Under The Streets Of London – Episode 57

Mary clasped her hands together, delighted at the thought.

“Oh, I do hope my dear sister is well enough to be there. Where will we have it, John?”

“Ray offered the George.”

“I bet he did.”

“Said he’d do us a good deal. Said he’d like to see the lad happy.”

“Happy drinking his ale!”

John patted her knee.

“That, too, my sweet, but I think he meant it. I know these works have been tough but they’ve pulled everyone together, have they not? Ray said he’d look forward to seeing Will out the trench and into his new shop, especially if he has a wife at his side to boot.”

“I’ll drink to that!” Mary agreed and chinked her glass against John’s again.

Together they settled back in their chairs and let the last of the spring sun wash across their faces with the promise of a happy summer ahead.

Mary felt contentment sneaking up on her and welcomed it.

The children were asleep, Will and Violet were out with friends and both happily courting, and the world finally seemed to be righting itself again.

“John,” she said after a little while, “do you think . . .”

But at that moment they caught a strange, creaking sound, as if a giant were pulling on the corner of the world. They both sat upright and stared down the road.

“What on earth was that?”

John leaped up and ran forward and Mary shot after him, pulling him back as her eyes darted fearfully across the road as if a crack might appear at any moment.

“Is it the tunnel?” She gasped. “Is it collapsing?”

There were shouts from further down the road now, ripping open the soft evening silence.

All along the street people were tumbling out of their houses, scurrying about like mice, grabbing at each other and throwing out questions that no-one knew the answers to.

And still the noises grew.

Mary looked at John and saw him visibly swallow. He grabbed at her hand.

“I think it’s the sewer, Mary! I can hear water.”

She strained to listen and, sure enough, over the shouts of the men and the sound of cracking mortar, she could hear a surge of some ominous inland tide.

“Is it coming this way?”

“Who knows? It’ll be in the tunnel, most likely.”

They both looked to their feet. The road stood firm but Mary could have sworn she could hear a river gathering beneath them.

“The children!” she cried and together she and John ran for the shop, battening the door down behind them and running for the stairs.

“Violet,” Mary said, trembling. “William. Where were they going?”

“Duke Street,” John replied, his voice cracking. For they both knew where Duke Street lay – exactly in the direction of the worst of the noise.

 * * * *

Eliza was certain that Brigid’s cries were growing louder when they were broken by a loud knock on the door.

“The midwife’s here!” she called gratefully in the general direction of the bedroom as she sprang to let her in, but the person on the other side of the door was no midwife – or, if so, it was the first time Eliza had seen one with a beard!

“You’re not the midwife,” she said, to be sure.

The man looked startled.

“No,” he agreed in a strained Irish accent. “Are Seamus and Niall here?”

Eliza nodded, confused, and stepped back to let Niall take over.

“Roary? What’s the matter?”

They all heard the reply, even over Brigid’s cries.

“’Tis the Fleet sewer, Niall! It’s fallen in on itself and the water is backing up and trying to break out into the tunnel. We need help, man, or half of London is going to flood!”

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 tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.