Diary of the Displaced

The Journal of James Halldon

It has to start somewhere…

I have no idea where I am, and I don’t know what day it is. I could guess at how much time has passed since I arrived here, but other than that, I’m lost.

It was January, I think. The 8th sounds about right to me, but I’m not sure.

I’m trying to write down everything that has happened so far, otherwise this isn’t going to make any sense to anyone but myself, if it even makes sense at all. Not that I’m expecting anyone else to read this, but you never know, do you?

Do I fill in the previous days with notes, or put it all in today’s entry?

I settled on the latter. Thought it would seem disjointed, otherwise.

So here we go, I guess.

Two days ago

I remember coming round. It was dark, very dark. I could vaguely make out some shapes around me, but not much else. I was lying on something uncomfortable, or several things. It all seemed to shift and collapse under my weight. My head hurt, and I knew that there were bruises all over me. I could feel them. How I got them, I have no idea.

It took a while to get over the initial panic. I scrambled around blindly, trying to find something solid in the mass of crap that was shifting underneath me. I clumsily cracked my knee on something hard and metal. It was large, maybe the size of a microwave or a television, but it was difficult to tell what it was in the dark. I nearly screamed as the agony seemed to shoot round my whole body, which was already aching from the mysterious bruises. In the end, I lay there for a long time, trying desperately to stay as still as possible, rolled up in a ball and gritting my teeth, waiting for the pain to abate.

I felt my pockets, but my cigarette lighter was nowhere to be found. The only damn source of light available to me, and it had gone. I did find cigarettes, wallet, car keys, a pen, and a packet of mints, but no lighter and no mobile phone. I tried to search the ground around me, stumbling over whatever all the stuff was, but that turned up nothing. I’m certain I had a lighter and a phone.

My hands were cold and numb, although the place didn’t feel that cold. There was air coming from somewhere, a breeze with a chill to it that smelt musty, mouldy, rank and somehow old.

Negotiating my way through the debris was slow going, but after an hour or so of crawling in the dark, I found a solid barrier. It was a wall of some sort; at least that is what it felt like, but it was hard to tell in nearly complete darkness. I must have crawled about a hundred yards in that time and I had lost all sense of direction.

I sat holding my head until a wave of dizziness passed. Exhaustion weighed heavily on me, but it was a relief to find something solid as a reference. Hopefully my eyes would adjust soon, and I would be able to figure out where I was.

In the end, sleep overcame me. I don’t remember it happening. I guess my body had just switched off.

Total shutdown.

One day ago

When I awoke I was leaning against the wall, and my whole body was crying out with aches and pains. Where was I? What had happened to me? It took me a few moments to recall the last day or so. I tried standing up but my legs were numb. I could have just stayed there and moaned, but I could see where I was now. Fear always wins, it would seem.

My eyes had adjusted to the level of light. Not much but it was enough to make things out nearby, to see shapes and shadows. Details weren’t clear.

All around me was a mass of junk, twisted and broken furniture, scattered books and children’s toys, all damp and rotten. A few feet away stood a monolith of a refrigerator that looked like it must have been fifty years old, its doors missing. There was something nasty growing on the inside. Endless piles of junk. I shuddered to think about what might be crawling underneath it all.

Then there was the wall. My assumptions had been right, to some degree. It was made of solid stone blocks and extremely old. The blocks were at least three feet long and about a foot tall. The material was like slate, and the rough edges felt sharp. There was no visible cement between them, just a thin groove. Those bricks, if you could call them that, had to weigh a tonne. They were like nothing I had ever seen. In the limited light, it looked like the wall went on and on in both directions. Upwards, there was no sign of the top of the wall, or a ceiling of any kind, just darkness.

I called out a few times but there wasn’t much of an echo, only a dull and hollow sound. I was convinced that I had to be in a building of some kind.

All I had to eat was the half empty packet of mints, so I was getting hungry. They tasted strange somehow, but I put that down to my mouth feeling like I’d been chewing on sandpaper.

Felt like crap, so I lay there for most of the day. I couldn’t sleep, and even resting didn’t make the tiredness go away.

Woke up and finally felt a bit more alive, managed to retrace my crawl through the rubbish, approximately, until I found what I thought was the microwave again.

Found my lighter! It was about a foot away from the microwave, under a table covered with broken glass. Underneath that was a pile of cardboard boxes and my lighter. Searching for it took me a while, and I had nearly given up, but then I put my hand straight on it.

It didn’t work, must have run out of fuel, though it was wet, so that may have stopped the flint. Don’t know. I never considered how they work.

Day 3

So this is where I am so far. After two days of mostly sleeping in the dark and feeling ill, lethargic, and hungry, I’m nearly ready to keel over. The mints didn’t last long, and they just left me feeling even hungrier than before. I know I’ve slept a lot, so there is a possibility that I’m actually on day four, even five. All of this doesn’t seem to matter, though.

Lack of food is going to become a problem soon. My stomach is churning and making some very odd noises.

My lighter works now that it has dried out.

Found this journal. It was stuffed into a box not far from the cardboard pile. I was so close to throwing it on the fire, along with anything else I’ve found that is flammable, but hesitated, which I’m glad of. I decided that I would write in it instead. I used to keep a diary at home, and I wrote in that every day, well, nearly every day, so it’s nice to be able to record stuff again. My pen still works.

There appear to be pages torn out of the front of the diary, so it starts in February. But since I don’t know the exact date for sure, that doesn’t seem to matter.

So. The fire. I gathered up the pile of cardboard this morning. Yes, I know, there is no way to know what time it is, but I’m referring to the early part of my waking hours as morning, just to keep me sane.

There were piles of it, a lot of it wet or rotten, scattered all over among the junk. With a bundle of it tucked under one arm, I headed back over to the wall, taking it slowly and only using the lighter occasionally, just to get my bearings. It takes at least ten minutes of sitting there in the dark for my eyes to re-adjust.

Even with the light from the clipper, the top of the wall isn’t visible, and neither are the ends of the wall in either direction.

There was a decent sized area cleared now, where I had slept for the last two nights. I threw most of it back over the junk, as far as I could chuck it, which isn’t very far, because my muscles burn in protest every time I try to do anything even slightly strenuous.

The ground in here is mud and stones, so this place hasn’t been used in a while.

The cardboard on the top of the pile that I had made was reasonably dry, and caught fire quite quickly. When it did, I was given a glimpse of something that I wasn’t expecting. I stood there for about five minutes, trying to take it all in.

To start with, I guessed that I wasn’t inside a building. This place is much bigger than that, unless it’s an exceptionally large building.

Stretching out for probably two hundred feet, there was endless junk strewn across the mud floor. It wasn’t just a small pile of rubbish. The stuff went on and on, and was piled much higher than my head in many places.

The wall wasn’t a part of a building of any kind. It was a free standing thing, about a hundred feet high, crumbling into ruin in different places. In one direction it ends about two hundred feet away, collapsing into rubble, but in the other direction it goes on for what seems like forever.

The light from the cardboard seems to reach a lot further than I had expected. This is good. It gives me space. Somehow I think that light travels farther than it should in this place. I’m not certain how that works, but it’s strange. Even a tiny glow illuminates quite a large area. Maybe it’s my eyes?

I had only just begun to get a grasp of where I was when the fire started to die out. The cardboard had burned through quickly, and as the fire started to die down, I rushed about, trying to find some more fuel to keep it going, but only found more cardboard. At least it gave me enough light and a bit more time to explore the junkyard while I searched for better fuel.

There were bits of broken furniture scattered about, but most of it was rotten or wet and I didn’t think it would burn well. I piled some nearby anyway, hoping it would dry out. Does wood take a long time to dry out? I’ve no idea.

An hour later, after ten more piles of cardboard and an assortment of broken furniture, I found it.

A pile of logs.

Big ones with some of their branches still on them.

Someone must have cut up and dumped the majority of an entire tree there, maybe even more than one. Fortunately, a lot of it was dry and cracked, as though it had been sitting there for a long time. I cleared a bigger space surrounding my bonfire, stacking up the smaller logs that were easy to carry at the edge of the clearing.

It took another hour to move the logs to my makeshift camp, between keeping the fire going and lugging the heavy bits of trunk. Some of it was far too bulky for me to drag, so I left it where it was.

I called out into the darkness again, still no answer. I’ve tried this a few times now, but nothing comes back, not even my own cries. I’m starting to think that I am a long way from other people. Where could this place be? Underground? Surely this isn’t under the city? You can’t hide a place like this, can you?

Feeling very weak.

Day 4

Woke up ravenously hungry.

It’s my fourth day without food or water, so I’m really not feeling good at all. I’m losing weight quite rapidly now. Thank God for that extra Christmas-holiday fat. I would never have been able to lose weight like this normally.

The campfire had gone out while I slept, but there was still a large pile of logs, at least enough not to run out in a hurry.

Lit the fire again, and then made a torch out of a piece of furniture leg and a torn piece of cloth from the remains of a sofa. I needed to find food, and fast, so I headed further out into the junkyard with my torch in hand.

The microwave isn’t a microwave at all. It’s this strange, seemingly solid block of metal. Well, it appears to be metal. It doesn’t open. Well, not in any way that I can see. There’s no door or handle, or anything like that, just a solid block. I tried moving it, out of curiosity more than anything, but there was no way I was going to budge it without help.

I spent most of the day clearing the area near my camp. Once more I tried to find something edible, with no luck.

Day 5

Found something to drink! There was a stack of fizzy drink cans underneath the wreckage of an old wardrobe, about sixty cans of it. It’s nasty, cheap cola, but at least it’s wet and gives me some energy. I think the cans are quite out of date, but even though the taste is a bit odd, just like the mints were, it still feels good going down. Stopped after I drank the third can. I need to make them last.

The wardrobe drawer proved useful to carry the cans back to camp.

There is so much junk scattered all over the place. It makes me wonder where the hell it all came from, and who put it there. Was this some half-used underground landfill site that was long abandoned?

Now that I’ve got a bit of energy, I’ve started to build a sort of temporary shelter. I need to have a base to work out of; this place is pitch black, and if I end up stuck in the middle of nowhere, in the dark with no way to find my way back to my supplies, I’m dead. It may sound crazy, staying here and setting up camp. I keep thinking that I should up and move on, keep walking, that soon I would find a way out. But there is something in the back of my mind telling me that it would be a bad idea, that escape isn’t only a few hundred yards away.

But what if I’m wrong? What if just round the corner there is some hidden exit that I haven’t yet seen?

Made a rough sack out of some old curtains I found.

Still haven’t found my phone.

The fizzy drink is four years out of date. I found a readable consume-by date on one of the cans. I’ll never turn my nose up at cheap fizzy drinks again, ever.

Day 6

Lots to write today, but where to start?

The day began with a stint collecting more wood, breaking bits of furniture that I have found, and carrying it back. I’m taking it slowly, well aware that cans of fizzy drink are not bad for energy, but without any food, I’m not running on full batteries.

I found a stack of chairs, dozens of them, all made of solid wood and nearly new. It’s bizarre what you find in this place. I used them with the curtain material, and managed to make a batch of torches that I can easily carry with me. They don’t burn for long, though.

Kept one of the chairs to sit on.

The first sounds came while I was hauling a broken sofa back to the camp, a task that is not easy while holding a torch. I was dragging it along with one hand, making my way one yard at a time, when I heard the sound cut through the noise that I was making.

It scared the hell out of me. A howl, quite a distance away, though it is hard to tell in this place, where nothing echoes properly. It didn’t sound like any dog I have come across, and I’ve never heard anything else howl. Do foxes howl? The sound was much too deep to be a dog, almost how I imagined that a wolf would sound, but we don’t have wolves in England, do we? I don’t think we do.

The howl was answered by another one, this time much further away. I wasn’t sure of the direction the noise was coming from, or even the exact distance.

I finished dragging the sofa back to the camp and leaned it against the wall, until I could clear an area for it. My torch was nearly out at this point, its last flickers nearly dying as I stuffed some cardboard onto the fire.

The howling had stopped.

Panicking, not wanting to lose the fire, I fumbled with the torch and managed to get the flames going again. There was a lot of smoke at first, but finally it went up in one giant whoosh.

There it was, five yards away, teeth bared at me, growling. I knew by its reaction that I was saved only by the campfire; the minute the area was flooded with light again, the creature screeched. It was a high, piercing sound, like a siren, like it had been hurt. It belted away through the junkyard, yelping, to disappear into the darkness. It only took a couple of seconds. The creature moved at a speed I could only imagine. It must have been going thirty miles an hour through the piles of junk. I hate to think what it could move like on flat terrain, without any obstruction.

I’ll describe it as best I can, but it’s not like anything I have ever seen, and I only got a brief look at it while having what felt like a heart attack. I panicked and nearly fell on my backside in the fire as I tried to back away from it.

Take a large dog, such as a Rottweiler, and mix it about half and half with a tiger or a panther. Give that a mouth of teeth twice the size they should be, cover it with grey and brown spiky hair, and lots of what look like scars, and you have roughly what just bared its teeth at me. I would swear that there were bits of flesh hanging off it, or its fur was all torn.

The eyes, they were huge, and they didn’t look natural. At least not to me, they didn’t. Maybe the thing is accustomed to being in the dark? I presume this from the way it reacted to the light.

How something like that has developed is unfathomable. Is that the right word? There is nothing that I am aware of that is like it. It must be indigenous to this place, wherever this is. That reinforces my belief that I’m a long way from any place I know. Damn, I don’t know if I’m even on Earth any more. You read stories about people vanishing, and folk tales of travel to other places, but they are stories, aren’t they?

I’m going to keep the fire burning continuously now, if I can.

I think I’m going to need a weapon.