Gotcha

Rhys checked his phone again and again. It distracted him from the constant dripping coming from the bridge above him. His watch vibrated, reminding him he had completed his exercise for the day. The weight of his tablet forced his satchel onto his collarbones. He wished he had left it at home. 

Rust covered the various poles and beams that held the roof of the bridge. Rhys presumed there were specific technical names for all of them, but he did not know a single one. He would find out the minute he was home. 

He had promised the gang he would photograph the canal path. A nice landscape shot, with the semicircle of light at one end, just catching the light on the water. It was the only spot round here where broken bottles, empty beer cans and cigarette butts did not pepper the floor. Take away the drip-drip-dripping of the beams above, and the stinking canal water, and you had one of the nicest spots in town. 

He would be the first to recognise this. He would send his photo to the Mayor’s email address, local bloggers, anyone who had posted photos of the town on the public social media. He would seek them out, and show them a brand new version of their world. He slipped the satchel off his shoulders. The glass eye of his tablet saw the air.

The rustling started.

That rustling Rhys associated with breakfast time at his parents, now thankfully gone. Sheets and sheets of newspaper floated on the water’s surface, enough to make him gasp. This was impossible. He hadn’t seen a newspaper around this part of town for years. Had a newsagent thrown out unwanted stock?

The tablet wobbled a little in his hands, and Rhys switched on the anti-shake setting. He needed the shot. He could crop out the prop, tone down the darkness until they vanished. They would not defeat him. 

A gust of wind rattled through the tunnel, and swirled the newspapers into a tornado. Rhys waited for the gust to die down. He only needed five seconds for immortality. 

A newspaper slammed over his tablet, and the screen went black. It was one of the tabloids, the headline in red capital letters, screaming about Thatcher’s Britain. He went to brush the front page out of the way, but a broadsheet wrapped around his arm. This surprised Rhys so much he did not notice his phone slip from his hand, and smash on unforgiving concrete.

A local daily covered his face, smothering his mouth and nose in musty, damp paper. He stumbled back a few steps, and ripped it off with the noise of a plaster from a scabbed knee. He managed a glance at the date- 17th October, 1986-before another took out his vision again. 

Rhys took a few steps forward, hoping the the river was to his left. He kicked over his satchel, and booted his tablet somewhere out of sight.

The river was ahead of him. 

Down went Rhys, into the swirling canal. The publications swarmed, and formed paper boots that dragged him to the bottom. 

The papers settled down onto the skin of the water. Rhys wouldn’t make the headlines. They made sure of that.