This is the opening to chapter 17 of ‘Misconception’ which features the pig tunnel we cleared all the rubbish from today in Brierley Hill; as stage one of trying to preserve the historic site. What is below is fiction, but the place and its history, its legacy are very real. Obvs. you may not have read the book, this is not going to be any real spoiler, but suffice to say, yes, Jarli is an Indigenous Aboriginal Australian soldier and yes he is in Brierley Hill England in 1941. You will have to read the whole book to find out the how and why…
Chapter Seventeen (opening)
Near the pig tunnel Noah and Jarli followed their noses over a wall and saw an opening below the road. To their left there were steps leading down beside a red brick enclosure. A pair of six-foot high iron gates hung open twenty feet from the tunnels entrance. They were elegant and beautifully decorated in an Art Deco style that didn’t fit with their purpose. One had the word “MOORS” intricately cast into it, the other said “MEAT”.
Jarli ran down first to get a better view.
Noah held back. ‘That would hold about a wagons worth of pigs at a time,’ he suggested as he took in the scene. Then, leaning over the wall he described in some detail how they would probably be enticed into that smelly square with a single fat cabbage.
Jarli stepped into the pen, breathed in deeply and imagined the drove of beasts grunting around him. In his mind the ghostly pigs scurried past to squabble over a leafy ball, then ran off with it, following the cabbage smell into the tunnel. The corporal moved amongst the remaining apparitions towards the opening, then leaned on its rusty industrial shutter to duck his head beneath. He considered the sounds of the herdsmen, first closing the main gates behind him and then eventually releasing a rope or lever as the last hoof chased the other pigs inside. Then the shutter would have clattered down and cut off the hungry hogs decision making abilities, for the rest of their lives.
‘Smells all kinds of wrong down there mate,’ Noah choked out as he reluctantly descended the steps.
Jarli cautiously crept into the tunnel mouth, looked back at Noah and said, ‘Captain Dreyer told us to check if some German blokes is hiding down there.’ Crouching down he poked at the ground with a finger and examined the results. ‘So that’s what we do.’
‘You’re the bloke who finds people, then I shoot at ‘em, right?’ Noah did a similar ground inspection and added, ‘So I think I’ll just wait here to challenge any one that gets past yer.’
Jarli came back out and sucked his teeth at Noah. ‘We both goin’ in mate, with you thirty yards back. Like you say, just in case they is sneaky.’ Jarli handed over his rifle to Noah and took out his trusty revolver. Before going back in he added as an afterthought, ‘No shooting mind, less you sure it’s a white fellah.’
‘Right-o, and should I check he’s German too?’ Noah asked sarcastically.
There was no reply.
Noah suddenly remembered the equipment he’d scavenged on the way over and shouted after his Corporal, ‘Here, you need these.’
A second or two later a hand reached back out into the daylight. Noah placed a helmet containing a small metal box into Jarli’s pale palm.
‘What’s this?’ Jarli quizzed with a strange echoing voice.
Noah crouched down and pointed inside the helmet, ‘That box of tricks is a torch, mate.’
Jarli switched it on hopefully, but the objects nameplate was about the only thing it illuminated. ‘LAMP ELECTRIC NUMBER ONE,’ Jarli read out slowly.
‘And that’s a helmet mate,’ Noah tapped the upturned hard hat with his fingernail. ‘Made of Duperite.’
‘Sounds duper-wrong,’ Jarli suggested with dissatisfaction.
Noah shrugged, ‘There ain’t enough tin hats to go around blue. Captain Dreyer won a crate of these beauts in a warehouse poker game before we boarded ship,’ Noah explained. ‘And this, is the only one left in town.’
The helmet was handed back. ‘Them is for dispatch riders mate, I don’t want it,’ Jarli insisted as he moved further inside.
‘Fair enough, you wouldn’t fit yer fat frizzy head in there anyways,’ Noah grunted.
As his corporal moved deeper inside, the private remained to sort out their remaining kit. It took him a while to get Jarli’s rifle comfortable on his back and re-sling his own weapon up in front. Eventually he tugged the helmet on himself, counted to thirty and headed off into the hillside hole.