A Narrow Escape
D M Roberts
Copyright © 2022 D M Roberts All rights reserved.
Man, it was bright. Maybe he was in a hospital theatre, they had bright lights.
The voices he heard were unfamiliar to him, strange and echoey. They seemed to be arguing about something, he couldn’t make out what that was exactly no matter how hard he strained to hear. They came closer, dressed in what looked similar to a toga.
One of them held a large book in his hand. He assumed it to be a man, for he honestly did not know at this point.
“Ask him.” Came the voice, now clearer than earlier.
“I cannot simply ask him, we would appear foolish. We did not get to the station we hold by being foolish.”
“If you do not ask him and we are wrong, well, you know who will have us back down to the start. Is that what you want? Do you remember how tedious that was?”
“Then you ask him, I know what I heard, it is written right here!” The figure slammed his finger down on the page of the open book to emphasise his words.
“I do not agree, we cannot have mistakes.”
Brian peered at the 2 figures, he must be dreaming. That’s it, I must have hit my head and this is a dream.
“Brian Matthew Felling?” The voice addressed him.
“Yes. Who are you, where am I?”
“Now I want you to pay attention to me, Brian. You were making a phone call in the park?”
“Yes, an old friend, Neil.”
“Can you remember what happened next?”
Brian stared at the endless brightness above him as he thought. He looked down, the 2 pages of the book before him. His mind scanned the pages of names and localities as he thought about the question. His name was there, it jumped out at him as familiar things often did.
“I heard a truck coming. Wait a minute, am I dead?”
“What happened next, Brian? It is most important that you tell us what you said after you finished your phone call.”
Brian stared at the 2 figures, what the hell was going on?
“Where am I? Is this a hospital?”
“This is getting us nowhere, he cannot remember. The best thing we can do is send him for processing and leave it at that.”
Processing? What the hell!
“Wait, wait. I was mumbling to myself. Is that what you mean?”
“What did you mumble, Brian? Can you recall?”
Brian tried to sit up, he soon realised he wasn’t lying on anything. He seemed to be floating mid-air.
He continued, his mind now beginning to panic.
“My wife, I was talking about my wife. I said, Neil wants to watch that she doesn’t turn Linda into the same necrotic witch that she has become. Yes, that was it. Now can somebody please tell me what is going on here?”
The figures looked at the page, both leaning over the book nodding.
“That makes perfect sense, it was noisy. Yes, that explains everything.”
They agreed. Standing back from Brian they clapped their hands simultaneously, this was followed by a blinding flash then all went black.
“Over here, get the medics, I think I’ve found the man.”
Called the fireman from the side of the pond. The 3 burly men dragged the soaking and unconscious Brian from the water. They checked for vital signs, he had a faint pulse along with a sharp piece of metal protruding from his stomach.
“Careful guys, we don’t want to cause any more damage than he already has.” The medic urged.
“Let’s get him on the stretcher. You, grab that first aid blanket, get it over him before he catches pneumonia into the bargain.”
The ambulance tore through the streets as the paramedics worked tirelessly to keep the soaked man stable.
“What have we got? Oh, that looks nasty, still, he’s lucky to be with us, damn lucky you found him from what I hear.”
The hospital staff transferred Brian onto a bed and he was wheeled straight into the theatre. The operation was a lengthy one, finally, the surgeon, happy with his work, directed that the man could now be stitched up.
Brian lay in his hospital bed for almost 3 weeks before he regained consciousness. When he opened his eyes he panicked. What was in his throat? He couldn’t breathe.
“Mr Felling? Try to relax, please don’t pull that. Brian? Can you hear me, Brian?”
The beeping of the machines told Brian that he was in a hospital. Within seconds the sound of the truck coupled with the memory of the force at which he flew through the air came to him. The other thing must have been a dream, he stopped struggling, letting the wave of relief wash over his mind and body.
“Your wife is outside, do you want me to call her in?”
Brian shook his head carefully. It was pounding, making the slightest movements painful.
“You sure now? She’s been here every day.”
I bet she has, he thought, likely see what else she can get out of me. He nodded slowly. He was sure.
“Okay, it’s your decision. You change your mind, you give me a shout, or press the button right here. Try to get some rest now and the doctor will be back to see you within the hour.”
He smiled a weak smile. Closing his eyes he could not get the dream out of his head. Over and over the pages flashed in his mind. He needed paper and a pen. Not yet, for now, he needed sleep.
Martha was kept waiting for days after Brian had come around. He had instructed that she was to be told nothing as they were in the process of divorce.
Once he had explained the circumstances to the nurses, they were happy to comply with his request. They felt sorry for the man, he had lost everything to the cool, collected woman that sat in the waiting room day after day.
It was Wednesday morning, the nurse had finished helping Brian to do his morning exercises and bathroom needs. She took the bag of laundry from the room and headed off down the corridor.
The door opened quietly.
“I knew it!” Shouted Martha, standing there with hands on hips staring at Brian.
“What do you want? I have nothing left to give you if that’s why you’re here.”
“Don’t be so melodramatic Brian, it doesn’t suit you. In case you forgot, we were married a long time. I simply wanted to make sure that you were alright, is that a crime?”
Brian shrugged, it ached to do so but the body has its inbuilt habits.
“We have been discussing the matter, Jayne and I. We have decided that you may rent the house for the time being, at a reasonable rate of course. It simply would not do to have you staying on a friends couch in your current condition. I think it’s very generous of us, considering.”
He almost laughed, he couldn’t it hurt too much. Was this woman for real? Martha continued.
“I imagine it will take you some time to get back on your feet. I can wait, it’s not like we need the money. Well, that’s all I came to say really, I do hope you are up and about soon. You have my number if you need anything. Take care.”
She was gone, like the snake in the grass that slithered in, she slithered out. Mighty big of her and Jayne! He would have the last laugh, he didn’t know how or when but he would.
Brian picked up the notepad and pen, the nurse had kindly found one for him and over the past few days, he had begun to write down the list. It was too vivid for him to simply shake off, he knew there was something more to it than a dream. The areas were spread far and wide and the names were evidently from people of different countries. It was the random words next to each name that he could not figure out. What did it all mean?
Next to his name was the word neurotic, he didn’t dare utter the word, not after the conversation of the 2 figures played in his head like a reel on a loop. They had argued about something he had said, that he knew for sure. Was he going crazy?
It had been a hell of a year, stress can do strange things to a person. The back page of the notepad had questions, to some it would look like the rantings of a deranged man. These questions needed answers, trouble was, where would he get these answers?
He placed the pad to one side, he was tired.
It was Friday morning, 2 weeks later that Brian was wheeled down to the waiting cab. He could walk, the nurse had insisted that he take the wheelchair until he was through the door. Hospital procedure, she grinned.
“You are quite sure there’s no one you want me to call to collect you?” She asked in the room.
“No, that’s very kind of you. I have no-one is the truth.”
“Oh, before you leave. Somebody left this for you, I don’t know who it was before I came on shift.” She handed him an envelope as he took his first breath of outside air in a long-time.
“You take care Brian, don’t forget what we talked about. You have to keep up with those exercises.”
Brian waved back, she had been a wonderful nurse, he had grown fond of the happy-go-lucky woman. The driver opened the door, helping Brian into the cab from the chair.
Brian recited his address to the man, they pulled away from the hospital grounds heading for home.
Martha had insisted on picking him up to which he had refused, instead, she left an envelope of bills to cover the cab fare. Brian did not refuse this, he wasn’t going to pay it back either! That was for damn certain.
The house felt cold and dark with a musty smell in the air. It smelt as a house would when there has not been a body living in it. Brian closed the door to the noisy street outside.
Now he could concentrate on the matter that would not leave his mind alone. It was only when he sat down in the comfortable chair that had been his favourite for many years that he remembered the note in his pocket. It was from the woman in the coffee shop, she wished him well and that his recovery was a speedy one, she went on to write of how sorry she felt that she had been so hard on him the morning of the accident. She hoped that when he was feeling better he would call by, coffee on the house, that she could apologise in person. Well, that was nice of her, he thought. If he was feeling up to it he might just take a walk over there tomorrow.
The mail had stacked up over the weeks he had been in the hospital, he stared at the stack of unopened envelopes on the table. No time like the present. There were the usual bills, mostly with red ink, some junk mail and various correspondence from his business. He paused, not his business anymore, these he tossed to one side.
There were 2 letters from his solicitor, one regarding the house, the other regarding a claim for compensation from the truck company and his insurance.
“Now we’re talking.” He said out loud. According to his solicitor, there could be the potential of a lot of money coming his way.
The company had admitted liability after extensive reports from witnesses and the emergency services, all Brian had to do was submit the claim. Was it that easy? Most companies would drag these sorts of things through the courts for years and yet here was one that was willing to get the whole sorry incident sewn up as soon as they could. It was true to say they were a well-known and large household name, he imagined it would not be in their interest to have this go even more public than it had so far. Yes, he would submit the claim, he could have been killed!
After a light, easily prepared dinner, Brian lay on the couch. Pushing the remote on his music system he lay quietly as the soft orchestral music floated through the air. It wasn’t long before he fell into a deep sleep.
“Do you think he knows?”
The figure shrugged.
“He is making a lot of lists, but he could not, it is not possible. Is it?”
“You of all beings should know that anything is possible. What should we do?”
“We should watch him carefully. If there is the smallest chance that he does know, well, we shall simply have to intervene.”
“How? We have never had to intervene in the past.”
“We have never before faced such an issue. Although, there was, or rather is, that man in India. Maybe this one will be content to simply, you know, live his life.”
The figure shook his head, he had a funny feeling about this one.
“I am not convinced. I think perhaps it is best that we nip this in the bud.”
“You mean own up to Him? He will not be happy, you realise this?”
Again the figure stared at his companion with an awkward gaze. This was a mess, what’s more, they had created it.
“We shall see. Come along the time is ticking and we still have other duties to carry out. We can come back to this.”
Opening his eyes, he could swear he heard voices. They had a familiar pitch to them that he couldn’t quite place. Time for bed. He clicked off the music centre and carefully pulled the blinds before he headed off to bed clutching his notepad. Coming out of the bathroom he looked around the room that had once been full of expensive furniture, now it contained a standard bed and a dresser. She had even taken the bedside tables and lamps, still, it was warm and comfortable.
He propped himself up against the pillows, he loved his pillows.
Martha had always complained that he had far too many on the bed making it impossible for her to get a good night sleep without being accosted by the mountain of cushions every time she turned over. Now at least, he could have as many as he wanted.
Brian flicked through the names, a few he recognised from the papers and T.V. Only a few mind you. The others were as unrecognisable to him as the pages in the phone book. The pattern was emerging in the list as he read them over and again. Some names were closely situated to others geographically. Did this mean something?
He began rewriting them, this time he grouped them by locality. What did it all mean? He closed his eyes as he replayed the dream he thought he had experienced on the day of the accident. The voices came to him like a flash of lightning, that’s where he had heard them! The same sounds he heard earlier as he lay dozing. Was there someone in the house maybe? Don’t be ridiculous, he told himself.
They were arguing about what he had said, wanting him to be exact in his wording when they questioned him, very insistent on that as he could recall. Then what? He repeated what he had said and woke up in the hospital. He began scribbling his crazy sounding thoughts frantically until he eventually laid the pencil down. Reading what he had written he laughed to himself.
“They will lock you up for sure.” He howled into the quiet night.
He would do some more investigating tomorrow, it had been a long day and he was tired, his injury was throbbing as he lay down and pulled the covers over himself.
“Listen, pal, you’ve had a serious accident, not to mention barely escaping death so it’s natural you will have weird dreams and thoughts. Do you want to talk about them?”
Brian did not, not in detail at any rate.
“No, if you think it’s normal I’ll go with that. Just forget I mentioned it. Sorry, I never made that drink the other week.”
Neil laughed, he was a funny man.
“I hardly think what happened to you was your way of getting out of a drink with me. Loosen up man, we are having a drink now aren’t we? So, Linda met the new partner. Not a fan, I have to say.”
“No? Any reason?”
Neil gulped down on his beer, his grin causing the alcohol to drip down his chin.
“Too pushy, she said, asking too many questions. You know my Linda, she’s the private sort. She said it was what she imagined being grilled in the witness box must be like.”
Brian relaxed a little, this made him snigger. He knew Linda from old and she wasn’t the kind of woman that took to being interrogated.
“Did she have to swear on the bible before she gave her answers?” The 2 men roared at the comment.
“Oh, hell that hurts.” Holding his side, Brian grimaced as the pain seared across his stomach.
“Note to self, do not make the stiff laugh.”
“Less of the stiff if you don’t mind. Speaking of which, I have a solicitor coming by tomorrow to go over the claim. They are not going to contest it, so I should have a bank balance that will finally be back to being in the black for the first time since the separation. I’m tempted to put it into a different one, what do you think?”
Neil put his serious face on, he knew far too well the cost of divorce.
“Tell her nothing, get it in an off-shore account. My lips are sealed, plus she has taken everything you had, this is yours.”
It was strange to be sitting here, like old times without the wives. They had been friends a long time and Brian was well aware that he had let things slide since the separation and subsequent divorce. He naturally assumed that Linda and Martha had a strong bond and thus, there would be no room in their small circle for him. It was good to hear that Linda was not impressed with his stand-in, he couldn’t abide awkward situations and there was bound to be many to come. Linda and Neil had children that were growing up fast, there would be weddings, christenings, and such like in the not so distant future. Yes, this news suited him wonderfully.
“Do you want me to come round to your place as a witness when the stiff comes?” Neil interrupted his musings.
“If you’re not busy, he’s coming over around 11, I would be grateful for your thoughts.”
“No problem pal, I’ll drop the rugrats off at school and come straight there. Can’t wait for Tyrone to get his car back, I feel like the oldest parent when I look at the Mom’s congregating around the drop-off point. They get younger, I swear they do.”
“None take your fancy?” laughed Brian.
“It’s not that they don’t, I wouldn’t have the energy! My Linda makes sure of that.” The 2 men carried on talking and drinking for a good while until Neil caught the time on his watch.
“Got to go buddy, you’re sure you won’t come by for something to eat? We’re having Mexican.”
“Thanks for the offer, I doubt my stomach could withstand the onslaught of your spices just yet. See you tomorrow?”
“You sure will, adios amigo.” He waved behind his head as he left the bar. Brian finished his drink and he too headed outside. The sun was beginning to set, it looked beautiful in all its glorious orange colours.