Some already know I write tales of terror for fun and profit (for those who don't, a free sample download is available here). There is only one thing more fun than scaring the crap out of people, and that is being paid for it.
There are many being paid for it these days, and many more who are terrified for no other obvious reason than that they like to be terrified. Even when a perceived threat is proven beyond all doubt to be no threat at all, still they are scared. I don't know when 'terrified' became the default human response to everything, but it has.
There was a Muslim woman on a plane. On a plane, mind, not trying to get on. She was on it, so she had already been through the security that is so scared of everything that they actually believe you can hijack a plane with a pair of tweezers or a steel comb. "Fly this plane to Cuba or the stewardess gets a centre parting and one thin eyebrow. Don't mess with me, I have ginger hair dye too. Ha! It was only 99ml so you couldn't stop me."
This Muslim woman was speaking on her phone. You know, those phones we have to switch off because phoning home while the plane is in flight will make its wings drop off. We can have those, but no tweezers. Anyway, the plane was ready to leave so she finished her conversation and turned off her phone.
One of the flight crew overheard her and thought she said 'It's a go'. She claims she said 'I've got to go' but what she said doesn't really matter. The plane was halted, she was taken off and went through security once again, this time on the premise that she was intending to spontaneously combust in mid-air.
So far, no big deal. The air crew were just being cautious, the woman was inconvenienced but was proven to be no threat at all. So she reboarded and all was well, right?
TSA agents patted down her headscarf but soon recognised their mistake and did not even inspect her handbag or cellphone. But they refused to let her back on the plane because the crew was 'uncomfortable' with her presence, she was told.
She had just been checked twice as hard as every other passenger and crew member on that flight. She was demonstrably the safest person on the entire plane. Yet the crew were still scared of her!
Okay, the crew had suspicions and were correct to check. They checked. She was no threat. But the initial suspicion stood anyway! It's not a case of 'guilty until proven innocent' but of 'guilty even when proven innocent'.
If this continues I can make a fortune selling a book with 'Boo!' on every page. It'll scare these people every time they read it. If it's in a really big font on the last page they'll probably make a film of it.
Here in the UK, Dick Turpin has been resurrected to find that modern stagecoaches travel a bit faster than he's used to. Oh, and his single-shot pistol is now an airgun, but it's so astoundingly powerful that it can smash a train window.
I still have an air rifle. I don't know if it still works, it hasn't been out of its case for about ten years. I'm not even sure if I still have any pellets for it. One thing I am sure of, it wouldn't do much more than chip toughened glass unless you held the barrel right to the glass. The best way to break a window with it would be to use the butt end. From a distance, no chance.
Eight packed Central line trains were targeted in the attack last night. One driver warned his passengers to get away from the windows, telling them: "There has been someone shooting at the trains with an air rifle."
Shouldn't the driver be driving?
Police believe most of the damage was caused by youths throwing stones but they are investigating reports that an air rifle was also used.
I think the police deduction is more likely to be the correct one here. Hold a stone in one hand and a .22 pellet in the other. No matter what airgun you have, it's not going to impart as much force to that little pellet as you can to a stone with a good throw. The funny thing is, nobody seems interested in the stones.
Accountant Kevin Jones, 32, who was on one of the trains, told today how the driver had alerted his passengers and added: "It was crazy, scary. What kind of psycho would shoot at passengers on a train?
With an air rifle? Firing at toughened glass from a distance? The kind of psycho whose heart really isn't in it, or a trainee psycho, or one who just can't quite get the hang of the whole psycho thing, or maybe one who was stupid enough to write 'Psycho' in the occupation box on the shotgun licence application form. In other words, the kind of psycho you laugh at rather than cower from. Personally I'd be far more concerned about the stone-throwing ones.
There is an interesting angle to this whole story, however...
The attacked happened at about 6pm between Stratford and Leyton, an area known for line vandalism.
In the comments, there's this -
"Last time I went on the Central Line (the day before yesterday) the entire section between Leyton and Stratford was still underground, as to the best of my knowledge it always has been." - Toby Webster, Ongar, England, 17/03/2011 15:57
Same for me on Monday 14th. The tunnel mouths east of Stratford are within the station. The tunnel mouths west of Leyton are behind Westdown Road E15.
So exactly where have these incidents happened?
- Alan Griffiths, Forest Gate, LONDON. E7, 17/03/2011 18:37
I have no personal experience of this line at all. So is this a case of a train attacked by goblins and cave trolls, or are the local trainee psychos drilling tiny holes in the tunnels to poke airguns through?
Or is it just another of those 'Airgun! Aaah! Be scared of airguns for they are the tools of the Devil!' stories?
If they want my airgun for destruction they can have it. It only cost me thirty quid when I bought it, it was always inaccurate, I have long since lost all the pellets, it's probably rusted by now and since moving into town I have nowhere to use it anyway. The only reason I haven't sold it is that it's not worth the price of a decent malt whisky. By now it won't be worth the price of own-brand gutrot. In fact, wait a few more years and it will likely have rendered itself unusable.
However, banning airguns would be another step in the disarming of the population, a wonderful idea from a government who has us involved in two wars and is setting up for more. Great idea - make the entire population utterly scared of any form of weapon and then expect them to support or even fight wars. The principle extends to the military, who are not allowed to have proper weapons in case they hurt the enemy. I no longer wonder what our politicians are thinking. I wonder whether.
If they get down to taking airguns away, weapons which are going to do little more than severely annoy anyone they are fired at, then watch for the inspectors coming in to take away your kitchen knives and be ready to carve that Sunday roast with a spoon.
That assumes you survive the deadly radiation heading to the US and then Europe in the form of a huge glowing cloud with a Japanese accent. When the Americans bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nobody panicked even though there must have been far more radiation coming back over the Pacific from that. When all those test bombs go off in the USA, nobody panics because it's healthy, government-approved American radiation.
Now, like tobacco smoke, radioactive clouds do not disperse when travelling over the biggest ocean on the planet. None of it drops into the sea. No, like the bees in the old cartoons, they form an arrow shape and zoom straight for their target. The terrified.
Panic struck in America with thousands of people buying gas masks, emergency protection kits, and drugs to ward against nuclear fallout.
Take a look at how many deliberate nuclear explosions have happened right in your back yard, as opposed to the non-nuclear explosion in the Japanese reactor, thousands of miles away. There are still people working in that reactor, although their chances of coming out alive are not good. That's genuine altruism, working to save others knowing you're pretty much doomed. There's not much of that around these days.
Those selling the emergency gear include many who are exploiting the disaster in Japan for personal gain. There is a hell of a lot of that going on.
How many nuclear bombs have gone off on this planet? By 1998, the figure stood at 2053. Not reactor leaks. Actual nuclear bombs. Not one of them was Japanese. Nobody is scared of two thousand nuclear bombs but one leaking reactor and the whole world panics. Yes, it will be horrible if that reactor goes into meltdown but all that safety gear, masks and drugs and Geiger counters? You're buying them sixty years too late. The radioactive steam coming across the Pacific won't even show against the background levels in the US and Europe now.
I write scary stories. I write them as entertainment. Mine are all fiction.
So are most of the ones in the newspapers. The difference is, people believe newspapers. Unlike a work of fiction, they don't put it down and laugh it off. They really believe all those tales of terror and despair and they no longer have nightmares when they sleep.
For many, the nightmares begin when they wake up.