Crawley Creeps Vol.6

Rain was coming down hard enough to fill the air with cacophonous thuds. Thick drops hit leaves, slapped mud and tree trunks.

Diane’s hair was plastered to her scalp and stuck against the back of her neck like ivy. Trickles of water found gaps in her collar and trickled between her shoulder blades.

‘I hope you’re enjoying yourself,’ Diane shouted. Stanley looked back and, apparently seeing nothing of interest, darted off through the trees.

Diane thought about work. Or the lack thereof. There were thousands of jobs between Crawley and the surrounding towns and she had applied for at least a hundred. All to no avail.

Diane hated herself. Without generating some kind of income, she was just an expense. A mouth to feed. Diane growled, pissed off at her situation and yet feeling useless to do anything about it.

Stanley barked and Diane looked up. He was standing at the fork in the path. They could go right, up the hill and across the bridge over the M23 or they could go left, back toward the lakes.

No matter where they were in the park, Stanley would always aim for water. Which was why it surprised her when Stanley ran right, taking them across the M23 and into the depths of the forest.

Already wet, tired and with an afternoon ahead likely to be filled with emails telling her that “unfortunately on this occasion you have been unsuccessful,” Diane let Stanley lead the way.

The sound of the motorway grew from a hiss to a roar as she got to the top of the hill and walked onto the bridge. High fences lined the bridge to put off trash-throwers and jumpers. Below, the M23 was almost lost in the mists of water kicked up by tyres and the auras of headlights.

She was watching the trucks and cars slipping by underneath when she tripped. A high pitch bark and whine followed her down as her knees and palms collided with concrete. She stayed still waiting for the surge of pain to come. It came as warm, heartbeat throbs up her hands and into her arms, from her knees and, oddly, into her groin.

Diane looked up ready to shout at Stanley but he was gone. She rolled onto her backside and looked about.

‘Stanley!’

A bark. From behind. She pushed herself up and headed for the far side of the bridge. ‘Here boy!’ Diane called. ‘I’m not angry at you,’ she said quietly, checking the grazes on her palms. Her walking trousers had split at the knee.

‘Fantastic.’

Another bark. Higher. Urgent. Diane quick-stepped.The last time she heard Stanley bark like that he was being attacked by a Doberman. He’d come away bloody and shocked. It took Diane a long time to get to get Stanley back out and about.

‘Stanley’, she called out. Stanley broke from thick ferns at the side of the path. He turned to her before turning back toward the trees and unleashing a barrage of those high-pitch barks as he slowly backed up.

Diane looked into the trees. She couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary.

‘Here boy. Come-‘

There! Someone moved between the trees. A mop of dark hair. The hairs on the back of her own neck raised and her skin turned cold. Felt like it was contracting and squeezing everything within.

‘Stanley! Here!’ Diane shouted. Stanley whined and bolted for her.

Diane saw him again. He stepped between the trees walking parallel to the path. Arms lank by his sides. He wore only a pair of pyjama bottoms and a T-shirt that clung to his skin. As Diane turned to run away, she saw a knife.

Crawley Creeps, Vol.5

Hitesh walked the brickwork passages that made up most of Broadfield. Cans and bottles were discarded here and there, blown into corners by the harsh wintry wind.

Denise was growing tired of living in such close quarters to other houses. Of always hearing so much of what their neighbours got up to. Hitesh liked the noise. After a night on the tracks he would go to bed with the window slightly open and sleep to the world moving outside.

For now he just wanted to get home and have something to eat.

Hitesh exited the mouth of a walkway and into a car park bleached in murky amber streetlight. A ginger and white cat slunk out from under a car and meowed.

Hitesh lowered himself onto his haunches and held out a hand. The cat wandered over. The breeze rippled across the long hair on its back. The cat tipped its head and pushed its ears between Hitesh’s fingers.

‘Surprised you’re still out. Didn’t you hear a storm’s coming?’

The cat did a circle, pushed it’s tails into his hand and walked off.

Hitesh walked across the car park and slipped into another walkway when his phone buzzed. He pulled it from his pocket and dimmed the stark blue display. It was Troy.

You think that was some government conspiracy stuff or something?

Hitesh chuckled and put his phone away knowing that to open up dialogue with Troy would only mean less sleep.

Hitesh was hoping to see Denise before she left for work when he felt something pass by. He looked up to see two cats perched on a high garden wall, a half foot above him to the right.

‘More of you out this morning.’ He raised a hand to them but they ignored him. He could just make out their shadows staring up to the left. What he knew to be west. He looked in the direction expecting to see a helicopter, a flock of early morning birds. There was nothing in the sky but low clouds.

Crawley Creeps, Vol.4

‘Has he ever hurt you before?’

Melissa was sitting at the dining room table with her leg propped on a chair. She looked up from her cup of tepid tea. ‘No. Of course not.’

‘You’re telling me the truth aren’t you?’

‘Nora…’

‘What am I supposed to think? You call me up in the morning and tell me that David has fucking cut you.’ Nora waved at Melissa’s leg.

‘Not on purpose.’

‘And you need to get this leg looked at properly—‘

‘It’s not going to happen. David’s out there. I need to—‘

‘No. You’re not going anywhere until you tell me what David did to you.’

‘He didn’t do a damn thing, Nora. He made a run for it and I tried to get in his way. It…it was like he didn’t even know I was there.’

Nora shook her head, bewildered. ‘That’s ab—‘

‘He ran into the park.’

‘Why would he go there?’

‘I don’t know. I just saw him leave the house and run across the road. In the direction of the park.’

Nora ran her fingers through her hair. Looked at the ceiling. Melissa knew her sister well enough to know when she was about to lose her shit. ‘He said something weird as well,’ Melissa said.

‘What did he say?’

‘He asked me if I heard something.’

‘Heard what?’

‘I don’t know. He just said “do you hear it?”

‘And that was it?’

‘Yeah.’

Nora chewed her lip.

‘Don’t,’ Melissa said, catching on to her sister’s train of thought.

‘You don’t know what I was going to say.’

‘You were going to bring up his condition. From before.’

‘Well that must have something to do with it, Melissa. Can’t you see that? Since when has he ever walked through the house with a knife when he’s been sleepwalking and since when does he open locked doors and run out into the night? I’ve never heard of that happening to someone who sleep walks.’

‘That’s not fair. He’s been on his medication for a long time now. Two years and nothing.’

Melissa stood up and hissed. The pain from her leg shot through her body like an electric current but she breathed through it and headed for the door.

‘Where are you going?’ Nora demanded, hands on her hips.

‘I’m going to find David.’

‘You can’t go out alone in the dark.’
‘Either I go on my own or you come with me. Up to you. Either way, I am going to find my husband.’

Nora shook her head. Slower this time. Melissa also knew her sister well enough to know she had just caved.

‘Have you got a couple of torches?’ Nora asked.

Crawley Creeps, Vol. 3

Diane watched Sharon leave. Sharon’s hair bounced and looked almost jovial as she strode down the garden path. Diane hated watching her go. Partly because she missed her. Mostly because she didn’t have a job of her own to go to.

No. No job. It was just her and Stanley.

Diane waited in the doorway despite the cold. Sharon reached the end of the path, turned, waved and was gone. Diane closed the door and walked into the living room. Slumped onto the sofa and opened her laptop.

Diane felt productive hunting for jobs but it sure as hell wasn’t the same as actually having one. Making twenty applications a day didn’t pay the bills.

Diane opened a job board, typed in her parameters and leaned back. She took a moment to breathe in the cedar and black pepper scent that Sharon sprayed had sprayed around the house, as was her morning routine.

‘Right. Here we go again,’ Diane said, hands hovering over the keyboard.

Stanley walked into the room.

‘Not now.’

He slipped under her legs and lay down.

‘That’s better.’

An hour and two applications later Diane got up and walked to the kitchen. Stanley trotted along behind her, expecting biscuits. She put on the kettle, pulled open a pack of custard creams and looked out the window.

A vast black cloud stretched across the horizon. As she looked on it grew bigger, blotting out the already grey sky.

‘Do you really want to go with that coming in?’ Diane asked. Stanley barked. Shit, that’s right. He knows “out” now.

‘In a bit.’

She threw him a custard cream. He snapped out of the air and it was gone. He didn’t look at all satisfied. ‘In a bit,’ she said again.

The kettle clicked and she made herself a coffee. On her way back to the living room she looked out the window once more. The cloud was coming quick. The air felt charged. Diane was never sure if that was science or psychosomatic.

As she walked back into the living room, thunder rumbled overhead.

Crawley Creeps, Vol. 2

Three Bridges Station shone like a jewel to the south. Amber and white sodium glare pushed back the darkness. Gatwick Airport Station shone to the north.

Hitesh stood between the stations in the glare of two generator fed mobile construction lights. His and the team’s shadows crossed one another as they reached out over the rails.

Marcus, Troy and Hitesh worked on disconnecting a stretch of track, unclasping the steel rails before lifting the beam up and away before laying the new pieces.

They had been at it since ten o’clock despite the winter gale rushing uninterrupted down the tracks and creeping under their collars. Hitesh wore thermals and was still shivering, his fingers numb even inside thick rigger gloves.

‘There she is,’ Troy gasped, pulling the last clasp open. Hitesh and Marcus shuffled over, slung the straps of their harnesses under the metal and got ready to lift.

‘Oh, shit.’

Troy was staring over Hitesh’s shoulder. Hitesh turned.

‘What the hell?’

Gatwick Airport had gone dark. Where the station and buildings were glimmering moments before, shapes swallowed the light. Hitesh looked in the direction of the runway. The lights were still on, twinkling and ready. But the rest of the airport rested in darkness. Hitesh looked south.

‘Three Bridges is out.’

A rumble shook the air. A clatter and screech of metal. Sounds that the trio knew all too well.

‘There aren’t any trains scheduled,’ Marcus said in his thick Polish accent. ‘Last one went past hour ago. Nothing else until half three.’ He raised his hand and shook it from side to side like a boat swaying on the ocean.

Or thereabouts.

The rumble came through Hitesh’s feet and in a matter of seconds it was in his chest. And then he saw the train. A dark snake protruding from the station. A shadow slipping from shadow like a finger reaching outward.

‘She’s got no running lights,’ Marcus shouted. ‘Can’t even see driver.’ Hitesh strained to see something in the dark but Marus was right. The train was running dark. Hitesh turned and ushered Marcus and Troy out of the contstruction light glare toward the side of the tracks. The chug of the generator was swallowed by the approaching thunder.

They could only just make out the train by the residual glow of the construction lights. Matte black metal. Unmarked. The sides bulged out over the wheels. The thing could have easily been a double decker. It was a behemoth. The air thudded as it went past.

‘You ever seen anything like it?’ Troy bellowed. Hitesh and Marcus, both long-standing employees, shook their heads.

Hitesh counted eight carriages. They watched it as it powered on in the direction of Three Bridges. No tail lights. Just a shrinking shape.

The thunder left Hitesh’s chest. Behind them, Gatwick Airport blinked back to life.

Crawley Creeps, Vol. 1

David stood at his bedroom window and stared into the street.

‘David, what are you doing?’ his wife said, pushing herself up from the comfort of her pillows. She glanced across at the alarm clock.

‘It’s half one in the morning. What’s going on?’

David turned from the window, walked around the bed and left the room.

‘David? Are you okay?’ Melissa pulled the covers aside and followed David out onto the hallway in time to see him slip downstairs.

‘David. Talk to me what’s wrong?’

David rounded the corner at the bottom of the stairs and headed for the kitchen. Melissa followed, the cold biting through thin pyjamas.

‘Is someone in the house?’

Melissa headed after her husband. She heard a drawer open. The unmistakable clatter of cutlery. Melissa’s heart thumped. She glanced back over her shoulder to the front door. Nothing but street light-amber glow. ‘David! Is someone in the house?’

Melissa rushed into the kitchen. Looked out the window into the garden. Darkness pressed the glass. ‘Is there someone in the house?’ she whispered.

David made a sound. Like words spoken around food. Clogging and sticky.

‘What?’

‘Can you feel it?’ David whispered.

Melissa’s shoulders sagged. She had seen this before. ‘David, you’re sleep walking. Come back to bed.’ She reached for his hand but he pulled back. ‘David, come on.’

‘It’s close.’

‘Honey, you’re sleep-walking. Let’s go back upstairs. Get into bed.’ She reached for his hand but he pulled back again. ‘David for Christ’s sake.’

He lurched for the kitchen door. Melissa reached out and felt the rip through her thigh. She fell back and slammed into the kitchen counter-top. When she hit the floor the pain surged to the surface and she screamed.

She looked up in time to see David run out the front door and into the night.