The Abandoned House
I slip away, into fog and greyness, into a sphere of nothingness where there is neither time nor sensation. Next thing, I'm sitting on a damp basement floor with a glowing torchlight close by, feeling sick from all the booze, and everything's spinning round and round.
It's night time, and I'm shivering and I have no idea of where I am or how I got here. The men have all crashed out. I don't remember leaving the promenade with Angus, Bill and Terence, or anything about the walk to this damp basement room. I don't know what the hell's going on, and that's scary. I don't even know what the time is, or the day.
'Anyone awake?' I whisper.
No answer, apart from muffled snores.
I feel for my mobile in my jacket and take it out. I glance at the screen. Just after midnight. Sunday morning, December 30.
I think back to earlier. Swigging from a bottle of whisky in the shelter as the temperatures dropped further and the night thickened and the waves kept rising and crashing, rolling backwards and forwards. Then nothing. Six or seven hours completely wiped from my mind. I look around the darkened basement room. Three blokes stretched out on the floor, snoring away, their jackets serving as pillows and blankets. A boarded up window. A gas ring and a flask by a portable battery radio. Rucksacks.
I stand up and nearly topple over as the semi-lit room swings dangerously to a side, oscillating between right and left. I notice grazes and cuts on both my hands, and the connection on my phone appears to have stopped working.
Unsteadily, I tiptoe past the others, my footsteps echoing through hollow spaces in the building, my mind still a blank. The place stinks. It smells of cement and plastering and floorboards and dust, along with rotten wood and nails and mould and something like dead birds or rats. I search through an uncarpeted hallway with no wallpaper and get lost in the dark, bumping against the wall, tripping over things left on the floor.
In the darkness, a flash bursts into my mind: night, icy rain, the choppy surface of the sea, the smell of salt in the air, a boy like myself dressed in an anorak like mine, standing by the railings with a mobile phone, talking.
I tiptoe back to the main room and gently shake one of the men. 'How did I get here?'
He lets out a snore.
I shake him again. 'What happened on the promenade?' I wait for an answer, but no answer comes. 'Did someone spike my drink?'
He continues snoring.
I return to the pitch black hallway, my footsteps echoing like before, and find a side door with no lock fitted. I let myself out into a narrow alleyway, gritting my teeth as a blast of night air hits me, nearly taking my breath away. The cold comes as a shock, almost knocking me straight off my feet; a sharp dip in temperature reminiscent of snow and ice.
I struggle to remain upright as I make my way along a pathway in the dark, through rubbish and broken glass and slippery bin liners on the ground. A static stillness has fallen, matching the shapes of hedges and trees. When I reach the end of the pathway, I nearly stumble on a step, but gradually my eyes acclimatise to the darkness and the surroundings and I take several steps up to street level, allowing the outline of the wall to guide me.
I'm outside an old rundown three-storey house with the windows on all the floors boarded up and huge dustbins and privet hedges round the front, complete with an old sofa and mattress tossed down onto a lawn.