By the time that I left the police station late afternoon has begun to stretch into early evening.
The nagging headache that had been building for hours was now a full blown stampede of wilderbeast, running through the inside of my skull. And, although I knew it would only make my headache worse, I was desperate for a cigarette.
The walk back home took me through the centre of town. I watched as lights blinked out in shop windows, and tired looking workers hastily locked up, and scurried away on their own journeys home. Although the dark nights were slowly starting to draw in, the street lamps didn't come on any earlier yet, and I began to leave the last few glowing shop fronts behind me.
When I was younger I used to walk through town alone at all hours of the night, and never even think about what might be lurking in the dark. Floating down the streets on a cloud of alcoholic intoxication, laughing and joking with people I passed as I drifted home in blissful ignorance.
Oh, to be so young and stupid once again . . .
As I walked out onto the town's main square, a little bit of light returned to chase away the darkness. Various bars and pubs were just starting to warm up for the evening, and the faint sounds of music and conversation echoed through the air. I felt overcome with a desire to disappear into the safety of a drinking establishment, but my palms were starting to itch with the need for nicotene, and with the smoking ban now in place the pub just wasn't an option. Besides, I needed to get home before the real night set in.
Head down, and hands in pockets, I made my way across the square and crossed over onto Darlington Street. From there it was pretty much a straight line down to Chapel Ash, and the relative safety of home.
I was trying very hard to keep an open mind about the prospect of seeing another sunrise, but after today I was finding it difficult. People who ratted-out gangs of crazed, flesh-eating ghouls, didn't tend to have very lengthy life spans. Every shadow I passed begged my attention to scan it for potential danger, but if I gave into that way of thinking I would be a nervous wreck within the next five minutes.
At the bottom of Darlington Street I crossed over the junction, that took me past the old brewery, and round into Chapel Ash high street. Things were much busier here, as always, as the street was mainly made up of take-aways, cafes, and restaurants. Nestled in between a pizza shop, and a closed funeral directors, was a small off-licence.
Thank you God, alcohol and nicotene to see me through the night.
As I turned to walk into the shop a young Asian man came bounding out and knocked into me, sending me tumbling sideways into the doorframe. I pulled my hands from my pockets, and quickly pressed them against the wall to steady myself.
“Sorry love.” shouted the young man, as he carried on hurtling towards a bus stop a few meters further up the street.
I took a deep breath and refrained from any offensive reply.
Once inside the shop I quickly picked out a cheap bottle of vodka and a few cans of diet coke; finishing off my purchase with a packet of menthol cigarettes. The man behind the counter looked at me a little strangely as he bagged up my items. This was understandable, as the most hardcore thing I had bought from there lately was a packet of double chocolate cookies.
What is it about buying booze soley for your own consumption that seems to make you feel guilty? It's almost as if it marks you out as someone with a problem.
Yeah, well, my problems are only just beginning. So expect me back soon.
The small block of private flats where I lived was on Larches Lane, which was only five minutes walk from the high street, but I still thought about waiting for the next bus that would pass by the end of my road. At this time though, public transport was even more unreliable than usual, so I attempted to shake off my feelings of unease and started walking briskly towards home.
It's funny how, when you are basically in fear for your life, everyday things suddenly take on a suspicious quality. The sound of the wind rustling the leaves in the trees above becomes ominous, shuffling, footsteps coming up behind you. That man standing outside a house, talking on his mobile phone, could be waiting for you to pass by so he can grab you. Why is he standing outside anyway? It's not that warm. Cars, slowing down to turn other roads, seem to be stopping for a little too long before turning and driving on.
By the time that I reached the front door to my building I was way past the point of being able to look over my shoulder.
I fumbled for my keys in the pocket of my jeans. My shaking hands wouldn't seem to fit the outside key into the lock, but on the third try I got it. Once the security door was closed behind me I relaxed a little, and made my way to my own front door. I unlocked this second door slightly more successfully, but closed it behind me just as quickly.
Hey, what do you know? I made it.
Turning on every light that I passed the switch for, I put my bag of “groceries” down on the kitchen counter, and proceeded to go from room to room closing all of the curtains and blinds. I had no desire to see the outside world again this evening. After pouring myself a large class of vodka and coke, and lighting up my first cigarette in three years, I walked into my living room and set my glass down on the coffee table. I swapped the glare of an overhead light, for the softer illumination of a standing lamp next to the bookcase. I wasn't really in the mood for watching television, but I didn't really want to sit with only the silence for company, so I turned it on and found a channel showing re-runs of Red Dwarf. A little humour was exactly what I needed to help me relax.
After a few hours, and more than a few drinks, I eventually fell asleep on the sofa.
My dreams were unclear, but filled with an overwhelming sense of dread.