London – Saturday Night, Sunday Morning by Garry Crystal

Roadside Fiction

Candles for Sant’Agata

Photo by John P Brady

 
 

‘London – Saturday Night, Sunday Morning’ by Garry Crystal

 

Why am I in King’s Cross again?

The taxi driver had said something about not going south of the river but there are no trains at this time of the night from here. Maybe a late night pub will be open. And then I see it. A line of people by the side of what looks like a warehouse. I join the small queue of people being let in to the building two at a time. There is no sign outside of the entrance to say if this is a nightclub and when I get to the door the man simply asks for five pounds entrance fee.

Entrance to what?

“Can I get a drink in here?”

“Drinks just inside the door.”

The entrance corridor is pitch black and I practically bump up against another man standing with crates of tins containing alcohol of some sort. He also has a stand with bottles of spirits with measures hooked to the top of it.

“What do you want mate?” Says a voice with a face hidden in darkness.

“Just a can of lager.”

“Nope, no lager, got cans of cider.”

I buy two cans and he tells me to proceed up the pitch black stairway. This is obviously an abandoned warehouse, there are no carpets on the wooden stairs, no wallpaper or paint on the exposed brick walls and there is absolutely no lighting whatsoever.

“What you waiting on man? Get going. People is waiting here.”

I proceed slowly up the stairs in the darkness, trying to adjust my eyes to see something, anything, my arms out in front of me, guiding myself by the wall. After climbing the first flight in complete darkness and now moving onto the second flight I begin to make out figures on the staircase.

I can see people lining the stairs, their faces illuminated for a split second by the flame from the lighters they are flicking on and off. I glimpse their faces looking at me for no more than a second and then darkness again. This is similar to walking through the haunted houses that were always the highlight of any carnival arriving in town when I was a child. I continue climbing and climbing the flights of stairs. How high does this go and where is it leading to? As I climb higher and higher I can still see the faces, the flames of the lighters illuminating men and women for only an instant. Eventually, finally, a darkened landing appears and I grope my way to a door that once opened leads to an immense wooden warehouse floor.

Once inside I take in the view of what looks like hundreds of people filling the floor, no music, just people sitting, drinking, talking, sleeping and shooting up. A couple are having sex by one of the huge windows that line one side of this cavernous room. The woman has her hands against the sheet of glass while the guy pushes into her from behind. No one else seems to be watching this, no one cares at all, it’s no big deal, the other people are just content to occupy their little spaces on the warehouse floor, oblivious to anything else going on, happy to zone out.

I sit down after finding a space and open one of the cans of cider.

What the fuck am I doing here?

I look around and see a woman cradling a baby in her arms and as I stare at her, wondering why anyone would bring a child here, two pairs of legs appear in my line of focus. I don’t look up.

“What are you so happy about man?” Comes the male voice.

Am I smiling? I didn’t realise. I don’t answer and there is silence for a few seconds.

“If we ask nicely can we have one of your cans of cider?” Says the other male voice. The voices sound familiar to me, South London, Jamaican fake but given my state of mind I have no intention of answering or looking up at their faces.

“Ah come on man, he’s fucked, let’s go.”

And with that they are gone.

I sit alone once more staring into space until the early morning light begins to creep through the huge windows, over the wooden floors, like fingers creeping over the near comatose people covering the floor, almost reaching the spot in which I am sitting. I don’t want the morning light to reach me so I push myself up and through the door and once on the landing I see another flight of stairs heading upwards, and from somewhere, I hear music.

There are no people with lighters guiding my way this time as I proceed once again up the narrow dark stairs but now I’m being guided by the muffled music that becomes slightly louder the higher I climb. The stairs end abruptly at a white door and music floats through from the other side. I can either leave now and get out of here or I can continue through this door to the next level like some sort of drugged up game show contestant.

I push the door open.

The room is tiny, windowless and similar to an attic flat. A man stands behind DJ decks and music pours out of the huge speakers. Torches are attached to ropes hung from the ceiling, illuminating different sections of the small room as they swing from side to side when pushed by people. There are about 10 people in the room, male and female, some topless, dancing in the middle of the wooden floor in front of the DJ. No one turns round when I enter, no one acknowledges that I am here, they simply continue to dance as I once again find a corner, sit down and swallow another tab of E, washing it down with my second can of cider. The music sounds good, it’s pounding through my body, I have this feeling that I am smiling as I watch the people in front of me emitting light trails behind them as they dance and jump around the floor, illuminated by the swinging torches. The alcohol is keeping me balanced but I know I’m too high.

Too high for what?

Isn’t this an opportunity taken?

Sophia’s line that I was an empty book waiting on someone writing the pages for me comes back to me. Didn’t I see a door and proceed through it without thinking first? Isn’t this what life is about? New experiences? Can you see this Sophia? You didn’t write these pages for me, I’m here, writing pages for myself.

The dancing people look happy, this is all they want at this moment. They decided they wanted to dance tonight and made it happen and hundreds of people came, and I came and that’s the point. Maybe this is where the workers bees end up at night, dancing in warehouses around London. But I have to leave them at some point, I have to get home, I’m going to be in New York on holiday in two days. I need to leave.

Get up off the floor.

Now!

I shuffle slowly over a bridge, I don’t know which bridge this is or how I wound up moving from south of the river to north. I feel as if I’ve been walking for hours but it must still be early judging by the absence of people. I have severe brain freeze and aching feet. All I want to do is find a cash machine but even after wandering for what feels like hours but may actually only be around thirty minutes I still can’t find one and I gave my last five pounds to get into that warehouse.

At the end of the bridge I climb down the stairs towards an embankment and start to walk along by the river wall.

Four people, two couples, are walking in front of me, chatting amongst themselves as if out on an evening stroll by the Thames. They are well dressed, wrapped up in long overcoats, scarves and hats to protect themselves against the morning chill. They look middle aged and the four of them stop and throw their heads back and laugh when one of says something that I cannot make out. The four stop and stand by the wall, looking out at the view over the Thames, arms around each other’s waists, drinking some sort of clear liquid from what looks like champagne glasses. They don’t look or see me as I pass by behind them but I stop as my gaze is caught immediately by something I have never seen before and which takes a few seconds to comprehend what exactly I am looking at.

In front of me, stretching as far as I can see is a line, a line made up of bodies lying by a wall. I realise from the snoring and coughing and whispering that these people, in sleeping bags or under cardboard boxes, are actually sleeping here by the river, have been sleeping here all night and I stand transfixed by this sight as the two couples once again overtake me, move on in front of me, laughing and sipping intermittently from their champagne glasses, completely oblivious or intentionally ignoring the sleepers in the open air by the River Thames on this freezing November morning. And then I too move on, following slowly behind the two couples but looking down now and again at the various faces as the four in front of me continue to chatter amongst themselves on their early morning stroll.

My feet are now fucked.

I cannot go on. I’d give all my cash for a cash machine. I just want to get home to some warmth and safety and something to drink and my duvet and…

“You need a ride?”

A taxi appears in front of me, the driver looking out of the side window shouting over to me.

“Hey man you need a taxi?”

Pushing myself off the wall I have been leaning against I cautiously peer through his window.

“Look I don’t have any money. I’ve been trying to find a cash machine.”

“Don’t worry about it, get in son.”

Climbing into the front seat, I thank the man and we set off.

“Where do you live son? You look as though you’ve had a rough night?”

“Wandsworth. I’ve run out of cash, which is why I’m trying to find a cash machine.”

“Wandsworth okay,” he says, “I’ll drop you off at the bus stop that takes you to Wandsworth no problems.”

“Yeah but look I have no money, I can’t even pay the bus fare until I get a cash machine.”

“Man, I’ll give you the bus money,” he sighs, shaking his head, “it’s okay, just get home.”

“Thanks.” I decide to ask, “Why are you being so nice? This seems a bit unusual.”

“Shit son. I’ve got kids not that much younger than you. I’d hate to think of them wandering about not able to get home.”

This saviour parks across from the bus stop just east of Trafalgar Square, rakes in his bag and hands me some change.

“Just get yourself home okay.”

“Thanks. I really appreciate this, thanks a lot.”

He waves and I watch him drive off, and the line regarding angels in the city comes to me, even in this city. Right on cue the bus to Wandsworth pulls up to the stop. I’ll be home in thirty minutes. A nice warm bus ride home and then bed.

I look down at the change in my hand and realise there isn’t enough money for the bus.

But it’s the thought that counts right?

 

Did you like the story? Opinions? Praise? Please leave a comment below

 

Bio:

Garry C
Garry Crystal is a freelance writer living in Scotland. His short stories and articles have appeared in print and online including Expats Post, The Andirondack Review, Turnrow Journal and Orato. His first novel Leaving London is available on Amazon. Follow this link
Garry Crystal’s website
 
 

 

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4 Responses to London – Saturday Night, Sunday Morning by Garry Crystal

  1. Great story Garry, your writing flows nicely

    • Thanks Marc, glad you liked it. Looking forward to reading all the stories in this issue.

  2. Very nice. I’ve had nights like these…wandering in and out of unwelcoming places and waking up the next day thanking the angels I didn’t pass out in the wrong place. I felt this peripheral element of danger in the story without you ever coming out and saying, “I was too high to defend myself and things could have gone bad.”

    Thanks for the read.

  3. garreth keating

    Enjoyed this, good sense of confusion and vague danger, well done

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