A Common Faith in Humanity
Night comes, and the world turns. There is something profoundly different about the inner city. The nocturnal emerge, the moral compass switches, police and thieves mingle with the drunk and drugged. Street lights illuminate the swaggering hoards pouring from the buses and trains into the pubs and clubs as the hooded stare from the shadows. Those in the care of the community scuttle between traffic, watched by the sexual predators muttering 'mincab? minicab?' to groups of tottering teenage girls.
A row of shops off the high street, graffiti stained shutters reflecting the glow of escape from the late-licence drink emporium. He came from the doorway, an easy pace covering a drunken sway. Crossing the road, he stepped carefully towards Alfie sitting in the shadows of the housing offices. Alfie was a smackhead, topped up with the drink. He lived on the street. The man saw that Alfie wasn't moving, and called across to the others. Gradually they started to come over, frightened, looking around them, spreading across the road.
Alfie wasn't moving.
The group gathered together as the man reached forward and shook Alfie by the shoulder. Alfie slid forwards, his head cracking off the wall. The man pulled a mobile out of the hand of the woman they called Shaheen and dialled 999.
And so they came, the flashing of blue lights bringing the people in the flats to the cracks in their curtains, the road blocked as police pushed back the crowd eager to gawp and gaze at the paramedic astride Alfie, pumping at his chest as another forced oxygen into his mouth. A doctor arrived and took over, Alfie lifted onto a stretcher and into the ambulance out of sight, the saviours summonsed by 999 working and working.
The summonsed police stood with the gathering, taking details, checking accounts, asking about Alfie, who he was and where he came from, who would miss him and what did they know. No-one knew about Alfie, or if they did they wouldn't say, until one policeman did a check on his radio, and another somewhere else recognised the name, and Alfie was a rapist of children who had only just been released from prison for raping an eight year old girl. The policeman made a note, and whispered to a colleague as the back door of the ambulance opened and Alfie was dead.
The blue lights were switched off, the fluttering tape removed, the road was opened and the liveried vehicles drove away, off to the next case of human tragedy, until the next night when it would start all over again.
The man joined the group back on the bench and they laughed together, pooling their money for the next round of beers from the off-licence as the world turned and the night went on in the inner city.
Labels: Short stories