The Urban Writing Thread

Discussion in 'books, films, TV, radio & writing' started by ShiftyBagLady, Jun 24, 2009.


Are you in?

  1. Yes Shifty I'm positively brimming with creativity

  2. No Shifty I have enough to pretend to be doing

  3. Wotz ritin?

  4. ShiftyBagLady gives good poll

Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. maya

    maya timewasting fool (in every universe)

    ^ That's not bad... :cool: ! (I'd love to see someone write about extremely mundane everyday things too, like waiting in a queue or walking the dog or boiling potatoes and doing the dishes or something, only from a strange bjorkish perspective and with her mannerisms...)
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2015
  2. scifisam

    scifisam feck! arse! girls! drink!

    I'm going shopping
    I'm the shopper
    I can find the BAAAAAAARGAINS
    I can find them before you
    You huuuuuuman
    Slow hUUUUUuuuUUUman
    I daaaaaare you
    To take me on
    At the discount counter of life
    And Liiiiiiiiidl
    I will be the winner
    The sausages are calling)
    mojo pixy likes this.
  3. scifisam

    scifisam feck! arse! girls! drink!

    ShiftyBagLady likes this.
  4. ShiftyBagLady

    ShiftyBagLady Thinks she is a flower to be looked at

    Well done! I read it and I really enjoyed your piece :)
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  5. scifisam

    scifisam feck! arse! girls! drink!

    Thank you!
  6. frogwoman

    frogwoman лягушкая женщина

    From the sequel to my book, a lot of the stuff i put up about two years ago was originally intended for it but ive had to change the story a lot.

    It's two am when we arrive. When was the last time I saw sunlight? I don't remember. My world is lit up by street lamps and striplights. My fingers curl round Lou's. She's thin, bony. She has trouble walking. She touches my back and smiles at me weakly.
    'Tell me bout these lads, then,' Lou says.
    'I knew them from boxing,' Hassan says. 'Good lads. Salman. Not AFDB. Some other group. I forget the name of it now, like.'

    We walk up to the door. Wait. There's no sign of anyone. I feel inside my pocket. Three hundred pounds in cash. We've driven fifty miles to come here. They were cooperative, friendly. We can vouch for them, more to the point.
    They take a few minutes to come to the door. I pull my hood over my face. I scan the street with my eyes; lights, sounds. The camera above our heads is broken. The wall behind us is full of graffiti; antifa, anarchy, and the tags of bored teenagers. I clutch my gun in my hands.
    The door opens. A man opens the door dressed in camo. He grins at Hassan. 'All right, buddy?'
    'Yeah, bred.' We walk inside; the man swiftly closes the door behind us. I don't remove my face mask. Lou keeps hers on. My hot breath fills the fabric. She grips me with a gloved hand. I could weep I'm so grateful to have her back with me again.
    The first thing I notice is the fact that the building is so clean inside, despite being boarded up and covered with graffiti. The scent of air freshener that's slightly too strong to be pleasant. The shiny floor. The second thing is that it's so big inside. High ceilings. Not like the squalid rooms we've been sharing with the rats and the inch of water on the floor. Where the only heat comes from a single radiator. The one we chained Katrina to.
    He takes us into the back of the warehouse. I have rarely seen so many guns. Anti tank missiles. Rocket launchers. Grenades.
    'Where did you get this stash?' I joke with the fighter guarding them. A young man of about twenty, thin and wiry but handsome, the torch light illuminating his face. A few months ago in my grief stricken promiscuous phase I would have considered fucking him. I wish I didn't notice. 'Out where we're from, guns and ammo don't grow on trees.'
    He grins. 'We have ways,' he says. 'Never mind about that.'
    He gets up. 'What do you want? We have medical supplies, too. We have anything you want.'
    It's a vast, well stocked space.
    'Did you rob the NDF base?' Hassan says. 'Tell me how you did it, mate. We want some of that.'
    'We were given it,' the guy grins. 'It's easy when you have the right connections.'
    'Put us in touch.' I feel uneasy but don't know why. There's no way, I tell myself. They're not exemptives. Things go wrong with exemptives all the time. They throw up. Die. Go crazy when the cameras in their head malfunction. There's no way the BPF would trust exemptives with such a huge stash of weapons, even the ones with the newest chips in their heads. 'You know where to find me.'
    The next thing I notice is the walls are bare. No page 3 or titty mags from macho men like Danny. No political slogans. No tags. No 'hasta la victoria siempre'. No banners to show what group these people are in. They are white and pristine. As clean as the floor. There's a faint whiff of cooking. Air freshener. Otherwise nothing.
    I turn my head and look around the room. Scan it for bugs. Nothing.
    I can hear no noise from outside. No cars going by. No sirens. No cats, no dogs.
    The walls are soundproof.
    My eyes turn to the corner of the room and I see it. There is no moisture in my mouth. It's dry. I nod and listen to what the two men are saying, turn away, pretend I've not seen. Stand with my hands on my hips. Pretend it doesn't exist and I never saw it. But I'm not really listening.
    His words go in one ear and out the other. I barely register. I hope he doesn't know, I try to convince myself it's not what I can see. I look for some mark in the corner that would make it different. Something to make it OK for me to have come here. For me to have brought my girlfriend here. I see myself kneeling down before that symbol, thrust in front of a camera. What a prize that would be.

    'You let me know what you've chosen?' I nod. 'I'll let you alone to make a decision.'
    I watch him leave, disappear down the other end. I walk past the shelves stacked with guns and grenades, shaking with every step and the effort of forcing myself to act like a woman not out of my mind. To not look. I discuss what we're going to buy with Hassan. A stash better than anything we've ever been able to have. £500 in total. The proceeds of the bank robbery. I'd be happy to leave empty handed, to leave with nothing if it meant never seeing these people again.

    I pull my scarf tight over my face. The gun salesman comes back. 'You made a decision yet?' He seems happy. There are only three of us. I counted five of them on the way in. Not enough. I clear my throat. 'Yeah, I've made my decision.'
    I take out five wads of £100. 'That,' I say, pointing to the large assault rifle nearest me. 'That. That.'
    And then I pay him and wish we weren't such fucking low down forms of life. I tell myself we need these weapons. I tell myself I have to keep my eye on the prize. Getting rid of the BPF. Fighting fascism. Protecting our people. Protecting the kids we're hiding. Helping the refugees get out. That's all that matters. That's all that's ever going to matter.
    Hassan shakes his hand. 'Later, mate.'
    We walk out. Two other men walk us to the door. There's nothing. No evidence of what happens here. At least I don't have to shake Salman's hand. We nod at them and thank them and then walk to the car as quickly as we can.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2015
    mojo pixy likes this.
  7. frogwoman

    frogwoman лягушкая женщина

  8. DotCommunist

    DotCommunist slowtime

    nice- one thing, recon protagonist should know what they are looking for when they see it. Catches their eye, perhaps from a magazine or in the hands of some fighter she'd met ?? recognizes it on the shelf and names it like, with a nod 'the steyr' or whatever. Does that make sense?
    frogwoman likes this.
  9. frogwoman

    frogwoman лягушкая женщина

    Good one, i'll change it, i know nothing about weapons lol. Is it obvious who the guys their buying the weapons off are?
  10. frogwoman

    frogwoman лягушкая женщина

    Cheers - lol i dont seem to be able to keep up the same momentum here as i did for the last book i keep writing random scenes and not knowing where it should fit together.
  11. DotCommunist

    DotCommunist slowtime

    I have some idea yes lol only guesses mind.
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  12. frogwoman

    frogwoman лягушкая женщина

    'I'm sorry, mate,' Hassan says as he slides into the car behind us. 'I didn't know, man! We knew each other for time. I trusted that lad. I trusted him with my life. What happened?'
    I start the engine, turn carefully out of the parking lot. One of them comes outside to watch us leave.
    'Why the fuck didn't you tell me who these guys were? We could have all been killed!'
    'I didn't know, man,' Hassan moans. 'I hadn't seen him in years. I thought I knew him! I thought I trusted him!'
    'You can never trust anyone,' I say. 'Don't you know that by now?'
    'How could he,' Hassan says. 'How could he have - '
    'How could he have joined ISIS?' I press my foot on the accelerator. The wheels slam into a speed bump. 'I don't know. He's your friend. You tell me.'
    'As I said to you, I didn't know,' Hassan says. Infuriating me. 'What are we supposed to do? Only use guns that are dropped from the fucking sky? It's war. We've got to deal with people we wouldn't - that we don't like.' His eyes shine in the back mirror. 'By any means necessary.'
    'I don't think so,' I say. 'We have to keep our distance. Thanks to us they're now £500 richer. We're not on the same side and it's time we remembered that.'
    'We're fighting the same enemy,' Hassan says.
    'What do you think will happen when the fash are gone?' I say. 'They'll turn on us.'
    My heart is pounding. I see a light in the distance. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. I turn the corner and look for cars behind me. 'You know, it's easy, Tal,' I hear Hassan saying.
    'To do what?' I say. I touch Lou's arm in the seat next to me. She doesn't speak. She's hardly said a word since I confessed my infidelity. She smiles at me weakly. She looks away. It's as if she has been crushed. She can't bear to look at me any longer. She told me I was the reason she allowed herself to keep going. I'm a cowardly, wicked disappointment.
    'Easy to forget what they did. With the dirty bomb. It was such long ago, wasn't it? We was at school. Maybe they've changed? He's a good bloke. Maybe he reckons it's right?'
    'For you, maybe.' In spite of myself tears come to my eyes. I blink them away. 'I never forgot. I was there that day. People like that don't change.'

    An hour later we are back. I stop the car. I take one of the boxes, move to open the door.
    'We need to talk about this, Tal,' Hassan says.
    'There's nothing to talk about.' I see the rows upon rows of M16s and AK47s. Something we can only dream of. It's tempting. So tempting to get their help. To use their knowledge, their skills. I think of their fighter jets flying over Iraq and Syria, laying waste to everything in sight. Their tanks. We could do with a few of those. We could do with a few more soldiers who know what they're doing. A year later and the only experience so many of our fighters have of war is going on the odd protest and being picked up by police for wearing ACAB t shirts.

    And then that day comes back to me with stinging clarity. I had just come out of jail. I was with my mother, attempting to both stop her fighting with people in the street and buy myself a set of new clothes. I was going to meet Lou later. We were going to a gig. I was going to meet her in town as soon as I'd got Kiera - my mother - safely home. She had chosen herself a black dress she couldn't afford and spent the last half an hour screaming abuse at me for ruining her life.
    'I ruined your life?' I said to her. 'There's so many things I could say to you.'
    I laughed and turned on my heel to walk out of the shopping mall. As I left two men with backpacks walked through the automatic doors. l almost didn't notice them. One of them had a beard. But who didn't in those days? Everyone loved beards, even the women. I gave them a quick glance and continued on my way, laden down with my mother's purchases of wine, prescription drugs and clothes she would wear once and throw away.
    Fifteen minutes later, one of the two men would let off the dirty bomb, destroy our shopping mall, kill over a thousand people and shear between 20 and 30 years off my life expectancy. People started throwing up in the street. Choking. The sky filled with black smoke. The fire could be seen from twenty miles away. Sedgewick's government wouldn't evacuate. They said there was no need and no money. Chernobyl hadn't turned out that bad, had it? Things were growing there. There was nowhere for us to go.
    I'll never forgive them for what came next. Duncan Stone's party had been preparing for this moment all their lives. Watching. Waiting. The long awaited war against Muslims had begun. It was downhill from here. As people puked their own guts out on street corners and ISIS blew up buses, trains, a school. They didn't care. They never did.

    I almost understand why some people went Nazi. Not all. But some. If it wasn't for an accident of birth perhaps I'd be one of them. Perhaps I will have to one day anyway if ISIS get any further and the BPF get so desperate they ask for our help. I push the thought away. No. Never.

    Lou's fingers brush against the back of my neck. 'Gotta tell you summin'.'
    She takes a deep breath. Hassan stands outside smoking a cigarette, looking over his shoulder. Watching him is a relief, a riposte to Tyrell's paranoia about the Muslims. Hassan's schoolfriend may have opened his eyes. But he hasn't. He's still the man I've known for nigh on six years. As opposed to Tyrell, a violent, unpredictable thug who I've barely known six months yet still willingly climbed into bed with because I was cold and lonely.
    'Go on.' My voice sounds stiff. I brace myself for the inevitable. I need space. I'm sorry, babe. I can't be with you no more after what you done. I waited. I kept meself for you.
    My eyes fill with tears.
    'I fucked one of the guards, Tal. So they'd move me in a cell on me own. So I didn't have to do that diggin' every day. I had to. I'm so sorry.'
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2015
  13. frogwoman

    frogwoman лягушкая женщина


    What you reckon? Theres loads of context from other scenes ive not posted (and in some cases are just in my head)
  14. frogwoman

    frogwoman лягушкая женщина

    Let me know what you think, this is gonna be my nanowrimo novel and for once im gonna have a decent stab at finishing it :D
  15. DotCommunist

    DotCommunist slowtime

    I will do sistren, I've not clocked the second bit yet as my brain is frazzled from spending 8 hours playing a computer game last night while smoking green. Still a bit foggy lol. I'm not doing nano this year I've been neglecting the sci fi books a bit so need to do some catching up with reading.

    the quest! we've both some way to go to catch up with 'five times' marty21
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  16. frogwoman

    frogwoman лягушкая женщина

    No worries, when you got time. :cool:
  17. ShiftyBagLady

    ShiftyBagLady Thinks she is a flower to be looked at

    If anybody's interested then I've got a blog up, not much in it at the moment but feel free to follow me and all that
    Greebo and frogwoman like this.
  18. frogwoman

    frogwoman лягушкая женщина

    I've got some of my stuff up here

    rach (hrb264) - Wattpad

    nervous about posting all of my latest book up though as i am worried people might think i'm a terrorist :D
    Greebo likes this.
  19. Pickman's model

    Pickman's model Every man and every woman is a star

    i don't think you need to worry on that front ;)
    Greebo and frogwoman like this.
  20. Greebo

    Greebo 'scuse me, Mrs May, can I have my country back? R.I.P.

    If there's one thing the current round of bad nights and waiting about has done, it's given me the time to get back to an unfinished story.

    I'm not that happy with the voice at the moment, and it's got one large chunk which needs adding in, but it's mostly working. :hmm:
  21. Iszie

    Iszie Well-Known Member

    For whatever reason when I read this, the song from 'Verlaines' called 'Heavy 33' came up in me mind, although the entire message/underlying meaning between the song and your poem has no hard connection since your poem seems to be about the longing to possess a person in wuv and 'Heavy 33' is about the agony of trying to reach out to a person who is seemingly going downhill-can't-be-helped-sort-o'-thing:-

    Listen here: <

    "I can force you to smile
    But it don't reach your eyes
    Like the moon in the day, silently fades
    That which formerly shined is obliterated

    I'm striving to coax or wrench you, I can't even reach you
    You're starving for something, I've got nothing to feed you
    And renegade good intentions turn to scorn
    All the clouds keep hoarding
    All their airborne oceans won't fall

    There's a creature of prey
    In the darkness, it waits
    And it's fixing its eyes
    Smouldering eyes, with a purpose of mind
    On the line that it traces

    I'm striving to coax or wrench you, I can't even reach you
    You're starving for something, I've got nothing to feed you
    And renegade good intentions turn to scorn
    All the clouds keep hoarding
    All their airborne oceans won't fall

    I'm striving to coax or wrench you, I can't even reach you
    You're starving for something, I've got nothing to feed you
    And renegade good intentions turn to scorn
    All the clouds keep hoarding
    All their airborne oceans won't fall"
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  22. scifisam

    scifisam feck! arse! girls! drink!

    I can see some similarities there, definitely. My poem was meant to be more metaphorical - the thing speaking is depression, not a human. Multiple interpretations are good though :)
  23. frogwoman

    frogwoman лягушкая женщина

    This is from my nanowrimo novel, bits of it are posted further up, mostly rewritten or deleted now though

    I wrote this today

    I hear them going out. I don't know what the time is. It could be the middle of the night or the middle of the day. The windows here are boarded up and it's below ground. They only go out at night because the Party are looking for them. It's after midnight for sure because the shops are open until gone 11 these days, Dad said it was to promote the economy. I hear them saying something about 'Dash' and I don't know what that is.
    Lou Jeffreys opens the door. I've never spoken to her before but I've heard the other guards talking about her. She's Talisha's ex girlfriend but Talisha slept with one of the others. I don't understand how a girl can have a girlfriend. It's a disease, they said in the Party.
    'Awright, Katrina,' Lou says. 'I'll be stayin' wiv ya this evenin'. You knows the rules. No speaking till you're spoke to. You knows all that, right?'
    'I know, ma'am,' I say. Her pistol bulges out of her pocket. I try not to look at it.
    'Tal says you likes them Sudoku puzzles. I brought you one..' She chucks the bit of paper at me. It's too dark to read. I put it by my blanket. Maybe they'll turn the light on and I can do it later.
    'Thank you, ma'am,' I say.
    'Wanna fag mate?' Lou says. 'I got some. Shouldn't, it were a bad habit from the jail.'
    'Yeah, all right.' It's been a long time since I smoked. I haven't since my dad caught me smoking out of my window. If you work for the Party smoking is banned because the white race have to keep ourselves pure and pristine with no drugs or unhealthy food to contaminate us. They used to say our bodies were like the bodies of the nation. I feel guilty taking a cigarette although Ante used to when I was in the NDF and I know he used to have coke.
    Lou lights it for me and hides the lighter in her pocket. It's been a really long time since I smoked and I almost start coughing.
    'Thanks,' I say. Lou shrugs. She looks really tired. She puts her scarf back around her face so it's covering her nose. She stretches her legs out on the chair. It's just a plastic one like we had at school.
    'Me mate died,' she says suddenly. 'Danny.'
    I don't know what to say. I sit there looking at her. It was the Party wasn't it? The one who went missing a few nights ago. If I say I'm sorry then she won't believe me, will she?'
    'You can say summink.' She stares at me. 'They treats you well 'ere, innit?'
    'Yes, ma'am.'
    She lifts her shirt up. 'This is where they tortured me. They burned me an' that. They beat me. Tryin' a get me to talk. I'm in pain constantly all the time cos what they done to me. Do you reckon I'm a terrorist? Do you reckon we's just mindlessly battlin' for no reason?'
    She plays with her hands. Her expression is the same but her voice is strained. Something sinks inside me. I want to hug her and tell her I'm sorry. Surely my dad wouldn't agree with this?
    'Tell me 'ow it's OK to kill families wi' kids,' she says. 'Tell me 'ow it's OK to lock people up for who they's in love with? 'Ow it's OK to shoot workers on strike? I don't understand?'
    'It's not OK,' I say. "I'm - I'm sorry all those things happened. I don't agree with them. I don't agree with the Party any more. I'm really sorry. An' - an' I'm sorry bout Danny.'
    Zabo likes this.
  24. NoXion

    NoXion It's been 600 years...

    I managed to complete this today. Well to be honest I don't think I've finished it properly, but all the blanks are filled in, so to speak. It's a piece of world-building I've been working on for about a year and a half, tinkering with it now and then when I get an idea of how to make it fit together better. Yeah, I am so goddamn slow.

    Timeline of Terran History (v1.0)

    It's all sorts of crap, but I largely do this sort of thing for my own amusement.
    frogwoman likes this.
  25. frogwoman

    frogwoman лягушкая женщина

    I'd really like to read more, the first century bit was really fucking good
  26. NoXion

    NoXion It's been 600 years...

    Good to hear that, because the 21st century is a period I'm planning to expand upon.
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  27. frogwoman

    frogwoman лягушкая женщина

    I've had to rewrite a bit of my story. This is what ive done this evening:

    'And?' Tyrell says. 'Did you find anything?'
    I shake my head. I never seriously thought there would be a bug in Katrina's room. She's too stupid and less interested in espionage than in drinking herself to death. I feel almost ashamed. Almost.
    'Look there if you want,' I say. 'There's nothing.'

    I've crawled the length of the tunnel they would have taken to Marbury several times, on my hands and knees. There's no sign that the exit was tampered with.
    'Did you tell anyone where you were going?' I can't remember how many times I've asked him that.

    'I told you! I didn't know, they didn't tell me.'
    'Go over what happened again.'

    'For God's sake, Tal. I've already said, haven't I. I got in a fight with them. It was over your ex actually. Danny started on at me when I was in the woods. Told me to stop being racist. An old, fat white man telling a black man not to be racist in an anti-fascist militia! Fucking spare me.'

    Everything's about him. Everything always is. I grit my teeth and let him carry on. Avi sits between me and him. He came back after having his cast removed from where he was shot a few months ago. I'm glad of the third man's presence. A memory surfaces of me on top of Tyrell, wearing nothing but a t shirt. I hate him. I hate myself.

    'You can't get into fights with people when you're on a job. You're a fucking liability.'
    'Well, Danny started it,' Tyrell snaps. 'Are you taking his side?'
    'He's the one who hasn't come back,' I say. Avi looks at me, rolls his eyes. He writes something down on a bit of paper.

    'What did you do then?' I say.

    'Danny called me a cunt. They walked ahead,' Tyrell says. 'Just walked ahead and left me. I was in the forest. I was somewhere I'd never been before. I couldn't see anyone. So I tried to follow them. But I couldn't see where anything was.'

    'And then what?' My mouth feels dry. A spider runs across the table. I reach for a glass of water; purified using power from the generator because you can't drink anything from the tap here. The BPF will detect it, and it's contaminated anyway.
    'Well that tunnel came out into the forest,' Tyrell says. 'I'd walked a couple hundred yards. And someone was there. Someone started shooting at us. There were loads of them. I didn't see who it was. It's like they were waiting. They surrounded us. It musta been NDF but they were ... different. The guns they were using. It was so quiet. There was nobody else around.'

    'And you're positive they were waiting there?'

    'Of course I'm positive!' Tyrell snarls. 'You think I'd lie about this? I know what you think of me but - but you think I fucking shot them or something? What's that say about you? That you think that? Eh? What's that say about you?'
    He raises his fist, ready to bang it on the table. But he looks so distressed and frightened.

    'I don't think you shot them,' I say. 'But someone knew you were coming, didn't they?'
    'I know I've got problems,' Tyrell says. 'But I'm not like that. I swear in Jesus's name I'd never do that. I'm not a grass. Don't accuse me of stuff I ain't done. OK?'
    'Christ almighty,' Avi says. 'Tal's not accusing you of anything, Tyrell.'
    'I'm sorry,' Tyrell says. 'I don't know how to keep my rage in check. Everyone says I'm being a cunt. Usually when accusing me of sexism! I'm supposed to be all nice and not an arsehole but it's fine for you and al-Baghdadi over there to lecture me day an' night -'
    'Come on, Tyrell,' Avi says. 'I know you're upset. But don't speak that way about a comrade. It's not acceptable.'
    Tyrell looks at us. And then he shakes his head. 'I'm sorry. I know I need to work on things. I just - can't. I'm so angry all the time.'
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  28. Cheesypoof

    Cheesypoof Fuck off Noddy Banned

    im a terrible writer, but i 'enjoy' it and talented writers i have met throughout my life say that when i write about my own experiences, i am quite good.
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  29. DownwardDog

    DownwardDog Riding a Brompton with a power meter.

    I got an offer from a US publisher for my two SF novels. It's artfully pitched at just the right level to evoke apathy rather offence. You wouldn't do this for the money because there fucking isn't any.
    zeldarhiando, scifisam and frogwoman like this.
  30. frogwoman

    frogwoman лягушкая женщина

    Heres the end of that rewritten chapter:cool:

    'Your stupidity might have cost two men their lives.' My tone is cold. Icy. 'Whose fault is that going to be? A conspiracy by Muslims to raise the price of oil?'
    'You?' Tyrell says, more quietly this time, as if he doesn't really mean it. 'Lecturing me about stupidity?'

    His words still have the power to hurt me. I try and fail to let them wash over me. I think of Lou. I'm glad she's on guard duty, that she didn't have to hear this. I love her so much and I was so stupid. So stupid. I don't know what to do to make it right. I don't know how I could have hurt her so badly.

    And fear creeps up my back. Nausea rises inside me. Because Tyrell is telling the truth. Whatever else he is, he's not a liar. He didn't harm Danny and Hassan. He certainly didn't shoot them. But someone knows what's happened.

    There's a sound behind us. It's a couple of new recruits coming back from a food raid and guard duty at the weapons store. I turn around and see Liam with his arm round Nta's tiny waist. She must have told him. For a second they look like any other teenage couple. Afshah, a thin girl wearing a bright pink hijab, grins shyly as she carries a bag of looted goods to the table. She's sixteen. I never had a future, not really. But the same cannot be said for these children, whose lives were stolen from them. A pair of men from Marbury Defence Brigade who helped in the prison breakout follow, their faces pinched and anxious. Patricia, the former dinner lady who produces most of our videos, follows behind them. I get up to search the women, half asleep, while Avi goes to the men.
    'Are you OK?' I ask the girls as I look through their trouser pockets. It's freezing so I try not to take too long.
    'It was OK,' Afshah says. 'I want to do some fighting soon. We thought the fash had seen us. I want to -'
    Nta's eyes are wide.

    'My mum got sent away,' she says as she puts her civvy clothes on. 'They found her. Not Dillingdon. Somewhere else.'

    She looks at me before bursting into tears. 'I don't even know where. I wasn't there, I wish I'd brought my gun and -'

    'Come here,' I say, opening my arms. She collapses into them, sobbing.

    'Thanks, Tal,' she gasps. It's been a long time since I hugged anyone. 'I don't know where. I don't even know. I only saw her three - three months ago.'

    'We are going to win this war, mate,' I say as I stroke the girl's hair. I think guiltily of the tubs of fertiliser in the weapons store two miles away waiting for me to do something with them. The targets we haven't even begun looking at. Tomorrow. It has to be. She lets go of me; the nausea returns. When was the last time we checked? Does this person have access to the weapons store? Could they find out where it is?

    'Would you girls be able to come somewhere tomorrow night to help me with something?'

    Both the young women nod. I was going to do this with Danny. Or Lou. Sometimes I ask myself whether this is the equality we are fighting for. Now teenage girls can die in asymmetric warfare as surely as adult men. 'Yeah. Sure. Tomorrow?'

    'Oi, Tal. You done in there?' a male voice says, the Marbury DB soldier. I think his name's Steve.

    'Am now.' I step out of the changing room. Afshah and Nta follow me.

    'Well, we need to talk. Three of our lads vanished tonight, on the way to meet yours. There ain't no nice way to put it. We got spies on our hands. Spies, plural.'

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