So peaceful. So quiet.

The oars break the water sending the boat limping across the lake. The creaking of old wood under stress and the lap of water are the only sounds.

‘I can’t believe we were here only last month,’ I whisper. ‘It wasn’t as quiet then, but it was peaceful. Relaxing. It was so good to get away from home for a bit. To clear our heads.’

I look about. Autumn reds and browns of soon-to-be-dead leaves just visible through wispy cotton-like air.

‘I didn’t want to go back to the city. I wanted to stay and just huddle up with you by the wood burner in that lovely little cabin you rented. I bet you paid a lot of money for that place. Lakeside. All the romantic trimmings.’

I give a small chuckle before snot fills my throat. I spit it over the side. Watch it dollop into the lake.

‘You shouldn’t have paid so much. We could barely afford our hole back in the city. But I loved it.’ The memory is sweet but it burns like acid after vomit. ‘But, back home we had to go. I’m surprised we made it to work the next day after those bloody train delays.

‘And what was the point? Why did we even try? Work was shit. Yawning in meetings. Not even taking part in the usual gossip in the canteen. Those bickering hens seem so far away now. Whispering all their secrets and theories over coffee and sandwiches. I know, I can’t lay blame. I used to do it too. We all used to go quiet when someone we were talking about entered the room, used to watch them from the corner of our eyes and the whole time make out as if we were talking about something completely different.’

I stop rowing, stick my hand in the canvas bag and pull out a bottle of water. I take a sip and it’s freezing. I savour the pang of cold hitting my teeth. I take a few more gulps and put the bottle back in the bag.

‘I bet it must have played on people’s minds. To have people talking about them, glancing in their direction. Come to think of it I don’t think anyone was free from gossip. I never noticed anyone talking about me though. I guess that’s the point. It doesn’t matter.

‘When I got home to you that night you were already asleep on the couch. I watched you for a while. And then we got Chinese. Ate in like fatties.’

I look to the shore and pull on the oars. My arms hurt. I’m getting pangs in my shoulders.

‘I noticed something was different that night. The man who dropped off the Chinese was shivering. He kept glancing over his shoulder as if he had been chased to our apartment. When he left I thought nothing of it. Probably had a bunch of deliveries to do. Just wanted to get on and get them done. And then the next day. We ate toast and watched the news. Break-ins and attacks across the city. A bunch of talk about a possible riot.

‘So, the next day, off we went to work. Parting at Clapham like we always did. Another thing I miss: you walking off with a paper under your arm and a coffee in your hand. I don’t think you knew I always watched you walk to the platform. I bet I pissed off a whole bunch of commuters when I did that, standing still and getting in their way.’

I look north. My eyes roam over the trees. The deep colours would be beautiful, in a different life.

‘That day…two people didn’t show for work. I needed Dennis there, something I never would have heard myself say, you know how much of a pain in the arse he is, but I needed him for the presentation. And Claire, three desks down, didn’t show up either.

‘At lunch time, people were looking over their shoulders or jumping at every little sound. Everyone was on edge as if expecting the world to explode under their feet at any moment. I called you. You said people hadn’t shown up either. I was worried then. Not because of the people…I heard something in your voice. You were always so strong…so sure. The only thing that scared you was that bloody great big spider on the kitchen counter the time you moved the bread bin.’

I laugh. A bark of weary muscles making a sound like a branch snapping under heavy snow. It spreads across the lake. Echoes and dies and suddenly I’m crying with the memory of Jake jumping around the kitchen like the floor was on fire, eyes wide and backpedalling toward the door.

I let down the oars with a splash and run my fingers through my hair. I take a moment to pull myself together and wipe cold tears from tepid cheeks. A twig snap. I turn to the north bank once more and watch a man walk from the woods. I make out a heavy knitted jumper and what I think are fishing trousers. Suspenders ‘n’ all. He’s missing a boot but he doesn’t seem to notice. He just stares out at the boat.

‘I hoped we would have this place to ourselves.’

I take a deep shuddering breath and pick up the oars. I feel the cold slipping into my limbs threatening to make me stiff. Movement is the only option. Just keep moving.

‘When I got home you called me over to the couch. You were watching T.V and you looked… well, I don’t know. You took my hand. Held it a little too tight. They were reporting on the rainfall that had hit London whilst we were here. Missed it by a few hours. And then people acting strange.

‘And then you showed me the video on Youtube. Some guy testing water samples in the sewers. Finding some unknown bacteria and the guy talking about rats going berserk. We barely slept at all that night. Woke up to the sound of screams twice and ran to the window. People leaving houses. A few of them were running. That one family… I remember the slaps of that kids feet on the road. You locked both deadbolts on the front door and wedged it with a chair under the handle like something out of an old movie. I always wondered if that worked. We never did find out.’

I look over to the man on the north shore. He is walking parallel to the boat. He just keeps looking out. I notice a shock of white hair. I can’t make out much of his face. His gaze feels like a weight on my neck.

‘They’re strange aren’t they? They disappear. Come back like that. Spreads even after the rain.’

I look about and wonder if it is in the air. In the mist. I don’t know. There is nothing I could do about it now anyway.

‘The next morning the video of the man in the sewers was taken down. Screams filled the street outside. Sirens went off every half a minute. In two days the entire city was at a standstill and there were talks on the news about it being widespread. They warned us not to drink the water. Since coming back all we had had was bottled water, teas and coffees at the office. So strange to think our shitty work schedule saved us.

‘So we left. Hit the road. Tried to go somewhere safe until it all blew over. Tried to come back here. You said there were fewer people up here. It would be better to go where there were fewer people. I agreed with you then. I agree with you now.’

The man on the bank stumbles. I watch as he pushes himself up, the whole time staring out at the boat. Like a leech when it smells blood. Just following the scent. I keep rowing. I want to stop. A lead weight is building between my shoulder blades but I can’t stop. I will never stop moving.

‘We made it most of the way here. And then we got to that fucking service station. All we wanted was a sandwich. Maybe a packet of crisps. We took our time didn’t we? Circled the car park three times and didn’t see anyone… Honked the horn. I thought that was good practise. A sure way of bringing them out… Why didn’t it work? The electricity was still running. The doors still worked. Maybe they waited. Do you think that was it? They waited? Maybe they are smarter than we thought Jake. Maybe that’s why no one knows how it’s spread. They wait and watch…’

I pull in a breath of frigid air. My arms pull and the oars break water, slap back down.

‘You wanted to use the toilet.’

I pull. Up, down, splash.

‘And when you came out of the toilets.’

Pull. Up. Down. Splash.

‘Ridiculous. Bloody, stupid…’

My body shakes once more with sobs but this time I let loose. I spit and shout and hope my words would shatter the day apart and wake me from this nightmare. The man on the bank has stopped. He watches, head cocked.

‘I hate you! I hate you! You took him from me! He was all I wanted! All I had and you had to take him from me! Why? Why? Why?’

I’m standing. The boat is rocking but I don’t care. Part of me wants to fall and succumb to the cold. Let the water slip into my nostrils and down my throat and fill me so that I don’t have to feel this burning hatred.

‘You made me do this! You made me do this to him!’ I scream, pointing into the hull of the boat where John lays dead and staring into oblivion.

The last time I had seen those eyes alive he had walked back out of the toilets. His mind lost. They had got to him in there. Something had got to him. I was crying when he ran at me. I was crying when I picked up a barrier post and swung it into his temple.

‘Please forgive me baby. I never wanted this. I never wanted this for you. I never wanted this for us. I thought we could make it out here. Where there is nothing. In the last place we were happy and free.’

I push my palms into my eyes and try to squeeze away tears.

‘This is the best I can do. I don’t want to bury you. It doesn’t seem right. You said you loved it here. ‘“I would love to see what’s under the waters here. They are so calm.”’ You remember saying that?’

His eyes stare at the grey sky.

‘I love you. Jake, I love you. I’m sorry.’ I move over and stick my hands under his armpits. I take a breath tinged with the smell of piss and shit from Jake’s death-voided bowels. I grunt as I lift Jake’s dead weight and try not to think of him walking away with a paper under his arm and a coffee in his hand. I try not to think of him holding me in bed. Pushing me against the wall as we make love. The thing that I am unceremoniously pushing over the lip of the boat is not Jake. I keep telling myself that but it doesn’t help.

His head and shoulders splash into the lake. With one last sob and a scream which ripped at my throat I push the rest of him over the side. He rolls in the freezing water. For one moment I think he would stay face up and staring at the sky, vacated blue eyes watching but he mercifully rolls over and stares into the depths.

I look up to the bank. At the spectator. He is leaning his head back as if beckoning me over.

‘No. No you are not getting me.’

I slump back and watch Jake float like a piece of trash. Arms and legs splayed. I watch for a long time until the weight of his clothes finally pulls him under. I watch white flesh disappear into black water and the whole time I cry and I want him back.

I look up to the man on the north shore still standing there. Still beckoning me over with his head back and staring.

Action

Skeletal trees and ice cracked mud give me away. Ragged breaths pull frigid air into screaming lungs. All I can hope for is more speed.

I try not to think of the bare concrete room. Of D-Lock rings in the walls. Grey chains and bloodstains. A smile warped by insanity.

Calloused trunks slip from the darkness and rush at me. I sidestep branches. They look like claws with too many knuckles. I lift my legs like an infantryman to avoid gnarled roots. One wrong foot and I’m gone.

A scream from the darkness. A flash of hope. Maybe he’s fallen. No. Don’t think. Don’t dream. Dreams are stagnant. Action provides.

Stone bites into my heel and I go down. Merciless ground collides with emaciated flesh and my breath rushes away. The air is cold and I hate it but I want it back. I want to suck it in so it can fill me like a balloon and relieve me of pushing my deadweight body to its feet. I want to leave my mind. Slip into a small closet of subconscious where cobwebs hang and lock the door and forget where I am.

‘Action.’ I rasp. A vile sound spat from a dry mouth but it’s strong. I need it. I sound like my dad.

‘Action. Move!’

I scrabble from the cold, lunar surface of this haunted place. A fingernail bends backward and snaps and I use the pain and the flood of adrenaline. I pant and gasp and fear that the sounds will give me away.

Trees are thinning. I see light through the branches. I break the treeline and my feet slap against tarmac. Beams of light. I turn. Headlights sear my retinas. I cover my eyes. I yearn for the darkness of the forest. Screeching brakes.

‘Well, hello there.’ Laughter. I know that laughter so well.

I’m not going back. I can’t go back.

Action.

Crawley Creeps, Vol.9

Diane ran as fast as she could. She wasn’t getting the kind of speed she got in her Nike’s. In her Nike’s she could sprint and pound pavement and dust, music pounding in her ears willing her to go faster. Or just keep going.

Instead her feet slipped around inside her wellies. Her running was gangly and awkward but she kept going, putting as much distance between herself and the man as possible.

Stanley ran by her side. He kept looking back. Diane couldn’t bring herself to do the same. The image of the man with the faraway gaze chasing her flooded her mind and kept her running instead. Time spent looking back was time he could gain another metre.

What was wrong with the man?

She couldn’t help but think of him stepping from the trees. Dark skin. Almond eyes. Slack mouth. That gaping mouth.

She felt the shiver run up her spine and she wanted to puke. Stanley barked and stopped. Diane took a few more steps before she looked back. Stanley was still. Diane glanced back the way they had come but the man wasn’t chasing her. There was no one back there. She slowed and stopped. Her body was slick with panic-sweat. Cold air stung her lungs and nostrils.

She took a few seconds to get her breath back. ‘Stanley, here.’

Stanley barked in defiance.

‘Stanley, come here.’

Stanley whined. Padded his feet. Barked. Why was he stopping?

Diane looked down the path and saw what Stanley had seen before her. What she had failed to see through fear-induced tunnel-vision.

A woman standing on the path ahead. She wore a green padded raincoat. Hood down. Her arms were hanging loose at her sides. Even at a distance of over a hundred metres, Diane could tell that the woman’s head was cocked, and her mouth hung open.

Diane tried to take a breath but it caught in her throat. Stanley barked. The sound came from some other place.

The cold rock of fear in Diane’s chest only shifted when another woman in a yellow jacket broke from the treeline to the side of the path. She ran over to the slack-jawed woman, grabbed her by the shoulders and screamed in her face. Diane couldn’t make out the words but the urgency was crystal clear.

The slack-jawed woman was unresponsive. She just looked straight on. At Diane. Through her. Diane felt like her body was being seen through. Bones, organs and mind laid out like an unravelled blueprint.

The slack-jawed woman made a jerking move forward. The other woman went sprawling.

Diane’s body spasmed in fear. The woman ran at her and she was gaining speed. Diane felt trapped. She looked behind her but the man in his underwear was nowhere to be seen. Stanley barked and slowly retreated into the ferns.

A warmth bloomed at the base of Diane’s skull. A strange tingling sensation. Unnatural but as welcome as sleep after a long, tiring day.

Stanley ran forward and sunk his teeth into Diane’s ankle. The tingle in her skull disappeared as a wave of pain shot up her leg. Stanley was small but he bucked back and pulled Diane with him. She screamed and toppled awkwardly onto her side. A moment later a boot collided with her face and everything went black.

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.

Crawley Creeps, Vol.7

Melissa felt the cold in her bones. Her muscles felt like they were locked in cramp, her breaths were short and awkward. Her leg itched and she wondered if she would need to go to the hospital.

They had been walking since the early hours of the morning. For over four hours they had made their way through the forest using only the cones of their LED flashlights. Dense clusters of wet skeletal trees and the onslaught of rain drowning out all other sound had left Melissa feeling disorientated and claustrophobic.

The light of day had come slowly, the sky above moving sluggishly through shades of grey until Melissa and Nora no longer needed their flashlights. It was just as well. They had been stupid enough to leave the pack of batteries in the house.

‘We need coffee. Something warm,’ Nora said. Melissa looked over to her sister. She looked like hell. Melissa guessed she looked the same.

‘I’m going to keep looking,’ Melissa said.

‘No you’re not. You’re coming to get a drink.’

‘Nora—‘

‘Bollocks. You’re coming with me. I’m freezing Melissa. I’m so cold, I can barely concentrate. We’ll get a coffee, grab a snack and come straight back in. We can go to Smith and Western. They’re open for breakfast.’

Melissa looked around. Trees and more trees. The sound of the motorway was dull here, the sound broken by the forest. She wanted to keep looking. Needed to find her husband and needed him back home where she could make sure he was safe and not running around in the dark, alone and out of his mind.

‘Don’t cry,’ Nora said. She came over and wrapped her arms around Melissa’s shoulders. Before she knew it, Melissa was bawling into her sister’s shoulder. David had left once before and they had found him hours later in the hospital. He had been standing on the side of a building debating whether or not to jump when someone had intervened. He had run off into the woods with a knife.

‘I can’t stop thinking of him sitting at the trunk of a tree somewhere with his wrists cut open and…and just bleeding out.’

Nora stepped back, grabbed Melissa by the shoulders. ‘Don’t you dare think that. You said yourself that he wasn’t in his right mind. He’s been taking his medication. He said he heard something. Has he ever acted like that before?’

Melissa shook her head.

‘Exactly. He’s not come out here to kill himself. He came out here for a completely different reason. He cut you, Melissa.’

‘It was—‘

‘I know it was an accident. But even if it was an accident, if he was in his right mind he would have stopped and helped. He was out of his mind. He has walked off in his sleep before. And what happened?’

‘He came back.’

‘Exactly. Right now we need to drink something. Eat something. Whatever. It’ll take us twenty minutes to get there, ten minutes to get food and twenty minutes to get back. We’ll keep looking. If we can’t find him we’ll call the police.’

‘If we tell them he has a knife they’ll arrest him.’

‘Then we don’t tell them about the knife. Chances are he dropped it when he woke up and realised he was in the bloody woods. For all we know he’s on his way back home and he’ll call any minute. Now come on. We need something to warm us up.’

‘Okay,’ Melissa said. She dried her eyes, nodded to herself. ‘Okay.’

They knew Tilgate Park well enough to know the general direction of Smith and Western. They traipsed through the trees, across mud and moss and through puddles when they reached a clearing. Firs lined the space, green needled branches reducing the sound of the motorway to a distant hiss.

They were halfway across the space when Melissa stopped.

‘What’s up?’ Nora asked. Melissa’s head oscillated one way, then the other. She turned round and repeated the motion. ‘Melissa. Are you okay?’

Melissa felt a tingle at the base of her skull. A tickle that turned to something warm and strange. She looked left. Right. There. There it was. Coming from over there. She took a step forward and was rewarded with a flush of heat.

Nora felt her heart thumping in her throat. Her sister was shuffling. Stumbling. ‘Melissa what the hell’s wrong with you,’ Nora said, stepping forward and taking her sister by the arm. Melissa whirled, eyes searching wildly but looking straight through her sister.

‘Can you hear it?’

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.