If you don’t already know the big news, I’ll tell you now. My latest book, ‘No Angel’, is out on August 26th from Dreamspinner Press. It’s the story of an eighteen year old boy called Josh, who finds himself thrown onto the streets simply because he was born different. There he meets Sam, and a few others like him, who have met a similar fate.
You could say that the book is quite allegorical of the situation many LGBT youths face, even now. Sure, things have got better over the past decade, but there’s still a long way to go. Even now in the UK and USA there are teenagers committing suicide or having to live rough because of homophobia.
I’ve decided to donate a portion of royalties from the sale of ‘No Angel’ to a charity that helps these youths by providing emergency accommodation and support. The charity I chose to support is the Albert Kennedy Trust. You can read all about the work they are doing on their site, so I won’t be going into that in detail today. Instead, I want to share with you a short piece of fiction I wrote, regarding the events that took place in April, 1989… the events that led to the formation of the AKT.
The cool night air brushed along the hairs of Albert’s arm as he stumbled through the dark streets of Manchester. He caught his foot on an uneven paving stone and began to fall forward when an arm caught him.
“Thanks,” he said, grinning at his best friend, Paul.
Paul smiled back. “How much did you drink?”
Albert shrugged. The weekends were always like this—sneaking out of the care home on a Friday night to lose himself in the heavy beat of music and a haze of alcohol. The clubs were the only place he could be free, with people like him. There he could forget about the other kids he shared a house with, who would piss on his bed every day, and write insults across his mirror in lipstick. Queer, the last one said. The drinks helped him forget the adults who did nothing to protect him, turning a blind eye to the bruises, and sometimes adding to them. If only he didn’t have to go back to the home again, but what other choice was there besides living on the streets?
“Time is it?” he asked.
Paul glanced at his watch. “Almost two A.M.”
They turned off the quiet street and onto a busy road, where crowds of drunken men and women wandered in all directions from one club to the next. Keeping his head down, Albert walked slowly until the noisy throng was behind him.
“Faggots,” a voice called above the din.
Albert kept moving, ignoring the sting that pierced his heart and tightened his gut. He could never understand why the fact he liked men would cause everyone to hate him—everyone but Paul, and the dear woman who fostered him. She had been nothing but kind to Albert since they first met, and he wished he could have found someone like her.
Less than a minute later, more shouts started up. “Fucking queers!”
“You should all be killed,” another yelled.
Leaving the crowds behind, Albert became aware of footsteps from behind. His heart beat faster, and he picked up his pace as he muttered for Paul to do the same. They went left at the next crossroads, and Albert glanced over his shoulder. Five men crossed the road to follow them down the dark street. The men broke out into a run, heading straight for them.
“Get them,” one shouted.
“Shit,” Albert gasped. He grabbed Paul by the sleeve of his jacket and began to run. The men cheered, like wild predators excited by the thrill of a chase. At the end of the street, Paul stopped. He looked around, and then motioned toward a multi-story car park.
Albert followed his friend, going as fast as his legs would carry him across the empty parking spaces and to a red door. Paul opened the door, and Albert ran in after him, holding onto the railing as he huffed and puffed his way up to the next floor.
Shortly after, the narrow space was filled with jeers and taunts, and the sounds of shoes pounding against the linoleum floors. Albert managed to take the lead over his friend, though the muscles in his legs burned from the effort, and his limbs grew heavier with each step. The shouts and howls grew louder as they echoed off the walls, making the small gang seem more like a ravenous pack of wolves out for the kill. And there was no doubt in Albert’s mind they would kill him if they got the chance.
Before he realised it, he was exiting the door at the top and sprinting out onto the roof. He stopped only to look behind him while he struggled to catch his breath. Only adrenaline kept his shaky knees from collapsing beneath him. Sweat poured from his brow, and traced the line of his spine.
The door opened again, and he straightened up to greet his friend when a man in a black tracksuit exited instead.
“I found one on the roof,” he shouted back down to his friends.
Albert turned and ran toward the ramp leading back down to the lower levels. He blinked away the tears forming in his eyes, hoping that Paul had simply decided to exit the stairs on a different floor. He got to the ramp and paused, his eyes greeted by another of his pursuers jogging up toward him.
He spun on his heel and sprinted across the roof, but soon came to the wall at the edge. Peering over the edge, his heart stopped. Eight stories up, there was no way he could survive the jump. He turned back to the men, watching as the five of them closed in on him.
“Nowhere left to run now, you fucking puff,” said the first.
“Yeah, you’re in trouble now,” said another, pushing up the sleeves of his tracksuit.
Albert closed his eyes and sobbed. The men drew closer, cracking their knuckles and snickering amongst themselves. With nowhere else to go, Albert pulled himself up onto the wall and looked down. His head swam and stomach clenched. The heavy thud of his pulse drummed through his skull.
A single woman walked down the street, but she was some distance away.
“Help me!” Albert screamed.
The woman paused to look up, but Albert knew she couldn’t have done much, even if she did reach him in time. She simply stood and stared as Albert climbed to his feet, holding out his hands to keep steady.
“Long way down,” said one of the men.
“Go on,” said the man in the black tracksuit. “Dare you to jump. Then we don’t have to get our hands dirty.”
The others nodded and began to chant ‘jump’, but they continued to walk toward Albert, whose whole body shook. All heat seemed to leave his body, the gentle breeze taking on a more sinister chill as it billowed around him, threatening to upset his delicate balance.
Albert glanced down at the ground, and then back to the boys. Surely it would be easier to jump, than to be at their mercy. A few seconds was all it would take, and everything would be over. At the hands of the five men, who knew who long they might keep him alive?
Albert took a step back toward the edge. One last step, and he’d never have to face another beating, never feel the sting of a leather belt against his back, or return home to the stench of piss in his bedroom. It seemed like the answer was almost too easy. He went to lean back and end it all, when a stray thought popped to the front of his mind.
What of Paul, and his foster parent? Surely, they would miss him. Maybe Albert could find someone like her to take him in. There was always a chance the world could change, and the hatred that enveloped him like a cocoon would be gone, allowing him to emerge into the world as a proud butterfly, who didn’t have to be ashamed of his sexuality.
His resolve was gone. He didn’t want to end his life. Albert stepped forward when a hand pushed against his legs. His eyes shot open as he tumbled back, and the air rushed around him. Above, the men cheered at the sight of his body plummeting to the ground.
Albert closed his eyes, blocking out the names they shouted. Puff. Faggot. Cocksucker. Queer. Their words could no longer hurt him. He smiled, and there was a loud crack as his blood splattered across the pavement.
Albert Kennedy, age 16, was found dead on the streets of Manchester that night. The next day his death was all over the newspapers, including one article that talked about the ‘rentboy with a killer disease’ who fell to his death. Firemen cleaned the streets of his blood while wearing special suits to ensure they didn’t come into contact with any of his blood.
That killer disease was Hepatitis B, which is not usually fatal. And as for being a rentboy? It was known that Albert on occasion had sex with men for money, but he was far from being a regular.
Paul made it back home to his foster mother that night. She knew Albert and described him as a sweet boy. This woman went on to form the Albert Kennedy Trust, and for years she was reviled as the ‘Witch of Wittenshaw’ simply because she wanted to do something to prevent another death like Albert’s.
Twenty-four years onward from that tragic night, and the trust is still going. Their programs are aimed not just at getting LGBT youths off the streets, and out of hostile environments, but also at the rest of the country, challenging homophobia and re-educating people. Hopefully, one day, there’ll be no need for such a charity, but until then I want to offer my support.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this.
In 2010, Daniel came across the NaNoWriMo boards and started work on his first original piece of fiction. Since then, his fingers have been unable to keep up with all the ideas and characters his brain keeps throwing at him.
When he's not writing, Daniel enjoys staying active, whether that be by running along the river banks near his home, or going to the gym. He also enjoys reading, playing video games, and learning new skills, such as image manipulation.