Slabs of concrete breaking off into the gradually debris-browned waters. The landscape creaking and threatening to bury the spring forever. But the stream wasn’t broken. It remained steady, somewhere else and not immediately apparent. A flow that might have been under people’s feet at any one time, or a myth that had gotten out of hand to become an almighty story that mutated and was more hefty with each incarnation. But if the latter was true, it was also true that most tales begin with a little fact no matter how nuanced or crumby. The general belief - at least among those who had opened themselves up to believing - was that the obscured river must flow through here, like a demonstration of former days, and memories, bubbling away clandestine. The regurgitated tales flowed in the same way, complete with exaggeration and wonder, the additional details for the most part make-believe. So, kings sailed down the channels that gushed between these council blocks – now all boringly tarmacked in – and these rulers rejoiced as they continued, hand to forehead, on the lookout, navigating parks and kindling villages, and road-island churches, towards the mouth of the fast-widening confluence and the blossoming City at Thames-side. And the kings were joined by their followers, plus all manner of pets or random animals; parrots, wolves, designer cats. That route now replaced: the brittle spurt struggling beneath the discount stores. There were further murmurings about the exact source of this flow, cascading down from some rural outpost in the hills of Crystal Palace or Norwood. A cleanly source, there, with magical properties, but a stream submerged by debris as it reaches the lower lands; Tulse Hill, Brockwell, Herne Hill, Brixton. Sewage giving the water a soily appearance, mightily taking up the channels at Water Lane, Coldharbour Lane. It was waiting to be found once again, waiting to saturate those big, cracked, uneven paving slabs and to reclaim a proper space above ground as opposed to the dank subterranean flume of its current existence, complete with rusty shopping trolleys, McCoy’s wrappers, rain-paled receipts. And the prospect was that it might explode one day, encouraged by a hefty downpour in the middle of summer, generating a flash flood that would rip up the slabs sending them flying into the main torrent of tsunami-like currents. And with the water then a bloody off-red, the debris would fall heavy, rupturing the modern banks at each side of the road and flooding then junking up people’s front gardens, the bloated levees eventually succumbing to the force and releasing the torrent, which would sweep away down the valley somewhere and towards another unwelcoming terrain, but leaving behind its ruinous deposits comprised of post-millennial castoffs including: Time Out supplements, smashed chests of drawers, Danielle Steel books, leather smartphone covers and various private notebooks, all stream-saturated and on the brink of non-existence. I fully hoped that one day that would be the main event. That moment as the near-deceased stream would reclaim its position, an aqua-gush resurrection that the newspaper headline writers eternally sit there waiting for as they grow old with their elongated beards. It would surprise everyone, nonchalantly vegetating in the carriageway-side taverns and posh flats, those dwellers who never gave a second thought to what natural springs might be lurking beneath, ready in the wings with a new charge against a seemingly unstoppable future. I’d been distracted. I looked back at the estates and saw that the brickwork and eerie tranquillity had not been dismantled – no underground flow had breached the paved-over terrain, which existed in its normal way, almost apologetically. Was this a sudden gush of the underground tide? No, just a standard outskirts-bound van galloping up the hill as it enjoyed the route. It was another bit of the standard place. And the otherworld faces remained on the periphery, always almost silent but threatening to leave a trace, some imprint, and to cross the boundary – one world dribbling into another – that would be just enough to confirm the notion that something was left from energies that had been clipped or shorn when they were reaching their maximum strength; not concrete proof, but enough of a sensation to help come to the conclusion that the existence of these forces could not be disproved.
© Copyright 2017 John Maher