Burn Thy Neighbour
by Martin Bolton
Sherman sat cross-legged on the brow of the hill, looking down Victoria Park’s grassy slope towards five houses. 50-54 Hill Avenue. Sandwiched in between Marmaduke Street and Monmouth Street. He took another swig of ale.
The sun was setting behind him and the sky was purple, rimmed with orange. The street lights were coming on one by one. From his vantage point Sherman felt as though he was on the surface of a dark pond, with bioluminescent creatures winking into life on its bottom. He saw that vision through new eyes, because Shermon had been reborn. For the first time in his infuriatingly monotonous life, he felt content.
Sherman’s house was number fifty two, the centre one of the five houses he now gazed at, waiting patiently for the seeds he had so carefully sown to bloom into bright, hot flowers.
He had moved in a year ago with his girlfriend, Millie. She said he was getting her down, too pessimistic, never happy. She said he always saw the worst in people. He thought he saw the best in them, but sadly the best in people was shit.
Sherman remembered his father’s last words, just before the man was electrocuted by his own badly wired light switch, “I named you after a tank for a reason boy. I want you to roll on, never compromising your ethics, never bending to peer pressure.” Sherman’s dad was as much a failure in death as he was in life. A failure on such a spectacular level it could almost be called an achievement. Sherman hadn’t even managed to fail well.
And so Sherman’s life had rolled on, never deviating from its arrow straight path of relentless mediocrity. Sherman hadn’t lived. Sherman hadn’t even survived, that would give the impression of some sort of triumph over adversity. No, Sherman had merely existed in a sort of crushing mental stasis. Until tonight.
Sherman’s disillusionment soup began to steam when he moved into 52 Hill Avenue and reached boiling point when Millie left. After that he spiralled into a squalid pit of impotent rage.
The neighbours he hated the most were the ones Millie had liked. The bastards. Guy and Lizzie at number 53, a pair of smug, self righteous, ignorant shit heads.
Guy had ridiculously thick hair that stood out at all angles, and his head was a preposterous size. The thing looked like it had been plundered from Easter Island by one of Guy’s rich ancestors. Why do toffs have such massive heads? Sherman supposed they needed room for all those teeth and the vast sense of self entitlement.
Lizzie was just as posh, but she thought she was “new age” with her astrology and her yoga classes. Fucking yoga. Every time Sherman was forced to attend one of their vegetarian dinner parties to listen to them brag about their twee, effortless, old money lives he wanted to leave something nasty in their aquarium. Like a poisonous turd, or maybe a nail bomb.
Then there was Mrs Overy, the old widow at number 54. She always had a sweet, concerned smile for Millie, asking her, “How are you coping, darling?” As if coping with Sherman must be a daily trial, and Millie was so brave to face the ordeal every morning. When Mrs Overy’s rheumy eyes met Sherman’s her smile would fade, ever so slightly, and the disgust that lay behind it seemed to ooze through her pores.
The bloke in number 51 was a noisy cross-eyed moron. He was a vast, orange lump of gristle in a muscle vest, every tendon taut with kinetic rage, jaw jutting forward as though trying to do the job his tiny eyes neglected. Sherman said hello once, the response was a confused primeval grimace, button eyeballs glaring at two separate points in space. Sherman often fantasised about chasing the cunt across a grassy plain in a land rover with a massive gun, putting a bullet the size of a beer can in his back and sticking his head on a wall.
Number 50 was occupied by students. Dirty sons of bitches. He saw one finish a can of beer once and drop the can into the road before going into the house. The students deserved ruin.
Sherman reminisced on his hatred of his neighbours as the sun went down and he sipped his ale. The ale was getting warm, but that could not detract from the taste. Not because it was good ale, but because tonight the ale tasted of vengeance.
He saw the bright light a split second before he heard the loud bang and felt its vibrations in the ground beneath him. 54 went up first, just as he had planned. The sound was incredible. The force of the explosion was more powerful than he could have hoped.
Then 53 bloomed in all its resplendent glory, and Sherman had a warm feeling in his heart.
51 was next. He pictured the beady-eyed twit disintegrating in a bright, wet blossom as jagged bits of his home gymnasium liquidised him.
Then 50 exploded and the students once more littered the street, except now they showered bits of themselves all across it, and this time Sherman approved.
Sherman relaxed, finally at peace. He smiled as one of Mrs Overy’s sensible shoes landed on the grass before him with a muffled thump, still occupied by a blackened, smouldering foot.