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.’
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Chapter Eight: (In the past, George)
George knew Mary was watching him suspiciously as he listened at the telephone. They’d had so many calls from strangers these last few weeks and this one began to sound like another crank. George had even considered changing the telephone number, just to get some peace. They’d enough to worry about with Helen being the way she was, without all these strangers pestering them. This caller was insisting that he could help Helen.
George was nodding, though he kept his expression grave. He knew Mary was closely following the conversation. He now believed the call was not from a crank. From what the man was saying, he seemed to know a lot about Helen’s condition and George was now listening intently. Mary came to his side as soon as he replaced the receiver.
‘Who was that?’ she asked, obviously worried by George’s expression.
‘An investigator, he wants to come and talk to us.’ George said vaguely, his mind still full of the telephone conversation.
‘What’s he investigating? Is it to do with our Helen?’ Mary sounded hopeful. They had both reached the stage where they would grasp at straws. George knew that Mary was ready to consider almost anything that could help Helen to get back to her normal self, but his wife was a practical minded woman. He knew she would have no time for anything other-worldly.
‘It could be helpful to see him,’ he said, not giving anything away. He knew, as desperate as Mary was, she would have no time for an investigator of the paranormal.
‘When is he coming?’ she asked.
‘Tomorrow afternoon.’ George went to his daughter who lay on the sofa staring blankly at the TV screen.
Sitting by her side, he took her hand and began to stroke it gently. Unlike his wife, George was ready to try anything, listen to anyone, if it meant restoring sanity to this child of his; no matter how weird or far fetched it sounded.
Janine’s nightmares had stopped the night previous to finding Helen in her vacant state. Their youngest child suffered a few ill effects. She jumped at shadows and became upset at the most trivial annoyance. She was nervy and twitchy and found it difficult to sleep. The doctors had prescribed tranquilisers at first. George wasn’t too happy about the drugs, but she only took them for a couple of weeks and seemed to settle down. When the doctor took her off the pills, he offered some counselling for their youngest child and explained that she seemed to be suffering from some kind of post-traumatic syndrome.
As Helen’s illness went on, Janine began having temper tantrums. She used to be such a placid child. Now she was moody and depressed, but Mary pointed out that it could be the normal teenage phase asserting itself. On the whole, Janine seemed to be coping well, considering they didn’t have the time to devote to her now that Helen took so much of their attention. George worried about Janine, but not half as much as he worried about his eldest child.
Helen had started taking notice of them in the last couple of days, which was a great comfort. Her eyes focused occasionally and she lifted her limbs to assist her mother when she was dressing her.
In the two months since the Christmas Holidays George and Mary hadn’t enjoyed one full night’s sleep. First there were the nightmares. Then Helen’s illness meant she had to be looked after constantly. Mary insisted she didn’t want Helen sent to a hospital, George agreed, but it meant a lot of hard work for them both. Even when Helen was finally safe in bed for the night, their work did not stop. The alarm clock had to be set every four hours and they took turns to go and turn her in bed to prevent her from getting bedsores.
Mary took responsibility of Helen’s intimate needs and George helped where he could after work. Helen’s grandparents were too infirm to help, Mary’s sister lived too far away and George was an only child. They only had each other to lean on. Their friends and neighbours were no longer so friendly since the party. Some ridiculed them for not speaking to the media and others just kept out of their way since Helen became ill, suspicious of anything to do with mental illness.
Alone, they bore the burden, turning to the team of doctors and nurses who came to help and seeking advice from anyone who could give it. The TV programme with Mr Barlow talking about Sophie offered them some comfort, but no real help. He promised to pass on any useful information he might receive. He also passed on their telephone number to any crank that rang him, and the telephone never stopped ringing. They were tempted to unplug it as they had in the beginning, but George didn’t want to miss any calls from the families he’d made contact with. He didn’t want to risk missing any vital information that could help with his research, there was always the possibility that a call would come offering some genuine help. This last call promised to be just that, if George could let himself believe what the man told him.
Mr Robertshaw was a small, thin, ordinary looking man. He wore a grey suit that had seen better days and black-rimmed spectacles. His hair was thinning and his shirt collar was frayed. He carried a scuffed leather briefcase and fumbled with the handle as he changed hands to shake George’s outstretched one.
‘Come in, Mr Robertshaw, glad you found us.’ George’s voice sounded unnaturally jovial, even to himself.
‘Your directions were very good, Mr Andrews, I had no trouble.’ He took small shuffling steps as he followed George into the dining room.
‘Please sit down and I’ll get Mary to make us some tea.’ George was about to call his wife when Mr Robertshaw interrupted.
‘Not for me, thank you.’ He placed his briefcase carefully on the polished dining table and took out a tiny tape recorder. ‘I’d sooner get straight down to it.’
George was taken aback at the small man’s abruptness, but went along with him, seating himself opposite, as Mr Robertshaw perched nervously on a dining chair.
‘Firstly, I’d like you to tell me about the lights. In your own time.’ He switched on the tape recorder, leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes.
George cleared his throat and made a self-conscious cough, insufficient to convey his true feelings. This man’s attitude was bordering on rudeness and George simply did not know how to deal with him.
‘Well, I don’t know,’ George began.
‘Just describe what you saw,’ Mr Robertshaw prompted.
So George described exactly what had happened on New Year’s Eve, with no frills and no embellishments. He stopped speaking when he finished describing how the lights dissolved.
‘Thank you, Mr Andrews, that was refreshingly concise and to the point.’ He reached over and switched off the machine. ‘Now, about your two girls.’ His eyes stared intensively into George’s as he leaned forward and George became wary for an instant that he might, after all, be dealing with another crank.
‘What about them, Mr Robertshaw?’ George asked, leaning back heavily making his chair creak loudly.
‘Tell me about the nightmares.’ Again, he was short and to the point, but George decided that this was a man who didn’t waste words or time. His attitude was a little strange, but George began to trust him.
‘There’s not a lot I can tell you and the girls remember nothing.’ George warned.
‘Are you sure they told you the truth when they said they could not remember?’ The small man leaned closer, whispering, ‘they might not have wanted to tell you.’
‘I’m sure our Janine couldn’t remember, but I did get the impression that our Helen knew more than she would say.’ George remembered the look in her eyes when he went into her room on one of the nights, he was sure she knew something.
‘I knew it!’ Mr Robertshaw sat up, clenching both fists in front of him. ‘I have to speak to her.’
‘You can try, but I’m afraid you won’t get far.’ George still wasn’t sure if he should let this strange man anywhere near Helen.
‘She’s the one whose mind has gone elsewhere?’ His voice held a note of sympathy and George nodded. ‘Well, could I see her, ask her some questions? I’ll not upset her and if she shows any sign of distress, I’ll stop.’
‘You can try.’ George decided that if this man could get any reaction from Helen he would be pleased, even if she did get upset. Anything was better than the vacant stare she gave them.
‘She’s through here.’ George led him into the living room, where Helen sat in the fireside chair, staring vacantly at the flickering gas flames.
‘Helen?’ George sat on the arm of the chair. ‘This is Mr Robertshaw. He’d like to talk to you.’ George watched as the man placed his tape recorder on the small coffee table and switched it on.
‘Hello, Helen.’ His voice was softer as he spoke to Helen and he leaned forward to touch her arm. George wandered how he knew to touch her when he spoke. The doctors told them to do that, to give her extra stimulation.
‘I know this is hard for you, but I really can help you come home, if you’ll let me,’ he spoke continuously, using a soft hypnotic tone and he held her arm, stroking his fingers up and down in time to the rhythm of his words. ‘I know where you’ve been, Helen and I think I know where you are now,’ he paused.
Helen seemed to stop breathing for a second or two then her eyes flickered slightly. George held his breath and watched.
‘You don’t have to stay there, you have a choice.’ Mr Robertshaw watched her face closely. ‘They have finished what they had to do. They don’t need you anymore. You are free to come home.’
George looked at the small man stroking his daughter’s arm and talking rubbish to her and wondered what he was getting himself into. This was a ridiculous situation and he was about to tell Mr Robertshaw to pack up and leave, when Helen moved her head. Only by a small amount, but it was more than she had moved without been asked since they found her like that. George held his breath.
The small man continued talking, slowly and rhythmically, all the while stroking her arm. The words he was saying were meaningless to George. He talked of something keeping her against her will. That she couldn’t help it. That it wasn’t her fault and she was all right now. She could come home. As far as George could see, she was home. She’d never left, but though he didn’t understand the words the man was saying, he could see the effect they were having on his daughter.
Helen seemed to focus on Mr Robertshaw. She really looked at him and her breathing became faster. They were small changes, but to George they were leaps of improvement. He left the room and went to get Mary. He thought his wife should see this.
When Mary entered the room, Helen was leaning forward in the chair. Mary stood very still, as if not daring to move in case she shattered the illusion. Helen looked normal and alert, her eyes were fixed on the strange man kneeling before her.
‘Helen! That’s it!’ Mr Robertshaw was grinning, his voice still soft, but more urgent. ‘Come on, girl, you can do it. Come back home.’
‘Oh, George,’ Mary whispered, her eyes filling with tears.
Helen gripped the small man’s arms and pulled herself upright. She glanced to her parents, opened her mouth as if to speak then closed it. She let go of Mr Robertshaw and fell back into the chair and let out a long shivering sigh. Mary and George were instantly at her side. Mr Robertshaw sat back on his heels and watched them.
Mary fussed, kissing Helen, touching her, pulling her close and hugging her. George touched her head and turned his attention to the man who had performed, in George’s eyes, a miracle.
Mr Robertshaw gathered his tape recorder and left the room. He collected his briefcase from the dining room and glanced back at the three figures huddled by the fireside. George moved away from his daughter to thank the man who had managed to bring her back to them.
The small man raised his hands in front of him, as if to push George away. ‘Don’t thank me yet, there’s a long way to go.’ He looked over George’s shoulder. ‘She has a long way to go.’
‘Will you come again?’ George asked, knowing this was only the beginning.
‘At the weekend, if that’s all right.’ Mr Robertshaw smiled up at George.
‘I have to work, but Mary will be here.’ George explained, happy to leave his women with this man now. Mr Robertshaw had proved he could do what he said he could do on the phone. Helen was out of the vacant mental state she had endured for more than two months and this strange man had promised he would bring her back to complete health in a few weeks.
During the next few days, Helen gradually began to do things for herself. She was shaky on her feet and reluctant to talk about how she felt, but she could talk. She could walk and stand and do everything she could do before. The doctors were impressed with her overnight recovery, but stressed she should not be over excited and should take a few more weeks off school, to allow her to regain her strength.
George insisted that nobody should mention to the doctors or psychologists about Mr Robertshaw’s intervention. There’d been enough ridicule, without having it from the professionals too. Mr Robertshaw continued to visit, insisting on privacy for his talks with Helen, all of which he meticulously recorded. The tapes remained secret, only Helen and Mr Robertshaw knew what they discussed. This was a condition he placed on his visits. George and Mary were only too happy to comply, especially as Helen seemed to improve with each of his visits.
To be continued……………………
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I will be taking a break from blogging until May 2014. Thank you for your patience.