London Short Fiction: The Wallbuilder


Our brief fiction collection continues. This month’s particular theme is London Razed, visions of the town’s destruction prior to now, current or future. This week, Jonathon Dean finds that the buried River Thames is the longer term metropolis’s Achilles heel.

The Wallbuilder

I come to with a jolt as chilly, fetid water is thrown in my face. My imaginative and prescient is fuzzy. It’s darkish. The again of my head hurts.

I have a obscure reminiscence of the morning, if it’s even the identical day. Surveying past the wall at Loughton for the proposed enlargement, and the whole lot abruptly went black. Must have been hit on the top, I guess.

I screw up my eyes and attempt to focus my imaginative and prescient. It doesn’t work, it’s nonetheless darkish. The world doesn’t really feel secure. I discover I’m handcuffed to a brief metallic bar. I throw up.

“Watch it, Londoner,” a voice says. It’s tough and deep, however feminine. The accent I can’t place, however undoubtedly northern. The sort of harsh northern that you understand might tear your vanity down in a heartbeat. “Stinks properly sufficient wi’out you spewing up all over the place.”

She’s proper. It stinks. I hadn’t observed that. Sewage and chemical compounds.

The world rocks gently forwards and backwards, and I realise that it’s not my head spinning from the blow. We’re on a ship.

“Wha-the place…” I splutter, the sickly tang of vomit nonetheless behind my throat.

“Aww, don’t you recognise residence when y’see it, son?” the lady says.

Home? This, what, sewer? This underground river? This polluted…

“The Thames?” I gasp out loud as I realise. It’s been coated since I was a child. Sunken just like the Fleet. Built over with towering skyscrapers to satisfy the ever-spiralling demand. “How… how did…”

“The barrier?” she asks. She reaches down and pulls me upwards savagely by the hair. I can see her within the flickering mild of the battered electrical lantern she holds in her different hand, see her darkish hair and her grizzled face. “What d’you assume you’re right here for, love?” she says, her foul breath threatening to empty my abdomen once more.

I instantly keep in mind that I was registered as outdoors the wall. My bio-signature might open any of London’s entryways. It might allow them to into the town.

“Heh, penny drops,” she growls.

“I can’t allow you to in,” I say, in little greater than a whimper, “it’s towards the regulation, I can’t-”

“Don’t fear, we’re not stayin’,” she says. A whistled sample of seven notes echoes by means of the tunnel. They sound acquainted however I can’t fairly place them. The lady whistles six notes in response. What is that track? I keep in mind it from someplace, however my head’s nonetheless so fuzzy.

“Charge sixteen,” one other voice says. It’s a boy, a child, in all probability round seventeen, however his voice is way deeper than his drawn face suggests.

“Aye. Well sufficient,” the lady says tonelessly.

Charge sixteen? Sixteen what?

“You work for Terminus, yeah? The wallbuilders?” the child asks me. I stare at his pale, gaunt face flickering within the knackered mild and nod.

“This is your fault then, mate. Want you to keep in mind that.”

“Tom, shut up, and examine seventeen,” the lady scolds. He grunts and disappears behind me the place I can’t see him.

“What’s my fault?” I say, “I was simply doing my job!”

“Your job bricking the remainder of us out of London,” she says.

“We couldn’t maintain letting individuals in,” I protest. I attempt to shout, however my voice refuses to cooperate. “It was overcrowded already, the roles have been all crammed up, however individuals stored coming and coming!”

“So you locked us out,” she says calmly. Her gravelly voice injects a degree of rage and menace into the sentence that hardly feels attainable. “The one place left within the nation the place an individual can earn a livin’, and also you locked us out.”

Another whistle. Seven notes. She whistles the six-notice reply; two units of three rising notes. Fall-ing down, fall-ing down…

London Bridge is falling down, my truthful woman.

“No!” I yell. Charge seventeen. Explosive cost seventeen. “You can’t!”

“I bloody can,” she says, all calmness gone.

“There are buildings above the river! Skyscrapers! Hundreds of them!” I scream.

“I know.”

“But you’ll kill hundreds of thousands!” I shriek hysterically. Part of me hopes that somebody above will hear my yells, however I know they gained’t.

“Your wall’s already killed tens of millions,” she says, that blood-curdling tranquillity again in her voice. “And it’ll hold killing.”

“I…what? I don’t perceive!” I splutter, my voice hoarse.

“What the hell do you assume we did after you sucked all the roles to London after which locked us out?” she says, directing a livid gaze into my eyes. “We starved is what we did, son. Thousands and hundreds of thousands of us.”

I attempt to converse, to argue, however I can’t. Everyone in London is aware of; it had been them or us, and we selected us.

“Aye, thought so,” she says.

I breathe out and in slowly. The fetid, stinking air filling my lungs. “The…buildings will topple sideways, gained’t they?” I ask, my voice quiet and quivering.

“Into t’different buildings, yeah.”

“Which will even fall sideways.”

“With any luck.”

“My…my daughter…” I say. My voice cracks, and tears cloud my eyes.

“It’ll be fast,” she says. She turns her blue eyes on me, and I see the chilly fury in them as she provides “faster than mine obtained.”

My face screws up and I start to cry. My thoughts can’t take this. I’ll by no means see my Jessie once more, and the tens of millions and tens of millions…

Another whistle. Charge Eighteen. Oh God.

“One extra and we’re out. And it ends,” the lady says. I assume there’s a sigh in her voice that wasn’t there earlier than. Maybe she’s having second ideas, or perhaps I’m simply imagining it.

The subsequent jiffy move. The silence damaged solely by the sound of my sobs.

Another whistle. The boat’s motor roars.

We hit daylight and move the barrier. No restrictions on getting out. Why would there be?

Blinking again my tears, I take one final take a look at the skyline that’s so acquainted, that I love, that’s residence to all the things, as the lady clicks a tiny purple button.

London Bridge is falling down.

Copyright, Jonathon Dean, 2014. Image by M@.

We’re nonetheless on the lookout for London brief fiction tales. As half of the present particular theme, we’re notably in search of tales during which London is destroyed. Please ship submissions to Entries have to be not more than M,000 phrases, and have to be set in London, or strongly impressed by the town. Full details here.

Previously on this collection

London razed

Transport tales


  • Two Four Eight: Lance S Ramsay envisions an Orwellian dystopia within the lingo of future London.
  • Old Nichol: Jill Fricker evokes the woes of the previous East End.
  • Clissar: Grazia Brunello dips into the way forward for north London, by means of a glass darkly.



  • The Perfect Gift: A Christmas fairytale during which London’s statues come to life, by Katherine Wheston.
  • The City Inside: Tom Butler has some curious metropolitan anatomy.


  • Jazz Code and the Tube: The ambivalence of courting, by Jenny Mackenzie.
  • A Free Man: Melanie White’s flash fiction piece considers a just lately single man at a bachelor get together.
  • Clean Living London: Ursula Dewey rolls her sleeves up for some house responsibilities.
  • Swipe Right: Does Tinder have the solutions? By Heidi Scherz
  • The Writer and the Dancer: Close encounter at a flat get together by Vincent Wood.
  • St Peter’s Gate, Knightsbridge: A nocturnal romance at closing time, by Theo Klay
  • First: A romance begins inside a London homosexual membership. By Lance Middleton.
  • Natural Disasters: Can you discover love on the grocery store checkout, when your buyer’s shopping for porn? Yoel Noorali enquires.
  • NO! SUSHI: A relationship breaks down throughout a Japanese leaving get together, by Clare Kane.

Other tales

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