An explosion. A 28-hour coma. And when he awakens, college tutor Christopher Deacon finds his life plagued by strange phantoms, drawing him inexorably to their Northumberland lair where they have waited for over half a century to take their rightful place… in control of the world.
Christopher Deacon has been caught in a bomb attack on the college where he works, and now, 28 hours later, he wakes to find himself in hospital.
Now read on…
When I think back, I get the impression that I was wowing; drifting in and out of consciousness, like the phased volume of a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo, up and down, in and out.
Fleeting scenes rushed into my mind: looking up at the smoke filling the room; Jenny in my arms; something weighing me down; a fire-fighter, wearing breathing apparatus, striding over me; Vince Headley’s face looking down at me; a paramedic looking away to other victims; a soldier stood by the blazing entrance to the kitchens, one hand on his holstered pistol.
In the ambulance, I managed to stay awake and aware for all of two minutes, long enough for the paramedic to get my date of birth and home address out of me, before I once more sank into total blackness.
I hadn’t seen Vince since the late eighties so maybe the images were real and maybe my mind was working on memory dredging up old episodes of Casualty. Maybe they were a combination of the real and my subconscious working to help fill in the 28-hour gap of nothing that followed the bomb attack. Aside from the brief interlude in the ambulance, the next thing I really knew was waking up in a hospital bed late on Saturday afternoon with the clock reading 5pm and Jan sitting alongside me. Tony, the eldest, and Eve, our daughter, sat at the foot of the bed, talking to each other, voices subdued, faces grim. Jan was a picture of concern. My ankle throbbed, my head ached, and even the slightest of movements made me aware of cuts and bruises all over my body.
Jan realised I was awake and burst into tears, and I guessed that she had been there a long time worrying whether I would wake at all. She allowed her bottled up emotions to flood. I tasted the salt of her warm tears on my lips as she hugged and kissed me. I patted her on the back. There was something wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Sitting down again, drying her tears, holding my hand tight, she said something and I couldn’t hear her.
Eve, always daddy’s favourite, came round the other side of the bed and gave me a hug and a kiss. Her tears flooded and she, too said something, but I couldn’t hear. From the bottom of the bed, Tony yattered away, but no sound reached my ears. My heart began to beat faster. The same panic that had urged me to join the throng at the exit and get out of the refectory threatened to engulf me again.
The voice rang in my head. I took a deep breath, forced the logic circuits of my brain into gear and compelled my mind to come to the fore. I’d been a few yards from a loud explosion. The noise and the shockwave would have affected my eardrums. Temporary hearing loss would not be out of the ordinary.
“I can’t hear you.” I relaxed, mulling over the possibility of long-term hearing damage.
Then I remembered I had been able to hear in the Refectory. I heard the screams, the cries, I heard Jenny. Or did I? Perhaps my hearing had already gone, perhaps all I really heard was in my head, audio hallucinations generated from all those blood and guts movies showing on the satellite and cable channels.
But you heard the paramedic in the ambulance. The thought smashed into my tired brain. How could the deafness have been delayed? If the explosion were going to deafen me, it would be immediate.
Jan looked perplexed. She spoke to me again. I smiled encouragement and repeated, “I’m sorry, but I can’t hear a word.”
I tried to sit up but my injured foot restricted any movement. I turned my head to look around the ward. Jenny lay in a bed opposite. She was sleeping; her parents sat at her bedside. Further along on my side of the ward, Steve Jessop lay awake, staring upwards, his eyes unfocussed. Purse Woman, who had been at the front of the queue, was opposite him, the bed linen raised from her legs. The other beds were taken up by people who I assumed were Refectory survivors.
Jan nudged my arm. I faced her and forced a thin smile. She said something. I pointed at both ears. “I told you, I can’t hear a thing.”
Worry creased her forehead. A rapid conversation took place between my wife, son and daughter. Jan waved Tony off to the nurse’s station, Eve took my hand. I could see Jan fighting back her tears as she spoke to me. She was issuing words of love and comfort, but for all I could guess, she might have been reading from a recipe book.
Panic began to rise again. What was wrong? Why was Jan so concerned? Why had she sent Tony for help?
As I thought of it, so Tony came back with a nurse. She was medical. She would know. The panic settled a little. Now it was no worse than dread.
A brief conversation took place between Jan and the nurse. Concerned glances came my way. The nurse nodded to Jan. I recognised the gesture. It said, “Okay, calm down, I’ll deal with this.”
The nurse leaned over me. “Can you hear me, Christopher?”
I know that’s what she said, but I didn’t hear it.
I shook my head. “I can’t hear a thing.”
Now I realised. Even if I couldn’t hear, I could still feel, but I felt nothing when I spoke to her. No vibration in my vocal cords, no resonance in my skull. Nothing.
The nurse took out a notebook and scribbled on it. Even before I read it, I knew. She passed it to me.
“You can’t hear us, and we can’t hear you.”
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