« on: October 08, 2008, 06:10:02 pm »
The sun melted down through air that seemed thick and stagnant. Thick with moisture, with potential. But dead and still. The clouds seemed to reach all the way down, a uniform, pregnant, gray, and only the hint of a breeze that sent leaves and other detritus skittering along the ground in small fits and starts.
The imposing cliff faces of concrete surrounded the small square. Faceless, yet the buildings seemed to convey a quiet malice none the less.
Will, a sturdy young boy of six years, was running, every limb using far more energy than was neccessary. He ran along low walls, into a flock of pigeons. All the while burbling with delight. His father walked, far more deliberately, farther up the road than his son, who would occasionally look back to see that he hadn't lost his caretaker.
He was unaware of the atmosphere of this place. Unable to feel the presence of the tall building looming over him. At six years old, everything looms, and everywhere is a playground.
Wills father was all too perceptive of the discomfort of the urban jungle. He was a tall man, well in excess of six feet tall. His face was weathered, and his eyes haunted. The features of a man who had seen much, lost more and was still standing.
Rashid Parmen had fled his homeland when he was in his late teens, his parents had been killed in one of the paroxysms of violence that periodically shook communities apart in the old country. He had stowed away in a container ship and come to Britain, knowing that another outbreak of feuding and aggression could cost him his own life, that he had been lucky to avoid his parents' fate.
He had turned his hand to anything he could to make money, had seen the best and worst of what Britain could offer. Rashid had met Wills mother, Amber, and they had begun a whirlwind affair. Rashid hadn't truly loved her, but he needed the closeness and companionship, and Amber had never needed that love. She had been trying to piss mummy and daddy off, and she had succeeded. They disowned her when she married Rashid.
Will had been born a short time after, and for a short time they were content. Amber had died when Will was two, killed in a senseless road accident, run over by a young man in expensive car who had had too much to drink. Her killer had never been caught.
Rashid looked to Will, now with arms outstretched and airplaning through another flock of pigeons and making piping "Rat-at-at-at" noises. Will was all he had left, and Rashid was Wills only family. He loved his son with a fierce loyalty, he had sacrificed much for him and was prepared to sacrifice much more.
The tall man had almost reached his destination, a small office set into the corner of the square. He had determined that he needed to get out of Britain, go somewhere less untrusting of men and women with the wrong colour of skin. Having no documents, he had been told that this office would help him leave the country safely.
"Will! Come here!" His son immediately ran back to him. Rashid picked him up with his hands under his armpits. "I am going in there for a little while," he indicated the office with his head. "Can you go play on the swings while I am gone?".
Will was excited by the trust, and enthusiastically nodded. Rashid laughed and put him down, tousling his hair just as his son ran across to the play park in the middle of the square. He watched his son for a moment, then turned into the darkened door of the office.
It had been fifteen minutes or so since his father had left him at the play park. Will had been perfectly content to swing back and forth, up and down, his legs pumping to gain him greater height. There were no other children there, but there was a crowd of people in the square, and Will watched them. So many different kinds of people, walking, wandering, sitting down and talking. Will liked to watch people, he made stories in his head about them. That one over there was an astronaut, and the woman sitting in the bench sang songs.
There were sirens wailing nearby, and even though he heard sirens all the time, Will was still excited by them. He wished he could see some firemen working, that would be great fun. It never happened though.
Which made it even more surprising to him when a police car screeched to a halt at one of the entrances to the square. He stopped pumping his legs, letting the swings momentum die as he watched the police men get out of the car. They didn't do anything except stand near the car. That wasn't right, they were supposed to chase the bad guys.
Will felt his curiosity rising, he was staring at the police men now, wanting to figure out what was happening. As he did so, more police men came, and they started to position themselves around the square, speaking to the people, moving them all away to where the first car had stopped. One of them came over to him. A real police man! Will was excited, but nervous too. He hadn't done something wrong, had he?
"Hullo, little man," the officer greeted him, very serious and stern. "you have to go stand with everyone else now."
Will started as the police mans hand landed on his shoulder, but didn't question him. As he was guided over to the other people, Will kept looking over his shoulder, looking for his father.
As he got closer to the knot of people, he was relieved to see that some other police men had notebooks and were asking questions. He knew that when police men weren't chasing bad guys, they were "making inquiries". He didn't know what this meant, but he knew it involved talking to people and writing things down.
He joined the milling group of anxious pedestrians and shoppers, and the police man walked away. Will looked around, his nervousness gone and his curiosity on the rise again. The astronaut was being questioned now, and he looked like he was getting angry at the police. Just then, he felt a presence beside him. He looked around and up to find a woman standing next to him, he hadn't seen her from the swings.
She was wearing a bright red dress, and he was sure he should have seen her. No one else here was wearing such bright colours. Though he hadn't seen her before, he wasn't particularly alarmed. He was surrounded by police men and was therefore safe.
He grinned up at her, and she flashed a quick grin back before bending down to be face to face with him.
"What is your name boy?" Her voice was gentle, but Will could hear the authority behind it. He didn't even consider not telling her, let alone lying.
"William Parmen, miss. My dad calls me Will though." He was thrilled when she smiled encouragingly.
"You are a brave boy, Will. Where is your dad now?" Will pointed across the square, to the office in the corner.
"He's in there miss, he said he'd be out soon." When he said this, the woman nodded. She placed a hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently.
"I'll be here for you until he comes back, Will." He nodded at her, his thoughts having turned back to his father. He was watching across the square now, waiting for him to come back.
Rashid was exiting the office before he noticed the police presence. He didn't know why they were there, nor did he care. He was only worried about his son, who wasn't in the play park. An officer approached him.
"Sir, I'll have to ask you to come with me"
"Where is my son?" Rashid ignored the hand the police man had raised to take hold of him.
"Sir, this way." The hand landed on his upper arm.
"My son, where is he?" The police man didn't answer, instead trying to pull Rashid away. Rashid used an open palm against the mans chest and shoved him away. He turned and walked into the open square, keyed up and nervous for his son. As soon as he stepped out of the shade in the corner, he spotted Will in the knot of people on the opposite side, and he started jogging over.
"Stop right there! Get down on the ground!" The police man behind him called out. Rashid ignored him. As he ran on, he heard the man speaking into his radio.
"I've identified the target! He's coming to your position now!"
"Roger that, we are prepared. All units take cover"
Will saw his father coming across the square for him and started waving. He wanted him to see the police men working. Over his shoulder, beside the car, he heard a couple of excited voices, but he wasn't really interested in that. He'd heard a number of people get very excited when the police were questioning them. His entire attention was focused on his father.
He felt a hand on his shoulder, the woman in the red dress was still there.
A gentle squeeze again. Just as a loud retort echoed off the tall, gray buildings. Everyone flinched at the unexpected noise.
Even as he watched, his father stopped. He looked puzzled, too.
And then he fell over.
Will was shocked to his very core. He was moving before he even realised it. As he got to the edge of the crowd, a police man grabbed his clothes, and Will hit him between the legs. He was instantly freed, and immediately on the move again.
There was someone running behind him, but he ignored it.
He reached his father, crumpled on the ground, looking smaller than he ever had before. There was blood everywhere. Will slid to a stop and threw himself down grabbing at his fathers face, shouting incoherently.
His father just looked back at him, unable to speak, unable to make any noise except for a dreadful gurgling from the back of his throat. Will continued to cry and fumble at his fathers face, noting how his small hands were lost in his fathers beard, strangely aware of every little thing right in front of him. As Rashid Parmen struggled to take a final breath, Will watched him die.
As his father went limp, life leaving him, the woman in the red dress knelt down next to him. She screamed and moaned, but Will barely noticed. Everything had frozen, gone into slow motion, from his eyes to his heart.
Two policemen arrived, and they pulled both of them away from his fathers body. Will didn't, couldn't, fight back. The woman did, but was pulled back all the same. They were brought to a bench close to where they had been standing before. A young police man stood nearby, but all the others were too busy trying to control the crowd.
Will buried his face into the womans shoulder, and cried. She held her head down, close to his.
"Will, we are in danger. I want you to do exactly what I tell you to. Can you be a brave boy for me?"
Will didn't answer, it was impossible to answer.
"Will, we are going to get out of here. Right now."