Spoke Zero – Coldfall

Highgate Wood

I threw zero, which would have taken me a little to the east of Tesco Colney Hatch. With only a little bit of artistic declination, my route took me through a park and three areas of ancient woodland. The furthest point I reached was Coldfall Wood, named by the first hunter-gatherers when the ice sheet, like most people, observed Muswell Hill and turned back.

Now, of course, I realise that my dice are loaded. The trees mugged me. I had only just been reading about mycorrhizas: the threadlike fungi that connect all the trees in a wood into something that operates like a single organism. The trees communicate with each other, share resources and information. The science is still emerging, but not fanciful. If the trees knew I was coming, I decided, I could no longer beat the quickest way through the thickets listening to Will Self or Evan Davis. I would have to dig deeper than the shouty dog man or whatever other shit was preventing me from reading the runes for myself.

I ducked behind an old oak for a lag when I heard a loud ‘Charming!’ and looked around. There was no one there.

What would you do? You’re a couple of duckers and divers: a-bit-of-this and a-bit-of-that kind of crook and you suddenly find yourself in the very very big time. I mean not just Highgate plod but the whole of Scotland fucking Yard on your heels.

The first thing I’d do is get a new whistle, smart but not flash. I would cut the old one and sell it to the ragman. No problem with any of that. Same as the pistols: a couple of them and a box of shells from the pawnshop seem a sensible precaution. I mean, my life or theirs isn’t it? And it’s not going to be mine. Think about it.

Now if I got out of The Smoke for a bit, too, so far so Captain Sensible. And travelling can get a bit boring, so I might start drinking a little bit more than usual (and I usually drink a lot), maybe go to the waxworks, or get me bumps felt.

Special Engagement of Madame
SINCLAIR,
The Society Lady Clairvoyant
and Character Delineator,
justly named The World’s Mystifier.
Holds Receptions Every Afternoon and Evening,
From 2 till 5, and 7 till 10,
In conjunction with
PROF. SINCLAIR,
The leading Phrenologist of the Day.

But this is the point: I know I did all this, but I don’t know why. I would be the first to accept I can be a bit up myself. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t feel some swellings of pride. Well, listen up. I done a murder. I am history. My prints are all over this fucking wood.

There are fossils underfoot here, too – devil’s toenails, snake’s heads. No one digs here now, but they turn up in the spoil of Islington & St Pancras Cemetery, next door. Hidden gobbets of calcification, interacting with the mycorrhiza in yet to be discovered ways. They found a parachute harness once, a rabbit snare, a bull’s eye lantern. Once, a gravedigger pulled out a complete phrenological head.

‘I knew him,’ said the gravedigger. ‘He was autistic, his murderer, a narcissistic psychopath, his sidekick, a fool.’ The wood spat me out into Muswell Hill. Highgate was expecting me.

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