Honor Oak reservoir is underneath a golf course in Peckham, Thornhill reminds himself as he walks. That’s the biggest subterranean vault he’s ever visited, an inverted cathedral that’s the largest reservoir in Europe, with four great chambers that hold 256 million litres of water, a great heart made of orange brick that ceaselessly pumps life into the metropolis. He would have liked to work on the new Brixton extension at Honor Oak but there wasn’t a position, so he’s back here in the tube tunnels beneath King’s Cross, moving through the dead dusty air, looking for circuit faults. He comes down every night at midnight and goes up at 4:00am; that doesn’t sound hard but there are meetings before and sometimes after, and while you’re down you’re on the move the whole time.
Looking back, he can see the unmistakable silhouette of Sandwich hopping nimbly across the rails. Sandwich’s real name is Lando – he was named after a character in a Star Wars film, and hates it – his mates call him Sandwich because no-one has ever seen him eat, even though he’s the size of a bear.
Thornhill has been down for three years now, and likes the job. The perks are good, his fellow workers are a nice bunch and he gets regular health check-ups chucked in for free. They’re all outsiders, of course, men and women who work down here because they’ve joined a veritable foreign legion of employees who go below to forget.
But he doesn’t forget. He goes down in order to remember.
Rated R: Contains Violence, Disturbing Imagery, and Gore.