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The Walker

Simon Streather

Wednesday, 14:23:08, Camera CZ2370Z first records the presence of Caucasian male, mid-sixties, approaching from the northwest. For our purposes we shall refer to him as ‘the walker’. He is dressed casually appropriately for the season. He has a leather briefcase slung over his right shoulder, crossing his body so that the bag falls under his left hand. His gait is unhurried, it would be wrong to define his activity as purposeful: indeed at one moment he seems curious, whilst at others he has the demeanour of someone going for a ramble in the countryside.

 His route- as we can track it from one camera to the next- would seem in itself curious: namely, from the northwest corner of intersection D where we sight him, to the southeast corner of junction L where he exits the zone. Junction L could be reached from intersection D much more efficiently and pleasantly bypassing the underpass and the zone completely.

 The purpose of his visit remains mysterious and at this point can only be a subject for conjecture: he makes no purchases at L, walks steadily at an even pace seemingly attentive to his environment. He pauses, albeit briefly, only three times, on two of these three occasions he seems to take a photograph with his phone, of what subject it is hard to tell. It is worth noting that he has been recorded visiting this area at least five times in the preceding calendar year.

 To describe the terrain we are in: columns of prefabricated concrete tower up to support a major arterial route which flows east and west out of and into the city. The zone is a place that may best be described as a ‘no-mans-land’. The area beneath the vast carriageway has necessarily been all but cancelled in terms of planned use. The grey of the concrete is all pervading in its monotony, enlivened by the stains of dirty rainwater washed from the roads above; curlicues of sprayed graffiti in acidic and fluorescent colours seem to enhance the bleak and unpromising prospect, more than brighten it. These are at least traces of other human activity. The walker is currently alone traversing the zone.

 From the point of view of our surveillance, as we first encounter the walker in wide shot he seems a blurred confusion of pixels drifting through a shadowy colonnade. It is unusual at this time of day to spot any but familiar vagrants loitering and drinking, it is for this reason that we have detailed his occasional and recurrent presence. It is difficult to assess when his first visit may have occurred: as only repetition made us aware of his presence. It is possible a nocturnal visit alerted us (c.f. report s6739008) as this is the time we are obviously most attentive and vigilant. On the occasion of this visit he halts his progress between Cameras CZ2375Z and CZ2375X. We can see him clearly from both the east and west as he looks north into the tunnel that connects Route N45 with route S45. 

 Looking into the tunnel, a grid of seams where identical concrete slabs abut, advances on ceiling and walls, measuring a gradual progress into an eventually all-encompassing dark. The floor of the tunnel is neither clean nor dirty; puddled with water, multi-coloured flecks of litter and crumpled leaves from who knows how many autumns back. Some three meters before all is indistinguishable darkness, sheets of cardboard are carefully propped against the walls of the tunnel, also laid on the floor over plastic sheeting. These materials have no doubt been gathered with a connoisseur’s eye by the two vagrants sitting closely together in silence. They are bundled and wrapped against the constant chill of the tunnel so that their bodies seem swollen. Perhaps it is wrong to speak of silence here: there is rather a hum- one could not call it ‘The roar of traffic overhead’. The traffic is muffled by the concrete and its constant drone becomes something closer to the technological white noise of a de-tuned receiver. This metaphor is apt as the urgency of transport above; groceries, ambulances, blood supplies, executive limousines, waste containers, construction materials, anxious relatives, is all transformed into an inextricable blur in this cement cave. Here where this insistent hum is tolerated probably due to habit- the urgency of individual messages dissolved and tempered by the more primal mode of the vagrant’s survival.

 The walker’s path is abruptly crossed by the diagonal trajectory of a woman. She is smartly dressed in a long overcoat, walking swiftly she avoids the tunnel and finds the shortest distance in fairly open ground from north to south. The walker pays little attention to her, continuing at his same measured pace. Her pace suggests that she is only using this route due to urgency and/or that she is nervous in this environment, bounded as it is on all sides by the relative prosperity that she would appear to be a part of.

 14:55:10, Camera CZ2382X, The walker is detected leaving the zone emerging at Junction L. It is worth noting that the busyness of the surrounding area causes no alteration in his speed or attentiveness. He passes cafes and shops with seeming indifference, intent on arriving at Transit 11. Here he boards 115 heading northwest, on all but one occasion this is the way he has left the site.

Simon Streather