On my knees and clinging on
I leave him to it, reeling in his catch… I can see the cassette body itself gigging and twitching about 40 feet below… slowly being drawn in.
TaLx isn’t coming. I’m at once relieved and disappointed.
I look out across Dungeness, with its flat expanse of gravel strafed with pylons and broken machinery. The power station stands as a punctuation point at the end of the headland – the artist community, the huts, the feeble tourists attractions all stand in (context) of its scale and brooding intent. A narrow rail track feeds it… running from Lydd across the flatlands and into the belly of the reactor.
One of the line’s perplexingly small trains emerges from the side of the building; tiny and toy like – it looks like a tourist attraction… a joke.
Travis joins me, he’s bundled the tape into a ziplock bag – and tucked it under the harm.
TRAVIS: You notice how it’s nearly always empty on the way in… and yet they’ve always got a full house coming out.
CORNELIUS: You’d think it would be the other way round.
On this occasion the carriages are crowded, the passengers in cream white T Shirts, cramped into miniature open sided carriages… sitting in neat silent rows… facing forward hands on knees. Except one, at the back… a large figure in dark clothing who stands out… dark clothing with a mass of hair streaming down his back… hair that falls in thick clumps. Like dreadlocks.
This figure… this huge ungainly figure…
Who doesn’t fit in… in his long dirty black coat, with straggling hair… the huge fat figure of-
CORNELIUS: – Barney! Travis that’s Barney on the train.
It can’t be anyone else.
And we both turn and run as hard and as fast as we possibly can – spinning round the tower – hurling ourselves down the steps – stumbling and tripping and forcing our into the open air… and then running hard across the open ground. I’m starting to leave Travis behind – maybe I’m more desperate, maybe I’m fitter – but he’s not at my shoulder.
I hear a cry behind me and swing my head round – Travis is on the ground – on the ground and being kicked – being kicked by the two men who were laughing at us – the two men from my party…
Micro-quiff looks up and points at me – grey hair steps away from Travis’ body and they both start after me… chasing me as I chase the train that is now puttering further and further from me… The train slows at a level crossing – not halting but at least slowing to a creep and I begin to gain on it as the others gain on me… I hear its engine wind up again – it shudders and begins to accelerate. I’m close now – so are they…
HOOKLAM: Have at him Mr Dudley!
DUDLEY: Indeed Mr Hooklam he’ll soon be ours!
HOOKLAM: Oh he’s running like a young buck…
DUDLEY: … but the hounds will have their day.
The train is leaving me. It’s shuddering away but I’m so- so close. I kick back hard on my left foot and myself forward, catching hold of the back carriage. I’ve only got it with one hand – the train is accelerating – my knees are scraping and ripping – I pull myself up… haul myself and topple onto the back seat – onto the lap of a matronly woman… who looks at me with casual disinterest. I’m bundled half onto the floor and half out of the open sided carriage…
CORNELIUS: Shit sorry… sorry.
I’m flipping around and desperately spasming in my attempts to hang on, she doesn’t do anything to help me – or chastise me – she looks down on me with a gaze that is distant and cold and disinterested. Like a fishes eyes but with more mascara.
I’m on my knees now – and scanning along the train – Barney was in the front, I’m 15 carriages back. I consider working my way along the outside of the train – and then look at my bleeding knees and the ripped palms of my hands… I decide to wait. Holding onto the outside of one carriage is enough… I look behind but quiff and grey hair are nowhere to be seen. Neither is Travis.
We’re passing low slung houses, dulled out rows of indentikit bungalows – deadening and 1950s styled… the train is slowing – pulling up amongst them – there doesn’t seem to be a formal station but we seem to be pulling to a stop.
Suddenly the woman jerks into life.
MATRONLY WOMAN: Excuuuuse me.
CORNELIUS: Sorry what…
MATRONLY WOMAN: I think… I think ahh ah ah you’ve hurt me…
She’s clutching her knees, which I know I sort of landed on but really I most bounced off her bosum.
MATRONLY WOMAN: Owwww ouch ouch… what are you doing?
I mean yes I landed on her but there is no way that I could have hurt her that much.
MATRONLY WOMAN: Ah ah I think you’ve broken something…
The train is starting up again.
CORNELIUS: I mean I’m not sure – I’m sorry but I can’t see how I can have hurt you that much.
MATRONLY WOMAN: Oh my god I don’t think I can walk.
I can’t believe this… I look away in despair and flick my eyes down the train. Barney has gone.
MATRONLY WOMAN: I need a doctor… you’ve got to help me.
I can’t see him – as the train begins to pick up speed I swing my head around and catch sight of an oversized shambling figure sauntering through the concreted and empty streets.
The woman is looking at me with a mixture of intensity and anger… I think for a moment she is going to hit me.
I take a decision and drop backwards from the train – the O of her shocked mouth disappearing as I fall…
I land and roll into a messy heap – I’ve smacked the back of my head – I’m dazed… I get to my knees and look around. No sign of Barney.
I hobble run as far as I can, which isn’t very… a hundred yards or so and then stop… the road to my right leads to a patch of scrubland… at the end of which there incongruously rises a wall – a long curved wall… and silhouetted against this is Barney.