The Last Days of Jack Sparks - Jason Arnopp Page 0,1

over, I slammed the door shut on him. Then I gripped the handle tightly with both hands, the muscles in my arms taut with anticipation.

There was a muffled thump as Jacob tried to exit through one of the other doors, only to find it impossible. His voice was indistinct, as if piped down a bad phone line.

‘Hey! It won’t . . .’

His voice trailed away as he tried another door. Another thump, and this time just a bewildered cry.

The blood thundered in my head as I squeezed that door handle, ready for the assault, which began in seconds. When Jacob wrenched it, only to encounter the perceptibly imperfect force of human resistance, his voice became charged with fear.

‘Ali, stop it! Ali!’

There was no chance of our mother hearing, and yet Jacob’s pitch rose along with his volume. Sometimes he would abandon his vain attempts to open the door, only to suddenly try again in the hope of surprising me. Or I would hear the whumphs as he slammed himself against one of the other doors, yelling for Mum. Still I did not relent. Since he didn’t sound terrified and was not crying, I felt confident he too would see the funny side when I released him.

Then those calls from inside the cloakroom stopped dead.

Biceps burning, I twisted around and leant heavily back against the door. While watching flies chase each other, I listened hard.

I listened for what felt like a long time.

Nothing.

The sense of fun began to fade.

‘Don’t worry,’ I called through the thick wood. ‘I’ll let you out now, okay?’ I laughed, lightly.

There was no reply.

Despite standing in a room flooded with sunlight, I began to feel uneasy.

A sly, arcane image snuck unbidden into my mind.

I pictured Jacob transformed, inside that room.

In my head, he now stood wearing a cloak, with hollow darkness where his face should be.

I became convinced that this spectral monk who was once my brother now stood silently waiting for me to see him. When I opened the door, I decided, he would lurch out of the room. He would tear off my limbs, one by one, laughing as he did so.

‘Jakey?’ I called out.

Still nothing.

‘Jacob?’

My heart, which had thumped so excitedly only moments beforehand, now felt like it was banging on a door, wanting out.

I felt sick with worry about what had happened to my brother.

About what he had become in that unknowable space.

Seconds later, I saw it all coming out from under the door.

The purpose of my anecdote is certainly not to lend further ammunition to my online trolls, who nonsensically hold me responsible for the direction Jacob’s life took. I merely seek to offer a glimpse of his formative years, as a child who reacted in an unusually extreme manner to an otherwise harmless prank. On that front, at least, my conscience is clear. I also felt it prudent to present my side of the story, given that my brother also includes it in this book. He will pick up the story later, but sadly tells an exaggerated version, employing far less honesty than I.

Despite the suffocating media coverage that followed my brother’s untimely death at the age of thirty-six, the casual reader may be unaware of his achievements.

As a child, I had wanted to work in entertainment, but became a scientist. Conversely, Jacob had often spoken of ambitions within science, but of course became a writer and media personality. His first step along that road was a work experience placement at the New Musical Express in 1996. I still smile when I think of the phone call I received from this