Lion is a short, fictional story about Dave, a disturbed Briton who has been radicalised online and carries out an atrocious act as a result.
The pub was quiet, just the usual sad faces of a Wednesday afternoon huddled around the two least chipped of the tables, the quiet shuffling of cards resuming after the customary, brief silence Dave’s entry had caused. The slow turn of heads towards the door as the cold air penetrated the marginally less chilly interior of scuffed and filthy wood panelling and yellowing plaster, daubed in a variety of stains from spilt ale to blood spots on the cornice – the result of a long forgotten uppercut during a moment of alcohol-fuelled disagreement.
The landlord lifted his stout and stiff frame from a stool by the bar flap with a grunt and slopped near warm lager from a line last cleaned the month before into a cloudy glass from the lower shelf by the mousetrap. Without a word he placed the pint on the bar top, leaving a wet ring that would join the stickiness of the others by the end of the night. Dave passed him three pounds and sixty pence in exact change and the landlord grunted and put it in his pocket without ringing the till. He would be leaving soon enough, with the third month’s rent unpaid and the pub company resorting to court action without further warning, so he sat back down and continued drinking his bottle of Scotch, no longer caring about any of it.
Dave silently drank his rancid lager, catching sight of himself in the filthy mirrors behind the almost empty spirit shelves. His distorted face stared back at him, a ghost haunting him as the phone vibrated in his pocket. As he retrieved it, his van keys jingled then became silent, falling into line with the oppressive vacuum of the environment which had been his escape from reality for most of his working life. He still remembered the days when live music filled the place and the field out the back was full of tents and cars, rather than the flats which had been built four years ago and signed the old pub’s death warrant. This town was dying. The whole country. It had been invaded.
Dave sipped his drink and peered at the screen of his phone, the Facebook group glaring back, almost incandescent with rage against its red header proclaiming Save Our Country, bordered on the right by a silhouette of a woman in a hijab. The posts were an increasing clamour of anger and accusation, loaded with what Dave felt were forgivable spelling and grammar mistakes and strange reversed punctuation marks he put down to the curse of phones. The very bloody things that allowed terrorists to talk to each other without the useless pigs being able to stop them. At the top of the entries was an update on the group of Muslim paedophiles who had been preying on white girls somewhere up north, and it was only being reported by the EDL’s frontman. Dave finished his drink and slammed the filthy glass down on the bar, where a small spray of beer droplets sprayed outwards to expand the stain he would leave. Nobody looked around, all of them busy with their own thoughts of the fall of this once great country.
Without a word, Dave left, trembling with fury, and retrieved his van from the car park. He had to do something. Somebody had to take a stand. He checked his private messages and saw the group chat was still talking about taking the fight back to the infidels with direct action and he knew he wasn’t alone. Across the road a group of dark-skinned students were walking up the narrow pavement, heading for the university. Dave had been there once to use the Barclays after one of his building jobs paid in cash and he had not wanted to carry the money around or keep it at home, not with all the burglaries going on in his corner of the world. All bloody foreign students, free-loaders. Invaders. Robbing jobs and opportunity from everyone, leaving them to die the slow death of the boozer in muted silence.
Knuckles white on the steering wheel, Dave understood what he had to do and took a deep breath, there was time to send an update. He would be the first, the catalyst. He would be remembered as a hero for his actions and the country would start to wake up from its long and lazy slumber. And the lion would roar once again.
Dave let out a scream of anger and drove across the street, into the group of the students, and then continued up the road, wheels squealing as he turned on to the main access road of the campus. It never crossed his mind he was a terrorist, not even as the police officer’s bullets pierced his body and stopped his heart from beating.