The Drowned House

I’m in a chapel above a police station. People below are being interrogated. I’m here to offer evidence. Light rain falls through holes in the roof. A tv plays with the sound off. I’m not watching it. I gather my things together. Layers of waterproofs for the journey, bags within bags. I pick up a multipack of penguins from a fold out table, that my friend Fred left for me. I put them in a rucksack.

I’m outside a house in Eastern Europe. A colleague talks about moving house, but this means relinquishing some control to his neighbour. We enter the building. A film producer is leading us. We are his team.

From an observation building, we look across a flooded pit, the roofs of submerged buildings are visible, and a floating pathway extends alongside them. The producer asks us to recall our initial reactions. We’ve all been here before. As he questions and films us, the water is drained. The houses and pathway sink into a very deep hole, both were floating.

We progress down into to hole. I know that the real prize is so much farther down, accessed by an unmarked concrete manhole.

We are inside. Many small crawl spaces of to each side. One main hallway. In the floor, empty dry shells, of what look like primitive prawns. I spot something else. A piece of paper with writing and drawings on, and tiny, carefully positioned silver figures. I left them here. Drew them a story to live a safe life in, my cartoon eyes 👀 always watching over them, an omnipresent paper god, ensuring the safety of his creation.

We assemble and the producer talks. I take out my packet of penguins. I offer them around. They are dry and brittle when opened, but edible.

We are looking after children in an old building. J is on the phone. While she’s distracted, an old Russian woman comes in to collect her family’s belongings. It was not deserted. I’m worried about violence. I follow the woman outside, but she’s gone. Instead, E is walking toward me. She’s forgotten lots of equipment. I look through her colouring books for kids. On each page, a different monster for them to identify, and colour in as therapy.

I’m walking through Wolverhampton. A gang of young men abuse me and ask my age. I tell them 49. They aren’t very bright, and their insults are unimaginative and harmless, revealing more about their own root fears than mine. I jog away up the road, and lose myself in the crowd.



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