Hellsborough & The Dark Peak

Discovering the unexplored parallel world of Sheffield, S6 -- Hellsborough and The Dark Peak


Hellsborough Chronicles - Hellsborough and The Dark Peak

The semi-mythical Van Hallam's adventures in Hellsborough and The Dark Peak.

The finished version of Dark Peak: Hellsborough Chronicles Book One, is now available in Kindle and paperback formats from Amazon -- or you can download the first 7 chapters for free in ePub or Kindle mobi format from Hellsborough Library

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Introduction » Chapter 1 » Chapter 2 » Chapter 3 » Chapter 4 » Chapter 5 » Chapter 6 » Chapter 7 »

Book 1 :: Dark Peak :: Chapter 1 -- Crosslander, Barker, Ganister, Clown (Version 0.2)

Over there, across the other side of the bar near the door, there's a clown and a crosslander. Not normally close bedfellows, you'd have thought -- and these two, I know this -- they're plotting something.

We're in a bar, I said that already. We're almost always in one of them or another. We spend a lot of time in bars, me and Van, truth be told. It's where we do business, where we talk, where we socialise -- where we loose and maintain our mental health, for better or worse -- that's the excuse we tell ourselves anyway.

We're playing a card game called Cribbage -- I say we, he is, Van is. Van always plays alone these days. Well, alone against himself, that is. Me, I gave up a long time ago, I'm no match for him. He always beats me, always has -- seems to know what cards I'm going play before I play them. It makes me feel inadequate. So I gave up his game a while back. But no matter, I don't mind, it is what it is.

We're alone at our table, but there are other folk in the bar. There's talk going on, plenty of it -- some of it animated, some of it just hushed whispers. In general the place is busy, noisy. Music is playing -- some high-energy cacophony that I am unfamiliar with. I may not be what you'd call trendy, I like my music raw, but this, it's other-worldly somehow -- like it's from another planet, or at least somewhere other than this place -- not that I'm entirely sure what music in this place should sound like, not being from here after all. I've not heard it on local Radio in the off-world, that's for sure -- maybe someone from there should get themselves into Hellsborough and check it out. You never know, it could be the next big thing.

The crosslander is gesticulating with one hand and the clown is nodding, understanding somehow -- it's news to me that they share a common language, but I might not be right on that. The clowns and the rest of the denizens of The Dark Peak share a common language. But crosslanders, they don't have any shared telepathic language, so they must be communicating verbally, I guess -- in English. How do I know they're plotting something? Well I don't really, do I? You could say it's an educated guess. I've been about long enough and sat in enough bars with Van, and watched enough in these places to know what plotting looks like and what it doesn't. While Van studies his cards, I study the bar folk, I people watch, that's what I do -- you've read my diaries, right?

Couldn't they just be a couple of young alternative types taking the first steps towards a future relationship? I mean, that's not really that unusual is it?

Yeh, they could be, of course they could. But I know what I have seen and I don't see this clown and that crosslander doing anything other than plotting something -- unscrupulous or otherwise. Clowns don't ordinarily get themselves involved in acts of rebellion or terrorism, they're a peace loving species, it's not in their nature to be anything otherwise -- but crosslanders -- nethermen, as they're also known -- they're famous for it. Most ordinary humans, and when I say ordinary, I'm talking about your regular Hellsboroughite (I almost said Jellyhead; a crosslander term of endearment for Hellsborough natives, and a turn of phrase which Van can sometimes use with careless abandon), regard crosslanders as being outside of the law -- rebels against society, trouble. And they are; but as you said. I might be wrong, they're probably stoking the kindling of a fledgling relationship. Heh, I'm flexible, I'm open to suggestions.

We -- me and Van -- we've both consumed several measures of this establishment's finest ales already, and the evening is still relatively young. Van hasn't even started telling me his stories yet, which is -- of course -- why I'm here. Too much liquor could start making things dangerous -- you never really know what he'll come out with next, but hey ho, never mind, eh? Things are always prone to maybe get tasty at some point; not that I'm a fighter, like he was, but I guess I might be able to shout someone down if I need to. Anyway, with that thought, Van stirs and plays his cards to himself.

For the record, before we go any further, I'm Pip. I'm Van Hallam's occasional friend, and maybe something of a "lover", in that I do love him in certain ways. I don't know, and I doubt if he does -- or cares. We're close-ish I think, that's really all I can say, we share stuff, a lot of stuff, complicated stuff, you could say. Van's highly intelligent, but not greatly educated in the ways of grammar and the like, so I have fallen into this odd role -- confident, drinking associate, sometime pusher, biographer -- at least I write down some of the things he says so they might be turned into something useful. I document his stories that they may stand the test of time, that's all. How much truth do I transcribe? I dunno, only Van could tell you that.

My mind is cloudy right now, but I guess he's playing the short game. He's dealt himself five cards, and his other self five cards, deals two into the box. He deliberates, but not for long, and discards one card from each hand into the box, and makes the best hands he can out of the rest. He takes a long suck on his pipe -- I'd stuffed it earlier with one of his favourite blends, a consignment I'd brought for him from the off-world.

Van wears his minimalist DIY psycmask, a thing of his own design (honestly, I think it's just a disguise, so he fits in when he's here or hereabouts), that neither interferes with his drinking pleasure nor impedes his ability to ingest the heady vapour. I know him so well that I can see that the intoxicating mix of both is having the desired effect -- getting wasted and slipping into a state of forgive and forget, since there is no forgiveness in this world, so it is better -- he says -- to forget. There is little point remaining sober, at all, ever, if you want to try and understand the world that you are in. This world, this Hellsborough, is not somewhere you can understand as a "normal" human being, unless you are well and truly muddled up in the head, and even then you only get to peek over the edge of the insanity pit. Ha, and the insanity pit is many fathoms deep.

A fat house fly (musca domestica, I recognised it from a course I did in biology in the off-world a couple of years back) coasts about the bar in squares. It's a warm evening for the time of year -- meaning the usually all pervading entity that is The murk isn't excessive -- but the ether is heavy enough to make it necessary to wear a psycmask. Even the crosslander wears a nose piece. The clown, of course, being indigenous, is just fine -- able to breath unaided anywhere in The Dark Peak. My psycmask is government issue. I've unclipped the feeding section, but it's still pretty uncomfortable. It means I don't stand out though, and that's how it has to be; and of course, I get to "benefit" from the council ads and all the rest of the hive chatter. Far from being a comfort, as it is to most of the pop, to me, it's a constant distraction from the here and now -- but I guess that's the point, isn't it?

Van plucks the house fly from the fetid air, smashing it deftly into his ready maw. Deux for deuces he slurs, counting one of his cribbage hands. One for his knob he says, jabbing his finger at the Jack of Strides.

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