The car park is a bad mood cast in concrete. Though not old enough for its construction to be lost from living memory, only the car park itself knows how many bodies its concrete foundations entomb and where. It hulks over the city surrounding it, a sleeping monster that might any moment be provoked into brutality. Most who tread the stairwell up the spine of the building are careful not to wake it. Not that many come this way since the council announced its imminent demolition.
Rumours of its demise, however, were greatly exaggerated, with a local action group fighting to save the formidable structure. Its concrete bulk, the protruding skeleton of some soon to be extinct creature of prehistory, continues to dominate the skyline here. The city courtrooms that cower in the shadows of the car park’s flanks house the pros and cons of the argument, while the building itself holds its silence and sleeps, indifferent to the debate that will decide its very existence.
The quiet here is why I chose the top floor to squat in. The never opened restaurant building at the summit is the perfect place to bed down, more welcoming than the anti-sleep benches and the kickings waiting for me in the parks and precincts below. The view from here stretches for miles. I like to think I can see any threat approaching well before it arrives but I know that isn’t true.
They came a few nights back, pissed up and looking for something to torment. That’s why they brought the petrol can. I heard the car too late, tried to hide in the dark corners of the top park deck, but headlights soon found me. It didn’t take them long to surround me, shouting and lashing out with booted feet. Winded and kicked about, I tried to struggle but there were too many. I looked up at them, men from the town, suited up, they’d come straight from a club or pub, probably been knocked back by the ladies and figured a fight was too much trouble. I could see in their eyes they’d settled on GBHing some homeless guy and somehow, way up here where I thought I’d be safe, they’d found me.
I didn’t speak. Waste of time. I could see myself in their eyes; dirty fucking tramp, needs a kicking, taking fucking liberties, sleeping in the multi-storey, lowlife scum needs cleaning from the street.
‘We gonna burn him or what?’ said one, as he checked his watch. ‘I’m hungry and the chinky closes in half an hour.’
They poured the contents of the petrol can over my clothes, leaving my face till last, laughing as I gasped for breath and sucked in only fumes. Through stinging eyes I made out the blurry glow of lighter flame.
‘Fuckin’ do it,’ shouted one.
The others jeered and shouted as the lighter waved about in front of me. A grinding noise burst from the lower levels of the car park.
‘Bloody place is gonna collapse. Let’s do this and get the fuck out of here.’
The noise ground out a second time, this time shaking the floor. That’s when the screaming started. I wiped the petrol from my eyes and squinted, desperate to see what was happening. The lighter flame was gone and in front of me the car park seemed to be somehow swallowing my attackers. The concrete between their feet seemed to fold and crack and suck them in. They sank slowly into the floor screaming as the concrete somehow covered them. The car park floor rippled once more, the grinding noise playing out with the last of their screams. Beside me on the smooth park deck floor, the petrol can and the empty car was the only evidence of them left.
Most folks might have run at that and never looked back. I made my way back to the restaurant building and lay down on my sleep bag, wiping my eyes with an old t-shirt from my backpack. It was lying there, my heart still battering my chest, that I heard the singing. At least I think it is singing. It’s a kind of ringing sound, muted, like metal hidden deep inside something. That’s how they build these things isn’t it, steel reinforced concrete. It’s like the bones of this place are singing. Telling me I am safe. That I can rest here. Which I do. I lie here and listen and I pity the men who might come one day to knock this marvellous, brutal building down.