NOWHERE TO RUN NOWHERE TO HIDE
Scribble magazine have accepted my story Nowhere To Run Nowhere To Hide and it has been published in their latest summer magazine number 74.
You can read the whole story here.
Please leave a comment as I'd love to know what you think.
Nowhere To Run – Nowhere To Hide by Rick Haynes
What a night. The lock-in at the pub had become a massive booze up, and why not? After all, England had just won the World Cup and for those, like me, unable to get a ticket, seeing the game on the television with your mates was the next best thing. Trying to count the number of pints I had drunk had proved impossible, for I had run out of fingers, but I do know that I’ll never make a career as a pub singer. I can’t remember seeing so many pretty girls in one place and having a good time. I think one blonde gave me her address and phone number. Shame I can’t find the piece of paper as she certainly was a great kisser.
It was a long way to the station but in my state of euphoria I had enough energy to walk to the moon. After all, I was well and truly pissed.
The fresh drizzle made me want to pull up my collar, only I didn’t have one. Looking down made it easier to dodge the puddles on the pavement, yet I still looked up and waved to those I passed. We were strangers, the fools in the wet, few in number but huge in happiness after seeing our England triumph.
On turning the last corner and seeing the red and white circle with the blue flash ahead of me, I automatically checked my watch, pleased that I had time for the last London Underground train home.
Nevertheless I automatically quickened my step as the archway to the subterranean passage loomed ever closer. At this time of night the ticket barrier would be unmanned, and open, the area as welcoming as a pit shaft entrance. Each passenger would be expected to buy a ticket at the faceless machine or be in possession of a return stub. I had neither. I would take my chances, but if an inspector did materialise on my train, I would be in the shit.
With the amount of booze sloshing around inside my bloated stomach, my head in the clouds, and my body walking on water, I didn’t really care.
I looked at the bleak surroundings; the lights looked as if they were fitted before the Second World War. Maybe they had been because they had clearly accumulated enough dirt over the last thirty years to make a cleaning lady weep. I thought that I understood the concept of ‘candle’ power, but here a single taper would have given out more light. I hated this filthy place with the tired wall posters, cigarette ends, and rubbish piled in the corners. My own station, Tooting Broadway, was a palace in comparison. At least, that’s what I remembered, but in my current state anywhere would look better than this dump.
As I walked towards the down escalator my hand brushed the rain from my nylon bomber jacket. I stopped in mid stride, my foot hovering over the first tread as the wind rising from below took my breath away.
London Underground had decided, that, at this time of night, those stupid enough to travel on the last Northern Line tube train could walk down the stationary escalator. Clearly saving electricity was more important than customer safety. With my thoughts elsewhere I had been one lucky sod, for that strong wind had stopped me in my tracks. Unsteady on my feet and with my heart missing several beats, I hesitated, letting my brain concentrate. It had been a long time since I last walked down a metal staircase and this time I had to be very careful.
Regaining consciousness on the bottom step was not on the agenda. I didn’t move at first because my eyes were covered in some warm liquid and I couldn’t open them. Wiping the blood away proved more difficult than I thought as my hands initially refused to obey my commands. I tried sitting up but the wave of pain and nausea made me lay down once more. With less blood in my eyes, looking back up the escalator was now easier from my prone position. I could only see blood on the last three treads so knew that I couldn’t have fallen too far, yet my head felt like it was being held in a metal vice. I tentatively rubbed the side of my head with my right hand and found a large bump with adjacent gash, the claret still flowing. Taking out an old handkerchief to stop the blood caused my head to spin once more, but even in my befuddled state, I knew the flow had to be stopped and I persevered.
This had been one hell of a wake-up call, I thought. I gently eased myself into a sitting position, allowing time for the stars in my eyes to disappear. What time was it? I believed that I had ten, maybe twelve minutes before 1 a.m. and the scheduled arrival of the long red worm that would speed into Stockwell Underground Station like a guided missile, but then again I couldn’t see the hands on my watch clearly.
The cold tiles seemed somehow comforting now, as trying to stand tall sent a wave of dizziness through my head. Yet I had to get up and walk to the southbound platform.
Before too long my brain began to work a little more effectively. I perceived, rather than saw another presence. I could hear the wind whispering, enticing me to the northbound tunnel, the one place that I didn’t want to be. Did a voice call me? Was that a cry for help? I didn’t want to walk onto the wrong platform but before I knew it my feet led the way and the rest of my body reluctantly followed. I stopped briefly at the entrance to the up-line platform to gather my thoughts and clear my head, readjusting the handkerchief to stem the flow of blood. I couldn’t believe that I had ventured onto a platform where the last train had left some time ago. My hesitation didn’t last long for a strong compulsion forced me to take the extra steps to the edge of the abyss and look at the power lines in the pit.
My head slowly turned left then right, my eyes searching, trying to find an answer. I took in the emptiness, the quiet, the threnody of the wind calling from the never ending tunnel. Had it been a figment of my imagination caused by too much alcohol? I tried, and failed to suppress a shudder but as my body relaxed a thin smile crossed over my face.
There was more life in a graveyard than here.
It was time to retrace my steps, but I stopped. A fresh spurt of blood ran down my face. I held my head in my hands. What was happening inside my head?
On checking my watch once again, I think I saw 12.54 am. I had six more minutes before the tube arrived, so I turned, readying myself to take a slow walk to the southbound platform.
A long moan of pain instantly echoed off the circular walls, rolling along like one endless scream. It seemed to emanate far away in the tunnel to my left but with the acoustics down here, I could be wrong. Unable to prevent the assault on my ears, I covered them with my hands, but the sound of such agony still tore through my body. I staggered and held on to the back wall, my hands grabbing at the fly posters, tearing them as my nails failed to find any grip. Trying to make any sense of this nightmare eluded me, for my mind entered protection mode and I slipped to the floor, oblivious to the detritus of a good night out. My eyes seemed determined to leave their sockets as they bored into the gloom of the tunnel. Seldom did I find myself slow to respond to any action, but whilst I wanted to run off as fast as I could, my jelly legs wouldn’t support an infant let alone a guy of six feet two. I couldn’t tear myself away from such torment but I had to try.
Pushing myself onto one knee proved to be deafening, for I had to release one hand from my right ear, which allowed the constant agonising cries to pierce my very soul. With the hackles on my neck being long enough to comb, and the reek of sweat running down my back, I struggled to rise. Luckily the rational side of my brain finally kicked in, ordering me to get up.
That single movement broke the spell and I moved, but not away from the sound of torment. What was happening? Why had logic escaped me, for I now stood once more on the edge of the platform and was looked towards the left side tunnel? A large brown rat emerged from the darkness, then another and two more. Ignoring me, they speedily ran under the electric rail before rapidly disappearing into the black at the other end of the platform. I heard their squeals as they passed and smelt the stink of urine. Was it their fear or mine?
Another wail from the tunnel froze me to the spot, the cry stabbing me in the heart. The wind-speed blew stronger, forcing me to push my long hair from my eyes. A flash on my left and one by one the station lights dimmed. My eyes were hurting with the concentration of looking into a world of black. A long wolf like howl hit my overburdened ears but when I heard the tap-tap of steps coming ever closer, I knew for certain that this time I had pissed my pants.
The word, ‘survival’ flashed into my brain, followed by, ‘run’. When my brain speaks like that, I try to listen and this time I didn’t dawdle too much.
Even so, I couldn’t, wouldn’t turn my back on the tunnel, and so walked carefully backwards, taking one step at a time until I reached the southbound platform. Here the wind had died to nothing, leaving only a cool feel and an empty station. I felt more secure, but doubts about travelling at night on the London Underground system surged into my mind. Weird tales were the stuff of local legends as many believed that there could be some nasty secrets hidden away in this maze of dark, dank tunnels. Many people had simply disappeared into the void, never to be seen again. My gran used to warn me about the skin-eaters when I was growing up. She said that if I stayed out late, it would be better to walk than catch the last tube home. Until now I thought that she was trying to scare me with her Old Wives tales, but now – now I believed.
My mother had told me it was complete nonsense as the only demons lay deep inside you, but now I didn’t have faith in her words. Perhaps I should have listened to granny.
Walking seemed to be better than standing still so I moved back and forth along the platform. Thoughts of vile creatures with sharp teeth entered my mind, yet incongruously, so did an image of a ticket collector. Yet, on hearing the most beautiful sound in the world I dismissed all of my fearful thoughts in a trice.
My saviour, my metal cylinder was fast approaching and soon I would be on board. I moved nearer to the edge of the platform. The inky black tunnel began to fade as the lights of the train sent forward their rays of security. Any moment now and I would feel the cold rush of air as the underground train swept into the station, ready to take me home. I knew that I would jump with joy once I saw the drivers face.
I heard a strange sound behind me and something tapping across the concrete. Beads of sweat broke out across my face, pushing old blood into tired eyes. Ignoring the sounds I stood rigid to the spot and clasped my wet hands together praying for the tube to arrive.
I saw the lights and the driver’s face. Tears fell down my cheeks. I raised my head high, my face beaming. The image of home sweet home burned brightly.
And then I felt a firm grip on my right shoulder.