Locked In

Like most, if not all, mental ‘illness’, paranoia exists on a scale of mild to severe. We all share features of paranoia: it’s common and normal. Twitching curtains, suspicious glances, a barely heard whispering in the attic….

In the story below we see how extreme paranoia can lead to a form of addiction, in this case to one’s own space, home, castle, defence bunker.

Locked In

MOON, SUN, season mean nothing. All done by the clock. Precisely. Adjusted to Greenwich Time Signal twice a day, Radio 4.

7a.m. Alarm. His eyes click open. Lavatory. Shower. Shave. Teeth.

7.17a.m. Four ounces of All Bran, splash of milk. Two mugs of weak tea. Wash dishes.

7.30a.m. Monitor room. Last night. Five screens, five cameras, each movement activated. Rear, garden: clear except for bloody fox. You’d think it would have learned. All three bins have padlocks. Thought foxes were supposed to be intelligent.

Side house: clear.

Front left, front right: Got the bastards coming and going.

Front straight on: Four yobs in hoods showing arses. Throwing cans and takeaway cartons into garden. Bastards. Have them. Timed 12.48a.m. Be ready for them next time. Oh yes. Police couldn’t care less. But. Hidden faces but all the same anyway. Babies in grownup bodies. When he was their age he was with the army in Korea. Kept up in the TA for years. Ready to fight if called up. Oh, he learned a thing or two as a soldier. Those skinny rats, drunks, druggies, Neds heading up the hill to the council estate, rotten and weak.

Bloody council selling farmland to build boxes, squat houses and six storey blocks to house the scum overflow from Newcastle. Bloody Newcastle had enough space for them without ruining a lovely seaside town. Bastards.

But he’d be ready for them tonight. He’d had enough. They’d think twice before dumping their rubbish and showing their arses.

7.45 precisely. Dog, out, walk on the triangle opposite, the field that sloped down to a huddle of shops. Aye, the dog would probably terrify the weaklings on its own. Old now but an Alsation never forgets the attack skills it’s been taught. Bloody state of the grass, rubbish, dog shite, cans, the cold shadow of the council flats on half of it.

When he first came here with Mother and Father sixty three, no, sixty four years ago, the top of the hill was untouched. The ruins of the castle, 600 years old, still there but now daubed with graffiti and surrounded by council house scum. There used to be a lovely view down to the town and onto the bay and the sea beyond. All ruined now with three high rise blocks planted right behind the old town. Bastards.

It had been his dream as a young man to live here, and when he met Edith they scrimped and saved for ten years to put down a deposit on a house, the house he lived in still ten years after Edith’s death.

The dog shit. He scooped it into a shit bag and triple tied it. The dog shit bin was full, shit bags lay at the bottom of the pole that held it. Bloody council. Useless. Like everything else. World’s gone to wrack and ruin. No wonder people have stopped coming here for their holidays. Bed and breakfasts have closed down or turned into hostels for foreigners and layabouts.

8.30. Dog back on its chain out back. Paper still not arrived. Bloody typical. Out then with bin bag. Throw rubbish from yobs into it. Pressure hose. HIS pavement, a strict line between his and houses on either side. He blew the water across HIS pavement. Added bleach. Washed himself.

8.42a.m. Polished plaques, BEWARE OF THE DOG and THESE PREMISES ARE PROTECTED BY CCTV.

8.57. Daily Mail posted through letterbox. Bloody outrageous. If he were a working man he’d be well on his way to work without his paper. Will be into that bloody paper shop and threaten to take business elsewhere, that’ll shake them up. The newspaper is the only one in Britain with sense. Like him, it holds the proper opinions. It agrees with him that although the Tories are in a mess, what with Brexit and that, all good men must come to the aid of the campaign to keep that dirty, communist, terrorist sympathiser Corbyn from so much as getting a sniff of power. He hoped for and believed that a strong and moral leader like Mrs Thatcher would come to the nation’s rescue.

He had an appointment in town with one of his local councillors. He also had two library books to return, one a biography of Winston Churchill and the other an illustrated account of how Mrs Thatcher had beat the unions, starting with her wonderful strategies to destroy the miners in 1984.

He spent some time in the library. Every single person on the twelve computers looked foreign, dark or with giveaway noses. He detected one of them looking at a KPP website, bloody Kurdish terrorists. He felt himself growing angry. He needed some peace. He took out two Agatha Christie novels.

Early for his appointment, he walked around the harbour. Thank God there was still something left of the fishing industry and trawlers crewed by hard, manly men. Where there had been amusement arcades and souvenir shops now there were drab Pound shops and bookmakers and a Refugee Advice Centre. In the town centre, unemployed men and even women sat on the stone benches that circled the war memorial, all of them drinking from huge plastic bottles. Signs on lamp posts warning of £500 fines for drinking in public. Why didn’t the bloody police move them on? Bloody useless.

Right. To see the councillor.

She was young and foreign. Pakistani or Indian probably. He made his complaints. She complained about the nature of his complaints, politely. Some agreement was reached around an idea that the world was in desperate states, that like in a war England had a duty to intervene. But they stuck like heads against a wall when it came to distributing people with problems among people who just wanted a pleasant life with sea views and nothing ever changing. And he was thrown off course when, in passing, it became clear that she was a GP. Because he had always lowered himself to doctors, lawyers and certain Tory politicians. Although not a churchgoer he also respected C of E bishops etc.

He meekly agreed to attend a forthcoming Community Policing event which would listen to citizens’ concerns. As soon as he was outside he blazed with anger. Doctor or not, he should have told her that such meetings were worthless. The bloody police would take no notice.

He went back up the hill and opened a can of Heinz vegetable and lentil soup.

2.13p.m He takes the dog for a walk.

4p.m. He writes a letter to the local paper.

Sir. Am I alone in thinking that our town is becoming less and less attractive by the day?

Attractive to potential visitors but, as importantly, attractive to those of us who remember it as a lovely place to live?

I have researched the figures and, believe me, there have been huge increases in violence, drunkenness and antisocial behaviour over the past fifteen years, growing each year during that time.

Whereas once we were a wonderful holiday destination, since the council has accepted social housing overspill from Newcastle and the housing of ‘refugees’ we have become little more than a dormitory for drug-fuelled violence and the retreat of decent businesses.

It would be ridiculous to suggest that I am some sort of ‘oddball’ – as has occurred in responses to my previous letters – as I am absolutely certain that my views are those of most decent citizens in our town. The desire to live quietly and at peace with my neighbours should be the norm. It is unacceptable that the obnoxious influx of refugees, drug addicts and urban ‘problem families’ should be prioritised over the rights of a well-born Englishman – to enjoy, and feel secure in, his English home.

Yours sincerely,

He found the internet useful for sending such letters. And for buying such items as he had: spring-loaded lead truncheons, finger knives and tasers.

4.15p.m. Rear camera. Resolution poor. Something thrown from back fence. Bloody scum. Now trying to litter his back garden is it? He’ll show them. But later. Reads Agatha Christie, (what a writer!) and settles to calm. Why can’t it be like this all of the time?

5p.m. Synchronises clocks and data counters to Greenwich Mean Time signal. News. Migrants in Channel. Let them drown. We have enough of them and their sort already, nothing but problems. The Economy suffers. Record number of homeless. I wonder why? They aren’t prepared to work, criminals, druggies. Where is the news that promises protection to us who have worked hard, held the correct opinions, paid our way?

6.30p.m. Sorry I haven’t a Clue. Thank God for the BBC. Only thing that keeps me sane. I remember, I remember The Home Service, The Light and The Third. Before all this rubbish. Radio 5, Radio 6! And as for television. BBC1 and BBC2 were all right. The world’s gone mad now. No wonder any intelligent person won’t allow a television in the house.

7p.m. and 10p.m. Dog. Walk. Between times, Agatha Christie and routine checks on cameras 1-5.

10.45p.m. Get ready. Dress in black to hide in shadows. Bicycle helmet. Truncheon. Finger knife – a hole for his finger and a sharp curved blade. For self-defence. The yobs were soft as jelly, rotten with cowardice They’d run a mile when they saw he meant business.

11p.m. Check monitors. Three sluts stopped, raised their shirts and jiggled their breasts at the cameras. Laughing like hyenas, up the hill to their grotty council flats. Well, he had them recorded. It was going to be a long video of antisocial behaviour when he edited it together. The police would have to act. If they didn’t, if they made their usual bloody pathetic excuses, he’s send it to newspapers. The Daily Mail would love it.

11.10p.m. He goes for the dog. It’s not in the kennel. It’s lying in the middle of the little lawn at the end of the chain. It’s dead. There is a gnawed lump of meat by it. The bloody bastards have poisoned his dog. There is a riot of blood-red electricity behind his eyes. The dog was only ever a deterrent. He fed it and walked it but had no affection for it. But to kill it was to insult him, to laugh at him, to mock him. Furious anticipation of the scummy bastards’ arrival.

11.30p.m. He’s sat on the back door step at the side of the house. He’d learned patience as a soldier. Sometimes he had stayed put on surveillance duty for twelve hours. Those dirty bastards didn’t know the sort of man they were dealing with.

12.17a.m. He heard them coming. Singing and laughing. They stopped. He sidled along the wall. Through the narrow slits in his balaclava he saw them throw their usual rubbish into the garden, cans and polystyrene containers. Then, giggling, they opened his gate and walked up the little drive towards him. But they only walked a few feet before dropping their trousers and shitting on the pink paving he kept meticulously clean.

12.18a.m. He ran out screaming, truncheon raised in one hand, knife in position on the other. They hadn’t finished their business when he whacked the nearest one on the back of the head. The blow was fatal, the lad went out like a light. The other three panicked, trying to pull their trousers up as he came at them. He took the eye out of one of them with the knife. A third one was knocked unconscious. Only one escaped.

He’d been wrong about the police. They took what happened very seriously and were more than interested in what the cameras had recorded. He was sentenced to eighteen years in jail. He enjoyed jail. Its precise routines reminded him of being in the army.

This story is taken from my collection, The Big Wheel.

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