Bob the Fireman
I was sure I was dead. I had been falling into bottomless pits of darkness, with the terrifying, demonic squealing of children attacking and piercing my eardrums that only made my stomach flip at the thought that I may be descending into hell. I thought I was dead, as I waited in horror for the sight of a flickering flame.
Before descending into another hole of everlasting darkness, I saw a figure in front of me, walking quickly towards my body. I panicked, my body shaking at the fact that it would be the Devil coming to collect my soul. I wasn’t really much of a devote Christian, and in the hope that I would be going to Heaven instead of Hell, I hoped this person would be God, or Jesus, or even the Grim Reaper at least, trying to salvage what must be left of my flickering soul, like trying to shelter a small candlelit flame from a billowing wind, and try and piece it back together so I could enjoy eternal paradise.
I watched the figure closely, squinting through my blurring vision.
I felt warm hands stroking my face and my hair that could only remind of just one person. It must have been George.
Was he actually an angel in disguise?
Waiting for me to die? How morbid.
I reached out for George; to have the chance to be one with him forever in eternal happiness was a chance I was willing to take. But then George’s body began to transform as he got closer to me. His head gradually grew to a point, which then changed to a solid yellow hardhat, and a different and older looking face. His clothes turned black and shapeless, with fluorescent stripes strapped across his chest. George’s face no longer showed off his majestic beauty. This new face held two green eyes, a small goatee beard and the wrinkles on his face suggested he could have been in his late forties.
‘I’ve found her!’ the fireman bellowed to his team. ‘She’s alive!’
‘George...George?’ I called out, faintly.
‘Young lady, can you hear me?’
‘Love, stay with me, alright? My name’s Bob.’
I fought to keep my eyelids wide open, as this Bob carefully pushed wreckage out of his way to try and get to me safely, but it was impossible. It was as if someone had been tugging at my eyelids down with weights...I could feel my eyelids closing and closing as darkness shrouded my vision until the whole world tore away like wallpaper...
The next thing I could remember was the doctor. The gas taps had been switched on by ‘mysteriously circumstance’, despite the forensic teams completed several checks on all of them, and despite the police rewinding and watching the security cameras only to find me walking into the room and no one else. No shreds of human DNA had been discovered at all. The next thing I could remember and sum up into comprehensible English was the doctor talking to Joe – playing the role of the mourning father – that there would be a 50/50 percent chance I’ll survive this ordeal.
Thanks. Great words for a man who lost his own child.
I worried he might go through the trauma once again. It was cruel for a man to have to experience this again.
But, thankfully, I didn’t die.
That wouldn’t make a great story, would it?
I fell into another deep slumber, where a nightmare attacked me with a mighty fist!
I found myself running down a narrow alleyway, running for my life! I didn’t understand why I ran like this, but my legs ordered me to go faster and faster and faster until I got somewhere safe.
I gave in to my legs and let them carry me through this never-ending alleyway, an alleyway that seem to get more narrow at every stride, until I tripped over the gilded frame of an abandoned mirror.
I screamed deafeningly, with the clinging hope that someone would hear me and come to my rescue. I crashed onto the hard concrete, with an excruciating rush of pain that smashed against my left thigh.
I looked down and whimpered at the sight of scarlet running down my leg. A shard of thick glass had wedged itself deep into my leg. I couldn’t describe the reality of this ‘nightmare’. It was all too real.
I knew I could keep running, but my blood oozed from the wound, like a raging tsunami, nauseating my body, dizzy and weak as I could feel my life blood draining out of me.
It was useless. It was over.
The smell of my blood must have engrossed my subjugator, like a shark to a helpless fish. My fear heightened at the thought of such a cruel and painful death. I waited, and waited until it was unbearable. Couldn’t it just get this over with?
Finally, I came face to face with one of the most horrifying pair of eyes a human could ever witness. It was like looking into the eyes of the Devil himself. Two hot red coals levitating in a sea of pure darkness.
‘Get away!’ I bellowed, kicking at the air with my free foot. My heart beat rapidly, like the constant beat of a racehorse track. My body froze, but it wouldn’t be any use fighting back. My efforts to keep it away must have aroused its need to kill, or even make this a fun and cruel blood sport.
I didn’t want to die like this. Like an animal. I tried to pull myself away from the thing, grabbing onto anything I could, but, again, dizziness trapped my body within its claws, as more blood left my body.
I awaited my fate.
I closed my eyes. The last thing I wanted to see before being brutally mutilated, or eaten alive, would be the cold eyes of my executioner, whether he was from this world or not.
Some say that if you die in your dreams, you die in real life.
My eyes flung open after an uproarious explosion sent a piercing ring through my eardrums. I looked around frantically, but I could hear hoarse voices and the sound of a struggle. The red eyes of the Devil had disappeared.
There was a deadly silence.
‘Please...who’s out there?’ I called out, my voice trembling.
‘Close your eyes, Darcy,’ George’s voice replied calmly. ‘Don’t open them until I say so.’
‘G-George?’ I stammered. ‘W-where are y-you?’
‘Close your eyes, Darcy,’ George repeated. ‘Don’t open them until I say so.’
I did so, and shut my eyes tightly. All around me, I could hear footsteps shuffling and circling me, like a wolf pack preparing to attack a moose. Different voices whispered and muttered around me, some male, and some female.
A voice finally spoke to a volume I could hear; this time, this voice was unfamiliar.
‘Just keep them eyes closed.’
‘Who’s there? George? George, who’s there?’
I wanted nothing more than to open my eyes and find out what was going on around me, but I couldn’t disobey George. I couldn’t disobey somebody who was possibly going to save my life. But this was stupid. This wasn’t logical. This was a dream, a nightmare. It wasn’t real.
At the moment, I felt a warm hand touch my feet, and then gradually traced a line along my leg, where the shard buried itself into my bloody thigh.
‘Hey, what are you –’
And just like that...the throbbing from my wound went away, washing away like water.
‘Ssh!’ I heard George say. ‘Everything is going to be fine, but soon...regrettably, everything you know will change.’
I shuddered at those familiar words. ‘For better or for worse?’
‘This is just a bad dream. You’re in the hospital. Your uncle is sleeping in a chair next to your bed, with your dog...for some reason.’
Suddenly, he grabbed me by the chin, but I forced myself to keep my eyes shut.
For George’s sake, I did wake up, and he was right. Joe sat in the chair next to me, out like a candle, with Rafe sitting next to his master, his head propped on his knee. Rafe turned his amber eyes to me; he greeted my arrival with a waggy tail, friendly bark, and a cascade of wet and smelly licks.
Joe jumped with a start at Rafe’s incessant barking, widening his eyes at the sight of me being alive.
‘Oh God, Darcy! I thought I lost you!’
He threw his arms around me, with Rafe continuing to attack me with his licks between barks. We laughed heartily. I never usually laughed with Joe, unless we were watching something on the television together. We never seemed to have much in common, expect for the fact that we were related.
Rafe had been too distracted with washing down my hand then gradually working his way up to my elbow, like my arm had been covered in gravy or if my arm was a gravy flavoured lollipop, until a nurse approached us and seized Rafe by the collar.
‘Will you please keep your dog on a lead at all times, Mr Becker, or I’m going to have to ask you to leave the premises!’ she snapped. ‘There are many patients on this ward, who may have allergies and if one of them complains, we are going to hold you personally responsible. It’s a miracle we agreed to let it in.’
I looked to Joe for his reaction and, to my surprise, he looked very upset at the nurse’s rant, as if this was me she was talking about.
‘Don’t worry, nurse,’ Joe growled. ‘Rafe is a good...dog.’
She sighed and then went about with her work with another patient sitting opposite my bed – who spent most of her time telling me about the wonders of grape juice and how she enjoyed watching episodes of Midsummer Murders and Jeremy Kyle. Joe shook his head and sat back in the chair, putting Rafe on the lead to avoid another argument.
‘What happened?’ I asked, rubbing my head. ‘I mean...I can remember Bob the fireman, but then it went all bleurgh!’
Joe leaned forward dramatically, as if distributing shocking news. ‘It was after some big assembly you lot were having. The head – can’t remember his name – reported you missing from the crowd. They were looking for you, you know, when one of the laboratories exploded. No one was hurt....except you. Then the fire brigade were called in to put out the fire, and to save you! They found you trapped under the door! You’re lucky to be alive! What, with all that gas around, and that! It could have gone up at any second! After the paramedics came, some lad stayed with you all the way here, but he walked off before I had the chance to thank him. It was like he didn’t even want to see me.’
I imagined George’s warm hands wrapped me, telling me with his musical voice to stay with me.
Feeling my pulse...
‘Anyway, I’m glad you’re okay. That’s the main thing. I don’t know what I’d do without you; you know...I mean, it’s just us, isn’t it?’
I loved him so much for that. He wasn’t usually the type of man who would open himself up to anybody. I knew this was coming from the heart.
‘Anyway, the nurses are starting to get sick of Rafe. I’d best bugger off. Got to get up early for my new job.’
I beamed. ‘You got a job, finally! Tell me! Tell me! Tell me! Picking chewing gum from under tables?’
Joe laughed. ‘No, it’s actually better than that. Got a job as a waiter in a new and upcoming restaurant near Liverpool One,’ he announced, nudging me in the shoulder.
‘I’m so proud of you.’
Joe shot me a confused look. ‘That explosion must’ve done something to your brain. You’re acting all nice to me all of a sudden. I better go and find the real you. I’ll see you when I see you.’
Rafe departed with a happy bark. I waved back, but winced at the agonising pain I received from it. After I got comfortable in my bed, a plus size nurse came over to my bed with my lunch: a small ham salad baguette, a small chocolate mousse and a carton of orange juice.
When I picked up the baguette, despite the painful ache of lifting, the nurse, I noticed, didn’t seem, or want, to take her eyes off it. I wasn’t hungry, just tired, so I handed the baguette and mousse over, which she took, without the slightest consideration for her patient and walked briskly out of the ward.
I looked down at what I had left: the small carton of orange juice. I pulled the straw off the side (which took up more effort than actually drinking, like a Capri Sun), unravelled the plastic wrapping and then stabbed the straw through the metallic foil. The relaxing rush of cold orange juice ran through my body, as if cleansing it of all the bad things inside.
‘Maybe you shouldn’t be poking around in other people’s business,’ George’s voice spoke coldly.
I looked up to see George standing at the bottom of my bed, staring daggers at me, like I was some troublesome child.
‘You’ve come to see me?’ I asked, making this sentence seem like some form of sexual innuendo than a question. Thankfully, he didn’t catch on.
‘Why did you put yourself through that? Why’d you do it?’
‘Hey, it wasn’t like I planned to get the room blown up! And...I was just curious, okay?’
‘Well, it did kill the cat!’ George replied. ‘And it nearly killed you!’
‘What I saw wasn’t human. Then there was this voice, and then –’
His eyes narrowed. ‘A voice? What did he say?’
George groaned, and then inhaled sharply, like I had stepped into clubs he knew I shouldn’t be walking into. He walked to the side of the bed, with a worried look on his face. ‘I meant it! I just...had something, err...male on my mind. Just drop it, okay? What diditsay?’
Well, that didn’t sound gay.
‘I...I can’t remember. My mind’s a little fuzzy.’
George pulled out a five pound note from his pocket. ‘Will this help?’
‘I’m serious! Everything was going too fast for me to take in...why is it so important to you? What do you mean by ‘other people’s affairs’? (I leaned forward) Doyouhave anything to do with me being here?’
‘You need to stop asking questions, alright? God, that doesn’t help...listen...can’t you just believe me when I say it was some lads messing about in the labs? It was...no big deal.’
‘After everything you’ve just said, do you expect me to believe that? Do you honestly think I’m stupid?’ I growled. ‘Tell me, George, are there many lads in Liverpool that look and sound like the Devil?’
George stepped back, falling into the chair behind him, defeated.
‘Look, I understand...where you’re going with this...and I know what you saw wasn’t...normal...but, there’s a logical explanation for this...I heard that someone was late in...and (from this point, I knew he was lying)...he had to do this...PowerPoint about religion and the...devil...and he...he had this costume that made him look scary –’
‘I’m not stupid, you know!’ I folded my arms and averted my eyes to the windows. ‘And I know what I saw but, going along with this story, can you explain the speed? He was running like nothing I’ve seen before. Please tell me this idiot though the gas taps were some sort of secret switch for his big entrance.’
‘He’s just stupid...and he likes to run. He does cross country.’
‘And he had matches?’
‘He wanted to be dramatic...’
‘And he wasn’t aware that there was gas in the room?’
‘As I said, he’s just stupid.’
‘Why do you keeping calling this thing a ‘he’?’ I asked, demanding a direct answer this time. He bit his lip, and sucked in his teeth.
‘Well, there was-’
I sighed. ‘Just forget it, alright? I’ll save you the effort!’
He sighed; probably glad that he didn’t have to make another story up and lie through another question. He turned away and walked to the door. I couldn’t take this lying down, I, with pangs of numbing pain shooting through my body, grabbed the sleeve of his jacket.
‘I know when you’re lying to me, but I don’t know why you have to. I can see it in your eyes. That wasn’t a person in there, George. Tell me, what is it?’
George stood up, and turned his back to me, staring at the floor in deep thought, and then sat back in the chair. He paused for a second, as if debating whether to tell me his secret about being an illegal alien on the turn from Area 51.
He looked up at me. ‘Are you definitely certain of what you saw?’ He buried his hands into his paws; they felt like warm blankets.
After that, he moved onto my bed and leaned his face towards mine. My heart was in my mouth, as the hopes of getting a kiss from gorgeous George grew significantly. I blushed scarlet after feeling his curly locks of brown hair brush softly against my cheek. But, to my disappointment, his lips moved past mine and towards my ear.
‘Meet me at the Pier Head tomorrow,’ he whispered. ‘If you’re sure of what you saw, you may be seeing a lot more of me.’
My heart did a little leap of joy. Seeing George at college was one thing, but seeing him a lot more. We may as well be a couple!
‘So it’s a date?’ I enquired, hopefully.
He grinned, probably understanding where I would want to be going with this. ‘Let’s just call it a business meeting. Friday, round five?’
‘Friday at five. I’ll be there.’
‘Oh, I got you a get well soon present, so...get well soon. Hang on, I told the woman outside to hold it.’
When he left the room, I found myself giggling like a horny schoolgirl. I had a good looking guy giving me presents; usually my limit of male interaction would be either Tyson asking me to get him a beer or a homeless guy asking for spare change.
George stepped back into the ward, and I forced myself away from this adoring schoolgirl phase and trying to look serious, which would only make me look like Maggie Thatcher. It was until I noticed George with a large boutique of flowers, with the stems wrapped in gold paper, that this phase had been almost too hard to contain.
‘If you don’t like them –’
‘No, I love them, it’s just...wow!’ I interrupted, taking the flowers and examining them admirably.
‘Do you want me to get the nurse?’
‘No...it’s just...no one’s ever given me get well soon gifts before...not that I’m in and out of hospitals a lot. I don’t think my uncle gives me any gifts, just chicken soup and bread.’
I inhaled the invigorating scent of the flowers, nearly lost myself in the startling aroma of the red roses and the astonishing scent of the pearl white lilies. I searched the roses for any extras and found a small envelope stuck perfectly between the thorns.
‘What’s this?’ I asked, producing a wide grin. ‘Money?’
‘Just something silly.’
I pulled the envelope from the thorn, and ripped it open. The scent of lavender invaded my nostrils; I sighed and then laughed. The front of the card had been smothered in blue glitter, with the words: ‘Hope you get well soon’ along the top and below the bold lettering was a picture of a girl on a crutch with her legs and arms in casts.
‘If there’s anything wrong with it –’
‘No. No. Just curious.’
‘Why are you treating me like this?’
George narrowed his eyes, and darted his eyes to the left and to the right in confusion as if searching for an answer. ‘How am I treating you? You’re my friend, aren’t you?’
‘Yes...but...we hardly know each other, and now you’re treating me as if you’ve known me for years.’
He only shrugged. ‘I don’t know, I guess...I guess you just remind me of someone...I guess if I see you getting hurt, it just reminds me of...an old friend...’
‘O-okay,’ I replied, simply, unsure of how to reply to that. ‘Well...who was it?’
George snapped out of his brief yet deep thoughts. ‘Never mind that, just open the card, will ya?’
I sighed, knowing that I would never get anything out of him in the short run although I knew that I shouldn’t let him put the cards on the table. He may have been the ex-boyfriend of someone who had been killed that looked like me, or maybe a similar looking family member had recently passed away, and maybe he’s having the same motives for me as Edward for Bella. I shook my head, missing the point that there may be money in this card. Oh God, that sounded terrible.
I opened the card (to my disappointment, no money dropped onto my lap) and read the scribbled words inside:
Hope you get well soon!
Lots of Love
The beautifully written ‘lots of love’ and the ‘xoxoxo’ under his name was the icing on top of the cake. I wanted this man. The lovey-dovey honest men I assumed only existed in the cheesy PG films or in fairy tales. He was like the modern version of Mr Darcy...Oh...take me to bed and lose me forever...
I couldn’t believe this. I debated mentally whether this wasn’t some practical joke or some bet or an all-too-serious game of truth or dare. Did he actually have some feeling for me, even though we had only met this morning? I examined the card for anything else, until I turned to the back of the card.
Six words were written on the back:
Do you believe in the Paranormal?
A slight feeling of annoyance formed at the pit of my stomach. Why couldn’t he have said that aloud, instead of having to write it on the back of the card? I imagined him for a moment walking out of a Hallmark shop and actually writing that on the back of the card. I furrowed my brow.
‘It’ll make some sense tomorrow.’
He opened his mouth to say more (hopefully asking for my hand in marriage or what I was doing Saturday night, like in the films), but then his archaic phone rang. He flipped open the phone and put it to his ear:
‘Hello? Where am I? I’m at the hospital, thought I told you.I’mfine, don’t worry. Yes, of course I know if I were injured, I would go straight to you. Let’s not go into idle. That’s not why you’ve called me, so come on. What...what are you on about? Seriously? (He groaned) Alright, yeah, just get Angel and Dieter and I’ll be right there. Okay then...yeah, see you there. Bye. (He turned back to me) I have to get going now; I’ll see you at the Pier Head, yeah? Oh, hang on, when you’re walking there, watch the skies. There may be dangerous things lying about.’
Dangerous?I’m sure, in my weakened condition, I could handle a few bird droppings on my head.
‘What do you mean, dangerous?’
He ignored my question, and flung a pair of sunglasses onto my lap. I looked at them in disappointment. They didn’t have any cool attachment or anything like they do in the spy films – they just looked normal, ordinary, boring sunglasses.
For the third time, he left without a word. Did he expect me to understand all this stuff on my own, as he exits mysteriously like some melodramatic villain? Not that I didn’t know how to use sunglasses, if these were.
I groaned, throwing my head into the soft pillow, contemplating these life changing experiences (ha-ha, thanks Joe) that only happened in the past few hours, on my first day at school. I played with the sunglasses, swinging them around my fingers in boredom, hoping that George – my knight in shining armour - would return and rescue me from this torture chamber that was branded my life, and we would live happily ever after in a studio apartment in London.
A doctor approached me, holding a clipboard, as I was imagining me and George have a Bewitched moment where we tried to cook our dinner, ending in us failing and kissing on the floor, covered in sauce. I snapped out of this beautiful fantasy when he tapped the end of my bed with a pen.
The doctor looked baffled as he read over my results repeatedly, desperately trying to find some logic on the results in front of him.
‘Are you okay, doctor?’
‘Yes...it’s just...according to the results, we took an hour ago, you’re...absolutely fine, Miss Ward.’
I sat upright on the bed. ‘What do you mean?’
‘It’s mind boggling, we were expecting to hold onto you till, at least, the end of the week, yet it has only be five hours and your wounds are...completely healed.
‘So, I can go home?’
He took one more glance at the results, hoping to find something, and then rubbed his brow with his index finger and thumb. He mustn’t have had any sleep, as dark bags hung from under his eyes.
‘I...I guess so, I’ll call your uncle to pick you up right away, Shouldn’t be too long.’
The doctor left the ward to phone Joe. I leaned back against the headboard of the bed, my mind diving into deep thought.
I looked down and saw George’s ‘Get Well Soon’ card sitting on the side table next to the bed. I reached over and picked it up. I turned the card around and read out the six words on the back once again:
“Do you believe in the Paranormal?”
The computers buzzed fiercely with life, working every bit of their electrical chips to the core. Every second, the printers printed out different readings about molecular patterns and information about the DNA strands from the water tank that caged the subject who floated motionlessly and lifelessly in his own prison. All over the laboratory walls were detailed diagrams of the Human anatomy, most concentrating on the heart and the human brain. Littered all along the tables, there were mountains among mountains of papers about the theory of immortality and how it can be used for the future of the human race.
Alone, and surrounded by used Petri dishes, computers and beakers of colourful fluids, sat a decrepit old man. A man who looked almost a hundred years of age, with thick, black bags weighing down his grey and cloudy eyes, with his blue veins rose against his pale, pock-marked skin. His hair was long and white as fresh paper, terminating in a long ponytail.
He pulled himself up, forcing out a long and weary groan. He stumbled towards the water tank, which had been bolted to the ground. The old man stood before the tank and stared longingly at the male test subject. He had been connected to the computers through wires that were coated with a waterproof coating that were inserted into his arms, legs, chest and even his groin area. The subject had an oxygen mask strapped to his mouth and was breathing in deeply, his chest slowly moving up and down, as the subject often struggled to breathe on occasions. According to the old man’s results, the subject was breathing averagely
To which he gave out a grateful sigh of relief. The old man walked over to a small computer to the right of the water tank and read the results that were still in the process of printing out. He looked back to the computer and typed something that caused the computer to print off another set of results to another printer.
He scribbled something down on an old clipboard.
‘Breathing’s...good,’ he muttered. ‘Heartbeat...good.’
He looked up at the young man again, and pressed his hand against the wall of the tank. He could feel the warmth of the water against his palm.
The door, to the old man’s right, suddenly swung open with a thunderous slam! The old man growled, counted to ten, and slammed the clipboard against the table.
‘No authorised personnel are permitted entry into my laboratory!’ He snapped. ‘Get out! Get out before I tan all your hides, damn you!’
Saying this, the old man snatched a wrench from a cluttered desk, and raised it threateningly above his head, as he limped weakly towards the door.
‘If it is you stupid hoodies again, I swear to God I will –’
The old man stopped when two young men stepped into the room – twins by their appearance – with the airs of confident men.
‘You of all people should know that we are authorised to be in this laboratory, at all times, Mr Scientist! This experiment is for our own personal gains, of course.’
The old man stiffened at the presence of his slave drivers. As if the Prime Minister himself had stepped into the room, the old man checked himself for any indecencies, sorted his dog-eared polka-dot tie, and cleared his throat.
‘It’s...it’s...Professor Domev..actually,’ he muttered nervously, and even bowed his head in submission and respect. The more unruly looking of the twins clenched his paw-like hands into solids balls of fists, and then launched one fiery strike into the Professor’s gut. At the impact of the punch, the professor was knocked clean off his feet and crashed into one of the buzzing computers. A normal human his age would have been killed on impact, or even through the force of the hard blow but again, the professor’s mind tortured and reminded him of the haunting thought that these two ‘people’ were keeping him alive.
The twins laughed frigidly as the poor man tried to pull himself to his feet, using the table next to him for support. Domev looked at them sadly and hopelessly, knowing that no sympathy would manage to break through these boys’ hard exterior. This was, to them, like placing a turtle on its back and watching it squirm and kick its little legs for ground.
Domev shot the twins a hateful look when he managed to become familiar with his feet. With a deep breath, he reluctantly uttered:
‘I’m...sorry, masters. I will...be more aware next time...it’s just-’
‘I don’t want to hear your petty excuses. And why you should you care about intruders? You have enough intelligence, do you not? Couldn’t you take care of them yourself?’
‘I would if I could, I am old and my arthritis wouldn’t let me, I-’
The twins only laughed at this and cried mockingly as Domev struggled to reclaim his clipboard and pen. ‘Oh, boo hoo! We’re probably older than a hundred of you put together! Get over it!’
‘Dessessus,’ the tamer twin called from the door. ‘Let’s not be taken in by this fool’s rambling.’
Dessessus gazed at the professor with malicious intent and blood-red eyes, like two pits of living hell. He then averted his eyes to the tank.
‘How now, is the experiment nearing completion?’
‘You know how disappointed and agitated my brother gets over bad news,’ the tamer twin informed with an evil grin. Domev didn’t need reminding. The bruises and scars all over his body were a constant reminder of Dessessus’s anger.
Domev shuffled a few papers from a cluttered drawer and clamped them onto the clipboard. He scrambled along the room to find his glasses half broken. He brushed them onto the bridge of his nose and just managed to see through the cracked glass.
‘W-well, Septimus...sir,’ Domev began. ‘The experiment’s vital organs...are-are all working and functionally well, but he is still in an...embryonic stage, so to speak. He still needs a few days of tests until I can be completely satisfied.’
Ignoring him, Septimus strolled towards the water tank and stroked the surface of the tank, drumming his fingers rhythmically against it.
‘Please, don’t!’ Domev started to regret his words. ‘H-he, I mean, the experiment is in a delicate condition at the moment. The slightest disturbance of an outside force might disrupt something in his rebuilding DNA.’
Septimus groaned childishly at this, sharply jerking his hand away from the tank and looking at the subject in disgust.
‘Wakey-wakey in there! Didn’t bring you back so you could laze around!’
Without warning, the subject swung his eyes open, revealing a pair of bright amber eyes, like two shining suns. Domev watched in horror, as the subject started to wave his arms and look around in his watery prison. He quickly averted his eyes back to the vampires when the subject shot a mystified stare at him.
Septimus observed this in approval, side grinning maliciously as he patted Domev loudly on the back, who flinched at every smack.
‘Looks like I’ve saved you a few days, Professor,’ Septimus laughed, giving Domev one final forceful slap on the back. ‘Now, I don’t have a reason to kill you. Lucky for some, eh?’
‘You were going to kill me?’ Domev asked, with some hope in his tone.
But Septimus shook his head. ‘I’ve come to realise that keeping you alive is like killing you but only more fun and if it’s not fun to toy with another person’s life, I don’t know what is (he laughed). I must contradict myself when I say ‘I don’t have a reason to kill you’. I did that decades ago, did I not?Thisis your Hell. (Domev only looked at the young man, on the verge of tears.) Oh, now, now, tears are for women and for the defeated. Now, moving onto the wider picture, tell me about this...boy.’
Dessessus, hearing the disappointment in his brother’s tone, swiped the professor’s arm, staining the old man’s sleeve in blood as he sank his sharp nails into Domev’s wrinkled skin.
‘Who is this anyway? Someone special?’
With a deep sigh, the professor explained:
‘He was...my son. His name was Radko (his face darkened) and...he had died whilst on a voyage to America...along with my wife.’ Domev reluctantly remembered the second he found out. The thick bold words stretched across the newspaper, sending millions of people mourning over their relatives’ deaths. Domev shook this memory off when he noticed Septimus’s smug grin slowly transforming into a straight line. He approached the professor, like a teacher to a disobedient student.
‘So the reason why we salvaged this body for you, is because he was your little boy? Why do we have a stupid, moaning teenager in there, instead of an adult who would be more capable of doing the damn job?’
‘I-I-I thought that-that it would be good for-for our opposition. I mean, err, you’ve told me that the Searchers do not look older than twenty...so I thought...maybe a teenage boy would increase our chances of success.’
Septimus only laughed. ‘You could have picked up any scruffy teenager around her...but you’ve made us go through years of salvaging to find this boy. Listen, you! We could have done this ourselves! As you may be aware, we are over ten thousand years old, but we do not look a day over twenty, which is more than I can say about you! Now, give me a reason why I shouldn’t switch off the oxygen supply and why we shouldn’t just do this ourselves and kill you for wasting our time.’
The professor gazed at Septimus in horror. ‘No! No! No!’
Septimus placed his hand on the oxygen tank. ‘You have till the count of five to give me a reason!’
‘Please! He’s still developing and repairing himself!’
‘No, wait! Just listen to me.’
‘Radko will help you! He could always get any job done to perfection! No matter what it is!’
‘NO! JUST LISTEN! Radko has never let anybody down in his life! He will be prepared to do anything you ask, even…kill!’
Septimus’s eyebrow arched. ‘Go on?’
The professor’s shoulders lowered at the pause of the countdown, but his body still remained tense as he worked his brain out for something to say. ‘Yes, he will do anything to meet your goals! Just give me a few more days and he’ll be ready for anything you throw at him!’
Septimus paused, staring at Domev intensely, and then nodded. ‘Very well, human, we’ll go along with this for as long as it takes. But if he makes one – just one mistake...’
Septimus made a cut throat gesture that made Domev’s skin crawl. ‘And to add, I’ll flay the skin from your bones. You’ll never know what’s coming! And then when I’m done with you, Dessessus will have a little play with you too! He’ll pull all your teeth off! He’ll ripeverythingfrom your body! You’ll think you’ve been hit by a train!’
‘Yes, I understand, sir,’ the professor replied hastily. ‘I’ll get to work right away.’
‘Good. See that you do!’
The twins left the laboratory in silence, with Dessessus whispering into Septimus’s ear, who only looked forward as if Dessessus wasn’t there. Domev returned back to Radko, whose eyes slowly closed slowly after the twins left the room. Everything continued as normal afterwards, with the computers flashing and the printers shooting out data, as Domev looked up at his son in sincere hopelessness.
We agreed that we should both try and forget what had happened today, but I could see in Joe’s eyes that today grew on his mind like an incessant cancer. Joe’s idea of wanting to talk about it was quickly cleared off the agenda by me. Every time I thought about it, it only brought the blood red eyes back into my head, with the cat – like irises staring maliciously at me, waiting to leap out for its kill. I couldn’t tell Joe the reason. Why would he believe me? He was still trying to get over the fact that the reason why I skipped assembly in pursuit of a strange man.
I sat in the kitchen, watching Joe boil the spaghetti in the new pot he bought off Ebay. Rafe at Joe’s feet; wagging his tail and waiting for Joe to drop something edible on the floor. I couldn’t cope with the awkwardness and silence until Joe finally decided this unease had to be broken:
‘So...exciting first day, ey?’
‘Shut it!’ I snapped, but cracked a small side smile.
‘Besides the incident, did you have a good day?’
‘It was alright. The teachers looked like...gods,’
Joe laughed. ‘Why so surprised? Not all Scousers look like Ken Dodd, you know. What about the Beatles? They were a bunch of good looking lads, well...three of them were anyway. And there’s...Rebecca Ferguson...and...what’s the name of that girl from Girls Aloud that looks like a vampire?’
‘Yeaahh, but they were perfect, you know. Not a spot, or blackhead or whitehead out of place. Maybe they’re using really good make up.’
Joe laughed. ‘What, even the Beatles?’
‘Never mind, I made a few friends today,’ I said, changing the subject. ‘Start the parades!’
‘Waayy, go ‘ed, girl. What are their names? Might know their parents,’ Joe congratulated, as he chopped the mushrooms.
‘I met this girl, Lottie. Didn’t get her first name.’
Joe looked away in thought. ‘Might be Williams. If it is, I know her dad, Paul. Worked with him when I was working down the quarry, and that. Dead nice bunch of people, you know. Who else did you meet?’
‘I met this boy. He was called George...Olsen.’
At the mention of that name, Joe’s body froze, as if somebody had put a gun to his back and threatened to pull the trigger. I moved uncomfortably in the chair when his hand tightened around the large kitchen knife.
‘Joe? Are you okay? Joe? Do you know him?’
As if he had been unleashed from a trance, Joe continued chopping carrots.
‘Sorry...err...yeah; I used to knock about with his dad, and that. W-what does he look like?’
‘Just do what I say, Darcy.’
I narrowed my eyes. ‘O-okay...he…he has long brown hair...great long brown hair actually and he has, like, some sort of side fringe, and that...oh, and he has blue eyes. He’s quite tall. Nearly the size of you, I think.’
Max interrupted me with a long whine and hid behind Joe’s legs. I could make out the muscles shaking furiously under his black fur.
‘What’s up with him?’
The awkward silence flooded back into the kitchen, as Joe pursed his lips to say something.
‘Darcy, I don’t want you to see him anymore,’ he suddenly ordered. ‘End of.’
He turned to me; a lone tear ran over his cheek.
‘Your parents would’ve said the same thing.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
Joe closed his eyes, groaning in frustration. An awkward silence draped over the kitchen for the next ten seconds, until Joe finally broke the silence.
‘Go to your room, you’re not having any tea. I’ll give the rest to Rafe.’
I squealed to the top of my lungs, like a spoilt child, nearly smacking Rafe at the back of his head. ‘Rafe might as well be human! You care for him more than you do me! Both of yous are bloody freaks!’
Joe looked at me dolefully, then gave a sideway glance to Rafe, biting his lip, as if about to reveal a deadly secret.
‘Just go to bed, alright? Get out of my sight, will yah? I’m not in the mood now. Just go on, now!’
I growled a typical teenage growl, as I stormed out of the kitchen. I didn’t understand what had got Joe so angry, or what made Rafe shake like that. Rafe was never as scared as he was then. I had to sort this whole thing out. Joe was only creating a deeper and deeper hole and one day, if he wasn’t careful, I’m going to fall into that hole, and he’ll only have himself to blame.
I darted to my room, like an athlete, slamming the door shut behind me and threw myself onto the bed. I could hear something scratching against the bottom of my door, so I turned around and saw Rafe’s claw taking turns at scratching at the door. He must have dutifully followed me up the stairs to provide me with reassuring licks. I could hear him whining, begging me to open the door.
I groaned, pulling myself from my bed and walking over to the door. I reached for the doorknob when it began to jiggle and turn to the left, as if a person on the other side was trying to get in.
‘Joe, go away!’ I snapped.
There was no reply.
The doorknob rattled again; this time more violently and I could hear the sound of claws once again scratching against metal. The rattling suddenly stopped and the door was pushed open revealing Rafe, who walked into the room and licked my hand with his thick tongue; his tail wagging like helicopter rotor blades. I shook my head in disbelief; Rafe was as clever as a teaspoon.
I knelt down to his height and stroked his bulky mane. ‘Was that you who opened the door, Rafey?’
Rafe whined, but then bombarded me again with a cascade of wet, smelly licks.
‘Rafe is worried about you,’ I jumped at the sudden voice. Joe stood at the door, leaning against the doorframe.
‘Joe, I’m not a little girl anymore. I’m on the way to becoming a young adult, and I have to make my own decisions, especially when…boys are the…matter.’
Joe pushed himself from the doorframe and folded his arms. ‘I know that,young lady, but you’re under my roof. I expect you to do what I say, so first rule: stay away from that George.’
‘What have you got against him? He hasn’t done anything wrong. If we just had him round-’
‘No, no, he’s not touching the dust from this house!’ Joe interjected. ‘I…I just don’t want to see you making the wrong choices. I made loads of bad choices when I was your age, and it got me into trouble.’
I was too beaten to even reply to that. I didn’t what to say. It’s odd and slightly awkward when it’s the child consoling the parent, like it’s unnatural the other way round seeming more common sense. But I did my best: I draped my arms around his shoulder.
‘Listen…I know you want me to make the right choices, and I guess it, I really do, but…there’s going to be times…when you have to…put me on a longer leash, so to speak. You need to let me explore this place a bit more. You let me do anything in Birkdale.’
‘Yeah, but Liverpool is acity,and cities can mean troubles…and trouble…usually results in…bad things.’
‘I know that but…, and please don’t kill me…but I’ve arranged to meet up with him (Joe shot me a piercing look), so that I can get to know him a bit more, and then it’ll be okay, right?’
He didn’t shout back, or try to kill me, but he gave me one of his bear hugs.
‘Let me tell you something about the Olsens. I know boys and girls and they had made friends with his family, and they…were never seen again…they’re even been feared dead! I don’t know what I would do if I lost you. Think of Rafe.’
‘No, offence, Joe, but he’s a dog, and I can’t stress that enough. He’ll probably forget me once he’s got his food.’
Joe smiled, and Rafe’s ear shot up once the word ‘food’ was uttered.
‘See?’ I pointed out.
‘Looks like someone’s hungry. Fine, then….I’ll give you one chance; you can go out with him then.’
‘Well, he didn’t really say we weregoing out.’
‘Oh?’ he asked, his voice ringing with interest.
‘He said…a rendezvous…or whatever. He’s really formal. Then, there was something strange that he mentioned.’
‘Go on,’ he said in a serious tone, with his mouth turning into a straight line.
‘He said…”do you believe in the Paranormal?”
I saw fear in his eyes.
‘Did he give you anything else? Something random?’
I tried to remember, until something clicked. I ran over to my desk and opened the top drawer. Joe and Rafe were at my sides, so quickly, and so closely that I cringed when I inhaled Joe’s spaghetti Bolognese breath, as it invaded my nostrils then I was met with Rafe’s hot breath against my neck.
There they were – the sunglasses. We gazed upon it as if it was a precious ancient relic. They have me an eerie feeling that they shouldn’t even be in my life.
‘He just gave me this, along with the roses,’ I pointed to the vase of roses; the petals were already beginning to fall off.
‘He gave me them when I was in hospital. Don’t know why he gave me the glasses though. It’s not sunny a lot.’
‘Wait a minute, he was at the hospital?’ His hands clenched into balls of fists. Joe took the glasses. ‘I’ll take these, for safekeeping.’
I opened my mouth to say more, but then stopped myself, turning to my mirror and sighing as I fixed my fringe out of boredom, and the gap that had formed.
‘Well…you better not go all Big Brother on me. The last thing I want now is you spying on me like some overprotective parent.’
He laughed. ‘I just want you-’
‘-safe,’ I finished for him. ‘I know, I know.’ I wrapped my hands around his, curling my fingers around them. ‘Thanks, Joe.’