Strangers are strange, odd, nasty people to be avoided. Such was the opinion of Colin Lovell, who you could say was kind of an outcast. Somebody who had cast himself out of society, even though he lived right in the heart of it. An average city of no real significance in an even less significant high-rise block of flats where he lived right at the top.
He was 54 years old, barely looked after himself, had never worked or showed any interest in a partner. An asexual who shook his head at the world he did not approve of. If people wanted to fornicate, drink themselves into a stupor, do things like jumping out of planes, go swimming with sharks, then let them get on with it.
He was opinionated and what he thought, was ‘correct’, and that was that. Other people could have their opinions, but if they differed from his then they were wrong, and stupid. He often thought he was ‘surrounded by idiots’.
He spent most of the hours of the days in his flat watching television and surfing the internet, because, you know, it was a violent and hostile world out there. You could be robbed at knife-point soon as you stepped outside. Thing was though, he didn’t fear going out, or walking even at night sometimes when he would visit his friends. Friends who he trusted, and trust, to him, was crucial. He could only trust someone if he really knew them. These friends were those from his school-days. Somebody new would have to go a long way to earn his trust, and even if you had known him a while and you upset him slightly, chances are he would drop you like a stone.
It was somebody online that had upset him lately, and had caused him to leave his stuffy flat and go for a walk.
He had been on social media, giving his opinions on this and that, as he always did. Even though it was link to the outside world, it was one he was constantly hostile towards. ‘Social media rots your brain’, he would say on social media.
Then with news mostly portraying humanity in a negative light, he would shake his head at the ‘state-of-the-world’. People are horrible. I’m ashamed of the human-race. We are a nasty species. I can’t trust anyone.
It was a reply from somebody that had sent him out, and had annoyed him to go and get some air.
‘You live in the city Colin, surrounded by people. Why don’t you fuck-off and live in a cave’.
Cheeky bastard, he thought, as he walked along the streets, not really heading anywhere in particular. It was the kind of thing that would occupy his mind as he walked, his mind racing, repeating the conversation and what he was going to say in response.
As he slowly cooled down, he came across the car-park of an old youth centre, long closed and neglected, but it hosted a car-boot sale every Friday morning, and he decided to have a little wander around, still with ‘fuck-off and live in a cave’ in his mind.
Load of old shite and tat, he thought as he browsed around. Cheapo clothes and shower-gels, batteries and rusty tools.
Yet there was one thing that piqued his interest. One stall had what looked like things that had been cleared from an attic. The kind of stuff that’s too good to throw away, but will never be used again. Underneath the makeshift table there was a box which said: ‘One pound the lot’. Inside was more tat, and he noticed a blank vhs video cassette amongst an old tennis ball, an empty and cracked dvd case, a pair of childrens well-worn shoes, an ash-tray and other useless items.
Wonder what’s on the video, he thought, as although he had a dvd-player, he also had a vhs video cassette player. Colin liked to cling onto the past, and was loathe to get rid of anything. Not quite a hoarder, but very close.
He’d kept a lot of old cassettes with things he’d recorded over the years, and kept videos he’d bought back in the day when they were full price.
He only wanted the video, but the old, roll-up smoking pensioner who was sat in a fold-out chair said it came with the box. He couldn’t sell them separately.
‘Wouldn’t’, said Colin, but considering it was only a pound, he found himself handing the money over and taking home the box of useless junk.
Even though his block of 28 storey flats was barely maintained, the lift worked, and he made his way to the top as his neighbour, Mrs Primrose, widower was leaving. She always used the stairs to go down, not up, as even at 84, she was rather sprightly.
“Been shopping?” she asked.
“No not quite”, he said, moving quickly to his door and letting himself in before she engaged him in conversation. He quite liked her. She was nice enough, but liked to talk whenever she caught him. Although she was outgoing and engaged herself in many activities, when she came home to the top floor, she would feel lonely, and would chat to Colin just shy of knocking on his door, although sometimes would when she baked cup-cakes for her bakery class, making a couple extra to give to Colin, but he didn’t trust how they were made, or the ingredients she put in them. He liked his food from trusted sources. So Mrs Primrose’s cup-cakes always went straight in the bin.
However, she made the mistake of thinking Colin cared about her business, cared about her cup-cakes, because she was technically still a stranger to him, and her business was her business and he couldn’t care less. If paramedics stretchered her out tomorrow, he would open the door, look out, then close it again, shrug, and not shed a tear.
He would be more concerned with new neighbours. They could be anyone, and would not be trusted at all.
Fuck new neighbours. All strangers were murdering maniacs until proven otherwise.
He dumped the box on the floor of the hallway and took out the video cassette.
Nothing was written on it. There wasn’t even a blank sticker. It was a complete mystery as to what was on it. He hung up his coat, took out his phone and decided to make himself a cup of peppermint tea before going to check what was on it.
The phone reminded him of the message that had annoyed him. He was still going to respond to it. He wasn’t getting away with that. ‘Go and live in a cave’. Cheeky cunt.
As he carried the tea into his small, cluttered living room, he set about inserting the cassette into the video, trying to think about a good response to that idiot. That fucker that had annoyed him. Who the fuck does he think he is to tell me to go and live in a cave?
He sat in his well-worn arm-chair, the video player whirring into life, showing static on the television before a picture flickered onscreen of what seemed to be camcorder footage of somebody walking down a road. Someone who wasn’t particularly skilled with camerawork, who was walking along a row of shops, panning this way and that. The area was familiar to Colin, around two miles away.
Some people whom they passed near looked curiously at the lens, some smiling, some looking bemused. It cut to them walking along a row of houses in a seemingly rural, upper-class area, an area where house prices would easily be above expensive.
It seemed like it could be from the 1980s, when camcorders were becoming more popular. The picture was certainly video quality for back then as this would have been transferred from a small cassette to the VHS. It was easily clear enough to see what was going on, like a rented video from back in those days when the tape would be watched over and over again. It had a slight blur, but was easily watchable.
The footage came to stop at a house with a lot of plants and flowers around. It was certainly well maintained.
“Okay,” came a voice, “here…we have the house…of Mrs Noreen”. Whoever was holding the camera had a rather deep, slow voice.
“I know…she will be back…in around ten minutes. That gives me time…to break in…through the back”.
What is this? thought Colin, leaning forward. This can’t be real. The footage shook around for a few moments as they went in the gate and through, around to the back of the house where there was a large well-maintained garden. They approached a black painted back door and put down a backpack to take out a hammer which a black-leather gloved hand used to smashed through a square window panel.
It then cut to inside. The tape showed them walking straight through into the front room, one of those rooms that spinsters have in houses that are too big for them. A room that’s well kept but rarely used.
They set down the backpack again and took out a bottle of turpentine, and set about dousing the place. The curtains, the couches, the cardigan hung up behind the door. It emptied, and they threw it aside, and took out what looked to be a well-used, but sharpened machete.
“When…I broke in before…to check the place…it was…” there was the sound of keys in the front door, and then it opened.
“Here she is…” said the voice. Obviously Mrs Noreen had seen the door open and was curious. She approached.
“What the…?” said Noreen, stepping inside the room, not having time for fear to kick in and force her to run as fast as she could. She was one of those people that gave as good as she got, but the black-gloved hand wielded the machete and hacked at her. At her face, at her defensive arms. Blood splattered the wallpaper, and the picture shook violently for a few seconds and the camera was put down, focusing on the corner of an armchair. The weapon was put away for another bottle of turpentine from the backpack, from which he set about dousing Mrs Noreen. He picked up the camera and found his lighter and lit her. The perpetrator left the room quickly and slammed the door behind him.
The footage focused on the closed door for a few moments as Noreen screamed and crashed around inside. He said nothing, and left the house.
It cut to a country lane where the image focused on a sky where the sun was going down, creating a sunset of blue and orange with wisps of melding clouds.
It cut to the entrance to a caravan park. A Land Rover exited, the driver casting him a curious glance as they drove by.
“Lets…light this place up”.
Colin stopped the video, stood up, and walked around for a while. It certainly looked real enough. What am I watching? he thought.
He paced around for a while longer, his social media enemy forgotten for the time being.
Some research on his phone found out that back in the early eighties there was a spate of arson attacks.
An elderly lady was burnt in her home, and nearby several caravans were set alight with families inside them. Further up, a farm-house along with stables was torched.
The perpetrator was never caught.
It must have been around thirty years ago, he guessed, and if it’s an unsolved mystery, then he knew that the police needed to see this tape.
However, he simply sat down, and pressed play.
It showed them walking into the caravan park and panning around. Some people were out walking, or lounging in camping chairs outside. One of those friendly dogs that seem to like everyone, a Labrador retriever came running up to him from seemingly out of nowhere, and he took out the machete and hacked and split its head lengthways.
“Fucking…vermin”. Yet the camera kept rolling, and he walked further up, only to have another dog, a springer spaniel, bound over to him. He chopped at the animal, almost severing its head.
“Oi, what do you think you’re doing?” came a loud voice from a nearby caravan. A rotund man in shorts saw the man with a camera, and bloody machete, and spoke no further.
It cut to them hurling a molotov cocktail through a caravan window, then running. Screams could be heard. It cut to another smashing through a window. More yelling. Another caravan ablaze and screams ringing throughout.
The perpetrator ran, the screen shaking. Another caravan then set ablaze, and they left the park then, and remembered to stop recording.
It cut to further away, along a lane, where it sloped quite high so they could film over the caravan park where some of the mobile homes were ablaze.
“I should…have burnt them all”, he said, his voice rather disappointed.
“Sometimes…it can be too much…fun…to murder…I sometimes wish…somebody would catch me…I could kill the…inmates and staff…and try and…escape…I think that…would be wonderful”.
It then cut to further up the lane where he was approaching a farm-house.
Colin stopped the tape. He needed another walk.
He wandered as he did before, in no particular direction. Thoughts roiling inside his mind.
The police must be shown the tape. Yet, he also thought of the fact he was committing benefit fraud, and if he draws attention to himself, then they may pry into his affairs.
Maybe he should show it to Noodle, one of his childhood friends. See what he thinks. Noodle wasn’t the most intelligent of people. Colin guessed what he would say.
We need to show this to the police. Then he would lose interest and talk about tanks, or the multiverse.
So after a good half hour of wandering around, not once thinking of his social media foe, he found himself back outside his high-rise, looking up at the top, at his windows.
It was as if he had arachnophobia, and there was large spider on the rug in front of the television. He knew he would have to go there eventually. The spider had to be watched. He wasn’t simply going to hand the tape over to the police yet, knowing that it would be watched to the end.
He slowly made his way in and up, and into his flat, hesitating before entering the living room where he sat down, forgetting to take off his coat. His brain, however, demanded peppermint tea.
So he made that, trying to convince himself that it wasn’t real, that it was a found-footage movie, but an inkling in the back of mind told him that it was real, and the reports of real crimes from back then nailed it for him. What he was watching was real, and it needed to go to the police because according to the articles, the perpetrator was never caught.
With his mug curling out steam, and coat off, he sat back in his chair and played the tape.
Daylight still clung on, but was slowly fading as it showed them approaching a farm-house with chickens and ducks poking around. A Land Rover was parked and a pair of wellingtons was on the doorstep. The place looked like the type of place an artist would stop and paint. A cosy little farmhouse with ivy vine leaves running around it. A ‘chocolate box’ house, beyond which were stables.
The chickens and ducks milled around him as if he wasn’t there, obviously used to humans, but out came the machete, and some of them were hacked.
He walked further up and filmed bored-looking horses in their pens. There was a haybarn which doubled as a shed, as one half was piled with hay bales, the other had two tables full of paraphernalia. Innards of cars. Innards of electrical equipment. Tools. Jars of nails and screws. The farmer must be some kind of handyman.
Propped up in the corner was a double-barrelled shotgun. Obviously nobody ever came in here except the farmer and maybe a couple of others. Family members perhaps.
“Well well…” said the voice. “What have we here?” he picked up the gun. On the table were a couple of boxes of shotgun shells, along with rabbit carcasses.
“Okay…lets light the place…up”.
It cut to his black-gloved hand lighting the hay, and focusing on it as it ate away until it took, and it wasn’t long before a good fire was going. He went into the stables and lit the straw that the horses walked on. It wasn’t long before the animals were screaming and slamming against the wooden doors trying to get out. The haybarn spilled out black smoke and it soon caught the attention of the farmer and his wife and his grandson as they came running out. The cameraman kept rolling as he hid along the side of the barn where it wasn’t yet too hot, and when the yelling family came close enough, he stepped out and blasted them all with the shotgun. He needed to reload for the grandson, but they were soon writhing and bleeding and shrieking on the floor around the entrance to the burning barn.
The film focused on them for a few moments. The perpetrator headed away, past the screaming horses as the stables blazed. He hurried away as the heat was becoming more intense.
It cut to a country lane, the daylight throwing out its last rays and Colin couldn’t make too much out.
“Shoot…them once”, said the voice, “so they are still alive…to burn as well”.
It cut to a pair of approaching car headlights. The vehicle beeped its horn because the perpetrator stood directly in front with the shotgun pointed.
Colin stopped the tape, and then went about making a more thorough research of what had happened, but didn’t get very far, because it was simply more details of the crimes committed, and there wasn’t much of that. Unsolved crimes that are confined to the history books. Over 30 years ago in the area where he lived, an elderly spinster was hacked and burnt in her home. Several caravans with families inside burnt, and a farmer, his wife and grandson shot and burnt along with the animals at the stables. The perpetrator was never caught. That was it. No more reports.
Yet, the tape continued.
He got up and walked around the flat for while, ending up in his pokey little bedroom looking out of the small window at the sky as darkness slowly descended, and buildings and cars had their lights on. He sighed, knowing he would watch the rest of the tape, then take it to the police.
So, he slowly made his way back, and pressed play.
There was around two more seconds of the gun pointing at the vehicle. Then it cut to them inside the car, with the barrel of the shotgun pressed against the driver.
“The city…take me into the city”.
The man looked to be in his early sixties with a flat-cap, green padded wax jacket and driving gloves.
“Look I can give you money, just...”
“Shut…up. Fucking…drive”. The man did, and five minutes later, emerged into an urban environment with several closed shops and a nearby high-rise car-park.
“Stop…here”. The man braked in the middle of the road.
“Look, what do you wa…?” the driver asked loudly, but the gun pressed against his ribs fired, and almost blew him in half.
Blood, flesh and viscera splattered the cameraman who simply laughed slightly, and when the body had slumped, he doused it in petrol, left the car and set it on fire.
He filmed the burning vehicle for a few moments, then turned the camera up towards the high-rise.
Colin paused the tape.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me”. Colin rarely swore, and thought that those who did were of a lower intellect. The more you swear, the thicker you are, he had said a couple of times.
Even though the sun had gone down, the street-lights had come on, and he could see the high-rise was where he lived. The picture took in the whole building, so his flat was there at the very top.
“Let’s go and see…who we have in here”, the voice said, and the picture shook as they walked towards the entrance. There were a few cars in the car-park, two Vauxhall cavaliers and an Austin Metro.
There was no communal locking system, so anybody could walk in, and anybody did. The cameraman entered the familiar looking lobby, and a woman was coming down the stairs. When she appeared she looked to be in her late forties, early fifties. When she saw the perpetrator, splattered in blood with a shotgun pointed at her along with the camera, she screamed and ran out.
Colin paused it again. That was Mrs Primrose from across the way. She must have been here over thirty years. She’ll probably remember that. I’ve got to show her, he thought. It’ll bring back memories, so she and the police will need to see it.
He pressed play. The man just laughed as she ran for the exit. He made his way to the lifts, which worked.
It then cut to the doors opening, and them stepping out onto the 28th floor, where he lived.
They ignored the other closed flats, but lingered slightly over Mrs Primroses door. The camera was put down.
“Time to…reload”, said the voice, and he could hear the gun being reloaded before the camera was picked up and panned across to his flat were they approached.
Colin was watching wide-eyed, as the shotgun was levelled at head height at the door, and the black-gloved hand knocked.
At the same time, somebody knocked on his flat door. He looked towards it, as though expecting to instantly see through the walls as to who was there. Stopping the tape, he got up and approached.
That’s a coincidence, he thought. Mrs Primrose with more cakes maybe.
He opened the door, to see both barrels of the shotgun.
His head was blown off.