“Josh! Josh!” came a loud cry. “Get out of bed you lazy bugger!” yelled his mother.
Josh was in his last year at school and had no desire to rise from his warm comfortable bed, especially to push a pen around in subjects he detested. Always he would lie there to the last minute he could squeeze out, before his mother would thump along to his room with heavy footsteps—an early warning to get himself up. She was always ready and very willing to give him a clout. She didn’t need excuses for a good thump. “Life moulding” or “character building” she would call it.
“You up yet!” she shouted. “Your breakfast is getting cold!”
Josh knew the different tones of her voice, before she would make that trip to his room for the awakening “life builder” across his head. He knew this was the time to get motivated.
He wasn’t scared of his mother, but their relationship was such that if Josh put one foot wrong, she would kick him out of the flat. His earlier childhood years was a routine of waiting for her to return home from work—he was your typical latchkey kid—then getting to bed quickly, before his father would come home from a hard day’s drinking.
Josh never saw much of his father in his early childhood years, as he was always one to be avoided. His father’s temper had given him an unsavoury reputation around the local towns, especially when drunk, which was most of the time. His life consisted of propping up the bar, coming home and going to bed. He was a registered alcoholic, but was refused more meetings at the local “Alcoholics Anonymous” group because of his persistent trouble-making. The last straw came when he broke the nose of one of the counsellors.
Josh’s father left the family home about two years ago after a serious fight, resulting in Josh’s mother receiving several broken bones. She had tried to defend Josh from another beating. She was hospitalised for about a month and his father was arrested and charged for the assault. He was remanded in prison and later sentenced to one year. This left Josh to look after himself, but he was used to that anyway; he was just glad to get shot of his dad.
He had last heard that his father had gotten into some very serious trouble with a local drug dealer, and that this drug dealer had connections to some organised crime syndicate. The circulating story on the grapevine was that he ended up with a bullet in the head for shooting his mouth off to the wrong people. Apparently, according to the story, he’s now helping to support a motorway structure somewhere, but this has never been proven, although he is still officially reported as missing.
Now, Josh and his mother live alone in an old rundown council block flat. The block of flats was condemned years ago. It was supposed to be knocked down, but in some government budget-saving-scheme all they did was make a few repairs and tart it up with paint and plants. Every morning, Josh had to mop up the damp spots on the walls—his morning chore before going to school.
He got dressed and plodded to the kitchen for his regular morning feast of egg. It was always a surprise to see what form she had turned an egg into. Was it fried, scrambled, poached, or boiled this time? The anticipation was far too much. This was part of their daily routine and Josh hated it, but always managed to hide his feelings well.
“You’re going to be bloody late again, and I’m not writing anymore notes to your teacher!” she barked. “They must think I’m a bad mother. And look at the state of you!”
Josh gave the usual nonchalant replies and gestures as he took a seat at the table to eat.
“I need some money,” he asked sheepishly, but knowing it was pointless as she was always scrimping and saving what money she could get. She only had a low paid job and relied heavily on government benefits to get by; life was tough.
“What do you need money for?” began his mother’s interrogation.
Josh didn’t bother to explain, or ask again. He gave up straight away at his mother’s stern tone. He could feel a “life changing” warm ear coming on.
“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” Josh quietly replied.
He had an after-school job at a newsagent but it didn’t pay much. He was only fifteen and his employer only paid the minimum amount he was legally obliged to—he was tighter than a duck’s arse when it came to money. So, what little money Josh did earn had to go towards the food and bills to help his mum.
“Have you washed?” she carped, looking at him thoroughly from the side.
“Yeah,” replied Josh.
WHACK! There it was, first one of the day. Josh felt “enlightened” by the blow across the back of his head whilst stuffing down his scrambled egg.
“Don’t lie to me!” she snapped back. “Get and have a wash! You might be getting older but you’re not too old for a clip round the ear!”
Josh didn’t complain as he knew it would be futile to do so, he just gave his usual agreeable reply. It didn’t matter if he had washed or not, he would still do as he was told. He never stood his ground despite being quite strong physically; he bore too many mental scars from times gone by to really care.
He went to the bathroom and splashed some water on the fringe of his hair to make it appear more convincing he had washed. He then waited a minute or so before going back to the kitchen to finish his scrambled egg. He could feel his mum scrutinising his appearance when he reappeared, and when she finished her inspection and walked out of the kitchen, he smiled inwardly to himself, knowing he had fooled her.
One thing Josh was good at was deception. He had to learn it the hard way through the many beatings he endured by his father. He had developed an innate ability to convincingly pull the wool over people’s eyes.
“I’m going to school!” shouted Josh, after finishing his meal.
“Have you mopped the water up?” his mum shouted back.
“Yeah, I’ve just done it!” and he quickly reached for the sponge, wiped it over the damp wall with a single stroke and put it back. “See you later!” His mum gave no reply.
Josh grabbed his coat hanging by the door and put it on. He stepped out of the flat to be faced by fresh graffiti spray-painted on the wall of his neighbour’s flat, in bright red capital letters: “PEDOFILE LIVES HEAR”. The misspelled words were indicative of the poorly educated residents that lived in the neighbourhood.
The man who lived in the flat, Josh’s neighbour, was often taunted by the locals because he was once accused of being a paedophile after trying to help a young girl who looked lost. The mother, in a frantic crazy state, thought he was trying to walk off with her, and so put notices up about him around the estate. The woman was convicted of harassment by the courts, but the fire she started of him being a “paedophile” never went out, and stuck with the community.
Josh knew the guy, and would talk to him now and then. He found out that his wife and two children were killed in a hit-and-run accident, and he had never really recovered. He just shut himself away on his own.
Using an old discarded rag from the floor, and soaking it in water from a balcony plant pot, Josh attempted to smudge the spray-painted letters together so they couldn’t be read, but the paint had already dried. He turned to see his neighbour looking out of his kitchen window at him. The man nodded at him for the kind gesture of trying to remove it. Josh returned a smile of disappointment, not because he couldn’t remove the graffiti, but because of how people treated each other.
He dropped the rag and continued to school, walking down the concrete stairway belonging to the block of flats. He never used the lift as it always got stuck, and took too long for maintenance to come out to fix it. One time, a drug addict had gotten trapped inside for a week before it was even noticed—having overdosed and died. And the only reason the body was discovered was because of the foul decaying smell. At the bottom of the stairway Josh noticed a newly discarded batch of used needles the junkies had left behind. He began kicking them to one side and down a drain when he was interrupted.
“Oi, come on!”
Josh looked up to see his friend Steve sitting on the wall waiting for him.
“We’re gonna be late again because of you!” Steve shouted. “Leave em where they are,” he said, referring to the needles Josh was trying to get rid of.
“Some kid might stick emself if I leave em,” said Josh quietly.
“That’s tough shit then,” replied Steve, “they shouldn’t live ere then should they!”
That was Steve’s typical response. He didn’t care about anyone or anything. Josh didn’t really know why he hung out with him; he was always aggressive and causing trouble. He wasn’t a friend at all. Not that Josh was a saint, far from it—a saint wouldn’t last two minutes where he lived—but he had a line he wouldn’t cross; Steve had no line.
But Josh knew he didn’t have any real friends, he was a loner. He got caught up with the wrong crowd at school and now felt stuck with them as his only “friends”. To him, there was no way out, he felt he couldn’t change his situation. In fact, Josh’s whole problem was that he felt stuck in life somehow, stuck in a routine of living that he couldn’t escape. His whole life seemed controlled, but not by him.
Again, Josh did as he was told and walked away with a last-ditch attempt to kick another needle down the drain.
“Have you done your homework?” questioned Steve.
“Yeah, last night in bed,” replied Josh.
“Let me see. I need to copy it.” Steve reached out his hand.
Josh complied, pulled out a scrappy piece of paper from his pocket and handed it over. Steve took it, quickly scanned through the scrawled words, looked up and gave Josh a wry look of dissatisfaction.
“What the hell is this? I can’t copy this, its rubbish,” said Steve sneering. “Are you trying to get me into trouble? You know I’m on the edge of getting kicked out of school,” he complained, and threw the paper back at Josh.
The problem with Steve was that it was always someone else’s fault and never his own. He never took or had any sense of responsibility, except to blag what he felt he deserved to have. His actions, in some form, were always destructive. He would never help anyone unless, in some twisted way, it was to cause someone harm. Secretly Josh hated him, but what could he do? He felt he had to go along with the idiot, as though he was in some kind of hypnotic trance he couldn’t escape. Whatever Josh decided or wanted to do, Steve, without fail, was always there to discredit or mock him, so Josh gave up trying; which was what Steve really wanted—to keep control of him. In fact, Steve was like that with the rest of the group he and Josh hung around with.
As they walked to school Josh sensed something. He looked across to a stairwell of another block of flats nearby, and could see someone he thought he knew.
Instantly, Josh began to experience an intense feeling of déjà vu come over him. He didn’t know why, or really know who this figure was, but certainly felt he knew this stranger from somewhere. Josh had to walk over; he was compelled to do so.
“W—where the hell are you going?” said Steve confusedly.
Josh didn’t reply. With the intensity of déjà vu still burning through his mind, coupled with curiosity, he walked towards the unknown figure. It was like he needed an answer to a question, a question he didn’t even know.
“Get back here!” yelled Steve.
But Josh, still fixated with a burning desire to know, kept walking towards the figure. But the figure seemed to fade the closer he got, and as soon as he reached the stairwell it was gone. Josh felt confused and astonished. The feeling of déjà vu was so intense it was like he had just woken from a deep dream. He settled down, turned around and walked back to Steve, who for the first time looked worried. Josh could see something different in him, and the difference was the fear of that short moment that Steve had lost control of him. For the first time ever, Josh felt this resurgence of self-determinism, and it felt good.
“What was that about?” Steve was asking in a tone of voice Josh had never heard before, certainly not in him. It was a sense of respect that he was now giving Josh, like an equal, or someone of more importance than himself.
“It doesn’t matter. Thought I saw someone I knew.”
“Sure. Alright Josh.”
The pair silently carried on to school; all the while Josh feeling the sense of déjà vu but never mentioning it, not even the whole day during lessons.
The school day dragged as usual, and made the week seem long.
“Thank god,” Josh thought to himself, as the school bell rang at the end of the day. He had been clock-watching for the past hour, counting down each minute to home time.
All he wanted to do was to pack in school altogether. He had no interest or stamina, in learning about subjects that to him were useless, and of no practical value whatsoever. He had no use for the subject matter that was being forced upon him by burnt out teachers, who themselves couldn’t even apply what they were lecturing about. All this so he could regurgitate it at exam time, so the school board could decide which schools were better at getting their pupils to memorise pointless facts.
Josh knew what he wanted to do, once he left school, and had already applied to join the army. He had passed his entrance examinations and fitness tests, and was waiting to receive his joining instructions. He couldn’t wait. It was a way out of his stagnant existence, and even Steve, with his degrading comments about being too stupid, couldn’t dissuade him from joining.
As Josh packed away his school books Steve walked over. “What’s up with you? We haven’t seen you all day.”
“Nothing,” replied Josh. But that wasn’t entirely true.
“Okay, I’ll meet you outside then. Maybe we can go and nick some CDs from the mall before you go to work.” Steve was smiling at his “bright” idea.
“No, I’m going on my own. I’ve got some stuff to do for my mum. I told you that earlier.” Josh lied convincingly. He had Steve thinking that he had already been told when in fact he hadn’t.
“Alright then,” and Steve walked off, joining the rest of the gang who were picking on a boy.
Josh needed some time on his own to think, as the peculiar feelings from earlier that day were still playing on his mind like a burning rod. It had taken up most of his attention during lessons, causing the teachers to single him out with unwanted questioning about their subject matter. He stood up from his desk and walked out of the classroom to head for work. As he walked from school, he felt like he was in a trance, in another world, when suddenly he snapped out of it, realising he was walking home and not to work.
“Shit, what am I doing? I’m supposed to be at work,” he told himself. But time had escaped him and he was already twenty minutes late. “What the hell am I doing?”
His mind began automatically working out a plan that would see him safe from getting a roasting from his stingy boss—the newsagent owner. He decided not to turn up for work at all, because, “he had been robbed of his mobile phone on the way”. He knew this deception would work well, as his boss had recently had a similar traumatic experience, and would be more sympathetic.
Feeling more with it, and in the here-and-now, Josh continued to walk home, but suddenly there it was again!
A sudden surge, a sudden feeling of déjà vu swept over him just as it did earlier in the morning. Josh could feel some kind of presence, someone watching, and he realised he was at the same spot near the block of flats near his home. He felt cold, but intensely curious, as he looked across to the stairwell and could, as earlier, see a figure. It was as though he was looking through translucent glass; the figure was indistinct but familiar in some way.
He instinctively ran towards the figure, and this time, it didn’t fade but remained constant, although misty looking. As he approached, Josh’s mouth gaped, confusion and fear sweeping over him; the feelings becoming increasingly intense the closer he got. Josh knew the person who now stood before him on the stairs, although it was physically and scientifically impossible. It was an old friend who had died one year past!
Josh stood in front of the “ghost” staring fixatedly at it. Questions were passing through his mind at a rate whereby they were forgotten even before he had time to fully process them. He was too dumbstruck to say or ask anything. Finally, after what felt like hours had passed, it spoke.
“Josh,” a faded voice came through. It was a strange sound as though talking through a wall, or an old wireless radio. “Josh, I need to tell you something. Can you hear me?”
Josh was still numb with shock but was slowly coming round. “I don’t understand; you are dead,” he replied.
“I need to tell you something but haven’t got long. Are you listening? I only.…” The voice suddenly faded and dropped out, as though the frequency of a transmitter was lost or out of range, taking the ghostly form along with it.
“Wait a minute!” Josh shouted. “Come back!” but his friend had already gone.
The following day started just as every other, with the clanging of Josh’s mother in the kitchen preparing a feast of eggs for breakfast, and Josh feeling tired. Feeling tired, not from lack of sleep but the feeling of apathy about the deep rut his life was in. And he was only fifteen.
“Josh, Josh! Get up!” sounded the usual cry of the morning.
“Oh, leave me alone for once,” he thought.
Automatically obeying his mother’s order, Josh began the effort of slowly moving his body out of bed. He glanced up at the blonde in the pin-up poster sticky taped to the flaky paintwork on the wall above his bed. “I wish,” he thought.
He reached down and picked up his school uniform that had been thrown on the floor the previous night, and got dressed. He could smell the sweat on his shirt already and still had two more days to go before the weekend. He always felt embarrassed because he had to wear the same shirt all week; it was the only one he had. To save money, his mother would always knit his school jumpers with a guarantee that something would go wrong. One year the arms were too short and would barely cover his wrists, so had to keep stretching them; the following year it was the neck line that was overly low. He longed for the day to be able to afford his own clothes.
He visited the bathroom to wash his face; looking in the mirror at his reflection, thinking about the unusual happenings of yesterday, and how unreal it all seemed. Although he was trying to deny it, he couldn’t, he knew what he had seen.
Leaving the bathroom, he walked to the kitchen and sat down in front of a “soft-boiled” egg. He knew the egg wouldn’t be cooked properly; the white all runny as usual. So, he did as he always did; cracked the top open with his spoon, poured out the runny egg-white, and hid it underneath the hollow base of the egg cup so his mother wouldn’t see it.
WHACK! Josh received a backhander from his mother across the side of the head. She had walked into the kitchen silently without him realising.
“What the hell did you do that for?” he moaned, wondering if she had seen him hide the egg-white.
“Why didn’t you go into work yesterday after school?” she said sternly, “You know we can’t afford to lose that money!”
Trying to recover from the sudden “life-builder”, Josh adeptly replied, “I got beaten up by some older lads and they took my phone.” The lie was in play.
“You get in there after school and make up the time!” she snarled unsympathetically, and left the room.
There was no love between them. Josh felt he was an inconvenience and knew she just wanted him to move out. She was very encouraging for him to join the army as he would be out of her hair. This was the only support he ever really got from her. But he didn’t care, not on the surface anyway.
Josh finished his breakfast—what was left of it. He grabbed a sponge from the kitchen top and quickly wiped the damp spots on the walls, then threw it in the sink.
“I’m off!” he shouted, but as always received no reply.
He walked out of the flat, slamming the door shut, and looked at the red smear of paint on the wall of his neighbour’s flat. His neighbour had managed to remove some of the graffiti but, although smudged, the wording was still apparent. Josh continued, walking down the concrete stairs, thinking about the day before. The apparition of his friend was etched in his mind like a chiselled groove in a piece of wood.
“What was that?” he thought.
He couldn’t reason it out and was stuck in the mystery of not knowing. He thought about telling Steve but common sense had taught him otherwise. No one would believe him and he would most definitely be mocked, especially by Steve.
“Keep it to myself,” he decided.
As he reached the bottom of the stairs he anxiously looked around for Steve, but he wasn’t there. Usually, he would be waiting but this time there was no sign of him. Josh smiled from a sense of relief and carried on by himself.
While nearing the block of flats where he experienced the “apparition”, his senses heightened; he fixated his attention on the spot where he saw the “ghost”—his friend. Nothing; there was no sign of anything. Was it all in his head? Did he really see what he saw, or was it just his mind playing tricks? He felt okay, didn’t feel ill. Maybe he had a brain tumour or something? Josh began to doubt himself and deny what he saw. But he wanted it to be true.
Disappointed, he walked on past and began heading for school, but then suddenly he stopped. He knew he shouldn’t, but decided not to attend school. For some reason, this felt like a right decision, so turned for the shopping centre instead. Josh never really rebelled in life and felt nervous at doing so; at the same time though he felt excited and alive.
“I’m gonna have to think up some exceptional bullshit for this one,” he said to himself with a smile.
He reached the indoor shopping centre. Entering and walking inside, he wondered what to do. “So much for being a rebel,” he complained.
He remembered what Steve had said the previous day, about stealing CDs after school, so went to see what he could blag. He walked into a music store and started to look around. He knew the security staff would be busy doing other things as it was early morning still. They wouldn’t expect kids to be in there at that time so opportunity was on his side. The store was fairly quiet with only a few staff on the sales floor. They were busy re-filling shelves with stock, so Josh knew they wouldn’t pay him much attention.
After approaching a display, Josh selected a couple of CDs he liked. He then surreptitiously moved to a secluded spot in the store, where he could pull off the security tags without being spotted. He knew of a great blind spot he and Steve used many times before, out of view to the CCTV cameras.
Hidden from sight, Josh picked at the security tag that was only stuck on. “Useless,” he thought, as he peeled it off and tucked it behind a display. He did the same with the other CD. With a sly look around, to ensure no one was watching, he quickly slipped the items into his jacket pocket. “So easy,” he thought.
Josh then pretended to look interested in other CDs, and slowly worked his way towards the exit, for his eventual departure. He knew that he was safe until he left the store, which was when the security staff would make their move. That was always the moment of tension. Josh knew the score; he and Steve had been caught a couple of times for shoplifting in the past. Security would always wait until they would leave the shop before making an arrest. Josh made his move towards the exit. He couldn’t see any security staff and felt safe to go.
All of a sudden, a feeling hit him, just as though his mother had surprised him with one of her “enlightening wake-up calls”. Josh froze for a moment but with all of eternity passing by at once. He hadn’t left the shop yet but felt something very wrong. He was pinned like a rabbit being startled at night, with an oncoming car speeding towards it—headlights full on. He just stood motionless, right by the exit.
“What’s going on?” he thought, “I can’t move.”
Frozen to the spot, he recognised the intense feeling, the feeling he had experienced the previous day with the “apparition” of his friend. Déjà vu swept over him, but much stronger than before. Yesterday’s feeling was nothing compared to this. But what had caused it? There were no “ghosts” or anything Josh could recognise. So, what had triggered this feeling?
Again, with what seemed like hours had passed on by, the feeling slowly subsided and Josh became more aware of his surroundings again, although his senses were still greatly heightened. He remembered what he was about to do—steal the CDs—but lost his nerve. He quickly walked back to the blind spot where he had removed the security tags, looked around to see if anyone was watching him, took the two CDs from his pocket and dumped them on the shelf. He turned, walked quickly back to the store exit, and left.
Walking about the shopping centre, oblivious to all else, Josh was consumed with trying to make sense of what had just happened to him, and tried to reason it out in his head.
“There must have been someone watching me,” he thought. “The security guards were on to me.”
This made him feel more at ease with the situation, as he had given himself an answer to what had happened. But despite this rationalisation, somehow, he knew it wasn’t the right answer. Something else had triggered that feeling, just as it did the day before with the sighting of his “dead” friend. But Josh hadn’t seen anymore “apparitions” or “ghosts”.
He decided to go to a café, get a drink and calm down. On his own, sitting at a table and sipping his drink, he watched the people in the mall wandering around shopping. He couldn’t help but think to himself, how unhappy everyone really looked; how they were trying to supplant their unhappiness by buying things that would only interest them for a few days. Then, to rekindle their lost happiness, would buy more things. It was a materialistic mess we had gotten ourselves into. Genuine happiness seemed out of reach, and people had to pretend they were happy. Josh hated the bullshit. He knew there had to be more meaning to his life, but felt trapped and controlled in a way he couldn’t understand.
“Hey,” a sudden voice interrupted Josh’s thoughts, causing him to instantly turn around.
Josh was hit square on, with the full intensity of déjà vu, similar to what had swept over him in the music store. He was staring at some human figure; a vacant look on his face and the dramatic feeling of knowing this person. It was all too surreal. His attention was fixated on the feeling, more so than the person who now stood in front of him.
“Hey,” the voice repeated.
Josh could barely discern that it was a man’s voice, and as his trance lessened, the vague figure focused into view and became more real. A man, standing by the table, was looking down at him with a stare that felt like he was drilling holes through Josh’s head.
“Oh shit; security from the music store,” thought Josh, but saw he had no uniform on. “Maybe he’s a store detective?” But knew he had dumped the CDs in the store and left with nothing. Dozens of thoughts flicked through his mind as to who he was, but none were making sense.
“What do you want?” Josh finally replied.
“The sugar!” asserted the man. His voice came across with a direct intensity that made Josh feel as though the man had twisted his insides around.
“Oh—okay, yeah—take it,” and Josh slid it across the table to him.
“Thanks!” The man walked away, to sit at another table within eyeshot.
Josh was feeling extremely uncomfortable, with a certainty that he somehow knew the man, but not recognising him at all. He watched the man sitting at his table with his head down hiding his face, stirring a hot drink. Looking at the table, Josh noticed it already had a jar of sugar on it.
“Why did he ask for my sugar if he’s already got some?” he thought. He started another instantaneous lengthy list of possibilities flooding through his head, as to who this stranger was.
Anxiously, Josh rose from his seat, leaving his drink half-finished, and left the café. “I should have gone to school,” he thought.
He walked amongst the shoppers, still thinking intensely about the stranger, but then decided to put the whole thing down to his nerves from when he tried to steal the CDs. His senses, still alert, had him feeling paranoid and constantly looking over his shoulder. It was all too much, and so he decided to go to school after all.
As he walked towards the shopping centre exit, he caught a glimpse of someone staring at him. It was the stranger from the café. Was it just a coincidence or something more? Josh couldn’t tell. He quickened his pace and his heart thumped through his chest from nerves. He opened the exit and started to walk fast. He walked a few blocks, stopped and turned around, no one was following him. He turned again and carried on walking.
“It’s all in my head,” he thought. Then suddenly he was grabbed from the side. A hand came from nowhere and grabbed Josh’s jacket. It was the stranger again.
“What do you want!” screamed Josh, “I haven’t done anything!”
“Shut up, you’re drawing attention!” a deep voice snapped as the stranger dragged Josh down into a side alley.
Josh was pushed hard up against a wall. He started to shout for help but was suddenly struck with a blow to his stomach which took the wind out of him, preventing him from shouting further. He had been in fights before and had received many punches, but this was a blow that put him out of action, nearly crippling him to the floor. As he was trying to catch his breath, he saw the stranger looking up the alleyway where they had just come from. He then turned his attention back to Josh.
“Come on, follow me!” he commanded.
The stranger started walking away down the alley. Josh didn’t understand, the man wasn’t forcing him but seemed to take it for granted he would obey. He was right. Although Josh was scared and confused, he suddenly felt the stranger wasn’t a threat anymore and felt compelled to follow.
Looking at the man from behind, Josh could see he was physically well built. He had a fast deliberate pace that was difficult to keep up with. He didn’t even look back to see if Josh was following; it was as if he knew he would be.
“Where are we going? What the hell is going on?” Josh yelled as he quick-stepped behind to keep up. There came no reply. “Look if you don’t stop and tell me what’s going on I’m leaving!”
This prompted the stranger to look behind at Josh, although not pleasantly. He turned, grabbed Josh’s jacket and force marched him against his will. The man didn’t say a word, he didn’t have to. Josh knew, no matter what, that if he didn’t comply, he would be worse off.
As the man marched him out of the alley and down another street, Josh could see him continually scanning the area as though looking for someone, or something. He appeared wired, and on the alert.
A minute or so later, they came to a parked car in a quiet street. The man used a key remote to unlock the doors. He opened the passenger door, pushed Josh into the seat and closed it. He walked around and got into the driver’s seat; not saying a word the whole time.
As he got in, Josh noticed a dark object under the man’s jacket as it flapped open slightly. He caught a glimpse of what looked like the handle of a gun hanging down the side of his body. Josh started to worry even more. He had no idea what he had gotten into, or why he didn’t try to run.
The man started the engine and pulled off fast. Driving along, at a fast speed, he kept looking in the rear-view mirror. He drove down one road, U-turned and drove back up the same road again. After a few odd manoeuvres he slowed his speed and appeared to calm down a little.
“Look I don’t know what’s going on, but people will be worried about me. What’s going on?” Josh took the opportunity to ask again.
“Don’t worry Josh, your mother won’t be concerned, she never was.”
Josh was shocked that he knew his name and appeared to know about his life.
“Who are you and how do you know my name?” Josh questioned.
“I know more than that Josh. I know where you live, who your friends are, your parents, about your father who used to beat you, that you are to join the army soon and more. There is nothing about you I don’t know.”
“But how do you know, and who are you?” Josh anxiously replied. He was desperate to know.
“More of that later, but in the meantime, I need your help,” said the man, “I need you to come with me; I have something to show you.”
And without question, just blind obedience, Josh agreed.