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by S.A. Leavesley

It started as a hobby, it started with simply counting. Craig would look out for pylons in the way his mate Tim did trains. He’d catch sight of them through bus and car windows, guess their height and age, make a note of general appearance. Sometimes he even gave them nicknames.

“But isn’t that a bit strange?” Tim arched his eyebrows. “Not like the Queen Berengaria …”

As Tim rattled on like a steam locomotive, Craig shut up about pylons. Now his new interest was gathering strength, he wasn’t sure he even wanted to share his findings. Instead, he scoured the net for others’ sightings, then logged them for his own visit.

Craig started to plan every journey carefully, factoring in detours to get a glimpse of the best examples. He was awed by the metal forest near Ripponden, where double lines turned through ninety degrees, and notched up 69 of 615 pylons on the Beauly to Denny power-line by the mountains at Loch Errochty. Work, and several agitated phone calls from his wife Mandy, forced him to turn home, but he started putting money by for a return trip. He was saving too for Gifu City, where someone had snapped a Japanese asymmetric design, and the disused pylons in Stockholm’s Norra Djurgården national city park, which architects were converting to observation towers.

By the time Craig’s third wife, Karen, left him, he had to concede that his first wife, Linda, might have been right: it was an obsession. But it didn’t talk his ears off, moan about chores, lament the ladies at yoga or drag him shopping. He gave up on relationships and started gathering pipe and wire instead.

On January 14, 2016, Craig built his first pylon in the back garden. He carried on at a rate of one a month, then one a fortnight, then one a week. It was like his dad’s matchstick creations of famous landmarks, only Craig’s constructions were less lopsided and far more than mere replicas in miniature. Taller than the garden fence, these were the real thing. Moreover, they brought him energy and spark!

Noticing the metal spikes above the fence-line, neighbours and passers-by began to stop and stare. Then to wonder, gossip and grumble. Finally, “Nosy Naomi” called the council about the “eyesore of dangerous lead and heavy metal junk.”

After planning and environmental services had bickered half-heartedly over jurisdiction, they sent a chap to check out the situation. Clipboard in hand, Derek made notes on every structure — 87 pylons to be precise. Craig offered him tea and ginger nuts, and both smiled as they chatted about recent storms and the possibility of atmospheric interference or static electricity. Derek ticked his forms, warned against connecting to the mains and left, satisfied.

But Craig was certain now that the steel rods were conducting coded messages. At night, he’d lie with his ear to the ground, listening, trying to make meaning from their background white noise. Still nothing but crackling and hissing. In the hope of clearer communication, Craig hooked up a TV to his grid and sat waiting for the dark screen to flicker into life.

S.A. Leavesley is a fiction writer, poet and journalist. Some people collect trains or pylons, she collects words and stories. Her website is at sarah-james.co.uk (Instagram: s.a. leavesley) and she runs V. Press poetry and flash fiction imprint.