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The People v Arthur Hawksworth

It started with the neighbours' badly-parked cars. Then it was the neighbours' badly-behaved children. Then the vagrants who made the town centre so untidy. After that it all got a little out of hand.

There's nothing more annoying than arriving home after a gruelling day to find you cannot park near your house. As the longest serving resident of the square I consider I have acquired rights to the parking place next to my corner semi-detached. Yet some of these Johnny-Come-Latelys have two cars - or company cars, or even commercial vehicles. They selfishly come home earlier than me and take all the spaces. Most days I have to park four hundred yards away and walk back in all weathers.

The day it happened had been difficult at work - more rows than usual - and I had stormed off early, thinking at least I would get a parking space. But a van from way across the other side of the square had parked in my place. I just blew up. Well it was a sort of controlled explosion because I kept it all bottled up. My insides boiled but I focused that turmoil into my hatred of the evil van. I wished the van to be anywhere else in the universe except in my parking space. And, with a slight pop, and a swirl of dust, it went.

After that I always got my space. I didn't need to boil over with anger either - just a slow simmering anger was quite sufficient - and since I found I was resentful of most things for most of the time it wasn't difficult. I made sure nobody was watching when I sent the offending vehicles away, and to avoid suspicion falling onto me or my parking space, I despatched cars parked in other spaces too. I was fair about it though - I removed only vans and the second cars in the household. Then, when they were replaced by the insurance companies, I got rid of them again.

Parking became much easier. Except, that is, for the under-cover policemen cluttering up the place. But since they were dressed in plain-clothes uniform they were easy to spot. I know everything that goes on in my square. To divert their attention I started to send away badly-parked cars in surrounding streets, or cars which lowered the tone of the neighbourhood. Later, I felt it my duty to remove any car in the town causing an offence to the community. What a stir when I emptied a whole pub car park. Drinking and driving is wrong - it's as simple as that.

It soon became obvious I needed to expand my horizons. The louts hanging round the street corner used to make sniggering remarks about my raincoat, or my bald patch, whenever I walked to the corner shop. So off they went. It felt a lot better walking past that corner without them, and it seemed that other people thought so too - someone even smiled at me at that very spot, which had never happened before. It was then I realised this Gift had been given me for a Purpose. I never had a partner or any friends, and after mother died I hardly ever spoke to other people at all. My destined role was obviously to use my abilities to make the world a better place. A new age was dawning.

After you've removed people for the first time it gets easier, and I looked around for other improvements to make. Nobody likes vagrants in our streets drunkenly begging for loose change, and making the pavements sticky with special brews, and other fluids. I had to be careful removing them, because there are more people around in the city centre, but by choosing my time, and working from greater distances, I was able to do it.

Others quickly followed. People: who put their feet on train seats; who spit out chewing gum in the street; who shout in loud voices; who allow their dogs to crap on the pavement; who own cats that crap in my garden. Drivers: shooting red lights; trying to make me go faster by crowding my back bumper when I'm driving safely at 20mph; overtaking recklessly; pushing in at road-works. I found opportunities to remove quite a lot of these - it surprised me how many undesirable people there are.

And unemployed people. They could work, but prefer staying in bed and getting handouts from the state. So I sat in a cafe opposite the dole office for a whole afternoon and removed everyone who went in or out.

Where do they go to? Somehow, I knew they moved to another place rather than just being disintegrated or sent into outer space. It wasn't in this world because I think we would have heard by now if lots of odd people were popping up in strange places. As I became more practised with the feeling I saw a few times, before they blinked out of my view, a glimpse of rolling plains in the sunshine. So I wasn't killing them - just giving them a chance to make a new start in life.

I take my holidays at home. Why go abroad when you've got everything you need in your own house? Abroad has some lovely countryside but it's spoilt by foreigners. What I like is to sit in my back garden and enjoy the peace and quiet. Next door's baby has different ideas. It also spends a lot of time in its back garden because, whenever it cries, Mrs Collinge shoves it out in its pram and retreats behind her double glazing.

The baby was definitely an accident - not by the Collinges, (although it probably was) - I mean, my transporting it. I wasn't even thinking about it as far as I know - just enjoying the sudden quiet when Mrs Collinge started screaming over the fence at me. She was worse than the baby. They're reunited now - it's what she would have wanted.

The fuss was terrible. I was interviewed by the police but said I knew nothing. I felt bad about lying to the authorities (being a model citizen and all) but I could hardly tell them the truth could I? Not at such an early stage of my plan, anyway.

After the baby, I realised I didn't have to be looking at the thing in question, to send it away. I hadn't been looking at the baby at all, but its slobbering wet features had been held up to the fence often enough for me to know exactly what it looked like. So I began to work on sending things away by category rather than individually. My time was precious and I could do more for the world if I did not have remove things one at a time.

For my first experiment I started with small inanimate objects by removing those personal earphone things that make annoying tinny noises on public transport. I sat at home and visualised them as clearly as I could, and I definitely felt the movement of many millions to the other place. Then I watched the TV news to see the results. It was chaos. The presenters' earphones had gone, and they couldn't talk to each other; airline pilots lost touch with air traffic control, and deaf people found themselves having to brush up on their sign language when their hearing aids disappeared. The lesson was clear - that I had to be very precise about what I was doing, or people could be inconvenienced.

So when I turned to living creatures by category, I needed to select things which were identical and easy to imagine. I chose starlings. I dislike them because they roost in the square in enormous numbers, twitter and chatter away, and take delight in soiling my car just after I've washed it. But as I was pondering this move I remembered my ecological responsibility. Starlings eat millions of harmful insects every day and without these predators insects would increase to a plague of biblical proportions. That was a close call. Instead, I successfully removed every single pigeon in the land. They eat our grain and are like flying vermin in our cities. Only those who kept racing pigeons complained. Oh yes, and a handful of ornithologists who were distraught at losing the last two breeding pairs of the now-extinct grey-throated ortolan (which looked exactly like a pigeon to me).

With hindsight removing the tower block was rather excessive even if it was ugly. I suspect it tumbled over when it arrived (wherever they go) because only half the foundations came out. That really put the town on the map with international media attention. There were camera crews and journalists outside the dole office, in the city centre, on the ex-tower block site and even in my square, interviewing anyone they could. There were plenty of opinions. Many thought aliens were abducting people for their DNA, or vitamins, or something.

I decided not to do any more buildings pending further research in the reference library on building techniques. My intentions were of the best. If I could get all the foundations out, and deliver tower blocks the right way up, then that would be a big help to my transportees - providing the kind of housing they obviously liked for their new society. I was thinking quite kindly of them at that stage - it's true that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

After a few months of good works, I took stock of the state of the nation, and found there was little gratitude for what I was doing. Nobody understood the grand strategy. They saw a series of inexplicable events striking randomly across society. I suppose some of that was my fault because many of the vagrants I removed were not vagrants at all, but young office workers and students sitting in the park at lunchtime. And some of those I took to be unemployed were local business-people paying their national insurance stamps, or old people enquiring about their pensions. But they must accept most of the blame for not dressing more smartly.

So I had to admit, that despite my efforts, people did not look happier for the improved quality of life I was giving them. Thousands were off work sick and were afraid to go out. Those who did, moved around quickly with their heads down not willing to look at other people. The city was a lot quieter but it wasn't the peaceful atmosphere I had intended - of honest citizens decently going about their business.

I suppose this is inevitable in the transitional stages of a new society - people need time to get used to the world being a happier place. To help them, and to increase the happiness quotient, I removed the more miserable and less committed people I came across.

I panicked and transported the first policemen who came to interview me. They had put together a good case and had linked me to a large number of incidents. I had been seen on video in the town centre hiding behind bushes, the cafe owner reported me for behaving suspiciously on the day of the dole-disappearances, cars had been seen disappearing around me on motorway cameras, and what with Mrs Collinge, and the local louts, I suppose it was a good piece of police work. If only they'd spend their time catching criminals.

The second set of policemen broke the door down at 4 o' clock in the morning and tried to grab me in bed. But I managed to remove them all before they could use the gas.

They emptied the whole square then. The approach roads were barricaded and filled with army vehicles and soldiers wearing gas masks. They cut off the electricity, the gas and the water but I had a battery radio and listened to the reports of `The Alien Siege' with some amusement.

The man on the phone was very understanding when I explained what I was doing. He felt sure I had an exciting future working for the government. He wanted to help me but said I had to give myself up first. I was on the verge of going out, with my hands up (like on the movies), when the windows crashed in. There was a blinding flash and a huge bang which sent me staggering. Then I saw black shapes like spiders swooping towards me. I suppose it was a reflex action when I removed myself to the other place.

They're all here - the cars (now out of petrol), millions of pairs of earphones, Mrs Collinge and her crying baby, the louts, the dossers, the unemployed, and the bad drivers. I'm glad to say they're surviving in this fertile land on a totally new planet. The plains provide abundant food, to supplement the staple diet of roast pigeon, and there is even a river nearby. Unfortunately the policemen are here too. As they grabbed me, and beat me up, I found that my special powers had gone.

Now I'm standing trial - the first ever trial on this planet. They've called it "Earth." Everything that happened I've written on this clay tablet as my statement to the Court. I am sure the jury will agree (if they put their personal prejudices aside) that I acted with the best of intentions. Apart from those people crushed to death by the arriving tower block, I have given them all a chance to make a fresh start in a new pollution-free world. I am ready to play my part in building this new society and I have lots of ideas about how things should be ordered.
(Signed) A. J. K. Hawksworth
PS - the execution is tomorrow. This statement will be buried with me. It seems that original thinkers are never appreciated in their own time.


In the Olduvai Gorge, in East Africa, the eminent archaeologist Professor Felix Yablonsky was giving his student helpers a firm reprimand.
"I've gathered you together to say that I've had enough of your pranks. We are finding, important evidence of the precursors of mankind - homo habilis - in the two million year-old layer we are currently working. Some of you thought it was amusing, the first time it happened, but this continued pollution of archaeological strata with modern artefacts is totally irresponsible. Yesterday it was this clay tablet with nonsensical hieroglyphs on it. Today we have rusted car parts and builders' rubble actually mixed in with the bones of homo habilis."

The enormity of the offence brought anger to his voice as he waved his fist at the assembled group.

"This has got to stop. I want the culprit to come forward right now. If you do not," his voice rising to a crescendo, "then I will get rid of the lot of you."

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