I sat down on the tube train. Barney
sat down next to me and I patted him gently on the head, he
was a good friend. I was about to take out my book when I
heard a voice. It surprised me because I thought I was the
only person in the carriage.
“Good morning.” the voice said.
It was a man, and he was so tall his knees brushed mine when
he sat down opposite me.
I wasn’t much in the mood to chat
to strangers, but I mumbled a hello and gave the friendliest
smile I could muster at that time in the morning.
“Sunny outside today?” the
“Yes, it is rather.” I replied.
Surely he must know for himself, I thought. I imagined he
was some juvenile delinquent who had spent all night in the
underground, smoking drugs and spray-painting things. I know
what they’re like.
“I guessed that much.” He sniggered.
“I don’t like the sun myself. I prefer it down here
in the tunnels.”
I felt sure now he was a drug-addled teenage
runaway. He had what I can only describe as a sinister voice; it
was deep and seemed to echo down the empty carriage. When he laughed,
the sound of it sent a shiver through me as if a single droplet
of freezing cold water had dripped all the way from the top of my
spine to the small of my back. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable.
Barney was too; I could hear him growling quietly by my feet.
At that moment, the train ground to an unexpected
halt. We must have been coming up to Kennington. You know what that’s
like. I could have been stuck there all day.
“Sorry if I look a little dishevelled”
the man said. “I’ve been up all night. I could use something
to eat too.”
I knew it.
“I haven’t got any money on me, I’m afraid.”
I told him.
He let out that horrible laugh again.
“I’m not homeless if that’s
what you think, my friend. I live down here.”
“I’m not sure the London Underground
qualifies as a home.” I said.
“No, you don’t understand. I really
do live down here. It is my home, and it’s a home for thousands
of others like me. It suits our requirements very well.” He
gave a short pause for effect. “Very well.”
Now I may look frail, but I’m not a pathetic
old granddad. I refused to be intimidated by this impertinent young
“Part of some sort of cult, are you? Run
around down here listening to your heavy mental music and vandalising
the trains I expect.”
“Oh no. No, no, no. We’re far more
civilised than that. In fact, I far prefer classical music.”
I braced myself
for another burst of his nauseating laughter. But it did not
come. Instead he began a lengthy monologue, which I shall
attempt to tell you as accurately as I can remember it. And
I remember it perfectly.
“My people first came down here at
the turn of the century, when the underground system was still
very young, and very few people were brave enough to use it.
It was easy enough for us to set up some rudimentary living
quarters down here without detection. At first we found it
somewhat uncomfortable. It was damp and cold, but there were
plenty of rats to eat and it was wonderfully dark. Of course,
our tastes are rather more refined these days.
As the tube system grew, more and more
Londoners were coming down here day after day. We had to ask
ourselves, who was going to miss a few?
Let me ask you, old man, have you ever
been down on the Northern line on a Monday morning rush hour?
Pretty tight fit, isn’t it? Ever have to give up your
seat for a young lady feeling faint? Or helped someone off
at the next station after they had lost consciousness?
Yes, you watched those people stagger
off, believing they would simply take the escalator up to
the open air and recover. But let me tell you, they never
did recover. At least not in the way you would think. They
woke up twenty-four hours later a whole new person! Ha ha!
You humans are all so desperate to rush to work,
forcing yourself into these tiny metal tins like sardines, not giving
a second thought to your fellow commuter. You look at the ground,
or stare into your newspaper. You make it so easy for us to quietly
sink our teeth into the neck of some self-important unsuspecting
businessman or a sleepy young secretary.
Tastes a lot better than rat, I can tell you.
And we never have to see sunlight again! As long
as we stay central of course. In the early days one of us would
get careless, forget to get off and end up disintegrating into dust
at Arnos Grove. But we’ve learnt to adapt to life down here,
and everyday our number grows bigger. We’ve had to take over
Brompton Road, one of the disused stations up west. No one really
bothers us there, and if they do, well, they don’t bother
us again, if you know what I mean. And the homeless you worry so
much about? Well we do your people a favour there. Of course, their
blood has a rather acidic taste to it.
Of course, you could easily wipe the lot of us
out, the old garlic routine still works, you know. But no one knows
about us, and because you find it so easy to ignore everyone else
around you, you’ll never find out. As long as we’re
careful, you will keep coming, like lambs to the slaughter, or like
sushi on a conveyor belt, and we will continue to live like this
for many, many years to come.
So it’s all worked out quite perfectly.
I’d much rather be down here than a windy old castle or hiding
away in a coffin every time the sun comes out. But you mustn’t
worry old man, I’ll let you go about your business today,
because in half an hour this train will be full of dumb cattle,
and I shall feast on the blood of some young, fresh meat. Yes, yes,
don’t you worry, we’ll be at the station soon, and you
can toddle off, collect your pension, and enjoy the sunshine.”
I adjusted my glasses, coughed, and asked the
“Supposing I do believe your ridiculous
story, supposing you really are what you say you are, why on earth
would you tell me all this and let me walk away?”
“You have amused me for a while, old man,
but I have no intention of letting you walk away and tell everybody
about us. However fantastic my story sounds, I can’t allow
any risk to our lifestyle. It is simply too precious to us. Fortunately,
we have a little trick up our sleeves for this very occasion.
Now, look deep into my eyes human. I said look
into my eyes.
Your tiny brain cannot help but obey me.
Your eyes are the window to your soul, and through
them I could blank your entire mind, if I so pleased.
Now, fix your gaze with mine and in three seconds
you will forget everything I have just told you, you will get off
at the next station and you will never come down here again.”
And with that the train made a loud cranking
noise and started to move. As we rolled into Kennington I heard
the doors beep and slide open. I stood up and let Barney lead me
out of the train, leaving the strange man behind me. I held my stick
out in front of me and carefully walked along the platform. Eventually,
one of your colleagues came up to me and asked:
“Can you manage there, sir? Or would you
like some assistance?”
And I replied, “Yes. Yes I would. I’d
like to talk to you about garlic…”’