PHILIP EVANS (part i)

 

Mom’s not well.

     She’s suffered with her health for years and she’s been practically bed-ridden since last December. She’s not been well all week but she’s really taken a turn for the worst this morning. I’ve been up with her since just after five and it’s almost eight now. I think I’ll get the doctor out to see her if she doesn’t pick up soon.

     I don’t know what I’d do without Mom. I’ve forced myself to try and think about it plenty of times, mind, because I know there’s going to come a time when she’s not around any more. We’re very close, Mom and I. Dad died when I was nine and there’s just been the two of us for the forty years since then. I’ve not worked for years because I’ve been looking after her, so we don’t get out much. We pretty much live out on our own here. There’s our cottage and one other on either side and that’s about all. The village is five minutes down the road by bike. We’ve never bothered with a car. I don’t drive, and we can get a bus into town if we really need to go there. There’s not much we need that we can’t find in the village.

     She’s calling me again. I’ll make her some tea and take it up with her tablets. This isn’t like her. She always tells me she doesn’t like to make a fuss. She tells the doctor that too when he calls. And the health visitor. And the District Nurse. And the vicar.

     It’s just her way.

***

     I need to get help but I can’t leave the house. I can’t leave Mom.

     Oh, God, I don’t know what to do. I was up there talking to her when it happened. I was trying to get her to the toilet when it started. Usually when she has one of her turns she’s able to let me know when it’s coming, but she didn’t just now. This one came out of the blue. It seemed to take her by surprise as we were coming back across the landing.

     She started to choke. Mom’s chest has been bad for a long time and it’s been getting worse, but nothing like this. It was almost as if she’d got something stuck in her throat, but she’d turned her nose up at breakfast and she hadn’t had anything else to eat so that was impossible. Anyway, before I knew what was happening she was coughing and retching and her whole body was shaking in my arms. I lay her down and tried to get her to calm down and breathe slowly and not panic but she couldn’t stop. She couldn’t swallow. She couldn’t talk. Her eyes started to bulge wide and I could see that she wasn’t getting any air but there wasn’t anything I could do to help. I tried to tip her head back to open up her windpipe like the nurse showed me once but she wouldn’t lie still. She kept fighting against me. She was thrashing her arms around and coughing and spluttering. The noise she was making was horrible. It didn’t sound like Mom. She was making this scratching, croaking, gargling noise and I thought that there was phlegm or something trapped in her throat. I thought she might have been choking on her tongue (the nurse told me about that once too) so I put my fingers in her mouth to make sure it was clear. When I took them out again they were covered in thick, dark blood like the insides of her mouth were cut. Then she stopped moving. As suddenly as she’d started, she stopped. I sat down on the carpet next to her and held her hand until I was sure that she’d gone.

     I could still hear that horrible choking sound in my head long after Mom had stopped fighting. I could hear it ringing in my ears when everything else had gone quiet.

     It’s been quiet like this for hours now.

     My Mom’s dead.

 

     I can’t just sit here and do nothing. I know I can’t help Mom but I can’t just leave her lying here either. The doctor will have to come around then someone will come to take her away and then . . . and then I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ve always had my mom.

     About half an hour ago I decided to move her. I couldn’t leave her lying there on the floor in the middle of the landing, that just wouldn’t have been right. She seemed twice as heavy as she did when she was alive. I thought the best place for her would be her bedroom. I put my hands under her arms and carried her through and lifted her onto the bed. I wiped the blood off her face and tried to close her eyes to make it look like she was just sleeping. I managed to get one eye to shut but the other one stayed open, staring at me. It was like she was still watching me, like one of those paintings of people’s faces where their eyes follow you around the room. In a way it made me feel a little better. Even though she’s gone it’s like she hasn’t stopped looking out for me.

     I tried to phone the doctor but I couldn’t get an answer. I knew someone would have been at the surgery (it’s open until late on Tuesdays) so I guessed it was our telephone that wasn’t working. Often in winter the lines go down because we’re so isolated out here. But it isn’t winter. It’s early September and the weather’s been fine for weeks.

     I didn’t want to leave Mom but I didn’t have any choice. I shut the bedroom door, locked up the house and got my bike out of the shed. It didn’t take long to get into the village. Mom never liked me riding on the road (she said it was the other people she didn’t trust, not me) but it didn’t matter this morning. There wasn’t any traffic about. Now the village isn’t the busiest of places, but there’s usually always something happening. This morning it was so quiet that all I could hear was the sound of my bike. And as I got deeper into the village, it got much worse. So much so that I nearly turned round and came home, but the thought of what had happened to Mom made me keep going forward.

     I was cycling down past Jack Halshaw’s house when I saw that his front door was wide open. That was strange because Jack’s always been careful about things like that. He used to be a friend of my dad’s and I’ve known him all my life, so I stopped the bike because I thought I should tell him about Mom and I thought he might be able to help me get things sorted out. I walked down the path and leant inside and shouted to him but he didn’t answer. I walked down the side of the house to see if he was in his back garden and that was where I found him. He was lying on his back on the path and I could tell just by looking at him that he was dead. There was a pool of blood around his mouth and it looked like he’d died the same way Mom had.

     I didn’t know what to do next. I kept going until I got to the village. When I got there I just stopped the bike in the middle of the road and stared at what I could see all around me. Whatever had happened to Mom and Jack Halshaw had happened to other people too. In fact, the longer I stayed there, the more obvious it became that I seemed to be the only one it hadn’t happened to. I went into the doctor’s surgery and found Mrs Cribbins from the chip shop and Dr Grainger dead in the middle of the waiting room. Their faces were horrible – splattered with blood and all screwed up like they’d been in terrible pain when they’d died. The doctor looked like he’d been trying to scream when it had happened.

     I kept going right into the middle of the village and then wished that I hadn’t. Even though it had happened fairly early in the morning, there had been lots of people out and about. They’d all just fallen and died wherever they’d been and whatever they’d been doing. And because our village is such a small place I knew them all. I knew where they’d been going and what they’d been doing. Bill Linturn from the hardware shop was dead in his car – he’d just arrived to open up for the day. Vera Price, the lady who’s on the till at the grocer’s on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings was lying dead on the pavement just outside the shop. It looked like she’d fallen into the middle of the fruit and veg displays they always have outside. There were potatoes, carrots and apples all over the place.

     I looked around for a while but I couldn’t find anyone to help me. I know it was silly, but I didn’t want to leave Mom alone for too long. There was nothing I could do for her, but it just didn’t feel right leaving her alone at home with all that had happened. I got back on my bike and cycled home.

***

     It’s been almost half a day now since it happened. I can’t get a picture on the telly and I still can’t get anyone on the phone. I’ve tried listening to the radio to find out what’s happening but all I can hear is silence or hissing and crackling. I’ve been into the cottages next door on either side but both Ed and Mrs Chester are dead as well. I found Ed in his bath (the water was all pink because of the blood he’d dribbled) and Mrs Chester was at the bottom of her stairs. I tried to move her into her living room but, because of how she’d fallen and because her legs and arms had gone all stiff and hard, she was wedged behind the door and I couldn’t move her.

     I think I’m just going to sit here and wait for a while. Someone will come sooner or later, I’m sure they will. And anyway, I can’t leave Mom here on her own. We did our weekly shop yesterday morning so I’ve got plenty of food in. I’ll sit here and wait and everything will be okay.

     Everything will be all right again in a couple of days when the police and the government start sorting out what’s happened. I’ll have to phone around the rest of the family and let them know about Mom.