The Tunnel

When I was 17 I went out with a girl, Justine, who lived in Hedworth, really an extended part of Jarrow, which was about 2 miles, as the crow flies, from my house.  Justine was actually called Dawn, but liked to call herself Justine, for some reason. I never got to find out why, despite asking on a few occasions, but there you go, that was her prerogative! She had shoulder length dark hair, a cheeky smile and big brown eyes that contained an elusive and naughty glint in the sides. Anyway, she used to come over to my house now and then, but was only allowed to do so when my mother was in. She almost always brought her friend in any case, so we very rarely got any time alone. I was allowed to sit in her house, but wasn’t allowed to go anywhere apart from the front room and spent every night chatting with her dad, a rugby prop forward and twice the size of me, who seemed to quiz me on literature and music, but always failed to catch me out. I needed to still try and get out with my mates as well, as much as I could as nights like this were ok, but would have driven me madder if I didn’t escape from them all now and then!

One night after a few quiet drinks in Jarrow with my mates, we were quiet, but the drinks were even quieter, I decided to get the bus to Justine’s despite not arranging to see her or her dad. I hopped off the bus with a plan in my head. As I came towards her house I could see that the lights were all off. I kind of knew that would be the case, so I was able to set my plan into motion. There was no fence or gate around the garden, just bushes and hedges and a concrete path leading to the front door. Directly over the front door was her bedroom. I only knew that because she she’d told me. I’d never actually been allowed in! I stood beside one of the big, round and well trimmed bushes. I’m no horticulturalist, but this was one of the round ones, well trimmed and taller than me. That was the point, because I wanted to stay hidden. I popped my head out and started off with a call to get her attention.

“Pssst. Psssssst! PSSSSSSSSSST!”

Nothing. Not a movement, not a sausage. Why anyone would want a sausage in these situations is beyond me. Come to think of it, I was always quite hungry after a couple of pints, so a sausage would have been quite welcome. I had more pressing matters to attend to other than my stomach, though. The loud whispers weren’t working, so I moved onto Plan B. I picked up a few small pieces of dried up soil from the garden border and carefully threw them, underarm, at Justine’s bedroom window. That would do the trick I thought as I ran back behind the bush. I peaked my head out to watch her sleepily open the window, before beckoning me to climb up to her boudoir in full Shakespearean style. I didn’t have doublet and hose on, though, just jeans and a t-shirt, but I didn’t think she’d mind. I peaked, moved my head out further to look, grinning as I watched for the slightest movement. Nothing!

I tried Plan B again, but with bigger pieces of soil. Nothing! Nada! I needed something that would make more noise. I scrambled around the edges of the pathway and pavement for some small stones. I collected a dozen, or so and stood in position and repeated Plan B, but with just one stone. Still nothing! Once again, nothing! Nowt! I wasn’t really thinking other than to keep going, getting louder and louder, to eventually wake her up. I did, however, decide to change my style of throw and utilised the rest of the stones I had in my hand. I threw them quite hard, but not hard enough to put the window through. That would be a disaster! As I was running back to my vantage point, behind the bush, I saw that curtains had been opened to see what was going on. However, they weren’t the curtains I was hoping to open, but those of a neighbour, who stood, bare chested, looking out at me from the house opposite. I then noticed that his next door neighbour, a blonde haired lady, dressed in what looked like a very small, silk night dress had put her bedroom light on and was in the process of opening her window. I was in the process of waking the whole flaming street! Next door, on the other side of the bare chested neighbour, was a couple leaning out of their bedroom window. They must have been watching for a while. I then heard the sound of another window opening, but the click of the latch and slight squeak of the frame opening was coming from behind me. I had managed to get behind the bush, so turned around and put the final part of my plan into action. I jumped out into the middle of the garden and started to sing the opening line of “Oh So Le Mio,’ very badly! I only really knew the opening line and the rest was going to be a mixture of made up Italian sounding words and excerpts from the Cornetto adverts. I didn’t get a chance to sing any more than the opening line though.   I looked up and her dad was glaring down at me, his bald head reflecting the streetlamp, his ample, prop forward, bulk hanging over the window frame tied in by his string vest.
At the window, wasn’t my girlfriend in her pyjamas, looking excited at the thought of being woken romantically, but a stout, middle aged bloke, with his bald head reflecting the light from a streetlamp, clad in an ill fitting, white string vest, looking like the English cousin of Rab C. Nesbitt and the bulk of his stomach hanging over the window frame as he glared, with half closed eyes, at me. Her dad!

“Davy! Can you just go home. I’m on early shift and am in here to try and get some sleep and Justine’s in with her mam!” came the exasperated cry of a very tired looking man, who couldn’t be bothered with the antics of his daughter’s boyfriend.

“Shit!” I said to myself.

“Sorry! I’m really sorry! I didn’t know!” were my pathetic pleas.

“Just go!” The calmness of this rugby player’s voice made it that bit more intimidating, but he, simply, closed the window and I saw the curtains close again.

As I came from behind the bush and walked away, the couple were hanging out of their window, laughing and applauding me. The blonde lady in the skimpy night dress, who had opened her window by this point, leant out to reveal almost all of a very ample bosom, looked caringly at me and in a velvet voice said,

“Don’t worry, pet! You can come up here with me, instead, if you like!”

My eyes nearly popped out of my head as they became transfixed on her bozooms and part of me was willing the rest of my body to agree to her invitation.

“Er, thanks very much, but I’ll erm, have to err, get home and that.” The rest of me was quite clearly very scared, of what may have happened!

I made my way towards Felgate Estate, the amorous youth in me, being very disappointed on a number of counts, walked over the dene bridge and on around the bend to go through the old railway tunnel.  As I turned towards the tunnel there was a flash in my peripheral view and I suddenly saw someone hanging in the tunnel!  I turned quickly, but as I looked straight on I couldn’t see anyone or anything there at all!  I had a horrible, freezing cold shiver go up my spine, then right through my whole body and all of a sudden I had become rooted to the spot, absolutely terrified.  I kept looking, but there was nothing there. Just a light shining through from the other side. I knew what I’d seen though. As I came around the bend and closer to the tunnel, I saw a lamp post on the other side. Could it have been that? No, because I was now at a different angle to when I had the initial flash and vision. It certainly wasn’t just a lamp post that I’d seen. I decided not to go through the tunnel, I was too scared, but crossed the road to walk the long way and added another half a mile, or so, onto my journey.  As I walked away I saw another flash to the side of me and could again, out of the corner of my eye, see a body hanging in the tunnel. My pace quickened and my heart raced and I simply knew that I just had to get away from there.

I walked that way again quite a few times, whilst still going out with Justine, but we only lasted a few months and I got fed up with her, the limpet friend and her dad, who always tried to get one over on me.  To be honest, it was a relief and I was pleased to spend more time with my mates and branch out, away from babysitting and the like.

So! Two years later I was at university and came home for the first week’s break.  I brought some washing home, as you do, and was just about to sit down with a cup of tea when my mother suddenly turned to me and said

“Oh, I meant to tell you. There’s a lad you went to school with died last week, you wouldn’t have heard anything!  I’ve still got the paper in the cupboard, so I’ll go and have a look for it and show you!”

We kept all of the newspapers in the cupboard under the stairs, as we had a coal fire with my dad working down the pit and they were, obviously, used to light a new fire if some poor soul, usually me, had let the fire go out, meaning there’d be no hot water the following day, to the dismay and chagrin of my dad!

As she made her way to the door of the front room I, suddenly, completely out of the blue, had the same flash in my mind that I’d had two years previously.  This time, though, I could see a face!

I suddenly went into an almost trance like state and as my mam was walking away from me and shouted at her,

“It was Macca C….. and he hung himself in the railway tunnel at Felgate!”

My mam stopped in her tracks and turned back to gaze at me. It seemed as if all of the blood had drained from her face. My mother was anaemic, anyway and always looked a bit pale, but all of a sudden she was like unpolished, marble stone.  She opened the cupboard door in silence, rummaged around for the specific newspaper and walked back into the room with it, scouring through the pages as she slowly stepped towards me.

When my mam had reached the relevant page, she passed the newspaper to me and there, right in front of me, was the same name of the lad I’d just mentioned. The piece also confirmed that he’d met his end as I’d seen two years earlier.  I, suddenly, had the same icy, cold shiver go right through my body, the same way as on that strange and, extremely, eery evening.

The lad was in my year at school, but I didn’t really hang around with him at all, or know him that well.  He was a bit of a tearaway and had briefly been placed in our top band class to show him how he should behave.  He didn’t last the full five years of our school and left to get a job instead.  He’d apparently had a girlfriend, who had given birth to his child, but, for some unknown reason, wouldn’t allow him to see the child anymore.  Having trouble at work at that same time, he was tipped over the edge and met his sad end. A terrible way to go for any young lad.

I felt really awful, with a sickly and cold feeling in the pit of my stomach, that I couldn’t have done anything about this.  I also felt a measure of guilt, having seen what I’d seen. I don’t know why, I just did. This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened, but it was the first time where someone had died.  It, sadly, wasn’t the last time, either!


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