Thursday, 25 September 2008
I saw the ghost of Salt Bert last night.
As the train whistled by over the embankment near Sandhills station, I spied a lonely figure floating down the broken road between the old dock warehouses. I was compelled to get off, though Craven, who was travelling with me, thought I was mad. Maybe I had gone mad, but all I could think about was following this strange lonely creature through the night.
I soon picked up his trail, as I ran through the rain-soaked night. Crates and bins were turned over on either side of the road, as though a fierce drunk had staggered there; kicking and punching at the littered flotsam as he rolled across each side of the street.
And then I came upon him... he leaned upon the side of a massive brick-built storehouse, once used for processing raw tobacco from the Colonies. He seemed to smoke a stogey from one quivering hand. His grey beard scratched through, whiskers illuminated by the gibbous moon. He wore the hanging face of a doomed man. He didn't see me, he was eyeing a dark patch, spreading across his dirty checked shirt.
Soon his clothing was dripping with blood, but he staggered on into the night, his body seemingly effervescing, fading imperceptibly as the night's seconds ticked by. I followed him again, followed the shining trail of blood until we reached the great dock wall. The grave man passed through the wall as if he were merely pushing through green undergrowth.
I watched him then, through the bars of an old gateway. He stood by the dock and his shirt was ripped from him by an unseen force. Then the wound, spread thinly below his chest, was opened wider and entrails poured forth into the salt water. My eyes stung and my ears cringed at the sound of organs splashing into the swilling water of the Queen's Dock.
to be continued…