Chased

(A Parkour Novel)
By T.A.Wingfield

Chapter 1
15th July 2017: My name is Matt Sammons. Matt perches on the edge of the seat as he scrawls into his notebook. If you're reading this I'm dead, and you're probably wondering how. His clothes are dirty and ripped, but his black hair is freshly cleaned and shines. Last time I wrote in this diary, I was in school, with friends, and I had a Dad. He glances to the hotel bed, where a stab-proof vest is laid out. We thought they were just trouble-makers, angry protests that got out of hand... He pauses, before scribbling the sentence out. He can't be bothered to write it all down. It's two in the morning, I can't sleep again, so I'm going on look-out. With this, he chucks the book in the hotel safe and assembles his gear: pepper spray: right pocket, phone: left pocket, armoured biker gloves: back pockets. Scarf over face, T-shirt under stab vest and GoPro camera attached to a chest harness. His survival gear. 1st August 2015: Dad said something really weird today. He said “If you're gonna die, Matt, just make sure somebody sees”. I asked him what he meant, and he came back with his usual style zen crap “There's no point buying a firework if nobody gets to see it bang.” I dunno, maybe it's one of those ones I'll only get in a few years or

something. You can't know everything at 14, right? Thought I'd write it down here just in case. Anyway: 5x5 reps Weighted Chin-ups with 6kg 5x6 squats 65kg I'm starting to notice a real difference in power at the moment. And I'm really enjoying training, to be honest. It gives me a kick knowing I'm in control of my body. 15th July 2017: Matt leaves his hotel room, sticking the key card into his back pocket as he reaches reception. “I'd like to extend my stay another week, please.” “Of course, Mr. Sammons. Shall I add the cost onto the same card?” “That's great, thanks.” Matt turns away from the reception, and – switching his chest-loaded camera on – exits the hotel. He's been living there a month now, and nobody's asked anything of it. So many people are finding themselves temporary accommodation, either to protect their families or because their homes have been destroyed. He looks back to the hotel, across the front, in red spray paint, somebody has scrawled LONDON'S BURNING. He hangs a left towards a block of modern flats and hops up the wall, grabbing hold of the bottom of the first balcony. A swift motion pulls his feet up, then it's a step on the railing before he grabs the second balcony. Grab, pull, step and stretch, he works his way up the building. He looks through each glass door as he passes: some people are in, but most are out or asleep. Nobody sees him in the night dark. Soon he's at the top, and out of the street. He strolls along the roof, staying just far enough in to be hidden from the ground. He's never been caught up here, but there's no point taking the risk. This is his place, the only place he doesn't fear being bothered. It's his playground, his gym and his living room, and there's acres of it. He looks down and he can see the police officers unlucky enough to be enforcing the curfew. They mill along the roads in packs (safety in numbers) and patrol the road blocks that scatter the city, moderating traffic. He zips up his pockets and breaks into a smooth run. Several hundred meters in front of him is his watch-tower, but to get there he has to jump between the three buildings. The first gap is only a small alleyway, maybe nine feet across, it's not a problem, and it's the one he has to cross to go to the shops at night, so he's done it enough times. He calls it his doorstep. As the gap approaches, he increases his pace and launches himself to the next building. He gears himself up for the next gap – it's much scarier. Five storeys down to the bottom, there's a small road. The next building is about four feet higher. The gap is maybe ten feet across. Matt puts numbers out of his head. He's drilled it enough times in the last month, he knows what he's doing. Not that it stops him being scared. His heart pumps faster as he runs towards the jump. Then at the last second, he explodes into a sprint, his legs hammering into the ground for one, two, three,

four andHis right leg pushes up, this transfers his forward drive into upwards thrust, sending him flying into the sky. His arms swing up, assisting with momentum and preparing to grab the roof in front. His knees tuck up in front of his chest with his feet out in front, bracing for impact. He knows he's made the jump from the moment he leaves the ground. He barely sees through his eyes, it's too dark and they can't move fast enough. He sees with his mind. He sees the ground below, he sees himself in the air, as if on a film, he sees his posture and balance. He feels his muscles, his skin, the wind in his face. Then he hits into the building, legs compressing, resisting the impact, hands slapping down onto the lip of the wall, fingers gripping on the top. He pauses for a second to get his bearings then pulls with his arms and pushes with his legs, launching himself on top of the roof. And he's away. Running the adrenaline out of his body. Grinning. This is what Parkour taught him. Pushing him further, making him stronger, faster. It taught him determination over complacency, confidence over fear. And that's why he's here, able to run through London without fear of fire-bombing or arrest. His discipline has given him freedom when everybody else’s has been taken. No, parkour didn't teach him that: his Dad did. January 17th 2014: Dad's such a dick. He's telling me I'm not allowed to see Mike just cause of what he's like at parties. He's just jealous cause I like Mike more than him. I'm old enough to see who I want. Mike is so sick, he gave me some beer the other night round Jonny's. He smokes, which Dad says is stupid, but he's a social smoker. I tried telling that to Dad and he laughed and asked how many press-ups Mike could do. Slow day today, no weights, 30 dips, 30 press-ups and then a long stretching session. Nothing on the legs. They're still too tired. 15th July 2017: He reaches his roof. It's dark grey and is lined with a wall, which guards him from the wind and gives him something to lean against. That, combined with the great view of several roads, makes it his watchtower. He walks clockwise around the edge before coming to rest on a corner and staring over the streets. Litter scatters across the roads in the wind, and the yellow glow of the remaining street lamps shines over the empty roads. He thinks of how the city used to look. Bustling. Loud. The aggression used to be harmless, just city angst. He's always loved London, loved how it was so full, how everybody seemed busy, it made it feel important, like the whole world depended on London. BEEP BEEP. He takes his phone out and reads the message from Laura: “Hey Matt. Where are you? Please text back, its been a month now. Nobodys angry at you, and Chris says you could stay at his place if you wanted, his parents dont mind or anything. Just text somebody so we know your not dead. If you've joined that group I'll kill you myself. Thinking of you. Xxx” He stares at the message for a little while. His thumb hits “reply”, then hovers over the keyboard.

But it just hovers. He tries to think, but he can't. He's numb to it. Numb to the past. It's as if his friends weren't his at all, but somebody else's he's been told about so many times. They feel like borrowed memories. The wind flicks a bit of his hair into his eyes. March 13th 2012: Why are my friends so crap? Mike flipped out at me today because I asked Laura out. Thing is, she said no, so I don't even get it. Said we should just be friends, said she doesn't see me like that. Today's been awful. Dad says football practice would do me good but it won't. I'm crap at football. I'm not good at any sports and that's why Dad hates me. I went to football practice, I feel better now, but not because of the football, just had time to cool down. I'm still crap at it, but he doesn't hate me. I was just being an idiot. I need to grow up. Today sucked. 15th July 2017: His thumb is still hovering over his phone when he hears a shout. It's just a shout, but it means somebody's breaking the curfew. He looks around for any moving shape. He sees a bird, a plastic blue bag, a MacDonalds cup. Then he hears another shout. It's coming from the other side. He runs over and looks down to the street, still nothing. Another call echoes into the night, and then another laugh, this time it's clearer – the cold, humourless laughter of the Mob. He waits to see them. He has to be sure. The laughter gets louder, then a bottle smashing sends his eyes darting right. Shapes down a street. They're far away, but it's definitely them. They're all dressed in black biker gear, scarves over their faces. They're hitting bins and smashing bottles to their sharp war cries. At this stage it's nothing too bad, but by the time the police arrive, Matt thinks, it will have all kicked off. The phone's still in his hand, and now he's dialling 999. “Hello. Police please. I'd like to report a riot. Surrey Row. Erm, I can't see very well, maybe thirty of them, maybe more, they seem to be gathering, so there will be more soon. They've got riot shields. Yeah, I'm sure. Nothing's on fire yet, no, but that's only because they don't have an audience. I'd rather not give my name, no. Just cause... I dunno. Just tell them to hurry up. No.” He hangs up. The Mob start to move closer, and he can hear them shouting their modified football chants. This is the sound that London fears. The dark figures swarm through the streets, and then they start to smash the windows they pass. They carry bats, metal bars, planks of wood, knives, any home-made weapon they can grab. And if the police interfere, they throw firebombs. They claim they have a right to protest, they say the government failed them. But any government is better than an army of terrorists, and that's exactly what they are. It's not the government they hurt, it's the people. Their numbers are growing steadily by the minute, and there's no sign of the police. Even from the safety of the rooves, Matt feels his heart race. It's anger. He imagines lighting a firebomb of his own, throwing it down onto them, he imagines watching them burn, he can see them running in all directions, flames trailing. And then he imagines his Dad. He can't help it, he can hear him screaming, he can feel the heat, and it makes him dizzy. He tries to get a grip of himself, holding the wall to stop him from falling, then he tears himself away from the edge and runs back over the roof. He needs to leave before the place goes into lock-down. He runs away from the

shouting, away from the Mob, away from his memories. He makes the jumps back down (easier with the slight drop) and starts to descend the balconies. A minute later he reaches the ground and drops himself off, landing with no more noise than a footstep. “STOP. POLICE.” The shout is to his left, a lone policeman, no riot gear. Matt runs right, bursting out into a sprint, vaults a railing, darts down another street, takes a left, towards a school he knows. He runs at the wall, planting a foot on the bricks to launch himself up to the top, which he grabs and pulls as hard as he can. He scrambles over the walls and drops the other side. He runs for the extension of the building, launching up again and onto the flat roof. He drops down the other side onto another street and darts between the houses. He spots an oak tree and – quickly checking he's not being watched – climbs up inside it. And then he waits. And he tries to listen out for footsteps over the thump thump thump of his blood.

20th October 2015: We did the hunt last night, it was amazing. We drove to Epping Forest at about 8, so it was getting pretty dark. We parked up, went over the rules, then I headed off. I had a 5 minute head start, but no gear. He had a torch and a BB gun. If he got a shot on me, I lost, if I made it to the Golf course on the north side before 11, he lost. No prize, no forfeit, just glory. My God it was fun. I could barely see at first, so I just walked. Then, as I got to know how the forest felt, I broke into a jog. I knew that with a torch he would be able to run, so I made the most of my head start and the dying light. The ground was fairly clear, I took my chances with my footing, and got a decent pace going, keeping my vision about eight feet in front. But then every now and then my eyes would get tired, and I'd have to slow whilst they adjusted to the patterns again. The further I went, the riskier it felt, I knew it was my Dad, but I didn't want to lose. I wanted to prove to him I was as strong as he wants me to be, he doesn't care if I'm getting an A in science, but if I could just do this... My mind had slipped, my toes met a stump and I crashed into the ground. The fall itself was fine, cushioned by soft bark and soil, but I thought I'd broken my toe (now I'm sure I've fractured something in there, it's all swollen). I realised I was never going to outrun him. Even in fair conditions, 14 year old kid can't outrun an ex-military fireman.

I hid in a tree. I felt like a genius. Who cares what I get in my GCSEs, I
hid in a tree! Soon he passed right underneath me, turned out he was only a few minutes behind and keeping the torch low so I didn't see him. I used the

branches of the tree to stay hidden, then I waited to get some distance before lowering myself down. Now I was following him. He had a torch and a compass, he would guide me in the fastest route. All I had to do was sneak past him at the last second and make it look like I was waiting for him. The rush was incredible. He was noisy, and his torch bounced back enough light to guide me. But long story short – half an hour in, he turns around and shoots me right in the thigh, it still stings like a bitch. He claimed he knew I was following him and he was waiting for me to lose my guard. Tells me I was noisy, clumsy. Said it was a “half decent” plan, but I got too sloppy. I dunno, maybe I did. Maybe I can do better. I'm really tired. I'm up for school in 3 hours. 15th July 2017: The coast is clear. For all he knows the policeman may not have taken chase. But he wasn't going to be caught, teenagers don't get fair trials anymore, they just don't have time for it. Nobody ever catches me, Matt thinks to himself, though he's not sure what he means. He drops down from the tree and starts jogging back to his hotel. The Mob's calls are too distant for him to be worried, though he still feels shaken. By the time he reaches his hotel it's three in the morning. He steps into the shower, if nothing else then to relax – to wash the images out of his head. He stands in the water and the comfort brings back memories of home. Play fighting with Dad on the living room floor, Mum always worried one of them would hurt the other. She was never sure who to be more concerned about. They had so many arguments, and it was hardly a surprise, what with her being a nurse, they had different approaches to life. But they agreed on the important things, that's what kept them together. 12th February 2012: I heard Dad crying again last night. I don't know if he knows I can hear him or not. Probably not. He doesn't really talk about her. I try to make him, to ask questions to talk about funny memories, but he always shuts off, changes it, turns it into a lesson, a way to improve. It's not good for him, he's doing himself damage.

Chapter 2
6th August 2017: Matt slowly wakes up, rolling over to check the clock display: 13:12. He swivels his legs out of the bed and stands up, feeling the ache of last night's escape run in his thighs. He throws on his joggers and a tshirt and hits the code into his safe before taking out one of the books. Flicking through to find the next

blank page, he gets distracted by entries on the way, skipping some, but reading others. May 15th 2015: There were riots yesterday. Cameron said last week that they would have to delay the next election because the country was too caught up with the war in Africa, and it wouldn't be safe to have a change of government. So the people protested, filled London with signs and shouting, and then fights broke out, and the police got involved, and then I think one policeman hit a guy so some other guys started beating him up and then the other police joined in. People were angry, I think they're just tired of being poor, of being screwed over by politicians and bankers. They've pretty much stopped now, but there was a building that caught fire and Dad had to stay up in case he was called into work. February 27th 2016: There's another riot happening right now, like the ones before. It's only a few miles away from here. Dad's been called out to put out the fires that they've left behind. The papers are calling them “The Mob”. Dad called them The Nobs. He used to make a big joke about it but he doesn't anymore. We don't know who they are, the news says “gangs” and “youths”, but I don't think it is. Before, any trouble that started came from a peaceful protest. But this time there wasn't anything like that, no clear message, just signs covered in words of hate, hating the government, the police, the EU, foreigners, whoever. Some got interviewed on the news, and they said they want “a people's government” but nobody knows what they mean. Nobody's stopping them. Why isn't anybody stopping them? June 3rd 2016: I can hear the riots tonight. They're near me. Dad's on duty this time. Every time he goes I want to hug him so tight, but he says to me “there's time to hug when I get back”. Except there never is, because then he's tired and stressed and needs to shower and sleep. June 5th 2016:

Apparently some people got killed. Dad said there were five separate fires within two miles of each other. The news is talking about a curfew and the police have got rubber bullets now. June 22nd 2016: Dad's started teaching me Parkour. It's fun. But... I dunno. Dad's taking it very seriously, it's more than just a way of training, it's a weapon. Maybe weapon's the wrong word. But it's a tool, a way of escaping. There's a whole community in London, Dad says he's going to take me to train with them, says I'll learn a lot faster. July 4th 2016: Apparently I'm really good. I've done some classes and training with Dad and training with some guys over at South Bank, and they all say I'm really good. I guess it's because I was so strong to start with. I've done a lot of the movements before in gymnastics and survival training, it's like a mix of loads of different things I've tried. But it's better, because unlike everything else, I keep coming back for more. Between Parkour and strength training I'm working out every single day. I'm eating absolutely loads, too! It's awesome. August 27th 2016: The police killed an innocent boy, that's what they said on the news. There was a mix up and he got killed. People are furious. Two police stations were firebombed and people were throwing rocks at officers so they fired back with rubber bullets, and you could see on the cameras, you could see the rioters get shot and fall over, you could see how much they were hurt, and people getting packed into small spaces and standing on each other and the police wouldn't help them. I don't know who's good anymore. November 19th 2016: They won't stop. The Mob. They keep gathering, and shouting, and fighting, and setting things on fire. Dad got stuff thrown at him, apparently. Nothing hit him. They had to run away, the police protected him, but it was more luck than anything. The military are involved now, as well.

December 12th 2016: It's exactly six years since Mum died. Me and Dad always take the day off and spend it together and eat what we want and watch films. It's our comfort day. But he's out. He can't take the time off, he has to work unpaid overtime, days and nights, in case something kicks off. I'm cooking us both dinner in case he gets let off early. It's 11 O'clock now, he's still out, I'm going to bed. March 10th 2017: There's a huge fire half a mile away, in an estate. Loads of houses are in flames, and more are starting up. They say the firefighters are going to be replaced by soldiers. Before he went out tonight, Dad hugged me. 6th August 2017: Matt rubs the tears away from his eyes, closes the book and heads downstairs, telling himself he'll write in it later. For now he needs food, so he heads to the restaurant. “Can I have the Barbecue Chicken Melt please? With extra chips. Thanks.” The meal arrives and Matt ploughs through it on autopilot. His mind is lost in memories. Images of Dad, a few of mum, or what he can remember of her. It's hard to imagine her face, he finds himself just imagining her smile instead. BEEP BEEP. A text. From Laura: “I'm about to call you, please pick up this time, I won't make you tell me anything, but it's important for you. You need to pick up this time.” His heart knocks out of rhythm, he can feel his past catching him up, and it's heavy with sadness. His phone starts buzzing “Hello” “Hi Matt, it's Laura” “Hi. What is it?” “Erm. Right. Look basically, the police have been round to your aunty's place, and they've said that basically because you're young and missing and deliberately avoiding people, that you're either dead or you've joined The Mob. Either way, they basically said they're going to freeze all your accounts and stuff.” “What do you mean?” “Like, bank accounts. Try to force you back out of hiding type thing.” “Really?” “Yeah. I'm sorry. Just I wanted to let you know.” There's a silence “I'm glad you're alive, Matt.”

“When are they freezing my accounts then?” “I dunno. Soon. You haven't joined them, have you? You can't have. I mean, with what happened. You can't, right?” “You think I joined them?” “No... I dunno... I just need to hear you say it.” “If I want to join them I can. I can do what I want, you know.” “Matt.” “I've grown up. A lot. And I don't need anybody from back there.” “Matt.” “I've left my past behind and I'm moving on. It makes me stronger. I'm not running away, I'm just moving on.” “Matt I miss you.” They both stop, silent, scared. “I miss you and I'm sorry that I- sorry that we were never, you know.” “It's fine.” “Me and Ben broke up, actually.” “I don't-” He tries to grab at words “I need to go. Something's come up. Bye.” “Ma-” He hangs up, and his thumb stays on the button, pressing it down, pushing it into the phone. He stares at the remains of his food. It disgusts him. It's cold now, anyway, and the chicken looks like meat, not food but actual animal flesh. And the chips are soaked in sauce, they've become mush, they look like sick, chunks of vomit. “Is everything okay for you, sir?” asks the waitress. She has short black hair, and everything about her is thin. Matt manages to mumble back something that sounds like a 'yup' and walks off. He leaves the hotel and runs to the nearest cash machine Matt sticks his Card into the machine. “Please enter your PIN number using the keypad below” “1212” “There is a problem with your card, please contact your bank for details” Matt punches the screen, making the colours warp and passers-by turn their heads. He imagines somebody taking issue with him, and he imagine punching them instead. He takes his card throws it on the ground. Then he thinks better of it and picks it up again. He takes his old card out of his wallet. He hasn't used it in ages. “Please enter your PIN number using the keypad below” “1003” “Please select which service you would like” “On screen balance” Matt holds his breath. “Balance: £526.78” He breathes out again. “Cash with receipt” “Please select the amount you would like to withdraw” “Other” “Please enter the amount you would like to withdraw” “£520” He checks over his shoulders before stuffing the money into his pocket and running back to the hotel. February 18th 2017: So Dad was talking to me about his will, apparently he's left everything to me, which makes sense I guess, but it's still kinda cool. And if he dies in a

fire I get a load of money as insurance. The down side (other than a dead Dad!) is that I have to live with Aunty Hilary. Oh, and if I'm under 18 it'll come through in instalments so I don't blow it all at once. Anyway, kinda weird, and I don't need to worry about it for now really. I've started working on the one armed chin up, doing some really heavy weighted chin-ups, sets of 3 at a time. Hoping to get there in 6 months. 6th August 2018: His head's full of thoughts, things seem a blur. He needs to figure stuff out, get things clear in his head. As he approaches the hotel his swings off down the road, arriving at the building nearby before climbing the balconies to his roof. It's still fairly light, so he sticks to the side of the balconies so that people can't see him. It makes things harder, but the police aren't too kind to teenagers any more, so he has to be careful. He reaches the top, and is surprised by how mild the air is. He can smell the last days of summer fading away, and it helps him to relax. He needs to get himself a plan, and a workout should help him think. He makes his way to the end of the building and jumps over the 'door step'. He's so uptight that the movements feel awkward, tense. “Focus”, he says to himself, “focus, Matt. Think. I've got a week left in the hotel. Okay, that gives me time.” His thought process is cut off, he notices a scrawl on the wall that leads to his watch tower. He's never seen graffiti up here before, not even tags. He moves closer to it, it's a message, sprayed clumsily over the concrete in a black paint. Slowly, the scruffy writing comes into focus, the words coming to him in a random order. “Father” “Still” “Is” The words are clearer now “Your Father Is Still” And then the last word hits him so hard his eyes water. It jumps out from the wall and shouts at him. He can feel his neck tense up and his knees get weak. He's angry, hurt, embarrassed, he doesn't know what he is. He can't feel anything. He knows he should feel something, but he can't feel anything. But then maybe this message isn't for him? It can't be, can it? But it has to be. It has to be. Just, everything. He stares at the word, double checking each letter. But however many times he reads it, it's still the same, horrid, complex word: “Alive.”

Chapter 3
[To Be Continued…]

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