As Calais Sleeps
A Horror Story
It was dingier than most. A bulb had extinguished in one of the fridges and another blinked intermittently. The house lights were half asleep, bathing the garage in artificial twilight. Dominic barely felt the change in atmosphere emerging through the automatic doors from the midnight chill.
He commandeered a lonely shopping basket and made his way through the centre aisle. Every few steps, a hand would throw an item in but he otherwise kept moving. At the end, he had amassed a small collection of disposables.
On the counter, a man ten years younger than Dominic, in a sweaty polo, slept conspicuously with his head tucked deep into his folded arms. His hair line had receded and the top of his scalp showed through as an ever growing patch of grey. He never stirred as Dominic approached.
Dominic cleared his throat. The assistant snored back. The shopping basket was raised a foot above the counter and dropped. The sleeper jolted upright, recoiling in fear, his eyes fogged in sleep. He looked up at the imposing, slightly overweight customer and noticed his cold gaunt eyes and frayed woollen hat. He would never forget the eyes nor the feeling of them cutting through him like a saw blade.
“I'll take a bag as well”, Dominic said in a voice that was colder than outside. The assistant replied with a slight nod and began pushing items through the scanner.
Dominic's eyes left the man, focusing on the TV screen mounted in the top-corner of the shop behind the till.
The sound was muted but scrolling text in the lower third of the screen relayed the whole story. It was a news report about the Calais ferry terminal. Clashes with police, several injuries, three refugees dead. There were images plastered on screen of the bodies, broken and twisted.
The till assistant looked up from his work and followed Dominic's gaze.
“What the hell happened to this country, know what I mean?” Dominic said nothing.
The man started placing the shopping into a thick plastic bag.
“You know what it is, right? Damn socialists! They've made everyone go soft. Made us let our guard down. Now the bastards are everywhere.” His tirade finished, he scanned the last few items. A car bursting into flames on-screen lit up the counter with soft orange light.
Dominic turned away from the horror and produced his wallet. Opening it up to reach for his debit card, the assistant caught a glimpse of the Driver Qualification Licence tucked into the see-through plastic sleeve. Dominic slid his card into the machine and hammered the number pad. Nothing appeared to be happening with the transaction so he began rapping his fingers tunelessly on the counter top.
“You drive a lorry then?” said the assistant, breaking the silence. Dominic squinted harshly at him. He let the query hang in the air as the man tensed up, clueless as to where he should direct his gaze.
“What of it?”, Dominic finally said, his response sounding more like a threat. “Uh no, no nothing, I'm just... just trying to make conversation.”
“I'm not”, Dominic said bluntly. The till spluttered out a receipt which the now timid cashier stuffed ungraciously into the shopping bag. Dominic sheathed his card back into his wallet, hardly bothering to hide the mask of contempt he now wore, the assistant letting him pick up the bag rather than hand it over. The pretence of customer service was inapplicable here.
“You're not, by any chance, heading up the A26, are you?”, the cashier said, taking one last stab at conversing with Dominic. Before the driver had a chance to intimidate the wretched man some more, he answered his own question.
“It's just that – if you're heading to Calais, there's hundreds of the buggers now. This time of night too, they like to try and jump on the lorries.”
“I know,” Dominic muttered as he turned away for the exit, “I come this way a lot. We have them in Mannheim too.”
“Funny how I've only met you now,” the cashier said with a forced chuckle but Dominic had already trudged out of the door.
“The only good refugee is a dead one, am I right?”
Whether Dominic heard the comment or not, he never glanced back as he returned to his vehicle.
* * *
The bulk of the journey saw no trouble. Dominic had seen only empty fields rushing by without so much as a sheep grazing them. Overnight lorries dominated the road at this time, hoping to catch the early morning ferry. Dominic merged lanes to join the back of them.
His two-way transmitter picked up the chatter between the vehicles. They were all on edge as to what they would expect upon arrival and each opinion uttered seemed to echo the sentiment of the last:
“Burn the 'jungle' to the ground with the vermin inside! Problem solved.”
“I've got my wrench under my chair. Any of the brown bastards try to get on, I'll cave their skulls in.”
“You'd think they'd fuck off to Africa instead of here. It's closer, ain't it?” The vitriol settled down as the traffic slowed, the overhead signs to Calais perched above the convoy.
The ocean – a dark purple blanket in the distance – was coming into view, just below the thin wire of a horizon. The small clock on the dashboard posed at two A.M, its hands glowing in a lime green colour.
Dominic's radio, meanwhile, was tuned into a call-in show hosted by a DJ who spoke in a pleasing, listener-friendly baritone. The topic had shifted from an international trading deal with the Americans that was shortly to be passed to the issue of migrants. There had been another makeshift camp that had been torn down and now thousands were heading west to lesser known shipping routes. One of those affected was now on the air, protesting at how the media had twisted the debate into one of border control as opposed to an humanitarian crisis.
Dominic tuned out, finding another station in the middle of an easy-listening marathon. The queue of vehicles continued to move steadily but he had observed the turn-off he had been waiting for. To the commuters behind him, it must have seemed complete lunacy to exit here.
Dominic snapped on his indicator, casually spinning the wheel to the right, the cabin drifting in the direction of the exit. His brethren shrunk in the rear-view mirror, vanishing into a single point. The ramp guided him onto a deserted country lane that was two lanes wide and had dust bowls for hard shoulders.
Cruising at a speed he felt comfortable, Dominic reached over beside the gear stick, checking that his shopping had not spilled onto the floor. His sundry items were mostly roasted peanuts and snacks with the exception of the disinfectant cleaning spray he had purchased. The consumables he placed in a row on the dashboard and, starting from the driver's side, began popping liberal amounts of snacks into his stubbled mouth.
Leaning back over, munching contentedly, his right hand felt for the handle of the bowie knife concealed in the cavity under the glove compartment. He slid the blade out of its holster by an inch, testing how smooth the action was, then slid it back in, satisfied. He squeezed the handle for good luck – it felt perfectly weighted and solid to his touch.
After he threw a scattershot of peanuts into his mouth his foot descended further onto the accelerator. This part of the duel carriageway hid no speed cameras; there was no sense in wasting time while it was still dark.
The road would eventually reach the ferries via a back way into the seaside town.
For the other drivers, despite it being less hazardous for their cargo holders, it meant turning up to the depot a day late. Time was money and the risk of stowaways was one that couldn't be avoided.
Dominic however was ahead of schedule. He could catch a ferry the following evening and still arrive hours before his appointed docking. It was imperative to him, in fact, to always be ahead.
Twenty minutes into his detour, the T-junction he had been waiting for galloped into view. The lorry made the turning as if rehearsed. The wheels meandered over tire tracks forever tattooed on the surface of the asphalt, mimicking their arc exactly. Dominic straightened up the rear and the lorry sailed off into the awaiting blur of the early morning.
* * *
The tarpaulin walls and roofs of the camp danced in the breath of the Channel. Dominic could hear the material clap together in the darkness. From his perch on the roadside, about thirty yards from the periphery of the shelters, he could only make out groups of huts were the refugees had been able to procure a light source of some kind (in his mind, he envisioned flaming barrels). Swathes of the camp were concealed behind the wall of night, so estimating the size of the ghetto was difficult. There could realistically have been at least two thousand people in this one cluster.
Dominic's lorry, with its headlights switched off, was invisible to any onlookers where it sat. His window was rolled down in the hope of feeling the benefit of the breeze. The outside air sliced into the stifling interior of the cabin, the wind rolling off the sea, fanning cold bursts into his hair and face.
He removed his woollen hat and used it as a rag to mop up sweat from his coarse chin and lips. Replacing it on his thinned, greying hair, he stretched his head through the window, having just noticed a group of men emerge from the edge of the encampment.
There were three of them, dressed in identical sportswear that they had probably lived in for God knows how long. They spoke to each other in a huddle, shadows cast onto their profile by a lone street lamp. Dominic's attention was granite, his eyes focused solely on the gathering. The figure closest to the light wore a stained hoodie, his hands buried in the pockets. The way he carried himself suggested a much younger man and, as the three chatted unaware of their meeting being watched, his head briefly entered the lamp light as he directed a gaze towards his neighbour.
The vigilant driver observed, briefly, the soft unmistakeable sheen of youth and his heart rate fluttered. His appetite for roasted peanuts dissolved. He dared not take his eyes off of the boy least he slip back into the camp.
His hand descended onto the crotch of his trousers, undressing the young man with his candid imagination. The fingers roughly massaged the eager loins within, teasing them, the promise of his desires sated barely held back.
The two older men broke away from the target, heading back into the shelters.
Dominic tensed, certain that the youth would follow. Gratifyingly, he hovered towards the street lamp, leaning nonchalantly on its metal stem. Even homeless migrant teenagers suffered from moments of angst, Dominic mused, becoming more excited now the lad was in full view. The boy could not have been any older than sixteen.
He procured one of his roasted peanut packets and opened the driver's door, leaving it ajar so as not to make any noise, and moved towards the boy with the stealth of a ghost. He quickly reached him, despite his out-of-shape body, casually stepping into the light.
The youth stood up at the apparition of Dominic but didn't appear startled. Dominic spoke first.
“English? You speak English?” The teenager said nothing, regarding him with his fists clenched. Dominic saw hostility in the boy's features.
“I have a present for you,” he said, holding out his hand. It contained the peanuts but, crucially, they were wrapped in a fifty euro bank note. The young man's posture softened.
“Some...some English,” he blurted out. His palms stretched out awaiting the present. Dominic held it beside his head, testing the boy's patience.
“I have more in my cabin,” he explained, finally placing the gift in the teenager's grasp. The note was stuffed into a pocket and the fingers went to work tearing open the packet.
“I have more if you want,” repeated Dominic. The boy looked to where the driver pointed as he devoured the salty contents. His infantile eyes darted back to Dominic and then to the lorry for a second time, the gears in his brain connecting the significance of the two.
“Perhaps you give me something?” asked Dominic. The boy crunched the last of his peanuts like a cow chewing the cud, pensively deciding what to do. Another fifty euros appeared in Dominic's hand but he gestured with it towards the lorry, clarifying the terms of the transaction.
The boy then said, “no sex, just suck, yes?”
“I think we have a deal,” Dominic said with a grin. He held out his arm in a grand gesture, allowing the teenager to go first. He followed with the patience of middle-age, the boy leaping athletically onto the steps leading to the driver's door and pulling it open.
“You don't waste any time,” Dominic chuckled, climbing in after the boy, the door sealed with a bang.
This proved even more accurate inside the cabin. The teenager's hands fumbled with Dominic's belt, removing the buckle without seduction, unzipping him like a doctor would. He pulled them down over Dominic's knees and left them at his ankles. Dominic patted the boy's head as it came down upon him.
During encounters like this, he never felt that it was truly him who took control and reaped the gratification. When his eyes closed, another personality, hungry and waiting, fed its way through his veins, through the synapses of his brain, driving the mechanics of his body.
It was this 'other' Dominic that groped the boy's shoulders unceremoniously, stroking the back, heaving his libido in violent sexual conduct. The 'other' him who, as he leaned his weight into the act, pulled out the bowie knife from its scabbard.
The boy was an automaton, never once gasping for oxygen. He never looked up.
At the height of his climax, Dominic traced the blade's serrated edge across the boy's neck, the other hand holding the back of the hoodie steady.
He took a moment to bask in the euphoria, his breathing heavy with accomplishment, his bare lap drenched in crimson.
* * *
It had been the boy's father who had come searching and found his son on the roadside, lying in a foetal position with the front of his jumper coated in fresh blood. The wound he found on the throat smiled back like a thin, toothless mouth.
They had only just spoken to each other less than ten minutes ago (the boy's uncle had been present as well) at the edge of the camp. There were rumours that their camp was the next to be demolished and they couldn't agree if it was best to stay put or risk journeying to another camp. There had been no agreement reached and his son wandered off in a huff at the situation. He had thought nothing more of it, believing that his son's temper would abate.
His wails of agony attracted two police officers decked out in riot gear.
He spoke to them in the few words of French he knew. One of the officers brought his baton down onto his crown before placing handcuffs on his wrists. The other inspected the body, attempting to call it in on his radio but only receiving static on his end. His college told him to leave it for the patrol that would shortly follow. It was obviously the casualty of a turf issue, nothing more, and at least the job would go by quicker with one less Syrian to worry about.
They stepped over the corpse, leaving it uncovered on the roadside. It remained undisturbed as more officers and a dozen wrecking vehicles drove past, ignorant to its existence.
About the author
In the words of Rod Serling; I never chose to write, I succumbed to it. I wrote my first story when I was nine for a school assignment and have never stopped. If you love the macabre, then consider my work submitted for your approval.