The Stream

The journey to my favourite, most sacred abode in all the city wasn’t motivated by anything positive, that’s for sure. I didn’t go during the late evening to reflect on my day, I didn’t set out during my lunch time for snacks and refreshments. Instead, I would venture out during the ever-middle of my nights, well, your nights, my days, my sleep schedule was wonky to say the least. Due to this inability to rest I found that exploration was a very effective way to exhaust myself, and so I’d venture into many different areas within the city: I peeked through the back-rows of stores, I trod very warily through construction sites, I dabbled in many public buildings such as libraries or broadcasting places, and I crept through closed roads shut down for maintenance. In much shorter terms, I explored anywhere and everywhere that enticed, mattering not if it was five steps in front of me, or glowing on the horizon.

Leeds is a beautiful city. Over seven hundred thousand humans reside there, every single one with their own dreams and aspirations. Dreams and aspirations made very apparent during any time spent in the city’s core; an almost bursting hub full of shops, students, stations, experience of any and all kinds. Some parts clean, and some dirty. Some parts booming with activity, and some eerily peaceful. Yet, even though Leeds is hyped up to be a loud, bustling, fast-moving city, there are still some very serene parts to discover. Like the stream for example. A place I’d often visit on my post-night walks where, if I was lucky enough, all would be completely silent beside the dominantly peaceful sounds of gently flowing water. This was my preferred area to reside most mornings; an enclosure surrounded by trees, bushes and other hardy walls of nature fitted with a stream straight down the middle, the remains of a mossy overlook to its left, and my wall just a few feet further.

How did I get there you may ask? Well it was just a short trek, a mile at most if I took the longer route. I began journeying there around May, just as the weeks were starting to warm up, which meant the sun would rise earlier and earlier each day. Five in the morning was a guaranteed earliest that I’d see the sun appear, so I made sure I was packed and ready by around four-thirty. A shamefully easy feat as my sleep schedule had spun itself around to a point where I’d wake up at nine in the evening to see the sun off to bed. So, what better a time for walking than one when I could greet the sun and apologise for my neglectful rest.

Coat on, headphones secured, donning a black knit hat, I’d make my way down four levels of stairs, escaping via a door to the fresh outside world, finally departing my block through a metal gate so heavy you could hear its screeches from a hundred feet away. Behind my housing complex was a type of expressway, it led a direct line from different areas outside the city to the shop-filled centre. However, at such an early time in the morning there would be not five per cent of the cars that would usually be rushing by, which meant only myself and the waking sun were present. I’d gotten around halfway into my journey when I noticed I was getting very tired, ‘well that’s normal’ you might be thinking, yes, very normal in fact, though that’s not the surprising part. As I made my way crossing a few more roads, taking a path past a church and now making my way due right away from the expressway and through rows of housing, I calculated. Thinking back, I amounted around thirty hours since I’d last slept, which was fine, I’d often remain awake for long periods of time, sleep for around 6 hours and repeat. This was my schedule and I adapted accordingly as well as anyone could. The only issue I’d repeatedly come across was management, as the hours in which I’d start to get tired always vary, it could be twenty, thirty, even thirty-five.

The tiredness had hit but I was determined to at least reach my destination, as I knew I had time before it began to have any significant effect on my ability to function. By this point I was in sight of those hardy walls that surrounded the area, I’d gone through a housing estate and back down a sloping road to a different part of the same expressway. I could’ve easily followed it all the way along, but that’s rather boring and I prefer to take different routes, particularly when visiting the same place numerous times. Noticing the sun in the air and the darkness distinguished, I’m always pushed to think about the comparison of visibility from when I started to not even forty minutes later. The light levels had gone from pitch black when leaving my home to a full-swinging daytime, allowing for a beautiful view of the overhanging trees exposing a woodland area that would eventually lead me to my destined area of tranquillity.

I entered through the opening of trees and bushes onto a narrow enclosed path, as I walked I saw to my left, beyond the thick trees was a field. Surrounded, just like me. I was fully concealed now, to either side and above I was walled in by nature. If I wanted to get out I’d have to turn back or follow even more twisting dirt paths, but I didn’t want to get out. I wanted to get in. It had been roughly an hour since I felt my lack of rest slowly creep upon me and at this point it was well on its way to having an effect, my eyes began to ache, feeling warm, and I had to keep my head down as I walked. If I didn’t, I would continuously trip on the roots of nearby trees reaching for my feet as I left them behind me. Several dozen feet beyond the departed trees a dog and its owner bounded past me in the opposite direction; foolishly I turned to observe the dog and very harshly fell onto the dry dirt beneath me. I was too tired to care and in that moment, realised rare satisfaction that I could actually feel the consequences of exhaustion, adding onto that was an even greater accomplishment. I looked up from the ground I was sprawled upon, leaning back onto my knees I witnessed it.

The stream. A perfect flowing of frothy white water, wider than the length of three cards. Above it, even the trees couldn’t hide the beauty, allowing the bright blue sky to gaze down upon the flow. Beside the stream and directly in front of me was a multi-levelled overlook, made of brick, metal railing and persistent moss. Slightly closer to me, but still in eye-shot of the stream’s grandeur was the best seat in the house, a worn brick wall which I’d rested on during every trip to this area. This was only my fourth, perhaps even my third visit to the stream and unlike all other visits, I was now exhausted. I pulled myself back onto my legs and hobbled over to the railing, still hurting slightly from the fall. Even leaning against the cold green rail, I could feel myself swaying, left to right, back and fo- I stopped myself. The last thing I wanted to do in this state was fall into a moving body of water. I kept myself awake with some movement, gliding my hand along the rail until I saw a perfectly balanced stone atop one of the joints. Before I even thought about it I’d tossed it to the stream, which in actual fact ended up releasing far too late, launching into the barren floor of the overlook’s lower deck. That was enough activity; I hurried to my wall and sat down, both legs atop it folded in like a school child ready for assembly. My red hood pulled up, headphones back into each ear, eyes to the brown ground: assorted pieces of gravel, upturns of earth in several places, leaves which had flown in from different parts of the enclosure… Now is probably a good time to explain that the wall I so helplessly fell asleep on wasn’t the easiest to see from the overlook. It was around fifty paces back, with some lucky trees stopping those on the overlook from noticing if anyone else was or wasn’t present.

My head shot up as I woke abruptly to the sound of glass shattering. Only my head moved, turning right to get a glimpse through the trees. It looked to be around six feet of a sleek, pale skinned man resting against the olive railing, both arms outstretched. What did he do to cause such a loud noise? Holding his entire body weight, I could see his hands, covered with black leather, leaving messy imprints upon the mossy rail. I wondered, had he seen me upon first entering the enclosure? If he wasn’t doing anything criminal then there’s really nothing for him to worry about, but a noise so loud that it bothered me to consciousness from all this distance created some suspicion in my mind. He wore a long black coat down to his knees, black trousers, black shoes, it was all black, everything, and it seemed so… off. I rubbed my aching eyes, god knows how long at this point, it was easily past seven AM. I settled my breathing and waited, just a little bit longer to see what could occur. Turning my head in hopes someone would be arriving, I saw only the obnoxious roots, which prepared themselves for their rise during any potential escape. Of course, escape was an option, I could have very easily hopped off my wall and made a speedy exit for the way I entered, but I was far too curious a young man. Then another ear splitting noise, this time, still legs crossed on my wall, I managed to catch a glimpse.

Arms stretched forward from his apparent throw, white dust arose from in front of him. A bag slumped over at his feet and two more glass bottles, corked and full of white powder, rolled across the brick with a scraping noise to accompany. From what I could gather, this man, dressed all in black, at seven in the morning, was throwing filled glass bottles of powder into the stream. My stream. It infuriated me, but I didn’t plan on doing much besides spectating. My assumption was that these noises came when he missed the stream and hit the lower tier of the overlook, a feeling I knew all too well. Pulling out the last two bottles, he reached back and threw, then adding the bag to the stream for good measure. Why he didn’t just throw the entire bag to begin with, I have no idea. As he turned to his right, I understood he was checking the coast, to which I slouched myself. In my direction he checked before making a brisk departure from the scene; a bizarre situation. Even from this distance, I could see the bushes on the stream’s bank were sprinkled with this substance. A quick check round the corner and the figure had vanished.  Believe it or not such an unsettling event shocked me into focus allowing me to lean over and view the lower tier for myself, it was utter devastation, besmirchment, impurification of my abode.

I pulled myself back from the rail and rushed to the overgrown stairs leading below, pushing nature to one side in an attempt to witness the damage closer. It was worse than I initially presumed. Eight bottles with caps to verify, smashed to pieces beside the stream. The powder everywhere, with… blood? The man brought no one with him, whose blood was this? I stepped once, going for another I held my foot in the air for a second of contemplation, thinking long and sensibly, I concluded: this was a crime scene that I dare not touch.