I’ve heard of this place at the heart of the city that could turn the slightest potential of good fortune into an unmeasurable amount of possibilities for the individual. The location is centred in the middle of a derelict council estate surrounded by an undesirable population suffering from addiction, mental health and physical disabilities. When I was told about this place, I was skeptical. I couldn’t believe that this place existed. But the temptation to improve my social well-being which had been steadily declining after an absurd decision to quit my job to foolishly pursue an acting career, forced me to consider even the smallest reasons for its location. Because if this building was placed in the middle of Oxford Street in London. You would see queues out the door 24/7. No, this place belonged in the desolate estate. Only the strong-willed, most determined individual would risk entering the realm of despair, well aware that they may not leave. The building is surrounded by closed down shops displaying signs announcing ‘Everything Must Go!’, doors broken into, bloody handprints depicting a gruesome ending to an owner’s dream. The homeless have ironically set up shop in abandoned buildings, sheltering them from the violent anguish that has infested the streets. Once highbrow men and women sporting business suits you would expect to see on wealthy CEO’s of once big corporations, can be seen rummaging through their tattered brief cases overflowing with past lottery tickets, graffitied with insults aimed at the owner for relying on the almost impossible odds of becoming a millionaire.
The further you travel into the estate, the more you are made aware of the poverty and desperation in the ailing population. Groups of amputees gathered around and smouldering garbage bin, talking about their dilemma like they were attending a group counselling meeting. At first, you assume they were ex-military who had at some point suffered great tragedy resulting in the removal of a limb or the loss of sight for their country. It was only until I got closer that I heard that their limbs were lost voluntarily; the terms sacrifice and investment were used as if it was some sort of deposit they had lost.
The closer you get, the faster your heart rate and the voice in the back of your mind gets louder and louder, pleading with you to turn back. I plan my escape using iconic scenes as breadcrumbs in case I have to make a quick getaway. I’m ready to put an end to this crusade but then I see it, the tower block.
There isn’t anything about this block that makes you believe that it houses a magical being that can grant wishes. It’s a standard, purpose-built, residential building which appears to house only one resident or family. At the top of the building there is a single apartment which is illuminated. I perceive it’s an extra hurdle a person must achieve to prove themselves worthy. The long dark staircase is only lit by the ‘Way Out’ signs, designed to dissuade me from going any further. My brain is telling me to turn and run, but my foolish curiosity keeps me on course.
I eventually reach the top of the building. The silence is deafening and the light outlining the bog-standard door reminds me of a horror movie, where as I open the portal, it will transport me to a parallel universe. The shaking in my hand is strong enough to knock on the door. I wait tentatively, hoping that no-one will answer so I can admit defeat and make my way back to the safety of my flat. I wait an uncomfortable amount of time to hear any form of greeting. I turn to leave but I’m interrupted by the sound of a middle-aged man welcoming me into the mysterious apartment.
At this moment, I realise that I have walked through a trail of broken dreams and shattered lives which was caused by whatever is in this room. But maybe that was because they didn’t use the gift they were given correctly. Perhaps it was self-inflicted. I gingerly enter through the door not knowing what will happen next. I’m not even sure I am going to leave this room alive. Whatever happens, I promise myself that I will not let what happened outside, happen to me.