Continuing a skewed mix of horror, psychogeography, myth and history as Glasgow is threatened by an old curse that allows the Quarter of Torment to break through The Sacred Line.
Mackail stood outside the Glasgow City Chambers haranguing anyone who entered or left the building. They hurried past shaking their heads or, irritated by his intrusiveness, suggested where he could stick his leaflet.
“Save the Sighthill Stone Circle. Your council is unleashing an old curse on the city for greed and profit. Please take a leaflet. No? Well don’t worry madam, your day of reckoning is nearly upon you.”
His smile was a little sinister and he licked his lips. While he still had the pallid grey look of someone who sleeps in a dusty attic his polite demeanour was now a little more malevolent. I felt a mixture of embarrassment and irritated dislike for the old man who at least had the decency to grimace and look guilty when he saw me.
“Well, well, well Mackail. Now hassling secretaries and admin staff in their lunch hour with your lunatic ideas? You’re not going to win your cause like this. You’re after the wrong people.”
“Lunatic ideas? With all these strange things going on around here? Don’t worry it’s all part of the plan.”
“Does that involve giving me the slip again?”
“I am sorry about that” he said unconvincingly.
On the day we had first met at the stones we left Sighthill Park and crossed the motorway moat back into the centre. We walked down High Street towards Trongate. Mackail explained how the boarded-up and empty shop fronts was a conspiracy by the Council to deliberately run-down the area and award lucrative development contracts to cronies, eventually socially cleansing the area.
“It will bring in a better class of retail” sneered Mackail. “And if you think that’s bad wait till I tell you about the Commonwealth Games.”
“Fascinating. But surely this matters little to the city when you compare the perils posed by the removal of the stones.”
“You’re quite right. I do wish I wasn’t so easily distracted. I’m the wrong person to be left with such a task. I so wish it wasn’t me. I say, look up at that window. Who’s that?”
In one of the top floor windows I saw a figure shouting and gesturing straight at me. The figure appeared to have a mask or hood covering his face.
“That’s odd. It’s like he knows me.”
I turned to Mackail but he was fast disappearing around a corner up the street. I turned back to the window and the hooded figure was gone. I swore. Mackail was gone (continues below).
Glasgow’s Quarter of Torment: The Sacred Line
Have you ever wondered why a hospital, a necropolis, a doss-house and an abattoir follow the exact line of the summer solstice? This is Glasgow’s quarter of torment held down by The Sacred Line.
A pattern was set for the next couple of weeks as I explored the area around the Sacred Line. I regularly caught sight of that familiar blue coat and grey hair in the distance. Mackail would turn, flash a taunting smile and slip away. No matter how hard I sprinted to catch him he was gone. It was if he was leading me round the streets to mark out strange patterns on the topography and carve spells into the streets.
And strange things were undeniably happening.
Vintage buses appeared on the streets plying their old routes with furious conductors demanding proper imperial currency. A lost orchestra wandered the streets explaining to anyone who listened, and understand their language, that they were in the wrong city and didn’t know how to return home. They roamed the streets playing increasing discordant, violin-tortured gypsy songs. Old resurrected characters wandered round dazed and wide-eyed. Dr Octagon posters sprouted up overnight, a skeleton with a surgery mask and lamp, finger pointing to a skull held in green gloved bloodied hands. Enigmatic graffiti and hieroglyphics appeared in alleyways and walls around the Sacred Line.
Let Glasgow wither
Dr Lister will be ready to operate soon
Dr Octagon is coming: blue flowers will flutter
Little by little the atmosphere of the streets became unbearably tense and foreboding. People avoided the now silent streets as much as possible. They read ominous warnings in squabbling crows and swore they could see clouds shape-shift into coffins.
And then men started falling from the sky.
The fallen were dressed in long overcoats, black hoods and leather plague masks. Figures were seen scaling roofs, climbing buildings or simply jumping from a height. No-one knew where or who they came from but they fell and lay dead on the street, sometimes twitching out their last seconds of life. And it always happened along the Sacred Line. The police quickly pounced with blue tents and taped-off zones but rumours quickly spread about one citizen who rushed to help a fallen man, tore off his mask and saw a face branded with such terror that he fainted on the spot.
And now I caught-up with Mackail and I couldn’t help but think this was not in my interest.
“If you dig up the stones this is what will happen.”
The haunting sound of an old air-raid siren split the air. I saw the reaction of the Glaswegians in George Square. They stopped with hackles raised and wondering dread. It awakened some ancient dread they had forgotten about. Fear and adrenaline throbbed to the rising pitch of the siren. They had faced the Blitz, and the tanks sent into George Square by David Lloyd George to crush the Bolshies of Red Clydeside but this was something far worse. They started running as silky darkness billowed through the streets into the square, enveloping the statues and leaving Old Careful and his fellow military officers impotently frozen in stone rage.
Then a van screeched to halt in front of me. Four masked men jumped out and threw me into the back. I struggled, oh how I struggled but I had no chance. A hood was thrust over my head and there was a prick in my arm. Then darkness of the square swirled into me and I was out.
Part 4 sees the narrator taken by unknown assailants to Glasgow Royal Infirmary where the curse has broken out in all its horror. Read part 4 The Stones and the Torment