The Man Who Came From Nowhere
by Rod Hamon
|part 1 of 4|
The country road leading to the town was deserted. Just ahead and set back from it, stood two stone cottages. In one of them, an elderly woman fussed around with a feather duster. She walked over to a vase of flowers near the window and looked up.
In the distance, she could see a man approaching, and she raised her eyebrows. “Where’d he come from? Wasn’t there a minute ago.”
The man was about twenty metres away, walking in the middle of the road the rising sun behind him.
“Oh dear. I think he’s coming here,” she said and drew back from the window.
There was a knock on the door. She hesitated, nervous about opening it to a stranger.
“I’m inquiring about the cottage to let next door,” he said.
The man was of striking appearance with a slender nose and largish eyes.
“The cottage? Oh yes, of course.” She gazed past him and asked, “How’d you get here?”
“By car. Someone dropped me off.”
“Strange. Haven’t heard a car all morning.”
In all her life, she had never seen such an unusual face: the line of the jaw, the high cheekbones and tautness of his skin.
“Anyway, let me show you the cottage. It’s just become vacant.” She led him across the garden to the cottage where a large “To Let” sign stood in a window.
The old lady stood outside as the man looked around. She was suspicious and in no doubt that he had lied.
After a few minutes, the man emerged. Their eyes met. He looked pleasant enough, but she was unsure about him. As he looked in her direction his penetrating eyes seemed somehow to be reading her thoughts.
He continued to gaze with a fixed stare and, to her surprise, she felt her opinion of him changing.
Must be getting distrustful in my old age, he seems to be all right, quite pleasant really. Strange how your viewpoint can change in just a few minutes, she thought.
She smiled and then, as if she had known him all her life, said: “The place is yours, if you want it.”
Thomas Simms moved into the cottage that day.
He started work at the factory, where he met Jenny. Her husband had died three years earlier, leaving her with two children: Zac, who was just thirteen; and Alicia, ten.
Jenny was convinced she would never love another man, but as she got to know Thomas, she discovered a kind and warm personality. After a brief courtship, Thomas and Jenny married.
“That’s got to have been one of the quickest romances in history,” commented one of her friends.
Jenny smiled. “It was uncanny, I can’t really explain it. From the moment we first met we just seemed to... click.”
The friend pulled a face. “Just hope you’re sure about this.”
“Sure? Course I’m sure. I’ve never been happier, and the kids adore him, always laughing and joking, Zac in particular.”
It was in the second year of their marriage that the tragedy occurred. The phone rang. Jenny dried her hands and lifted the receiver.
“It’s Arthur here: Tom’s supervisor. Bad news I’m afraid. There’s been an accident.”
“An accident? Is Tom all right? Is he hurt?”
“They say he’ll be okay.”
“One of the workers found him unconscious. That’s all we know.”
“Where’s he now?”
“We called an ambulance. They took him to Richmond Hospital. Would you like me to take you down there?”
“No, no, I’ll make my own way.”
Jenny stopped what she was doing and rushed out the door. As she sped towards the hospital, thoughts of the sudden death of her first husband invaded her mind.
“Please, God, not again,” she cried, as she swept the hair from her face.
The nurse at the hospital was consoling. “We’re monitoring his condition closely, Mrs Simms.”
“Will he regain consciousness soon?” Jenny asked, tears swelling in her eyes.
“It’s hard to say. Doctor seems positive.”
Jenny gazed down at her husband, hoping for the smallest sign: the flicker of an eyelid, anything that would give her hope. She snagged a Kleenex from a box on the bedside cabinet and dabbed her eyes.
“I miss you so much, darling. Please don’t leave me,” she whispered in a croaky voice.
Though trapped in a body with no way of communicating, Thomas was conscious of every sound. He attempted to twitch one of his fingers, then tried opening his eyes but was unable to do that either.
How could I have been so stupid not to see this accident coming? Whatever happens, I must complete my mission. I must find some way to communicate, especially with Zac.
Weeks went by, but Thomas’s condition remained unchanged. Jenny visited him every day.
When weeks turned to months, Jenny knew she had to think about the future of her family so she contacted the insurance company.
A few days later, a military-looking man named Stewart arrived.
“You don’t need to worry, Mrs Simms. There are the usual forms to fill in, of course, but it’ll be straight forward enough. Shouldn’t take more than a week.”
Although Stewart phoned a number of times he seemed no closer to finalising the things.
Jenny phoned him. “Stewart, it’s been three weeks now. Is something wrong?”
“No... not really. Just that we’ve had difficulty matching some of the details, dates and things like that. Does Thomas have any other personal papers?”
“There’s quite a stack in his desk.”
“Good. Can I come and take a look?”
Stewart arrived next day and spent some time going through things. Jenny sat forward on the edge of her chair, watching. After a while, she asked: “Have you found what you’re after?”
“You’re not sure!” She crossed her arms and turned her head to look out the window. For a while she said nothing, then blurted out: “This is ridiculous! You said it’d only take a week!”
Stewart got up and put his hand on her shoulder. “I know this is difficult, but hopefully it shouldn’t take much longer.”
“That’s what you said three weeks ago. What’s the problem?”
“It’s just that I can’t find out what Thomas did or where he lived before he moved here. There’s just... nothing!”
Stewart phoned a few days later.
Jenny fiddled with her hair as she listened.
“I just don’t believe it. This is becoming stranger by the minute. There’s got to be some explanation. It’s ridiculous: people don’t suddenly appear from nowhere!”
Early next morning the phone rang. “Is that Jenny?”
“My name’s Barbara, Zac’s teacher.”
“He’s not in trouble, I hope.”
“No, just the opposite. Zac’s a brilliant student. Very interested in science, isn’t he?” She hesitated. “But... I am worried.”
“Yes, I’m concerned about the effect his father’s condition is having on him. Zac just sits there staring and saying nothing. When I ask what’s wrong, he says he’s thinking about his dad.”
“So you’ve heard about Thomas then?”
“Yes. It’s very sad.”
“I’m afraid he doesn’t seem to be getting any better. It’s affecting all of us. Zac especially.”
“Jenny, I think your husband’s accident may be affecting Zac even more than you realise.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, the other day I was showing the class a picture of the human skull. Zac pointed to a spot behind the right ear and, with tears in his eyes, said: ‘That’s where my dad’s hurt. He had an accident at work. Fell back and hit his head right there’.”
“I asked him how he knew and he said,’ ‘Cause my dad told me.’ ‘Oh! Is he better now?’ I asked. ‘No,’ he replied. So I said: ‘Then how can he have told you?’ And he said: ‘He talks to me in my mind. All the time.’”
“Thanks for telling me, Barbara. I’d better get Zac to the doctor.”
Jenny sat down and thought about things and how close Thomas and Zac were.
She visited her husband in hospital again next day and was sitting at Thomas’s bedside when the doctor came in.
“Ah, Mrs Simms, just the person I wanted to see. I’ve got the results of the CT Scans, let me show you.”
In a small consulting room, the doctor pointed up to what looked like X-rays displayed on light boxes. “It’s clear from these that the problem stems from a blood clot just behind your husband’s right ear. Unfortunately, it’s quite large and too close to the brain. We can’t operate until it gets smaller.”
The doctor turned. “Did you say something?”
“No, it’s nothing.”
Zac said little at dinner that evening and just picked at his food. He had just finished his meal when he looked up, his eyes staring wildly.
“What’s the matter, dear?” Jenny asked.
“Dad’s very unhappy.”
“What do you mean?”
“He thinks he might die soon.”
“I don’t understand.”
“He’s getting worried because the doctors aren’t making him better.”
Jenny walked over and put her arm around his shoulders. “I’m sure he’ll be okay soon,” Jenny said, attempting to hide her tears.
Zac appeared more relaxed at breakfast next morning and talked about school. But then suddenly he changed and sat upright.
“What’s wrong?” His sister asked.
“It’s Dad. He’s talking to me again.”
“What’s he saying?”
“He says I must be extra careful crossing the road on the way to school this morning. I mustn’t cross at the usual place, but at the traffic lights.”
He left for school and he was about to cross the road when he remembered his father’s warning and hesitated. One of his schoolmates shouted: “Come on, Zac! What’re you waiting for?”
The other boy had just stepped on to the road when a truck came around the corner at high speed. It narrowly missed him.
“Phew! That was close,” the boy said, his heart pounding.
It was then that Zac realized his father had saved his life.
Thomas spoke again. “Thank you, Zac, for listening to me. Have a good life, son. Study hard at school. I must go now.”
The children were still in bed next morning when the phone rang. Jenny answered it.
“Mrs Simms, it’s the hospital, Matron Gray speaking.”
“Is everything all right?”
“Well... the reason I’m calling...”
There was an awkward silence.
“Mrs Simms, your husband... well... he wasn’t in his bed this morning. We were wondering if you’d... taken him home.”
“Not there! I don’t understand. What’ve you done with him?”
“I’m sure there’s a simple explanation, Mrs Simms. We’ve searched the hospital. There’s just no sign...”
“But you can’t just lose a patient!” Jenny screamed and slammed down the phone. She flew out of the house, jumped in her car and drove to the hospital, narrowly missing a couple of pedestrians along the way.
When she got there, she ran inside, leaving her car door half open.
“I want to speak to Matron Gray!” she shouted.
A frightened little nurse scurried off and reappeared a few minutes later with the matron in tow.
“What the hell have you done with my husband?”
The matron stepped forward trying to console her, but Jenny stepped back.
“I demand to know what you’ve done with him.”
“Mrs Simms, we’re doing everything possible. We’re as puzzled as you are.”
“I’ve never heard of anything so damn stupid! What sort of hospital is this?” she screamed.
A police investigation failed to find any clue to Tom’s disappearance and speculation in the newspapers and threats of legal action achieved nothing.
Jenny never ever recovered from the loss of her husband. Nor did she remarry. The children grew up. Zac entered university when only seventeen to study geoscience.
In his first few years, he impressed his tutors with his ability to predict volcanic activity.
In time, Jenny sold the house and moved to a new area. Whilst packing, she found a piece of paper under one of the Chester drawers. It was written in an odd style and read: “Chrnclst 08.52, Nvmbr 11 2008 Zc Smms.”
“I assume that means November 11th 2008,” she said.
“ That’s odd. That’s the date Thomas disappeared. Wonder if there’s some clue here as to what happened to Tom?”
* * *
Copyright © 2009 by Rod Hamon