Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Fire

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There was a big fire in Cardiff a few days ago. This is an imagined history of its cause.
It wasn’t meant to end like this, not at all. Mitch watched the huge plume of black smoke drift across the city as a multitude of sirens drowned out the craws of the seagulls. More and fire appliances arrived at the scene, their blue lights reflecting off the tinted windows of the office buildings on the other side of the square. Facebook and Twitter were already full of pictures of the plume with speculation rife that Cardiff had been targeted by Islamic terrorists. The flames danced and leapt in the wind. Firefighters were doing their job, but the flames were fighting back. Mitch and the other onlookers were shepherded back another ten metres by a spotty faced community support officer. Mitch bit his nails, this wasn’t good, not good at all.
“Is it ISIS?” A woman’s voice asked behind him. People were stupid. Why did anything dramatic have to be terrorist related? And since when did terrorist target wasteland on the edge of Cardiff Bay?
Mitch turned his back on the fire and pushed his way through the crowd. He needed to get away from the scene of the crime. Mitch knew the arson specialists were probably already scanning the rubberneckers looking for their culprit, but still he’d hung around watching the smoke go from white to black.
It had started as protest. A dirty protest. The streets of Cardiff were getting gradually dirtier and dirtier. The students had all gone home but the streets around the university were a disgrace. Uncollected rubbish strewn across front gardens and spilling into the streets. Seagulls feasted on the scraps getting fatter and fatter and the smell would turn any stomach. The council had neither the will nor the money to do anything about it, so Mitch had taken matters into his own hands. He’d hired a truck and gone around collecting the crap lying on the streets of Cathays. For seven hours he’d worked harder than he’d ever worked. The maggot farm he’d uncovered had almost made him throw up, and there was no almost about it when he’d found the rotting corpse of an ex-seagull. Finally, when he had the van full of black bags, green bags, and other backs of rubbish, he’d headed down to Callaghan Square to set his bonfire.
Just a little fire to draw everyone’s attention to the issue, just on the patch of wasteland that nobody used. How was Mitch supposed to know that something in those bags would send up an acrid smoke that would choke half of Cardiff?
“They found a body?” The woman who had decided it was an act of terrorism looked up from her phone. “It’s a suicide bomber!”
"Or a murder," another woman said. 
Mitch looked back. Another wail of sirens brought an ambulance to the scene. How could they have found a body? Mitch had made sure there was no one on the wasteland when he’d dumped the bags. He hadn’t killed anyone. He continued to push through the people; more and more of them arriving to film the scene for their own Facebook walls. His shirt was sticking to his back, and there was sweat on the back of his knees. He had to get away, far away.
“’Scuse me sir,” Mitch looked up to see a man and a woman standing in front of him. He knew exactly who they were.
“Would you like to come with us?” The woman said.

Mitch didn’t want to, but he guessed it was for the best.

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