Devil on Sea

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Afternoon Tea with Mum and Dad

Chapter 19
Afternoon Tea with Mum and Dad

Alan didn’t know where to go. He wandered down the high street aimlessly, occasionally glancing over his shoulder to make sure there were no priests or archbishops following him. The streets were quiet but in his fearful distracted state he still managed to occasionally bump into a fellow pedestrian, mumbling an apology when ever he did so.

‘Wanna buy an iPhone?’ A voice said, breaking through Alan's stupor. He looked up to see a pimpled-faced teenager holding up what appeared to be a thin black brick.

‘Excuse me?’ Alan asked, temporarily forgetting about being followed.

‘I asked if you wanna buy an iPhone, mate. Every Tom, Dick and Harry has one.’ The teenager said thrusting the phone further into Alan’s face.

'Yeah, mostly Dicks. Look, leave me alone kid.’ Alan said in annoyance, waving the boy away. The teenager looked annoyed but turned to leave. Another teenager joined from behind Alan and they began to walk quickly away.

Something's not right. Alan thought, grabbing his right buttock and realising his wallet was no longer there.

‘Oi! My wallet!’ The teenagers set off running at the outburst, laughing, before the one of them stopped and turned.

‘There’s fuck all in it!’ He shouted and threw the wallet at Alan with surprisingly good aim, catching him in the crotch. They ran off round the corner leaving Alan to gingerly catch his breath, and hold his damaged genitals. He stooped to pick up the open wallet and the note from Mary fell out.

Mary. The letter! Alan thought with dread. He went to reach inside his jacket pocket before realising he’d left it at the priest’s house and that he was now wearing a jumper. Depression began to set in before he joyously remembered it was addressed to her parent’s house. He looked for the name of the street he was on and found a street sign between two properties that caught his attention. The first was a combined nursery and funeral directors called “They All Die Eventually” and the other a karate school for kids called “Happy Slappers”.

Jeez, how long was I gone for again? Alan thought dryly, horrified at the names. He focused his eyes back on the street name and his heart rate skipped a beat when he realised he’d been here before,

I'm only a few streets away! Putting his wallet back in its rightful place, he set off at a brisk pace. As streets passed, and he neared his destination, he began to trot, then jog, and finally sprint. All the time his face was beaming and his mind focusing on memories of Mary. He never noticed the black cab drive past him for if he had he’d have tried to flag it down. But the running did manage to flag down a memory, whilst at the same time helping him forget the torturous ordeals he’d just gone through.

It was whilst running that Alan had first bumped into Mary. He was late for class, again, and as he rounded the corner she was there. His first glimpse of her was not a flattering one but it was a flattening one. Shock registered across her face, reminding Alan of a blow up sex doll, and then she tottered backwards before falling and landing heavily on her back.

‘Shit! Sorry!’ Alan said, offering her a hand to help her up. ‘I didn’t see you there. Are you okay?’ Mary reluctantly took his hand before dusting herself down.

‘That’s okay. It was probably my fault.’ She confessed with a mumble, Alan was shocked to silence.

She’s gorgeous. He thought, momentarily dumbfounded.

‘I am really really sorry. I’m late for class you see. Again.’ Alan began as butterflies set up home in his stomach, He glanced at his watch. ‘Shit! I gotta go. I am sorry…?’ He hopped from side to side, waiting in hope for her to tell him her name.

‘Mary.’ She finally replied, looking down at her feet.

‘Mary. I’m Alan. Look, can I buy you coffee? As a way of apology?’ Both Alan and Mary blushed at the question.

‘I’d like that, yes.’

Alan found bins and the memory dissolved. He hadn’t been looking for them and like all things you don’t look for they have a way of making themselves known. He tumbled over two of them, which thankfully had already been emptied, and fell into a heap behind a small hedge. Unsteadily, he got back to his feet and righted the two bins he’d knocked down before noticing someone talking to Mary’s dad at the front door. The person was welcomed in but there was something about him that rang familiar.

Why do I recognise his greased back hair? Alan thought suspiciously as he dusted himself down, removing a banana peel that clung to him like an overly attached child in a supermarket, before walking the remaining distance to the front door. He raised his hand to knock and froze.

How is this going to play out? “Hi Jack and Joan, remember me? I’m back from the dead and I was just wondering, can I talk to my wife” Doubt settled in about what to do next and not being blessed with thinking on his feet, Alan looked for somewhere to sit. Instead, he decided to do a bit of reconnaissance first. Stalking around the side of the house he heard voices coming from the conservatory so made his way towards the back garden. Ducking under all the windows he passed, he stalked into the back garden and crawled to crouch underneath an open window of the conservatory, mud soiling his stolen clothes. He heard three voices, two of which he recognised as Jack and Joan’s, and a third that pulled at the back of his mind. He risked a quick peek and saw Jack, facing the window, the back of Joan as she left the room, and the profile of a man he still didn’t recognise although he seemed even more familiar. He was wearing a sharp suit, had greased back hair, and an almost ratty look to him. The man turned to glance out of the window and Alan dropped to the floor like a stone. His eyes met eight more of a spider and he stifled a scream. He hated spiders, another thing the devil had eventually learnt and then used to torture him. His skin tingled now just thinking about the massage he’d been forced to endure from a giant tarantula. A tarantula that constantly asked him how his day way and complained about how difficult it was to find pants that fit. Alan tried to focus back on the conversation going on in the room behind him, even as the spider scuttled up his arm and towards his ear; almost as if to whisper sweet nothings,

or to make a nest.

‘I find her case very intriguing, if nothing else. I think, erm, I may even be able to help her regain some semblance of normality.’

‘How did you say you heard about our daughter...?’ That was Jack speaking; Alan recognised his quaint way of making daughter sound like he was asking someone to hold a door open for him, “Can you hold the door, ta?”

‘Sid. And I didn't. Your daughter is quite famous within the profession. Her case is, erm, quite severe.’ Alan was concerned by the pauses this doctor was taking,

He sounds overly nervous.

‘Thank you. This is nice tea.’ The man continued.

‘But why come to us? Can't you just go through the channels at the hospital?’ Joan asked; Alan could tell it was Joan by her quaint way of sounding like the only woman in the room.

‘Ahh. Well, that's the thing.’ Alan peeked up to watch Sid drink for too long from his cup of tea, before he dropped back down again, ‘My treatments are still experimental and I would need your permission to approach the hospital first. I'm also not, erm, I’m not entirely sure what hospital she's currently at either. I only have access, er, to an old file. Not her current one.’ Silence followed and Alan risked another peek; using the movement as an excuse to shake free the spider, which quickly disappeared amongst the flowers. Jack and Joan were talking quietly amongst themselves leaving the doctor to himself.

Why is he pulling faces as if he’s still talking? Or as if he was sucking on a lemon? Alan noticed his eyes change colour to red momentarily. Something about those red eyes made his skin prickle with heat but before he could think on it further the man flicked his eyes in Alan's direction and he ducked again. His eyes locked on to the same eight as before, before the spider turned and scurried away.

‘Okay, Sid, we're willing to try. But what does this new treatment involve?’ Silence greeted their question from the doctor.

‘Erm. My work? What does it involve? Good question. Well, it’s not that easy to describe. Er, it's a revolutionary treatment that involves special, ah, techniques.’

‘Which are? Are they invasive or likely to cause Mary any harm or distress?’ Alan recognised the annoyance in Jack’s tone. It was the same tone he'd used when Alan struggled to cut the Christmas turkey one year, or whilst being accident prone in shifting furniture. It was the tone of a man who couldn’t understand why not every man was good at DIY. Silence continued to follow Jack’s question.

‘Look, Dr. ?’

‘Mortimor. But please, call me Sid. The techniques involve memory alteration. Or more specifically, memory alleviation. I'm going to attempt to hide the memories that are causing your daughter to fragment her personality. A fragmenting she uses as a way to deal with the negative memories she has gained throughout her life. I will bring her memories to the forefront, through gentle probing, then, using visual stimulations, I will help her be able to mask those memories so as to never visit them again.’ Alan was stunned to silence.

Where did that sudden confidence come from? And he intends to change who Mary is? Remove her memories? Wait, Mary is schizophrenic?’ Alan was deeply concerned by this chain of events. He knew Mary occasionally heard voices and was seeing a therapist - he’d caught her talking to herself on more than one occasion - but never had there been discussion of schizophrenia.

‘Excuse us, Sid. We'd like another moment to discuss this.’ Jack requested. Alan peeked over the window sill again to see them leave the room, leaving Sid alone.

‘Where the Hell did you pull that from?’ Alan was taken aback by the doctor's outburst,

‘I followed Mary's case at first,' he continued but in a slightly different, self assured, tone, 'once Alan was in my care. I was hoping I could use it in some way but nothing suitable became available and as I said before, gossip is dated down there. I just wish I'd pursued her case further; so we wouldn't waste more time tracking her down and be sat here drinking this hideous drink. What the fuck is it?’

Does he mean me? Who is this guy and why is he talking to himself? Alan pondered whilst keeping an eye out in case the spider returned, with friends.

‘It's green tea. And shush, they're coming back.’ Alan ducked back down.

‘Okay, Dr. Mortimor. I mean, Sid. We'll allow you access, if that's what you want. Do you have papers for us to read and sign?’ Jack spoke on behalf of them both, as he always did.

‘Ah, wonderful. Erm, no I don't. I wasn't expecting... It doesn't matter. If you can let me know which institute she is as I can get the papers drawn up and sent to you. I'd need to clear it with the hospital too you see.’

‘Okay. She's at Blackwood Lodge. It's a private hospital not far from here, do you know where it is?’ Silence followed Jack’s question. ‘It’s on Twelve Yards Road.’ More silence before an annoyed, ‘look do you need me to get you a map?’

‘No, thank you. I'm sure I'll be able to check the database and request a visit. Thank you both, you've been a great help. Thanks again for the lovely tea.’ They began to make their goodbyes and Alan listened for them to walk out of the conservatory. He felt lost. His love of his life was in a mental institute and by the sounds of it they were going to attempt to remove her memories;

Memories that could include me… NO! Alan thought stubbornly, I will not lose her again! Alan clambered to his feet, steely resolve building inside. I will beat this doctor to Mary; I will rescue her from her current predicament. I will... He didn't know what he would do after that. Being dead will probably make any visiting paper work pretty awkward for me. Whilst pondering what he could do after he stormed into the hospital, like a white knight atop a glowing steed, he absently watched a black speck sway back and forth in front of his eyes. This constant distraction eventually took his focus and he adjusted his eyes, bringing eight eyes and legs into horrid focus. The spider was back and dangling from a thread attached to Alan’s hair. Screaming like a teenage girl watching her first horror film, Alan swung an arm at the spider and knocked it to the ground. Quickly realised that his screaming might have drawn attention, Alan took off across the back garden and over the fence; part in fear of his parents-in-law discovering him, but mostly in fear of the spider which appeared to be stalking him. This time he managed to make it over the fence without taking it with him, as he continued to run to a nearby hedge for cover.

Once he'd stopped fleeing in fear Alan took in the scenery around him, panting with hands on knees and trying to regain his bearings. Looking south Alan realised that Trafford Centre was nearby and that that’s probably the best place to head to find a map.

That and my clothes are looking extremely worn, and they’re probably full of splinters, he thought absently brushing twigs off his shoulder, and probably more spiders. He set off walking, whilst checking a wallet he knew to be empty. Opening it with no expectations Alan saw there was over two hundred pounds, and his eyes and mouth widened.

Did Marshall really give me that much? And how did those two scrotes miss that much money? Alan decided against questioning his good fortune and to spend it all on getting a new suit, or at least a map and pants and jacket. One short walk across a river later he found himself at the entrance to the Trafford Centre - a large shopping centre - and quickly made his way to the nearest John Lewis store.

Alan quick paced through the almost empty store until he finally found the suit rack near the back, and began rooting through the suits on display; in a hurry to find a suit quickly so he could try and get to Mary before the doctor. So far every single one had been at least twice the price of the money he had on him and it looked like he was slowly making his way to the more expensive suits, too. He was getting giddy at the chance to see Mary again, whilst also thinking of how to convince the doctors on staff to let him see her, and many of the suits he was picking up and putting down without giving them so much as a glance.

‘Can I help you sir?’ Alan let go of the suit he was holding in shock.

Are all shop assistants specially trained to approach you at the moment you least expected them to. He thought to himself as his heart beat began to slow.

‘Yes, I’m looking for a new suit,’ Alan said nervously, before regaining some composure and the suit from the floor, ‘well, pants and jacket at least. Can you recommend anything for about £150? And do you sell maps?’ The assistant laughed sweetly at his last question.

‘We do, by the front desk. But there is a taxi rank just outside. And we certainly do have suits in that range, sir. If you’d just like to follow me.’ Which Alan did, as she headed towards the dearer section of the store. The shop assistant’s voice reminded Alan of a time he couldn’t quite put his finger on.

And why didn't I think of getting a taxi before? He thought, mentally slapping his lack of imagination.

‘It’s not as hot up here, is it sir?’ Alan froze with fear as memories of Hell bubbled to the forefront of his mind.

How does she know? He thought, is that where I know her voice from?

‘Come again?’ Alan asked instead, trying to hide the concern in his voice. The woman turned and smiled giving Alan a glimpse of her name tag; “Angela”

‘Up north. Your accent, it is southern?’ Alan breathed a deep sigh of relief at her question.

‘Yes, yes. Although I did live locally for a few years, but I am from Brighton originally.’ The shop assistant smiled the smile of someone clearly not interested and just doing their job, before holding up a jacket and pants.

‘These are on offer today, sir. A steal at £120, if I do say so myself.’ Alan took the hanger off Angela,

My size too! There also appeared to be no other sizes on the rack either, or other suits for that matter.

‘These look great, thanks. Where are your changing rooms?’ Alan asked. Angela responded by pointing Alan towards the back of the counters, where she left him as he went to try on the suit.

Alan fell in love with the suit the moment he put it on; a deep blue that seemed deeper than the ocean, and it came with gold plated cuff links.

I've never worn a snugger fitting suit in my life! And is this silk lining? Double checking the price really was only £120 Alan practically burst out of the changing rooms to pay for them. Angela stood waiting to serve him before she popped the receipt in the bag along with the suit.

‘Have a good day, sir.’ Angela said, smiling the smile of a bored employee.

‘You too.’ Alan replied and meaning it, willing to pass on some of his good fortune to Angela.

‘Thank you, see you again soon, Alan.’ Alan was so pleased with his bargain that the fact Angela had said his name didn’t register until he had left the store. Walking back in he found it busier that it had been a moment ago, and none of the staff at the tills were Angela. A small amount of fear began to rain on what had momentarily been a joyous parade.

Outside the Trafford Centre Alan walked towards the taxi rank Angela had suggested to him. A large driver was stood outside his cab, leaning against the door and eating a burger that was spilling out of its bun. By the looks of the bulging paper bag he was carrying this burger wasn’t the only one either. He wore a black tee shirt with writing across his ample chest which read, “I’m not fat, I’m just easy to see”.

Actually, Sherlock, you’re both. Alan thought in response but asked,

‘Are you on?’ The driver, much to Alan’s disgust, stuffed the rest of the burger into his mouth and nodded as he chewed noisily. Alan climbed in, losing his footing when the cab shook as the cabbie sat down in the front seat.

‘Where to?’ The driver, who still hadn’t finished the burger, asked as he partially sprayed bread and minced meat across the windscreen. He then reached into the bag for another cheese burger.

‘Blackwood Lodge? It’s on Twelve Yard Road, I believe.’ Alan replied, already regretting climbing into this cab. There was a discarded pizza box on the floor and despite being closed, mould had fought its way through the roof.

‘Yeah, I know it. So what crazy family member have you got locked away in there?’ The driver asked, bringing Alan’s disgusted attention back to him. Alan glared at the driver via the mirror, not that the driver took any heed of the warning.

‘My wife.’ Alan said flatly. This caused the driver to laugh, more chunks of burger flying from his mouth and creating a pebble dash effect on the windscreen.

‘Conjuga, conjergo, congergal… A sex visit, eh?’ The driver asked, giving Alan a wink and not waiting for a reply before turning the meter on and setting off.

‘Mind if I change in the back?’ Alan asked, holding up the John Lewis bag. The driver shook his head.

‘Not at all mate, just don’t make a mess.’

Thankfully, for Alan, the journey was quick and uneventful. Alan paid the driver and left the stolen clothes in the bag in the back, out of the driver’s eye-line and on top of the pizza box; in the hope the mould would soon devour the priest's clothes and eventually the taxi. The driver took off without another word, leaving Alan to stare up at the foreboding building before him.

This place looks like a cheap B-Movie horror set, Alan thought as he stared up at the turreted roof and stained glass windows. He began the short crunching walk up the gravel drive towards the large dark stained oak doors. I wonder if Igor will answer when I knock. As Alan approached the front door he noticed they were affixed with a brass knocker in the shape of a bull’s face, ring through the nose. Alan knocked twice and when the door opened the illusion of a haunted house was shattered. Laminate flooring, plastic counters, and glaring fluorescent lighting greeted Alan’s eyes through the barely opened crack. Nurses and doctors rushed about the tiny chaotic scene that Alan could see through the gap. He hadn’t noticed the young nurse holding the door open and was about to step in when she said,

‘Can I help you?’

‘Yes, sorry. Didn’t see you there,’ Alan said taking a step back. ‘I’m here to visit a patient. A Mary Park?” The nurse’s eyes widened with fear.

‘Please, please. Come in.’ Alan was ushered in and the heavy door slammed shut behind him.

‘Is everything okay?’

‘Yes, yes. There’s been an incident but nothing that can’t be fixed. Please, follow me.’ And she set off leaving Alan no time to ask further questions. Alan followed the nurse down a corridor; nurses and guards jogging by from all directions, some with flashlights. He heard snippets of conversation as people passed, “I don’t know how” “he had it coming, I was waiting for” “only a few hours ago” “Mary’s never been that viol-”.

Mary! Alan stopped in his tracks.

‘What’s happened to Mary?’ He demanded. The nurse he was following turned back,

‘Please, follow me. I’ll explain everything.’

‘What’s happened with Mary, tell me now?’

The nurse sighed, ‘She’s, er, temporarily gone missing. Look, it’s really not my place, if you’d please follow me…’

‘Missing? How has she gone missing?’ Alan fretted, thinking back to the conversation he’d overheard at Mary’s parents.

Has the doctor taken her already? I thought he needed to get permission first!

‘She was seeing the dean. Things, things got out of hand. Look, please. Follow me and I promise everything will be explained.’ She pleaded again before starting back down the corridor. Alan, dumbfounded with shock, followed the nurse into a side room. She gestured to a chair and Alan sat, mind racing.

‘The dean will be with you shortly.’ And with that she promptly left, leaving Alan alone with his thoughts.

The seconds ticked through into minutes and Alan began to fidget.

I can’t just sit here and wait, Mary is missing! I should be out looking for her. Yet despite the thoughts of actions and urgency he felt helpless, lost, and alone. He reached into his jacket pocket for a handkerchief before realising the jacket didn’t come with one. As he removed his hand he did feel something cold and metallic brush against his fingertips. Gripping the object, he pulled it out and saw that it was a compass. Clicking the latch he opened the top and was struck by the beauty of the face, but something seemed odd. Instead of north, east, south, and west there were no markings around the circumference. There were, however, two arrows: one white with the letter M stamped in gold, the other red with the letter L stamped in black. There were also two windows of numbers that reminded Alan of the date window on expensive old fashioned watches. Above one window was an M, the other an L. As he stared at the compass the number under M flicked up to a white 3, whilst the L flicked down to a red 0. Something about the zero made him itch all over. Not knowing what the device was, and fearing the instructions were likely in Chinese, he slipped it back into his top pocket. He did, however, decide he shouldn’t continue to stick around.

If Mary has escaped I really should be out there looking for her, not in here looking at Chinese compasses.

He opened the door and peered down the corridor, keeping an eye out for the nurse who had brought him here. She was walking towards him with someone else,

Oh great, she’s bringing the dean.

‘No, you can’t see her, doctor. She’s escaped, I’m afraid. Attacked one of our own, too. One of her family members is here at the moment.’ The nurse’s voiced carried as she gestured towards Alan. The man she was with looked at him and as they locked eyes Alan saw the doctor’s eyes glow red.

Him! From before. Alan thought as he watched a flicker of a smile dance upon the doctor’s lips, causing Alan to slam the door shut. Seeing a key in the lock he turned it and was satisfied to hear a loud and heavy clunk. For extra safety he wedged the chair under the door handle, too. Alan didn’t know why the doctor scared him so much but he knew he didn’t want to stick around and find out. He scanned the room for a way out and saw two lead lined windows. Alan pushed them open but they caught on a latch, leaving a gap not big enough for him to squeeze through. Looking at the latch he saw a new shiny padlock and turned to look for a key. The door handle moved, then shook forcefully when whoever was turning it realised the door was locked.

‘Alaaaan. Open up, it’s meeee.’ At the sound of the voice Alan was convinced it was the ratty man from Mary’s parent’s house. A shiver shot through his spine and desperation began to set in. Alan looked for something to break the window with and saw a paper weight on the dean’s desk. A see through globe with the words “You don’t have to be mad to work here” enlarged within the middle. He picked up the globe and smashed the glass of the window with it, the lead hatching still holding the shards together. Heavy thuds emanated from the door and the chair clattered to the floor. Alan smashed the glass along the edge of the window and, with a feeling of relief, watched the window fall from the frame.

‘You don’t escape from me twice you little shit!’ Came an enraged shout from the other side of the door.

Watch me! Alan thought, unsure as to why he felt he’d escaped from this man before, then jumped out of the window; dropping into the garden below. He set off running into the fields which quickly gave way to trees and then a small dense wood. He heard no-one chasing him but ran on regardless,

Thanks for the cardio, archbishop, he thought in sarcasm as he burst out of the trees. He finally stopped to rest against a hedgerow, the wood he had run through now far in the distance behind him. Seeing he still had the paper weight in his hand, and noticing a dried red stain on the glass, he threw it to one side. He dug out the compass like device from before and saw that the number under L had changed to a 1 but the number under M was now up to 4, with both arrows pointing in opposite directions. He checked his other pockets for items or instructions and came up empty. He put the device back in his pocket, pushed through the hedge, and set off walking along a country lane; checking over his shoulder occasionally to make sure he wasn’t being followed.

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