Midway Pt.7

In the city above, the Great Development continued apace. Retail units, high rise housing and office spaces shot up as the old Victorian grime gave way to spearmint-fresh glass, concrete and brushed steel monoliths. It was clean, people noted, it was nice and all the open spaces and cameras made them feel awfully safe. It was a shame to see the old industrial revolutionary factories pulled down, it was a pity that the castle had to pay its own way by covering its walls in video advertising boards; it was worse still that the cathedral was being used for business conferences, motivational speeches and team building exercises that involved rounds of paintball and rope bridge building in the chancel and the nave. Sacrifices had to be made, taxes had to be kept down and investment attracted, otherwise the city would sink into the mire. The authority were very clear on this point. Even when the costs of all the demolitions, all the half-hearted archaeological surveys and the operation to clear up the ghosts had been factored in, the savings and advantages of the Great Development were made clear to all.

Some of the costs were subtler though and less evident at first. It started with tiny details: people got lost on the way to work. They started forgetting things. The older city dwellers especially started to feel a vague, creeping sense of unease amongst all the shiny high sided buildings, like something was watching them and creeping gradually into the spaces they had called their own. The incidents in the city began to get stranger and  more pronounced. Some of them were downright alarming. Parents woke their children at midnight on Saturday to take them to the sites of long demolished schools. Boats sailed into the sides of riverside apartments where the docks had once been. Mourners turned up at the cathedral’s graveyard to find all the headstones had been replaced with cheery billboards advertising special offers on corporate lunches.  There was a great grumbling amongst the city’s  people. they felt lost and ignored, suddenly aware that they might have lost more than just old buildings when all the demolition and construction had taken place. But the Authority’s spokespeople pointed to the science park, to the innovation centre, to the seven story multiplex cinema and explained, slowly and patiently, the benefits of the Development: all the new places to shop, all the new money coming in, al the nice, well spoken and dressed people who had moved into the riverside high rises. These were the markers of a town on the move. The people would soon come around, if only they’d make the effort to see what was being done for them. The city’s people hung their heads, admitted they’d been wrong and set their alarms for 11:30pm on Saturday so their children wouldn’t be late for school.

***

Down in the tunnels, friendships are forming and alliances are being made. After a lot of scowling and pointed remarks, Jack gets over his initial reticence about Johnson. They are both ex-servicemen and they bond over tales of incompetent NCOs, dirty barracks-room jokes and stories of drunken nights on the town. Kate is pleased to see them getting on so well and cooks enormous bully beef and spam suppers to celebrate. The three of them get roaring drunk on 1945 vintage brandy and play epic games of cribbage, blackjack and gin rummy, regaling each other with gambling stories and joining in uproarious choruses of old parlour  songs. The tunnels ring again with the sound of joyous spectral voices. To Jack and Kate it seems that in Johnson they have found a friend who understands what it is to be a ghost, someone to shed a new light on their meagre life below ground, someone to recognise and witness their love. Johnson tells them that they’re a perfect match, a delightful, charming couple. Jack stops eyeing Johnson suspiciously around Kate and starts taking him out on his explorations of the factory chambers.  He and Johnson take out tape measures and compasses and start to use their military know-how to produce a huge, sprawling map of the tunnels, which they mark out in charcoal on the top of the occasional table. Kate marvels at how Johnson brings Jack out of himself. Jack enjoys the good-spirited complements that Johnson pays Kate on her dress and demeanour. For his part, Johnson tells Jack and Kate that he is heartily glad of the company after being locked up and rough-housed by the municpals for so long.

As jolly as their new life is  though, all three are aware of how quickly things can start to close in them. They know through bitter experience just how swiftly things can turn sour. Jack, Kate and Johnson’s shared plight draws them close together into something like friendship. There are, however, two unspoken rules in their new understanding: no-one questions what it is that keeps the three of them in existence.

And no-one talks about the great darkness in their past.

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About andrewday82

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

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