The Secret Lies Within

Story Posted by Jonty Stern on 04 Feb 2018 02:01.

Conspiracy theories normally try to make the boring interesting by looking for scandals, aliens, government spies and foreign agents where none exist. Imagine, though, a conspiracy theorist finding sinister reasons why a house is for sale or why a 'bus turns a particular way while a genuinely shocking secret is hidden right under their nose. This is the tale of one such event.

Hornsey Lane Bridge was built in 1897. It was the replacement of the original bridge built by the famous John Nash - the Archway after which the Archway area of London first got its name.

Ever since it was built, unfortunately, people have been jumping off it to their doom. That must have been the case with the original bridge too as railings were put around it in 1885. Why else would they have put them there?

A few miles away from Archway there is an area called Chalk Farm. A man called Michael Slade lived there. Having been born in the 1920s he was now in his 80s. His hair was thinner and greyer than it'd once been. He now wore glasses to read the newspaper and seemed to need to go to the lavatory in the middle of the night more than had once been the case.

He was, however, in many ways in rude health. He went for a stroll every morning after his breakfast, he had never smoked, he ate no more nor less than he needed, he only drank in moderation, he swam every week and he had never spent a day in hospital nor ever suffered anything more serious than a cold.

On this particular morning he had his breakfast - or rather got up, washed and then had his breakfast, I should have said - and then went to read his newspaper. While the kettle was whistling and the toast was toasting away in the toaster, he embarked upon his porridge.

He was rudely awakened by a knock at the door.

"Mr. Slade?" said the uniformed police woman at the door.

"Ah," said Michael. "You've come for me at last. I've always known you would. I'll get my coat."

Michael awoke, sweating. It'd been a dream. His heart was pounding away. He looked up at the clock. It was four o' clock in the morning. He was always frightened whenever he had one of these (as he frequently did) that'd it'd start up again as soon as he went to sleep. He knew that he must calm down before he attempted to sleep again. He went to the lavatory and then returned moved to the drawing room.

He looked out of the window. It was dark. It was rainy. It was quiet. He looked out at the little headlights of the cars as they sped along through the wetness. He looked at that imposing bridge in the distance as the rain battered it. He looked around at his familiar things. Why that dream again? Over and over again for decades. It was over! It'd been over for such a long time! Who'd track him down now? He'd had such a quiet life for such a long time.

Meanwhile back in Archway one of the local publicans couldn't sleep either. In his case it was because of the videos he'd been watching. Carvan Desprid was some 40 years younger than Michael. His world was very different from that of the older man. Carvan had no whistling kettle and nor did he read newspapers. Carvan loved videos! A new thing called YouTube had just been created. There were loads of videos you could watch and make about animals, zoos, holidays, politics, train journeys - whatever you wanted. Carvan had been trawling through the 'Net (not just this new YouTube thing but any file-sharing service he could find) and had found loads of fascinating things out!

Now that people could produce their own videos and they didn't have to worry about what the government had to say they could tell each other what had really been going on all these years and which the government had tried to suppress! Apparently the world was flat. Imagine that? People had been hoodwinked! The centre, apparently, was in the London area. There was a big round disc with the Afterlife all around it. People who claimed to have come from or visited far-away places like Africa were all part of the conspiracy. Carvan smiled knowingly. He'd always thought all those tales of life in Africa had sounded too far-fetched to be true! Now he knew why! This revelation had kept him up. He knew that he ought to be up the next morning to negotiate with suppliers but this was revolutionary stuff! He could hardly sleep. He forced himself away from the machine and made himself go to sleep.

In Chalk Farm the sound of gentle snoring could be heard. Michael had finally got back to sleep and was now once again awake. He had his breakfast. Got up, washed and then had his breakfast, I should say. He looked outside. It had cleared up and was turning into a nice day.

Michael finished everything he had to do at home and went for a nice, long healthy walk. He got as far as Archway. He saw an amateur film-maker strolling around the area talking into his camera. He thought nothing of it, walked down to Archway, got the tube down to Camden Town and the other branch of the Northern Line back up to Chalk Farm, where he lived.

The amateur film-maker was none other than Carvan Desprid. He had overslept and had missed talking to his suppliers. Oh, well, he could do that anytime! He had so much to do. Firstly here were those incredible revelations from the videos the previous night. Secondly he needed to make some videos of his own and upload them to YouTube. They would be his first, which was exciting - he needed to get it right!

Carvan had decided that he needed to show the world what he thought about the council. "Another blocked-up drain, " he said into camera. "The graffiti unit clearly aren't doing their job," he continued. This was fun!

When he got home he found, to his annoyance, a red letter from the electricity people. He found this to be very unfair! If he'd been an immigrant they wouldn't have written to him, he was sure. It was another example of the blatant bias in society today.

Back in Archway, Michael had arrived back home. He listened to what he still referred to as the wireless for a while, made himself a light lunch and went outside to prune the roses. And so his day continued according to its usual pattern.

The next morning he had his breakfast - or rather got up, washed and then had his breakfast… but was rudely awakened by a knock at the door. His heart was pounding as he went to answer it. He had had this dream so many times before and now it was really happening.

"Mr. Slade?" asked the tall man with the moustache.

"Yes?" Michael enquired.

"Used you to run an outdoor club for boys during the last war?"

"Ah. You've found me," said Michael. "I've always know that this day would come."

Michael awoke with a start. It was still yesterday - he'd just come in from pruning the roses. He paced around, trying to calm down. Think of something else, think of something else… the news. Yes. Now let's see how that shower being run by Mr. Blair is getting on. He switched on the television, made himself a cup of tea, placed some digestive biscuits on a plate and sat down to watch TV.

Carvan was out making some more of his videos. He'd already had seven viewers on one of his other videos and it'd only been up for a day! Things were going well. This might become his job eventually if he got spotted and enough people liked it? Then he could stop running the pub. If only people knew how stressful it was running a pub.

"Overhanging branches," said Carvan. "Another blocked drain. The 'buses are absolutely blocking the road here. Look - another blocked drain."

He eventually got back to his pub. He suddenly realised he ought to have opened up an hour ago. There was a little queue waiting outside. They were all singing, "Why are we waiting?" and he took it all in good part. When he got in he gave them all a discount on their first pint. That went down well. It was because he did things like that that he was one of the most popular local landlords.

Some people used the word "eccentric" of him that night. He hadn't heard that word before so had looked it up on the 'Net. It came from the idea of being away from the centre as far as he could gather. If you were right outside the circle you'd be in the Afterlife! Perhaps they thought he seemed angelic? He wasn't sure. They were smiling affectionately when they said it, though.

There was one man in there whom he'd never seemed before. An old bloke. He seemed very quiet.

"First time here?" he asked the old geezer.

"Yes, yes it is," said the man.

"I'd try the Harvest Pops if you're looking for something new to try. It's 3.8% and it's straight from our brewery in Suffolk. It's a new one but it's a good 'un."

"I shall take your recommendation and have one of those. Thank you," said the man politely. He sat and drank his one pint slowly, picked up his coat and left without a word to anyone.

When Michael had returned from his trip to the pub in Archway he felt a little light-headed. He'd not drunk beer for three weeks and his body seemed surprised by it. As did his brain. He felt… something. Relaxed? He found himself smiling.

He went to bed and slept. Nobody came to knock on the door this time - in his dream he'd gone back in time to the day he'd left prison in late '44. He'd only known a few days earlier that he was to be released. He'd been allowed to send a telegram to his sister and his parents to let them know when he'd be released. He re-lived that wonderful moment when there was that familiar beeping sound and the Austin appeared! Its green paint was as well-kept as ever - his father must have been polishing it ready for this special day! There was his father behind the wheel. There was his mother waving. There was his young sister, practically jumping with excitement!

"Come on, old man- what are you waiting for?" asked his father. Michael ignored the prison warder saying, "Goodbye, sir," and jumped in. Michael was once again a somebody, part of a rich, well-known family, not some forgotten soul languishing in a God-forsaken prison.

Michael awoke. It was four o' clock in the morning, of course. he needed the lavatory, naturally. But he was feeling calm. That strange pub with its eccentric landlord who'd forgotten to turn up had been just what he needed.

A week or so later Carvan was out filming under the Hornsey Lane Bridge.

"There are bicycles just shooting down here without looking where they're going," he said into his camera. "They don't ring their bells. There are workmen here and I've tried asking them who their gaffer is. No-one will tell us. They're doing all this stuff here… for who, I wonder? Look - another blocked drain. Hello, what's this? There's someone with a whole load of books he wants to dump. You're not dumping them here, mate. You're not dumping them here. Have you got a permit to dump those books? You're in Archway, mate, not the refuse tip."

Carvan argued with the man for a bit. The man said he worked for the local library and had been told by his bosses to dump those unwanted books. Carvan said he'd personally take them and see if he could find a home for them. He took them back to his place. He'd find a home for them sometime, he thought, but maybe not right now.

He started to look at one. It covered the period of the Second World War. Carvan looked it up on the 'Net and found that virtually every copy was now missing as it was such an obscure piece of history.

It covered a boys' activity group which had been set up just before the war to rival the Scouts. The person running it had said that the country was now largely being run by Jews and that the Scouts had been corrupted by their malign influence. He also claimed that the Scouts were too militaristic and pro-war. Anyone who knew anything about the Great War fought shortly before he, the leader, had been born wouldn't want to repeat the experience of men fighting in the trenches for nothing.

This new outfit would be about peace and camaraderie between boys. Any boy of European descent and with a good Christian background would be allowed, regardless of whether they were Catholic or Protestant and regardless of country of origin. They would learn about the languages, history and famous works of art of the various European nations. They would learn how the Jews had always tried to destroy everything and how they must be resisted. They would also spend a lot of time camping, climbing, walking and swimming. Nature was very important and as God had made Man naked it was important that all the boys should be free to be naked on a Welsh mountain top or swim naked in an English lake or sit naked around a Scottish camp fire if they so wished. They were to eat healthily and practise getting fit and ready for action in case they should ever be called upon to fight a Jewish conspiracy, the only fight that was worth having, apparently.

Carvan looked at the book thoughtfully. The person who had started that group all those years ago had had some interesting ideas. Carvan hadn't known all that about the Jews before. He'd just thought they were like Christians who didn't believe in Jesus. He wondered if the person who'd started up the Slade Society of Youths had got mixed up between the Jews and the Illuminati? Or maybe they were, in fact, the same thing? He'd heard about the Illuminati from videos on the 'Net. The government had tried to keep all that a secret - what a wonderful thing the Internet was! If only the person who'd founded the Slade Society of Youths had had access to the Internet then he might have been able to explain to the whole world how things really worked.

Carvan then looked up the Slade Society on the 'Net. He was good at finding things that were buried deeply! You had to put things in inverted commas, take the inverted commas out again, put in the thing you'd just found… He uncovered one newspaper article uploaded from the 1950s. It'd actually been uploaded by someone interested in the history of soap adverts. The article that interested Carvan was off at the edges of the photograph of the newspaper. It was very blurred. Carvan printed out a hard copy and then used a magnifying glass. He couldn't quite read all of it but he could make out that someone was interviewing some young blokes who'd been imprisoned under something called Regulation 18B and who had then been released.

Apparently the government had seen them as disloyal and so had put them in prison. Carvan tutted. Typical! When would governments learn, he wondered? The government had then realised that these young men had been forced into an organisation in which they themselves hadn't believed and were, in fact, perfectly loyal. They were then released towards the end of the war, just as they turned 18, so they could have the honour of risking their lives fighting for their country. Ought to have left them in prison, Carvan thought! They'd have been safer.

The young men were talking about the organisation they'd been involved with. Yes, it'd been that Slade thing. They and the bloke running it had all suddenly been taken into custody by the authorities - sinister! - in the 1940s. He'd stayed there for a little longer than them and never fought abroad. All for having views the government didn't like! Carvan realised that the authorities must have got to these blokes because they then started saying stuff about the geezer who'd run that outdoor group. They said he had "behaved in an inappropriate way" towards many of the boys and that if they ever saw him again they'd punch his lights out. Apparently the interviewer had laughed heartily at that comment but the young guys had looked very serious.

Carvan decided to see if he could work out where that Slade man lived. He trawled through the 'Net, doing his usual tricks, and managed to come up with an address. Yes, he was still alive and living just a few miles away from Carvan! This would give the old bloke a surprise!

In Archway Michael Slade was watching the news. "Even though these events happened over 20 years ago, you still feel angry about it?" the lady was asking a crying man. Michael was shocked. Stiff upper lip, he'd always been told. The man was complaining about a headmaster he'd had years ago who had "sexually assaulted" him. Sex is between a gentleman and a lady. What could have been sexual about it, Michael wondered? Apparently the authorities were going to pursue this poor retired head for something he'd allegedly done years ago. Michael's heart started pounding away. 20 years. 30 years. 40 years. Was there a cut-off? Now that everyone was so sensitive about these things, would they come after somebody for something which had happened 60 years ago? They wouldn't. Not after all this time. Surely they wouldn't! He switched the television off. Maybe he needed to go to that bizarre pub again. He'd go tomorrow, he decided. Something to look forward to. After all, he didn't know anybody anymore. What was there ever to look forward to?

The next morning Michael had his breakfast. Got up, washed and then had his breakfast, I should have explained. The kettle was whistling gently. He heard two women's voices and then a knock at the door. He opened it. "Is it he?" asked one woman. "Yes, this is the man whom we've been chasing al these years," replied the other. They turned their attention to Michael.

"Mr. Slade?" asked one.

"Ah. You've come," said Michael. "I've always known you would one day. Would you permit me to put on my coat? I've had this coat for such a long time. It feels like an old friend."

"Always the gentleman," said one lady.

"Yes, I grant you that, my dear," said the other, "even if he is a complete bounder."

"Just a minute… how do you know I'm always a gentleman if you've never met me before?" asked Mr. Slade. "This is a dream, isn't it? Shove off!"

As the two ladies scurried down the stairs Michael called out, "You may be pure, you may be Aryans but I could never love you as I loved them. Go away!"

He awoke feeling very proud of himself. Maybe he was starting to find ways of dealing with his past? He would definitely go to Archway today.

As Michael was having his breakfast a letter arrived on his doormat. He read it. He read it. He read it and read it and read it. He pinched himself. He did everything you have to do to see if you're in a dream. No, it wasn't a dream. Yes, he would go to Archway today… but not to visit that pub.

The current Hornsey Lane Bridge, also known locally as Archway Bridge but usually as Suicide Bridge, has been much talked about over the years. Politicians from all parties have argued about whether measures should be taken to make it more difficult to jump or whether that would cost too much money or whether it would alter the architectural beauty too much.

It's a strange thought: if someone were to drive there to jump off, they would presumably know that this was the last car journey they'd ever take and that their life would be over before the end of the day. And yet, knowing that, they would need to remember everything that they had been taught during their driving lessons. They would have courteously to give way at the appropriate places. They'd have to remember how to use the clutch and the steering wheel and the indicator and the accelerator and the breaks. They'd have to remember which side we drive on in England apart from anything else! They'd have to go round roundabouts the correct way. They'd have to do all these things in order to arrive at Hornsey Lane Bridge, as Michael did that morning. And, of course, they'd have to park somewhere. Admittedly that might be the bit where their old driving instructor might have tutted. One could say, however, that that one mistake wasn't really a mistake as such. The fact that the car would get one heck of a parking ticket really wouldn't be of concern if the car's owner didn't seriously expect still to be alive to have to pay it.

Michael calmly wrote out the note which he had intended to write and placed it inside the car, slightly hidden from view, and locked the door. He wanted it to be a few weeks before there'd be any danger of anyone towing his offending car away and forcing open the door. By then he'd be long gone. He'd be settling into his new existence with the white people of previous centuries, heroes from Rome, from Athens and, of course, from England! He'd be sipping wine with them (but not too much wine) and looking down at the agents of this sorry state forcing open his car door and finding out who that man who'd jumped off the bridge a while back had been. The note would tell them who he was, why he was no longer alive and where his house was. He had included his house key in the envelope so people would only have to force one door open.

It was starting to rain. This was the last rain that he would see on Earth, Michael realised. That made him sad.

Also in Archway that day was Carvan, who was doing some filming.

"Nettles growing up the sides," he told the camera, "water running down the road so anyone can get covered in mud. Islington Borough don't care."

He had brought with him a little tent in case it rained. He could hear the rain starting and so brought his tent out from under the old bridge and moved his camera so it was underneath it.

"Another blocked…" he began but was cut off as he felt something with incredible force hit the top of his tent.

Michael sighed. Men weren't supposed to cry. Stiff upper lip. But he was crying. Maybe it was just the rain. Oh well, his old teacher wasn't here to judge him now. That beastly man - "Stiff upper lip boy, makes a man of you!" He was so glad that that old bastard was dead! Michael didn't want to think about that now. He wanted to think about… nothing. He climbed over the railings. There were spikes, of course, but the pain they cause wouldn't last.

He jumped… the speed was incredible! Suddenly… thud! He looked above him and saw concrete and the sky and thought, "What have I done?" He was still alive. Alive but in some considerable discomfort. He seemed to be on top of some sort of tent over a blocked drain. What was he doing here?

"It's you," said Carvan. "You've been coming to my pub. Have you just jumped off that bridge?"

Michael admitted that he had.

Carvan invited him in to the pub and gave him a drink. One of Carvan's employees took the running of the place over while Michael explained his story. Carvan explained that it was he who had sent that letter - what a coincidence! - and that he'd never intended Michael to jump. He was just interested in hearing about the old days. Nobody else, he assured Michael, would have gone to the trouble he had to get that book and do all those web searches. He didn't see that Michael had done anything wrong.

"Oh, but I have," said Michael, his usually emotionless face finally allowing his inner self through. "I've always known it was wrong. All of it. From start to finish. I'm essentially a very bad person."

Carvan thought about it.

"Yeah, but you haven't done any of that stuff for ages, have you? It's all in the past."

Michael realised that Carvan had a big heart but wasn't terribly bright and was trying to work out in his mind what was right and what wasn't. Just the kind of person who in the old days Michael would have moulded into one of his disciples.

Carvan had to return to the bar. A couple came in and sat next to Michael. The young man was clearly Jewish by the skullcap he was wearing. The young lady was Asian. They were obviously very much in love. Carvan knew them. He explained, rather tactlessly, that Michael had jumped off the bridge that night and to be nice to him. Michael felt very moved at how sympathetic they both were. He felt guilty as they both insisted on buying him drinks and wouldn't let him get any. They paid for him to have a taxi - a luxury he never afforded himself - at the end of the evening.

Michael realised that his future lay in living with a guilt that woke him up at night but looking forward to his trips out to a little pub in Archway. That would be it until God summoned him to be by His side. No more trips to Hornsey Lane Bridge.

Maybe he could send some anonymous money to the "boys", if they were still alive, and claim to be a long-lost nameless relative?

Maybe he could try to find out more about this multi-cultural business? God must have been trying to tell him something by that spectacular piece of luck with that tent appearing at the last minute and his second chance at life.

Oh, and in the immediate future, he'd better do something about his car. He'd have one heck of a parking ticket to pay otherwise.

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