We must have fallen asleep. Chris's turntables were in the kitchen, with one of the speakers on a long cord out into front room. The lights were still on, and there were people sprawled out all over the chairs, curled up on the couch, lying sideways across the bed.

We mustn't have been asleep long because it was still dark outside, and I was definitely still pissed, which is why it took a couple minutes for the commotion in the hallway to wake me. But soon the door burst open and someone was shouting and footsteps were pounding down the stairs. Everything was moving, everyone standing up, looking on the floor, pulling on socks. I was still on the couch, hands between my knees. A stranger's voice -- a middle-aged man shouting -- finally made me open my eyes.

What the fuck was he on about? One of my shoes was under the table. I was still fumbling around with the laces when Chris grabbed me under the arms, and in a moment we were all out in the road.

It was full of cars. People, grannies and kids, were hurrying down the pavement, some of them still with their pyjamas on under their coats.

My head was cobwebby, and my legs were like posts. Everyone was headed in the same direction, the cars and the kids and the grannies. And us.

When we came to Kingsland Road I looked south and saw masses of people. Thousands, fucking millions of people, their heads all bobbing up and down. I looked around for the others. The crowd was getting thick. I could hear Colin's voice and pushed toward it, heading up towards Ball's Pond Road, getting knocked into by old Nigerian ladies and families pushing baby buggies full of clothes and boxes, their kids riding on top. At the corner a load of people were breaking off toward the west, and that's where we went. I looked back over my shoulder. An old man got knocked down, and the crowd just flowed over him like a gutter full of water.

It was getting impossible to stay with the others. I could see Colin's head twenty or thirty feet away, and Chris just ahead of me and to the left was craning around, making a goofy face with his eyes bugged out, and I could see his mouth moving: "This is fucking bollocks!" Charity grabbed my arm and pulled me, and I grabbed Michelle's, and with Andrew and Chris and Percy and Naomi we headed down a smaller road.

At the end of it we spotted a Super Save. The handle to the door was broken off, and inside the lights were on. Percy reached around the empty counter for some plastic bags and we all just wandered through the shop filling them with beers and alcopops. Chris grinned. "Eyyy, never know when you're gonna need a nice cold Woody." Colin and Michelle ended up getting in an argument about the strength of beers versus alcopops. Charity and Naomi were in the sweets aisle filling their pockets.

Back out in the street we heard screams. At first I thought it was a joke, but the screams got worse, and it sounded like somebody being murdered. Charity ran through a gate and started pounding on the front door, but Andrew pulled her away. At the far end of the road there was a load of gunshots, just like that.

I was still pissed, and as we legged it back to the main road I kept tripping over my shoes. We forced our way into the crowd, all the way into the centre, and I finally asked where we were headed. Andrew and Noami said King's Cross. Michelle reckoned that at this rate it'd take us ages, and she knew a better route along the canal. I didn't like the idea of running into more thugs, but the road we were on was so thick with people I was sure I'd be lifted off my feet any minute or knocked down and ground to bits under a million pairs of feet like that granddad.

So we pushed our way out again, and once we'd got free of the crowd we started jogging. Down alleys, through parks, over metal railings. We ran out of breath. We slowed down. We looked into each other's faces, and we couldn't help laughing at the state of ourselves.

One of us, Naomi I think, started climbing over the big construction fence to an old disused playpark, so we all followed. Inside, up on the monkey bars, we dangled our feet and opened our drinks. All except for Chris, who was riding the zip line. I shouted at him to be careful, but he knew better and dropped to the ground just before the end. From her plastic bag Naomi was pulling out a load of toys and novelty lighters she'd lifted the shop, and as we sipped our cans we talked about the things we'd seen. Andrew told us about a dog who'd gone after a little girl and torn into her face like it was a tennis ball.

The sky was light now, and even though we were feeling sorted and hadn't even finished the beer or the alcopops, there was a long silence. We all all started wondering what had become of the others. "Anybody see Alice?" "No." "What about Nathan?" "No, not since we left the house." We sat there for a while, and nobody said anything.

As we were climbing back over the fence, Percy picked up a twisted metal bar and made light sabre sounds, but everyone ignored him till he threw it back in the weeds.

Out on a grassy hill we made our way up, walking slowly between the trees and not saying much. The sun was shining through the leaves the way it does in the morning when you haven't slept. At the top of the hill there were some picnic tables. Chris was a bit ahead of me, and when he got to them he stopped. "Oh, fuckin' hell." We hurried up to him, but when we saw what he'd seen we stopped.

Percy I think was the first to turn and run, and before I could think we were following right behind him.

We didn't get far before the massive crowd caught up. Soon I couldn't spot the others anymore. I kept running, there was no choice about it - no place to stop, just more and more people coming up from behind. Soon I'd dropped the bag of beers. I could feel my legs burning and a stitch in my side. At one point there was a jam-up of people in front of me, which gradually gave way with a shriek, and we all carried on running again.

The crowd was moving fast. Every so often there'd be a kerb or a bin, and I tried to watch out for them so I wouldn't lose a bollock. I twisted my head round, hoping to find one of the others, but all the faces were strange and evil. I tried making my way to the edge of the crowd, but it was never the edge.

At Pentonville Road I spotted a police lady up a lamppost shouting something through a megaphone. The road sloped down now, and the crowd picked up speed like this was the final sprint. Then quite suddenly, bang, I ran into a wall of people. From behind more people slammed into me, and there was a lot of shouting -- "Sod off you want some of this you fucking cunt." I looked up above the dark head of the bloke in front of me, literally pressed against my nose, and saw the spires of St. Pancras. They couldn't have been more than a quarter mile off, which meant King's Cross wasn't far. But between me and it there was an unmoving mass of people. There were more megaphones, but I still couldn't make out what they were saying. I pogoed up and down a bit, and that's how I spotted Charity's head -- her hair dyed Ribena purple from the week before. I jumped and shouted, but she was too far off and couldn't hear me, or maybe she couldn't turn. I didn't bother trying to push my way through the crowd. I didn't look around for the others. I didn't ask anyone what was happening. I lowered my head so no one would see me cry.

by Craig M. Garrett

[originally published in Le Teaser (Metronome no. 9) by Metronome Press, Paris]

copyright 2005

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