BELOW THE TRIANGLE
There are places all over this world where no one ever goes. Dark, unvisited corners of buildings, rooms behind locked doors, their keys lost long ago. There are places here in this very park, so thickly covered by plant life that they're hidden from human view. We live our lives very close to these places, sometimes just inches away, but we never visit them. Why is that? It may be that we have no reason to visit them. We might not even know they're there. But in some cases it may be that we don't want to visit them. We may have visited them once, but we've chosen never to go there again.
My story is about one such place. It's very close to here. Just outside the park. I went there once. I may even have been the last human being ever to go there. I don't go there now, and neither does anyone else. What happened to me there scared me so much that I still have nightmares about it, years later. It's hard for me to talk about it, yet I know I must. Because if I don't – if I don't tell you what happened to me in that place, then that knowledge will be lost, and someone, one day, might be tempted to revisit that place, and experience the horror that dwells in there.
There's a road running alongside this park. It's called Alderman's Hill. At the bottom of that road, where it meets Green Lanes, is a traffic island known to people around here as the Triangle, because it's shaped like... you've guessed it: like a triangle. On the Triangle, for many years, there used to be some public toilets. A Gents and a Ladies. They were built underneath the Triangle, and you got to them by two sets of steeply descending staircases.
Now I don't know about the Ladies toilet. Not being a lady, I never had any cause to make use of it. But I do know about the Gents. And it's the Gents toilet, below the Triangle, that is the place I am referring to – the place where I had my terrifying experience.
It was a cold night, around this time of year. I was on my way home after a few drinks at the Fox, and it might have been the cold or it might have been the drink, but I suddenly had a powerful urge to relieve my bladder. If I could have avoided paying a visit to this particular Gents I would have – if I could have made it home, that's what I'd have done – for I'd heard scary rumours about this toilet. People had complained of odd rumblings, strange groanings that didn't sound like the plumbing, nor the trains rolling into the nearby railway station.
But I couldn't help myself. When you have to go, you have to go. So down those steps I went. When I opened the door, the first thing that struck me was the smell. You all know that public lavatory smell. This one was more pungent than usual. It smelled like a toilet in need of a good clean. And it was pitch dark. I felt around for a light switch, and found one on the crusty surface of the wall next to the door.
The bulb flickered to life, casting a dim, cavern-like glow on grimy yellow brickwork, old Edwardian urinals and a row of three toilet cubicles. Two of the cubicle doors were ajar. I glanced at the one with the closed door and I remember wondering nervously if there was anyone in there.
I didn't wonder for long though. I was there for one purpose only, and after that I wanted to be gone. So I went over to one of the urinals and got on with my business. I was just finishing when I heard something behind me, and it was a sound that sent a stab of ice through my heart. What I heard was a tapping sound, slow and hollow, like bony knuckles against a door. Tap, tap, tap, it went. Tap, tap, tap.
I can't tell you how scary that sound was, down there in that dim underground room. Because I knew where it was coming from. It was coming from behind the closed cubicle door, which was right behind me. I had no doubts now that there was someone in that cubicle, and that someone knew I was here, and had probably been waiting in there for who knows how long, waiting for someone to visit.
Tap, tap, tap, went those knuckles against the door. Tap, tap, tap.
I didn't want to imagine what sort of person, what sort of creature, would choose to live down here, and what plans he might have in mind for me.
I didn't wait to find out. My fingers stiff with fright, I somehow managed to zip up my flies before lurching towards the exit. Before I got there, the tapping ceased and the cubicle door squeaked open behind me. There was a slow dragging of feet across the tiles. My hand was on the exit door. I pulled it open and felt the fresh air on my skin. Behind me came this deep groan, and I looked back, just one little look, before the door swung closed. Why did I look back? To this day I wish I never had.
What I saw was a demon. I don't know what else to call it. It wasn't human – at least it may have been once, but not any more. It was old, extremely old. Its skin was like dead, shrivelled leaves. The face was long, the eyes black with a leathery gleam like the wing-cases of beetles. Sharp teeth glittered in the dark hollow of its mouth. Its thin arms were raised, with hands like twisted spiders spread wide as if to embrace me.
I screamed, just as the door closed. I stumbled up the stairs. Somehow I found my way home.
I reported all this to the police the next day. The policeman, an old fellow by the name of Inspector Groveland, went pale when I told him my story. 'So it's back then,' he muttered. He wouldn't explain what he meant.
The council closed the Gents soon afterwards. It may have been a coincidence, but I doubt it. Some men arrived on the Triangle the next day and locked up the toilet and placed a steel bar across its door. Not long after that, they covered the toilet staircases – both of them – with reinforced concrete slabs. And on top of that they laid a thick layer of asphalt. Everyone agreed it was a good idea. The toilets were in a neglected state and had become a health hazard. But the real reason, I can tell you now, wasn't to stop people going in there. It was to stop something very old and very evil breaking out.
So next time you're walking across the Triangle, think about what I said. There are places all over this world where no one ever goes. Dark, unvisited places where terrible things may lurk. And there's one such place right there beneath your feet. Let's just hope that the steel bar across that underground door is strong, and the concrete and the asphalt covering that stairwell is nice and thick.
Copyright Alex Woolf 2015 Illustrations Copyright Tony Fran 2015