Mill Town Maleficia – Scollay Under
July 11, 2020
It was late. Nearly sunrise, going by time. This was a jumble of urban fabric meeting in a cacophonous disharmony of structures: road, warehouse, railroad, bridge, road — not junction, rather a tangle of near-misses, excepting the two surface roads. Under the cold concrete arches of the viaduct, though, dawn didn’t seem so near. The amber haze of sodium lamps glared down, inhuman, unfeeling, unchanging. The light seemed to rip away the passage of time, putting the sullied streetscape in stasis. Despite the air moving with a light breeze, the litter which was tossed about the corners remained impossibly, totally still.
The bridge above contained this supernatural glow within the arched spans beneath the deck of the road, preventing the sodium lamps from casting their spell any further skyward than the underside of the deck, which climbed gently higher with a slight slope. It seemed not to have any end nor beginning, climbing for ever and ever at the higher end without ever connecting to anything. Wherever it climbed to, the bridge disappeared into the lampblack night a hundred meters or so further down, shortly after losing the cove illumination of this underpass. The place where the bridge deck met the ground, too, was hidden — but this was more plainly hidden behind the masonry walls of a warehouse.
The terrain beneath this all, spreading outwards before one as they stood against one of the ancient warehouses abutting the parallel road, was at first totally flat. Asphalt, which while drivable, was pockmarked with overworn cold patch, leaked oil filth, and road markings chipped and bleached by the sun. On the liminal verge where asphalt crumbled to dirt and oil-sheened puddles, the ground quickly becomes broken up by colonies of weeds that hid whatever crumbling curbstone that once definitively divided the space between road and rail. The lines are fuzzy, now.
Beyond, the scrubby texture of where railroad begins — apparently ancient railroad, four tracks, the two far tracks with clean ballast, neatly spaced ties, topped with heavy modern rails polished rustless — but before reaching this orderly space, the near two tracks remained in a sorry, forgotten state. Filthy ashen ballast strewn about with ancient ties, rotting and misaligned like neglected teeth. The rails no longer visible, having been choked beneath a carpet of weeds, but here and there poked up switch stand or mechanism otherwise, by now more rust than metal, which gives indication of what the rails too must look like. Given the space, perhaps in the past there was even a fifth track in the far verge beyond which has now been lost to the urban entropy.
And stretching uncomfortably across this all, at an odd angle that agreed with nothing, a broken and weary drive across the tracks to the rear of some other masonry industrial structure, having some loading docks in various stages of long disuse. There was no crossing gate protecting it, just a single metal railroad crossing sign at the left corner where it met with road, any reflective property it may have had long worn away.
The effect of this absurd miscommunication of structures was such that one can feel, at the very least, that they were standing in the bottom of a gulch, the two industrial structures being the impermeable, dehumanizing cliff walls trapping one here. Looking down the road one way or the other, these walls of brick and faded sign paint seemed to continue on in one contiguous edifice, and give no relief in this sensation no matter how long they are gazed at, despite knowing logically this is not the case. Despite these crenellations certainly, at one point, having been crafted by man’s hand, this place had long been abandoned by man — and since adopted by some terrible force responsible for weaving an otherness into the place and making it undoubtedly into something else, something that cannot willingly be crafted by man.
Worse still, at certain vantages, the bridge produces the terrible effect of stealing away the last touchstone of the outside world away from those beneath it — without the sky to orient yourself to place, this was no longer an old washed-up district of forgotten industry, this was itself a sealed box from which outside no longer existed, a demiurge’s dollhouse. Isolating, static, a terrarium sealed shut by the spell of sodium vapor lamps falling on walls long redundant, unwanted, and unneeded.
The ostensible purpose of the bridge — which, too, bisected the scene at an uncomfortable mismatched skew — was to carry that road-to-the-clouds, but from down here, it seemed impossible to deny that it, in truth, had been built to seal this place away from the rest of the world. No one comes to this place anymore. Trains pass through but never stop. The city itself has forsaken this space.
It is late. Nearly sunrise, if going by time. The amber haze of sodium lamps glared down, inhuman, unfeeling, unchanging. Despite the air moving with a light breeze, the litter tossed about the corners remained impossibly, totally still.