The day after a series of strange events, after receiving a call from my boss at work, saying not to come in til next Monday without saying why. I sat wondering what to do for a week, I have enough money to last me until payday at the end of the month. It’s supposed to be the works Christmas meal and night out in two weeks. Judging by recent events, that might not be happening. I figured I could go visit some friends in Manchester. So I look online for prices on trains within the next week, it costs about £6 to get to Manchester via train and coach, so it’s not too bad. As the evening went on I tried to ring my Manchester friend, Chris, who lives with his wife Rebecca in Salford. They’re good people, like the kind of people that will help you in the time of need. Chris actually put me up in Manchester when I was looking for my own home after Uni, which I really appreciated. I respect them, probably the only people I do respect to be honest. It’s about time I paid them a visit, now I have this unexpected time off. I try calling Chris on my mobile, after a couple of minutes, no answer. So I leave a message, “Hey Chris, how you doing pal? Look, I’ve had a strange week and got some time off (I’ll explain when I see you) I was going to come visit for a couple of days if that’s cool? Would be great to see you and Rebecca. We’ll go out to the Red Dragon for dinner, my treat. Give us a call. Alex”. After a day I still haven’t heard back, wondering if had seen my message or not. I couldn’t just turn up uninvited, it’s rude even if they are my closest friends. As I sat drinking a strong coffee, trying to get my head around recent events, my phone rings.. It was Chris. “Hi dude, sorry about the late call back, I’ve been up the hospital in Blackburn as my Brother got took into hospital and we still don’t know why. He’s a little confused”. I reply with “Not to worry, hope your Brother is okay. Is there anything I can do to help?” Chris replies with “Actually yes, come to my flat, could you look after the place for a couple of days? Rebecca will be with you as she couldn’t get the time off to come with me. I need to stay here with my Brother, I shouldn’t be too long, I’ll try and get back as soon as I can for a catch up. Text Rebecca tomorrow she will let you in.”
As I got off the phone with Chris, I finished off my coffee and started to pack some things into a bag for Manchester tomorrow. I was glad to get out of the house, for a couple of days at least. I left a note with a bit of sticky tape over my front door, reading “Have gone away for a few days, any parcel deliveries, pass them onto next door”. I knew I had a couple of things coming from online shopping, normally my neighbors sign for them whilst I’m at work, which is handy! As I stuck a note on the front door, I see this gentleman walking on the opposite side of the road, it was dark but I could see that it was a man. He was peering into the crazy lady across the road, so I shouted over, “Oi, what are you doing?” He looks over and runs off. I couldn’t be bothered to chase him, but then it came to me. This must be the guy the policeman told me about, the guy peering through peoples windows at night. It must be him. He wasn’t causing any trouble so I didn’t call the police about it. I had better things to do than that. I went back inside, shut the door, sat at the table with my laptop looking at train prices, I booked a train leaving Leeds at midday, to Manchester. I text Rebecca, Chris’s missus, to say that I had booked a train to come tomorrow. Within half hour I got a text back saying “That’s fine, just give me a call when you’re outside the flats and I will buzz you in, look forward to seeing you Alex :-)”. I decide to call it a night, I get into my bed clothes and sleep, still exhausted and will need the energy for tomorrow.
Tuesday morning arrives, after a pleasant night’s sleep, feeling refreshed and in a good mood. I did a few bits of toast for breakfast, and a coffee to go with it. I didn’t need to rush as it was only 10 AM, and only 5 minute bus ride to the train station. Not needing to actually pick up the tickets as I have the App on my phone, again, another handy thing. As I finish my breakfast and my coffee, I quickly go upstairs, shower and get changed so I’m ready to leave for the train station. I couldn’t find my phone, I ran around the house looking for it but still no sign of it. I find it eventually down the back of my bed, where it always is! I’m pretty much ready to go, I check all the windows are shut and locked, as well as the doors, I lock the front door and walk down the road to the bus stop. Good thing about Leeds and where I live, the buses come past every couple of minutes just up from my street. I catch the first one that comes past, the number 6, which takes me right outside the train station. With still an hour til my train arrives, plenty of time to grab something from the shop for the journey. I hop off the bus at the station, walk to the shop inside the waiting area at Leeds Train Station, I buy a bottle of lemonade and a small sandwich with a biscuit bar. I didn’t need too much for the 1hr 35 minute journey. As I make my way to the barriers, I realize I’ve left something at home, my headphones. I can never leave without them, but it seems this time I have. I walk down to the local Tesco to buy some cheap headphones, I had to walk a little bit further away from the station but I still have plenty of time until my train comes. I head back to the station, I go back through the barriers and take my seat on platform 7 to wait for the train.
The train arrives bang on time, it doesn’t look very busy though. Then again, it’s only Tuesday. I try to find my seat but I figured because there was hardly anyone on this train, I’ll find myself a nice table seat so I have space for my long legs. I hate sitting on public transport without leg room, so uncomfortable. About 15 minutes into my journey, I decide to eat the sandwich I bought from the Upper Crust in the station, feeling quite hungry, I have no problem forcing it down my gullet. It went down well with the lemonade I also bought, but lemonade makes me gassy so I kept burping for about 10 minutes. Luckily there wasn’t anyone in my carriage, that could of been embarrassing. I hear over the train speaker that we would be arriving in Wakefield shortly, as we pulled up I noticed maybe one or two people were waiting at the station. At least it was someone! As we start to get moving again, I also notice some smoke coming from a building in the distance. The train went over the bridge and I could see it more clearly, it looked like it was coming from a tall building which funnily looked like my work building. Realizing after a few seconds that is actually is my work building that had smoke coming from it, I grabbed my phone and called my boss. No answer, so I try again, still no answer, I keep ringing but still no answer. I couldn’t exactly go over there and try and stop it, it got me thinking, maybe that’s why my boss told me not to come in? Maybe there was a fire last night in the building, that’s why it was still smoking. Looks like I won’t be going to work for a while, it didn’t look promising. I don’t think they could refurbish a building like that by Monday. Was I out of a job? It worried me for the rest of my journey. About an hour and a bit into the journey I finally see the city of Manchester from a distance through the window. I still had to get a bus to Salford after the train journey, it wasn’t too far though. It was good to get out of Leeds for a couple of days, to see friends also, and the fact that the week in Leeds had been so strange too. Then again I’ve seen strange people here in Manchester too, but I guess everywhere has strange people.
I finally arrive in Manchester and walk across the road to catch the bus into the Shudehill Interchange Bus Station where I can catch the bus to Salford. Along the way I see a homeless person sat in front of a wall by the fountain, he held a piece of cardboard reading “It’s coming”, I walk on wards towards the bus stop for Shudehill, I look back over my shoulder and see that the homeless man had gone, not a trace of him whatsoever, not even the paint and the cardboard he had. I swear I just saw him a minute ago, maybe I’m the crazy one. As I hop onto the bus, I eat the biscuit bar I still had from the shop in Leeds. I was getting hungry again didn’t want to stop at the shop again. I’ll wait til I get to Chris and Rebecca’s. A short journey on the bus, I arrive at Shudehill interchange, and waiting in bay 3 is the bus to Salford. Excellent timing. This journey would take about 20 minutes or so, and again, there wasn’t many people on the bus either. Saying that, there wasn’t many people walking through town. Had the strangeness followed me from Yorkshire? I hope not. 10 minutes into my journey on the bus to Salford, I receive a text from Rebecca saying, “I’ve just got to pop out for 5 minutes, are you on your way?” I reply with “I’ve just got on the 98 bus to Salford, should be about 10-15 minutes.” I instantly get a text back saying “That’s fine I should be back then.” As I finally arrive at the stop I need to get off at, I decide to grab another drink from the shop and walk the rest of the way to the flat. I pick up a cola, take it to the till, but no one is there. I shout out “Hello?” to see if anyone is around, still nothing, I didn’t want to wait ages to get someone to serve me so I left the drink and went without and walked to the flats.
I approach Chris and Rebecca’s flat, I ring the buzzer and a few seconds after I get buzzed in, I had to walk up a couple of flights of stairs as the elevator was out of order. I knocked on the their door and Rebecca answers. “It’s so great to see you Alex, please come in, can I get you a drink?” I reply with “Great to see a friendly face, a coffee would be lovely thank you.” I take off my shoes, put my bag down and sit down on the couch. I told Rebecca how strange my week had been and that she had also had a strange week, I thought maybe it was just a coincidence but as she was telling me about her week, how her neighbors had been acting strange, and her boss called her today saying not to come in for a week, similar to what my boss told me. We started to think it wasn’t a coincidence after all. I asked how Chris’s Brother was, or if she had heard anything from Chris. She said that his Brother’s blood levels were fine, and the tests came back with nothing unusual but the paramedics that brought him in said “The lad looked like he’d seen a ghost, he was white as a sheep”. Maybe he had a night terror or something. I guess time will tell, apparently he hadn’t woken up yet but was still breathing. Strange. Rebecca asked me if I fancied anything for dinner as it would only be me and her tonight, so I said sure, I’ll pay for this, how about a Chinese? She replied with “Are you sure? I don’t want to feel like a burden.” I said “No not at all it would be my pleasure, how about the Yung’s Chinese on Sutton Road? That was pretty good last time. I’ll get it delivered so we don’t have to move!”. As we ordered it for half 5, we just started talking about my strange week and how I’ve been feeling. I’d said to her about how I saw my work’s building smoking on the way here on the train and I couldn’t get through to my boss. I was still worried that I would be out of a job. I didn’t need that, I wouldn’t be able to pay rent for my place and would have to sign on which I didn’t want. It looked like the last week was getting bad to worse until Rebecca said, “Well if you ever find yourself out of work you know you’re always welcome here.” I really appreciated the sentiment, but I didn’t want to be in the way. I really hope I didn’t lose my job and house!
I got a phone call, it was the delivery driver saying he was outside. So I buzzed him in and collected the food, he was riding a motorcycle, like one of those ones that sound like a hair dryer. We were starving, so we were looking forward to the grub. After our food I stepped outside on the balcony for a cigarette quickly, there was a nice breeze in the air. It was quite dark outside for early evening, I was looking over the park to the right of the apartment and saw someone on the swing, on their own. Swinging back and fourth for about 3 minutes, I looked away briefly then looked back and there was no one there and the swing was still like someone had never used it. This isn’t the first time I thought I saw someone, then turned out there wasn’t anyone there in the first place. I finished my cigarette off and went back inside with Rebecca. She made me another coffee, I definitely needed it. As she was in the kitchen making coffee’s, I got a weird feeling. You know when you get the hairs on the back of the neck stand up? Like if someone made you jump or you got a slight shiver because it’s cold. Like that, but I wasn’t cold or frightened. It was almost like something passed by my neck, maybe I really am being crazy. As the evening went on, me and Rebecca were reminiscing the old days when we were all at school and how much of a troublemaker we all used to be. We shared a few laughs and a bottle of wine, her company was great considering I hadn’t talked to anyone properly for a week or so. It was a nice change. I briefly popped to the bathroom, and as I was in there washing I heard the door go. Two knocks, then nothing. Rebecca said no one was there, she walked down to the bottom floor, still no one. I looked out of the window in the bathroom and the balcony, there was still no one other than a stray cat. I don’t think a cat could knock on the door, you’d need to be buzzed in first. I told Rebecca about the person I saw in the park on the swings, and that when I looked back briefly after a few seconds they weren’t there and the swing was still. She said before that strange things had been happening around the area, and our concern grew more once I told her about the stuff I’ve come across. Including the homeless guy in the City Center. At this point, we were starting to believe something was really happening and it was getting more confusing and odd. To be continued..