The Attack

Damien Grant was a happy man. His career was blossoming, he was married to the woman he loved, and in his leisure time he played guitar in a Ska band. What’s not to like? And, best of all, he had a son, little Noah, just started school.
He whistled cheerfully as he strode down the street. This was one of his rare days off. He’d been rehearsing all morning with the band, ready for a gig at the weekend; that always left him fizzing. The sun was shining, and the early promise of spring was stirring all around him. There were tight leaf buds on some of the trees; daffodils glowed in flower-beds and on grass banks. Life was sweet.
He pushed open the door of the Golden Lion. The faint tang of woodsmoke tickled his nostrils. He beamed. There was Coral, in the cosy corner close to the open fire. He hurried over and joined her.
“They’ve got both our favourites today.” He loved the Jamaican lilt in her voice, a characteristic she had from her parents who had come to Britain in the late eighties, when she was just a little girl.
Coral laughed. “And tomato and red pepper soup for me. They must have known we were coming!”
They chattered pleasantly, inconsequentially, as they ate. They enjoyed a glass of wine. The publican liked them. They were regulars, polite, never any trouble. He didn’t mind them lingering over the meal. They had a dessert, then a coffee. It was a holiday for them, and they were enjoying it.
At last Coral looked at her watch.
“Oh my gosh, look at the time! We’d better hurry – we don’t want Noah to be on his own in the playground!”
“We’ll be fine. No problem. I’ll just settle the tab.”
*       *       *       *
Daacad sat in his bed-sit and gazed at his battered laptop. Most of the screen was filled with a photograph of a date processing factory in Lebanon, posted on the Asian Speciality Foods website. He wasn’t looking at that. He was looking at the brief message below it.
“High Street, Shirley, Solihull. 15:00 8th March 2008”
That was it. He’d known it would come. That was his call to martyrdom. “Allahu Akhbar!” he thought, with a chill in the pit of his stomach. It was an honourable calling, but a difficult one. He was frightened.
He had a suicide vest. It was a top quality one, with commercial plastic explosive. There were ball bearings around the charge.
“Do not worry too much about being in a crowd of people. You only need to be close to a handful. You are a messenger to the infidels, that we will seek them out and punish them even in the places that they feel safest.” That is what he had been told.
That is what he would do this afternoon. His mortal life would be over. He would no longer be troubled by this corrupt society, he would be in Paradise, in the world as it should be. But he was frightened. He honestly didn’t know whether he could go through with it.
He put down the laptop and crept over to the wardrobe, from which he removed a large and heavy package. He opened the box, took out the vest and put it on. His breath came short and fast. It wouldn’t hurt, he knew. He would be instantly in Paradise. He fastened the buckles, slipped his hoodie on over the top and studied himself in the mirror. Nothing seemed to look out of place. The hoodie was a loose garment and you couldn’t see he was wearing a bomb.
He tried to imagine himself on the street, looking out for a cluster of people. He would walk up to them, close the switch, and the bomb would detonate. “Allahu Akhbar,” he whispered again.
*       *       *       *
People smiled as Damien and Coral passed them. Although Damien was tall and Coral was tiny, they walked briskly, hand in hand, perfectly at ease with each other.
“I wonder how Noah’s ‘Show and Tell’ went today? I love the way he copies you on that toy guitar of his!” They both laughed, imagining their son standing in front of the teacher solemnly strumming the pink plastic toy.
The world about them exploded.
Damien struggled up from the blackness. The pain was astonishing, outrageous. He could hear nothing. He lay on the pavement, cheek resting against the tarmac. He could see Coral. She wasn’t moving. Her wounds were terrible, her clothes saturated with blood. She couldn’t be dead? She mustn’t be dead! He struggled to reach her, but he couldn’t move. His vision was dimming. His strength was ebbing. “Coral,” he thought, and then “Noah…”
In the playground, a very small boy waited. Where were his mum and dad? He clutched a pink guitar. His friends had all met their waiting parents, but his weren’t there. He started to cry.
“No mummy yet, Noah?” He ran to the teacher and buried his face against her. She held him gently for a few minutes, and then took him indoors while she tried to find out why there was no-one to collect him.
In the High Street, amid the blare of sirens and the bustle of paramedics, a mobile phone rang unanswered in a beaded handbag.

2 thoughts on “The Attack

  1. That’s chilling Penny. The impact of these outrages – just horrific. It had real power to the story, seeing the couple so close and loving before their deaths.
    Thanks for the follow and good luck with the blogging 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Lynn. Of course, it’s not just terrorist attacks that cause such suffering. A bomb is a bomb, is a bomb…The story is set in the UK to engage the reader’s sympathy.
    But the Saudis are dropping British bombs on civilian targets in Yemen.


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