I’d only just finished writing yesterday’s entry before I heard Miranda calling out from the other room. There was a panic in her voice, and she was trying to yell out in hushed tones.
She was looking out her bedroom window onto the street. Outside people were walking along the road towards the partially burned-out supermarket caring assorted items. They were hauling glass bottles with rags stuffed in the top, star pickets, bike chains and axes – clearly anything on hand that they could use as an improvised weapon. The crowd was made up of mainly men, and they walked along the street as silently as they could.
They weren’t coming to try and loot the supermarket. None of them came with anything that they could carry away quantities of stuff with. No, this looked like a mob returning to exact some kind of retribution. The cops? The supermarket? I wasn’t sure. I’ve stayed indoors ever since the earlier riot had gotten out of control, and I know nothing about what happened next. But what I did know is that this crowd now walking down my street was far larger than the crowd that I’d seen earlier.
Within minutes the sirens started up again; along with the gunfire. I could hear more police cars coming form a distance, but their sound became drowned out as the crowd started chanting. I couldn’t discern what they were saying as it seemed to be a muddled mess of cries, but I could hear the pained yelling and screaming that came soon afterwards.
At this distance, the petrol bombs being thrown sounded like the pop of bubble wrap as they exploded. Their sound was distinctly different to that of the gunfire, and I heard probably dozens of them being thrown. Often after each pop there was a furious volley of gunfire.
Police cars with their sirens blazing raced up my street towards the violence. Their blue lights flashed strange patterns around my darkened rooms as they passed.
Then the power came back on. I must have tried turning every light in the house recently, trying to find if we had electricity or not as every room lit up startlingly brightly the moment the power came on. Radio alarm clocks whistled to life, and other electrical appliances started to whir into function. With my heart racing in panic I ran between rooms switching everything off as quickly as I could. I then plugged my laptop in to power to charge it up, along with my phone and the several backup charger units that I had. I then scooped up Miranda and kicked two of our beanbags into the bathroom – the most central room in the house, and just held her tightly to me while the street outside turned into a battleground.
It occurred to me a little later what may have just happened. The power must be getting rationed at the moment, and the police were able to have it switched on in our area so that it made it easier to see rioters in the streets at night.
Popping, gunfire and sirens continued on for over an hour before it started quieting down. I could hear the police in their cars on the streets calling out over their loudspeakers to rioters that they had spotted, to drop their weapons and remain still. But now the sounds on the street had been added to with other noises – the sounds of cars either fleeing or speeding up to chase, and the sounds of momentary skidding before being followed by the sound of metal and glass striking solid objects with force.
Eventually the crowd’s noise stopped, and the popping from the petrol bombs ceased. All that was left was the sounds from hundreds of police cars slowly circling the neighbourhood, along with the muffled sound from their loudspeakers and the occasional gunfire. Some of it was startlingly too close to my home.
In the meantime, Miranda had fallen asleep while curled up in my arms. I dared not move in the hope of her being able to catch some rest. I guess she felt safer being wrapped up there with me.
At about 4am there was a loud bang on the door. An authoritative voice announced that he was a policeman, and that he wanted someone to come to the door. The knocking woke up Miranda, and she looked up at me with weary eyes. “Don’t get up” I said. “I’ll see who it is” as I shuffled myself gently sideways away from her.
I stood up, and as I did I kicked my shoes and socks off and walked through the house bare-foot. The floor was still damn cold, and my feet seemed to sting a little. I peeked through the peephole in the door and confirmed that there were two uniformed officers standing there before I opened it.
As I opened the door the two of them shuffled a hand each over their guns, and they both shined their torches into my eyes – blinding me with a biting beam.
“Excuse me sir” One of them began, “Where have you been this evening”
“I’ve been here with my daughter” I replied.
“And your wife, sir”?
“She’s a nurse. She’s been ‘Redeployed’ somewhere”.
The two of them were silent for a moment, and I saw one of them shine their torch down to my bare feet. I shuffled them in the cold and tried to look through the blinding light at the other officer.
“Is there anyone else in the house”? The first officer continued.
“No”, I stuttered as I crossed my arms in the cold. “Well, other than my daughter”.
“And have you seen anyone else around your property”?
“With all that shooting I have been hearing, do you think I’d go near a window”? I rhetorically replied.
The two officers stood there for a moment quietly, before one of them said “Thank you sir. We’re going to be looking around your property for a couple of minutes to see if there’s someone hiding here. We would appreciate if you could remain inside while we do this. Have a good morning”.
And with that they turned and headed back down the stairs. I closed the door and leaned against the wall and let out a deep breath to try and calm my racing pulse.
I went back to the bathroom and found that Miranda had gotten up and headed back off to her bed. Still feeling anxious about what had been happening tonight, I wasn’t yet ready to let her out of my sight. So I pulled the beanbags into her room, and tried to sleep on them there. Dawn was starting to break outside, and I knew that it was unlikely that I’d be able to get a lot of sleep, but I thought I would try regardless.
I woke up about 10am this morning and I went and had a shower. The power had been switched off again, and I was glad that we had gas hot water. Fortunately the power had been on for long enough for me to be able to charge everything again.
After I had my shower went outside after I heard the squeaky brakes of a truck driving slowly up our street. There was a truck with a low-set open tray slowly driving up the road, with a variety of men in high-vis workwear hovering along beside it picking things up from the ground and throwing it onto the tray. The truck would occasionally stop for a while, and the whole group would move over to something that they would then in unison pick up and throw onto a separate pile on the back of the tray.
As the truck passed I had a closer look at what they had been collecting. The tray was partially filled with the debris of the makeshift weapons that, I guess, had been discarded as the rioters ran. There were also items of clothing and broken pieces of what looked like parts that had been torn off some of the neighbour’s fences.
However more disturbingly the back of the truck was partially loaded with a pile of long grey zip-up bags that had been filled. These looked like body-bags that were housing the remains of rioters, and maybe policemen that had been killed in the streets overnight.
I looked the other direction up the road, and I could see a handful of policemen on foot, photographing the debris laying on the ground, along with the bodies – which they then tagged rolled into a body-bag ready for the work crew to pick up. I just stood there stunned for a moment as I watched the grim procession moving down the street. I didn’t know what to say, or even really what to feel. I just turned and came back inside the house, and sat down thinking about the night for the rest of the afternoon.
I went and checked on Miranda early afternoon. She seemed fine, and was sitting up on the corner of her bed, reading a book in the sunlight. I thought for a moment about how much she seemed to be like Tess, in that she seemed to be reading a book no matter what was happening in the world around her at that time. I remembered that today was supposed to be a school day, but I felt a little conflicted about whether I wanted Miranda to go to school again.