An Extract From PROXIMITY by Jem Tugwell

image003 PROXIMITY

Jem Tugwell (

Serpentine Books (





For the first time in ten years, the real me walked free. I savoured every beat of excitement that pulsed through me. All those failures, but now it was working. I let the corners of my mouth drag up an unfamiliar smile. They couldn’t see me, and what was left of the police force wouldn’t even know where to begin.

The smell of cut grass hung in the air and blended with the occasional tantalising floral notes of her perfume. It drew me along; my mind full of the things I would do to her. She was heading home through the quiet streets of Datchet, crossing in all her usual places, but simply following her signal would have been too sterile. The hi-tech soles of her shoes gave a bounce to her stride and set her hair swishing. I wanted to reach out and stroke it.

I craved the proximity.

A car turned into the road, and I ducked behind a tree even though I was hidden from them. I waited, but as the self-drive car slid silently past me, I saw that the only person in it had the seat reclined, with their head lolling, mouth open, fast asleep.

The minor delay waiting for the car added to my ache. I had planned to give her a few minutes to settle once she got home, but I couldn’t wait. I quickened my pace and closed the gap. I became her shadow, but she didn’t feel my darkness behind her.

Karina touched her front door, and it unlocked. I scanned the street but saw only rows of closed doors and wispy trees. I slipped my mask on and stroked her shoulder.

She gasped and span around. I raised my hand and sprayed the liquid into her face. Karina screamed, and her hands clawed at her eyes to stop them burning. I shoved her back into the house and closed the door behind me.

She was mine now. My possession.




DI Clive Lussac

The rotating blade snagged, blood spurted, and a finger hit the floor. I paused the video stream I was watching, dragged my feet off the desk, and tipped forward so that my rigid chair dropped back onto all four legs. I yawned and stretched the sluggishness out of my limbs. Today was another day at the office with nothing much to do, so I was half-heartedly trying to get through my backlog of compulsory episodes of Safety First. This episode showed how dangerous the old versions of tools used to be. I sighed. These were all the same ones I remembered from my childhood. Not like the ultra-safe new tools, packed with safety sensors and checks that made them nearly impossible to start.

I pressed ‘Play’ again and winced. The editors had chosen all the worst examples of people chopping bits off themselves, getting stuff in their eyes, and choking on sawdust. It reminded me of my metalwork teacher swearing at me as I dripped blood onto the floor after yet another cut. I held my hands up towards the screen and wiggled my fingers to show that the old tools hadn’t stolen anything that should still be attached.

The show ended with the usual ‘we’re safer now’ messages and statistics on how much money the hospitals saved because they didn’t have to treat ‘self-inflicted’ lifestyle injuries.

I couldn’t face another pious episode, so leaving my chair behind, I sauntered down the empty corridor to the office’s snack area. The exuberantly muraled vending machine stretched across one wall. As I approached, my embedded iMe device connected with the machine and its synthesised human voice said: ‘How can I serve you, Clive?’

I crossed my fingers behind my back. ‘Give me some chocolate – a Mars bar.’ I spoke slowly and clearly to aid the voice recognition.

‘Sorry, Clive, but you still have an Excess Consumption Order and your iMe reports: high blood sugar level. You are already at 59% of your restricted daily calorie allowance and 60% of your saturated fat allowance,’ it stated and then added in an upbeat tone. ‘Please make another selection.’

Copyright © Jem Tugwell 2019 / All rights reserved

Proximity v4


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