Journey to the End of the Night, London
eek! I hit submit instead of preview! I'll add the end later, (sorry).
notes: I didn't get many pictures because I put my camera in a "team mate's" bag then promptly got split up from him!
Along the way I collected other people's stories. Since these people don't play SF0 I've recorded them here but put them in blue
to highlight that they're NOT directly part of my journey. I've put in overview notes, as my boyfriend said my story was too long [but I'll be damned if I'm editing anything out] so feel free to skip'n'skim the detailed notes and just read the bits in the big type
for brevity. Meta x
Arrival - 21 Wapping Lane
Formed a team of 7. Lost 1. caught buses from Start point to Brick Lane.
21 Wapping Lane was the home of Punchdrunk's Faust
, a nightmarish cross between a play, horror film and fairground where the audience walked amongst the tormented characters in their looping hell.
The place has a bad vibe.
I arrived alone, my partner unfortunately unable to attend, but soon met with friends who had also signed up to play.
There was a great sense of excitement and anticipation, as JTTEOTN marked the beginning of the Hide and Seek pervasive games festival and was the jewel in the crown of our events schedule.
The gates opened and we all frog marched through the carpark in an orderly queue to receive our maps and ribbons (and sign liability waivers!). As our little band poured over our maps, Mr. H started to plan a strategy to get us safely past the chasers to the first checkpoint.
The carpark filled with people and soon roughly 80 runners had assembled. We were addressed, via megaphone, by a uniformed chaser in a train driver's cap. He instructed us to follow the map from Wapping Lane to the Southbank via 6 checkpoints, collecting signatures from characters at each along the way. The first to the end with all 6 signatures would win a coveted Hide and Seek T-Shirt (and the respect and admiration of their peers).
All this time the chasers had been loitering in the shadows and now paraded out in front of us as Alex told us runners of 'the catch', that whilst we were racing each other, we'd also have to outrun The Chasers! At this point a half man half machine giant exploded out from behind as parked van and ran through the carpark to the massive gates. He was wearing a cycle helmet festooned with red chaser ribbons making him look like a lot like the monster out of predator as he leaped on his pneumatic stilt legs to the space between us and freedom. There were whoops and screams of shock and excitement from the assembled runners, as we realised what we had let ourselves in for!
The chasers disappeared out of sight to go and prepare ambushes for us no doubt, and we were filled in on a few more details before Alex let off an air horn and the gates were once more dramatically swung open - Mr. H leading the charge! The plan was simple assuming everyone would run either left or right to the tubes stations, we would run straight ahead down the canal to a bus stop further down towards the west, then get a bus to Liverpool Station, where it is a hop skip and a jump to the first check point - under the bridge of the Truman Brewery Gallery in Brick Lane.
It was now that I realised my fatal error in signing up for this game. At no point had I considered that as a 'runner' I would have to 'run'. My friends streaked off ahead in what would have been a cloud of dust had the heavens not opened at the same moment.
I ran without stopping (just not very fast) following the dots on the horizon, fortunately catching up with them at the bus stop.
We made it as far as the edge of Brick Lane without incident, skulking in sidestreets and getting thoroughly soaked through, until the first of our number was picked off from the herd. Rob had been up front of point when we had arrived at a split in the road. With a shout he darted away and we saw him no more, we took the other fork determined that he had seen a chaser and found our was to the first checkpoint already a man down.
Check point One
Team down to 5. Got drenched. Found the besuited ladies, lost map and travel pass.
Checkpoint one turned out to be a series of surprises. Surprise one was that one of the contacts was my friend Rebekah dressed in a suit holding a silver topped cane. Surprise two was that I had already lost my map - meaning that there was positively no way I could win now in any case (I got her to sign an old receipt from my pocket) and surprise three was that I had also lost my Oyster card (travel pass) which still had about £20 left on it : ( We parted ways with Dounal, who joined with his friend Miss S and a man called Wonky Donkey to go and buy some crisps and beer for the journey.
Bex had received a call earlier that day to the tune of - 'You remember you said you'd help out with JTTEOTN...?' She hadn't expected to spend the evening after work standing under a bridge in Brick Lane! Brick Lane (for those who don't know) is home to London's curry house district as well as a top spot for bars and nightclubs away from the overpriced glitz of the West End on a Friday night. Rebekah and fellow contact Katie found themselves under a bridge in a prime location for other people looking to be 'contacted'. At first a little dubious, the local drug dealers soon found the game a great laugh, and started shouting out to lost looking mapwielders where the besuited ladies were! Bex had a great night and met lots of new people.
Check Point Two
Split up by chasers, got separated from team. Found the buskers. Joined up with other groups (three times).
Having got to the next bus stop my lack of travel card became an issue, if I turned back I'd either hold everyone up or end up on my own - mapless. A small whipround and I was on the bus heading for Cannon Street where we stalked around some impressively soulless monolith offices before zeroing in upon the safe zone marked on the map. We'd been 'running' for over an hour and a half by now and darkness had descended. The initial paranoia that had made us baulk at every stranger that walked towards us had wained as - apart from mysteriously losing Rob - we hadn't seen hide nor hair of a red ribbon.
We excitedly trotted through a little garden park on the other side of the road to the safe zone and the unseen awaiting contacts. We saw a group of other runners with their pink and white armbands walking through the gates and were about to run across to join them when a shout rent out and the players across the road scattered in a panicked run - striding from the darkness came a troupe of chasers lead by the hollering Mouse. When the panic had set in three of our number had darted blindly across the road to safety leaving just myself and Mr. B ensconced in the shadows of the tree line watching the progress of the group of chasers as they rapidly came towards us. As I was wearing black and Mr. B pale grey (tsk, tsk, tsk...), I stood watch whilst he hunkered down to better hide, whilst I relayed the chasers movements to him. To my horror they stopped across the road right opposite us and decided to cross - heading right for our position. It was apparent that they hadn't seen us but that would change as soon as they rounded the hedgerow. They chose to cross right between the two entrances to the garden and I felt sure that they would see us through the less than ample foliage (I was unaware that in his sleep addled state, Mouse could barely see himself) and my heart thumping, I whispered 'run!' dashing away
from the chasers and away
from the goal. Mr. B had run forwards and disappeared through the gates to safety and I was left hiding behind a sculpture in th garden. Thankfully Mouse's troupe had fragmented as well as deciding to enter the garden from the gate furthest from me. I performed the worst rendition of 'comedy sneaking' ever seen peering up from behind raised flowerbeds slowly from right to left as they moved from left to right at the opposite end of the raised lawn. There was another runner - a Portuguese girl, hiding behind the flower bed trough, and we skulked along together until I looked over to see where the chasers were and gazed straight into Mouse's eyes. Expletives exploded in my mind as I thought I'd given us away and I shot the Portuguese girl an apologetic look as we ran as fast as we could to the nearest bus stop. At the bus stop we both stopped and tried to call our respective cohorts - none of mine picked up and the girl wouldn't budge from the bus stop, so I left her there and headed towards the second checkpoint, two buskers who signed my tattered receipt laughing at my scruffiness.
I met again with wonky donkey, Dounal and Miss S, and briefly joined their group as we made our way towards Oxford Street. Paranoia rife, they thought they'd lost me when I stopped at a cashpoint to get some much needed travelling money! We reached a bus stop next to a tube station, a perfect opportunity to go buy a new travel card, I told the others to leave without me if the bus came before I got back and went down into Monument station to get a ticket. When I came back up they were gone, but two new runners were waiting there with a welcome bottle of wine to share!
We got onto the bus and walked straight into a small crowd of pink and white ribbons and friendly smiles. It was a pleasant and bizarre sensation to walk up to a group of strangers and start talking to them straight off as is you knew them, I introduced myself slightly
hesitantly as Mink (my all purpose game playing name) and a couple of people recognised my name from the Hide and Seek website, they introduced themselves as Brendan, Kevan and Josh. We all chatted happily about the Games Festival, strategies for runners, strategies for chasers and the merits of drinking alcohol on the bus and talking to strangers.
At some point during this bus ride I got through to Mr. M on the phone. Sure that they couldn't have gotten to far ahead I asked him if they were still at the third checkpoint and could I catch them up. He refused to tell me where they were! He was adamant that I had been caught and was calling up to get their position in order to catch them! The actual conversation went like this,
Meta: Aaron, where are you?
Mr. M: I'm not saying because your dead!
Meta: I'm not dead!!
Mr. M: Yeah, you would say that...
Check Point Three
Overview: Josh leads the chasers away. I'm reunited with my original team. Found 'Blind' Mike.
We got off the bus at the bus stop directly opposite the safe zone, there were chasers on guard to the left and right of the entrance and we were now a group of about 15 people - none too inconspicuous. The road was also incredibly busy and hard to cross, we were at an impasse, the only option was to charge and let the stragglers 'get got'. However, as we tried to cross the traffic stopped most of us and Josh ended up on his own on the chasers side of the street. I don't think I'll ever forget the moment the chasers looked up at him as he backed away from them, the look of surprise you see on the lion's face as the gazelle accidentally runs into it's den. I felt slightly bad about darting across the road into the safe zone whilst Josh was leading the chasers away by himself a la Shaun distracting the zombies in Shaun of the Dead. But his friends assured me that he'd spent the whole journey so far wishing he was a chaser instead, so he'd be happier this way.
Mr. M's story, after losing me, team Punchdrunk headed round the back way to avoid possible chaser ambushes coming up from Soho to make a dash for the safe zone from the west rather than than the predictable east. The safe zone however having such a narrow entrance meant that no matter which direction it was appraoched from, it was well covered by the chasers. They were spotted and split from Mr. H who lost his A-Z and nearly his life, when he careered into the road in front of a taxi to avoid being caught. Now down to three, Mr. M, Miss. K and Mr. B, scrambled into a Subway sandwich shop on Oxford Street to hide from the chasers. As the chasers approached they naturally cowered to a fight or flight position. The chasers came closer and the trio ducked lower (perhaps hiding in a shop made mainly of windows wasn't the best plan after all). The chasers came right up to the shop and Mr. B grabbed Miss. K and Mr. M, puling them to the ground to hide from their pursuers. It was at this moment that a girl came up to them inside the shop. "Hello Aaron, how are you? I haven't seen you since our graduation!, um... What are you doing?" she said. "Yeah. Hi." grunted Mr. M from his prone position on the floor, never taking his eyes from the door...
REUNION! I was sat next to Blind Mike (the real one, not the two who had already fraudulently bid me sit by/on them as I came in) fighting off his inky advances when the rest of my original cohorts squeezed into the tiny packed space.
Blind Mike and his gaggle of Swedish sounding groupies was sat in the most inaccessible corner of the basement bar in a beatnik looking pair of shades 'reading' poetry and drinking copiously. He didn't sign the manifests, rather imprinting his thumb as his moniker in bright green ink onto the map. However, being blind, he wanted to check that each player was who they claimed to be, by first tracing the contours of their face - with his ink covered fingers. Each player was now marked with green bruise like daubs across their faces! A fate I was keen to avoid!
There was a happy atmosphere as many players took a well (and not so well) earned break to enjoy a pint (and toilet break). The bar having reached capacity a long long time ago, we spilled out into the little street of the safezone, and stood at its cusp to taunt the chasers collected there. Unimpressed they merely ate some sandwiches and took photos of us in our cockiness.
Check Point Four
Overview: Team back up to 5. Found the ringing telephone. Took the long way round.
Checkpoint Four was reached without event, we found the phone box but to our surprise there was nobody there awaiting us except an umbrella hanging on the cord. As we drew closer the phone started to ring! I went inside and picked it up to be instructed to write AMAX on everyone's manifests and then to head to the cascading steps of Royal Albert Hall and then through to the park to find the Russians feeding the ducks. The boys downright refused to ascend the stairs as it would be a prime site for the chasers and we ran around the houses into the park from the side.
Check Point Five
Got to the park. Surrounded by chasers, got caught along with Miss K. Team down to 3 who we search for in vain.
Most of the chasers go home, now a team of 3 chasers, Go to the river to try to catch the boys - but they never arrive...
Detail: We mosey on over to the Southbank
I walked with Mr. M and Bex to Trafalgar Square, home of all night buses. We went our respective ways to head home and I ended up alone at 2am waiting for a night bus to Hammersmith. I waited. and waited, more and more the temptation grew to get a £25, taxi home adding further travel cost to my already expensive night. At about 3.30am I was giving up hope of retaining consciousness,when a small behorned head joined me at the bus stand.
It was the devil stick awarded to the winner of the journey!
He had arrived after we'd all left and Alex had told them they were too late to play, but his friend had begged him and Alex had hastily explained the rules and the goal before shutting up the warehouse to join the chase.
He said he hadn't really understood about the chasers and had just thought there was a crazy man on powerizers after him. They'd been trying to out-run EVERYONE and that's how they got there first.
He jumped on a bus elsewhere and disappeared into the night. At 4am my bus finally
arrived and I boarded, gratefully absorbing the heat of the collected masses. It's a 40 minute journey from Trafalgar Square to my home and so I of course fell asleep and missed my stop.
At roughly 5am I walked, cold, damp and limping down a silent and deserted street back towards my home. I watched the sun come up from behind the shops and apartment blocks of West London and laughed the joyful laugh of someone who knows nobody can hear them, as I realised I had actually
journeyed from sundown to sun up!
Satisfied and beaming, I descended into my flat to impress upon my happily sleeping partner exactly how cold my feet were.
[heh heh heh]