47 Random Fragments of Unauthorised Hope and Despair


SOPHIE kept walking down the street and tried to think of something else.

She tried to make music play in her head - the kind they played on the radio in the middle of the night when she couldn’t sleep, not so much because Alf wasn’t there as because she knew she would never find out for sure if he would ever again fill up the vast empty coldness of their bed with the warm bulk of his presence.

They were all around her, but she tried not to look at them and she tried not to look as if she was trying not to look at them.

She knew she was trying too hard to look as if she didn’t have to try at all, to look as if she was completely at ease in a street filled with anti-terror police and armoured cars and detector drones. She had no idea why they were all here, suddenly down her road.

Nobody ever knew why they turned up. It could be an exercise. It could be a false alarm. They might have even found some terrorists, in which case there would no doubt be something on the TV, not that she hardly looked at it or even stayed in the living room during compulsory view-time.

The sun reflected off their helmets, their visors, their machinery and seemed to send piercing rays of pain directly into her head. It had been building up all day, despite the medication, and this was pushing it up to a new level.

Not long now, just ignore them. Think about eating dinner. Think about having a bath. Relax.

There was someone in front of her on the pavement. A cop with a sub-machine gun. Head lowered, she manoeuvred to pass him as quickly as possible and stepped off the kerb to make the small necessary diversion.

“Off the street!” bellowed a voice through a megaphone behind her, just feet away judging from the shrieking knife-edge volume that slashed at her headache.

It was at this point, she knew full well, that she lost it.

The pretence could not be maintained and when she lifted her face it must have most plainly betrayed the terrible anger she had been battling so hard to conceal.

It could have been the standard facial recognition software. It could have been the new brainwave monitoring crime prevention stuff that people had been talking about.

Or maybe it was just the look in her eyes as witnessed by a dozen or more police.

In any case, it was enough to have her arrested and detained indefinitely for the public’s safety in a custodial productivity camp.

She was held, in fact, only a few hundred yards from her husband Alf - although neither of them were ever aware of this amusing coincidence.