Crawley Creeps, Vol.8

Hitesh stomped his feet and blew into his cupped hands. The wind was as fierce as it was the night before. He had checked the weather report and a chirpy middle-aged weather lady told him that tonight was going to be “another blustery one.”

It didn’t feel blustery. It felt like the wind was doing its best to pierce his clothes and reach through to his bones.

He had received the call only a few hours ago that they had been taken off the Gatwick track and were instead working the stretch just north of Balcombe Tunnel. They were also only working a 12-4 shift. Half the hours, same pay. If he got back at a decent time that he could snatch a few hours of sleep next to Denise, for once.

Lights danced over him and he looked up to see Troy bring the van to a stop on the side of the road, hazards pulsing. Marcus was in the back eyes closed and dozing. Hitesh was jealous at the mans ability to fall asleep almost anywhere on a whim.

Hitesh jumped in and Troy took them up through Broadfield and out toward Pease Pottage. Troy was in a good mood. He tapped the steering wheel to the beat of some awful dance compilation.

They reached the Pease Pottage roundabout and left on the exit toward Pease Pottage services.

‘Anyone need food?’ Troy called out.

‘Nah.’

Marcus opened his eyes long enough to snort before falling back asleep.

They passed the services. At the next roundabout they could go right to Pease Pottage village, straight to Handcross or left down Parish Lane toward the train tracks. They turned left.

Parish Lane ran between far land on both sides until half way down when the trees of Tilgate Forest became thicker and eventually turned into a wall on their left. The last building they passed was a large manor house to their right. There were no lights on.

The road changed from tarmac to rough aggregate. The van hit a pothole and Marcus woke with a growl. ‘Why have they not surfaced the damn road?’

Troy chuckled. They all held on as the van jumped and dropped. A minute or two passed before they reached the bottom of Parish Lane.

Ahead was a metal pedestrian bridge leading over the railway tracks and into the forest of Balcombe Woods on the far side. To the right was a large double gate leading to a track-side operating area. It was chained closed.

Troy passed Hitesh the keys for the padlock. ‘Your turn.’

Hitesh snatched the keys and got out the van. The breeze rippled his hair and bit at his ears. He stuffed his chin as far into his collar as it would go and jogged over to the gate. He fumbled the lock with cold hands and finally managed to work it free. The sound of chain slipping between metal bars rang out and set his teeth on edge.

Hitesh opened the gate and stood to the side as Troy brought the van through. Hitesh closed the gate and wove the chain back through the fence. He could barely see his own hands in the van’s rear lights.

He locked the gate and headed back to the van when a crunch made him turn back. Hitesh looked past the fence. He could only just make out the shapes of trees in the weak red glow.

‘Come on, Hitesh,’ Troy shouted. He was hanging out the driver-side window. ‘The sooner we get sorted the sooner we go home.’

Hitesh headed for the van but felt the sixth sense prickle of being watched spread across his neck.

They made their way down a small road that ran parallel to the train tracks, nothing separating them but dark, to a gaggle of buildings. A small green standby light glowed above one of the doors to a container canteen.

The trio exited the van and headed over to the hut. Marcus clicked on a torch and held out a hand to Hitesh.

‘What?’

‘Keys,’ Marcus said, groggily.

‘It’s a keypad.’

Marcus did a double take, shook his head and flicked open the key pad.

‘I looked up a bunch of trains this morning,’ Troy said. ‘Nothing comes close to the one we saw last night.’

‘It was just aggregate train,’ Marcus said. He caught his finger in the catch and hissed. Hitesh reached over Marcus’ shoulder, jabbed in the code and flicked the latch.

‘They stick sometimes,’ Hitesh said. Marcus shrugged and they all went inside. Troy moved straight across to the kitchenette and rummaged for tea.

‘It wasn’t an aggregate train. The one we saw last night was more like a double decker. They had pictures of double deckers online.’

‘Who gives a shit anyway?’ Marcus asked as he slumped into a seat at the small table. He pulled out his phone. ‘No signal.’

‘Well it’s weird,’ Troy went on. ‘All the lights go out and a train rolls past. That’s weird right?’

Hitesh shrugged. ‘Maybe. Or just a coincidence.’

Troy wondered on that for a moment. ‘Nah.’

The roar of the kettle drowned them out. It clicked off and Troy made them all drinks. They sat at the table cradling teas.

‘Wish we had biscuits,’ Hitesh said.

‘There was a photo of a military train from China that-‘

Marcus cut him off with a fake snore.

A Toast to The End of The World

The world is a pretty crazy place. Western politics has been turned on its head, the climate is changing faster than expected and broadcast technology has become so attainable that two people with no credentials can make a podcast.

So join the two of us, Will and Sam, on A Toast to The End of The World as we try to make sense of it all.

In Episode 1 we look at Brexit, the effects of leaving the European Union, and we even make a few guesses at why Leave won the vote.

Music: Waves (makaihbeats.net) by Makaih Beats
From Free Music Archive
BY NC SA

Also available on iTunes!

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.

A glimpse of the abyss

Mental health fucks up a lot of things. For instance, I just dropped the car off for an MOT that I can not afford. I have had to borrow money from my fiance. I feel like a low-life because of it.

Self-sufficiency has done a legger along with my mental health capabilities. There they go, running like old chums playing knock down ginger except the person never comes to the door.

I had to entertain myself during the MOT so I took a book to a nearby coffee shop. I was acutely, almost painfully aware, of the money that I was spending. I admit, as the barista turned to make the coffee, I eyed the tip jar. There was enough in there to pay for ten or more coffees. I wasn’t planning on stealing it or anything, but still.

I should feel lucky. I have more than a lot of people. But I am suddenly and starkly mindful that this is the path that many people have walked: that of people who have had everything, or at least something, and have lost it because of mental health or general health problems.

Because of mental health problems, I have seen myself lose one job only to suffer the loss of another because I was at the whim of an agency.

There are people out there who suffer so much worse. Who go from a partnership or marriage or a high paying job to scraping together what they can. And there I am, with more than most, wondering about the change in that damn tip jar.

And no one is immune.

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 asked, 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?’

She rounded the corner and headed after her husband. She heard the 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 pain 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.