Northampton England, Wednesday June 11th 1986
The man on the gurney felt cold. There was a draught coming from somewhere, he shivered. A musty damp smell found his nostrils. What was it? He tried to open his eyes but was just too sleepy. The two voices he could hear echoed like they were in a large cave. One of them came from behind him, the other in front.
He was lying on a bed of some sort that was being pushed along an uneven floor. He was being jostled and jolted about on it, the bed frame clattered and rattled as it bumped along. It didn’t stop him drifting off to sleep again.
“… my money‘s on Lineker to score first; he’s played like one o’ the greats this season. I tell ya Everton wouldn’t be where they are now without him…”
What was going on? He tried to move his arms to pull up the blanket that was on him - he couldn’t. Was he restrained? He couldn’t move his legs either. He tried moving his feet; he could manage that okay. He seemed to be strapped down to a trolley of some sort. He wasn’t wearing his shoes or socks; where had he left those? He could feel the draught on his feet as they continued their journey. He tried to open his eyes again, but failed.
“… you don’t think Beardsley’ll do it this time?”
“Nah mate. He aint done much at all so far; Robson should have picked Goddard if he was gonna pick anyone from Newcastle.”
How long had been asleep? He was still on the trolley so probably not long. This time he was determined to open his eyes. It took everything he had in him but he managed it. The first thing he saw in the gloominess of his surroundings was the vaulted brick ceiling ten metres above him. There were dark green patches of moss on it here and there.
Where was he? Wherever it was it was very poorly lit. The only light came from grubby evenly spaced glass wall fittings he could see in his peripheral vision.
They appeared to be heading along a brick tunnel of some sort on a very gradual incline. He moved his head to the left and looked through the bars on the side of the trolley. The ground beneath them was also brick and explained the bumpy ride.
Who were these people and where were they taking him? A man was pushing the trolley from behind and another at the front left was steering. He couldn’t see anything but the rear of the man in front. He moved his head back again and stared at the ceiling. It dawned on him that not only didn’t he know where he was or who these men were, but he didn’t know who he was. How absurd! Was he that tired? Had he been drugged?
The man at the front of the gurney then spoke.
“Will you be finished in time today for the match?”
“Yeah should be. I was gutt-ed to miss the Morocco game last week; I’m sure that knob rostered me on jus’ to piss me orf.”
Nick laughed. “You didn’t miss much mate.”
“That aint the point. Just cos ‘e don’t like footy don’t…. whoa Nick, stop a minute…the guys just opened his bleedin’ eyes.”
The trolley stopped abruptly and the man laying on it closed his eyes. Why did he feel he needed to conceal his level of consciousness? He fought the sleep that threatened to wash over him to try and learn what he could from the two peculiar men with the strange accents that accompanied him.
Pete and Nick leant over the man on the trolley and stared him in the face. Nick jabbed a finger at the man’s cheek. He didn’t flinch.
“You’re imaginin’ fings Pete; he’s out cold.”
“I’m tellin’ ya Nick, ’e had his eyes open; I know what I saw.”
Nick leant in further so he was centimetres away from his face. “Nah mate; he’s dead to the world. I’ve transferred enough of these SLITE’s over the last twelve months to know. Not one of ’em ’as woke up; not one.”
“I’m telling you man, ’e ’ad his eyes open!”
“A trick o’ the light prob-ly. These grotty tunnels spook most folks out… Did I tell you about the time I was doing this with Greg ‘n’ that huge rat plopped down, right on top of the SLITE’s chest?”
“Not this week you aint,” Pete said with a grin. “I think we need to report it mate, jus’ to cover air sels,” he insisted
Nick sighed. “If it makes you ’appy.”
The journey continued. The man on the trolley tried desperately to stay awake but could feel himself slipping away.
“What does SLITE mean anyways?” Pete asked.
“D’ know Pete. We’re not supposed to ask questions. I’ve seen too many people lose their job from askin’ questions. If you wanna keep your job you keep your ‘ead down and y’ gob shut. We pick ’em up at the lift, drop ’em off at the ’ouse the other end and sign the paperwork.”
“Where-d they go then from the house?”
“Pick ’em and drop ’em off mate. That’s all you gotta worry your ‘ead about. Pickin’ em up and droppin’ ’em off.”
The man on the gurney couldn’t fight it any more. He slept.
“’Looking for a partner, someone who gets things fixed
Ask yourself this question: Do you want to be rich?
I’ve got the brains, you’ve got the looks
Let’s make lots of money
You’ve got the brawn, I’ve got the brains
Let’s make lots of money…’”
There was music now, music that he recognised. He felt slightly relieved that something was a constant at least. He opened his eyes again. He was in a proper bed now and warmer than he had been. He was under white sheets and a light blue blanket in a busy room with dozens of people and lots of other beds. He closed his eyes again in a panic. How had he got from a damp tunnel to this room?”
“ ’ ..There’s a lot of opportunities
If you know when to take them, you know?
There’s a lot of opportunities
If there aren’t, you can make them
Make or break them..’”
He opened his eyes again. He was in a hospital. What had happened to him? Had he been in an accident? Why couldn’t he remember who he was?
“’Let’s make lots of money (Oohh money)
(Let’s) you’ve got the brawn
(Make) I’ve got the brains
Let’s make lots of money (Oohh money)’”
It came to him. It was Pet Shop Boys playing their track Opportunities. He could remember some things then? Why not his name?
“’I’ve got the brains (Got the brains)
You’ve got the looks (Got the looks)
Let’s make lots of money (Oohh money)
“That was Opportunities, the great new single from Pet Shop Boys. It is just coming up to 6:30pm on Radio One; time now for the latest news and sport…”
Was anyone missing him? He couldn’t remember if he had a wife, or even what family he had.
“… Government has released the ‘Children at school and the problems related to Aids’ guide for schools in the UK...”
He closed his eyes and desperately tried to remember something…anything.
What was his name?
“… no apparent risk, on all present evidence, of transmitting the Aids virus in a school setting. Children with Aids can safely participate in all lessons including cooking, PE and music; including woodwind instruments, with all the usual hygiene and safety precautions. It is believed that there are no children with Aids in the UK at present…”
How old was he? Had his mum and dad reported him missing?
“…Gary Lineker put on a fantastic display for English fans at the Estadio Tecnológico in Monterrey by scoring a hat trick in their final Group F Match against Poland. England won the game 3-0 and qualified for the second round…”
Had anyone else been involved in the accident he must have had?
“… Simple Minds tickets went on sale this morning and sold so quickly for their concert in Milton Keynes on 21st June, that they added a second date…”
He gave up. It was too tiring. He took one last look around the ward, closed his eyes and went to sleep exhausted.
Northampton England, Friday June 13th 1986
… Analysts blame the six hundred percent increase in drug smuggling, currently flooding the Streets of the UK with Heroin, on the conservatives. The Thatcher Government have cut the equivalent of one customs officer’s job per day in what some say is continuing their obsession with reducing the size of the civil service. Since coming to power in 1979 the Tories have cut the number of civil servants by nearly three thousand.
Richard Branson has set a new eastbound transatlantic speed record, in the powerboat Virgin Atlantic Challenger II. Only last year the entrepreneur failed the same Atlantic crossing attempt which ended in disaster and an RAF helicopter rescue. This time though he smashed the thirty four year record, set by The SS United States, by two hours. In London the Champagne flowed, but it is still not certain whether the team will be able to claim the Blue Riband trophy that was awarded to the American boat in 1952.
Onto sport now and the latest Mexico ’86 World Cup news. The last two group E matches kicked off at midday today. Scotland v Uruguay in Nezahualcoyotl, and Denmark v West Germany in Queretaro. Scotland sadly leave the tournament bottom of their group after a 0-0 draw…
The man in the bed opened his eyes. He was relieved to see that he was in the same bed and on the same hospital ward that he had been in previously. How long had he been sleeping for this time? He still couldn’t remember anything. The news on the radio he had heard whilst waking up meant nothing to him either. What the hell had happened to him?
…Back to the music now on Radio One and a climber on this week’s chart, Robert Palmer’s Addicted To Love…
Once again he recognised the music playing, how was it that he could remember the words to a song but not his own name?
“Hello, nice to see you awake.”
The patient looked up to see a blonde female nurse standing by the side of his bed. She had russet hair tied back and pinned up inside the white starched nurse’s cap she wore. Her name-badge revealed her name was Kathy. She lifted his hand and took his pulse; checking the time on her watch which hung just above the breast pocket on her blue tunic.
“Where am I?” he asked, closely followed by, “Why can’t I remember anything?”
The nurse dropped his wrist back onto the bed and popped a thermometer under his tongue before he closed his mouth or could ask anything else.
“You’re in Northampton General Hospital. You’ve been in an accident but you have absolutely nothing to worry about.”
The man noticed then that he had a cannula inserted into the back of his hand with a long tube from it which led up to a bag on a stand - he was receiving some sort of fluid intravenously.
The nurse removed the glass thermometer and glanced at the reading. “Good, all normal,” she confirmed.
“What’s that?” The man asked, raising his hand with the cannula and pointing at the drip-stand.
“Again, nothing to worry about; just fluids to stop you dehydrating.”
Kathy dropped to the floor so that her head was now level with the side of the bed. She fiddled about with something that the man couldn’t see. “I’ll just get rid of this,” she said holding up a bag of urine. “Back in two ticks.”
The man frowned, shot a hand under the sheets and tried to slip his hand down his underwear. He realised then that he was wearing a hospital gown and couldn’t access his genitals. A fumble about through the gown revealed two things. Firstly, his testicles felt like they had been kicked and secondly that he had a catheter inserted. He followed the tube with his hand across the edge of the bed and looked down at the floor where the nurse had been. He now had an empty bag connected to the tube that hung on a small stand. How long had he been here?
Kathy returned and picked up the clipboard which hung over the bottom rail of the bed by his feet.
“How long have I been here?” he asked.
“Nearly two days,” Kathy replied, scribbling figures down on his notes.
“What happened to me? I don’t even know my name.”
Kathy looked up. “Your name is Simon.”