The first chapter of something I wrote at new year, kind of based on a walk I did
I had never walked this far before. I had never walked half this far before. Normally, I thought up a thousand excuses to turn around and walk away: it’s too hot, too cold; I’m hungry or thirsty; I need the toilet. Today I couldn’t even moan that my feet hurt. I’d walked a few miles but it only felt a few meters from home. I had been walking forever.
Today just felt different. Like there was something pulling me on, but I was probably imagening that. I did a lot of imagening now.
The canal twisted around a corner. The water had grown thinner, into a narrow stream, overgrown stingers climbing well off of the bank on the opposite side of the water.
I glanced behind me to check, again, if I was being followed. There was never over-caution on the canal, although I do believe there was paranoa, which I definatly had. I had this over whelming fear of being stabbed and thrown into the canal. But there was no one there.
I continued cautiously around the corner. A huge bridge stretched across the canal, which widened suddenly at it’s mouth. The bridge was, as all the others before it had been, covered in graffiti. As I got closer, I noticed the plaq placed by the council – Aon New Bridge, 1994 – and then, underneath, a hand made plaq with the words “Wipeout Bridge, 1995” sprawled in white paint which hadn’t quite dried when they hung it.
Graffiti fasinated me, even ‘Girl A loves Boy B xoxoxo’ in black marker. The ‘art’ was a sign of modern ‘respect’, the clear lack of respect for anything the council had paid for and the respect for youth in the area. I could always tell who had the most respect. It was the sprayers who covered a huge amount of space and yet no one dared spray over. I could also tell who were the gang in the area. O.G.S was sprayed on just about everything in our neighbourhood, everything ‘chrome’ hadn’t touched alrady.
The Wipeout seemed to have been completly covered by one gang – Evo Fails. Even the blackmarker tags were written by them. Their tags had covered the entire inside of the bridge on the half I was walking under. Across the bridge was mostly bare. There were six dim blocks of light, each with initials on. One, near the middle with the letters ‘C.B’ on, had been smashed. Above each light, except C.B, was a goofy cartoon character. It all looked quite effective.
I leaned against the railings alongside the canal, gazing at the paintings. I grinned.
“I bet there’s a story or two to be told here.” I whispered to myself.
“Oh’ there is.”
I spun around. At the entrance to the bridge, a tall, thin man leaned over the railings. He looked ill, his head dropping and his eyes on the water. He looked up at me, tired eyes gleaming, and grinned.
“I’m fine, by the way.”
I stood dead still. He didn’t look fine. I had only ever seen one high person in my life, so I couldn’t be sure, but he definatly wasn’t in his own mind. His hair was greasy and dripped down his shallow face. Instinctivly, I slid my new phone into the rip in my pocket, just in case.
“I used to come here all the time,” he said, as if to himself, “With the boys. A story or two? Ha! The things we got up to here. Beat sparkly vampire romance rubbish.”
“You’re one of the Evo Fails?” I asked, quietly.
“Evo Fails,” the man said, “Evolution’s Failures. Yeah, I was one. A long time ago.”
I was edging away from the Evo Fail. He seemed weird – a weird I hadn’t really seen before. But who was I to talk? I had three voices in my head, and none of them were mine.
The man pointed across the canal to C.B’s light and smiled.
“That was me,” he sighed, “Backwards.”
“Backwards?” I asked, still shuffling away.
He laughed, waving me away. He grinned, sadly, turning back to the dirty, black waters. I shuffled faster, watching Backwards all the while, but he wasn’t moving.
The railing ended, but I gripped for it. It was too late to pull away by the time I realised there was no railing and I fell straight through. Backwards grabbed my failing arm inches away from the water, but did not pull me up. I stayed there, hanging off of a complete stranger, while Backwards grinned down at me.
“I fell down there enough times,” he said, “Don’t worry about it.”
I looked down at the water and held onto Backwards tighter. Backwards laughed, pulling me up.
“We cut out the railings,” he said, “So we could get across the canal on polystyrene.”
“That’s stupid,” he muttered, looking back at the gap uncertainly.
“That’s what Rain said,” Backwards said, “But who listens to reason? Do you trust me now?”
I looked between Backwards and the gap and nodded. He accepted the lie as truth. Backwards nodded, silently, and looked down at the water. He stepped back, his face a pale grey and growing paler.
“Are you ok?” I asked quietly.
Backwards shook his head, “I need to go.”
Backwards turned to me and gave a sheepish smile, then disappeared back the way I had come. I watched him go, not sure what I should do.
Without saying anything, I turned around and carried on walking, ignoring the shouts to turn around and go after him. At the next exit, One, Two and Three joined the argument.
“Backwards?” One asked, “What kind of a name is that?”
“Maybe it’s a nickname,” Two suggested, “Maybe he was a little – you know – backwards.”
“He didn’t look backwards, thoilugh, did he?” Three observed.
“So what do you reckon the ‘C’ stands for then?” Two asked.
“What do you mean?” One asked.
“C?” Two repeated, “C.B. B obviously stands for Backwards. So what’s ‘C’ for?”
“His real name?” Three suggested, “How am I supposed to know?”
“I’m not going back, ok.” I snapped, stopping them dead.
We walked on in silence. It was only a few meters but I could tell it was killing them not to keep on. Talking, it was the only thing the three of them were good at.
Someone took a breath and I jumped in.
“I’ll go back in a minuet, ok?” I said, “He said he wasn’t ok and went. He obviously don’t want to talk.”
I walked faster, waiting for them to start complaining and loose interest in Backwards.
“Four, stop!” Two called.
I wouldn’t answer to Four. I ignored it. I wasn’t quiet sure if they knew my real name. They insisted on calling me Four.
“No, Four, stop,” One snapped.
I spun around. All three of them had hung back, halfway up the path. They looked scared to death, but they were pretty good actors.
“Four, don’t freak out.” Three said quietly.
“Turn around.” Two whispered.