“You are one of one hundred,” says the big black dude in front of me. He's heavy, muscled and tall and he's as intimidating as all hell. I don't know who he is or which direction he came from but all of a sudden he's standing in front of me and I can smell the coffee on his breath and see the street light shining off his bald head.
“You are one of one hundred,” he repeats, “and your training begins now.”
I get the chance to think, What training?, except even in my mind it comes out Whaooooophrgh! as the big black dude throws a short, sharp punch into my stomach. I start doubling over, eyes bugging out and spit hanging from my lower lip. He throws a knee up, connecting with my chin and all of a sudden I'm on the ground, on my back, and I can feel blood on my face. The big black dude is standing over me, smiling. I start pissing myself and scrambling backwards on my elbows and arse, muttering and squelching and building up to scream.
The big black dude reaches up to a gizmo mounted on what looks like his stab proof vest. It looks like the kind of radio the police use, the kind of body armour they use too, except the police aren't usually known for violently assaulting passers by on a quiet Tuesday night in Glasgow city centre. I look around as I'm scrambling but I can't see a soul and I realise I'm shouting “Help me! Fuck's sake help me!” but there's no one to hear, there's not even a parked car.
He comes after me slowly, still smiling, and he's muttering into his gizmo or radio. I can't hear all of what he's saying but I think I catch “No resistance” and “Good show” and then he's laughing like he's just shared a joke and then he's growled and raised a foot and stamped and oh christ I think he just broke my ankle.
I'm sobbing now, really sobbing and I'm crying for my mum and I don't know what's happening and then he's crouching down and he's patting me on the cheek and smiling and he says, “I'll see you next year.”
And just like that, right before my eyes, he disappears. Evaporates. Disintegrates. Like Scotty just beamed him up only without the special effects. I blinked and he was gone.
Fourteen hours later I'm propped up in a hospital bed and no one is believing my story. A very tall and very stern policeman gives me a serious expression and a serious voice while taking down notes in a tiny pad with a pencil smaller than a cigarette end. He's not best pleased at my comparison of the big black dude's body armour to his. He asks me how many drugs I'd been taking. I say none. He just raises his eyebrows as if to say Aye right pal and asks what I'd been drinking, why I was there, where I thought the big black dude came from and went to and why he did what he did.
I just stare at him, slipping into shock.
That was my sixteenth birthday present. A brutal assault by a still unfound crazy man, three days in hospital and weeks of scrutiny by police who thought I was just another Weegie drug peddling wee shite. And I wasn't! Okay, maybe I moved a couple of bars of hash every now and again for pocket money but lets face it, who hasn't? I'm not a bad guy, I didn't do anything to deserve that. I don't even know why it happened, but I tell you what, you wont find me walking the streets of the town alone these days. I barely go anywhere alone unless it's in a nice crowded place.
It's the day of my seventeenth birthday and I'm in one of those new shopping malls that sprung up around Glasgow after the millennium. All white tiles and mirrors. Makes the place look like a giant public toilet. I've got cash in my pocket and a song in my heart and I'm off to buy something Playstationy, or perhaps X-Boxy. I wont decide until I see what's on the shelves. First of all though, I need to do something about my aching desire to pee. My Dad's with me and I leave him in a golf shop to go look for the lavs.
Up three escalators and round a corner and I'm in the generic public toilets in this giant generic public toilet. As usual with these places the whole room smells of pish and three of the cubicles have “Out of Order” signs sellotaped to the doors. Can't use blu-tak after all, cos the locals would only steal it. For all that it's busy in the mall it's surprisingly empty in here.
I approach the urinal, unzip and....relax...
There's a tap on my shoulder.
“You are one of one hundred. What have you learned?”
My eyes open wide and my piss arcs over the wall and my shoes as I turn just in time to catch a fist on my jaw. It's him. He's here. How the. What the. I've fallen with my cock out. He's picking me up and I'm trying to hide my penis, ashamed of being seen and then he's punched me in the belly again and it's him, it's the big black dude, he's here and oh please god don't kill me.
“You are one of one hundred. If you die, you die, but I can't kill you until you start fighting back. It's the rules”.
What the fuck? Did I say that out loud?
He grabs me by the jacket, two handed, and throws me across the toilet floor. I slide on the tiles, coming to rest against the line of cubicles. It's him. It's the same guy, same outfit, but this time it's light and I can see him. He's tall, muscled, really muscled and he's wearing some sort of body armour. Not police-issue stab proof, but molded to perfectly fit his frame. There's a gizmo on his shoulder and it's flashing red, little lights like LEDs. He's got big fuck off bone breaker boots on – and I should know – and he's coming towards me. He's grinning again. The flourescent lights shine off his skin which is almost proper black like you see in some African guys, not the watered down browns and mauves and creams you see on the streets.
“You are one of one hundred,” he says, leaning down and grabbing my aching jaw in his hand, “and you have been chosen. These are the rules. Every year on your birthday I will come to you. If you do not fight back, you will not die, but you will be badly hurt. If you do not fight back on your twenty-first birthday, I will kill you. This is authorised.”
He looks me right in the eye. He's got really big teeth.
“If you fight back and kill me, you win and go onto the next stage. But you are one of one hundred, and you must fight until you are one of one. Only then will you win.”
He gives me a big shit eating grin.
“Can you win?”
“Win what?” I stammer.
I see his other hand raised in a fist and then it's coming down quick and then it...
I wake up slowly, listening to two old men bicker.
“Christs sakes Jack, who'd dae something like this?”
“Probably some junkie Victor. Why wont this blasted mobile work?”
“Just go oot and find a flunky for gods sakes. The poor wee fella needs somebody a wee bit quicker than you tae help him.”
“Aye right, fair enough. Here, take this.”
“What dae I want your bunnet for ya lunatic?”
“Tae cover up the wee fella's wee fella. He's in enough bother right noo, he doesny need a crowd a folk gawpin at his willy”
“Oh christ just go and find someone, would ye?”
The blackness comes again.
Then I'm in an ambulance, covered up, neck brace and gas mask on. There's a paramedic pottering about and my Dad's ashen faced and silent beside her.
“It was him Dad,” I manage to croak. “It was him again.”