P.S.O Jules Stewart
Orientation down on the ground is tricky, all of the strata are mapped but the chunks of buildings and roads in between are unmarked. We went down in the elevator at Fort Sefton so we know we’re in the right area and Peta said the Lakeside health facility is somewhere near this exit so we walk around the block. Or at least try to but the chaos of the ground being what it is there is no block as it where to go around, so we zig zag, keeping in sight the towering fort. We pass what looks like some sort of cafe in a funny green hut, Fat Peter wants to see what they serve but we have no currency for the street.
It's hot, I'd say at least forty, but there's no network information about street level so I don't know for sure. I hope we have enough water with us, you can't trust supplies down here.
Ten minutes walking at a brisk pace and we come across a low lying building made of wood or some sort of compressed product. It looks temporary, like it’s just been plonked here, although as we get closer we see its been here long enough for the leaflets and posters stuck to the windows to turn yellow and fragile. One is advertising for volunteers for an experimental eye-conics procedure, well that's now standard.
A small sign above the door says, Lakeside Health Facility. An ironic name since the lake was drained a couple of decades back.
As we approach we notice a small queue on the far side snaking out of a door. I take out the photograph we have of Ruth Johnson from twenty years ago and starting at the back of the line I ask them if they know her. I explain that we’re looking for a missing person and describe Estelle. A woman of about seventy grabs my sleeve and starts an old story I've heard before, an invasion conspiracy about people from the centre of the earth. Until, a tall lean man of about eighty (although it seems here everyone is older than you might think), steps from the queue and guides her away, he says, ’listen mate we don’t live in your strata and we don’t want to help you. Look around, what good has the strata done here? Destruction and madness that’s all – so don’t expect us to assist a servant of the corporation.’
After this no one will even make eye contact with us and the queue shifts across so the entrance is barred to us. Not wanting to cause an incident we back away and it feels like we’re searching for one pixel in a whole data stream.
A woman starts shouting at us, ‘shame on you,shame on you’ over and over. I’m not sure what it is we’ve done but we head away from her and turn a corner to be out of her sight.
‘Sorry’ I say to Fat Peter, ‘this isn’t going as planned.’ But he’s staring off into the distance. He raises a hand to shield his eyes from the light as he looks skyward.
‘Pass me the photograph,’ he says, ‘the one looking up the street.’
He takes it and holds it up, I move next to him.‘You see that tree, do you think that is the same tree there?’ he points to the top of a tree visible above a row of boarded up terraces.
‘It could be, let's find out. We’ve nothing else to go on.’
So keeping the tree in view we head towards it passed the buckled railings around an old pedestrian crossing, the traffic light knocked down, lying flat on the road, the tarmac pock marked and broken. We cross without looking, cars now a rarity. We turn into a street of semidetached houses with over grown gardens and roofs sprouting tall plants with spikes of purple flowers. Windows with their glass long since broken gape in the walls, black holes, surrounded by rotten flaking frames. Half way along the street is a side road. We turn and there it is, up the road, the view captured in the photograph.