In this universe, the old Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth died a long time before it died. Even before the bulldozers moved in twelve years ago, the building had long since departed this world.
Built out of concrete and towering above one corner of the city, it had gone from being a thriving city-within-a-city to being the world’s most impressive pidgeon sanctuary. A fact confirmed by newspaper reports before the demolition, which suggested that some of the old offices and rooms were floored with several inches of pidgeon droppings.
The most interesting thing about the Tricorn was the fact that it looked like something from a dystopian science fiction novel.
It was a little piece of J.G.Ballard’s “High Rise” or Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” that greeted everyone who entered the city. It was a little piece of the worst nightmares of old men that clung to a modern city. And it was the coolest thing in the world!
But, apart from anecdotes, a few photos and the basic facts of the centre’s construction and demolition, the centre’s real story is lost. So, here is another one.
In an alternate universe, not too far from our own, the Tricorn wasn’t demolished on the 24th March 2004. Whatever the reason, it continued to stand proudly over the city.
One one rainy morning this September, shoppers were greeted by a strange sight. Two shops at the far end of the high street just weren’t there any more. Sure, the buildings still stood, but there was nothing inside. No glass in the windows, no shelves to stack, no paint on the walls and nothing but a few bare wires dangling from the ceiling to show that people ever existed there. The police quickly cordoned off the shops and released a bland statement about an ongoing investigation.
There was, of course, no cause for alarm. A few days later, the local paper posted a speculative story about criminal gangs ransacking the store in the dead of night. The CCTV footage of the town that night had got lost due to an ill-advised update to the latest operating system. The police maintained their silence. People moved on.
On a rainy night, less than a month later, one of the other shops nearby was gutted by fire. The police were quick to whisper the word “arson”. But, the few staggering drunks who saw the shop go up claim that there were barely any flames, as if there almost wasn’t anything left to burn.
The next few shops to go were, of course, blamed on the economy. Their signs remained and their windows were washed over with windolene but it didn’t quite look right. After all, the cloudy glass in the windows looked just a little bit too new.
It was only when the shopping centre in the middle of town shut up shop a week ago that people really began to ask questions.
Even the notice on the blacked-out doorway that mentioned urgent repairs and fresh renovation work didn’t fool everyone. The local paper’s glowing “artist’s impression” photos of a revamped centre, filled with grinning stock photo people, failed to convince too.
Tensions were only calmed when the Government released a formal statement blaming the mysterious closures on a mislabelled batch of asbestos insulation that had been earmarked for destruction, but had found it’s way into the builders’ stores when the town was being constructed.
For everyone’s safety, the entire town centre was quarantined. A few well-placed jokes in every panel show on TV soon made even the hardiest conspiracy theorist hesitant to suggest any other explanation.
But, some people still knew the truth. After all, there have been many films made about the dead returning to life. We’re all familar with the sight of a few zombies quickly becoming many zombies by adding the living to their ranks. But, if people can become zombies, what’s to say that buildings can’t do the same?