Under The Streets Of London – Episode 09


Was it really him or Eliza’s mind playing tricks on her? It didn’t much matter, for her arm muscles were on fire and her hand was slipping down the stall leg. Her hands scrabbled at the air like a clown, and then she fell.

“I’m sorry, Mum!” she gasped out as the breath was sucked from her body.

But suddenly arms were around her and, with a shudder, her feet found the ground and her knees buckled. Though her whole body seemed raw and bruised, she wasn’t dead.

“Oh, thank God!”

“Thank Henry, actually.”

She braved a look up and there indeed was Henry Waters, smeared in mud, with his duck-egg waistcoat torn and his hair wilder than ever. He was smiling.

“Thank you,” Eliza said. “Henry, thank you. I thought I was going to die!”

He smoothed her hair.

“You’re not going to die. I’ve got you, Lizz – Eliza. I’ve got you safe.”

Eliza tentatively stretched out her limbs. They seemed to work and already the rawness was fading.

“Thank you,” she said again. But he was leaning in so close that his nose all but touched her own. Suddenly Eliza felt less safe. He was going to kiss her!

Her throat closed up tighter than it had when she fell as a memory assaulted her. Of another man, too close, sickly aftershave prickling her nostrils, fat hands on her waist and a smell of coffee and brandy as blubbery lips forced themselves on to hers . . .

“No!”

She pulled back and saw confusion and distress in Henry’s eyes, before someone above yelled, “Watch out!” Looking up, they saw the stall finally losing its hold on the still-subsiding earth.

“Quick!”

Eliza yanked Henry aside just in time. The stall crashed to the earth, smashing into pieces where they’d stood a moment before.

“Lord above!” Henry panted. “Now you’ve saved me, too, Eliza.”

Eliza prayed Henry had attributed her recoil from his embrace to the falling stall.

“We have to get out of here, Henry. It’s still dangerous.”

He nodded and together they moved cautiously towards the roofed section where the walls still held. Someone had found ladders and dropped them down, and now eager hands reached to help them both to safety.

As Eliza crested the top, a lady – the grocer’s wife, she thought – put a blanket around her shoulders. She smiled gratefully at her.

“I think you were telling me earlier today how dangerous this project was,” she offered shakily.

The lady nodded.

“I didn’t want to be proved right, though. I’m Mary, Mary Farndale.”

“Eliza Rutherford. Nice to meet you again, though this is a terrible way to do so. Are many hurt?”

“Yes, but few of them are serious, thank the Lord.”

“And are any . . .?”

“Not that they’ve found yet. We’ve put together a bit of a first-aid centre in the George over there. Do you need anything?”

“No, I’m fine, thank you. A bit scared, but who isn’t? Are your children all right?”

“Thank you, yes. They were upstairs so they’re safe – for now, at least.”

“You don’t think it’s stopped?”

“I pray so,” was all Mary said.

Eliza looked around. The terrible rumble and roar of the earth had ceased. The central section of the tunnel where she’d stood had folded in on itself, but everyone seemed to have escaped and now that she was safe it didn’t look quite as dreadful as it had felt.

Released from fear for her life, her mind began to spin with new concerns. Where were the journalists and what were they making of the collapse? She could imagine the damaging headlines tomorrow. Malcolm Jones would be horrified. Eliza had to find and calm them.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.