I S..D, C.. you h… me?
OH, SORRY. NOW I’M TOO LOUD. IF YOU CAN JUST… IT’S THIS THING I WEAR… HOLD ON FOR A SECOND. STICK YOUR FINGERS IN YOUR EARS FOR A MOMENT, AND I’LL TRY TO TURn it… down.
There. That’s more like it. Sorry: it’s my diodes, or something.
They’ve been repaired, re-charged, or whatever it is. So many times that, really, the whole thing’s trash. My voice. My squawker, I mean. This box on my neck that makes sense – at least, that’s what it’s supposed to do – of how I talk. The screwed-up cords in my screwed-up throat.
But I’m not here to complain. Not to you or anyone. Complete opposite, in fact. You see, I’ve decided. Tonight’s the night that I’m leaving. Quitting. Getting Out.
Making my escape, if you want to be dramatic.
From Smogsea, I mean. My town. This place where I was born… and bred.
Going won’t be easy, I know. But I have to. I just… have to.
I’ve worked out a route. Oxygen at six gas stations. Tar Lane, Black Wharf, Ash Gardens, Old Farm, Greytree, Leadheath. Then up and over Green Hill. Simple. SIMPLE.
Sorry. There’s my volume again. My box, I think. Or maybe this time it’s just me: telling myself. The excitement.
Really, I can’t think what’s been stopping me, why it’s taken me so long.
I guess, if I really think about it, they’re the same things that stop everyone.
Fear. Of what’s out there (or isn’t) for one.
Loyalty, too: the fact that this is my town. Never mind that it’s killing me.
I can’t deny there are things that I’ll miss.
Our team – the Smogs – for one.
I’m too young to remember, but I’ve been told that once – before things got like they are – we were ‘big time’: fixtures with sides from parts of the country that were clean, and maybe still are.
Now we’re F.S.L.
The letters stand for something else, something official. But most call it the Freak Show League. You can blame so-called comedians who take the piss through The Net for that – bastards who live in Posh Pockets and stuff their noses with their own private air. (How I long to escape all of their mocking… all of their ‘jokes’.)
Twenty-minute matches against clubs like the Slummers, the Runts and the Rats.
Air, rest and liqui-fuel for the players in ad-stops every quarter.
Just lately, a bigger cloud than usual has been over our club. I’m talking about the death of our striker, the one and only Stevie Gray.
Extra-time in a cup-tie against the Dirtbirds proved too much for him.
He went down in their box with the goal at his mercy… swallowed his tongue. A searchlight picked out his fallen figure, sweating and shuddering on the six-yard line. All on live TV. In Mega Definition.
Viewing figures were massive: turbo-viral. An all-time best in in-play bets (on whether he’d live).
To be honest, it’s affected me. You see, Stevie was my favourite. I’d followed him for years: a record-breaking nine appearances in five seasons. A one-club man. Loyal. A Smog through and through.
I had a special reason. I once walked out onto our ground ‘The Bunker’ – as our mascot – holding his hand, fans chanting ‘Stevie! Stevie!’, as best they could.
I turned my squawker- the little one that I had back then – right up to speak to him, but he didn’t seem to hear.
It could have been our masks. It was one of those days when the air was bad… really bad.
After that (at least in my head… scuse a young girl’s foolishness) Stevie was… ‘my man’. In a way, his ‘going’ is one reason why I’ve decided to go, too.
On top of which has been the change, though some seem not to have noticed, in how things are here. One day a while back, the sun didn’t come up at all. We’re used to things being a certain way here, but…
The corporation called it ‘normal’ and said Smogsea was simply ‘falling into line’ – with ‘major towns and cities all over the world’. They made it seem as if this was something we should be proud of… major towns and cities.
Perhaps we should? Be proud, I mean. I don’t really know. But that’s when the trouble started: people attacking others.