The switch knife
Edward Galaster wins a pounds 100 Blackwell's book token with this pers onal account of a violent attack, which was his entry for our competition: what makes you angry?
Thursday 13 June 1996
"All right, mate. You fucking poof!" - a sharp, stabbing, bitter-sweet, oxymoronic greeting that temporarily knocks me off balance in confusion, then instantly raises a mental defensive guard.
"Sorry?" Self-deprecating apology, a trick learnt through years of attempting to avoid violent confrontation in school changing rooms. Or rather, a nervous reaction - as a trick, it wasn't particularly effective.
"You're a student." This was a cold statement, requiring no answer and deadly in its familiarity. To be honest, I know it didn't matter whether I was or not. Pontius Pilate had just passed the death sentence.
"Hey, look. Uh ... I don't ..."
"SHUT IT." The words were spat out with a viciousness that evaporated any final hope within me. He meant business. They glance around them briefly, faces pale and snarling, eyes darting, serpent-like, around the deserted street. No cars, no people. Just them and me.
I hear a click, and another noise: ffttcht. I see a gleam of blue metal in his hand. They advance quickly, predatory, their faces pale blue and tight as masks. I run.
I have accepted the inevitability of death; reconciled myself with my mortality and through this have achieved a great appreciation for life and a desire to make the most of it. So my overriding emotion from this brief, dreadful experience was not fear (although the taste of it still rises in my throat when I remember) or even anxiety or relief. It was, in fact, burning, uncontrollable anger.
For two complete strangers, to whom I owed nothing, to assume that they had some right to take my life from me (for I am convinced that they had no other intention) arouses nothing in me but intense fury. I am not afraid of death, but I am not anxious to relieve myself of my life. The thought of being sliced and stabbed, and left to drip dead in a cold, damp gutter is beyond contemplation.
Yet they did more than this. In those few, brief seconds, they stripped of me more than they ever could with a switch-knife: my security, my pride, my self-worth as a human within civil society. They exposed my fear and left me naked - a pathetic, vulnerable individual.
All I feel now is anger. Empty, impotent anger.
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