
Still, being big meant that he was never bullied, and ensured that any name-calling and resentment was mostly done behind his back, or out of earshot. Besides, his Dad was a soldier, and he was serving in Afghanistan, so if anyone went too far, they would have him to deal with. If he ever came home. Alec didn’t bother with team games much either. The sports teacher asked him to play in most teams, excited that his size would give those teams an edge. Alec declined, happy to be a loner, not a part of any team, group, or gang. He had his own agenda, and it involved being alone. He coasted through the subjects, always in the middle of the class when it came to performance; never too smart, and definitely not stupid. His reports were always the same. Failure to engage, does not contribute much, lacks interaction with others, blah blah blah. They couldn’t fault him though, as he always got at least a C, and often a B. He managed to get by without being noticed too much. Eventually, they all forgot about him, and that suited Alec down to the ground.
When Dad’s regiment was amalgamated, and they had to move to the south, his parents had sat him down, and explained the reasons for the move. Alec didn’t really care, one place was much like another to him, and he had nothing to regret leaving behind in Scotland. Dad was away much of the time, and even when he was at home, he was down the pub, or visiting his Army mates somewhere. Mum said he was better off in Afghanistan, and seemed to treat that place more like home. Alec found it on his globe lamp once, but it didn’t mean much to him. It was near India, he remembered that at least. Soon after the move last summer, Dad was away again, for more training somewhere, and then back abroad. Mum got a job in a bar in the town. They had argued about that, as it meant leaving Alec from the time he got in from school, until well past eleven. Mum had won though. She needed to be out, she said, and wanted some life to be around, and people to talk to. For his part, Alec couldn’t care less; he had nothing to say to her anyway. He didn’t like the programmes she watched, and even if she was at home, as she was most weekends, he spent most of the time in his room. She was always on the phone, talking to her friends and family back in Scotland, or to people around here, that he didn’t know.
Alec liked cars. There was hardly anything to do with cars that he didn’t know about. He had all his Dad’s old car magazines, and spent hours on his ageing laptop, looking at car company sites, and browsing photos, or reading technical information. For someone of his age, who had never so much as turned an ignition key, he was an expert in the subject. His room was a tribute to the car. Posters adorned every available inch of wall space, and model cars were displayed wherever one could be stood. He also knew about light vans, and had recently started to do some research into trucks, thinking he might like to be a truck driver one day. His earlier ambition, of being a car salesman, would involve too much contact with people, and he was never that comfortable with strangers. What could be better than to spend your life on the main roads of Europe, watching all the cars go by, from the comfortable high cab of a giant truck, he thought.
One of the things that he liked best about their new house, was that it was very close to the motorway. Many would consider that a disadvantage, living within range of the main route from north to south, with the constant drone of the traffic, day and night. Not Alec. For him, it was an unexpected bonus of the move. Less than a five minute walk from his front door, was a bridge across all the lanes, taking traffic off the motorway, towards the sleepy market town that they now called home. A bit further on, was the pedestrian bridge, that allowed safe crossing for cyclists, dog walkers, and schoolchildren, who were the main users of this out of the way structure. Both these vantage points offered him an uninterrupted view of the thing he liked best, motor vehicles. He had got the notebooks ready, and a selection of coloured marker pens too. Lists had been made; his ten favourite cars, and five favourite trucks. Alec would spend his days watching the motorway, noting the appearance of those favourites, and adding their colours too. He would soon have a record of how many of each, and in what colour, passed under his view, and what time they were seen as well. Later, back home in his room, he could transfer this information to his laptop, and add the results to his already extensive research.
Into the large sports bag, he placed the notebooks and pens, together with two bottles of water, a packet of biscuits, and a banana. He had chosen his largest bag, so that there was room for a cushion to fit in, as he would need something to sit on. Mum was still sleeping when he left. She had got home late from work last night, and he had heard her in the bathroom, well after midnight. Outside in the close, he saw two boys he knew vaguely from school, Jared and Mark. They were setting up a long plank in the road, propping it on some concrete blocks, to create a ramp. Their intention was to ride their BMX bikes up the ramp, and jump them off the raised end. In the dead-end close, there would be little danger from traffic, and most of the residents would soon be out at work anyway. They waved to him as he closed the door, possibly inviting him to watch. He didn’t know for sure, as he couldn’t hear what they said. It would have had no interest for him anyway, as it seemed a pointless activity.
The first day at the bridge was relatively unproductive. His favourite cars did not appear, though his best trucks were in abundance. When he had needed to pee, he sloped off into the nearby woodland. The biscuits were just enough to keep him going, and he didn’t bother with the banana, but he considered the addition of a sandwich for tomorrow. The half term holidays generated more traffic than normal, but most of it was made up of caravans, people carriers, and other boring family rides. There were even loads of motor homes, the ultimate slugs. Dad called caravans snails; hard shells containing soft life within. He got angry when they held him up on the road, and he would never consider such a holiday remotely relaxing. Motor caravans were even worse. Home on the road, no escape. What was the point of those?
That night, Alec was disappointed. Nine hours on the bridge, and not a single M5, Impreza, or S4; none of the best cars available in the UK. He had watched, as streams of Picassos, Meganes, and Ford S-max swept by, tantalisingly close to his position. There had been lots of Renault trucks, their suspension pumping at speed, and the comfortable cabs looking so inviting. But none of the ‘real’ cars, the serious motors. What was going on? Was the half term foiling his plans? He would need more time, extra days to continue his studies. Back tomorrow then.
The next morning, and Mum was once again asleep. Alec had thought that he had heard a man’s voice during the night. It had sounded aggressive, and insistent. Perhaps it was just a dream though. There was no milk for cereal, so he had the banana he didn’t eat yesterday. He got two Ribena cartons from the cupboard, and some chocolate biscuits from the ‘fridge, before making a sandwich to take along, filled with strawberry jam. Once outside, there was no sign of Jared or Mark. They had left their ramp from the previous day, possibly hoping to be able to use it again. Alec walked over to the construction. Looking around furtively, he could see nobody about, the place was still sleepy at that time of day. He picked up the smallest concrete block, and secreted it into his large bag. It was a tight fit, and heavier than he expected. Still, they wouldn’t be able to play their stupid ramp game today, he had seen to that.
The morning was slightly more productive. Two Imprezas, both cobalt blue, a popular colour, and a real treat, and a Honda NSX 200 in black, a really rare find in England. He had eaten the sandwich by nine-thirty, and had some of the biscuits at eleven o’ clock, with the second carton of Ribena. By now, he was getting bored, and nothing much was happening. The road seemed to be chock full of boring MPV’s, and countless caravans, heading to the coastal resorts. The cushion was not doing enough to make sitting comfortable, and his notebooks were all but blank. He emptied his bag, and perused the contents.
Darren Osbourne had been driving for most of the day. His wife Sandra was a terminal nag, and his kids Ellen and Jodie were equally annoying, moaning and crying in turn. The Scenic was past its best, and probably needed a service, but Darren hadn’t been able to afford it, on top of the cost of the holiday. One week in Cornwall, at a prepared campsite. Hardly the luxury he had once imagined, when he and Sandra had married, at 21. Ten years later, two squalling daughters, and a wife older than her years, and Darren had, quite frankly, had enough. In truth, he would sooner be at work still, in the Council Offices of their Northern town. At least there, he would have peace and quiet. After an expensive breakfast stop at the motorway services, he estimated that they had around two hours to go, before they got to their destination. The road was very busy, and Darren kept to the middle lane, so as not to get trapped by any large trucks. The girls argued constantly, the sound issuing from the from the back seat drove Darren to distraction, but he didn’t let on. Anything for a quiet life. Sandra was oblivious, reading her stupid celebrity magazine, the lives of vacuous people presented as entertainment.
Alec rummaged in his bag for the last of the biscuits. He had taken the small block of concrete out, and placed it next to the wire fencing of the bridge. The notebooks and pens were neatly stacked next to the cushion, and the empty drinks cartons were there too, as he would take them home. He hated litter, and people who littered. The last few biscuits were little more than crumbs at the bottom, but he scooped them out and ate them all the same. His gaze returned to the endless streams of traffic. Families mostly still, streaming towards the coast, hoping to change their dull lives, with one week away, at somewhere ultimately disappointing. Alec felt the rough edges, and the weight of the block in his hands. It was really heavy, at least for some people, but he was strong, and could lift it with ease. He rested it on the rail of the bridge fencing, allowing the stone to take a natural balance under his hand. He reduced control, first down to three fingers, then two, until he supported the whole thing with one determined digit. He noticed a Renault Scenic some way off in the middle lane. It was a horrible coffee colour, a brown with some silly exotic name, ‘Aztec Bronze’ or something similar. Alec couldn’t understand why anyone would ever buy such a boring car, and then choose one of the worst colours to cover it. He looked down at his quivering finger.
The impact was enormous. The windscreen was gone in a second; air rushing in, tiny glass fragments flying everywhere. Darren’s first reaction was to brake hard, the hardest he had ever braked in his life. The panel van behind slammed into the Scenic as it braked, spinning the smaller vehicle. Inside his car, Darren couldn’t think, for the screams coming from his children. They were unnaturally piercing, like something not human. As his car whirled around, he looked across at Sandra. She seemed to be wearing some sort of hat, or mask. There was something else, where her face had been, but it was impossible to take in, in these few moments, and still spinning at great speed. When his car stopped moving, Darren found himself looking back up the motorway he had been driving on, except he was facing in the wrong direction. The Estonian lorry driver had no chance, it all happened so fast. His huge truck, towing an additional trailer, was never going to stop in time. It went straight into the front of the Scenic, still braking, but still travelling at almost forty miles an hour. Enno sat shaking in his cab, listening to car after car impacting the one in front, and feeling the bumps as vehicles drove into his skewed trailer. Some people were already out of their cars, either sitting on the verges, or standing dazed in the wreckage. Enno didn’t want to get out yet. He didn’t want to look at the front of his truck, as he was dreading what he would see there.
In all the confusion, nobody had glanced up at the pedestrian bridge. They were too busy, avoiding more cars, getting out of wrecked vehicles, or trying to help their families. Even if someone had looked up, they would not have thought it unusual, to see a smart-looking young man walking across, clutching a sports bag.