The Ballad of Slough in Kent

I believe we are becoming a police state. Well, I’ve done my bit for law and order. I enclose the head of the Chief Inspector for Dover district. He attended a debate on fracking and said he was an interested stakeholder. You will find the lower part of him in a shed in Sturry with a stake through his black heart.

Slough wrote his note in black ink using a method he’d perfected, put it in a Tupperware box along with the inspector’s severed head, wrapped the lot in brown paper and posted it to the prime minister. Would they know it was from him? Nobody would know. Using a quill, holding it at the very end, the inky tip had bounced and scratched on the sheet of paper he’d taken from a photocopier tray long ago, in a distant part of the country, in a minor institution, which had subsequently closed. How had he remembered this sheet of paper? Even he didn’t know. The result was barely legible but it was clear enough to read, and dissembled enough for nobody to connect it with his own, neat hand.
         Not that his hand wasn’t the hand of a killer. After all, he’d slain the Chief Inspector. But you wouldn’t know this from his writing. Not Slough’s. Since he was a boy he’d been seen as such a gentle soul. Sadly though, especially for the chief inspector, but also for those who knew and loved Slough, one so gentle can sometimes be the one most dangerous, if he is pushed.
         How had it started? What was the push? He wasn’t sure but wondered if it started with a kiss. Lena, his girlfriend, had seen him off on the high-speed train from St Pancras that last Sunday morning and had kissed him at the barrier. It was a long, slow kiss. A kiss they became lost in, so lost that that he missed his train. He took the next and sat typing, gloriously happy as someone who found himself suddenly, surprisingly in love without a thought for the beaky young man sitting next to him.
         Why had he begun typing? He didn’t know. What had he been typing? He couldn’t say. It had been a something – something he had written, now deleted, presumably, or lost as a story would become if, never printed, the laptop it was saved in was dropped to the depths of the sea.
         He did remember the title: Kent Jihad. It attracted his neighbour’s attention, and his neighbour told the guard. The guard called the police and Slough was dragged out of his seat at Ashford and pushed into a police van.
         That night, after hours of questioning in a brutal, blueish room, he was still unable to answer the single question put to him again, and again, in many different forms. He felt his mind slipping; he saw an ocelot walking in front of him, across the tabletop, carrying a banner saying DESCRIBE THE KENT JIHAD.

What do you mean?

The Kent Jihad.

I was writing a story.

You’re having a fucking laugh.

By two in the morning he had seen the words rearranged as to make a new language: the tongue of KENT JIHAD. KENTJIHAD. And by dawn, even though he had convinced his captors, the Kent Police, that he knew nothing whatsoever about the Kent Jihad he knew to himself he was lying. He knew Kent Jihad intimately, well enough to see in the letters all of the violence and the disarray to come. A storm of killing.
         He took the next train to Dover, walked to the white cliffs and threw his MacBook Air into the sea. A part of him had hoped it would fly, but it had fallen, spinning, glittering as the sun sparkled on its silvery case. The sea had been so far below and the waves so heavy he hadn’t noticed a splash. He assumed it had landed and he was sure – absolutely sure – it had sunk.
         Later, I cannot say how much later, an opportunity presented itself. If you wait then a chance will come. He bundled the Chief Inspector into a van he had hired and killed him without a thought.
         He left most of the Chief Inspector in Sturry. He wrote his letter. He posted it and everything else to London. And, after he was caught, charged and died in custody, he started a heated debate.

Leave a Reply