“… there was just, like, a word in my head. You know sometimes when you’re dreaming there’s a word that keeps coming up over and over? But it wasn’t a word, it was… it’s hard to describe. Words squashed together, I suppose. ‘Ustawaooystawa…’ I don’t know – something like that. I couldn’t make it out, it was gibberish.
“But I was awake now and I could still hear it. I thought it was kids trying to freak out the weirdo crashing on the bench, but I couldn’t see anyone. There was a little crowd of them on the grass playing cricket but they were way off and totally involved in that, it wasn’t them.
“And then I heard it again, louder: ‘Ustawaooystawa…’
“And then it all went mad. I was pushed, really hard, right over to the other side of the bench. And, as I got up, I saw my breath in front of me. It was like it was winter. It was bitter cold, I had goose bumps. The trees and the bushes were dripping and the sky was black and there were all these dead leaves everywhere.
“And there was something on the bench. Like lines of light – thin lines, like in a spider’s web, right next to where I’d been sitting. The lines got thicker, heavier. They were shoulders, arms. It was big, heavy, and the arms were like they were folded. It was… I don’t know… it was like even though this whatever-it-was couldn’t possibly exist, it was… immovable. Like a mountain. Then its head started to appear, just a line or two, this massive fucking dome, and what must have been an eye. And the gibberish I’d heard was still getting louder. And clearer. Like a voice hissing at me with real fucking hatred. It was like… like when water drains off pebbles back into the sea but a hundred times more intense. It was horrible, pushing down, right down, into my ears. ‘Stay away! Stay away!’ it was saying. ‘You! Boy! Stay! Away!’
“I was backing off but I couldn’t stop looking at this thing. And everything was getting darker and darker. This thing on the bench was glowing and all I could think of as I looked at it was a bear and then, then it just vanished. And the noise stopped, like a switch had been hit. Everything changed – back to normal, I mean – as if nothing had happened. It was summer again. I heard one of the kids smacking their cricket ball and they were all shouting.
“I hadn’t noticed it before but there was one of those plaques, those memorial things, on the bench. It was all lit up, glowing, like the words were branded into the metal. BOB BEADLE’S BENCH, it said, HIS FAVOURITE SPOT IN ALL THE WORLD. 1948-2009. RIP.
“My arms and legs were shaking and my heart was going mental and I felt so raw, so weird, so, like… like when you’re tripping – disconnected from everything. There were a couple of women looking at me with their mouths open. I don’t know if they’d seen it or if they were just looking at some nutter staring at a park bench. The next thing I knew I was outside the Greenwich Tavern. I must have looked like shit because someone asked me if I was all right. That’s when I called you…”