Chapter 1 - They Grow Upon The Eyes
It grows upon 'The Eyes'; spreading like a virus, preventing life, burning skin and quenching its thirst from others, towering over the ground, dominating the terrain, turning dirt into dust and infesting the very soil we walk on. Heracleum Mantegazzianum has bloomed.
It had been five hours, but Jerry London had seen nothing. Judy sat down beside him on the floor of the workshop and handed him a plastic cup of tea.
"It's only from a thermos, but at least it's hot."
Jerry looked out at the bleak November night."It's most welcome".
He took a mouthful, swirling the lukewarm liquid around his teeth before swallowing it down, then smiled politely at Judy and gulped the rest of the insipid brew.
They had been holed up for three nights in the derelict canal workshops. A phone call from the Securinet guard who patrolled the Warrington locks had alerted them to the strange sightings around the old building. Since then, Securinet had declared the building ‘off limits’ pending an investigation, announcing that the building and its surrounding area sat on an unstable canal bank. Jerry and Judy did not believe a word of it.
They had agreed to break into the workshops and camp out in the old building for four nights to see if the rumours of ‘ghosts’ were true. It was one year ago to the very week that Judy and Jerry had spent three cold, and in retrospect, unsuccessful nights in Tatton Hall hoping to witness some apparition which had allegedly spooked several members of staff. They had met on-line through ghost hunting forums and then in person through joining a local ghost hunting club. This was their twenty-first hunt together, and ninth as an actual item. Judy had always admired Jerry; she’d been impressed with his photograph of the ‘mist-emitting tombstone’ in St. James graveyard in Warrington, which many keen ghost hunters believed was the soul of Catherine Watts rising from the grave. Cynical people just said it was a foggy night, but Judy didn't care. Supernatural forces or not, something had brought them together. Perhaps it was the need for company on cold dark winter nights and their ghost hunts were always on the coldest nights.
Getting into the workshops was relatively easy. The fence, although padlocked, had numerous gaps where kids had prised away the panelling to retrieve footballs or throw stones at the already-shattered windows. Thanks to the children’s holiday pursuits, finding a window to open was simple, and Jerry and Judy had soon established themselves with blankets, torches, night vision cameras and other necessary paraphernalia.
It was the last night of the planned hunt. Their only luck was from the previous night, when they heard a rustling sound from the next room. A stray cat it may have been, and a blow to their patience and faith perhaps, but they were experienced hunters, and to give up too soon would be seen as being uncommitted.
Undeterred by the lack of activity, Jerry surveyed the large room again. The workshops were used to make small repairs to passing boats. Due to the nature of its business, the Locks had been a hive of activity all the way up to the nineteen seventies before the use of the canal decreased and the number of boats dropped dramatically. The workshops fell silent in 1986, but were deemed by the canal company to be too expensive to be torn down.
The two ghost hunters sat in the corner of the office at the east end of the building. The flaking brick walls still held some of the dark green with a light green border décor and the cobwebbed plaster ceiling crumbled occasionally, scattering debris across the dirty wooden floors. It was a building that needed to be demolished, beyond restoration, and Jerry surmised that it would probably fall down of its own accord before the Canal Company got round to tearing it down.
"Any more tea?" Jerry held his cup towards Judy.
"Just enough for one more cup. Fancy sharing?" Judy’s teeth were chattering.
Jerry nodded and she emptied the thermos into the plastic cup. After taking a large mouthful, Jerry handed the cup back to his partner and stood up to stretch his legs.
Judy yawned for what seemed like a whole minute, then swilled the tea down in one motion. "Remind me to bring two flasks next time. One just doesn't last the whole night."
"The other one's broken, remember. We need to get a new one."
"I meant to, but this hunt came at such short notice." Judy screwed the top back on the flask and rubbed her thighs to bring some heat to her legs. "What time is it?"
Jerry drew his sleeve back. "Three. We'll give it another hour."
"I can't handle the constant late nights any more; Father Time is catching up with me."
"A few years ago I would have agreed with you, but lately - “
Judy interrupted. "What's that?"
Judy raised her index finger to Jerry’s lips. She looked across the room at nothing in particular, listening intently to the silence, then made her way to the open doorway.
"Did you hear that?" she whispered.
Jerry frowned, but felt his heart quickening in anticipation..
"There!" Judy held her hand up, "It's there again. I can hear a murmur."
A drone; it was a drone, rather than a murmur. A low vocal vibrato hummed lightly through the night air and surrounded the two hunters. Jerry turned off the small nightlight and held his breath. Judy turned to him but, without the light, she couldn't even see his outline.
"Are you recording this?"
Jerry cursed the air, took a small Dictaphone from his pocket and pressed 'record'. “It could be too quiet to pick up."
The drone continued.
Jerry reached down and picked up the night vision camcorder. "I'll sweep round with the camera." He clicked the contraption into life and set it into night vision.
The drone continued.
He slowly swept the width of the derelict office.
"What can you see?"
Jerry hesitated. "Nothing out of the ordinary. Just you near the window."
Judy shuddered. "But, Jerry, I'm by the doorway."