Monday, 14 June 2010

Chapter Ten

Michael wanted Serima to stay but she felt tired and didn’t really want to hang around. He looked hurt and it irritated her. He said his uncle wouldn’t be back until much later, that they had the house to themselves, but she made her excuses and left. He kissed her deeply at the front door. For a moment she thought he was going to say he loved her. He didn’t, but there was an aching look in his eyes.
The night was cold and bright with artificial lights. She sat on the top deck of the bus, watching Wells Gate pass in its windows, listening to an Annie Defranco song on her iPod. She wondered what her brother would make of the dream. She hadn’t experienced one like it for a long time. She supposed it scared her and made her think, inevitably, of mum. A mother’s gift. She didn’t want it. She managed, but it still scratched away at the back of her mind, making her insecure and doubtful. It had become harder over the years.
Strangely, it seemed easier just after mum was sent away. It gave everything a context, created a box in which to place the disturbed life she’d led. But the dreams persisted, and Serima realised that the truth would never be comfortable. Sometimes she pretended it would be easier if she were locked away too, MTV style; sexy and martyred and iconic. She’d still be beautiful.
She’d still have her figure and her pretty face.

The estate was set back slightly from Cromwell Road. She approached Abbey House feeling nervous, as she always did when she came home late and alone. Despite the sodium glow of the security lamps the estate always appeared sinister at night. She put her key in the door and heard the television. Inside she took off her coat and dropped her bag on the hallway floor. “Jobe…?”
“Get in here.” He sounded afraid. She hurried into the living-room and saw him sitting with the phone handset, staring at the TV screen. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen his face like that.
“What’s wrong…?”
“Check it out…” He gestured at the screen. A Sky News report was on. Footage of dozens of police cars outside Ensler. The banner line at the bottom of the screen said, ‘PSYCHIATRIC PATIENT KILLS MANY IN ATTEMPTED ESCAPE – COMMITS SUICIDE’.
Serima stared wide-eyed at the screen, shaking her head slowly. “Oh my God” She glanced at Jobe who simply closed his eyes. “Oh God…”
“If I’d driven down Dascus Road I would’ve seen all this…I’ve been trying to call the emergency number but it’s been engaged…”
Serima slumped beside him on the sofa. She grabbed the remote and turned up the volume. “…believed to have a history of violence, and police have stated that…” She jabbed immediately at the mute button.
She felt numb. She glanced at Jobe, hoping he would say something to explain it all. He said nothing. “Oh man,” was all she could think to say, “this isn’t happening…”
Jobe looked stunned, without any of his usual poise. He was normally so calm and capable. He nodded slightly and said, “I’m gonna keep trying the number.” He dialled, holding the handset to his ear. “Engaged,” he murmured, closing his eyes again.
Serima couldn’t think straight and so she just sat there in silence with her brother, staring at the TV screen. A photograph of a man with wild hair and eyes. The name Terry Gaines flashed up. Finally Serima asked, “What’re we gonna do?”
Jobe leaned back into the sofa. “I don’t know.”
“What if she’s dead…?” Jobe could only stare at her, tears in his eyes. “What if mum’s dead?” she asked again, not really expecting an answer.
“They said that it was mostly staff that were killed…only two patients died, apart from this Terry Gaines guy.”
It didn’t change what Serima was feeling. “What if mum’s one of the two patients?” Jobe closed his eyes and she saw tears roll down his cheeks.
“She won’t be.”
Serima began to cry. “But what…what if she is?” She couldn’t comprehend any of this. This was like a really bad joke. “Jobe, what if she is?”
“Seri, shut the fuck up…” He dialled the emergency number again, staring at the images on the screen. She saw the apprehension in his face and then the anger as he slammed the handset back into its cradle.
“What’re we gonna do?”
Jobe just shook his head. Tears were rolling freely down Serima’s face now. She felt numb and confused. A thought then occurred to her, and she was utterly frozen by it.
“This is the dream,” she blurted, “Oh my God…this is my dream…” The moment she’d spoken the words she knew them to be true. Not rationally, not emotionally, but intuitively somehow. Her face twisted into a grimace and Jobe stared sideways at her. “I can feel it,” she murmured, eyes wide and darting. And she did feel it; a weird current of greasy certainty that soured the back of her throat. “Jesus…” Suddenly she thought she might throw up. “It’s the dream…oh God.”
She leapt from the sofa and raced into the corridor, to the bathroom, locking the door. Jobe shot up after her, “Seri!”
Serima dropped to her feet against the bathroom door, staring blankly at the pale blue walls. The sensation had gripped her, as in the dream, only now it wasn’t erotic and thrilling, it was slick and nauseating. She pressed her lips together and began shaking her head. The thing in the forest, shaped like a girl, slaughtering the shadows; she’d watched it all from the branches of a burning tree. She could smell the blood, here and now. Like heated copper, fat and metallic. She gagged.
Jobe beat his fist against the door, bellowing, “Seri, open up! Open the damn door! Now!”
She jumped up and unlocked it, swinging it wide. “I saw it, Jobe…I did.” Her brother grabbed her, hugged her, and she gripped him. “This can’t be happening,” she muttered, “This is insane, man. I saw it, I swear to you. I’ve never been more fucking certain of anything in my life…”
Jobe said nothing and held her.
“It wasn’t a man that did it,” she murmured shakily into his ear, “It was a girl…shaped like a girl. She loved it. I could feel it. She was loving it.” She pulled away and looked into his eyes, pressing a hand to her breastbone. “I can feel it, Jobe. I can feel this crap inside me. Shit, shit…”
She turned from him and began running the bath and the shower. She needed the water, she realised suddenly, without knowing how she knew. Immediately she began to strip, peeling off her clothes.
Jobe turned his back.
“You’re scaring me,” he said quietly.
“Yeah,” she murmured, unhooking her bra and pulling off her knickers. She stepped quickly into the bath, beneath the shower-head. Thousands of tiny needles seemed to prick her flesh and dark lights erupted before her eyes. Her flesh crawled and was suddenly electric. She shuddered and began to spasm violently. Jobe turned and saw her eyes rolled up into the back of her head, thrashing in the bathtub beneath the pounding spray.
He lunged for her. “Seri!” he cried, grabbing at her waist and shoulders, “No, No! Seri!” He hauled her naked and wet from the tub, still thrashing relentlessly, struggling not to drop her. He lay her clumsily onto the linoleum floor, his mind spinning with terrible possibilities. Was this it? “Seri, don’t you fucking do this to me!”
She jerked about and then suddenly she stopped, just like that. Jobe could only stare, open-mouthed. Serima blinked, looking back at him, and then sat up immediately. She grabbed at him, hugging him tightly, panting suddenly, like she hadn’t been able to draw a single breath.
Jobe held her, feeling her wet skin against his clothes. “Jesus Christ,” he said, almost sobbing. “Jesus Christ, Seri…” He snatched at a towel from the nearby rail and drew it around her. He looked away. “Fucking hell,” he murmured.
Serima was wide-eyed and shivering. She pulled the towel tight around her torso and just sat, staring at nothing, there on the bathroom floor.
“Are you okay? You scared the living shit out of me.” It was as though she hadn’t heard him. “Seri?” She continued to stare vacantly. Jobe cupped her chin and turned her head. “Look at me…are you okay?”
Finally she blinked and swallowed, nodding slowly. “I’m…I’m okay.”
Jobe visibly sagged, leaning his head against the wall, watching her.
Serima closed her eyes, trembling.

Jobe tried calling the emergency line six times but it was continually engaged. He was numbed by all of this. For the first time in a long time he didn’t feel in control. The world didn’t feel metaphorical anymore; it felt literal, brutally real. He smoked whilst Serima dressed in her room. He was afraid to leave her alone but she’d closed the door on him.
He dialled Monica’s home number and waited. The girl refused to carry a mobile phone, to his constant annoyance. His hands were shaking.
“Mon, its me…”
“Fuck, Jobe, I’m watching it…I’m watching the news right now. I just got in ten minutes ago…Oh, baby…I don’t know what to say…” He could hear tears in her voice, her throat closing with fear for him. “Jobe…she’ll be okay.”
“You don’t know that, Mon.”
There was silence on the line, and eventually she said, “I can’t really imagine what you must be feeling…and it makes me feel like shit. Baby, you know I love you, right? I’ve always loved you. Always.”
“If mum’s dead I’ll probably kill myself.” He regretted saying it even as the words left his mouth. More silence on the line. In other circumstances Monica would have made some bizarre, dark joke. That was how she dealt with frightening situations. But he knew she didn’t have a clue as to how to comfort him.
“I think we’ll have to cancel the movie,” he told her.
“Yeah,” she muttered down the line, “Of course. I’ll pray, Jobe, I’ll pray that everything turns out okay. I’m so sorry this is happening, man…”
Face to face, Monica would’ve kissed him and given him a big hug…but they were connected only by the phone-line, and he could sense she didn’t want to hang up. She didn’t want to leave him. She would feel increasingly unable to help him, and the thought made him feel worse. He felt he might start sobbing, and he didn’t want to break down in front of his best friend.
“Mon, I’ll call you tomorrow. I have to go…”
“Okay,” she muttered like she was already crying, “I love you, fuck-bunny.”
He hung up before she could say anything more. Monica sounded terrified for him and he pressed his eyes shut, sighing shakily. When he opened them again he saw Serima standing in the doorway, fully dressed now in jeans and a khaki t-shirt.
“So…what happened in the bathtub, Googley?”
She glanced away, “Jobe…I don’t know. Flashes of light. And then…a boy.”
“What boy? Have you seen his face before?”
“He wasn’t one of the Gossamer Children, but he was beautiful. I don’t know who he is. I don’t think he’s…human”
Jobe continued to stare. He couldn’t think of what to say.
Murder and madness and inhuman boys. His chest felt heavy. He didn’t just want to sit there. “Come on,” he said.

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