Midway Pt.4

Above ground, above the rotting caverns and the black wormy earth, dark deeds are afoot. Down a tree-lined footpath, two Municipals are dragging a man behind them, his arms shackled to theirs by tungsten ghost-cuffs. In an effort to impede the Municipal’s progress, the man has made himself limp and now he trails in the mud behind them like an oversized rag doll. Straining to turn his head to face the two jackbooted policemen, he tries to catch their gaze with a gold monocled eye. ‘Look chaps’, he says, the pointed ends of his pencil thin black moustache twitching, ‘can’t we at least talk this through first?’ The Municipals look at each other through the lenses in their gasmask helmets , reaching a mute, mutual decision, which results in them simultaneously striking the man over the head with their steel riot sticks. He stareds balefully up at them from his position on the ground: ‘It’s no bloody use doing that. I’m dead, don’t you know: kaput, brown bread, a goner. You can hit me all you like’ The Municipals raise their sticks again. ‘On second thoughts’, the man said, ‘forget that I said that. Just because I’m dead doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt.’

The Municipals look to each other and recommence their ghost-encumbered trudge down the damp earth track. The man trailing behind them digs the heels of his knee-high black boots into the mud, slowing their progress as best as he can. He wears a cobalt blue pilot’s uniform, with a gleaming silver enamel RAF pin badge at its breast. Flight sergeant’s stripes mark his shoulders. He has a white silk scarf around his neck, which, combined with his Erroll Flynn moustache and monocle, give the man an air of raffish affectation. Although his peaked officer’s cap had been set at a pleasingly jaunty angle, the bumpy journey along the path has sent it tipping over the ghost’s eyes. He purses his lips and blows ineffectually upwards, trying to arrest the cap’s downward progress. Eventually, he give sup and it falls into his lap, nestling there like an old and well-loved pet. The Municipals are oblivious to the cap’s fate. They are here to drag, then imprison the ghost held between them, with the odd beating thrown in if absolutely necessary. They are not here to make conversation, or to worry about hats. The only sound from the policemen is the harsh chirping of the radio sets on their chests, which keep up a steady fuzzy chatter of codewords and orders.

The manacled ghost gazes resignedly at the cap in his lap. “Looks like it’s just you and me old friend.” The whistful intelrude is broken by a brutal yank upwards as his blackshirted guards hoist him to his feet. “END OF THE LINE” one of them says, his mechanical voice devoid of feeling or interest. The Municipal gestures towards a heavy iron door set into a cliff face in the clearing that marks the path’s end. The two policemen make quick work of releasing the airman from his cuffs. They take out their riot sticks, with a speed and grace born of in-depth training and pride in a job well done, even if that job does, for the most part, revolve around hitting people with heavy metal truncheons. The ghost gulps, suddenly looking small and uncomfortable in his uniform. The Municipals inspect him through cold gasmask eyes. Nervously shuffling backwards, the airman finds himself backed against the metal door, its bolts pressing into his back. A thoughtful look crossed his face and he thrusts an arm into the air, waving his index finger about in decisive circles. “Aha!” He says, pointing to each of the policemen in turn. “Aha! Do you know what? do you know what? I have just the thing. Maybe…” He reaches inside his flight jacket, “…this might change your mind.” He waves a fistful of pound notes and cigarette cartons in front  of the Municipals. They are unmoved by this. The ghost continues: “So, not smokers then? Not to worry. There’s plenty more where that came from.” From a seemingly infinite space in his jacket, he produces a bottle of scotch and several pairs of silk stockings, dropping the cigarettes and money to the ground. Again, the Municipals are unimpressed. One of them grunts impatiently, steaming up his gasmask visor. With a simultaneous movement, the two guards step forward and grip the airman by the shoulders. “Alright chaps”, he stammers, desperation creeping into his voice, “maybe I can interest you in a watch?” He shakes open his flight jacket to reveal row after row of timepieces: wristwatches, fob watches, pocket watches, even carriage clocks, all dangling from the scarlet lining in neat rows. This attempt at bribery goes down even worse than the preceding ones. With barely disguised contempt, one of the Municipals opens the iron door, then the other one hurls the airman through the opening.

He is enveloped by a complete and suffocating blackness. Feeling around in his uniform jacket, the ghost pulls out a silver Zippo cigarette lighter and flicks the flame into life. In the flickering orange fire-light, he sees a sign above the metal doorway. Written in austere black stencilled capitals it reads, simply:

WELCOME TO SHORT BROTHERS SEAPLANE CO. FACTORY #1. PLEASE MIND YOUR HEAD.

Looking around , the airman finds himself in a small square concrete chamber. In the middle of its floor is a shaft. Down the shaft runs an iron runged ladder. With nothing better to do and nowhere else to go, the airman shrugs and begins to climb down the ladder, rung by rung, down to an unimaginable depth.

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About andrewday82

My psychoanalyst thinks I'm perfectly right. View all posts by andrewday82

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