Something triggered inside me, like an internal alarm clock, I didn’t know it had been set, but I knew as soon as it went off. I recognised instantly what it meant, I had to go back. It started as a nagging feeling, a vague restlessness that was at odds with my usual precise logic, it grew into a compulsion which soon outweighed my desire to stay. I had been in a self-imposed exile for over a year, I had enjoyed it, not that I was happy, but I was at least unrestricted, free. I could do as I wished and be as miserable as I had to. I contemplated the injustice of the world, allowed self-pity to consume me, I let grief sit like a boulder blocking every path. I could have stayed away, I could have lived the rest of my days as a recluse and the better part of me longed to do it. My rehabilitation though, I was certain, depended upon me returning to some kind of civilisation. That was about the only thing I was sure of.
I guessed that the days ahead would be very similar to those that filled my recent memory; regret, anguish, despair. Dark brooding days followed by worse nights, fitfully sleeping between vivid nightmares of noiseless screams, tracer fire and the smell of cordite filling my nostrils. Unfortunately it was a pattern that had repeated itself all too often of late.
The man who handed me the keys was as over-courteous as I had expected from someone who had just made commission on a multi-million pound apartment. All smiles and affirmations about the great deal he had got me, I knew it was the deal he had got himself he was really smiling about. I resented the fact that he derived so much pleasure from my purchase when I could not. I wanted too, but to me the apartment was just another empty space in which to feel miserable. It was a large and expensive space, but my attitude towards life in general remained un-changed.
The apartment was newly refurbished; part of what was once an old industrial unit, all concrete, steel and exposed brickwork. Comprising of a single, double height storey, one floor below the penthouse. It was an open-plan space with windows intersecting at the corner to frame a gloomy view across the river. There was a plain white, 12 foot wide by 10 foot high wall, which partially screened the living space from the bedroom and bathroom, the openness of it all gave it the feeling of a giant concrete and glass cave. The entrance was simple also, just metallic double doors into a lift, no corridor, no neighbours, just the lift, down and down again to my private subterranean garage.
Although it did nothing to lighten my mood, the apartment did at least focus my attention for a few days. I was not in the habit of being fussy, but I liked things in order, regular and neat. A place for everything and everything in its place as my Father would say. This was easy to achieve with possessions as sparse as mine.
I purchased a few essentials, some f the delivery men looked at me as though I had more money than sense. Of the few things I had delivered over the next few weeks, the bed was the easiest to justify. A bed costing £10,000 was admittedly excessive, but completely defensible in my mind, as a means to help me resolve my first major dilemma. Sleep is essential to maintain life, let alone keeping the brain functioning as it should, depending on the climate, it is possible to survive longer without water than it is without sleep, I had plenty of water but sleep was almost impossible to come by. In years past I was practiced enough at sleeping deeply wherever I needed to; forests, deserts, dormitories, I had had my fair share of shut-eye in each of them, but the visions that accompanied my recent nightly sojourns into the recesses of my mind, required me to be as comfortable as possible if I was to sleep for even 15 minutes at a time. I saw no sense it making it harder than it needed to be in the confines of my new safe-house.
I hadn’t lived in London for years, I wasn’t living there now, just existing for the time being, but the city was very much as I remembered it, albeit slightly busier, greyer and more polluted in every way. There were areas which still held intense memories for me, none of the obvious places though, not Big Ben, St Pauls nor Trafalgar square, my mind always returned to Richmond Park. A simple, lazy, afternoon from 5 years previous. I knew the memory had been a sweet one, but it was different now, twisted by my state of mind to become nothing more than a reminder of all that I had lost.
I could have gone anywhere in the UK within reason, but the sheer volume of people was what drew me back. London has a population of approximately 8 million, to me, it seems like a living, organism, an ever expanding and unstable haven for transients and grafter’s alike, the rich, the poor and everything in between, people from all walks of life converging and forcing their own customs and habits upon each other, the many co-existing despite the actions of the few. I began to enter a routine, resting by day, walking the streets at night and watching the repetitious nature of the millions of ordinary lives around me. I had spent my time alone in the wilderness, now that I had returned I knew I needed the opposite, not friends, not even acquaintances, in fact I meant to remain as anonymous as possible, but I needed to work my way into the seedier underworld and find the people I needed to know, to acquire the things I would inevitably need, I wanted to lose myself in the chaotic world of London life as deeply as I had in the quiet isolation of the previous year.
As this pattern continued I slowly started to realise why I had come, the compulsion had driven me here for a reason, it was time to plan. Planning something in great detail not only helps to arrange the task itself, but it also helps to organise the mind and I was acutely aware that my minded required some serious re-shuffling. In order to move on, I had to make amends, I needed to end my suffering at whatever the cost. I didn’t want to stop remembering and re-living each ordeal, I wanted the opposite, to remember the pain, not for self-pity, but as motivation, to use it to drive me on to the next phase. I needed to keep myself occupied and focus the destructive thoughts on a task that would require all of my concentration. I knew I was not to blame for what happened, I never had been, I was simply to blame for not being able to stop it. Despite all of my efforts, all of my training, I couldn’t help when I was needed most, as such I did not think of the tasks to come as revenge, they were more than that. Justice was required and I would not rest until I had laid my own brand of justice at the door of the men who had destroyed my life. That was what I needed and I was beginning to understand how to get it.