This excerpt is from a science fiction novel about alien abduction. If you would like to read the novel from the beginning, please see the previous excerpts in, ‘They Take our Children.’ The complete eBook series is available on Amazon stores worldwide.
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Chapter Seven: Gavin
Gavin sat at the large old dining table surrounded by papers, photographs, newspaper cuttings and notebooks. He was amazed at the number of files that spilled from the old suitcase. George had taken him upstairs on reaching the house and asked Gavin to get down an old, battered brown suitcase from the top of a wardrobe in the spare room. He was surprised by the weight of it, but not when he saw the contents on opening it downstairs in the dining room. George took out various papers that dated back to Helen’s illness when she was fourteen-years-old. He didn’t understand any of it, but George explained that the suitcase held all his research.
‘Research into what?’ Gavin asked. George only looked grim and began to sort the papers and files into loose piles.
George had been methodical with his research. Everything was in card folders, labelled with names and dates. George opened a file and spread the contents before them on the table. Gavin scanned the various scraps of paper lying in front of him, unsure what to say. The words his parents-in-law had spoken to Helen only a short time ago whirled round in his head as he looked at the headlines of yellowed newspapers. ‘Christmas Lights Surprise New Year Party.’ ‘UFO’s over Wakefield.’ ‘Local Party Gate-Crashed by Aliens.’
Gavin reached for a photograph album and began flicking through it as George poured them an amber drink from a decanter standing on the sideboard. The first page showed photographs of a party, with a Christmas tree and lights in the background. There were photographs of people holding drinks and food. Some were of people dancing, kissing and generally having a good time. The people Gavin recognised, were younger versions of the family he knew and others were strangers. Then there were photographs taken outside, dark, fuzzy, blurred prints. These were of people wrapped in coats and scarves, with drinks in their hands and smiles on their faces. He continued turning the pages slowly and came across some dark prints with bright, out of focus splodges and Gavin squinted at them, unsure what he was seeing.
‘Fireworks.’ George explained, handing Gavin the whisky. ‘I know it’s early, but you might need this.’
Gavin absently took the drink in his hand and turned another page to find more, similar dark prints, but these were filled with bright balls of colour forming a pattern. He turned questioning eyes to the old man.
‘That’s them,’ he said simply, taking a seat opposite Gavin.
‘So why aren’t these photographs in the papers?’ Gavin reached for the yellowed editions of the local press.
‘No, you won’t find them in there. Nobody knew these photographs existed. I could’ve gotten a fortune for them at the time and I was tempted.’ He took a sip of his drink. ‘But then things began to happen with our Janine and Helen and well…’
‘What things?’ Gavin’s heart gave a leap as the butterflies took off inside him, he knew he was at the beginning of what had led to Courtney running away and he was impatient to get to the end.
‘It’s a long story, Gavin, one I couldn’t tell you in one morning. You wouldn’t be able to take it all in if I did.’
‘Try me!’ Gavin insisted.
‘Humour me.’ George fixed his steady eyes on his son-in-law. ‘I’ve waited a long time to tell someone about this.’
‘We don’t have the time, George! Courtney is out there somewhere, frightened, upset, maybe worse!’ Gavin slammed his glass down, splashing the contents onto the table.
‘Steady with that, it’s not cheap plonk you know!’ George mopped the spill of whisky with a handkerchief then reached behind him for the decanter, topping up both their glasses.
‘Courtney’s a resourceful girl, she’ll be fine and she’ll come home before today is over, you mark my words.’ George reached and patted Gavin’s shoulder across the table.
‘I wish I shared your confidence.’ Gavin took a large swallow of his drink and sighed heavily. He resigned himself to go along with his father-in-law. ‘So where do you want to start with all this?’ He waved his hand over the pile of papers and files on the table.
‘Well you’ve seen the photographs, how about watching the film then you can read the book.’ George smiled mischievously.
‘You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?’ Gavin shook his head and looked sideways at the old man, watching him get a disc out of its box.
The two men moved to the front room and George handed the disc to Gavin.
‘Put it in and watch.’ George settled himself in an old comfortable armchair and reached to turn on the gas fire. ‘I had the original home movie converted to disc a few years back when video went out of fashion. It’s so much easier to watch them like this.’
Gavin did as he was told, sitting on the floor by the old man’s feet, warming himself at the fire. It had turned chilly and outside, the drizzle had turned to a downpour.
The television screen flickered, the quality of the picture was poor and black-and-white lines wavered across the screen, to be replaced by a shaky picture of the balls of light they’d seen on the photographs. The camera angle moved wildly and changed from a view of the sky, to a view of some faces looking upward.
‘What are they?’ Gavin asked.
‘They’re not fireworks!’ George raised his eyebrows.
The camera swung sickeningly and focused on the lights again. Gavin watched as they danced in the sky, coming together then moving apart, swirling around making patterns in the sky. After a few minutes, George pressed the fast-forward button on his remote control and the lights moved faster in a speeded up version of their dance. He pressed the play button in time for Gavin to see the way they dissolved into the darkness and disappeared, then stopped the film.
‘What was that?’ Gavin asked, his eyes wide with disbelief, though he’d seen it for himself; he didn’t understand what he had witnessed.
‘They were the Christmas lights that came to our New Year’s Eve party when Helen was fourteen and our Janine was twelve. They were seen all over West Yorkshire, it’s all there in the newspapers, the Yorkshire Post, the Wakefield Express, the Bradford Courier and others I collected. Here, look at the news, I got recordings of all the local news programmes after that night, though it wasn’t easy to get hold of them, and I had them put onto a disc by a computer savvy mate of mine a few years ago.’
George pressed play and fast-forwarded the disc to the relevant part. A well-known, though younger looking television presenter, was interviewing a family in a chintzy looking living room.
The moustached father was describing the lights in the sky, while the mother and daughter preened and a boy pulled faces to the camera.
‘That one there, is Lindsey Thomas, one of our Helen’s friends.’ George pointed to the teenage girl on the screen. ‘They were neighbours. Moved about twenty years ago. Just look at them,’ he chuckled. ‘You’d think the Martians had landed in their backyard.’
‘Was there any evidence suggesting the lights were aliens?’ Gavin was intrigued, but losing patience, as he couldn’t see what all this nonsense had to do with Courtney, or Helen.
‘There was no hard evidence, no proof.’ George sipped from his glass.
‘Then why are we watching this?’ Gavin stood and walked to the window, no longer interested in the screen.
‘I thought it might help you understand why the nightmares began.’
‘Nightmares?’ Gavin turned from the window. Nightmares were a reality he could understand, unlike aliens and UFO’s.
‘Like I said to Mary at the time, I believed it was all this media hype about the strange lights that led to our girls having nightmares. Night terrors, the doctor called them when we took the girls to see him.’ George stood. ‘Come back in here.’ He led Gavin back to the table where he shuffled through more files and picked out a pale-blue one. Handing the file to Gavin, he sat.
‘Take out those papers. Some of them are heavy going, full of medical jargon but being a university technician you should understand most of it.’
Gavin took out a medical report and began reading. He quickly realised that it held details about Janine, and he felt uncomfortable reading about his sister-in-law. He skipped whole passages in an attempt to get it finished quickly and read only enough to understand that Janine had suffered some kind of post-traumatic shock syndrome. The report suggested this could have been triggered by the media attention to the lights seen in the sky above their house. Looking up, Gavin was encouraged to read on as George nodded and waved at the papers he still held in his hand.
The following pages were about Helen. He was surprised to learn she had been in a catatonic state of shock for a few weeks. He glanced up once or twice to meet George’s intense stare, each time the old man nodded encouragement to him, and he read on.
Helen had been found one morning in a catatonic state. He read of no evidence about injury, and there was nothing to suggest she had been hurt in any way. She was totally unresponsive. Her eyes didn’t focus, her limbs were rigid, her hands and feet curled spastically inward. She didn’t respond to sound and even sudden loud noise had no effect.
Gavin was hooked. He knew that whatever had caused Helen to go into this state, it had to be severe. He read on.
Doctors, psychologists, physiotherapists and family counsellors tried to bring Helen back into the real world. The doctors tried drugs; the physiotherapists exercised limbs, keeping the body fit while the mind took time out. The psychologists and the family counsellors worked together, talking to Helen, coaxing her to respond. When that failed, they tried to stimulate her brain by playing music and putting her in front of the TV. Some weeks later, Helen began to take interest in the visitors, nodding acknowledgment but turning away from questions.
Gavin read every word of Helen’s medical report, not looking up again until he’d read the last one, when she was cured and she returned to normal.
‘Why?’ he asked, holding up the papers. ‘It doesn’t say why.’
‘No one ever found out for sure.’ George shrugged. ‘Helen wouldn’t talk about it.’
‘You know though, don’t you?’ Gavin read the old man’s wry smile.
‘I thought I did,’ George admitted. ‘I used to lay awake at night trying to work it all out.’
‘Tell me,’ Gavin insisted.
‘Well it’s not so simple,’ George evaded giving a direct answer. ‘There were a number of possibilities.’
‘Never mind the possibilities, what happened to Helen?’ Gavin would not be put off.
‘What do you think?’ George turned the tables on him. ‘What explanation would you have come up with? You’ve read the report. You know about the nightmares and the external influences. What do you think happened?’
Gavin sighed; this was getting them nowhere. Courtney was still missing and Helen was…
‘Helen!’ Gavin remembered his wife; the look in her eye’s as they left her, the vacant stare. ‘You think she’s returned to that state now, don’t you?’
‘I think she has.’ George nodded.
‘Oh, my God!’ Gavin jumped up. ‘I have to go to her, what should we do.’
‘Mary will have called the doctor.’ George stayed seated, keeping calm. ‘Don’t forget, we’ve seen this before, so we know what to do for our Helen.’
‘Will they take her to hospital?’ Gavin closed his eyes, shutting out the vision of Helen slumped in the chair in her bedroom.
‘No, I don’t think so. Mary knows how to cope. Try not to worry, if her mind has switched off, it may only be for a few hours.’
‘I hope you’re right, but I should still be with her.’ Gavin turned from his father-in-law.
‘She won’t even know that you’re there, not when she’s like this.’ George reached for another file from the suitcase. ‘Here, read this.’ He passed over a large brown envelope.
‘What’s in here?’ Gavin sat down, opening it.
He pulled out a letter and some photographs of a smiling teenage girl.
‘That’s Sophie Barlow, she’s a couple of years older than our Helen. She lived in Halifax.’ George explained. ‘Read the letter, it’s a reply to a telephone message I left for her father. Sophie was found in the same state as our Helen. There were seven girls in Yorkshire who were like that about the same time.’
‘What!’ Gavin’s voice was full of disbelief. ‘How can that be? What…?’
‘Read the letter.’ George nodded at the sheets of paper in Gavin’s hand.
The girl’s father wrote briefly about his daughter, how bright and intelligent she was, not given to flights of fancy. She was a sensible girl. A normal girl, who had boyfriends, went to youth clubs, loved fashion and pop music.
Then he wrote about the lights that had been seen over the moors around Halifax in the weeks leading up to Christmas, how the television cameras had waited on the moor all night for three or four nights in the hope of filming the sight. Then he’d captured the lights himself on a home cine-camera and contacted Yorkshire Television. His film had been seen nationwide; all the channels had paid to use it. Then two days before Christmas, Sophie had the first nightmare. She screamed out in the early hours of the morning, hysterical and shouting about floating.
There followed a few paragraphs about the sleepless nights, Sophie getting more upset with each nightmare but unable to remember any details of the dream. Then on Boxing Day, they went to her bedroom to wake her, thinking she had slept late, to find her in the same unresponsive state as Helen.
Gavin looked up from the letter.
George held out another envelope file. ‘This is Janet Rhodes, same story.’ He pushed the slim file towards Gavin and picked up another. ‘This is Sarah Wilson.’
‘How many did you say?’ Gavin picked up the envelope. Taking out a photograph, he looked into the smiling face of another teenage girl.
‘Seven that I found out about, including our Helen. I only received letters from these three.’ George raised his eyebrows and shrugged.
‘What made you write to them?’ Gavin was beginning to see that it wasn’t going to be simple to get a straight explanation from George.
‘Like you, I wanted answers.’ The old man shrugged again. ‘The doctors didn’t have any, so I looked for people who might know more.’
‘How did you find out about the others, I thought there was such a thing as patient confidentiality?’ Gavin was drawn in now, in the same way that he could see George had been all those years before.
‘Sophie’s father was on the Television; in one of those, Can You Help? type programmes they showed after the early-evening news. It was the night after we found Helen in the coma and he described just the same state in his child. He was asking if there were any experts listening who could help him with Sophie.
I took down the number the programme gave out and rang it. Eventually, after giving my number and some details about Helen, I got through to his home telephone number. There was an answer phone, I left him a message about Helen and gave my name and number and added my address. He must have got lots of calls from that one show and it was a few days before I received that letter from him, it didn’t offer any help. It was just a reassurance that we weren’t alone, I suppose. It think it made Mary feel better, knowing that.
Then the other letters arrived. Mr Barlow sent them on to me. He must have got a sack full. Then I got a telephone call from a Mr Robertshaw.’ George rubbed his chin thoughtfully and stared at the carpet, as if wondering how to continue.
‘Who is Mr Robertshaw?’ Gavin prompted him.
‘He was an investigator.’ George avoided Gavin’s eyes.
‘A policeman, a detective, you mean?’ Gavin sat up, interested.
‘Not exactly,’ George gulped and took a long breath. ‘He was an investigator of the paranormal.’
To be continued………..
If you can’t wait to read the rest, Book one and book two are available as kindle eBooks on all Amazon stores.
Thank you for taking an interest in my work.