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Cold Blow Lane

Apologies for all the swears and noise and carrying on and that. Didn’t mean to wake you. Yea I feel a little bit better, thank you. Now that I’ve had a good drink. I think I’ll have a few more if you don’t mind? I don’t want to get too out of it. Just a couple of drams to take the edge off eh? Honestly every little rustle or creak at the moment has me instantly on up me toes and I feel pretty flippin’ keyed up and brittle enough already. No really, I’ve still got that prickly back of the neck, eyes watering feeling.

Clenching my jaw? Christ your right. It aches like I’ve been chewing my face off. Jesus is it quarter to four? Bastard O’Clock. Thanks for staying up with me. I had the TV on for about 10 minutes while you were in the kitchen, thought it might help you know? Bring me back to normality. But nah. It’s not working. I kept muting it thinking I’d heard something. Think I’d rather sit and listen out if it’s all the same to you.

Alright. Okay. You wanna record it? For your blog? Well. Yea I guess I don’t mind. Start at the beginning? Sure. So walking home last night, well this morning actually, down the New Cross road.. Where’s New Cross? You having a laugh you know where bleedin’ New Cross is. For the blog? Oh right. Describe it? Ok Ok. Give me another drink then. For those that don’t know. My name is Malcolm I am 48 years old and I live in an area called New Cross which is in Lewisham, South of the river right? Yes in London. England. The British Isles. Happy?

What’s it like? Well it’s not a pretty area. Its not bad, but its not like a bleedin’ UNESCO world heritage site or anything. In my youth I would have said it was shithole but London prices being what they are its pretty darn cushty for the money nowadays. At the moment I live in a room in a housing co-op called Sanford, with about four other people usually but three of them buggers is out God knows where. It’s not far from Bear’s Den, which is Millwall FC’s ground, home of the Bushwackers hooligan mob if that means anything to anyone. Oh and there’s a some railway tracks for the Overground and beyond those there’s a ginormous rubbish incinerator. Beautiful place it is.

Anyway specifically I live off a street called Cold Blow Lane. Google map it if you want. If you street view it you’ll see exactly the place I’m talking about. Go on, I’ll have a another drink while you do so. So right I’m walking home about what 40 minutes ago and believe me Cold Blow lane is aptly named. Especially about three AM with this bleedin’ freezing cold spring in London in at the moment. Proper Brass Monkey weather. We’ve even had snow today haven’t we? More of a sleety hail you reckon? Yea I suppose so. Bonkers weather anyway. Christ its like I want to talk about anything but what just happened.

Stick to the story. Ok sure. Does this feel like its helping? No not really.

Right so I’m walking back from the New Cross road about what 2am? It’s a busy main road. I’m about 10 minutes off the nightbus from a night out, and its fucking freezing. I’m fucking freezing. Now to get to here, Sanford, from the direction I was coming in, you’d have to walk through two long, dark tunnels that run beneath the Overground railway. Quite frankly its bloody grim. It looks just looks like the sort of place a serial killer would dump a body like on ‘Cracker’ or ‘Luther’. I feel like such a dumb old tosser for even thinking about doing in the middle of the night. I wouldn’t recommend it during the day! Let alone in the dark. I mean I usually go the other way. Why didn’t I go the other way? Oh yea cos I got off the nightbus a stop early. Jesus wept.

Alright yea so anyway the road into Cold Blow Lane goes from being a wide open avenue with these ugly looking 1980’s new build houses on the left. Then you turn right and there’s this overgrown bit of embankment shrub that hangs down from the Railway line on one side. Then you’re under the railway bridge proper and with these tall, dark sooty brick walls on either side. That’s where it becomes a bit of bottle neck. If you go into the first of the tunnels, it funnels up into a choke point. The road turns into a single lane and the pavement just kind of dead-ends at this brick wall under the tracks.

People are always fly-tipping rubbish right at that wall. Well tonight apparently someone has dumped a load of old furniture. I saw a lot of busted chipboard. All spilling out into the road and a couple of cars have obviously gone over them because even from fifty feet away there’s all them little flakes of pressed wood caught in the asphalt. Just shit everywhere really. But right by the entrance to the tunnel proper, someone’s dumped these two big white wardrobes.

One of them is upright with its back propped up against the brick next to the tunnel entrance and there’s a big pile of bin bags and God knows what in the corner next to it. The other is lying on its side with it’s back to me, about ten feet in front of the upright one. Like it’s just been dropped out the back of a lorry, cos it stuck out off the curb and into the road at a bit of an angle.

It’s pretty dark in the tunnel but because of that one street light behind me I can see well enough. Normally I wouldn’t look twice at crap like that. I mean they were nothing fancy, just dated cheap white veneer that looked piss yellow in the glow of the sodium lamp back toward my end.

But they’ve both got great big mirrored doors, so I’m kind of half interested. A decent full length mirror can go for about £20 down on Lewisham Way so these monsters might net me close to a hundred for four of them, maybe a bit more. If they’re in decent nick of course.

The doors of the one on the ground are reflecting into the upright one and in one corner they’ve got that kind of weird infinity effect going on? But mostly because of that they’re angled I can just see all the rubbish on the ground between them. I could also see my reflection, well from about the waist up. I actually gave myself the nod, as you do. Sexy fella.

I’m not bonkers. I wasn’t that drunk and I, like its a practical joke really. Its got to be. Someone fucking about now I think about it. Now I’m sitting down here in the lounge and telling you this. Yea it sounds fucking ridiculous. I mean what else could it have been? Kids or some scaghead fucking about that’s what. And now I’m sat here nerves jangling harping on about dumped furniture at 4 o’clock in the morning. I mean are you sure people’ll want to listen to this shit?

Carry on? Alright, alright.

So I’m a good forty-ish feet away maybe? And as I get a bit closer, I can see in the reflection of the upright wardrobe that the door on the one in the road is busted at the hinges. Meaning the mirrored door on the bottom is propped at an angle on one corner and there’s a decent sized gap at the far end where that infinity effect is. But there’s a like a thing sort sticking half in-half out of that gap. I didn’t know what it was at first, it just looked like a pale little tube, like a sweetie wrapper or some other bit of litter. I didn’t even notice it at first glance, because it just you know, why would you? There’s a big pile of crap spread all around the gaff you know? But then I do notice it. I see it move. Just a little bit. But yea, it. It caught my eye, and I just thought ‘ooh issat a rat?’ but then it wriggled, like up and down.

Ok. Just let me have another glassful. Yea that’s better.

And now, for the life of me, I don’t know people are bloody stupid aren’t they? Especially when they coming home half pissed. I can tell myself that now, like hindsight is a wonderful thing and all. But I honestly thought it was the tail of a big rat. But it was moving all wrong, like it was.. crawling. Like the rest of the rat was stuck or something and was trying to get out backwards through the bottom of this crack, cos its not moving forward, its just sort of wriggling. Undulating.

Anyway I’m sort of standing in the road, moving out ready to walk through the narrow tunnel. But I’m stuck watching this, this thing moving in the reflection of the upright wardrobe. I can see my own puzzled ugly mug reflected in that mirror too. Trying to figure it because it seemed sort of wrong for a rat-tail. Like it had a sort of a hook on the end of it that kept catching on the tarmac. I could almost hear it scrape.

Suddenly there’s this rustling noise. And I half startle. I’ve been distracted by this wriggling thing and not noticed there’s a bleeding fox climbing out of the pile of black rubbish bags next to the upright wardrobe. And he stops and sniffs and has a good look at me. You know like foxes do when you catch them getting into the bins or crossing the road. We both sort of stand there still for a moment sizing each other up. Then he looks down, this skinny little dog fox. He’s seen the thing. I swear he cocks his head and I know what he’s going to do, he’s gonna jump down, have a sniff and gobble whatever it is up. I almost yelled ‘GERTCHA!’ cos I wanted to figure it out what the bloody hell it was. So I raised a hand, opened my gob, saw my reflection doing the same, mind. And then, well fuck. It happened really quickly. You know when you’re riding a bike and your realised you’re about to have an accident but its already happened? Yea that.

The fox jumped down and the.. the tail thing in the mirror stopped moving. Sat there all still. Like it sensed the fox was there. But when the fox sniffed it, whoosh it was gone. Vanished back into the wardrobe and the fox turned as if to go.

I realised what it was in that moment. Or maybe I saw it. I can’t. Fuck man. It just looked so, so strange and foreign, that I didn’t get it right off.

It was a finger mate. Not a rat-tail. A fucking finger.

And then whack. This, this.. hand, shot out from the gap, grabbed the fox by its hind leg and pulled it back through the gap in the bottom.

I screamed. Honestly all ‘WAAHH FUCK!’ Jumped up about 10 foot in the air too!

You know what it reminds me of? Just like a trap-door spider grabbing a beetle like you’d see on of them David Attenborough nature shows on the telly. Bang. Gone. Just a split second of something horrible and then everything is back the way it was.

But then I swear, I swear to you, that this fucking fox pops back up. Just saunters out as if by bloody magic. Coming out round the other side of the prone wardrobe like no biggie. Not a mark on ‘im! He sees me and because he hears me shouting, he’s off! Running up that tunnel as fast as he can. I watched him go all the way and slip through a fence into the bushes and he’s gone. Looking like, fine you know? Like a bleeding fox just does.

But it couldn’t be! I swear to you I saw it! I saw that fox, turn around, all snarling and vicious and watched it sink its teeth into that, that arm, just before it got hauled backwards beneath that wardrobe mirror. I close my eyes now and I can still see it. Hell I even remember the wardrobe rocking and shaking! I know for a fact I saw all that in the reflection. And then Mr Bloody Fox pops out the other side all fine and dandy? Explain that? You can’t mate.

Why I didn’t turn around and run? That’s a good question. Thinking back now, honestly mate. I think. I think cos there hadn’t been any noise? Like when I saw that fox get snatched there was no snarling banging, yipping or nothing. In fact there was literally nothing. No sound. When I remember it now I try and add the sounds but really when it got grabbed it was dead silent and that.. well mate, that just shit me up good and proper even more.

I need a top up please? Cheers.

Anyhow the fox is away dead quick and as daft as it sounds now, I started to laugh. And when I say laugh, it was that or start crying cos I must be losing my nut. You know when you just need to make a bit of noise? Reassure yourself? Yea that. So’s I looked back down the tunnel. Stood there for a long minute in the wind and its freezing cold. Then I looked back at my reflection in the wardrobe mirror.

Maybe I just imagined it. You know? Had a bit of a brain fart from all the gear I did back in me salad days? Like an acid flashback or something. I tell you though, I looked good and hard at the spot where the finger had been and nope there wasn’t a trace of nothing. Kept thinking that dark gap at the bottom looked slightly larger too. Like the shadow it cast was just a touch bigger. Though I couldn’t decide one way or the other. I kept my eye on it though. Still didn’t like it.

So what do I do? Do I walk the long way around? That was probably about about a twenty, twenty five minute walk or so. That’s the trouble around here in South London, the railway slices up the neighbourhoods so much, that you have to meander well out of your way just to get to a point that’d be just round the corner as the crow flies. Plus I live literally on the other side of that tunnel. A two minute walk at most. Did I bloody well dither though? Stood there for a good long while wondering what to do.

Of course in the end I told myself it was just my imagination. A trick of that sickly yellow sodium lamp casting funny shadows and that I was being a stupid sod just standing there freezing my bollocks off. That’s when I told myself to man up. You know your little inside voice? Well I let that give me a telling off. ‘Check it out’ it said. ‘That’s a hundred quid probably standing right there’ it said. ‘‘Go and have a look’ it said. ‘Your a big man, junkies, tramps and feral bloody youth don’t bother you’ it said. So off I went . One, two, three, four, five steps forward.

So of course like a fuckin’ muppet I walked right up to ’em didn’t I? Thought I’d have a decent butchers at the state of the glass, and if they’re cushty I’ll come back with a screwdriver tomorrow and have ’em away. Of course I did, that was the, er, how would you put it mate? The only ‘rational response’? And suddenly standing there I felt all very bloody sober and rational indeed. Gone all impatient with myself, standing around in the cold, playing spooky woo-woo with my fucking reflection and a load of old household rubbish.

Yea I’m empty again mate. Just leave the top off the bottle.

So it was maybe fifteen or sixteen steps between me and the wardrobe on the ground? I could see myself reflected pretty much every inch of the way in the upright mirrors. I kept looking at that gap, willing something to come out of it again. Even said ‘Hello?’ a few times like a plonker, just in case some nasty crack head did pop out but I don’t bloody know which way I would have run if I’d seen or heard anything!

For the last few yards I moved out of view of the reflection. Just so I could keep a bit of space between me and it like. I crept forward round the far edge of it. But then when I got up close and was looking at it directly what I saw was that there was no dark gap at the bottom at all. It wasn’t askew or nothing. The door was flush. Christ I was relieved! I even picked up a lump of wood chucked it so that it banged on the side of it. Just one big hollow thud and then silence. Empty.

So I stepped forward. Right between the two wardrobes. When I looked at my reflection in the mirrors of the upright wardrobe, the door on the one behind me swung open right behind me.

Just give me sec. Yea no I’m not good mate. You know when people tell you that it’s fight, flight or freeze? Never thought I’d be the type to do that last one. Yea just fill it to the brim this time. What did I see?

Alright. I’ll tell you.

Four ‘fingers’ splayed out on the tarmac. No thumb where it ought to be. Like just a big cat claw hooking out halfway up the wrist. Fingers like hooks. Too long for the arm. Arm too long and at a, at a.. funny angle. Elbow all bent. Ready to spring. All tensed up. Like it had been listening. Positioning itself like a cat waiting for a mouse all that time. The sound that came out of me. Christ. Proper screamed blue murder. Leapt forward and up and bang right into the mirror in front of me. Swung around to fight it off and, and.

And nothing there! The wardrobe door was still closed!

I turned back around and saw it all in the mirror. All weirdly out of synch. Those long claws grabbing my ankle and my reflection stumbled over backwards as it pounced out of the wardrobe on top of me. I went nuts. Just a blunt, blurred shadow as it come out. Flashed out and back. I went down. Or rather my reflection did. Because I was still standing there. Just watching.. this, this fucking horrible fucking thing. It fucking had me and oh Christ it’s face. Then it opened its muzzle. And god my eyes! I can’t forget my eyes! Like I’d been struck by lightning. Mate the terror you don’t know… Watching my own fucking death. I saw. I saw it. I saw me. Me! Looking up at me.

I said Help.

And then it bit down. It bit me! Reflection me! I ran up banged on the mirror. Try an.. I dunno help me out? Try an do something. Then it shook me and the blood. Gushed right out of my neck. Stood there watching it drag me back into the wardrobe. The look in my eyes. It was just… Saw the light going out in them.

Then it. It looked up at me. Real me. Not reflection me.

I ran. I’m so sorry reflection me. I fucking ran for it. I didn’t know I was making a noise till I’d screamed all the air out of my chest. And then some. That was when you heard me. I didn’t stop until I was inside here with the door bolted and the table up against the window.

I didn’t look back. Is that bad? I’m going to finish the bottle now. Fuck. You know mate? You know what the worst bit is? Sure I screamed real fucking loud. I can still hear myself echoing from one tunnel to the other. But it didn’t quite drown out the sound of breaking glass behind me.

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