In 2008 I wrote this short story about sped cameras. I am quite happy for it to be reproduced as long as I am informed.
They are pervasive! They are everywhere! They flash! They make money for the government! They are not fair! Nobody likes them! They are an intrusion into everybodies life! They are an echo of Big Brother from “ Nineteen Eighty four!” They should not be allowed to get away with this!
So thought John as he changed into his black sweater and black trousers. As he pulled on his black jacket, his heart raced at the thought that he was going to stand up to this menace. By his actions this night, he and his friends would take one small step in ridding the world of these things. He did not have words to describe how he felt about their existence, creeping silently without notice along many streets on the edges of towns and cities. They must be eliminated and not allowed to proliferate like some alien species breeding their way to taking over the land.
Before leaving his house to join his friends, John crept into the bedroom where his daughter Lisa lay sleeping. He gently lifted the duvet and made sure she was comfortable. Lovingly, he looked down at at her young, innocent face framed by that shock of blonde curls. He bent down and kissed her forehead. At the door, he turned and took one last look at her face framed in the small night light she always insisted on having beside her bed. She was smiling in her sleep, looking for all the world to John like a little angel in a stain glass window.
Carol, his wife, was sitting by the fire watching the late film on television and drinking her bed time drink when he looked into the sitting room.
She looked up, smiled. “ I will be in bed when you get back. You will be careful won’t you John?”
John kissed her cheek and smiled in return. “ I am always careful when on a mission. See you later when I get back.”
John had to admit to himself that Carol knew what he was up to on those nights he left the house late. She never objected, never tried to stop him going out, merely told him, as she did this night, to be careful. Whenever he thought about it, John was never certain whether she approved of what he was doing or not. Deep down he understood that she let him get on with his campaign, avoiding any argument which might upset the domestic harmony and in doing so, effect Lisa. Before leaving his house, John picked up the package he had prepared earlier in the evening, checked the contents and stuffed them into his shoulder bag.
Outside the house, it was dim under the widely spaced street lights lining the road where he lived. As he came out of his drive, the lights of a car parked further down the road from his house came on. Seeing this, John walked quickly to the car. As he approached, the car door opened and he got into the back, depositing his package onto the back seat. There were two men in the car, both like John wearing dark clothes.
“ A good night for it,” George remarked from the driving seat. “ Terry has the hoods.”
Terry grinned, his teeth white in the dim light. John took the black balaclava from Terry and placed it on the seat next to his bag. Once John was comfortable, George drove off towards the outskirts of the town. Near a cemetery and a park, George found a quiet parking spot, parked the car and sat watching the road. All was quiet. With a grin at the others, he pulled his black balaclava over his head, nodded to Terry and John and got out of the car. Terry and John followed, Terry carrying a folded light ladder, John a shoulder bag.
With George leading, they walked towards the main road, keeping close to the hedge which surrounded the cemetery. As they approached the main road, George held up his hand as a signal for Terry and John to stop. Looking up and down the road, George made certain that nothing was in sight. He shrank further into the shadows when a car came over the brow of the hill to his right and round the sharp bend in the road a hundred yards from where they stood. The car slowed quickly as it came towards the cemetery and passed the yellow box on top of a post near the edge of the road. There was no flash as the car sped away, before slowing at the traffic lights near the junction further down the road to their left.
Once all was quiet, George waved and the three men moved out of the shadows of the hedge and ran across the open space to the post. Terry assembled the ladder while George stood watch. John placed the bag on the pavement and arranged some cans and wires on the tarmac. Giving half of these to Terry, John climbed the ladder. Hurriedly, he placed the wires around the yellow box and attached the cans to the lenses and the cover for the camera film. When this was done, he reached down, took the rest of the stuff from Terry and attached this to the back of the camera. Sliding down the ladder, John lit the fuse as Terry folded the ladder away. George signalled for them to run and they quickly rushed into the shadow of the hedge by the cemetery. There was a wosh and suddenly flames engulfed the yellow box.
At this, George turned away and hurriedly led them back to the car. As they approached the car, they peeled off their balaclavas and slowed to a walk as though they were three men returning from the pub. By the time they were back in the car, the glow had faded.
They laughed and applauded once back in the car, patting each other on the back. Still laughing, George started the car and drove back towards the main road. When they passed the camera, it was blackened and drooping and obviously not working. They could not help letting out another shout of joy.
“ One less for the money grabbing government to make money out of,” Terry giggled as they sped back to their homes. “ They should trust us motorists to drive safely without all this nineteen eighty four stuff. I know when I am driving too fast and always slow down.”
“ See you in the Royal Oak on Friday, John,” George said as John got out of the car. “ We can talk about which one will be next.”
“ See you Friday,” John replied as he shouldered his bag, waved to Terry and walked the few yards to his house.
All was quiet in the house, the windows dark. In the hall Carol had, as usual, left the light burning. John took off his coat and hung it on it’s peg in the hall before going through to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee and stow away his bag. He sat for a while thinking about their campaign and how successful they had been so far. Though they had never tested his theory, he was convinced that most people supported what he, Terry and George were doing. Sighing, he rinsed his cup, placed it upside down on the draining board and went up the stairs.
He looked in at Lisa. She lay on her back, her eyes tight shut, her blonde curls framing her face and a beautiful smile on her lips. Crossing the floor silently, John kissed her forehead and closed the door gently as he left her bedroom. Carol was asleep, curled up under the duvet one hand under her cheek, her face looking so peaceful in the light from the landing. John took off his clothes, slid into the bed by her side and kissed her gently on the forehead.
The sun was shining on the park making the grass appear more green than normal. The flowers in the flower beds gave a flash of colour and the ducks on the pond looked up in anticipation everytime anybody walked by.
The little girl skipped along the path, her blonde curls bouncing on her head and a smile on her face. “ Look Mummy,” she called in an excited voice. “ The ducks want some bread. Did we bring any?”
The woman walking by her side smiled and reached into her bag. “ Here.I didn’t forget. Now you be careful of the water.”
The little girl with the blonde curls and washed out jeans, trotted across the grass to the pond. The ducks, as though they had been waiting for this moment all afternoon, came squawking and pushing across the pond to where the girl was standing. With an excited giggle, the girl slowly broke the slice of bread into pieces and threw them into the water. Her squeals of laughter were almost drowned out by the squawking of the ducks as they fought over the scraps of bread.
“ Come along,” the woman said taking her daughter’s hand. “ We have to get home to cook your daddy’s dinner.”
The girl smiled her angelic smile and skipped along beside her mother. They left the park and turned onto the main road by the cemetery. Getting to a place along the road where there was a traffic island in the centre, they paused to let the girl look right and left and right again just as her mother had taught her. There was nothing in sight. The girl looked curiously at the blackened yellow box drooping on its pole like some tree which had been struck by lightening. She did not say anything to her mother. They started across the road, then there was a roar as a car came up over the brow of the hill turning sharply right passed the camera. There was a squeal of tyres, the car bucked and rocked and then a sickening bang as the car smashed into the little girl and her mother. They did not have a chance. The car was travelling too fast in the knowledge gained from the email grapevine that the camera was inoperable. After hitting the girl and her mother, the car skidded uncontrolled and smashed into a wall by the cemetery. Silence descended, broken only by the blaring sound of the car horn. People came running, cars stopped and the smashed car was soon surrounded by helpers.
John followed the policeman down the long, dimly lit, concrete corridor. Their shadows stalked along the wall at their sides like ghosts accompanying Macbeth as he went to meet the witches. Their footsteps echoed off into dark side passages. John felt numb. He had felt numb inside ever since he had been called into the human resources director’s office that afternoon. A policeman had been standing there by the desk and as gently as possible had told him what had happened.
At the end of the corridor, the policeman pushed open a door, asking John to wait. John stood by the door hardly hearing the rumble of voices from inside the room. After a while, the door opened and the policeman waved him inside. The room they entered was white tiled with a row of what looked like over big filing cabinets to one side. In the centre were two metal tables with white cloth covered shapes laying a on top.
A man in a white boiler suit smiled faintly at John and motioned him over to one of the tables. Taking hold of the white cloth, he gently drew it back. The blonde curls were now revealed framing a bruised face. The blue eyes were closed. John nodded trying desperately not to sob out loud. The man in the white boiler suit replaced the white sheet. Walking to the other table he lifted the white cloth. Carol lay her face bruised and puffy. John nodded and turned away.
The policeman held open the door to the room and led the way back down the corridor, the footsteps once more tapping their echoes down dimly lit side passages leading to the depth of the hospital. Their shadows accompanied them like the ghosts of John’s past come to heckle him.
“ If those idiots had not damaged that speed camera, the car might have been going slower and might have been able to stop.” The words of the policeman dropped into the lengthening silence of their passage along the corridor.