An extract from Ashley Stokes’ new novel, Gigantic, published by Unsung Stories on 2nd September 2021.
Gigantopithecus Intelligence Team
Report #214 (Category A)
Submitted by Witness: Monday, 8 July
SUMMARY: A man filming a children’s party on common land reports sighting a large ape-like biped moving through nearby trees
NEAREST TOWN: Sutton, Surrey
REPORT # 214: THE FACTS by Kevin Stubbs: Section One
The first throb of Report #214 buzzed against my thigh at the same time as my internal sonar picked up two sets of footfalls heading towards my workstation. You can’t spend 10,000 hours out in the woods, kitted up and shoulder-to-shoulder with your team, without developing super surveillance hearing skills. These can prove as useful in the office as they do out in the Great Spaces.
One set belonged to Clive. I recognised his slightly uneven way of walking. Before he joined iiSkipper, he used to be a recruitment widget for Homebase. During a team-bonding weekend in Chislehurst he’d crashed a quad bike into a hospitality tent and spannered his knee.
I shouldn’t know this.
He doesn’t know that I know this.
Clive is Head of HR at iiSkipper, which is (not down to him) the highest ranking UK reverse auction skip hire site on Google. I was its IT Support.
He had a woman with him. I hunched over my workstation and pretended to concentrate on isolating the plug-in that was causing a load of stress and grief to our registrations database. Clive was introducing the woman to all the other iiSkipper pod droids. Soon they would trespass on my domain. After they left I would check the text message that had just buzzed against my thigh.
It was 3.15 in the afternoon.
Outside, it was Sutton.
I did not yet know that I had been waiting for this moment for all my life.
I wasn’t too fussed about the text message at first. I expected it was from Bohoslava (aka my wife). Or separated wife, estranged wife. I don’t know. We were not divorced yet. It was all undecided, up in the air. That’s how I liked to think about it. A few days before I had put out some feelers about seeing our boy again, now that so much time had passed since the business with the van. I was pretty sure this text was her telling me again that he still didn’t want to come out and see a film with me, go for a burger, or bowling or go-karting or for an unforgettable adventure in the woods, or see me ever again, ever, unless I changed. I didn’t want to be reminded of this while Clive was around and I ought to be on my best behaviour.
Anyway, Clive appeared outside my workstation and introduced me to this blonde he called Becca, our new ‘Fulfillment Executive’ (aka someone with no more job satisfaction than Walter the Wobot, that stainless-steel butler with the coffee machine for a stomach and a TV for a head that used to be in Judge Dredd). This Becca would be working very closely with Clive, which I’m sure was not what she imagined she’d be getting for her thirty-grand’s worth of student fees and three years writing essays on Oasis lyrics or whatever they do at those places. I’m not like her. I’m not like him. I live for the night-time. I live for the woods. The Great Spaces, the Great Outdoors. I work only to live, and I live to Know.
‘This is Kevin,’ said Clive. ‘Your first stop if your email doesn’t work.’
‘Welcome to the Jungle,’ I said.
‘Hiya.’ She looked away, quick-sharp.
‘C’mon, Becca,’ said Clive. ‘Let’s introduce you to the marketing team. They’re a great team. You’ll soon find at ii, it’s all about the team.’
Teams. What did he really know about teams?
I rolled my chair backwards and made sure they were gone. None of the others registered me. They stayed in their pods. Back in my pod, I stared at the teak-effect partitions that I liked to keep nice and blank to help keep me nice and blank and focused. My phone buzzed in my pocket again. What did she want now?
The message was not from Boho, but from my valued colleague and fellow investigator into night-time mysteries, Derek Funnel (aka The Funnel).
The Long Man Cometh.
I looked around for anyone else watching me in the pod droid hangar, kept myself together, and then checked my personal email on my phone. There it was: the message alert from our website.
Report #214 had finally arrived.
The significance of Report #214 was immediately obvious to me. The North Surrey Gigantopithecus had been seen again, but this time not by a headcase or some spliffed-up kids or a posse of drunks after the pubs chucked out, but by a large group of respectable people.
More importantly, they had film.
We hadn’t had footage since the Gartree-Hogg film that started it all. There was only one other film, but none of us had seen that, it was that hushed up by the government. It also looked like The Funnel and I had managed to see the report before our Lead Investigator Maxine Cash (aka Sci-Borg) could dismiss it right off the bat.
She’s a school teacher, a science teacher at that, and her big idea was that we needed to use scientific methods when we investigated the greatest mystery in human evolution that we were lucky to have on our doorstep, when usually these things only happen in places like California, Canada or Nepal – abroad, basically. She said we’d been ‘slipshod’ in the past and we needed to be more rigorous and more sceptical, like her. I saw the sense in this, and I tried to go along with it and learn from her, but it didn’t matter in the end because it was real. I’d see it loads of times. All we needed was footage. Even she couldn’t dismiss footage.
So there’s me, stuck at work when all I wanted to do was sling on the kit and bomb round the witness’s house right that second.
My phone vibrated again.
It was The Funnel: Sci-Borg has deployed the dampening field.
I checked the GIT WhatsApp group.
RE Report #214: I know you boys are probably overexcited already, but we can’t at this stage rule out the possibility that this is yet another clear case of misidentification. I will contact the witness this afternoon and report back to you if I feel that our time is best spent investigating this one further.
She’d basically dropped off the landing craft and was stumbling up the beach with the preconception that this was just another case of someone not knowing how to focus their camera, or not realising that if you film a dog standing on its hind legs, or even some people from a certain distance, the image will blur and look a bit like a bigfoot. This is really why I should have been Lead Investigator. She’d only been with us for about a year. For now, though, I was happy to do as I’d been told by her predecessor, bide my time, and try it her way until we finally nailed it.
I left my workstation and jogged out the back and into the car park, where I knew I wouldn’t be overheard.
She answered her phone. Must have been a free period or something.
‘I was just about to call you, Kevin.’
‘Look, Max, I hope you don’t mind me asking—’
‘I’ve already spoken to the witness.’
‘You have? How’d he sound?’
‘His English is terrible.’
‘So what? He’s not at your school.’
‘Kevin, what I was going to say is, would you pick me up at half past six? You know the lay of the land and I would appreciate the support.’
‘I’m relieved, Lead Investigator. This looks like it could be it.’
‘Let’s keep this between ourselves. I don’t want to involve Derek at the moment. He distracts the witnesses.’
‘But he’s got special skills.’ The Funnel should have been in on this. You can’t exclude a hardcore Knower, not in the GIT.
‘We can talk about this later.’
‘Yeah, okay. Loose lips sink ships, as they say.’
‘Precisely. Except there’s more chance we’ll find a ship on his lawn than an apeman in Sutton. Bye.’
The existence of an ‘apeman’ in Sutton might seem incongruous, or even hilarious. It’s beyond the realms of possibility that a gigantic ape-like biped could be living among us in the London Borough of Sutton. It’s too incredible that a dirty great species of huge hairy giants, evolutionary throwbacks to a nobler age, could live undetected in a built-up area on the edge of one of the world’s noisiest cities. FACT: Sutton has been a hotspot for sightings for years, if not centuries. The people of Sutton have been catching glimpses of the ‘long man’ for a very long time. Most of them don’t like to talk about it, in case they get locked up under the Mental Health Act.
This is where the GIT comes in. We’re like the fifth emergency service. No one thinks they need us until they’ve seen something in the woods they can’t explain.
There have always been stories (aka The Lore). Like FACT: according to Derek Funnel, during the reign of Edward VI, the lord of the manor, D’Arcy of Cliche, kept a ‘grate ape’ in a stable on his lands until peasants burned it at the stake for being a Spanish spy; and in the nineteenth century, navvies building the London-to-Sutton railway kept seeing a ‘furry devilman’ watching them from a ridge with red, glowing eyes. But the first audio-visual evidence of Giganto occurred in 1988, when on 31 March, legendary investigator Eddie Gartree, known in our fraternity as ‘Gorgo’, and his mate Jackie Hogg, the men who started it all, the original men with kit, filmed one as it passed through Sutton Cock crossroads. This is the Holy Grail, north Surrey’s answer to the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film. In Patterson-Gimlin, a Bigfoot is caught out in the open in Bluff Creek, California. It was a female one. You can see her bosoms move around in a way that would be impossible to fake.
Ever since I first saw the Patterson-Gimlin film on Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World when I was a kid, I was a Believer. That moment. Seeing the majestic figure with her distinctive arm swings and tit-shiver lope across those logs, the imperious turn of her cone-shaped head as she looks back at us. This was luminous to me. It was like finding God. My mum always talked about helping me find God, but it was not her that led me to God. It was Arthur C. The sparkle on the glass skull in the title sequence of Mysterious World: that was God to me. The title music was like a Bontempi organ version of Thus Sprake Zarathustra from 2001: A Space Odyssey (which – fuck me – Arthur C. also wrote). It sounded like the soundtrack of God to me back then.
Still does now, I have to admit.
I never knew my father. Whoever he is, or was, Mum kept silent about him to the grave. If I asked, she only ever said that Jesus would have to do. Jesus was enough. Knowing what she was like, I don’t dwell on how I came about, I don’t like to go there. But when I thought about my dad – whenever I thought of how my dad would have let me read the fanciful things, would have bought me the Ladybird Dracula – I hoped my real dad, the one who wasn’t Jesus, was like – or was actually – Arthur C. Clarke, curator of earthly mysteries. When I saw the Patterson-Gimlin film on Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World and listened to all his theories about it, I knew. I knew I was going to be an adventurer in search of answers to difficult questions from then on in. I am proud that I have become the sort of person I imagined myself to be when I was eight.
Derek Funnel’s moment of revelation came from a memory of the Yeti that stalks the London Underground in Doctor Who and the Web of Fear, but, FACT, this was broadcast before he was born and five of the episodes have been mysteriously lost. Sci-Borg reckons he might just have read the Terrence Dicks book version of it that you could get in all the libraries when we were kids and it frakked him right up.
If Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World made me a Believer, it wasn’t until I saw the Gartree-Hogg film of 1988 that I became a Knower.
The story goes that just after closing time on the evening of 31 March, Gartree and Hogg left the Buffers pub opposite Sutton Station and headed down the high street towards the crossroads known locally as The Cock.
As they approached The Cock, they spotted a large figure crouching behind some bins. Hogg later described himself as being ‘shat up’ by the sight. Gartree estimated that he was about eighteen feet away from the figure and spent about ten seconds retrieving his cine camera from his bag (he worked for a regional TV news programme and always had a small cine camera about his person).
The figure then walked away from the bins and crossed the road. The resulting film (about twenty seconds long) is initially all over the shop, as Gartree struggles to keep the camera level. The film stabilises after about fifteen seconds. Here, the figure turns and looks back, revealing its disturbing red eyes.
At this point, Hogg fell to his knees and ‘pantsed himself’. Hogg – a very large man, an ex-paratrooper and rugby prop forward not easily intimidated – would later tell me that it wasn’t Giganto’s red eyes or its horrible smell that did him in, but its expression of ‘serene and inhuman indifference’.
Soon after looking over its shoulder, the creature disappeared into the alleyway that led to Carats nightclub and a minicab office. Bouncers at Carats that night and a Mrs Maureen Lambey, who worked in the cab office, both reported glimpsing a ‘weirdo’ or ‘tall bloke’ in the vicinity.
The footage was shown on Gorgo’s regional news programme. Then, the government and the mainstream media hushed it up. I’d seen it, though – and as soon as I saw it, Kevin Stubbs, Hardcore Knower, was born.
This was no hoax. I don’t care what Sci-Borg says, the Gartree-Hogg footage is not a hoax, FACT. And anyway, none of that was important now. Today we had new footage that, even though we hadn’t seen it yet, would prove there was a gigantopithecus in northern Surrey – in Sutton, to be precise, and it had been here forever.
Out in the car park, after I’d hung up on Sci-Borg, I thought it all through and allowed myself to dream for once. In my mind, I assembled the kit. I rehearsed it all.
The moment we confirmed the truth captured in that film.
The moment we released it to the press and changed everything.
The moment we turned all of science on its head.
The moment she would have me back.
The moment I told my boy and his eyes lit up with respect and wonder again.
The moment we were reunited in the forests of north Surrey.