The Flat

Peter kicked the wooden slat hard with one of his large skater shoes. There was a loud snap, as the slat gave way and he felt his leg slip through the gap.

‘Hurry up, would you.’ Jennifer hissed, glancing about her nervously.

They stood in a narrow alley, running alongside a tall block of disused flats. The windows and doors of each level were boarded up with wooden slats and nails.

‘I’m going as fast as I can.’ Peter explained, gripping hold of one of the other rotting planks and wrenching it loose.

He stuck his head in the open gap and coughed and spluttered, as he inhaled musty and damp odours from within. He put a hand over his mouth and peered around at the murky surroundings. Three large metal bins were lined against one side of the room and a bike rack shoved up against the other. A couple of rusty looking bicycles with missing seats and wheels lay abandoned on the stone floor. A metal door sat in one corner, half ajar.

‘What do you see?’ Jennifer asked curiously, peering over his shoulder into the dusty gloom.

‘It’s where they keep the bins.’ He surmised and reemerged from the gap in the slats.

‘So that’s what that lovely smell is.’ Jennifer commented, wrinkling her nose in disgust.

‘There’s a door we can get out of at the back.’

Jennifer sighed dishearteningly, as Peter brushed the dust off his trousers.

‘What?’ He said, slightly out of breath.

‘Oh…nothing.’ She replied with a weak smile.

‘Jen?’

‘Well, do we have to do this?’

‘Come on Jen, don’t give up now.’

‘What if we get caught?’

‘We won’t, besides we made a deal. You help me out here and I will put you in touch with my friend at FILM4.’

Jennifer nodded slowly and motioned at the broken slats.

‘Lead the way then Indiana.’

Peter gave her arm a tight squeeze and crouched down and crawled through the tight gap in boards. Jennifer cast a glance up and down the alley before taking a deep breath and climbing in after him. It took a while for her eyes to adjust to the dim interior and she drew her scarf up over her nose and mouth, gagging on the grim smell of the bins.

‘Over here.’

Peter’s shadowy form stood at the other side of the room, his frame outlined by the light filtering through the gaps in the door. Jennifer tiptoed towards him through the murky gloom. Glancing around, the edges of spokes and handlebars appeared like skeletal limbs, the poor light playing tricks with her mind. By the time she reached the doorway Peter had already disappeared up the stairs and she darted up them quickly, eager to get out of the grimy crypt. She emerged onto the first level of the flats. Peter stood halfway down the balcony floor, outside a half broken apartment door. He was peering excitedly through one of the grime covered windows.

‘Perfect.’ He exclaimed, pulling a camera out of his pocket.

Jennifer waited awkwardly as he took several photographs of the door, windows and finally the balcony itself. Returning the camera to his pocket he looked up and down the balcony casually and gripped either side of the door frame, bracing himself.

‘Peter you can’t.’ Jennifer protested but was drowned out, as Peter delivered a quick swift to the flimsy door with his large boot. There was a loud crack and the door swung open wildly, almost tearing off its hinges in the process. He looked round at Jennifer and grinned. She had her hands over her face, peeking out through the gaps in her fingers.

‘Come on, I think we are onto something good here.’ He shouted over his shoulder as he stepped over the wreckage of the fallen door. There was a loud thump, followed by a muffled cry from Peter.

‘Peter!’

Jennifer darted into the flat, a terrible fear gripping her body. She tensed herself for whatever lay in the flat hallway but was not prepared for what followed. Peter lay on the hallway floor on his back, his foot trapped in a lopsided shoe rack. Jennifer burst into laughter and had to lean on the wall for support. Peter, red face and flustered sighed.

‘Yes. It’s all very funny. Can you help me up please?’

Still fighting back the giggles, Jennifer crouched down and prized Peter’s boot free of the shoe rack. Without a word he got to his feet and moved down the hallway, his ears burning crimson. Jennifer followed behind him, still highly amused by the situation. They entered a small bedroom, most of which was taken up by a large bunk bed. The mattresses were soggy and discoloured and the top level of the bunk bed was broken on one side so it sloped down on to the lower bunk.

‘This is the sort of thing I need.’ Peter muttered, producing the camera and snapping away enigmatically.

‘I had to marry a bloody video-game artist didn’t I?’

Jennifer moved over to a bookshelf and studied the rotting books lined up. The yellowed pages seeped out of the bottom of the decaying volumes and cobwebs entwined themselves between the gaps on the mucky shelf.

‘Remind me why we are…’

There was a loud clatter from somewhere in the flat and Jennifer froze, her hand outstretched to one of the archaic titles. Heart pounding, she slowly retracted her hand and turned to face Peter. He stood before her, his finger pressed against his lips.

Jennifer yanked open the passenger side to her car door and flung down her bag onto the seat. Frantically she began to search through it. Her trembling fingers were covered in blood and she had to force herself to stop from throwing up. Finally she found what she was looking for. A small mobile phone. She flipped it up and jabbed the power button. Nothing happened.

‘No…No No.’ She moaned, staring at her phone in disbelief.

There was a noise behind her. She looked hurriedly over her shoulder and saw a heavily bearded tramp running towards her. His scruffy denim jacket was slicked with blood. Jennifer let out a scream and hurled herself inside the car, heaving close the door behind her and flipping down the lock. The bearded tramp reached the car and rattled the handle desperately. Jennifer watched on in abject horror as the bearded tramp pressed his face up against the glass. The moment of paralysis vanished and she shoved the keys into the ignition after two aimed misses.

‘Wait.’ The bearded tramp croaked through the glass.

Jennifer took one last terrified look at the bloodied tramp before she slammed down her foot on the ignition and sped off down the road.

Gaz and Becca sat either side of the small, circular table in the back of their camper van. Gaz munched loudly on a digestive, occasionally pausing to sip nosily from a mug of mud brown tea. Becca was reading a copy of the TV times, stopping from time to time to throw Gaz disgusted looks. A frantic knock on the door made them both look up at each other startled.

‘Who the bloody hell?’ Becca exclaimed.

Gaz heaved himself up from behind the table, his sagging gut shaking the table and spilling his tea.

‘Gaz.’

Ignoring her, he moved over to the door and peered through a small window set in its top. His eyes widened in alarm and he opened the door hastily. Jennifer, her hands and face still flecked with blood toppled forwards into the camper van and blacked out.

© [Daniel Ashby] and [Ashby Tales], [2014]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Daniel Ashby] and [Ashby Tales] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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