GHOST LETTER 54

Chris R-1-4 Image by Christine Renney

It was just beginning to get light when I set out from the City and now it is almost dark. I have walked right through the daylight hours, from dawn to dusk.
The road on my right as I walked was blurred and noisy, like an out of tune radio or an old analogue TV but with no aerial connected, pointlessly searching for a station. But I didn’t look. Scanning the ground in front of my feet I hardly raised my eyes and was barely aware of what was up ahead, simply accepting that it was more of the same. Occasionally though I did stop and, turning from the road, I stared out over the fields, only for a few seconds but it was enough and somehow, almost subconsciously, it feels I have made my way to here.
I am standing on a high bank. I look down at the road and it is big and wide, a motorway. I recognise the names on the signs and I remember visiting some of these cities and I realise then that I must have driven on this road and on others like it.
Suddenly I discover that I want to go back, to re-visit one of these cities and, starting to move again, I choose one at random. There is a spot up ahead where the bank isn’t quite so steep and I will be able to make my way down.
But I realise just as suddenly I won’t be able to follow this road, that I can’t walk alongside it. No, I have to stay up here and I must find another way.

GHOST LETTER 49

Chris R-1-134 Image by Christine Renney

I have stumbled away from the periphery, from the path I have forged by sheer persistence, by relentlessly walking. I look down at my feet and scan the ground in front of me. I am moving into the open and I have ventured out here before, onto these tracts of wasteland where something once stood. Houses, perhaps, or factories now demolished and all of the traces removed. Cement and brick dust have leached into the earth and the short and scruffy grass has a reddish tint.
I look up and in the bright sunlight I can barely see. I stumble again and, struggling to regain my composure, to get my bearings, I realise I am not invisible, at least not yet.

GHOST LETTER 48

Chris R-1-161 Image by Christine Renney

I have tried for so long to go unnoticed, to be unseen but I realise now that I haven’t wandered so very far from where people congregate.
I maintain a distance, yes, looking in from the outer edges as it were. But I haven’t turned my back and run away, although I could so easily do this and yet I remain here on the periphery. And there it is again, that word: PERIPHERY. It plays in my head, dominating my thoughts, a mantra – periphery, periphery – as I walk. But of course, a periphery, even one I have conjured myself must have a place, a somewhere that I can circle.

GHOST LETTER 47

Chris R-1-147 Image by Christine Renney

I have abandoned the route and my meandering has now moved onto a new level. I am exploring a vast area that was once a thriving centre of industry but is now deserted.
I walk between the buildings and the sky above is reduced to narrow strips of grey. I am unsettled by this place and find it difficult to navigate. Whenever I reach a door, one that isn’t locked or boarded, I step inside. Or if there is a hole, and there are a lot of them, where the bricks have crumbled and fallen away, places where I can climb in or crawl through and this I now do, down on my hands and knees, pulling and kicking at the earth until I am standing on the factory floor.
At the outer edges people are holding on and still finding ways to be useful but here almost everything of value has been taken and these buildings, the factories and the warehouses, have been stripped bare and are merely husks.
I look down at the tiles beneath my feet; they are grimy but in the dusty half-light they glint and they gleam

GHOST LETTER 46

Chris R-1-127 Image by Christine Renney

I have begun to recognise the others that I pass on my route. Their faces have become familiar; men and women, mostly making their way either to or from work. They are visitors. They stay for their shift and then leave, going back to their homes and families, to their lives beyond this place. But, just fleetingly before they disappear into their places of employment they and I collide.
I watch them as they trek toward the smaller units of the industrial estates, built in the Sixties and left to wither. I watch as they shuffle toward the larger factories and warehouses, those that have survived. They seem small and inadequate and I wonder how can they maintain these scarred and decrepit structures. How can so few of them possibly serve these ageing monoliths.

GHOST LETTER 45

Chris R-1-125 Image by Christine Renney

I have been walking this route for weeks now, making my way around again and again. I am not ready to stop, not quite yet, but I have managed to slow down and I am able to loiter and linger and meander, wandering from the road and exploring my surroundings, venturing a little further each time, moving either away from the City or closer to it, but always coming back to here, to this path I am still forging.

I start across the waste ground to my right. The grass beneath my feet is short and scruffy and it is strewn with rubble. I kick my way through it and I feel as if I am breaking the rules, especially this early in the morning when there is no-one else around. I feel as though I am trespassing.

GHOST LETTER 44

Chris R-1-116 Image by Christine Renney

It isn’t as deserted here on the outskirts as I had at first believed. This tract of wasteland circles the City and I have been walking it for almost a week. Gradually I have become aware of the life here, that despite the degradation there are pockets of industry. And despite the broken and boarded windows and the cracked pavements that people are clinging on here and are determined not to leave, not to abandon this place.
This shop at the centre of the parade up ahead for instance; it is the only one still open, flourishing amidst the flotsam and the debris. When it is dark and I spot its windows alight from a distance I know where I am and it has become an important marker on my route.
Each time I pass I glance across at the shop. Sometimes there are children hanging around with sweets or old men with their cigarettes. But today there is no-one, it is deserted and there is an air of abandonment. But the lights are on and the door is wedged open. I realise I have stopped and suddenly I find myself contemplating going in and buying something, anything. A chocolate bar perhaps or a newspaper. But what would I do then? What might I learn?
Looking down I realise that I am walking again and that I won’t be going into the shop or sitting and reading a newspaper. At least, not this time around.

GHOST LETTER 42

Chris R-2-6 Image by Christine Renney

I awake in the grounds of the Cathedral. Hands in the short and wiry grass, I push myself up and gaze down at the City. I try to pick out the place from which I set out, the one to which I keep on making my way back. But it is so vast, a dense and cubist scrawl. For months now I have been walking further and further from this particular part of the City in order to find an off-licence with an unfamiliar face across the counter. Someone who won’t recognise me as I purchase the bottles and the cans I need. And this time I didn’t turn myself around. I kept on walking for longer than was necessary and eventually I settled down.

Glancing up at the Cathedral I shudder to think that I have slept here in the grass; in this carefully tended, this perfectly and painstakingly manicured graveyard and, that as I did, someone tidied around me, removing the strewn cans, even prizing the almost empty bottle from my hand. Taking it and the last few drops I hadn’t quite managed to drain.

THE ERASER #13

Chris R-2-5 Image by Mark Renney

They are part of the System, all of their names are still somewhere in the records. Only once and it is always something insignificant – a job application perhaps or a club membership.
If one of them has been mentioned in a newspaper report or a magazine article and it isn’t in any way connected to their wrongdoing, to their fall from grace, then Tanner may choose to leave it, to let it slide.
He is unsure now why he had done this, even more perplexed as to why he continues to do so. Tanner supposes that in the beginning he had been testing the System and had expected someone would notice. That someone from up above in the higher echelons would come calling and he would be reprimanded, hauled over the coals as it were.
But this had not happened and Tanner is all too aware that he is way past the point where he can hang his head and apologise for his ineptitude and promise to try harder, to do better.
Tanner is the best of the Erasers, the most vigilant and dedicated and yet he has played Them, whoever ‘They’ are.
His rule-breaking over the years has been so subtle that it has not yet registered.
But the names remain and this is undeniable, it is a fact.

THE ERASER #12

Chris R-0978-2 Image by Christine Renney

The trails Tanner was assigned to follow were merely ones made of paper. It wasn’t necessary for him to dirty his hands with anything other than the written records.
These trails always began at the traitor’s last known address; a house or an apartment, sometimes just a room, a rented box. But whichever it was, a mansion or a bottom bunk on Skid Row, it was the subversive’s final abode, their home.
Tanner wasn’t required to enter and to rifle through their belongings and he was thankful for this. He hadn’t any desire to sift through all of the things that they had gathered over the years; the heirlooms and memorabilia. It didn’t matter to him if they had been train-spotters or stamp collectors or fans of the operettas of Gilbert & Sullivan.
Some of it he could guess at – the framed certificates and sporting trophies. These, of course, would be destroyed and anything else of any real value would acquire a new price tag ready to be sold.