The West Wing

Leicester 1998-1999.

The worst room I have ever stayed at was in Seymour Street, a road in Leicester’s Highfields area, a notorious dump just at the back of the train station. Here, crack whores would strut their stuff on every corner and occasional race riots would kick off between the various communities jostling for space in this diseased and dilapidated neighbourhood.

I had taken up my cousin’s offer of somewhere to stay after leaving Stratford-upon-Avon (under something of a cloud), and found myself in a cold and filthy annex off the part of the building in which he had his flat.

It had clearly been unused for many years when I went in; my cousin hadn’t even bothered to check it out before cheerfully offering it to me.

A dark corridor led past a broken kitchen to a room covered with used tissues.

A grimy mattress lay on the floor next to two broken fridges.

A dark and sinister Victorian tallboy loomed threateningly next to a menacing wardrobe (incidentally, a tallboy is a piece of furniture- just wanted to clarify).

I was there eighteen months, my cousin and I’s habit of both bankrupting ourselves every weekend made scraping a deposit together tricky.

We referred to it as the West Wing, rather grandly, despite the fact it was North-facing, its three exposed walls giving little protection from the outside cold.

Eventually the landlord found my stuff in there and figured I was squatting. The room was only supposed to be for my cousin to store his bike in. He wasn’t allowed to sub-let.

“Right, well I want a hundred pounds a month off you,” the landlord said. “I’m being very fair.”

He was, he wasn’t. It didn’t stop my cousin still asking for the £250 each month for the privilege of living there. Christ, I could have got a flat in Highfields for less.

That room.

Let me tell you, I have never stayed in a room possessed by a more malevolent force than that place. I question why it had been abandoned all those years before.

Aside from a strange magical dream I had once on ketamine, the room was the setting for some extremely unwelcome manifestations during the night when my soul was at a low ebb.

My sister called these episodes sinkers. Generally occurring on the Tuesday evening after a heavy weekend, the sinkers came to me on quite a few occasions in that room in that flat.

I would be awake in the dark, yet not really awake- I was in my bed and yet unable to move. All I would be aware of was a feeling of incomparable terror and a heavy weight pinning me, stopping me from struggling.

Sometimes I would get free, stagger across the room to the light switch, but then the light wouldn’t work, because I wasn’t really awake at all- it was still this episode and I was deep in Sinkersville.

One night, I felt the usual paralysis, creeping dread, but there were voices shouting hateful things. My stereo starting blaring out, like the sound of a train whistle unbearably close.

“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” my astral self screamed, unable to turn the thing off because- well, this was astral world. Things like knobs and such work differently there. Or don’t work at all.

There was the sound of maniacal laughter, of the door repeatedly slamming. People kept running in and out of the room, approaching me with ghastly demonic faces.

My astral self struggled across the room, trying to wake up, but I couldn’t seem to do so.

“Fuck off!” I finally screamed. “Fuck off, you old cunt!”

And with that curse, the darkness lifted a little. I became slightly aware that I was actually in bed, trying like hell to wake up and out of this nightmare.

“Har, har, har!” a ridiculous pantomime pirate’s voice chuckled in my ear. “Fine words from a practicing Christian”

(I had prayed a couple of nights before- not something normally in my character, being English and agnostic. I was that desperate at the time).

The grip lifted more. I struggled awake.

“See you later, matey!” the voice chuckled nastily, disappearing into nothingness as I struggled back to reality.

*    *    *

I found after that that lighting a candle or sticking on some small electric light would banish these episodes. Light really did clear them away.

*    *    *

Many years later, having researched various esoteric strands, I have come to the conclusion that the visitation was some kind of djinni – or genie in English. It seems they like to hang about in disused and abandoned buildings, so the bedroom would have been an ideal lair. Until I turned up.

Not to be confused with the cuddly Disney / Robin Williams version, the djinn are very real entities who exist in a related dimension to ours, from which they can project themselves, latching onto us when we are fearful and at a low ebb. Some are bad, some are good, most are indifferent- much like people.

They are particularly adept at moving through the astral realm and so tend to appear to us in dreams, such as the one above.

I have recently written more about the djinn here.

*   *   *

For more on the djinn, I recommend Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s books The Vengeful Djinn (with Philip J. Imbrogno) and the Djinn Connection, available at the author’s website here:




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  1. Love the blog. Brilliant stuff. Memoir meets travel writing in a ‘dirty realism’ style. Sardonic and brilliant observations in places.

    My favourite entry is ‘Horse Medicine’. Sustained by an edgy tension (i.e. were you in fact walking into one of those nightmare farang tourist traps that are legion in Thailand i.e. ‘The Card Games & other scams).

    You could definitely get this published. It could find a home in many places I’m sure. Just a case of investing the time/energy to research the market (the worst part of writing) and send out submissions. ‘Duotrope’ is a recommended writer’s resource.

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