In the guttering candle-light of the blackouts, the darkness of the underpass began to swell, fomented by loneliness and cruelty, until eventually it bled through and the events of that summer afternoon surged once more to the surface.
Beget from the same black shadows as MR James’ unsettling fiction and Nigel Kneale’s macabre teleplays, The Underpass is a short story best told amongst friends, dark corners carefully checked for unwelcome guests.
“I did my best to avoid the underpass after Rob went missing. I was barely twelve years old at the time and the only witness. My testimony was dismissed as unreliable but I know what I saw. And at night, even now, I sometimes still see it crouching in my dreams.
The underpass was the quickest and most direct route to school, the shops, the park; almost everywhere I needed to go. It cut beneath the roundabout, joining the footbridge over the motorway with the path along the side of the river. To avoid it meant scrambling up a steep embankment into four lanes of traffic, or else walking the long way round and adding at least fifteen minutes on to my journey.
There were more prosaic reasons not to use the underpass. Like the setting for a public information film it echoed the memories of every mugging, rape and abduction my nightmares had ever recalled. However, this wasn’t the reason why I avoided it, and it wasn’t reason enough to explain away my fear to my friends or to my mum…”
The Underpass is continued here.