Monday, 12 November 2012

Unfinished Business

Tuesday, after school, I head back down the track just before dinner. I’m not here to search for Jamie. I’ve got unfinished business.
I’m standing before the mouth of a disused railway tunnel. A gaping black mouth overgrown with thick knotted ivy. The darkness alone, deep and suffocating, would be enough to put most people off. And the curtain of damp, and the coldness of the air. And the silence. The deathly silence. But not me. I don’t hesitate. I’m not scared. I’ve learnt that hatred is much stronger than fear.
To think that this place had once been our playground. A place we came to for adventures. It seems a long time ago now. It was an exciting world back then. If only we’d known. We would never have come down here in the first place.
Back in Victorian times these tunnels had been busy. They were a vital link to the docks and the steamships that sailed across the ocean. But the line has been shut down for decades now. The iron rails are rusted, and the wooden sleepers are going through the long slow process of decay, crumbling to dust.
The track runs mostly under the townspeople’s feet. It runs through a series of long, dark tunnels. Here and there it comes out into the half-light, sunk below embankments overgrown with trees, bushes and weeds. The tunnels were miracles of engineering, but they’ve been left to ruin, overcome by nature. It’s a place that has been truly forgotten about.
The only people who ever come here - apart from kids like me and Jamie - are those who want to avoid the police: underage drinkers and drug addicts. Their litter is scattered about at the tunnel entrances: broken bottles, cans and used syringes. I’m not scared of them either.
            The rest of the track has already been cleansed. Me and Jamie did most of it together. I did some of it myself after....after. This tunnel is the last one left on the track. After this, they can never return here.
Jamie - my mind never strays from him too long. Only a matter of weeks ago we were fighting those creatures together. And now he’s gone. They took him from me. I’m burning, broiling with rage and determination as I stride into the blackness.
This tunnel is one of the longest ones. There’s no light showing from the other end. I switch my torch on. It’s a halogen model, one of the best I could buy with my pocket money. It floods the interior with light.
The walls are still smoke blackened. I think of the thousands of steam engines that ran through here during the glory days. But now the blackened roof is covered in wet slimy patches, green with moss and dripping wet.
I strut from sleeper to sleeper, swinging the torch from side to side. I’m determined that no hole, no corner will be left unexplored, uncleansed. All I can hear is the echoing sound of my own footsteps. It’s not long before the light from the other end appears round the bend.
There are no doorways, no maintenance hatches, not even a recess. That means there are no hiding places, and nowhere for them to sleep securely away from the daylight.
Finally I reach the end, walking out into the open air and switching off my torch. A hundred yards ahead the track comes to a halt at a ten foot high galvanised steel fence. On the other side, the track intersects with the main line, the one that trains still use. The red signal lights are visible, and the railtops are of smooth polished silver.
I linger there for a moment, imagining Jamie at my side, just like he had been before. I suddenly feel downhearted. Now that I’ve reached the end, that I’ve cleansed the track completely, it dawns on me just how far away he is, how out of reach. How the heck am I ever going to find him?.
That creature, the boy with the piercing red eyes, he knew I’d be looking for them. He had looked into my eyes and into my mind, and he had read my thoughts. He could see I wasn’t going to give up. In his place I would have been far away by now.
I turn back to face the tunnel. I peel off my backpack, reach inside and pull out a can of white spray-paint and a bottle of holy water. I spray some large crucifixes on the walls. Then I splash some of the water around the tunnel entrances.