My name is Henry Cucumber. Im thirty years old. I used to
work in a bakery, but for the last two years Ive been a motivational
speaker, travelling up and down the country giving motivational talks and
seminars. I came to this city to give three such talks in one week on
the Monday, the Wednesday, and then the Friday the first two of which
have passed, the last of which very probably wont.
Im writing this account in the basement of
the hotel in which Ive been staying. I must confess Im finding it
hard to motivate myself to do so (me of all people!) because of my conviction
that it will be discovered not by a neutral third-party, but by the person or
persons who hold the keys to the basement. If its you, Mr Hotel Manager,
and I suspect it is, then I hope the sight of my remains puts you off your
The story of how I wound up in this nightmare of
a basement starts on the Tuesday. Id risen late, having stayed up
drinking the night before, and happened to bump into one of the maids in the
corridor as she was doing her rounds. She was a pretty Eastern European woman
not much older than me, and I scraped up a conversation with her. My motivation
Whats a girl like you doing in a
place like this? I asked.
I work here, she replied
I clocked a wedding ring on her finger.
She was waiting for something substantial.
Whats the craziest thing thats
ever happened in this hotel?
She shrugged. Nothing crazy happens
I was about to retreat into my room, but she
added: The only crazy thing here is the Big White Cat.
The Big White Cat. In the basement.
I raised an eyebrow.
But its just a story. I dont
I tried to think of something to say in response
to this oddity, but she returned to her errands before I had the chance.
The breakfast slot was nearing its end in the
dining area. I went straight to the counter, where one of the chefs served me
two hash browns, two rashers of bacon, and some quarters of fried tomato.
Little else remained besides these items.
Have you heard anything about a Big White
Cat? I ventured casually.
Sure, he said, it lives in the
So there is actually a cat?
I realised at this point that he was having me
on. He was speaking in an insincerely serious tone, as one might to a small
child whod asked if Father Christmas was real.
How big is it? I asked. Though I
wasnt enjoying being patronised, I wanted to learn more.
Bigger than a St Bernard?
Bigger than an elephant?
He nodded again.
That was far enough. I carried away my tray.
I didnt think much about the purported Big
White Cat for the rest of the day, mainly because of a new game Id
downloaded into my phone, and also because I had the next days talk to
prepare for. It was when I returned to the hotel on the Wednesday that the
story resurfaced in my mind. While I was walking along the pavement that led to
the main entrance, I happened to glance down the alleyway between the hotel and
the adjoining building. A well built, mean-looking man with a cigarette butt in
his mouth was on his knees unlocking a hatch. On a whim, I stopped to watch.
The thing was covered by an excess of chain, and it took the man nearly a full
minute to undo all the padlocks. Once it was open, with the cover leaning
almost vertically against the wall, the man turned to a barrel he had beside
him. He took the lid off, heaved it round to the yawning cavity in both arms,
and tipped the contents in. He had his back to me during the tipping, so I
couldnt see what exactly it was that was going down there. I walked on as
he was finishing his emptying, fearing that if I lingered too long he might see
Back in the hotel, I didnt go straight to
my room, but instead wandered around the ground floor. I was mainly thinking
about what mightve been in the barrel. Id remembered about the Big
White Cat, and it occurred to me that if the story were true, the barrel may
well have contained its dinner. I remarked to myself that if I were to ask a
member of the hotel staff what was in the barrel, theyd surely say
cat-food. This displeased me.
At the far end of the ground floor, beyond a
couple of function rooms, I came to a door labelled basement. It was a thick,
white-painted metal door, with more chain on it than a centipedes
bicycle. I ran my fingers over the links of one of the larger chains.
I turned round and came face to face with the
manager, an ugly forty-something in a shirt and tie.
The basements out of bounds,
I smiled feebly. I dont think I
could get in even if I wanted to.
Come on. He led me away from the
Sitting in my room that evening, I considered
the facts. Here we had a basement that was excessively sealed up at its points
of ingress; into which was tipped presumably on a regular basis
the contents of unmarked barrels; inside which there was rumoured to reside a
Big White Cat; and on account of which the hotel manager was very defensive and
Somethings going on down there, I decided.
Its probably a drug factory. The barrels will contain raw materials,
which a team of criminals will process and package. The manager will be the
mastermind behind the whole operation. Hell have arranged the barrel
deliveries, and hell be the one who lets those criminals in and out of
the basement, probably in the middle of the night. And this Big White Cat story
is obviously poppycock, invented by the manager to deflect and diffuse enquiry.
If anyone hears something or smells something and tells of it, theyll be
told it was the Cat, everyone will laugh, and the matter will be forgotten.
I woke the following morning with a burning
desire to get into that basement. Though the drug theory was the best I could
come up with, I was by no means sure of it, and I was desperate to know the
truth. Im not normally one for mysteries, but this one got to me for some
reason. I decided that I couldnt possibly get past the padlocks and
chains by myself, and that my best hope was to get in via the outside hatch
during the next delivery. I resolved to be in the alleyway at the same time as
Id been there the previous day, where I would somehow distract the
delivery man after hed opened the hatch.
I went there, and he came, five minutes earlier
than anticipated. I waited till hed got the hatch up, and then, with my
heart audibly pounding, I played my ruse.
Excuse me, mate, I shouted. Is
that your van? I pointed in the direction of the van I knew to be his.
He let go of the barrel. Yeah, why?
Some yobs are raiding it.
He charged down the alleyway and past me into
the road. I then skipped down to where the hatch stood open and looked down.
There was nothing to be seen in the darkness. Well, here goes nothing, I
thought. I held my nose with my left hand, pressed my right arm against my
side, and jumped forwards like a swimmer into a pool. I passed vertically into
the shaft, disappearing from view in a second.
Luckily for me, the shaft wasnt sheer. I
slid down its angled side and landed in a heap on the basement floor. My eyes
fell initially on the ceiling. It was heavily padded with a grey material that
I later deduced was soundproofing, and there were lights dotted about here and
there. As I was taking these things in, I became aware of a fishy, meaty smell.
I lowered my eyes apprehensively.
And I saw it.
A few metres in front of me.
As shocked by me as I was by it.
I couldnt believe what I was seeing.
It was only the Big White Cat!
It was absolutely massive as big as a
lorry. It was normal in every way apart from in size. By God, it was massive. A
ridiculously enlarged cat.
It stared at me through its huge round eyes. I
stared back, but I was the first to act. I ran blindly to my left, towards
three bulky pipes in a corner. The Cat came after me, vibrating the floor as it
ran, but I got in behind the pipes just in time. They were lined up against the
wall, each a foot wide and a foot apart, with a foot between them and the wall.
I was only just able to squeeze into the gap, and an instant after doing so, I
saw a big paw thump against the furthest pipe. You can scarcely imagine my
terror as the Big White Cat tried for over a minute to extract me from that
place, pushing and poking with its claw-bearing paws at the gaps between the
The geometry of that pipe arrangement saved my
life. Bigger gaps, and the Cat wouldve got me out; smaller ones, and
Id never have got in in the first place.
It is in that predicament wedged
terrified between pipes and wall that Im writing this account.
Im using the biro that I always carry around with me, and for the benefit
of anyone who one day reads a typed-up version of this ordeal, Im writing
it on my T-shirt. I cant turn around, so I had quite a job getting my
jacket and T-shirt off and then putting my jacket back on. And Ive got my
back to the wall, so Im using the middle pipe as a writing surface.
Right, I think thats enough information.
What I need to decide now is whether to leave
the T-shirt here or to put it back on. If I leave it, it should be relatively
safe, but it might never be found, whereas if I wear it, Ill have it on
me if I escape, but if I get eaten, the account will be lost forever. If
I get eaten ! Holy cow
Ive just realised, having written about
it, that theres no point wearing the T-shirt because if I do escape, I
wont need a written account. I shall therefore be folding it up neatly
and leaving it here.
Ten minutes have elapsed since I wrote the
preceding paragraph. Ive unfolded the T-shirt to add that the Cat has
finally lost interest in me and wandered off. Im going to go out and
investigate the prospects of escape at this end of the basement. I imagine the
chute will be my best bet. Im actually feeling quite hopeful now,
certainly more so than when I started writing all this.
Ive decided to use the T-shirt as a
journal of my time down here. The next entry will be my report of the
Right, off I go. Fingers crossed.