Map of Essex, UK with Southend-on-Sea highlighted. Equirectangular map projection on WGS 84 datum, with N/S stretched 160% (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The cloud was grey and I squinted my eyes at a tiny shred of light which rebelled and stung my eyelids. The gentle lapping of waves was music to my ears and I wondered briefly when I would be judged.
I was going very fast down a tunnel, it was akin to the last time dad took me to Southend-on-Sea in Essex, where I made sure I participated in every activity, the rides were the best. The utmost feeling of exhilaration and belly ache due to uncontrolled laughter is deeply entrench in my memory but this one was a little different. I wasn’t holding on to any safety belt, rather I felt suspended, weightless as if I was in space and then there was a heavy thud when I landed on a hard surface but it was still dark and I couldn’t see a thing.
I died, didn’t I? I was sure of it, I tried turning my neck but I seemed to be tied to some sort of plank or stretcher, whatever it was I had no idea, but I wanted to run, get out of where I was. I tried opening my eyes but I couldn’t and panic steadily built up within me.
I tried licking my lips but it was the same, I couldn’t do anything, all my senses were on fire, maybe I am in hell, I was never a good girl, always getting myself in trouble, I mused with a grimace, actually I wanted to smile but I am kind of getting used to not been able to tell my body what to do.
Suddenly, there was a cracking sound and I heard a door opening with footsteps coming nearer and nearer. There were voices, male and female voices, next thing I heard was a short laugh and there was silence. I could bet my life on it that my heart was beating so hard it was louder than any CGI effects.
The waves again with the sounds of seagulls assaulted my senses, their wonderful chorus grated on my already hyperactive nerves. Another shaft of lighting was coming through wherever I was and the music, oh, how I loved it!
It was Michael Jackson’s song ‘Heal the world,’ and it dawned on me, I am not dead, I don’t think the devil would play such a song in Hades, nobody would dance to it, besides, he doesn’t care about the world, but where the hell am I?
Unfortunately for me, the footsteps faded away into the distance, my chance was lost, gone. That was when I noticed the temperature, it was extremely cold, piece by piece, things began to fall into place, I remembered the three men, the attack on me at the alleyway and then in my room, and dad fighting and…
The worst possible scenario was, I died, they took me to the mortuary but now the possibility of me freezing to death wasn’t such a bad idea, at least I would be gone and perhaps my parents would find closure. Speaking of closure, I didn’t recollect seeing mum, it was only dad who came to my rescue and his words,
”You are safe now Mina,” was loaded with meaning, I have to find out what he meant by that, there are too many questions and I have to be alive to ask those questions, I have an inkling my dad knew more than he was letting on. My resolve was to get out of my confinement and do something, I can’t go silently in this horrible cold and expect dad to be fine, but what about mum?
Then there was a miracle, I heard footsteps again and the voices weren’t so muffled like the first time. A woman’s voice was speaking rapidly and then there was another voice, husky and so familiar but I had no idea what he said. After that I heard another sound, it was as if someone was clicking a gun and I gritted my teeth ready for anything, at least I could grit my teeth, which was an improvement. But it was nothing, the feet were getting closer, I strained my ears and heard someone said,
”She didn’t suffer Dan.”
Dan? That was my dad! My dad is in the room. I tried to conserve my energy so I could function well when suddenly I felt a rush of adrenalin and I was gasping for breath as I was pull out and then there was pandemonium. A woman screamed and there were rushing of feet, but I could breathe, I opened my mouth but my eyes was still closed, I cleared my throat and said weakly.
”Can someone please give me a cup of water please.” My voice wasn’t so bad, I thought, pleased with my progress and the next thing I did was to try to open my eyes and when I did, I saw a familiar face, someone I’d given up for dead. Never mind it was me in that place now.
My brother, Albert, his face was like I remembered, strong jaws, serious eyes, bushy eyebrows and his dimples, those dimples used to drive women crazy. He was fearless and the only one who could approach me.
He moved closer, peering down at me with his boyish grin, his teeth was still sparkling white but I noticed everywhere was silent and I tried to move my neck,
”Don’t move,” he whispered softly, his eyes never leaving my face for once, ”Dad’s gone to get the doctors.”
”What happened? Why did you leave home?” My voice was still hoarse and I had to use every ounce of energy within me to speak.
”We’ll talk about that later miracle Mina,” he countered, taking hold of my hand, ”you’re so cold, you scared teh hell out of everybody Mina,”
”But you are not scared,” I said, and my voice was getting stronger.
”I don’t scare easily,” was his reply and my dad came in with a bunch of doctors and nurses.
The next few weeks was crazy, the press were practically a permanent feature at our Kilburn High road home. I was shielded from the press because of fatigue, I didn’t think I could face them anyway. But dad was noncommittal, he didn’t want to tell me anything and mum was still in the hospital in induced coma because of her massive injury, Albert told me that after I’d continually nagged him for details.
But dad’s behaviour was strange, it was as if he was expecting me to live and not die, even with over ten snake bites on my face. After the attack in my room, he was able to send the three strange men packing, how he did it I had no idea. I was later taken to the hospital where I went into a coma, came out of it and two days later died in the afternoon.
They transferred me to the mortuary where I woke up the next morning when I am to be taken for burial but there were loopholes and dad refused to fill me in. Then, the surprise of the century, my brother suddenly returned home after four years of zero contact.
None of it made sense, Albert was in my room one hot summer afternoon, he sat beside me on the bed and asked casually,
”How is Josh?”
Josh was my on and off boyfriend and with my picture on every newspaper in the country, he’d suddenly developed cold feet.
”I don’t know, he is the least of my problems now,” I mumbled.
”Why did you say that,”
”I am queer Albert,’ I said hotly and I know by now my face was turning red, ”I can’t seem to mingle with people my age,” and I kept quiet staring at the window, ”I wish I had died.”
Albert laughed pulling me close to him and sniffing my hair, ”I knew you can’t die little sis, when dad called me and told me what happened…”
”Dad called you?” I asked incredulously, searching his face for any hidden clues, ”I thought no one had your number.”
He swallowed hard looking at the ceiling and I know he was trying to lie.
”Don’t lie to me,” I said quietly.
”I am not going to,” he replied limply, standing up from my bed and moving towards the window, his back stiffened and I have the feeling he was trying to control himself. He parted the curtains, peered outside and when he turned to look at me, he had tears in his eyes.
”I had to go to Germany, there are so many secrets you need to know Mina and when I found out about where we came from, I couldn’t stay in this house any longer.”
”What secrets Albert?” I asked with apprehension, the hair at the back of my head stood on end, my brother was looking at me strangely and I noticed he was perspiring heavily, his was also breathing funny.
I grabbed my bed sheet with brutal force as the memory of that fateful day assaulted my senses. Albert’s eyes were changing to a strange colour and he wasn’t speaking, the silence was killing me slowly.
He walked towards me, his eyes never leaving my face and I couldn’t look away , the glow wasn’t so scary. I stood up from my bed and moved towards him.
”What secret Albert,” I whispered again, ”tell me the secrets of this house!”
Suddenly as it had begun, the light in his eyes fizzled out, he was no longer looking at me, his attention was on the doorway and I turned to look.
Dad was standing there with an inscrutable expression on his face.
”We are going on a trip.” and he was gone.
Albert was about to follow him and I held him by the elbow,
”What is going on?”
”With time you’ll understand.”
”What if there is no time,” I searched his face for clues but I got nothing. He seemed to consider what I said and closed his eyes.
”Mina, you are the riddle behind everything, only you can handle this.”
By now I was almost going crazy, the more questions I asked, the deeper my pain increased. I am just nineteen years old, yet I feel the weight of a hundred year old woman on my shoulders.
What if everything about me had been a lie, who am I?
Albert pulled me close in a tight embrace and said quietly, I could feel the pain in his voice,
”Nobody can succeed without you, you are time, you are indestructible, just have that at the back of your mind.”
Time, that word again, what has it got to do with me?
”Mina,” dad called me from the hallway,
”Yes dad,” and I went to meet him.
”We have to go now,” he said urgently.
”I have not packed anything and where are we going?”
”You ask too many questions Mina,” I noticed the irritation creeping in on his voice, ”if we don’t move those men would be back and we can’t let that happen can we?”
”I am not moving an inch until you tell you what is really going on.” I said firmly and that got to him. He knew once I pouted my mouth, I won’t bulge until I get what I want.
I heard the sound of helicopter and it really hit me hard, we are fleeing, my dad was almost begging and I could sense the urgency in him. I decided to give him benefit of the doubt.
”But dad, promise to tell me everything.”
And a smile crossed his face, ”do I have a choice?”
I followed him down the stairs and into the kitchen, Albert was already waiting for us, he was holding the door which led to the garden. When I saw the helicopter’s blade, I was scared, I had never been on one before. We quickly climbed in and the helicopter was up in the air. We were flying away when I heard a mighty explosion.
It was our house, and I watched with a sinking feeling at the pit of my stomach as it went up in flames, another explosion ripped through the building and our neighbours’ house was also engulfed in the inferno. I glanced in Albert’s direction but he looked away. My dad was sitting beside the pilot, he didn’t even bother looking in my direction. I stared down at the bright dot which used to be our house and my heart filled with sorrow.
All my childhood memories has gone up in flame and we are now on the run, from what? No one was willing to tell me, not even my family but I am a survivor, I would find out everything, whether in this life or the next.
Definitely in this life, I decided grimly.
NP : This ‘TIME’ piece is quiet a long one because this would be the last post until the book is published. Thanks for reading the story folks!