Lockstep Common

Lockstep Common: by Mark Cottrell-AKA-Sparky.

“Blimin hell its cold”, thought Ralph as he grabbed Max’s lead, “come on you waste of time” Ralph joked to his Rottweiler guard dog, whose full name was a bit of a mouthful; Maximilian von Blitzen. “It’s time to go for a walk” Ralph continued to explain to the half sleeping dog.
Ralph loved working with Max he knew he was safe with a 13 stone muscle bound dog at his side, the daft thing was that the sentence meant nothing to the dog until he heard the word “Walk”, then you were in business, his ears
pricked up and he flew to his feet as if he had suddenly remembered a mission he had to complete.

Ralph pulled his security jacket on and zipped it up as far as it would go Max knew the drill and sat ready to receive his heavy chain lead clipped to the leather collar and clip Ralph had specially made for Max when he was in Cyprus on holiday last summer. Taking the torch off of the shelf and turning up the gas fire in preparation for their return the pair were ready for another trip around the deserted industrial warehouse site. The site was huge, many years before the site was a thriving industrial setting which had some of the biggest distribution companies running out of it. In recent years the area had been earmarked for regeneration into the new Olympic village, it all seemed a little sad in a way, the area creaked and groaned as if to let anyone listening know how unhappy the buildings were about their imminent future demolition.

As the door of the security cabin opened Max pushed his way outside, “for
Christ sake, Max! WAIT” Ralph cried out, “you nearly pulled me off of my
feet, you lump”, Max may not have understood everything said to him but
he knew when he was in the wrong, and seemed to know he needed
to stand still. Ralph turned and slammed the door shut locking it with
the key and firmly pulling the door to make certain. “Max, are you
ready”? Ralph gave a short tug on the lead and Max stood to attention.
The amazing thing about Max was that he knew when he was working
head forward ears up and chest puffed out, his impressive
stature and presence was what made Ralph proud of his best friend
and work mate.

The winter wind always seemed to pick up as the two made their way to the first check point, the whole site usually took an hour to walk unless something needed a closer look. Once clear of the cabin Ralph always made certain no one was around, and with a sharp “Max sit” Ralph unclipped the lead, Max immediately knew it was play time, his favourite game was throwing a car tyre around as if it were made of paper, his powerful jaws and neck muscles allowed Max to throw the
tyre high into the air, Ralph would laugh out loud each time it
landed around Max’s neck like a swimming aid.

Max stopped dead in his tracks, standing as if he were on show at Crufts, and then looked at Ralph as if to say, “Did you hear that”? This in itself wasn’t unusual this was how Max helped Ralph do the job, like all dogs he had great senses, especially his hearing which was far better than Ralph’s.
Ralph shone his torch in the direction of Max’s gaze “what
is it boy, go and see” this sent Max into a frenzy of deep barking and
a threatening growls, it always did, only this time it seemed
different, Max almost hesitated between barks and started to take a
backward step with each warning he gave. Ralph did not have the same
feeling at the time, to him it was going to be nothing as usual or a
rat, Ralph certainly could not see anybody in the torch light. Calling
max over to him, Ralph decided to put the lead back on and investigate
further. The area in front of them was one of the larger units with a
high mesh fence which led onto Lockstep Common, by now the time was a little after 2am and as the site was well away from any houses and the
main city it would be quite unusual for anyone to be merely walking
around, unless they were up to no good.

Ralph realised that as they got closer to the edge of the large unit Max was beginning to slow down, “what is it boy”? Ralph whispered. “is there anybody there”? Shouted Ralph, his voice was drowned out by the high pitched whine of the wind, “I have a guard dog with me” Ralph carried on with his warning “and I will let him go”. Ralph got close to Max’s ear and used his trigger word “SPEAK” Max “SPEAK”, this was a command which allowed max to use his full vocabulary of barks, growls and general threatening sounds including a very scary snarl which Max had perfected for just such an occasion.

By now the pair was making enough noise to scare off anyone who had been anywhere they shouldn’t have been. Ralph decided it was nothing and began give Max a good solid scrub all over his back and neck “good boy, oh yes you are a good”! Before Ralph could finish his praise Max suddenly turned to face the fence, his head was slowly rocking, first to the left and then right, as if he was listening to someone or something. This was quite un-nerving to Ralph who could not see or hear anything. Max then sat and lifted up his right front leg and offered his paw, “who’s there, who’s there” Ralph’s voice was not as commanding by now, flashing the torch from one side to the other it was clear he was spooked.

“I don’t like this” Ralph told himself. “I don’t like this one bit”.
Over the years the pair had dealt with everything from break-ins to crowd
control at the now famous Glastonbury festival, however this was
different, Max seemed certain something was there, although Ralph couldn’t see it or them.
Ralph shouted at Max to come to heal in one movement the dog withdrew from the fence and circled Ralph once and sat in close heal, Looking up at his master and then back to the darkness through the rusted metal, diamond shaped mesh of the
boundary barrier. Ralph could hear a quite whimper coming from Max; it
was the same sound he would make whenever he was being left alone,
“what’s the matter boy” Ralph questioned, “shall we go around the
perimeter for a proper look, yeh! Come on boy, let’s go”, Ralph’s tone
changed from expectant to excitement.

The pair took off with purpose, heading directly to the top right hand corner where a hole in the fence made an easy exit or entry point, Ralph had found the gap several days earlier when he first arrived on the site, it was the perfect short cut to the pub, Ralph had covered the hole with a large piece of plywood, and secured it with cable ties. Ralph thought to himself if there is anything out there Max can have it, if it is a person then they should have made their presence known, if they get hurt it is their own stupid fault. As they arrived at the exit point of the fence Max began to growl again, “leave it Max” Ralph sniped; as he lifted away the sheet of ply exposing the hole in the fence, pulling on the lead Ralph passed through the fence and Max followed.

Once they had cleared the narrow stony path that surrounded the compound they were on Lockstep Common. During the day this overgrown tree lined common took on a different look entirely, birds flocked to it and foxes raised their broods on skipping wild rabbit, but in the middle of winter in the early hours of a Sunday morning and after a scare, you could imagine all sorts of strange and unworldly goings on.
Ralph again flashed his torch around spending just as long looking forward as he did spinning around to check for possible surprises from behind. Max with his confident walk checked from side to side and straight ahead, only stopping to mark a post or stump of a tree with his formidable scent.

As they passed the line level with the back of the large warehouse where they thought they had heard something earlier, Ralph thought he could hear footsteps on the gravel of the stony path just ahead; in fact it was
coming from the exact position of the earlier incident. “we’ve got
them”, Ralph told Max and quickly pointed his searchlight torch in the
direction of the footsteps, as his eyes peered into the haze of the
torch light, his tired eyes adjusted to the distance and light level
Max began to pull on the lead, as the pair moved forward Ralph calls out
to Max, “Did you see that Max”, “what in the hell was that “? Ralph was certain of what he had seen, just as the torch steadied for a split second and no longer, Ralph could clearly see the side of a face and top of a shoulder, but here is the leap of faith the face did not seem human.
Ralph went on muttering under his breath “not right that, no face details” explaining to himself in detail what he saw trying to make sense of the figure. “It was a small figure about 4 foot 6 inches with a glossy grey skin and a small head with sad black lidless eyes, it saw me, right so it’s real, yeh! Real and Max saw, didn’t you boy? it ran into the bank of blackberry bushes that line the path that lead onto the common. When you think about it Max, it is a great escape route” he continued to reassure himself.

Max stood looking into the distance, Ralph by now was completely convinced of what he saw “thank god I didn’t let you go off of the lead” he explained to Max, as they walked forward to the exact point of where the figure had been standing “if I would have let you off, you could have really got hurt or we could have been in a lot of trouble, if it was a child; why am I talking to a dog” Ralph giggles to himself. Shinning his light into the blackberry bushes, Ralph catches sight of a crouching figure just yards away from where he is stood.
The unbelievable thing was Max did not try to attack or make any threatening sound as if he knew there was no threat to either of them. “Hello, hello I can see you, I’m Ralph, and who are you”? Ralph calmly enquires, “We won’t hurt you. Do you understand me”? Ralph keeps his tone calm and his words separate and deliberate as if he were talking to a foreigner, in a 70’s comedy show.
As he talks Ralph reaches out his hand in a gesture of friendship and
goodwill, followed by a beckoning motion to come out into the open, as
he does the figure tightens its huddle and leans further back into the

It was then Ralph decided on a positive course of action, turning around and using the torch to find a stump he knots the lead to tie up and secure Max away from the figure. Ralph lifts his foot and trampling down the overgrown foliage moves closer to the figure inch by inch trying not to make too much noise and frighten off this strange being.

As the figure became easier to see by torch light it became obvious that it is exactly as you would expect an alien to look, large black lifeless eyes, but the head was small and childlike, and a small mouth without lips. Ralph’s heart by now was beating out of his chest, and his breathing became short and panting, the frozen air spewing from his open mouth as if he were a smoking chimney. Although the torch light acted as flood light on this tiny person it was stopped by the dense brambles that surrounded the small clearing where it huddled and comforted its self with its spindly arms, Ralph did not see the others until they moved to retrieve their comrade, hands came from all directions in an arc around the frightened figure, grasping and pulling it into the centre of the matted thorny sanctuary.
They began to communicate as soon as they were out of sight, chattering and making swishing sounds, Ralph listened and then it dawned on him he had his camera phone in his pocket all this time, if only he would have used it earlier, if only he would have used the video. Now no one will
believe him, he needed another look just one more chance to see it
clearly enough to photograph the alien visitor or one of his friends.

As Ralph turned to release Max from the stump, the figure emerged from the bushes walked up to Max and offered his hand for Max to smell, Ralph stood in silence and slowly took his phone from his pocket.
As the creature seemed to enjoy smoothing Max, Ralph showed him the phone turned his back on Max and the little person held his camera phone at arm’s length and pressed the take button. The flash lit up the small visitor including Ralph and Max in the shot, the sudden flash of blinding light startled the small creature. Ralph was certain he had the perfect shot; the small creature took Ralph by the hand and started to walk back towards the hole in the fence. From over his shoulder Ralph could see approximately 8 more of the tiny people, Max acted as if this was all normal and so Ralph was calm too, as they all walked around the back of the large warehouse one of the beings walked past Ralph and his new found friend. Pushing a sheet of corrugated iron panelling to one side and exposing an opening in the side of the warehouse the creature stepped through.
One by one the visitors followed him into the building closely followed by Max. Ralph decided to look before he leapt, and shone his torch in first, as he did the light fell on a small liquid panel of light it appeared to be some kind of floating lit doorway, Ralph’s mouth fell open as he exclaimed “what have we here, it’s only a? is it ?! You are having a laugh”, his words were replied to by a series of chattering clicks and nods. The Site before him was a kind of window or gateway of dim light, Ralph was speechless for a moment he just stood there and savoured the experience. It was beautiful; the surface was a kind of liquid, like Mercury it appeared to be liquid but when Ralph touched it, it was solid however he could clearly see the light was moving continuously, flowing around the empty space before him, in constant movement, its light bounced around making a Blue/gunmetal grey colour it was the most perfect colour he had ever seen.
As Ralph stood looking and admiring the unbelievable sight in front of him, the tiny creatures gathered around Max stroking his fur and chattering amongst them. At first Ralph just thought they were inquisitive and as Max loved all the attention, Ralph couldn’t see a problem, then without making a single sound the portal opened and a pure white light beckoned and strobes filling the whole interior of the building, as the light stabilised it became apparent the light was more of a blue white, which came from inside the shape and there was now an opening approximately 6 foot high and 20 feet wide with a ramp that gently touched the floor, but did not seem to have any supporting structure.

Max accompanied by three of the visitors walked up the ramp and into the light Ralph began to follow smiling calmly, it seemed the right thing to do, as he did so the ramp started to close, “Max, Max here boy”, Ralph quickly changed his as the door way closed and shouted in an anxious voice Max heel, then again “MAX, COME HERE” his voice was now loud and desperate, the opening was by now only a quarter the size it was at its fullest, Ralph began to shout uncontrollably “MAX,MAX” as Ralph called he followed the closure of the opening with his body bending and straining his eyes to see through the light into the inner void. Finally the opening was gone the warehouse was in complete darkness, Ralph clicked on his torch and searched the area hoping to see Max sat somewhere in the building, in desperation he began to strike out at where the light was with his fists, but there was nothing to hit, picking a piece of angle iron up off of the floor Ralph hit the air as hard as he could to his disbelief the iron simply melted into the space in front of him as if it had completely absorbed the metal.

Ralph didn’t know what to do; well what do you do in a situation like this with no point of reference to any experience you’ve had before. Taking his
mobile phone out of his pocket and dialling 999 the screen read no
signal, “No signal, you are joking” Ralph’s voice crackled.
“Go for help, that’s what I’ll do”, Ralph muttered to himself. Flashing the light beam around the silent warehouse the fixed narrow tube of dazzling brightness only illuminating what it touched, this quickly made Ralph realise his torch beam was less than useless. It may have been the strongest and the biggest torch in the shop but now it was his enemy. Ralph searched and scrambled around in the near dark, only to temporarily blind himself with the over rated beam of light in his hand. Stumbling over some debris and falling forward Ralph felt the side of the warehouse wall give way, it may not have been the point of entry but you can be certain it was the way he was getting out.
Crawling through the rusted and twisted corrugated sheet Ralph could feel the metal ripping and cutting through his black polyester trousers and holding him, as if to keep him where he was. For a split second Ralph panicked fearful he was being held by something or someone, in one last effort he was free of the building and it’s strangle hold on him. As Ralph stood and took a deep breath the air ran into his lungs burning
his chest with freezing precision, it was difficult to take the second
breath the pain was enough to make his eyes flood with water blurring
his vision and causing any points of light to become star like in his eyes.

His run for the van was a pathetic skip, run and stumble all mixed together to form a forward motion of sorts, his breath was short and shallow only punctuated with sniffs and slurps to control his running nose and mouth full of saliva, it seem an eternity running the 150 yards or so
back to the cabin and the relative safety of the van.
Ralph slumped over, his hands firmly gripping his knees trying desperately to control the depth of his breathing, saliva dripping from his mouth, Ralph searched for his keys firstly in his trouser front pockets, pulling B&Q paper receipts out and throwing them onto the frozen yard
floor, “come on, come on” Ralph urged himself to hurry, as he pulled at
his out turned pockets, Ralph tried to double up the search by feeling
around his coat pockets and back trouser pockets. “Keys, keys
where are the pissing keys”, Ralph’s continual verbal assault on his
inability to remember what he had done with the van keys suddenly
stopped as Ralph realised they are in the cabin on top of the portable
TV, this made things easier as the cabin key was always on Ralph’s key
chain which was attached to his belt loop. Unlocking the cabin door the
heat from the room hit Ralph clear in the face and burned like a furnace, however he had no time to enjoy the welcome of his temporary home, two steps in he grabbed the bunch of keys from the top of the TV spun on his heels and in one leap he was back outside in the icy cold.
Ralph shuffled around the van, sorting through the keys one by one as he moved, until he found the correct one for the van, holding onto the driver’s side door handle Ralph pushed the keys into the lock and opened the van door climbing inside continually telling told himself to “stay calm, stay calm”. Unusually the van started first time “thank god for that”, Ralph screamed, the van was temperamental to say the least and this was exactly the sort of occasion it would let you down, in the past it would not start if you were late for an appointment or if a pretty girl walked by as Ralph attempted to drive off with the radio on full blast, trying to look cool. This time it worked, Ralph threw the van into reverse, as he accelerated away the wheels span and pieces of gravel and dust flew into the air, pulling on the handbrake and spinning the steering wheel round to full lock left; the van turned 360 degrees on its axis, Ralph
shouted at the van “come on” just as you might if you were on a horse.
Pushing the gear lever forward and depressing and then releasing the
clutch in quick succession the van lurched forward, Ralph flicked on the
head light switch and he was off.

Driving like a man possessed Ralph knew the nearest place to head for was the local petrol station, as far as he knew it was open 24 hours. “What the hell am I going to tell them, Ralph struggled with the options, “aliens, No, abduction? I’d better use the words dog theft and let them see for themselves” Ralph concluded. By now the interior of the van was warming up, Ralph could see the van clock which was showing 3:45 am “blimey” he thought to himself “I thought it was later than that”, he muttered, as he turned the corner opposite the railway bridge, the street lights were few and far between, framing the road in shadow with yellow light around the base of each lights trunk, each empty doorway and return seemed the perfect hiding place for anyone who did not want to be
clearly seen. For the first time Ralph began to notice how desolate and
abandoned the whole area was.

“At last”, Ralph said aloud to himself, the Petrol station sign could just be seen peering over the camber of the road, poking its lit signature through the wintery tortured tree branches. As Ralph drove onto the forecourt the lights of the station, appeared brighter than he had ever noticed before, he thought it must just like seeing an oasis it would look better the more
you needed to see it. The Van brakes screamed as the tyres scuffed the
ground; Ralph pushed open the door and jumped out, the van thumped to a stop as the engine stalled. Adrenalin is a strange force it can leave
you tried empty and breathless as soon as it kicks in, especially if it
is not controlled, Ralph found himself in that exact situation, as he
ran up to the cashier window Ralph did not take into consideration his
appearance and the time of night, to the startled attendant he could
have been a complete loon, high on drugs.

The cashier looked Ralph up and down. Through the window and with the microphone turned off all that the cashier saw was an unshaven slightly greying 50 something year old man with flared nostrils torn, dirty and dishevelled clothes, blood dried and glistening on Ralph’s hand with fresh blood oozing from a cut just above the hair line. With eyes as wide as saucers Ralph appeared to mime “call the police” of course from outside it was a different matter he was not miming at all, he was in full voice “call
the police” Ralph began to bang on the glass adding to the uncertainty
of the cashier as to what the hell was going on. Ralph shouted “turn on
the microphone” pointing at the small microphone just inside the glass,
Ralph said again “turn it on you fool, then you can hear me”.

“How can I help”? The cashier’s voice was a beautiful sound, not at all
English more Croatian or from around there somewhere, “Call the police
please, they’ve taken Max”, Ralph cried “they’ve taken him and I can’t
get back into the light”. This made no sense to the poor attendant who was hanging on every word in the hope he could make some sense of what was being said. “Slow down, please and tell me who has got who? Who is Max”?
“My name is Goren” offered the cashier “now who are you?” Ralph explained how he was working at the old industrial site as the security guard and he needed to use the phone or have Goren to call the police. Goren then repeated his question who is Max, Ralph hesitated “he was, I mean, is my dog; we work together on larger sites”. “So whose got him” Goren asked again “Is it gypsies? They can be trouble”. Goren started to detail an incident, when Ralph’s face changed to a more threatening shape, “are you going to call the police or what?” it was obvious to anyone Ralph was not interested in small talk, “I will call them now” Goren replied he picked up the phone and simultaneously turned his back to Ralph, with his left hand he flicked the microphone switched to off.

“Hello, Police please” Goren answered the operator’s first question. “Hi; I am the night manager at Lockstep petrol station on Bridge road, can you
send someone I think there’s been an accident or something, it’s
difficult to tell.” Goren explains to the incident room his opinion and
observations of the last few minutes. “He has blood all over him and
he’s really angry” the worried Goren states.
Putting down the phone Goren turns back to face Ralph, who by now was pumping his arms and blowing onto his hands in an attempt to get warm, “what did they say, are they coming”? Ralph asks. Goren turns the microphone back on with a loud “bomp” which fills the air of the forecourt, “They are on their way” Goren say’s in a voice several decibels above what was necessary for the close proximity of the now freezing Ralph. “Right oh, mate, thanks for that” are they coming here or meeting me on site?” Ralph asks. He could tell immediately Goren forgot to ask, “What don’t tell me, you didn’t tell them where the site was, did you? So I have to wait here; then drive back to site. It will be ages before we can
rescue Max”. Ralph explained “I am going back to Arlington warehouse it
is the green and blue metal doors next to the common facing Mason lane,
this is the exact address, Ralph shoves an old torn piece of a time sheet
under the cashier window, on the top is the site address next to Ralph’s
full name and employee number, send them there, OK”.
Ralph then turned away from the window, jogged the few paces back to the van and jumped into the already open van door. With a quick wave across his body Ralph closed the van door and began to start the engine “here we go” he said under his breath, come on start you little Bast..” The engine took a gasp and fired up blowing brown and grey smoke across the clean forecourt. “Well done” Ralph thanked the van, selected first gear and away. “How long have I been gone”, Ralph wondered, looking at the clock once again, Ralph whispered to himself “shit I’ve been almost an hour, poor Max I hope he is OK, Ralph began to let his thoughts wonder on his drive back to the yard, remembering running around with Max when he was a puppy and how he used to shake and cry as soon as he saw the car park for the vet surgery.
Ralph thought to himself what a coward Max could be sometimes. It
was what seemed only a few minutes and Ralph was back at the compound, it was one of those journeys when you can’t remember how you got there or any details about the route you have taken. Letting the van slide to a halt outside of the security cabin, the tyres bit into the stony yard, gravel flying in all directions and a cloud of fine dust
billowing into the winter air, Ralph thought hard about what to do next;
“wait for the reinforcements or go and have another look” It was that
time of night that poets often refer to as the “darkest just before
dawn” time of the night. Ralph looked out across the open site, whilst
dust ebbed and flowed in rhythmic dance caught in the beam of the

The only sound Ralph could hear was the whir of the radiator fan as it drew in the night air to cool the now stalled engine. Ralph opened the van door the interior lit up, the glow although week still insisted on casting an eerie shadow across Ralph’s face. The van head lights were off and the outside seemed darker and even more forbidding, Ralph’s decision was made for him, there was no way he was going back into that warehouse alone. Getting out of the van and slamming the door shut an echo stretched out its sound as it bounced from building to building as if it were trying to find a resting place before gently disappearing into the night.

Ralph turned and looked towards the large warehouse where he had left Max well over an hour ago. Walking backwards towards the cabin door his eyes attempted to pierce the darkness and the metal walls of the warehouse unit hoping to catch a glimpse of his lost friend and praying not to see anything strange or frightening.
Opening the unlocked door of the cabin Ralph felt there was something not right, somehow it was not as he had left it. Reaching in Ralph searched for the switch which he knew was on the wall somewhere to the right, his finger touched the button and he froze like a statue, straining his ears Ralph was certain he could hear breathing, and it was coming from the rear of the cabin, Ralph stood quite still and began to pant himself just in case it was sound of his own making. After the quick test and realising it was not his sound Ralph began to very slowly retreat with one hand on the door frame and the other reaching into the dark for the edge of the door Ralph took a large step back and slammed the cabin door shut.
Ralph ducked down turned and firmly pushed his back against the
door, then with his left hand flat against the middle of the door Ralph
used his right to juggle the key chain until he found its end and the
cabin key, once he had locked the cabin Ralph took a huge breath which
was followed by a sigh. Creeping along the outside edge of the front of the cabin in a crouching action with bent knees, Ralph slid up to the cabin window, and gradually raised his head just enough to clear his eyes of the window frame. Fully standing Ralph looked across the common in the distance Ralph could see the blue flashing of a police car “great timing” Ralph whispered and returned to his crouched position “now I have one trapped, we have a hostage situation”. Ralph gave a short snuff of a laugh followed by blowing air out of his nose reminiscent of a boxer during a fight.

Holding his position Ralph saw the headlights of a car turning into the compound gates, the car immediately slowed down to a crawl the headlights were joined by extremely strong spotlights; which
turned the yard into a stadium of light. As the lights hit Ralph’s face
he had to turn his head to one side only looking out of the side of his
eyes and using the back of his hand against his forehead to act as a
visor. The car stopped only yards from where Ralph was crouching. The
door opened and a figure got out, the light was so bright Ralph couldn’t
make out whether it was a police officer man or woman. “Are you
alright, sir” The police man asked “Yes, well no I’m not, can you turn down the light show please?” Ralph replied.

The office nodded to his colleague who was deep in conversation on his car radio, the spotlights were off in a moment, all that Ralph could see now was the ghost of the spotlights moving into position to block whatever he tried to look at.

“It is in here” Ralph choked as the words came out “I’ve caught one, it’s in the cabin” Ralph reinforced. “What is” said the standing officer ”what is in the cabin” The officer asked again, Ralph had to answer with the only true statement he had “ I don’t know, but I felt its presence and heard it breathing, It is in the cabin I’ve seen nine of the little buggers tonight and they’ve got my dog”. “What in the cabin? Have you been drinking sir” the officer’s voice was nothing more than condescending to say the least.

Ralph’s reply came at a different volume from the rest of the conversation, “how dare you” exploded Ralph, “I am a professional security guard with over twenty-five years of service and I know what I saw” the office quickly replied “yes sir, but what did you see?” The officer in the car then got out and walked over to the window of the cabin, pulling his torch off of his utility belt shone it into the window and flashed it around the entire inner cabin. As Ralph turned to join in the surveillance the torch almost hit Ralph in the side of the head “call for backup” said
the officer I have just seen it. “Small head? Black eyes? Ralph
reinforced the questions with short nodding motions “yes” said the
officer “what the hell is it”. “I told you, I told you” Ralph squealed.

The first officer said “right lets retreat back to the squad car”, everyone
agreed that was probably a good plan. Once safely in the car the three
made certain the windows and doors were shut. “I am PC Mike Wilson and
this is PC Simon Morgan we are from Brinkley Street station, now what
is that in there” asked PC Wilson. Ralph then spent a few seconds trying
to decide on how to begin, he thought it might be best to start at the
start and bring the boys in blue up to speed. After he had finished the
two officers looked at each other and without making any gesture to
each other or to Ralph said they believed his original and strange tale.
“There is something about you Ralph” said PC Morgan “you don’t seem to
be a nutter and I have seen it myself, we have a situation here, which
could be bigger than the Berlin wall”.
You do talk some crap” responded PC Wilson, “I am more interested in what is in that Warehouse, let’s have a little look down there away from the cabin, Simon radio this in and find out if there is a serious incident wagon about and call S.W.A.T we might need them, this is either as Ralph says or it could be terrorists”.

Ralph laughed out loud, “what is so funny” enquired PC Wilson “E.T Ahmed, or do you look for the terrorist in everyone” Ralph quipped. PC Morgan thought the proper protocol should be observed and asked Ralph to show them the place of the first creature sighting and work back from there, “It will be light in an hour or so”, explained PC Wilson “we need to assess any threat and or criminal act, trespassing, break in and entry”. “Terrorism, world domination” Ralph interrupted. The two officers followed Ralph to the hole in the fence and onto the path next to the common, as they neared the Blackberry brambles and the area Ralph saw the little strange creature, PC Morgan starts a conversation; “Ralph, fair play to you, I really don’t know how you could wonder around here at night on minimum pay, at least when we go on a job we are together and we have support on the end of a radio”. PC Wilson added “we can get the helicopter with a reasonable request, you know thieves on the run across fields or TDA’s. That’s joy riders to you”. Ralph stopped and slowly pointed into the bushes “here we are, see the brambles are flattened down and there is a small clearing, just as I told you. And this is the stump I tied Max to. Hang on I have a photo on my phone”.
The officers stood each side of Ralph’s shoulders, waiting for the phone to appear, “bugger, it’s in the van, I’ll show you when we get back, “convenient”? Thought PC Wilson, “I’ll make a note to remind me to ask to see the phone later Ralph, we may need to take it as material evidence”. Ralph nodded “that will be OK; I know I will get it
back”. As the two talked over the events of earlier PC Morgan
began to take a series of Photographs and measurements, after each shot
taken he stopped to look at the result in the screen at the back of the
camera. After the two or three shots his face screwed into a frown, “something up” asked PC Wilson walking over to view the shots. “Yes, I don’t get it; the battery is draining and I’ve only used the flash twice”. “Needs new batteries” Ralph adds.
PC Morgan replies “No way these are brand new lithium batteries, I only put them in the camera just now back at the squad car, and look at the images. What are those balls of light?” Ralph casually takes a look at the
images, “I know what they are alleged to be, orbs or spirit lights”,
Ralph offers knowingly then continues “they are said to appear just
before an apparition or ghost shows itself, but that’s if you believe
all that new age stuff”.

PC Wilson, asks what happened after you left here? Ralph led the investigators back to the hole in the fence and on to the large warehouse. Walking around the perimeter, Ralph shows them his point of exit and then continues with PC Wilson whilst Morgan takes more photos. “here we are, this where the panel moves to allow you a way in, I’m telling you behind here is a massive portal or light thing, just as I told you, do you want see it?” Ralph’s voice was respectfully quiet as if he didn’t want too many people to hear.

PC Morgan arrived and decided it might be useful to just open up the side just enough to get a flash shot with the camera, “that way we can look at it out here” he said smiling from ear to ear. “Come on lads let’s give it a go”. “What do you think Ralph? You have been in there. Do you think it is worth a try?” The two officers stood side by side as Ralph began to slide the rusted corrugated panel off to the left, the noise was unbearable as
the metal scrapped against the rest of the building the sound was
similar to an old Dracula movie as the doors open to revile the
sinister servant butler. “That’ll do Ralph, hold it there”. Flash,
Flash “come on let’s get out of here” Mike shouts as all three run away
like little boys caught apple knocking.
The three falls against the police car laughing and pushing each other in fun, Ralph’s thoughts return to Max and where he might be. “Quick” Ralph shouts, “The camera, what’s on it what have you got?” Simon turns the camera on and opens the view file “crikey, what is this; look Ralph is that it?” Simon enquires. In the gloom of the picture a series of white lights, floating around could just be made out. “Yes that’s it, the orbs, yep that’s it alright” Ralph was pleased to be able to make such a firm identification. Dawn was breaking over the large building, “What now” Ralph asks “Where is the backup quick response S.W.A.T team anti-terrorist helicopter squad” Ralph’s tone said it all; he was not overly impressed with the speed of the backup operation.
Mike and Simon had to agree, Mike even admitted using the terror card usually worked, and he decided to call it in again. As Mike sat in the car talking on the radio Simon asked Ralph if he smoked “no thanks not since my heart attack a while ago” he replied”. “It’s a mugs game”. Ralph added for free. “What are we doing about our friend in the security cabin?” Ralph enquired, they both turned to see a pair black eyes staring straight at them, the only way you could tell they were eyes
was from the light high spots on each lens.
The rest of the window was still very dark with a beginning of a reflection of the dawn sky starting to form on the window glass. “Mike, Mike look at the cabin window can you see it now? Well can you?” Mike rose from his
driving seat “I’m not sure what I can see” he strains his eyes trying
to make sense of the image in front of him, looking back at the
stretched cord of the car radio Mike says into the radio microphone “We
need S.W.A.T now, and I’m not kidding”. “Right you two I think we need to go for coffee, Ralph can you lock this compound?” This seemed
the best idea Simon had, had all night, “Let’s go” Mike said. Ralph
walked over to the van and asked “I’ll stay here if you don’t mind
lads. Just in case Max comes back, he’s such a lump if one of your team
arrives and he goes for them somebody might get hurt. But can you get
me a tea; white no sugar, Oh and a Kitkat. Do you need some money?”
Ralph offers. “Please, we don’t need money we are the police! Tea
and coffee is free didn’t you know?” Mike jokes. Simon shouts from inside the car, “We won’t be long”
On the way to the “Early bird transport cafe” on Bond Street, the two officers start to go over the events of the past few hours, “what do you think Mike, what the hell was in that cabin? You saw it” I saw something Mike replies “but I couldn’t swear to what it was or wasn’t”. They both decide to wait and see when they returned to the site, “it’s best to keep an open mind” Simon skilfully ended the conversation as they pulled up outside the cafe. “Hello Mike, Simon how are you boy’s on this freezing, lousy winter’s morning?” “We are good Jake, how the devils are you? Keeping well we trust, and Mrs Jake?” Mike enquires. Jake opens to door during the niceties and invites his regular non payer’s in. “what are you up to this Monday morning? Or is it a matter of national security?” Jake
thought every conversation had to end in a joke or quip, I think it
must be a learned trait to help him survive the day as a cafe owner.
“Two Teas, one coffee and a kitkat please my friend” orders Simon. “What
do you mean national security?” asks Mike “I’m only questioning you because, we are on the Olympic site investigating some weird goings-on, Ralph the security guy has had this stuff going on all night. He reckons someone took his dog”. Jakes face turns white as he continues pouring tea, his eyes fixed on Mike, “you are pulling my plonker, aren’t you? Come on” Jake begs,” you are, aren’t you? I mean not Ralph and Max” Simon taking the large battered tea pot off of Jake asks “Are you OK Mate? You look a little pale.

These early mornings are not getting any easier old timer” Jake draws a deep breath and says “Ralph used to come in here all the time with his guard dog Max, what an animal he was, 13 stone of muscle, loved kids he would let them pull him around like a big dopey pony. The officers sat down at the table just the other side of the counter from Jake, “What happened to the dog” asked Simon. “As I was saying” continued Jake “there are two stories, some say the dog was taken or ran off, a load of old rubbish that dog would not leave Ralph, I’ve heard it said he still hopes to get him back one day, although; Ralph would have to be lucky being dead and all”. Mike pops up, “He’s not dead you fool, we have been talking to him for the past two hours”. Simon enquires “what is the other story” Jake takes a slurp of the overflowing tea swallows hard and begins with “well, I have to say this a local urban legend or whatever you would call it. But it makes more sense to me, Ralph used to leave the dog in the cabin with the fire on, you know one of those Calor bottle powered fires so he could go off and have drink at the Lockie, before they pulled it down" That was years ago" interrupts Simon.
“Anyway”, continues Jake "The landlord of the Lockstep Inn; Barry, used to love it when Ralph went in because after the companies left it was absolutely dead in there at night. Ralph would usually get (as a newt) and stumble back to the cabin. This particularly cold night about this time of year Ralph went back to the site about mid-night and we think he could not find his keys, he was well known for it he would come back here several times after leaving trying to remember what he had done with them, it got so bad Barry bought Ralph a chain to keep his keys on which of course he usually forgot.

Anyway, Ralph staggered back and couldn’t get into the cabin or his Van because he’d lost his keys again. What happened next is true the dog was locked in the cabin all night with the fire on and Max knocked it over. There was fire, but here is the weird bit; the dog was never found but Ralph was found, the next day in a large warehouse frozen
solid, the experts said it was hypothermia followed by a heart attack
which would have been his second in 12 months”.

Mike looked at Simon and said “then who is the Joker at the Yard, and what is in the security cabin, Jake I am sorry mate we need you to come with us and identify the idiot waiting at the site for his tea and” Jake
finished the sentence “Kitkat?” “Yes that’s right”, Simon replied.”how did you know?” Mike asked “Because Ralph always had a Kitkat and a
tea after doing the weekend shift”.
“Let’s go, leave the drinks” Mike ordered. “We need to sort this out and get on with the day, Simon cancel the back up when we are in the car, if you don’t mind”. After a few minutes they were back at the site, the gates were locked Mike beeped the horn several times. “Cut the chain Simon, the Bulk cutters are in the boot, Mike popped open the release button, Simon jumped out of the car. With one chomp of the cutters the rusty chain fell to the floor, Simon jumped back into the car when Mike span off across the yard it didn’t take long and they rounded the corner by the old milk store they could not believe their eyes the security cabin was there where they had left it, except it was derelict, black and burnt to the ground.
Mike jumped from the squad car and walked over to the cabin, the site looked different this time of the morning. “We have to finish this job off properly and check the warehouse just in case we are dealing with a local idiot", Simon agreed. Opening up the rusted iron sheet on the side of the large unit Mike’s eyes were drawn to something reflecting the narrow beam of sun light that was piercing its way through the opening. Mike reached in and picked up the dusty object, letting go of the corrugated panel it crashed back to its original position, oddly it made the same amount of noise as it did in the middle of the night, but it did not have the same scary effect. Turning to Simon and Jake Mike questions “it’s a camera phone”? Simon quickly grabs the camera from Mike’s hands and confirms “this is the same camera Ralph said he had, you know the one he said he’d taken a shot of himself the dog and the thing he saw” Mike laughs with a shake of his head” don’t be daft this thing is years old! Look how dirty it is, someone has dumped this after a robbery”. “Ralph’s camera” Mike snorts his disbelief. Using his spare batteries Simon turns the camera on.
“Blimey it works, the green lights come on” Simon exclaims excitedly. After a millisecond a picture Of Max appears on the viewer, “well that confirms whose camera it is then Mike,” Confirms Jake.
“Move the slider thing onto next shot” Mike orders in his best policeman voice.
As Simon moves the slide the image changes into a black background with three beautiful blue white spirit lights or you may call them Orbs. Jake smiles and sadly say’s “he was here then, I knew he would find it difficult to leave the dog, he must still be looking for him”.
LOCKSTEP COMMON by Mark Cottrell

Lockstep Common


Joined February 2008

  • Artist

Artist's Description

Supernatural story based in London at the site of the new Olympic village.

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