CHRIS & CHRIS
1.5 The Mist
I turned round to see trembling Glen brandishing his phone like a cross to ward off Draculas. “The police have been called. They are on their way. This footage is evidence,” swinging his phone between me on the stairs and Chris behind the chain.
With something—his hands? a tool?—Chris bashed the chain from the door frame and pushed into the hall and snatched Glen’s recording phone from his tiny fingers and smashed it onto the floor and stamped on it many times with the new rotten trainers.
We all looked at Glen’s broken phone on the mat.
I started to say things, Chris started to say things. I shouted at Chris to stop it, apologised to Glen, explained Chris was crazy and I was glad the police were coming, shouted at Chris to leave. I came down the stairs. Glen, who’d been silent, just staring at his broken phone, scuttled back behind his door and slammed it shut.
I knocked on Glen’s shut door. I wanted to apologise, get behind his door with him because Chris had grabbed my arm. I tried to shake Chris off, I tried to pull away, go back upstairs. I banged on Glen’s door again, shouted for him to let me in, screamed for help. But Chris had me and was dragging me away. He was much bigger and stronger than me, he always was. That’s how it works. I tried to kick but it meant nothing. He was pulling me back out of the hall, out of the open front door, saying he was so sorry but just couldn’t be recorded, hadn’t meant to frighten me or anyone, didn’t mean to be frightening me now and sorry if he was hurting me but we had to leave: Glen had recorded him, called the police, Sean had been here, everything was tainted, the police weren’t the police, everything was dangerous, I couldn’t understand, time was nearly over, he’d take me away from tainted here to someplace we could talk.
One hand round me pulling me out of the building in my grey fluffy slippers. The other, the stump hand, jammed into my mouth, stopping me from talking or screaming as he forced me outside down the steps into the misty night.
Gone beyond, him caved-in. Little orange leaves glittering on the pavement ahead. Lights off, people asleep, empty roads, his jammed hand in my mouth. He nestled me into his chest, bustled us off towards the railway bridge, yanking my wrist back so it hurt, forcing me on. I bit hard on his hand, the stump, broke skin, tasted blood. But he pushed back, made me gag so I had to stop or suffocate or get my teeth knocked out. I bent my knees, went limp. He lifted me into his rank self and dragged me on, me kicking uselessly. At the bridge he forced me through the railings up the embankment into the trees and darkness beyond.
Up there was the Parkland Walk, a nature trail built over a disused railway track. He forced me along the path in the dark for perhaps ten seconds then pushed me down into a bush so I lay face-down on dead leaves, clay and flint, my face scratched by blackberry thorns. He lay on top of me, his bitten fist tanging my mouth with his blood and dirt. He got my hair and twisted my head and stuffed my mouth with rough cloth, tied some other rag over it and behind my head so I was gagged tight and could bite on that instead of his fist, did this expertly so I couldn’t speak or scream, part of his planned kit, what more did he have?
We lay in the bush on the ground in the damp night staring out through the halo of fog smearing the orange street lamps down below. Above us fine droplets pattered on trees, reaching the ground as mist. He lay breathing on top of me, his mouth on my ear: “I’m sorry.” Sirens, new smeary lights: we watched two police cars speed down my road below, saw the beam of their headlights in the wet air. They parked, house lights went on, neighbours in nightwear came out into the street, talked in clumps to each other and to the police. I tried to move but was pinioned by him: arms over my arms, legs over my legs, his heart thudding at my back, his mouth at my ear panting how sorry he was, telling me to look at all the police and was that really warranted for some noise complaint and how it wasn’t Glen who’d called them and this proved it.
Below the police knocked at my front door. They must have come to help me, Glen hearing me scream having called them a second time. The door opened, probably Glen. Some chatting, they went in, modern uniforms, “do you see?” Riot-wear, with visors and weapons, “for some noise complaint? And there?” jerking his stubble at my cheek up to the misty sky, to the helicopter whirring above.
These days helicopters came sometimes at night, woke me with their noise. Modern policing, it wasn’t that weird.
“For a noise complaint?”
For a kidnapping. Or for some unrelated but nearby crime. Or for you, I thought, squashed under him in the bush. He was mad and someone important, on the loose, like this for how long? Not just me standing up to him tonight that had triggered him, that was clear. He’d lost it, what else had he done? They were after him, would have turned up anyway even if Glen hadn’t called. Now I was his hostage. I went limp.
It fitted some pattern: him cornered, desperate, exposed, come to me as a place of last resort, his childhood sweetheart, first worshipper. Believe me.
With the control to appear so fake debonair up in my flat the first time with his cheeses and bags of gags and disguises, wanting the book?
That book, a symbol—or with secret value? Gold leaf, done by a famous artist? Like the beads: it wouldn’t be the first time some Alan crud turned out to be worth loads and that always mattered to Chris.
But now Chris was a zillionaire, or had been last I’d checked.
On the run, needing cash.
The misty night, the orange, the wet gag in my mouth, my torn lips and scratched face and juddering heart, the weight of him on me, the dead leaves, the patter in the trees.
It didn’t have to make sense if he was mad. He’d gone so far, who knew what he’d been up to these past years, all that power and money, on a different scale to anyone, who knew what that did to you, enough to drive you mad even if you weren’t crippled from the start.
“This is the worst,” he said, mouth on my ear. “And it’s the best, cos I never thought I’d be with you again. And it’s the worst, cos now you’re dead too but there’s no going back and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t the end. We got to move now, they’ll find us, they’re coming for us now, they’ll do anything, you don’t know. You’ll get up and come with me now, no fight, you just have to. For old times’ sake, despite all this. For much more than you and me. You got to hear me out: not here, somewhere they can’t hear us, where we can talk, it’s not far. Listen to what I have to say. And if you don’t like it, if I sound crazy, then you’re free to go. I won’t touch you, you can set them on me. OK?”
I nodded underneath him in the mud.
“Get up, come with me now, hold my hand. I’m about five minutes away. Just hear me out. For old times’ sake.”
I nodded. We lay there. In the street below police torch beams shone into us in the trees then moved away.
He brushed his mouth to my temple then yanked me up, held me by the wrist, started running me through the bushes in the dark away from my road, up through the wooded sub-path that lay alongside what had been the railway track.
He stumbled on something. I elbowed him and kneed him in the balls.
He yelped and doubled over. An owl hooted. I yanked my hand from his and pulsed forward, felt for the gag knot behind my head.
He came at me from behind, grabbed my hand and hair, pulled me on and down back into thorns and thickets so I was face down in dead leaves again, lay on me again, his breath at my neck. He kneed me in the back and tore my jumper and top off, pulled off my necklace, rings, earrings, belt, stuffed his hands in all my jean pockets, threw away keys, coins, fluff, everything. Searched again for my phone but didn’t find it since it was dead in my flat, searched again. He pulled me up by my hair, yanked me on through brambles in my bra and jeans. He pushed me face-down again, lay back on top of me, put his mouth at my ear:
“You’ll hear me out. It’s crazy but. Haven’t you noticed, for a while now? That something’s off? Everything’s changed? It looks the same but it’s different, right? Over the past few years, when you stopped reading books? The future’s happened but they didn’t ask you. Nothing’s real. Thought machines stealing your thoughts. What went on before seems… quaint. It’s about the machines but it’s not just about the machines. Perfect takeover: soft, no armies, no tanks in the streets. Geeks bearing gifts, buy your own fetters, spin you crud to lap up, everyone clicking away, all so fun and free and simple. The pup you’ve been sold, the world wide lie, the dot con, getting formatted, get the kids formatted, turn the tap on, take the cookies. And me right at the heart of it. The plans they have for you.”
I squirmed under him, he pressed down on my bare back, crushed me against sharp ground, his mouth at my ear, his bad breath and long body on me in the blackness. Above us the helicopter whirred. Columns of light beamed through the trees. He crawled me under him on my scratched belly under the bushes, waited for the beams to pass, crawled us on more. My only hope was the police, the helicopter above. But he was twisting us under bushes in the dark, they couldn’t see us. The bridge, I thought. We were moving that way, no bushes on the bridge. But when we got there, the high bridge over Stanhope Road, he turned and forced us down the steep embankment instead, still all mixed up in the bushes, down what wasn’t a path, grabbing on to twine and roots, tearing us, tumbling us onto the street.
Orange misty lights, silence, emptiness, parked cars. He pulled me upright by my neck. With his other hand he got my wrists and twisted them round behind my back and slipped something round them, a noose he tightened till it cut into me and then pressed me against the metal of the cold dirty white car parked next to us. My mouth gagged, my hands tied, my bare belly on the cold wet car, his hand still round my neck, squeezing hard when I tried to kick him. With his other hand he reached into his pocket, got out keys, slipped them into the lock and opened the car door, the passenger side, bundled me in there, into the foot well, a stew of damp newspapers and old food. He pushed on through into the driver’s seat, reached back across to slam the door, pressed down the lock saying he was sorry, we had to go right now, they were here. Anywhere, just to get away, to some place where we could talk.
“Brechfa’s where? In Britain? A real place? Some Scritch I forgot? That’s what you said right: the Brechfa forest, the sheep, the book? Nod if that’s right. Is that where Sean’s gone? Why? What book did Sean want?”
I wiggled up to nut him, thrashing my legs. He reached forwards and used the force of my movement to twist me up onto the passenger seat next to him, then put his hand back round my neck and pulled me up higher so I would have blacked out if it hadn’t been for the painful thing he did with my bound arms. Which was: slacken their binds, yank them out from my back so he nearly broke them, crick round my body to force my arms over and down round the back of the seat so I ended up sitting on the seat with my hands tied behind it, lodged there. He retightened the knot. With another rope he bound my bare ankles above my ruined slippers, then brought that rope under my seat and up to where my hands were behind the seat and knotted it to them really tight. So I was tied round the seat with a gag in my mouth and another bit of rope now getting knotted round my already scratched-up waist, naked except for my bra and jeans. Nice rope moves Chris, where d’you learn all that? No way for me to twist free. He’d been practising. What else you got up your sleeve? Pretty obvious I was sat there by force to anyone who saw us but there was no one at that time of night. And then he got something else from the back seat: a big black bit of nylon which he eased over my gagged head and over my whole seat so it covered my head and gag and ropes and backrest, and buckled the seatbelt too over me, so I looked like a big fat covered hunchback big-jawed Moslem woman strapped in there next to him with only my eyes on show.
I scrunched them shut. Jesus fucking Christ.
“Really sorry,” he said. “Burkas. Very useful, I wear them too sometimes. These Moslems, they know what they’re up against.”
The crunch of the ignition, the car spluttering, failing to start, starting.
He drove me off into the night.