Written by Chris (alcoholandaphorism)
Gwil’s feet pad rapidly down the campus path, away from the campus security that chase him. His head aches and his muscles burn from his recent beating, the same beating that resulted in his immunity to campus security being removed. Panting and exhausted he reaches the streets of London, safe and not any more harmed than he was a few minutes ago. Police sirens echo on this cold London night, Gwil’s breath fogging in the air. More than the pain of the beating Gwil feels the weight of recent revelations. Photos of acts he doesn’t remember committing at Dave’s apartment. He was out for at least eight hours in that place. At least eight hours he can’t remember. What else happened? The thought freezes him cold, threatens to freeze him there forever. To just collapse and not have to think about it any more. Piece by piece he manages to bring himself back together, to push it to the back of his mind, to hold on to what he has to do now.
He has to contact Steve Mathews, the head druid. Has to let him know what went wrong tonight. His thumbs flick across the mobile, sending a text requesting a meeting the next day in a café in Brixton, somewhere close to the faith, somewhere where he can feel safe.
He can’t quite shift that nagging thought though. The photos. Not the ones of him, the ones of Sanjiv. What if they were like his, false, or performed without recollection? He can’t sleep until he knows. Dialling again he calls Milosh, to find out where Sanjiv is.
“Gwil” Milosh answers “Where are you man? You missed a shift again!”
“What? Fuck that, I’m due on tomorrow”
“Yes? Huh, I’ll have to check the rota again. Listen, some weird shit is going on. I was just talking with Dave and he told me that Sanjiv just collapsed. They are calling paramedics now”
“Shit, where are they taking him?” Gwil says, then pauses “Wait, Dave? Was he in on some union thing or something?”
“Yeah, some sort of problem on the line he works”
“Hold on, who are we talking about here, Dave?”
“Which Dave?“ Gwil growls “I thought we were talking about Dave Chigwell”
“Yeah, Chigwell that’s it man”
“When did he get unfired?”
Milosh sounds bemused as he answers “He was fired? The fuck are you talking about man, are you ok? you aren’t sounding too good. Are you on something again Gwil?”
“Listen, I’ll head in, we can sort it out in person”
“Sure my friend, say, do you want to come for drinks tonight?”
“More than anything” Gwil replies “but I don’t think I’ll get the chance, I need to be bright eyed and arse kissing tomorrow” and with the Gwil hangs up wondering what is going on with his life right now
Sanjiv opens his eyes, his skin sickly green like he is feverish, his body cold and numb. The room around him an impromptu emergency medical room set up in the bowels of the underground. Dragged in beds line the walls next to a set of hand sanitizers. A young black woman, one of the trained medical staff of the underground, shines a light in his eyes, moving it back and forth.
“Sanjiv? Sanjiv, are you ok mate?”
Sanjiv blinks trying to place his hand between the light and his eyes. Waiting for the worst of the nausea to subside he pulls himself upright and looks around
“Yeah, I’m ok, more or less, I don’t like making a habit of this though” Sanjiv smiles in attempted humour “I could do with some water though please”
“Of course, but first could you lie on your side please, I need to check your vitals” The woman turns “Trisha luv, could you get Sanjiv some water please”
On the edge off his vision during this Sanjiv can see Dave standing, face impassive, watching. Slowly bringing his breath back under control Sanjiv holds back the irrational urges that run through him right now. The urge to rip off his shirt, to run from this enclosed space to open air. The medical colleague, who Sanjiv remembers is called Shirley, hands him a small hand fan which helps ease him slightly.
“Look Sanjiv” Shirley says “We’ve got the paramedics coming, we told them that you were just back off sickness and they thought it would be best to take you to hospital again, just to be safe”
Sanjiv nods weakly “Yeah, wise plan, best course of action”
Returning with water, Trisha sits beside him, flabbergasted “Sanjiv luv, are you all right? Damn, what a silly question to ask. I’m sorry, if you want me to call anyone, your dad, Gwil or Ryan, just say and I’ll do it for you”
Calmer now Sanjiv answers “No I’m fine, it will just be a routine check up. Though, could you e-mail me copy of the case details when you have a moment please?
“What are you thinking?” Trisha says “Look at the state of you, and you are worrying about work. Give it a rest, get a life outside this place”
Suddenly Dave is standing there, in front of Sanjiv, ignoring Trisha’s evil looks as he does so, his face still impassive.
“How much do you think this has made an impact on your ability to make decisions? How would you categorise it?”
Sanjiv looks around uneasily “I need air”
Shirley helps Sanjiv up, looking oddly at Dave as she does so
“What was that about?” Shirley asks as they start heading upstairs
“I dunno, just something weird with this case. Something doesn’t quite add up”
“You shouldn’t think about that” Shirley says “We have the paramedics meeting us on main platform soon. Just rest, is there anyone you want me to contact. A sister, girlfriend, boyfriend?”
“No, no, don’t worry it should just be a simple check up anyway”
“You ain’t half stoic are you” Shirley says, helping Sanjiv down onto cold steel seats amongst the station’s above ground platform. The station is so large as to dwarf cathedrals, now at night filled with the sound of sweeping vehicles rumbling past and the dragging of trolleys.
On the opposite side of the station Gwil runs in, glancing around. He spies Sanjiv sat, a woman in a London Transport uniform beside him, offering him sips from a cup of water. Cautiously he approaches standing silently several meters away.
Looking up Sanjiv greets “Hey Gwil”
“Hey” Gwil grunts in reply
Chloe smiles as she sees this “Is this a mate of yours? Are the two of you ok here? I just need to head over, the paramedics are arriving”and with that she starts running over to where the paramedics are just entering
Gwil, kneels down whispering “Listen, don’t fuck me about Sanjiv.. What’s happening?”
“I’m not entirely sure “Sanjiv admits “Have you heard anything about Dave being back?”
“Ah heard. Listen, where’s the envelope?”
Sanjiv reels off an address “I think we need to get the group together again Gwil”
“Listen. Don’t think this means I trust you. If you turn out to be a fuck up I will fuck you up” Gwil says “If you’re not a fuck up, then don’t die. Anyway I’ll talk to Dave”
“Hold on” Sanjiv says “Dave doesn’t sound like Dave. If you get weird questions from him, if you start hearing static, just get out of there. Be careful”
The arriving paramedics cut off chance of any further conversation. They are taking him to Saint Thomas hospital, just opposite the houses of parliament. Gwil hears little of this though, the situation seems too unreal and he wander down in a fog to see the others. As he gets half way down the stairs he realises. It was his shift today after all, he’s late.
After grabbing his cleaner’s uniform Gwil heads through the labyrinthine corridors of the underground, through doorways into tightly confined service corridors. Some with an almost Spartan minimalist art décor, others simply run down and forgotten. He is just pulling on his work overalls as he encounters Milosh coming the other way, a cup of tea in his hand, heading back to man the CCTV booth. Milosh smiles ruefully at the sight of Gwil, until he sees Gwils battered face poke out. “Jesus you look like shit Gwil”
“Yeah, well, thought I’d best get a real head injury to cover forgetting my shift”
“If I didn’t know better I would think you were a madman. Me, I know you are a madman. What happened?”
Gwil winces “Nate took a swing at me. Fucking madman. Admittedly I’d said some shit to him before but still. Damn, I knew that arsehole was big, I didn’t know he could fight as well”
“Oh yeah man, I saw him play hockey, he can be nasty. Shit, you best cover that up in case HR see you”
Gwil shakes his head “Nah, I’ll just say I fell hard on my face, give an excuse for being late. By the way, do you know where Dave is, need to have a word with him”
“In his office doing paperwork”
“Thanks” Gwil says “Don’t mention to him I was asking ok?”
With that Gwil starts his belated shift, keeping his head down and avoiding anyone who might be asking question. Where he can’t avoid people he smiles and spreads his pre planned excuses for his absence. The time passes uneventfully, cleaning floors and toilets until it comes around to his first break. Usually Dave, back when he was employed, would be out across London most of the time as one of the drivers. Thankfully today he is in the area set aside for the drivers here, with their own changing and meeting rooms. The office room door is locked, a slight dim light inside from the glow of computer monitors, the rest of the lights off. Under the door a rhythmic pulse of light builds and fades over and over.
Gwil watched for a moment, trying to rally his nerves through the pounding pain in his skull. Lifting his hand he raps twice on the door. All lights vanish instantly. Nothing can be seen, but a sound rises. First a crash and muffled boom. Then a rhythmic sound, the working of pistons and the anachronistic sound of a steam locomotive picking up speed. Gwill’s feet take him two steps backwards when suddenly the sound stops. The door opens slowly, Dave’s blank expression staring out “How may I be of service?”
“Hey, it’s me, Gwil, you remember me right?”
“Gwil. Yes.” Dave says without emotion “Subject Zero Zero Five Zero Gamma Five Alpha. You escaped the confines of the test. How did you do that?”
“Test? What like health and safety tests? I’m crap at tests” Gwil says, eyes flicking to the open corridor away from here.
“You have broken away from the predicted logical response to the response alpha to the power of forty five. How?”
“What the fuck is going on Dave?”
“How did you break free of the plan? I need to tell the overseer. What is your purpose?”
“Ah I see” Gwil says, trying to keep his voice calm “I understand now. I have it written down. I’ll just go get it for you now”
“Good. Thank you” Dave says.
Gwil turns and walks down the corridor, turns the corner and breaks into a flat out run. Where to doesn’t matter, away is enough. His flight takes him near straight into a group of men coming the other way. A uniformed police officer flanker by two more who Gwil takes to be plain clothed officers. By them is a man of indeterminate age garbed in a ragged grey coat. The man looks at Gwil with a spark of recognition and nods once towards him. In response two of the officers start forwards with obvious purpose.
Shaken still, Gwil doesn’t think twice, he turns and flees down a side corridor headlong into the underground the police hot on his heels. Vaulting the gates he slips through into the maintenance corridors where his knowledge of the area will give him the advantage. More so he should be able to find a area with key access required and hold up the officers for at least a while. Finding a gated area he slams the access card onto it, pushing the door closed behind him. It will only hold them up for a few minutes before they gain access, but it gives him enough time to sprint out onto the platforms and leap down onto the train line. A train rushes past, a mere heartbeat from him. His heart booming in his ears and he drags himself across the underground walls. There is an access hatch down here, a way up to the main station. Finding the ladder by touch in the dark he starts his climb up to freedom, up onto the main Waterloo concourse. Still panting and out of breath he brushes himself down and starts out towards where the night buses wait. A small self satisfied smile on his lips.
The street lights outside blind him for a moment and Gwil shades his eyes trying to see where the next bus is due. The glass behind him shatters. Flinching away, Gwil turns to see a Caucasian man in a tattered leather jacket who has just missed hitting Gwill’s skull with a baton by bare millimetres. “Shit. Shit fucking cunt” The man shouts “Gwil Short I’m arresting you for being a fucking nonce”
Gwil just lashes out a kick at the cops kneecap, trying to hobble him enough to give him time to run. Stepping in the cop bashes the kick aside with his leg and slams his baton into Gwils ribs. Gasping Gwil folds over at the stomach coughing. As the cop moves in to take control Gwil throws his shoulder forwards into the cop’s chest forcing him back. The cop is too well prepared and grabs Gwil’s head, twisting him into the glass of the bus shelter and pummelling his baton down repeatedly onto Gwil’s unprotected head.
“I hear you like to touch little girls you fucking prick” the cop snarls between blows.
Seeing lights flash before his eyes and blood dripping from his skull Gwil digs deep for one last attempt. Grappling onto on the cop’s leg and throwing his full weight backwards, he takes two of them backwards, the cop upending into the weakened glass of the bus shelter which shatters. Staggering loose Gwil turns too see the cop, side impaled on a jutting out shard of glass. The cop is alive but the fight is knocked out of him, his baton lying by his side. Turning on his heel Gwil runs, his body complaining with every foot’s impact with the ground. Just running into the night.
On the opposite side of the river to the house of parliament Sanjiv sits waiting in A and E. He has had over an hour of tests so far and he feels bone tired, he just wants to get home, to get to sleep. The hospital is old, but the facilities are top notch, considering it is where ministers would be brought in case of a medical emergency in parliament it is hardly a surprise.
The night wears on and people come and go. One bleeding on a gurney dragged past him, another pulled in, matted blood from a head wound. Drunks with various injuries come by at all hours. A man in tattered leathers hurling invectives at the police who drag him in. Lights flickering, cutting sight for a second. A man sat next to Sanjiv. Sanjiv, pauses, the man wasn’t there a moment ago. Chief Inspector Grey smiles at Sanjiv, a smile that doesn’t reach the eyes. Without a word Sanjiv gets up and starts walking towards the exit
“Where do you think you are going?” Inspector Grey’s voice comes out as if from right next to Sanjiv, even as he walks to the exit “I only came here for a chat”
Sanjiv pushes the door open and steps out into the night air. Warm tonight, the heat of the day not departed even at this late hour. The light pollution reflects across the riverbanks, sirens wail in the distance. The shard visible in the distance. Glancing behind Sanjiv sees no sign of Detective Grey following him as he walks out beside the river. He isn’t staying near the hospital, not now.
His feet just keep walking, the long journey back towards home. Between buildings that loom over him, the cctv cameras panning back and forth as he passes. The air is eerily silent as he starts heading out from central London, there are people around as always, but it is as if London is only really alive during the light of day. He heads out towards Bethnal Green, west out through the rising towers and into the sight of Victorian town houses. He has walked for hours, the first glimpses of light on the horizon signalling that dawn is not too far away. As he recognises this he hears his phone, ringing in his pocket. Looking with tired eyes at the screen he sees an unknown number, listed in binary form. His fingers thumb cancel instantly and slips the phone away. Keeping the strange invasion into his life at bay for another moment as he walks on.
Ahead of Sanjiv at this time, already at Sanjiv’s flat, Gwil braces against the wall. His ribs scream in agony, the taste of blood on his lips. He got here by hailing a less than salubrious cab, one less likely to go to the police. His funds really can’t stand it, but he couldn’t make it the full way on foot. Not in this condition. The area is too rich for his blood, buildings bought up by buy to let contractors, no room going for anything less than six hundred a month Step by step Gwil pulls himself up the stairs towards Sanjiv’s apartment, vaguely aware of a buzzing at his hip, a vibration that causes pain with every bounce. When he finally realises it is his phone he pulls it loose to be confronted by a screen of scrolling ones and zeros. He hits answer, barely knowing why he did it.
“Hey? He mutters
Static answers, white noise that dissolves into something recognisable. A voice filled with fear “Gwil? Is that you mate? Gwil? It’s Dave”
“Dave? That really you Dave?”
“I was in Romford” the voice comes from the phone “Gwil, they’ve put things in me Gwil. They put lights in me. Light, they are everywhere and they all look like me”
“Where are you?”
“I can’t see. I can’t, I think they’ve taken my eyes” the phone cuts out to static and the line breaks. Dizzy, in pain and exhausted Gwil sinks to his knees, a stream of vomit splattering onto the stairs. On hands and knees he drags himself the rest of the way up, finally reaching the floor of Sanjiv’s apartment. His weight against the door, he fumbles for his tension tool. Pain rising again he bites back a cry, he cannot risk alerting Saniv’s neighbours to the break in he is attempting. Dots dance across his eyes, the darkness encroaching. His fingers work even in the darkness until he can do no more and consciousness fades.
After hours of walking Sanjiv feels calmer, calm enough to seek out the night bus that will take him home. His phone glows again, reminding him he has an answer phone message. He ignores it, and intends to ignore it for a long time. He doesn’t intend to give whatever is haunting his life any new avenues in. The night bus is empty as it rides into the rising sun, the grey sky turning blue once more. Home soon, a small room, cosy but at six hundred a month it should be. The neighbours are relatively quiet but their six month let will be up soon, it will be back to the roulette wheel of new neighbours. Back to hoping that the landlord doesn’t put in just anyone in order to fill his pockets.
The house is still dark as Sanjiv makes his way up the stairs, no one is awake and moving yet. As he turns onto his floor he is confronted by the sight of Gwil, slumped unconscious in front of his door, bleeding and mumbling, his breath coming out as a pained hissing sound. Remembering his first aid lessons Sanjiv rushes to his side, gently turning him into the recovery position. Gwil’s breathing eases slightly, blood matting the back off his head from some sort of impact, most likely the sign of a severe concussion, possibly even a skull fracture. A rib moves in where it shouldn’t, broken, but from the sign of it it hasn’t punctured a lung yet. Gwil needs medical attention, proper medical attention, this is far beyond what Sanjiv has the capability to treat.
“What are you doing here?” Sanjiv says, mainly to himself “What happened? I need to call an ambulance”
Gwil’s hand flaps at Sanjivs chest, trying to grab a hold “No. No.“
“You have a broken rib Gwil. Possibly internal bleeding. You need medical attention”
“No. No police, no Police after…. Gwil mutters, half conscious now, still barely aware of his surroundings
“Police after what?” Sanjiv says
“I didn’t do it. Believe me I didn’t do it. There are some sins I don’t eat, no matter what. Please, just help me inside”
Against his best judgement Sanjiv unlocks the door and helps Gwil inside, laying him down upon the bed. He glances at the first aid kit under his bed. It seems pathetically minor compares to what Gwil needs but it is all he has for now. Pulling back his sleeves Sanjiv prepares to do what he can do. The hours pass, there’s definitely a skull fracture and bleeding below the skin. With the supplies he has Sanjiv sets to work on stemming the blood flow. Sweat dripping at the end of the second hour’s work he is now certain that the rib hasn’t punctured a lung, but from the way it gives under pressure it is definitely broken and needs professional medical attention. By the end of the third hour he has done all he can, Gwil needs to stay awake now, can’t afford to slip back into unconsciousness. Pressing a pack of painkillers into Gwil’s pocket he explains as much “You need to head to a hospital, as soon as possible, without treatment you could die. What happened to you, did you find Dave?”
Sliding his feet onto the ground, Gwil tries to stand “Can’t go to hospital. Need to get to Brixton. Can’t let them down, they may be wankers but I don’t let them down. No matter what”
“Who?” says a confused Sanjiv
“The f….friends” Gwil says, his mind recovering enough to realise he has said too much already “Just friends. I need to get there, I said I would”
Sanjiv looks disbelieving, this is the man who would happily turn up late for work half the time suddenly willing to risk death to make a meeting “Gwil. I would suggest calling and rescheduling” He says in soft non threatening tones “It can wait”
“Listen, Sanjiv, I don’t need to see the photos any more. You done good by me here. You’re a straight shooter. I know that. Please, remember whatever the police say. I didn’t do it. I didn’t” with that Gwil staggers towards the door
Conflicted and confused Sanjiv steps in front of the door “Look man, you can’t do this. You could die”
Gwil pauses, catching sight of his bloodied face in the mirror. Turning away from Sanjiv he heads to the kitchen and washes himself down in the sink. Cleaning up the best he can, makes himself stand out less.
“Dave rang last night” Gwil says, letting that hang in the air for a moment “He needs help. Your help. You can help him. He was in Romford he said, something had him, something was doing things to him. You can help him and I will do what I have to do”
“Are you sure it was him?”
“Yes” Gwil steps towards the door again “I need to go now, I’m sorry, sorry that I ever doubted you. Now please don’t doubt me. I have to do this”
Heart heavy, Sanjiv cannot think a way of stopping Gwil without risking his health further. As he steps out of the way he says “Travel safe then, and always have a plan b”
Gwil embraces Sanjiv for a short and pain inducing hug before opening the door “Thank you. If you ever need help. Just ask. Anything I can give is yours” and with that he staggers out, lights flickering across his vision, the world getting smaller and smaller, darker and darker.
Still he staggers on.