Room Thirty Nine.
Harry opened his eyes. He couldn’t see a thing. I’m blind, he thought with growing panic. He blinked a few times and turned his head. He could see a sliver of light then, a beam slanting past him. Not blind then. He reached out a hand, fumbling for a light switch. His fingers found something cold. A glass. It fell and the shattering sound made him jerk. He felt achy all over as if he were coming down with the flu. He also felt slightly disorientated. For some reason he knew that he wasn’t in his own bed, his own room. He reached out again, feeling for a light switch, found a pull cord and gave it a tug. There was a beeping noise, like an alarm and suddenly the room was flooded with light as a door was opened. There was a click and a light flickered on. Harry stared into the face of a tall, dark haired woman. She was wearing a nurses uniform. Harry blinked in confusion.
“SShh,” the woman said, “you’ve been in an accident Mr Lock. You’re in hospital,”
The woman stepped beside his bed and reached across him. He could see sweat stains under her arm. She pressed a button and the beeping stopped then she gazed down at him and smiled. She had a nice smile, he thought but it didn’t comfort him.
“How are you feeling?. Groggy I expect and tired,” she said.
Harry ran his tongue around his mouth.
“Dry,” he murmured. His throat was sore.
“I’ll get you some water…….and a new glass,” she said, staring at the floor, “won’t be long, back in a minute,”
She turned and walked out of the room, her shoes squeaking on the floor.
Harry gazed at the ceiling, at the light shade. There were dead flies trapped inside it. It stirred something in him, in the pit of his belly but he wasn’t sure what. He wondered what sort of accident he’d been in. He couldn’t seem to remember it at all. His head felt fuzzy and his brain felt disconnected.
“Here you are Mr Lock…….now don’t drink too much too soon mind. You’ll be sick,”
The nurse leant over him. In her hand she held a glass of water with a straw in it. She held the straw to his lips and he sipped the water. It was slightly warm but it felt like a balm on his throat. When he had finished, the nurse placed the glass on the table beside the bed.
“What happened?” Harry said, “I don’t remember,”
“You stepped in front of a car Mr Lock. You’re very lucky to still be here. You hit your head on the windscreen, broke it actually….”
“Oh………” Harry murmured, “I see…….I.….I…don‘t remember any of it”
“That’s quite normal,” the nurse said, “Short term memory loss is to be expected,”
“When……when can I go home?” Harry asked.
“Doctor Evans will be along to see you shortly. He’s the best person to ask really but you have taken a nasty bump to the head so its best not to rush these things okay?”
Harry nodded slightly, wincing at the pain in his head.
After the nurse had cleaned up the glass and left the room, Harry tried to remember the accident but couldn’t, no matter how hard he tried.
In fact, he couldn’t remember much of anything else either. His mind felt blank apart from the niggling feeling that there was something he had to do, somewhere he had to be. He stared at the ceiling, at the flies in the lampshade and willed his memory to return but it was as if his mind had been wiped clean. He closed his eyes and searched his memory. For some strange reason, he could see a piece of steak, bloody and raw. Then there were the damn flies again and they were swarming all over the steak. He opened his eyes, his breathing quickening. His mouth felt dry again. He craved a coffee. A coffee and a cigarette, he realised. That was something then, he thought. He was a smoker.
Harry tried to push himself up the bed. That feeling was back again. The feeling that he had to be somewhere. He pushed himself up into a sitting position and waited to see how he felt. His head thumped a little and he felt a bit dizzy but that soon passed. Harry pushed the cover back and swung his legs out of the bed then he very slowly stood up. The dizziness returned and he had to steady himself on the bedside table. When it had passed, he tentatively made his way to the built in wardrobe in the corner of the room and took out his clothes. He was a well dressed man, he noticed. He quickly dressed, leaving the hospital gown on the floor then he walked out of the room.
The corridor was bright and it hurt his head. Harry squinted all the way to the nurses desk. After collecting the rest of his belongings, and a thorough telling off from the nurse and the doctor for wanting to leave, Harry discharged himself. He knew it was a foolhardy thing to do considering the way his head felt but he couldn’t stay in the hospital. The urge to leave was overwhelming.
Outside the hospital, he stood for a few moments breathing in the fresh air and surveying the car park. He had no idea if he drove or if he had a car but as he had been run over by one he knew that he hadn’t been driving at the time of the accident so he would have to get a taxi to………….Harry narrowed his eyes. He had no idea where he would get a taxi to but he thought into the nearest town was a good start. He closed his eyes and a building suddenly appeared in his head. It was large and imposing with large naked windows. Was it where he lived?. He opened his eyes.
“Room thirty nine,” he said, to himself. It had popped into his mind, just like the building had.
Harry used the hospital phone to call for a cab then waited in the lobby. He caught his reflection in the glass doors. He was tall with dark hair. Quite striking, he thought. He smiled at his reflection and a woman entering the hospital threw him an odd look. He stared at her, at her skin, how smooth it was.
When his cab arrived he directed the driver to the nearest town.
“Drop me in the centre,” he said, to the jaded man.
In the town, Harry slowly walked by the shops and buildings, looking out for the one he could see in his mind but none matched. After half an hour, he felt tired so he made his way into the local park and sat on the hill on a paint chipped bench. It felt familiar somehow. He gazed into the distance at the rolling fields and trees, at the farms dotted here and there, and then he saw it. Rising out of a clump of trees three fields away, the roof of a large building. He could see it nestled and hidden like a naughty child. Harry smiled. That was it, he thought. He was certain.
He stood up, one hand steadying himself on the bench and suddenly, memories began to assault him, hitting him like bullets. He staggered slightly and his eyes widened as he remembered certain things.
I know what I am, who I am..
I’m an artist, he thought, then he began to walk towards the building.
He climbed over the park fence and walked through a corn field, trailing his hands on the tops of the corn stalks, over a stile, through another field full of cows and dung. Over another hedge. On and on until he was standing outside a driveway staring at the building. He ignored the sweat pouring from his body, the various scratches on his hands and arms from the brambles, the way his heart pounded like a hammer. He was home.
Harry lurched up the driveway and to the front door. He slipped a hand into his jeans pocket, pulled out a bunch of keys, slid one into the lock and opened the heavy oak door. Inside, he shut it and leant against it, relishing the cool wood against his sweat soaked back. He breathed in the familiar scent and listened keenly to the quietness of the place, the silence broken only by the buzzing of flies somewhere in the house, then he headed upstairs. The stairs were narrow and steep and stopped at several floors along the way. He knew that the house used to be a care home many years before and there were numerous rooms. Fifty in fact. Harry had bought the building two years ago. He had big plans for it. Indeed, he had already completed refurbishing rooms fifty to forty.
He counted the rooms as he went along. Room thirty one, thirty two, thirty three, his hand touching each closed door, until he reached room thirty nine. He stopped and stared at the door, at the numbers in gold plating on the wood, then he opened it.
There she was.
His work. He gazed at the woman, letting his eyes sweep the length of her body. He stepped into the room. He could remember everything now. Snatching her from behind the pub as she‘d walked past him in the shadows, bundling her into his car, driving here, locking her in the room. He drew in a deep breath, closed his eyes briefly as he recalled the delicious feel of her smooth satin skin against the blade of his carving knife, the colour of her blood. She was exquisite. Not dead yet though. Or so he hoped. He wanted to enjoy her a little longer.
He remembered now that after working on the woman he had gone out to buy more rope and tape. To use in room thirty eight, for his next piece of art. He had been crossing the road when he had been knocked over.
Harry picked up a knife from a table in the centre of the room then he stepped toward the woman, who was lying tied up on a mattress in the corner of the room. She had her eyes shut, unconscious but she was still breathing, just. He gazed at her face. She was beautiful and serene and he would make her more so, he thought then he bent to finish his art.