A young boy is caught shoplifting and is offered the choice of 8 months hard labour or taking part in a new reality TV show. Having never been on TV, this is his preferred option. The show is an elimination show but unknown to the public who watch every night and interact via social media 24 hours a day, the show is not what it seems. When the boys learn the true meaning of the word ‘elimination’, everything changes.
Aimed at readers aged 11-14, The Elements is a novel very much in need of an agent and a publisher and quite possibly a sympathetic editor – three things that have so far proven impossible to find. Rather than let the words sleep forever in a folder on my desktop, they’re being serialised at Plain Or Pan.
I appreciate you’re not quite the intended demographic for the book, but it’d be great if you could read it through the same eyes that first landed on a 2 Tone sleeve or a Topical Times Football Book. Positive comments welcome. Any and all offers of publication will be considered.
All previous chapters of The Elements can be found here.
by Craig McAllister
The boys were taken in two cars to a police station twenty minutes away. At the station they each told their story in as honest a way as possible. They’d watched the man kill two of their friends in cold blood, they said. Everything happened so fast and unexpectedly. Several of the boys and the officers taking the statements had broken down when the explanation of how Stephen came to die was discussed.
Connor was distraught. Inconsolable. He’d found himself at Kimble because he’d stolen a few football magazines. He’d left Kimble, not yet a teenager, a murderer. Nothing the police officer said to him could appease his feelings. He feared for what sentence the judge might impose on him should he meet him again. Connor was certain he’d find himself back in court, this time on a murder charge.
By the time the sun was back up, they’d talked through the night, explaining and re-explaining in detail as best they could the events of the past day or so, the officers making sure every little nuance was spot on before being satisfied. They’d talked throught the night. None of the boys and none of the officers had slept.
At some point, someone brought in rolls with bacon and scrambled egg. There was a steaming pot of tea and glasses of fresh orange juice. As the boys ate and the officers filled in endless paperwork, the first of the parents began to arrive, eager to hug their boy and take them home, far away from Kimble, far away from the public eye.
Physically, it was easy to get away from Kimble. Mentally, not so.
The Elements was never shown again. The anger and outrage that saturated social media in the days and weeks that followed – not anger at the show being axed, but outrage at how the makers of the show had been allowed to get away with the concept of it – mirrored the editorials and opinion pieces that ran in all the major quality publications, attacking the show’s producers who’d exploited young minds and lives to such degree. Being dead, there was no way of bringing any of the principal players to justice but, with an extensive independent investigation carried out at the government’s insistence, the authorities were keen to establish exactly what had gone on at Kimble.
The day arrived when the authorities caught up with all the boys and so, the day arrived when Connor was summoned to court. Celebrity being what it is, the boys’ names had all but fizzled out of the public eye in the intervening few months, discarded eventually for whatever fads and fashions constituted social media’s ‘new thing’, but there was nonetheless keen interest in the outcome of the story.
Connor entered the courtroom again, not an empty room as before, but a room with lawyers and witnesses and a public gallery that was packed full of nosey folk with nothing better to do.
The judge, that same wizened and yellowy, beaky man with the sorry sweep of hair across the top of his liver-spotted head looked Connor up and down.
“Young man,” he said disparagingly in his soft, Scottish burr. “You recently stood before me, and I very generously explained to you that I am a fair man and a believer in second chances.” He stopped, looking at Connor to emphasise the graveness of the situation he found himself in. “I am not, however, much of a believer in third chances.”
Connor gulped, hands politely behind his back and stole a glance at his parents, holding one another’s hands in a union of shared anguish.
“LOOK AT ME WHEN I AM ADDRESSING YOU, YOUNG MAN!”
The judge’s thin voice reverberated around the wood and glass interior. Connor fearfully gave him his attention. The judge paused, checking that the boy in front of him was all his, before continuing.
“I have listened to your version of events. I am sympathetic, to a degree, with the situation you found yourself in. Nevertheless, you have participated in a heinous and ghastly crime. One that left a young boy beaten to death. A young boy very much like yourself, with hopes and dreams and fanciful ideas for the future. You, along with your friends, took this from him. That, Mr Stewart cannot go unpunished.”
Connor gulped into a dry mouth.
“The sentence I am about to bestow upon you, you cannot appeal. It would have been much greater but for the fact you did not act alone and were under threat of death yourself had you not complied. Nonetheless, I am sentencing you to eight months hard labour with the Department of Enforcement. You will work from their Northern Shires depot. You will be taken there today and expected to begin work tomorrow.”
As a gasp rose from the public gallery and a shout of, ‘Oh no!’ came from his parents, Connor’s knees began to give way. Two prison officers had a hold of him suddenly, each with an elbow under each armpit to steady him until the judge was finished.
“Take him down,” the judge said in closing, the sharp rap of his gavel announcing this case was closed.