Henry took a step back into the shadow at the corner of the boarded up row of shops facing the deserted street.
He waited, listening.
There was no sound except a distant siren streets away.
He peered out, first checking the sky.
There was no sign of a drone. But there often wasn’t. These days they flew high for their own safety, their rotor motors inaudible from the ground. As for the satellite images and other surveillance – it was too late for that now.
Bloodstains, bricks, stones, smashed glass and other debris littered the post-riot street. Across from the row of shops, stood what was once a block of maisonettes, now a burnt-out ruin. Beyond that the fire-blackened tower blocks stood like rotten teeth in a ruined mouth.
There would be patrols out looking for stragglers, for the wounded and the injured. He heard a dog bark. It could be a wild stray, one of the packs that roamed the estates, or it could be a police dog.
Henry only wanted to go home. But there was a curfew. He would be fair game for any police or militia force that caught him out in the open. It didn’t matter that he was innocent, that he had been far away from here when the riot broke out.
There was no such thing as innocence, not any more.
He measured the distance to the next piece of cover, the open maw that was once the main door of the maisonette block. It would be risky. He had no idea what lay beyond that patch of darkness. There could be a gang of rioters waiting to ambush a police patrol. There could be police or militia in there waiting to do the same to any rioters.
But everything these days was a risk.
He glanced around, left and right and searched the sky again. Realising he’d run out of excuses, he ran.
Staying still was always the biggest danger. But camera software these days was very good at picking up movement. So, as Henry often thought, you were screwed whatever you did.
As his father had said the day after the election result all those years ago. ‘Now you’ll see what a worker’s paradise is really like.’ Henry hadn’t voted. He didn’t believe the softly-spoken promises of a new utopia rising out of the ashes of a failed system.
He stumbled on the broken cracked tarmac, sprawling across the road, feeling his old tatty jeans rip and something slice into his thigh.
He rolled onto his back, yelling out in pain as he saw the jagged broken bottle bottom sticking out of his blood-soaked leg.
A pair of arms grabbed him, dragging him into the maisonette doorway. ‘Shut up, twat,’ she whispered harshly into his ear as her dirty hand covered his mouth. ‘There’s a patrol out there, just waiting for us to do something stupid.’
Henry nodded, tasting the dirt on her fingers.
‘Shhh, they’re coming,’ she said, easing her hand from his mouth.
He bit his lip as her movement jarred the glass in his thigh, then his eyes widened as he saw her raise the pistol to target the police patrol creeping closer.