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May 25  |  JaneMooney

“Are you sure about this?”

“It’s OK,” I replied as I pulled the fencing apart and held it so you could squeeze through. “I come here all the time.”

I positioned myself so you couldn’t see the ‘No Entry’ sign attached to the fence post. You still weren’t sure, so I took your hand and gave it a small squeeze before leading you through the tangle of nettles and brambles. Thunder rumbled overhead and an earthy, musty smell rose from the layers of damp leaves as we struggled through overgrown shrubs. When I was younger there was a path here but you’d never have known. You let go of my hand to wipe raindrops out of your eyes.

“Is it much further?” you asked.

I shook my head. I was thirteen when my brother brought me here for the first time. It was a typical Sunday afternoon. Dad was drunk, Mum was crying. We needed to escape. He told me this was where he and his friends came to hang out. It felt dangerous and bad and very grown up.

I let you go in front as we reached the final corner and the immense, ruined building rose out of the clearing like an ancient shipwreck. I held my breath, waiting for your reaction.

“It’s huge,” you stopped and stared. “Does anyone live here?”

But as we get closer you saw that all the windows are shattered, gaping holes in the grey façade, like a hundred unseeing eyes.

“It used to be a school for priests, but they ran out of people who wanted to be priests,” I explained as I led you round the side to the one entrance which wasn’t boarded up.

It had been an impressive building once upon a time, but with most of the floors gone it was a vast echoing cavern. The roof and walls were still intact, and there were staircases in the corners leading to remnants of landings.

You followed me upwards, feet crunching on broken glass, the stink of piss and weed sharp in our nostrils.

“Why do you come here?” you asked as we reached the top of the stairway and stepped onto a landing which opened onto nothing. Below us were steel girders which used to support the floors. My insides did a somersault as I peered over the edge. I held my arms out so you couldn’t get too close.

“Because I always have,” I said. “Because it’s Josh’s place.”

“Why do you come back?” you asked.

“Because I can’t tear myself away.”