See also: • Ichthys Fish • When Rabbit Howls
Echoes : a short story

Echoes by Sam Spruce

"It's describing a fiction in your head!"  she screamed at him from the wheel chair.  The au-pair was sauntering towards them with a double whopper ice cream that was casually dripping down her bronzed and slightly furry arms.  "Where is the dog?" the au-pair asked in her rather sullen eastern European accent but neither of them could hear her because they were still functioning inside the fiction in his head.
He was confused and a little angry but felt he had to maintain his posture or something dreadful would happen.  "I've been telling you this for years but you just scoff and ridicule me."  Jane was getting hysterical and the nurse decided it was time to intervene.  "Wake up Mrs. Jasper."
There was a pause and then Jane looked stunned.  Her eyes flashed from side to side and in a slightly hushed voice she asked "Did you hear that?"  Jack snapped out of his daze.  He recognised this person.  "What?" he asked sounding a little hesitant and glancing around.  Then he heard the au-pair ask "Have you lost the dog again?"  "Oh... er no.  He went off with the children.  I don't suppose they'll be long.  Who is the ice cream for?" asked Jack.
Petra laughed.  "It's for you if you want it Mr Fisher."  Jack laughed nervously.  "No, no.  Let Jane have it."  He wanted to add that it might cool her down a bit and a hint of a grin cracked on his face.  Jane sighed and slumped forwards in what seemed to be a dead faint.  "Are you alright?" asked Petra.  "I'm fine." said Jack.  "No.  Not you.  Look, Jane seems to have collapsed." "Oh my God.  Are you alright?" he said as he leapt towards Jane and crouched down to help sit her upright.
Jane jerked upright clouting Jack on the nose with her skull.  Jack cried out and Jane screamed.  Petra dropped the ice cream and the dog seemed to come out of nowhere and began scooping it up with his tongue at an alarming rate.  The dog, "Master", as he was affectionately know, then proceeded to lick Jane across her mouth as she sat rubbing her head and wondering what had just happened.  At that very instant a Eurofighter jet screamed overhead with a deafening roar.  "Cut!" shouted the director and the nurse immediately drew the scalpel across the tender flesh and Jack's nose began to bleed.  He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and held it to his face.

"Are you alright Mr Fisher?"  "Uh?... I feel a bit dazed."  "It's alright I'll give him another dose."  said the anaesthetist as he fumbled with the equipment.  "Is something wrong?" the Doctor asked, a little annoyed at the incompetence of the anaesthetist.  "Yes.  Yes."  muttered Quentin as he got more frustrated at the equipment and finally got the silicone mask in position on Mr Fisher's face.
The doctor looked quizzical and sighed as he waited for the dose to be administered.  It was not the first time Quentin had underperformed in an operation.  Quentin's mother had recently been admitted to the special unit and Quentin was always disturbed when this happened.  It seemed to make her worse as if they were deliberately undoing all the boundaries.
Someone entered the theatre and glided across the room, collected something and left.  Quentin looked up.  "Who was that?" he asked.  "Who was what?..."  "Someone just came into the theatre.  They walked over there and took something." Quentin said gesturing towards the iron lung in the corner.  "Are you seeing things Quentin?"  demanded the Doctor.  "No." sighed Quentin as he removed the mask from the patients face.  This was not the first time Quentin had seen mysterious things happen that no one else seemed to noticed.  He put it down to the fact that most people are pretty unobservant.  But who had come in and what had they taken he wondered.

It was dark as Quentin trundled his mother along in her wheelchair.  They had installed a new fangled lighting system that only lit up the corridor where movement was detected.  The corridor was long and the effect was disorientating and made the walk feel like an eternal journey to nowhere.
He was lost in his own thoughts when he noticed some lights flickering in an adjoining corridor.  He pulled his mother to a halt and reversed to take a look to his right down the corridor.  He saw the last of the lights go out.  There shouldn't be anyone here now he thought.  Without paying much attention to his actions he turned and headed off down the corridor to see who was still in this part of the building at this time of night.
As he reached the end he realised his mother was sitting upright and staring at something.  He followed her gaze and saw that there were two people in the lounge area to the left.  He heard something to his right and immediately swung round just in time to see someone running out of the emergency exit.  He looked back at the two figures in the darkened lounge and called out "Are you alright?"  There was a scuffle and someone said "Yes - we're fine."
But something was amiss.  Surely they were not up to something unsavoury.  Quentin decided to take them at their word and to turn and leave when there was a loud crash as the door to the emergency exit flew open and two men dressed in uniforms stormed in and ran up the corridor where Quentin was just about to go.  His mother moaned and fell like a rag doll in the wheel chair.  As he reached round he heard someone say "Don't do it."  For a moment he thought it was his mother but it was not her voice.
This was getting disturbing and Quentin started to push the wheel chair along the corridor.  As he arrived at the main corridor he turned right and continued at a fast pace with the lights coming on as he went.  He got to the reception area and there was no one there so he quickly left the building.

Petra was feeding the dog when one of the children rushed into the kitchen, grabbed the knife from the chopping board and ran back out of the room.  There was the sound of running footsteps up the stairs and then the loud bang of a bedroom door.  Petra continued feeding the dog unaware that anything had been taken.
"Are the children at home?" Jack asked when he came in.  "Yes." said Petra, "and up to no good I imagine." she added.  Jack grabbed a handful of nuts and turned to leave.  He paused and asked  "Are you alright?"  Petra replied "I'm fine! How is Jane?"  Jack's face dropped as he walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs.
The children were upstairs making a lot of noise and Jack was now beginning to feel a little unwell.  He thought it might be a migraine so he decided he would lie down in the dark for a while.  He walked along the corridor and into his room, threw his jacket on the chair and slumped on the bed.  He reached across and switched the radio on.
Suddenly there seemed to be a flash in the room.  It appeared to come from outside but Jack waited expecting to hear something.  Perhaps it was electrical.  Maybe he imagined it.  The radio was still on and the newscasters voice droned in the background.  He couldn't hear the children.  What time was it?  Had he fallen asleep.  Jack reluctantly got up, switched the light on and checked his watch.  It was past midnight.  Now he felt confused and went out into the corridor.
Everything was dark and there was no noise.  He concluded the au-pair had put the children to bed and had retired herself.  He walked lazily down the darkened corridor and down the stairs heading to the kitchen.  There was light coming from the sitting room and he went over to see what it was.  His mother was sitting in the dark watching the television which created an eerie effect as it flickered in the darkened room.  "Are you alright?" he asked.  His mother said nothing.  He strolled over to look at her.  She was simply engrossed in the film.
It was a thriller of some sort.  There was a woman tied up in a wheelchair in a room lit with a single naked light bulb.  There were shadowy figures hovering in the background.  One came over and put what appeared to be a knife to the woman's throat.  "Don't do it."  said the other man from the shadows.  "We need her alive."  With that, there was a loud bang from upstairs.  Jack leapt to his feet, stopped, listened, and headed off upstairs to see what it was.
He went to the children's room and they were fast asleep in bed.  He went to Jane's room, opened the door and saw two figures in the bed.  He decided not to investigate further.  It was probably Jane's lover.  On his way back to his room he noticed a flickering light through the landing window.  He looked out and saw two uniformed figures with torches in the alleyway that passes the house.  He opened the window and called "What's going on?"  "There's a dead dog down here.  Do you know anything about it?" "What?" shouted Jack.  "Hang on I'll come down."
He rushed downstairs and out of the front door.  He went up the drive and turned left along the road and left again into the alley.  The two men were policemen and as he approached they explained that there had been reports of something going on in the alley and when they investigated they had found a dog which appeared to have had its throat cut.  Jack looked down and froze when the policeman's torch lit the lifeless body of Master on the ground.  "That's our dog."  He said.  "What happened?"  "We've no idea sir.  This is how we found him."  Jack began to tremble uncontrollably.  "Are you alright sir?"  Asked one policeman.

Back in the house the two policemen were sitting at the kitchen table with Jack.  Jane had come down to see what was going on and was making tea.  The police radios crackled quietly and Jack was very uncomfortable.  "We found this knife in the alley.  Do you recognise it?"  "It looks like ours."  said Jack.  "It is ours!"  Said Jane.  " I recognise it."  She looked in the knife holder and then the knife drawer.  She walked over to the dish washer and bent down to look inside.  "It's not here.  That must be ours."
"Have you had any visitors this evening?" asked one of the policemen.  "I don't know said Jack and at that moment the au-pair walked into the kitchen.  "What's going on?" she asked.  Jane introduced the au-pair to the police and explained what had happened.  Petra looked at Jack.  Jack glanced around nervously.  Jane asked where Jack's mother was.  "She's in the sitting room." said Jack sounding unsure.  Jane immediately left the kitchen and went to check she was alright.  She returned and said that she was fast asleep in front of the television.

"I had a nose bleed earlier.  I haven't had one since I was 8 years old.  It was the day my father died.  I remember I was hysterical and my mother slapped me.  It made my nose bleed."  We'll have to take a sample and test the blood to see if it is yours." said the officer with no hint of emotion.  The tape machine whirred quietly on the table.  "So you think someone entered the house whilst you were upstairs asleep, murdered your mother and then killed the dog outside?"  "Well I have no other explanation."  said Jack staring blankly at the tapes as they went round and round.


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