Fred's Fifth Favour-Part Five (REPLACES OTHER THREAD)
Now wearing pyjamas in bed, Fred pulled up the duvet and lay back. The mattress was soft, sheets silky and lovely to touch, and fresh and pleasantly and gently soapy, almost mildly perfumed, in smell. After his labours in the garden, he appreciated such luxurious comfort. Not even the sound of caterwauling outside could spoil his pleasure. Tom, most likely, trying to scare another cat off from what his territory, as cats did.
The animal vocal noise came to an abrupt end, almost as if someone had seized the beast and snapped its neck, in mid-snarl. The adversary must have fled, thought Harry.
Fred allowed himself to begin to slide into sleep, relaxing fully now there was no distracting sound from outside-none, that is, apart from the sound of slow, plodding, loud footsteps. It sounded as if someone were pacing up and down, deliberately loitering. Fred was too tired to be curious.
He had a thought. His daughter had promised to let him know how the last exam had gone yesterday. As of when he'd left his house she’d not done. He'd planned to call her tonight. He'd ring her tomorrow, he promised himself. He relaxed, focusing on the mattress’s contours, enjoyed how they softly moulded themselves to his body. He drifted off, with the sense of the curves beneath him undulating gently and down. It seemed almost like actual motion, lulling him further and further from consciousness....
And then suddenly the motion was real! He was out, on a hilly country road straight, but going up and down like a switchback. Though he had neither driven nor owned a car for years he sat, now, at the wheel of an old-fashioned, open-topped vintage car.
Sitting beside him, in graduation costume of black gown and cap, was a young blond woman, her head and body of Fred's square build, her features Fred's features, but feminised.
His daughter, Paula! Carrying a foot-long metal tube: her degree certificate!
'Paula! You've passed!'
'Sure did, Dad! That's my education complete. Got my whole life ahead of me now: career, marriage, kids-your grand-kids! But why so surprised!?’ laughed Paula. ‘Didn't you have faith in me!? Didn't you think I'd pass!?'
'No, dear!' blustered Fred, quickly. 'I mean I-I'm just a little surprised to be here, that's all...Oh never mind! You know I've always had faith in you. Not like my father. He hadn’t much faith in me! But I've always known you'd do well! And now I'm the proudest father alive!'
'I just hope I can keep on being a proud daughter,' she answered. Fred looked at her, surprised. Her smile had gone now. She looked serious.
'What do you mean…?' began Fred.
'Dad, you've got to get sorted out.'
'”Sorted out”? I don’t understand….’
'Dad. Things are getting out of hand, again.'
Fred felt at jerk at his fingertips. Turning, he saw with shock that the steering wheel had shrunk. The road, before straight, was now winding.
Fred looked at his daughter, in silent confusion.
'Don't pretend you don't know what I mean, Dad. You've really got to get things under control.'. Face and voice were serious and sombre as she spoke
Fred clutched at the wheel as the car suddenly swerved. He regained control, then watched in disbelief as the wheel shrank again, coming away from his fingers.
The road, now, was winding more and more, like a river valley. A wind was rushing through the air. The sky darkened and becoming stormy. The car was going quicker and quicker. He lifted his foot from the accelerator; pressed the brake. The car just went faster. Beside him, Paula was speaking, but it was hard to make her words out with the roaring of the wind and storm in his ears. He looked at her-then flinched in shock.
By him sat a withered and shrivelled old crone of a woman, toothless, with hair of white. Despite the ravages of age, the square head and jaw told him one thing.
'I did it, Dad, I lived my life: had my career, marriage, kids-your grand-kids.'. The voice was ancient and wheezy, each word seeming strained out with massive effort. 'You missed it all, Dad. You will miss it all if you don't see where you're heading. Because, if you give too much, Dad, then you end up losing everything-even yourself, Dad. Even yourself!'. As the sentence finished, it rose into a plaintive cry.
Something jolted Fred's attention back to the rode. Up ahead, he saw a massive dark shape in the road. He stamped on the brakes and cried out in terror as the unabating speed hurtled them into the dark shape.
There was a roar of metal rending. Fred was vaguely aware of the air around him filled with a million flying, speeding fragments: pieces of car, pieces of Paula. It seemed as if he, himself, had been smashed into a million tiny pieces, all travelling separately, bouncing off one another, fragmenting again into smaller and smaller bits. He and all around seemed nothing but a chaotic melee of sub-atomic particles melded with noise and pain-voiceless pain, for Fred no longer had body to scream.
And then there was only darkness, and silence, and peace, pure peace.
Fred opened his eyes. He was in the bed, in Sally's spare room. Through the darkness, the red digits of the electric clock nearby showed: 03.22.
He let out a long, low sigh, glad the nightmare was just that, and was over.
Fred closed his eyes again, relief shifting quickly to sleepiness. As he lost consciousness, he once more seem to see those slow, plodding but loud footsteps circling outside. His sinking mind accompanied the sounds with the image of a royal guard, in red coat and bearskin hat, pacing up and down on a parade ground. Presently, the hat seemed to slip down, so that it covered the man's mouth and hung from his chin, and then suddenly the hat was a beard, and the man was seated. Dressed now in a dark suit and tie, he regarded Fred with large blue eyes which expressed friendly concern. Fred felt a warm feeling, the feeling of someone who knows another person cares-then he smiled in sudden recognition.
'Wait a minute! I know you, don't I...?'. The man gave an answering smile and nodded. And then the beard was gone, leaving only a dark moustache. The bright eyes were now invisible beneath hard metallic lenses, from behind which Fred now only perceived cold threat.
The figure lunged at him. Fred felt his chest, neck and mouth being compressed and began to struggle in panic. It was no good. He couldn’t breath and as everything went black, he knew it was the end.
Then, his eyes opened. Fred found he had rolled over so that the pillow was pressing into his face and chest. Quickly, he righted himself. Sunlight now streamed into the room from behind the curtains. Morning birdsong filled the air outside.
'Goodness me! What horrible dreams! I do hope they weren't bad omens. Shower fist, then Tom's breakfast, then mine.'
Fred got up, and pulled open the curtains. Omens! He didn't believe in such nonsense! Anyway, who could portend ill-starred omens about such a gorgeous morning: sunny, but without the fierceness of yesterday's heat, as far as one could judge at this early hour.
On such a beautiful day, you felt the world and life itself were beautiful, Fred reflected.
Please God let nothing happen to spoil such a perfect day.
Last edited by Phoenix Lazarus; 02-10-2018 at 02:20 AM..