Part I The Nurse
2 Me and You
3 All Men are Bastards
4 Prison Life
5 Daring Do
6 Final Proof
7 The Son
8 From Nothing
9 The Battle of the Bridge
Control is a fascinating concept. It can come on a plate served with a side dish of fear or pleasure. Fear if someone or something is in control in not a nice way, a threat in other words. Pleasure if one is in control of a machine that either gives pleasure or suits a purpose. However, this is a story about control both on the individual scale and the universal scale of nature. After all, mother Nature is the ultimate control freak. She holds a life and death fate over millions at any one time in such a way that the individual totally ceases to have any relevance. Mother Nature, fortunately, tends to signal her intentions by starting small and working up to something much bigger.
So it was on a dull cold day in late December that Eva Songster found herself facing a crisis in which she had very little control. A single flake of snow drifted aimlessly across her windscreen as she sat motionless in her car staring at the little screen on her phone.
“Two hours!” she exclaimed aloud to the space around her. This was the time the voice on the phone had said it would take to get someone to her. Yet the line had been so bad she wondered if they had got her position right , did they realise she was a female alone on a country lane with the day morphing quickly to night? Did they realise, as she did , that she was screwed?
In frustration she slammed her fist on the steering wheel, turned the key in the ignition one last time confirming a black darkness where there should have been lights. Quickly, she got hold of herself for she was a nurse use to the uncertainty of life, knowing full well panic very rarely served anyone well. Yet there was still an ember of fury glowing deep inside her that only needed a breeze to set her off.
In this over-populated world, in this over –crowded island , she reasoned there had to be people close at hand. People who would help. Anything was better than freezing in this useless jacket of steel called a car.
Stepping out of the car she took stock of her position in more ways than one. Firstly, her clothing: a simple quilted jacket with deep pockets but no hood. Beneath that her nurses uniform of thin cotton down to her knees. This she decided was not good, but she had sensible stout flat shoes and quite thick black tights. “What I would give for a hat?” she thought “And why was all her of her best uniform in the laundry?” She answered herself, “Because I hate f..ing laundry.”
Next she peered around her environment . Parked in the opening to a farmer’s field which was barred by a stout metal gate she decided to climb the gate. The metal was freezing to her touch so she spent little time perched on its top bar. On the other side of the road was a thick conifer wood, of plantation size as far as she could see. The open field beyond the gate was sterile with short grass. In the distance the road meandered along a contour of greyness. Climbing to the right some way off there appeared, by its dark shade of gun metal, to be a building. At least she thought she could make out a chimney stack and that, in her book, meant a building. Everything close at hand was a dull drained colour of grey , devoid of nearly all shadow, as the winter twilight told her she had to make a decision quick.
“Decision made” she announced to her defunct car, removing her purse and her phone before setting off with some purpose in the direction of the chimney stack. Brushing off some errant flakes of snow off her sleeve, she thrust her hands into the deep pockets, bent her body into an ice cold wind, and strode out with great purpose.
Like most objects set in a landscape the chimney stack appeared to get no closer it being further away than she could have guessed. Checking her watch she calculated she had been walking for 30 minutes, with no vehicle passing in either direction. From that she reasoned she had covered over a mile. Aged 25 with strong thighs and an energetic lifestyle she thought herself in peak physical condition. However, with the wicked cold wind, the undulating road and the depression of fading light, she felt her energy draining away. Then , as she rounded a sharp bend she saw an opening on her right and above , on a hill, against the darkest of skies , the unmistakable silhouette of a large farmhouse. The opening led her onto a rough potholed track which climbed steadily towards her goal.
This track did not run straight but doodled its way up the hill causing her to curse under her breath as it turned this way and that. Eventually, within striking distance of the building she could get her first impression of the layout and prospect of the building. Something was wrong. There were no vehicles, no animals, no light and no life. With the aid of the very last ray of light from the dying day she could make out boarding on some of the windows. This farmhouse was dead.
Eva raised her face to heaven and let out a primordial scream of despair which the easterly wind snatched from her making it its own. Turning she stood like a black marble statue staring at the valley below, the different shades of blackness in all directions. More snow flakes, like flies round the eyes of a dead animal, began to mock her.
There was light, a weak pathetic yellow glow, beneath her and some way along the road she had been on. A waterfall of hope and glee surged through her and she began to half run, half stumble down the track. She fell once, forcing her to calm herself and take stock. The light was still there but now she had grazed her leg well above the knee. Her medical bag was in the car. Time to give her immune system a work out she decided and pressed on , this time using her phone to give her some light even if meant running the battery down.
Once she had regained the road she walked quickly to her right even though the light could no longer be seen. After sometime the road turned to the left and dipped significantly. At the bottom of this slope it turned right but in the bowl of the curve was large dark vehicle parked off the road near the conifer wood. Quickening her pace Eva closed in on it at first thinking it a large van, then as the high roof came into shape in the darkness she thought a horse transport. Given the rural nature of this place she thought this highly likely but could offer no explanation as to why it was parked here.
It was situated off the road on rough ground, obviously used by heavy trucks of some kind for the ground was rough and riveted with frozen tyre tracks. Close up it became clear it was a camper van, the light was coming from a chink in the driver’s window were a curtain had been drawn carelessly. The large rear window had been blacked-out completely.
A note of caution sounded in her brain causing her to inspect the camper more closely. It was a large square solid structure with a high roof. Tacking round to the passenger’s side she found the black out on the front window but none on the passenger door window, so she peered in. The last thing she wanted was several men, camped for the night and she alone. Behind her the forest of black trees were beginning to groan under the strain of a rising wind, while a serious collection of snowflakes swirled around her. This indeed was a dark and threatening place.
Inside she could see the driver’s controls and various lights on the dash board, which curiously were on the passenger’s side. Two large executive bucket seats occupied the front. Further back she could make out a cooker, small fridge and cupboards. On the extreme limits of her vision she could make out a figure bent over a small table working on some device. The device was strange, a glass ball with what looked like miniature circuit boards being inserted into the glass.
The figure itself was grey of hair, with knurled hands but by all accounts dexterous for they moved quickly with some precision over the ball. Seeing no one else and realising she was shivering uncontrollably with cold, Eva knocked firmly on the door and stepped back.
After what seemed like an age the door opened slowly outwards. A small aged woman, no more than 5ft 4inches tall, clad in a huge brown jumper that appeared two sizes too big and black trousers, stood staring down at her. Her face was walnut in colour and with as many contours. By appearance she was in her seventies.
“What the fuck do you want?” she demanded in the most high pitched squeal Eve had ever heard. Having worked in casualty in her training she was use to foul language but not from little old ladies. Taken aback she stammered. ” my car has broken down, I need help.” She held out her hands palms upwards in a pleading gesture begging for sympathy and to show she had no weapon. The little old lady did, however have something in her hands and it was pointed at Eva. It was not a gun for it resembled a stout stick. Yet it caste a red beam of light that settled on Eva just below her throat.
In a voice that was more moderated the old woman commanded, “Open your jacket.”
Eva , despite shivering like a spinneret obeyed. The woman looked her up and down then lowered her stick saying, “You have breasts, a nurse I take it, human?” Was this a question. At the back of her brain Eva process this as a strange meeting, a strange question yet the cold she felt was intense and very real. Withdrawing into the bowels of the mobile home the old women waved her in.
“Come in child, she said, “I will not eat you.”