The Television Handed Ghostess
After an uncountable age of darkness, shadow and murmur the nightmare that had clung to James Ravell's mind let go suddenly and James was thrust into light, sound and shape... people... a room somewhere...
He was lying down on a bed or table in a room somewhere... He could not move. His jaw dropped and James let go a silent scream, the faintest puff of air. Fear gushed through James as his memory began to reilluminate. Fear and memory and... where was he, somewhere? His eyes scanned. Something was wrong. He was alone, lying down… somewhere. There were cables and tubes and a machine nearby, humming quietly. The room was painted white, strip-lit. Across the room was a door with a window and a face inside. Someone was looking at him; a man in a mask.
Somehow James knew this place. His eyes scanned but his body rebelled. He knew this place. Something was wrong. He had to get away. James tried to move, to rise up but his limbs did not respond. Instead he only shifted his weight across his body, rolling and falling onto the floor with a thud.
The Man Behind the Mask, came rushing into the room. He gathered James Ravell up in his arms, through the tangle of wires and tubes. The Man looked at him with what, for a moment, seemed like tenderness but the Man quickly turned his head, took off the mask and yelled "he's awake!" at the now open doorway. "Quick, get me some...!" and he reeled off a list of nouns and numbers that James realised were drugs of some kind.
James did not have long. With some effort he managed to raise his left hand, brushing it against the Man's face. The Man put the mask back on and turned to James.
"She has risen" James croaked. "She is coming."
Producer 1: Who's that?
Producer 2: Who's what?
P1: Who's that there...? Her…
P2: [Derisively] That's a bloke...
P1: No, not the weather man, the [struggles for the right words] sign language woman.
P2: [Realises] Oh aye, there she is... She's not doing much is she?
P1: Get on to the agency, this is a... oh, she's started now... Wait, is that sign language?
P2: Looks like it...
P1: I don't know... Get on to the agency anyway and find out who she is. We can't have... oh...
P2: She just disappeared...
Gethin sat waiting for the nurse to come, by himself, watching the TV. His temper glowed, slowly flickering; stuck again. It was early evening, time for his patch change. When was the nurse coming? It was supposed to be in the morning. They wouldn't let him have oramorph. He didn't have 'capacity' so he had to wait in for the nurse to come. When was she coming though?
That'd be her.
Definitely her. "Alright, alright" yelled Gethin. He hauled himself up out of his chair and limped across the room, shifting his bulk; good foot, BAD foot, good foot, BAD foot...
"For eff sake!" Gethin reached for the intercom and pressed the button. "What is it?"
"Nurse, Mr James" said the Voice at the other end, bright if a little modulated. "I've come to do your patch. Could you please let me in?"
"What time do you call this?" asked Gethin. He wasn't bothered about an answer. "Forget it" he huffed, out of breath and pressed the button by the intercom unlocking the gate downstairs. "I'll be by the door, yeah?"
"Thanks" said the Voice.
Minutes later a knock and a: "Hello?" The Voice was just as bright in real life but Gethin was wary. He opened the door on the latch. Light leaked inside. He blinked at the Silhouette standing before him:
"You're not my normal nurse" he said.
"I'm agency" said the Woman. "I'm covering for the normal nurse."
"ID?" Gethin grunted. The Woman obliged. She held out her proof. "OK" said Gethin after glancing at it briefly. He removed the latch. "Sorry about that... can't be too careful these days."
"Indeed not" said the Nurse. She stepped inside Gethin's flat, dark and warm. He led the Nurse along the hallway to his living room. The TV was on and curtains were drawn on the west-facing windows, shutting out the last rays of evening sun. There were bottles dotted around, mostly empty. Gethin sat down again on his couch.
"Excuse me" he said and reached out for a bottle of something cloudy. He finished the bottle and exhaled, a satisfied gasp. "Sorry" he said again, looked up at the Shadow of a Woman in front of him and put the bottle down. "Let's begin."
"Before we begin" said the Nurse. She put her work bag down then finished her thought. "I'll need to see what I am doing. Can I open the curtains, please?"
"Yeah, yeah" said Gethin, scratching his gut and falling back into orbit around the television. A film was playing. "Just be careful, you know?"
"I understand, Mr James." The Nurse opened the curtains just a crack then squatted down next to Gethin. "How are you doing, Mr James?"
"Foot hurts" said Gethin, still watching the TV. "But I'm alright."
"Is the podiatrist coming round?"
"The foot person?"
"Oh, yeah" said Gethin.
"Would you like me to have a look at it, Mr James?" asked the Nurse.
"Sure, why not?" and Gethin shifted his weight. He looked at the Nurse again, now in the light. "I, uh... wait... Do I know you?" He looked at her for a long instant. She was young, though he couldn't tell how young. She had pale skin, blue eyes, a strong chin and wavy, seaweed-like strawberry blonde hair. Something rang true like a memory half-submerged.
The Nurse clutched her chest. "I haven't been here before" she shook her head. "You don't know me. I am an agency nurse..." Pause, she smiled a big, luminous smile. But Gethin wasn't sure:
"No" he said, "you weren't a nurse..."
"I am a nurse... an agency nurse…" a big, luminous smile. "Right foot isn't it?"
Gethin shrugged and took a deep breath. He couldn't place her. Without asking again the Nurse lifted his leg and carefully peeled off the sock. Once she was done Gethin breathed out. His foot was in bad shape, tender, flushed, swollen, oedematous. "No wonder you've been in pain" said the Nurse. "Have you got compression socks?"
"Yeah" said Gethin, already looking away. "They're in the drawers... somewhere... kitchen… I think."
"Yep" said Gethin, "but I don't remember."
The Nurse took some time in the kitchen, out of sight. Gethin puzzled again. Her face was familiar but odd, slightly unsettling. The image was not quite forming in his mind. He had so much trouble remembering things, socks or people. It was hard. He gave up again and returned to the TV, taking another hit from his bottle.
The Nurse came back from the kitchen with a sock and squatted back down next to Gethin. She fitted it on with gentle care. "That's got it. Right... let's do it... arm please." Gethin knew what to do. He could remember that much. "This show" said Gethin unbuttoning his shirt, "this film... I know the guy who made it... the... the director I mean..."
"Do you work in television?" asked the Nurse, carefully removing the old patch.
"Worked" said Gethin. "Props and sets and stuff, carpentry, designing, fascinating it was... I knew the director, the guy who made this, back when he was a cinematographer." The Nurse searched in her bag. Gethin continued. "He's famous now but I remember when we used to work on dramas, soap operas. How'd you frame a series of reaction shots, uh?" He shook his head, chuckling now. The Nurse unwrapped the new patch and carefully pressed it on. "Ah..." Gethin sighed as it sank in, relief. He smiled to himself, sweet relief. "Sorry... Anyway, he's famous now. You might know him, the director."
"I do" said the Nurse, standing up.
Gethin looked at her, now back in the light again somehow. "Really, how come that...?" Something sunk in, or rose up. The memory re-emerged. "Oh..." Gethin gulped. He knew what he was looking at, something impossible, something horrific, something he thought and hoped he'd driven out of his mind, away, buried, something he'd sunk... "in... canal..." he mouthed.
"I know him" said the Nurse. "He drove me... and he's next" she said, pointing to Gethin's arm. A mark cold and black was spreading from the patch.
"What have you done?" asked Gethin.
"Don't fight it" said the Nurse, smiling, still bright-sounding. "There's nothing you can do now anyway..."
Gethin tried to rouse himself, a surge, he half roared half slurred, "ghrrr!" but the Nurse held him down with ease. The blackness was spreading along his arm, twisting like weeds up his shoulder. Gethin looked up at her again now with fear and awe. "But..."
"Why?" asked the Nurse. "Why not? It's only justice... Goodnight Gethin James."
His body went numb, his eyes rolled back. Gethin headed down and down and down into the dark.
Producer 2: [Points at screen] What...? Look...!
Producer 1: Hmm...? [Shock] She's back! [To Showrunner] Can you see that, the, the Sign Language Woman?
Runner: The what...?
P1: Were you in here earlier?
P1: [Firm] Get on the phone to the agency. I want to know who she is....
P1: And get a playback from earlier! [Pause - to P2] She shouldn't be there. I don't know what… how's she managing it...? Gone…! I'm not having this! [Shouts to Showrunner, who is hovering by the door] Get on the phone, now!