18 Aug 2013
The Problem with Death: Chapter 7 (Caroline)
I reached out a hand. Nothing, but…nothing. No warmth, no cold. No smells. Nothing. By this point was starting to panic.
‘Hello?’ I shouted into the darkness. Except there was no sound. ‘Hello!’ I shouted again. I couldn’t even hear myself.
‘HELLLLLOOOOOO!!!!’ I screamed. Finally I could hear my voice.
My heart was pounding faster and faster.
‘Is there anybody there?’ My voice was still faint, but getting louder and louder now.
I suddenly got the impression that there was something right behind me and I whirled around on my heels. It was a curious, white door. An ordinary door with a brass door knob.
I reached out my hand and touched the knob. It was cool and tingled with power.
‘Open it…’ I heard a voice say in the darkness.
Without thinking I turned the knob and the door swung open.
I was now standing in the living room of my flat back in Thornsby. I frowned as I stepped into the room. There was another noise behind me and I turned again. The door I had just come through had gone.
Everything seemed normal. The TV was on showing the local news station, the curtains were drawn and I could see the glow of the orange street light outside the window. A pile of magazines were stacked up on the glass coffee table in front of the sofa and a steaming hot cup of tea was on the side table.
I was so exhausted and went over to the sofa, falling onto the soft cushions and grabbing the tea and closing my eyes.
‘Feeling at home?’ came a voice.
I opened my eyes and sat there on the sofa were my parents.
‘What are you doing here?’ I asked. I hadn’t seen them for a long, long time.
My Dad tutted as he slurped on his tea.
My Mum looked sad and looked at me with sympathetic eyes.
‘Would you like to play a game?’ asked my Dad.
‘What kind of game?’ I asked, frowning, and not really comprehending why this was all so bizarre.
‘We call it “What Do You Know”,’ smiled my Mum.
‘What do I have to do? Do we need dice?’
My Dad laughed as he drained the last of his tea. ‘Stupid girl!’
‘Tony!’ scolded my Mother, clearly annoyed at my Dad.
I thought for a moment. This was what my Dad was always like. Even when I was at school. He never used to encourage me. It was almost like he couldn’t be bothered to waste time thinking about me.
‘How do we play the game?’ I asked.
My Mum smiled. ‘There is a lot that you don’t know about yourself. But there is also a lot that you do know about yourself.’
‘The game,’ continued my Dad, ‘is to piece together what you do know and try to come up with some answers.’
‘But you know more about me than I do,’ I said, getting frustrated at the cryptic-ness of it all.
‘But we’re just figments of your imagination,’ said Dad. ‘We only know what you know.’
‘Okay,’ I said, ‘so you are kind of like the deep-thinking inner workings of my mind, yeah?’
They both smiled. I knew I had hit the jack point.
‘So where do we start?’ I asked.
My Dad clicked his fingers and suddenly I was standing on a beach. I was five years old, in a little swimming costume and holding a bucket and spade. My parents were a few metres away talking to a serious looking woman in a suit. This was the second time this had come back to me. The first time I had remembered this particular memory was when we were on the Dream Path back on Theen. Such a long time ago now.
‘I don’t understand,’ I said, shocked at the young voice that came out of me.
‘What do you know?’ came my Dad’s disembodied voice from somewhere up above.
I listened intently to the conversation. The officious looking woman was asking why my parents hadn’t allowed the regular health checks to be performed on me as a baby. My Mum was telling her that she didn’t believe in them.
‘Seems perfectly plausible to me,’ my young voice said to the disembodied voice.
‘But why don’t I believe in them?’ asked my Mum’s disembodied voice.
I thought for a moment. My parents were incredibly protective over me. Although my Dad didn’t seem to give two hoots about me, even he was protective over me. They were overbearing at times.
‘I have special powers,’ was all I could say.
‘Exactly,’ said Dad. ‘But is that the only reason?’
I thought about this. I obviously had special powers that hadn’t manifested themselves at such a young age, and my parents clearly knew about them. That’s why they were so protective of me. But I didn’t quite know what my Dad was getting at.
‘Think,’ said Dad. ‘You know that it’s not the only reason.’
‘I have no idea,’ I said, feeling a little angry at his ghostly voice. ‘Give me a clue.’
‘We can’t give you any clues,’ said Mum.
The air shimmered and I was sitting in an old fashioned room. I was around ten years old and I instantly recognised this place. The flowery wallpaper, the white cotton doily’s dotted around and the familiar smell of pot pourri. This was my grandma’s house. She was talking to my parents and I was busy playing on my Sega Gamegear.
‘Caroline, love,’ came my Grandma’s kindly voice (God, I missed that voice).
‘Caroline,’ said my Dad, ‘your Gran’s speaking to you.’
I looked up from the Gamegear and smiled. She was hobbling over to me, something in her hand. She held it out to me. It was a silver cross attached to a necklace. It glinted as she held it up to my face.
‘What is it, Grandma?’ I asked.
‘It was mine. I want you to have it.’
Her voice lowered to a whisper. ‘It’ll protect you.’
‘What from?’ I asked, my voice also lowering to a hush.
‘Mum,’ came my own Mum’s voice. ‘I don’t think Caroline needs that.’
‘It’s okay Mum,’ I said.
‘No,’ said my Mum, getting up from beside Dad and crossing over to my Grandma. ‘I don’t think she needs it.’
‘She does,’ said my Grandma, looking Mum hard in the face.
‘She doesn’t need religious rubbish,’ snapped Mum. ‘We’ve talked about this before, Mum. She has us to protect her.’
‘Protect me from what?’ I asked.
‘That’s enough,’ came my Dad’s voice, as he picked up the local paper. ‘We’ll have no more of it.’
My Grandma shot Dad an angry look and then patted me on the head. ‘You’ll be alright love. Just be careful.’
Everything froze and the voices of Mum and Dad came again from somewhere near the ceiling.
‘What are we protecting you from?’ said Mum.
‘What is your Grandma afraid of?’ said Dad.
‘The ghosts. The Apparites,’ I said. ‘Did you know about them?’
They both laughed.
‘No. You didn’t know about them,’ I said. ‘But you were scared of something. You always knew that there was something out there that may try and get me. You just didn’t know what it was.’
The air shimmered again and I was lying on my bed. I only half remembered this. I had been ill with the flu or something. The whole memory of that time was a blur. It was almost as though I had forgotten. But I’m sure I wasn’t that ill.
I had heard voices downstairs. My Mum’s and two others. One male, one female. The male had been talking more than the female.
I had fallen asleep listening to the radio on my walkman and the batteries had run out. I had gotten out of bed, put in some new batteries, flicked the station on and headed downstairs to see who the people were. “It’s Like That” by Run DMC had just started on Town FM as I walked into the living room.
Then there was a searing pain in my forehead and…nothing.
The image of the living room had frozen. My Mum was standing there looking shocked. The other two figures were in shadow. I couldn’t make out their faces or anything about them, no matter how hard I tried.
‘Who are they?’ I asked.
The disembodied voices appeared. ‘Who do you think?’ said Mum.
‘I don’t know. I don’t remember this.’
‘What’s the next thing you remember?’
I thought hard. ‘I woke up in bed with a bad headache. I think. I was ill. It was bloody years ago now.’
‘And you think that is what is making you forget this?’
‘They’re just two friends of my Mum,’ I reasoned. They had always had friends coming around.
‘Then why can’t you see them?’
I half sighed, half-growled. ‘The Human brain can only remember so much. I remember my Mum’s face, obviously, but these are just two random people. That’s why I can’t remember them.’
My Dad laughed from somewhere up above. ‘Maybe you’ll see that face again one day.’
The air shimmered again.
I was getting fed up of this. I still didn’t quite know what was going on. I’m sure I had burst into flames, but I couldn’t even begin to deal with that now. I had to fathom my way through this first.
Now I was standing sitting in my living room, drinking a glass of water. Sat next to me was a dark-skinned man. Steve! It was Steve! This was only a few months before I met the Doctor. He looked concerned and was rubbing my back.
And then I remembered.
I looked down and noticed the incredibly small bulge in my tummy.
‘This was when I was pregnant,’ I said sadly.
There was a flash and it was dark. I was lying in bed and I was only half awake. I could feel Steve next to me. He was snoring loudly and I could see the blue-tinted night sky beyond the curtains. And I was sure there was a shadow standing there. Something tall…with a cloak.
I felt the panic rise up inside me. I was certain this had only been a dream. A dream I had forgotten.
The figure was shuffling closer and closer. It looked as though it was raising an arm towards me. I was panicking; hyperventilating even. And Steve had stopped snoring. The thing was almost on top of me. The air had gone cold. The thing’s hand was on my stomach. I felt it reaching inside me. Pushing it’s very fingers through my stomach, it’s ice-cold finger tips inside my body.
“Poor little Caroline!” it hissed.
I screamed in agony.
There was a flash and I was sitting in the living room again, my parents sat on the sofa.
‘I lost the baby,’ I said sadly.
‘The baby was never there,’ said Dad, no hint of emotion on his thin face.
‘It was. It was there. I was pregnant.’
‘You may have been pregnant, love,’ said Mum, ‘but that thing came for the baby. It took it away and made sure it had never even been there.’
I screwed my eyes tight and started to cry. The Apparites had come for my baby in the dead of night and taken it away. I don’t know why and I don’t know what they had done with it, but it was my baby.
And then I heard a beeping sound. A steady, rhythmic beeping like a hospital heart monitor. It was echoing in the distance but becoming clearer and clearer.
My parents were fading.
‘Don’t stop looking for the answers,’ said Mum. ‘There’s a hidden memory in there and there’s something that you’re not being told.’
My Dad looked me in the eyes. ‘Don’t trust anyone, Caroline. Don’t trust anyone at all.’
I opened my eyes. I was lying on some kind of hi-tech hospital bed. I looked all around, panicking and trying to sit up. Hands were holding me down.
‘Calm down, calm down,’ came a male voice. ‘You’re okay. Just calm down.’
I was in some sort of cavern with medical equipment and banks of computers set into the walls.
‘Where am I?’ I asked.
‘You were unconscious for some time,’ came the man’s voice.
‘Who are you?’
A pale, old-looking face with glasses and blue skin looked down at me. He smiled. ‘I’m Dr. Apok.’
‘Nice to meet you,’ I said. ‘Now what happened? I burst into flames.’
‘Yes,’ said Dr. Apok. ‘Sorry about all that.’
‘Where am I?’ I asked again.
‘Welcome to Hell, Miss Parker.’