Famous Ashfordians no.2 - Samuel Ohms

Tom Davies

Time to visit the Inner City

The following extracts are taken from the diary of Samuel Ohms. The diary was discovered wedged between two novels in the Romance section of Ashford library. The current whereabouts of Mr Ohms are a matter of some speculation.

February 12th 2008

I have discovered another city within Ashford, nestled within the confines of the world we see like a secret compartment in a spy’s suitcase. Or more accurately like a shadow within one’s own body, perhaps on the lungs.

I chanced upon it late last night as I was walking home from visiting you, my love. As I walked from the churchyard I entered the maze of streets which lead to Scullery Row and the town centre. At once a line of matches seemed to ignite above and to the sides of me. The matchbursts were a brilliant white and I stopped in my tracks and looked around me. I was inside a cube of these lights, which sparked and fizzed with an intense brightness. Almost immediately they were extinguished, leaving my eyes to reacclimatize to the darkness. I was not in Ashford.

A street sign of burnt metal and molten calligraphy told me I was on Fraughten Street, and a black stone doorway breathed a stench of cinnamon and meat toward me. Something tapped and scuttled inside the doorway. An indistinguishable shape slithered. I stepped backwards, matches struck in a gateway of lights and I was home once more.

February 13th 2008

I slept perhaps a single hour last night, if that. Then, in the bright cold morning, I drank a pot of coffee and walked down to Scullery Row. As I walked across the point of entry, the lights heralded my arrival and I stumbled once more into the gloom and dankness of Fraughten Street.

This time a curious fellow stood by the stone doorway, throwing torn passports into a battered top hat at his feet. His thin frame was crooked and the skin had an unpleasant green tinge to it. He leered and gestured towards the doorway.

I remembered your spirit, my love, your unquenchable sense of adventure and I embraced the moment. My footsteps were silent on the wet stone steps.

I eventually came upon a low-ceilinged cellar, a flooded man-made pool with stagnant water sloshing lazily to itself, sprigs of algae bubbling on the surface. My guide sat on a bench by the pool. The bench was ornately carved into scenes of ruin and orgy.

‘A lazarus pool’, he sighed sadly. ’See- they are born in the pit underwater, but the waters kill them instantly and reincarnate them. Eternal rebirth just to splutter a few drowning breaths and see the short panic of your life flash before your eyes like an bursting aneurysm.’

I peered more closely at the filthy liquid and could just about make out small figures in the weed-strangled depths, paddling weakly, sending squalls of bubbles up to the surface, where they popped around the fronds of the algae, giving the vegetation valuable nutrients.

‘My garden, and I tend it well’ said the gardener, spitting on his boots and polishing them with a hank of leather. Then he threw them to the ground and lunged at me, grabbing at my coat with damp, scrabbling fingers. I turned and ran up the steps through a gate of light.

February 14th 2008

I later found a ragged paper map in my coat pocket, possibly placed there by the gardener.

The town purported to be of Ashford but the layout of the streets and buildings differed wildly from the town I knew.

This ghastly street plan seemed only to intersect with Ashford at certain designated junctures: at Scullery Row, at a bus stop and in an underpass at the railway station, along the eastern edge of the William Harvey hospital, in cemeteries. I chose the underpass, flickering lights illuminated the dankness of the passage for a brief moment, then I stood blinking in a new atmosphere, trying to read the soiled map in my hands: the Germery, the north end. I walked on past the vast brutal architecture of Bone Shard Harbour, with its moored Men-o'-war and Coelacanths, the black sump seas burbling and slapping heavily against the hulls of the gut ships.

I visited the public dissection tables and the deep vivisection wells, and passed through pastures of neon and silicate to the richer industrial areas of Carapace and Sprain. I travelled the sluggish monorails that arc disconsolately through the low smoke-filled clouds hanging like an awning over the city.

Tonight I will loop the endless Bleakways and may never return.

If you are here, my love, I will find you, and together we will sing the dark hymns that the creatures of this city howl to keep themselves warm.

But in my heart I know you are not here. For this is where the living go to die.

© Tom Davies 2013 All Rights Reserved

Date and time of last update 15:46 Mon 02 Sep 2013
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