Shine A Light on Literature
By Rebecca Stiffe
“Wait Mum, where are you going?” asks Pam dashing towards me from the kitchen, tea towel flailing behind her.
“I’m just going down to O’Hara’s to get some sausages for tea. Do you want anything, love?” I ask, throwing on my headscarf and fetching the tattered yellow umbrella from beneath the rickety stairs. It was a beautiful day, but you never know with our kind of weather. The sun is splitting the rocks one minute; pouring cats and dogs the next.
I glance up at Pam. A worrying look envelopes her face and her brow is furrowed. Her hands are arched on her hips and I know exactly what she is thinking; she’s so predictable.
“Maybe Jim should go with you, you know… just for the walk. Jim!” she calls for her husband.
“Nonsense,” I dismiss, “I may be old, but I’d like to think I’m not going senile just yet. I most certainly do not need a babysitter. Thank you very much, Jim dear, all the same.” And with that, I amble out the door without a second glance, ignoring their persistent pleas.
On the way to the butchers, I decide to take a peaceful walk along the city basin to feed the ducks. It’s always so peaceful out on the basin. I like to watch the furry grey signets dive down beneath the murky water and disappear, trying to decipher where they might resurface. They’re so unpredictable, and I love it. The water is still and quiet. The only movement is of the gentle V shaped ripples trailing behind the birds as they glide effortlessly over the surface. Closing my eyes, the only sounds to be heard are the creaking of boughs against the gentle autumn breeze, the larks chirping high up above as they soar across a cloudless sky and the soft but continuous rustling of the bushes, all intertwining to create an intricate and irrecoverable melody of nature. There’s a certain tranquillity and serenity that comes with reflecting next to the basin that I can never quite explain well enough to anyone to do it justice.
As I walk out of the park, I notice it’s beginning to get dark. The trees loom hauntingly over the scattered avenues and the gentle breeze has transformed into an eerie draught. The streets are empty and I don’t recognise where I am. Nervously, I begin down the abandoned road. From the dim of the streetlights I can just about make out a dark silhouette staggering towards me. As the light falls on his face I can see him more clearly. He has a rugged beard and oversized clothing hanging from his body. His expression is grim but his glazed eyes can’t focus on me- or anything else for that matter. Clutching my umbrella tight, I wait and anticipate what this man might do next. He stumbles and slouches onto the high fence bordering the park- now infested with unrecognisable shadows. As he mutters something to a hydrangea, I quicken my pace and side step him, aiming to put as much space between us as I can.
At the end of the street, I come to a crossroads. Completely unsure of which route to take, I analyse both and decide to veer left, primarily because it has more streetlights. I’m beyond frightened. The fear of the unknown is overwhelming in this alien place. When a car turns up the road towards me I feel like a deer caught in the headlights. I use my elbow to shield my light sensitive eyes and continue walking, not sure where I plan to end up. My heart rate quickens as the car begins to slow down towards me. I continue walking past the car. I hear car doors opening and slamming shut and footsteps following me. I try to walk faster but my old hips are acting up again and they won’t let me.
I can hear the footsteps gaining on me as they echo off the vacant boulevard. Just as my hips are about to give way, a large hand grabs my elbow and pulls me around.
“It’s alright, Rose. Relax.”
“Who are you?” I scream into the man’s face. How does he know my name? His voice is alarmingly calm.
“Just come with us, Rose, you’ll be alright.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you! Let go!” I panic as I try to pull away from him but he won’t let me go. There’s a young, thin woman crying hysterically behind him. Who are these people? What are they trying to do me?
“Call Doctor Walker, love, tell him we’re on our way,” he says to the woman as she nods and dials a number on her phone. I frantically call for help to anyone who might be around, but it’s no use. My cries echo off the emptiness that surrounds us.
“I promise you’ll be fine. Just get in the car, please,” he asks again, but he gives me no choice as he pushes me firmly into the car and gets in on the other side. Heart pumping, I begin to pound on the windows and pull at the door handle but again, it’s no use. I’m trapped. I push myself up against the door and sit as far away from the strange man as possible.
“I’m sorry, Rose. My name is Jim,” he says, his arm extended. Reluctantly I shake his hand. His voice is still calm and undisturbed. He points to the woman. “This is my wife-”
“Pam, dear,” I exclaim. “What on earth are you crying about?”