He sat alone, shrouded in darkness save for the headlights of car lamps as they brought temporary light to the insides of his black Fiesta. The puffs of grey smoke which opened up into patterns of spiraling ghosts kept the interior as fog.

He held paper lit at its end like the fiery red of a dragon’s breath to his fat lips sculpted in a shape, reminiscent of his mother’s. Taking a long slow pull of his fire starter he turned up the words on the stereo to the voice of J Hus saying “even when we never had a penny, yo we always had spirit, they can bun my flesh, but they can’t touch my spirit, they want take way my freedom but how they gonna take my spirit….”

He slid back down deeper into the black fabric of the ripped seats and his brain felt as if it was traveling from here to the Himalayas. Like he had the answer to the meaning of life, now knowing the true religion, and it all was as simple as two plus two.

His answer to life’s equation was broken as a nonbeliever knocked on his window, with eyes wide like the highlights from kohl eyeliner. The cloud from his mind dissipated, his overriding programming of survival of the fittest, set into motion. He was ready for action and greeted the regular stranger, Blocka with

“I keep on telling you not to beat on my windows like that G.”

The response back was quicker “And I keep on telling you not to talk to me like that B.”

Unwittingly, the ego of man had entered them into a standoff that was tense; each one unwilling to surrender his position. Jerry quietly stretched his fingers towards a man-made black knight sharpened to a tip, with the sole intention of checking lost kings.

“Aight listen, you want this work or you want me to take it elsewhere?”

The bigger older man looked at him harshly, “I hear all that B, but I ain’t having no yout talk to me…”

Jerry cut him off, “I ain’t no yout G, I’m a ask you for the last time, you want this work or not.”

Blocka had thoughts of robbing this slick-mouthed child for his night’s wage wrapped in plastic. In days gone past, few would have dared talk to him with such open disrespect; as in that era, he’d been the main contender in a roadside coliseum for urban gladiators, pitching any adversary in a shower of public blood spray.

Though at the time, few realised that Blocka’s fearlessness for life originated from being a naive teen of 13 and introduced to a white widow that sapped life under the pretense of fool’s gold. He fell weak to the demon, needing a fix to lace the insides of his nose white every few weeks. As time went on, the need for the beast only increased, making him reckless and wild. Even the wicked at some point though, have to succumb to Father Time, and the effects of the white demon were long lasting. So that a body once strong and vital, was now weak from multiplying cancerous cells.

Blocka weighed up the cost for his scheme of a robbery. He wasn’t sure if it was worth it, as though Jerry was still a kid, he was also a youth well known for using his tool in suffering no fool. Knowledge of this helped him come to the best decision. Blocka rifled through his pocket for a crumpled £20 note and handed it to Jerry,

“All I’m saying B is in my day, we had more respect.”

Jerry handed him the white sin wrapped in plastic, the toxic delight that Blocka’s body craved for. Jerry wondered how a guy like him had ever allowed himself to get into the position of being a crack head Nitty, especially considering the reputation he’d been told the older man used to have. All he knew was he wouldn’t allow for himself to ever fall victim to a man-made drug. To be a Nitty was to be a victim and in his world, even the Lord knew, he was no victim.

He took a long last pull of his own potent flavours, staring at the older man coldly as he blew out a snail of grey smoke.

“This ain’t back in the day my G .”

He rolled up his window and Blocka stepped from him, as if never there. He stomped down on the clutch, smashing the gear lever into first, as he aimed to wheel spin off to another drug dealer scene. He failed miserably, the black Fiesta losing life as it sputtered to a stop. Heat radiated from his inner being as he thought how his friends would laugh if they caught him stalling like that, on big Coldharbour Lane.

He went to restart the ignition but paused when he saw a girl in black slowly move closer to his rear mirror view. Her face was oval and her complexion golden, as if the last great Gods of Egyptian kings past had presented the world with one final gift before departing forever from the minds of a nation growing in atheism and capitalism, disguised as spiritual flight.

Jerry opened his mouth wide, a flycatcher would have had nothing on him, he was firmly caught within the trap of her dissarming beauty. Though as she got closer what really got him was her hazel eyes, which spoke sonnets of a sad song. He knew those eyes well, as it was the same ones he’d witnessed within his own mother before her life was cut tragically short. Though six years on, he still felt like a part of him had died with her. Some might say his pursuit for women was in fact a pursuit for completion of what he’d lost, but any talk of that to him and he’d run them from him, dismissing them as Neeks.

Lost in space, he noticed a single tear drop from the edge of the girl’s black-tipped eyelid. He didn’t know why, but he had the urge to approach her, not as a random chick, but on some ‘big man’ ting. Though when she walked past, he remained still, his usual shield of confidence was lost and all he could do was watch as the black Velour tracksuit which contained her charms slowly swayed by.

‘Waste man’, he inwardly scolded himself.

Cursing again, he kissed his teeth as he noticed her grace wasn’t lost to the other night lurkers of late night Brixton. One particularly brave dweller went one step further from the whistles of a few men making half-assed attempts at getting her attention. He noticed his regular Blocka in amongst the crowd of hyenas.

“Yo come here, let me chat to you for a second.”

Moving with purpose, she responded tactfully, “I’ve got a man.”

“Forget your waste man, you need a real G, like me.”

She politely smiled again and carried on walking.

He shouted in her direction, “Ah forget you anyway, you’re ugly.”

As she walked off unfazed, she gave him the middle finger without looking around.

A small peal of laughter erupted with a few high pitched giggles from the older patrons.

“You gonna take that?”

“How you having girls chat to you like that?!”

“You need to set pace on her.”

Fuel for a flame had been ignited and a male ego dented by foolish pride can be prone to recklessness. Attempting to reclaim stripes he thought he’d lost and with no further talk, the guy leaped and with an NBA hangtime, landed square with his foot in the girl’s back. She fell to the floor in a shocked, crumpled heap, eyes even wider as she looked back still-stunned, at her puffa jacket wearing assailant.

Before Jerry even allowed himself to think or to consider the risks, he pumped the gear into first, speeding with a screech as he near enough mounted the pavement next to the girl and her perpetrator. Seeing the tinted banger viciously mounting the curb, Puffa coat’s friends dispersed like rats scrambling for shelter from daylight movement. Only two of the guy’s friends remained, one of them being the ever watchful Blocka whose eyes were now slanted in concentration at the young teen. An arena with a crowd was set, the puffa wearing perpetrator versus the younger Jerry.

Puffa coat screamed “What you want, you lickle dick head?!?”

Jerry’s response was wordless, he showcased his zombie killer, a long-bladed black knife. The light from the moon darting in amongst the dark clouds of a Brixton night caused slithers of white flashes to ripple across the sleek black monstrosity.

Puffa coat searched the eyes of the young Jerry and what was reflected back was a glimpse of a land of hell. Not a hell run by the twisted form of a pin faced demon, but a hell witnessed by a boy of just 14 who’d already seen an eternity of suffering and was happy to have someone join him. Puffa coat had no wish in being tortured in this dysfunctional teen’s version of purgatory.

“I’m a see you around little boy,” he talked with menace at Jerry “..but just know the next time I see you, it’s on for you.” Puffa coat backed off quickly, trousers low sagging. Jerry thought to run after him and tear a new meaning of road life into his backside, but he stopped when he caught her gaze upon him. Weary hazel eyes peered at him cautiously. His heart chakra sung a love song and his lower chakra spun to its beat.

Gracefully she rolled over, dusting her hands off but never taking her eyes off him. With his hand free from the zombie killer, he extended it to help. She looked at it, then looked back to him, taking it hesitantly. He clasped her hand softly, giving her support to rise up and believe that there is still some good left in humanity.

“Thank you” she said

“Don’t worry about it” he replied, “they’re Neeks.”

“All the same, thank you.” A tiny stream rolled down her cheeks, the quiet thunder to her eventual torrent of tears.

Taken aback by this raw honesty, he didn’t know what to say or do as she leaned into him and an innate concern came over him. They found a way to hold each other in the way lovers new do…

I hope you enjoyed reading this excerpt to my short story, for me working in the field of youth crime for so long I’ve long known that often there’s more to the story than what’s often painted in mainstream media. So my simple goal is to document some of these experiences in a way that I hope ends provoking thought, as to tackle some of the current issues of knife crime it takes a community in coming together, and this conversation will have to be around what opportunities can be provided so our young people don’t see gang culture as the only option. 

The full version of the short story will be released on davidanglin.co.uk on Sunday  13th October.