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Dreams in which I'm dying

Lying in a hospital bed, I was drifting in and out of consciousness, trying to work out what I was doing there and why all the guns

By Raymond G. TaylorPublished 4 months ago Updated 3 months ago 17 min read
Image generated by the author using Dall-E-3

All I could hear was a rushing, roaring sound, like a waterfall or a drum roll, or maybe a radio not quite tuned in. The noise blotted out all other sound. I thought I had seen a bright flash of light. Perhaps it was lightning, a distant thundercloud. I tried to open my eyes without success. There was a vague notion of someone speaking but I could discern nothing meaningful. I had a sinking feeling, pressure on my chest, desperate to take a breath. My head felt like it was about to explode then, suddenly, I was free.

Floating in the milky warm water my vision began to clear. All around, the sky was a deep blue, with not a cloud in sight. The water was blue beyond blue and seemed to go on forever. The waterfall was further away and I could hardly hear it now. I drifted past a marble structure of some sort, to one side, but was unable to move my head to look up at it. I carried on swimming, not knowing where I was going. Where was I? With a sensation of near bliss, I stopped swimming. Everything was a blur. I could feel the waters closing over my head. The light got brighter and again I could hear someone speaking.

"I think he's coming round."

"Dad... Dad... can you hear me?"

I thought I could recognise the voices. One must be my daughter's. Was she swimming too? With that thought I sank back into the inky depths beneath.

When I awoke, I found myself blinking, straining to pick out some definite shape through the dark fog that surrounded me. All I could see was three shadows, one of them sitting with what looked like a huge cannon across its knees. Another leaning over me where I lay in bed. The third standing a little way off also seemed to be carrying something. It could have been a guitar hanging from a shoulder strap.

The nearest figure took a hold of my wrist, causing me to shudder.

"Sorry, did I hurt you?"

The words were clearer this time. I blinked and blinked, trying to clear the fog from my eyes.

"Mr Blanchard, can you hear me?"

I could but, try as I might, I couldn't seem to form the words to reply. I felt something tubular in my mouth that didn't help. I moved my head slightly in what might have been taken as an affirmative nod.

"You're in hospital, Mr Blanchard. No need to talk."

The shadows began to resolve themselves into distinct human shapes and I could now see two guns. Two big guns. One across the lap of the seated figure, who appeared to be craning his neck to get a better view of me. Not for the purposes of aiming the weapon, it seemed, as the automatic remained where it was, angled down to the ground. Likewise the standing figure held the firearm, supported by the guitar strap over his shoulder.

"You've been unconscious for a few days. Just rest for now and I will go and get the doctor."

With this, the nurse clipped something into a pocket and strode off.

Guitar man stepped a little closer, as the seated gunman stood up.

"What's with all the guns," I managed to croak.

"You don't remember?" asked the standing figure, who I could now see sporting a protective vest and blue serge, vague shapes jutting out of it here and there.

The two police officers were now standing side by side, carefully pointing their impressive weapons away from the hospital bed and each other.

"Seems you've been playing with guns... or someone has."

I had no idea what they were talking about and I was starting to drift off again. The officers swapped places before I saw a third gun-toting policeman approach.

"Sleeping beauty woken up?" I heard him say. Before either of the other two could answer I felt yet another presence that I guessed to be the promised doctor.

"How are you feeling Mr Blanchard? You gave us quite a fright."

I groaned a vague reply.

"You are lucky to be alive."

Remembering I had heard my daughter, Kim, speak earlier, I asked about her. The nurse said she had stayed with me for most of the day but I was unconscious. Kim had promised she would return in the morning.

After being poked and prodded by various doctors and nurses, each asking the same questions over and over, they eventually left me to my rest. The experience had been exhausting.

I was back in the water. Drifting around, wondering where I was going. One side was the marble structure that I still couldn’t see. The other side there was a bright white light searing into my consciousness. It seemed to be drawing me towards it. I allowed myself to drift towards the light for a while then decided to swim in the opposite direction, when I found myself again in a hospital bed. The room was mostly dark but peppered with little bright stars. I lay there for a while, trying to focus on one of the lights.

"Can't sleep?" said a voice beside me. It startled me a little, as I had not noticed the figure sitting beside the bed. Moving my head a little, I could see a uniformed officer, again with a big automatic weapon.

"Why the armed guard? Am I dangerous?"

The officer laughed. "Not you. Didn't they tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

"You were shot. A week ago. You're lucky to be alive." It was becoming a bit of an anthem and I was not sure I liked being lucky to be alive.

"Why would anyone want to shoot me?"

"That's what we would like to know." He explained that the police thought I might have been the victim of a mistaken identity. A drive-by shooting. At least a dozen rounds had been fired at me with an automatic weapon, two of which had struck home. I was none the wiser but guessed the armed police were there as a precaution, though I didn't think it would be necessary.

A nurse came in, switching on a light that hurt my eyes. After apologising, she fussed around me for a bit then thankfully switched the light off and left. The guard changed and the night wore on. I must have drifted off to sleep again, this time dreamless.

As I dragged myself awake I was treated to a "Dad, Dad, Oh! Dad... You're awake."

Half strangled by the enthusiastic embrace, I managed a "Hello precious" and a half smile.

"We have been so worried about you."

Looking up I could see, standing at the end of the bed, my ex-wife Gloria, Kim's mother. She wore that look of reproach I knew so well. I wondered if she had been worried about me, or just concerned about how Kim would take it.

"We thought we were going to lose you..." with this Kim burst into a fit of sobbing.

"Hey, hey, kitten, I'm fine. No need to worry about me. I'm tough as old boots."

Gloria extricated Kim, trying to reassure her.

"Hi Gloria, thanks for bringing her in."

"Well, like Kim said, we were worried about you."

Gloria very diplomatically then left me with Kim, she said to get a coffee. I gave her the thirsty look but all I got was a nod to the nil-by-mouth sign over the bed. I couldn't see it but Kim told me.

After 20 minutes of not very conversational time with my daughter, Gloria returned with the news that the police would be coming that morning to have a chat to me if I felt up to it. It was only then that I noticed the armed guard was absent. Seeing me look around, Gloria told me that the armed officers had been called off. They decided I was not in any further danger and they had a state visit to cover. Shortly after that, she left, taking Kim with her, after lots more kisses and an extra strong strangle hold. Not from Gloria, of course, who fidgeted awkwardly, as if she was not sure how much concern she ought to show to an ex-husband in hospital.

When they had gone, I asked to speak to the doctor. I wanted to know more about my injuries, when I would be able to leave hospital. Not for a few weeks at least, I was told. I had lost a lot of blood and had an operation scheduled for the afternoon, hence the nil-by-mouth rule. They feared there was still some internal bleeding and a scan they had done while I was unconscious indicated some organ damage. I didn't want to know which organ.

When the two CID personnel arrived, they reminded me of a scene from the movie An American Werewolf in London, when an older senior police officer arrives at the hospital to interview David, and with a junior detective in tow. Except in this case the senior officer, a Detective Inspector, was a younger woman, and the hapless DC was an older man. The DI struck me as being very much the 'executive' type. She thanked me for agreeing to speak to them, said did I need anything, and asked me if I was sure I was up to talking. I said I was, but was not in the least convinced by her affected concern.

"Can you tell us what you were doing when you went to the scene of the shooting." I had to think about what I was doing that day and had only a vague notion. I had been walking to a client's premises among the industrial units behind Deptford Creek, which was just south of the Thames.

"I was visiting a client..... I think."

"Do you remember which client?" I gave the name of the client, and as much of the address as I could remember.

"And what exactly was your business with this Mr......."

"I'm an accountant," I explained. "We were discussing some irregularities in his stock records." All the while the DS was taking notes.

"An accountant?" She said this with something of curiosity... or disbelief.

"Yes, a forensic accountant. As I said, I was looking into some irregularities in the company's accounts."

"Yeah I got that but we understood that you were a... a... what did the PND records boys call it, Mike?" This to the DS.

"A private... er... enquiry agent, guv."

The DI grinned at this. "Yes, a private... enquiry agent. That means you are a... a... private detective, doesn't it?"

There was little disguising the contempt in her voice.

"I'm a forensic account. I investigate dodgy accounts for retail and distribution companies." I explained with as much dignity as I could muster, in my supine position and groggy head state.

"They call me when they think their stock has been going missing or funds have been misappropriated. I investigate the possible causes. Usually down to staff pilfering or profit skimming."

The questioning continued. I explained that the client I was visiting was a supplier of tools and equipment to the retail trade. They thought their stock figures were out and wanted to find out if any of the staff had been stealing from the warehouse floor. I advised them to start by installing CCTV. Could someone have wanted to bring the investigations to an abrupt end by staging a shooting?

"No!" I was quite emphatic about it. The losses were not huge and it was not the kind of thing you associate with armed gangs.

"Well, is there anyone else you think could be responsible?" Have you made any enemies in your line of work." Still this mocking tone. They wouldn't have been talking to me like this if I worked for one of the big firms that charge £1800 a day for forensic accounting and employ smart young darlings in sharp suits complete with posh voice and BBC accent.

I had a think about everyone I knew or had dealings with, who might bear a grudge. There was Gloria of course, but hardly the gun-toting type and, in any case, our divorce had been relatively rancour-free. Jealous rival? Hardly. I wasn't seeing anyone at the time and Gloria's partner was an old drinking buddy of mine. Kim got on fine with him. No issues there either.

Other clients? Other subjects under investigation? I'd had no other work at the time apart from a small investigative assignment for a woman who wondered why her husband never had any money. He held down a well-paid job and wouldn't discuss his finances with her. She wondered if he was spending money on another woman. As a rule, I never got involved in divorce work but this was a simple matter of checking up to see what he was spending his money on. Chances were he was losing heavily at gambling or over-indulging in some other vice. Could the husband have taken exception to my prying into his private life? Surely not to the extent of hiring a gunman.

I could think of none of my recent work investigating fraud or theft where the losses were on the kind of scale that might give cause to those responsible to arrange my murder. Then again, thinking back to the tools supply business, Deptford is an area with a high crime rate, gun-crime being one of the factors that boosted the rate. No, I couldn't believe it possible, surely nobody would take a pot-shot at me over a few thousand pounds worth of pilfered tools? And a rapid-firing automatic? That kind of thing is rare in London and is usually associated with some crazed drug gang rivalry. Again, I went back to the mistaken-identify theory.

It was all too much for me to think about in my bed-ridden and still weak state. I closed my eyes and started to drift off. Shortly after hearing the exiting footsteps, I fell back into an uneasy slumber.

I was back in the water, this time drifting around and around this central marble structure, like one of the ornamental water fountains in Trafalgar Square but bigger. Much, much bigger. It was like the water went on forever and still there was the light to one side. Sometimes clear and low-level and benign, others flashing bright and frightening.

Why was I here in hospital? What maniac had fired a machine gun at me and with what intent? Were they trying to kill me, to frighten me (it had certainly done that) or did I just turn up at the wrong place at the wrong time, looking like somebody else who deserved to be shot to pieces? I couldn't work it out. I couldn't work out what the marble structure meant either but it kept appearing in what would otherwise have been a blissful dream of relaxing in the blue, blue waters, with nothing to distract me but the sometimes warm and sometimes cold glow of the distant light.

The more I dreamt about the water and the light, the more I wanted to stay there and maybe allow myself to float towards the blissful and benign glow over the horizon. The next time I awoke, or half woke, I was advised by the doc that I was about to be taken to the operating theatre. I felt weak and washed out and wondered if it mattered whether the op was successful or not. At this I felt kind of guilty that I was thinking this way and being indifferent to my daughter. Kim was about the only person it would make a difference to whether I lived or died. Then I told myself that I was being over dramatic and that the operation was a routine matter for the surgeons and would undoubtedly result in a full recovery.

Vaguely recalling being wheeled into anaesthesia, I again found myself in the water. The blue, blue water. Blue beyond blue. It was warm and comfortable and I was glad I was back there and away from the pain of injury and the doubts about what had happened. What did it matter whether someone had tried to kill me or not? I was just one man, one insignificant man, a tiny bug in the vast universe. I needed a break, I needed a rest, I needed a new line of work.

Floating there in the waters, I looked across to my left to see the glorious light, the shining magnificence that was both mother and father and was calling me, drawing me towards its beneficence. I allowed myself to drift towards the light, further and further away from the pain. It was a beautiful feeling, the most glorious euphoria. I needed nothing more. I felt as if I was just suspended in the warm, endless, heavenly waters. The light blessing me with a feeling of indescribable calm. I felt as if I was rising up and yet could still see myself floating below.

As I rose further and further away I noticed, again, the marble structure, the ornamental fountain. It was a profound irritation in the whole blissful experience. What was it there for? I looked again at what appeared to be a tower of three concentric bowls with water flowing from the top tier. I could see an object perched on the top of the top tier. What was it? A pineapple? Yes, a marble pineapple at the top of the top tier of an ornamental water fountain in the center of a well-manicured lawn, facing an opulent rococo building.

Shit! This was no time to be floating about in a blue lagoon. This was, without doubt, Willacomb House, in the Surrey countryside. The home of Eddie Godard, owner of a nationwide trucking firm and provider of distribution services to my tool supply client. I had visited the place a couple of years ago on some routine business matter.

Just then, I felt a mighty hand grab at my chest and pull me up with a fearful jerk, then slam me back down.

"Back in VF!" I heard a voice say. "Shock him again! Stand back. Clear?" and then the slamming up and down again. What had I done to deserve that kind of treatment?

I heard a clap of thunder and a saw a bright streak of lightning across my eyes, blinding me for an instant. But this was no lightning.

There was a flash, an unearthly flash of light that rendered my eyelids an X-ray vision of my own skull. It picked me up and slammed me down again with a jerk that near pulled me apart. Looking towards the source of the gunfire, I felt as if I had two bodies. One had been thrown back by the force of the shots, the other was standing watching a man doing a poor job of handling the weapon, but still managing to hit me.

As the brief burst of firing ceased, I could see, not an ornamental fountain, or a stone pineapple, but a leering, frightful grimace of triumph on a face that appeared as if it was no more than a few inches from me. I recognised the face instantly, moments before I fell, not into blissful, milk-warm, bluer than blue water, but a spiralling abyss of pain.

Pulling myself out of the nightmare and back into a kind of semi-consciousness, all I could remember was sobbing, helplessly. Apart from the nausea coming out of anaesthesia, I could think of nothing but the need to go back to the water, the blissful blue, blue water. It was hopeless.

"Dad, Dad, you're back, you're back!" I felt a bit like Dorothy, as she awoke from her Technicolor, somewhere-over-the-rainbow fantasy, to find herself in her one-room shack in black and white Kansas.

I just moaned, awaking from the nightmare sedation, apparently fully stitched up and mended. I continued to cry like a fucking baby.

"What is it Dad? You're back. You're here in hospital. What is it?"

The clinical staff came to my rescue.

"It's alright, Kim. It's not unusual for someone coming out of sedation to feel a little strange. Give him half and hour and he will be right as rain."

Kim gave me the stranglehold treatment and I held her like I would never let go. Both of us competing to see who could produce the best salty waterworks.

Once I had got a grip of myself, I asked to see to the police again. I was keen to speak to the executive DI. Why could I never get away from bossy women? Ex-wife, daughter, nurse, Detective Inspector.

"I know who did it," I said to the DI and her DS sidekick, just as they appeared by the bed after my daughter, ex-wife, and any stray doctors and nurses had been shooed away.

"Oh really?" she replied. "Who?"

Image generated by the author using Dall-E-3

investigationfictionCONTENT WARNING

About the Creator

Raymond G. Taylor

Author based in Kent, England. A writer of fictional short stories in a wide range of genres, he has been a non-fiction writer since the 1980s. Non-fiction subjects include art, history, technology, business, law, and the human condition.

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Comments (7)

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knockabout a month ago

    And reading your conversations below, I guess you're not going to tell us until your MC tells you. Fantastic writing.

  • Natalie Wilkinson3 months ago

    Great story!

  • John Cox3 months ago

    Really exceptional writing Ray! You kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the story.

  • Noooooo, you can't do this to me! I was so invested! I gotta know who shot him! Omgggg, what a cliffhanger! This was sooooo awesomeeee!

  • D. A. Ratliff4 months ago

    A well-written story, and what an ending!! I love your descriptions of his state of unconsciousness and receiving the electric shock. Excellent!!! Really enjoyed!

  • Lana V Lynx4 months ago

    This was masterful. Great read.

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