Jon swayed between consciousness and unconsciousness as he lay on the floor waiting for help to arrive. The amount of blood that heíd lost made him dizzy and heíd got to the point where his injury no longer hurt him. He tried to call out to Pete but his voice was feeble and Pete was long gone. Jon decided he needed to get up and go for help him self. A piece of floorboard lay across his arm and he summoned up his strength to jerk his arm so that it fell to the ground with a thud. The physical exertion was too much for his frail state and passed out again in the dark.
"Did you hear that?" Penny whispered to Josh as they made their way to the first floor.
"I think it came from upstairs." He pointed the torch up the stairwell but couldnít see anything new. They sprinted up the stairs to the second floor and again started to search the rooms. Behind the second door that Josh tried he found Jon lying on top of a substantial pile of rubble. He called for Penny as he moved to get a better look at the casualty.
"What happened?" asked Penny as she entered the room.
"Looks like the floor collapsed under him, poor lad" Josh replied cutting away Jonís trouser leg from around the wound.
"Very nasty" he said, as he examined it more closely. Dust had mixed with the blood and was covering the wood like some sort of paint. Jon groaned when Josh got too close to the injury. Penny knelt on the floor by Jonís head.
"Hello, can you hear me?" Jon groaned again, "can you tell me your name?" his reply was indecipherable.
"You wonít get any sense out of him in his state Penny" She placed a mask over his face, providing him with pain relief and then turned to Josh.
"Can we move him? He needs to be in hospital."
"I know, but I donít think itís going to be as easy as that" Josh stared intently at the boyís leg, hoping that it would miraculously give him the answer.
"What do you mean?" She moved down the body to join Josh. She couldnít help but wince at the sight of the injury.
"This wood has speared his leg and embedded itself into the floor beneath us. Heís pinned here, I donít think we can move himÖ"
"Heís lost a lot of blood Josh, I donít know how much longer he can wait. His legís in a bad way" she examined it herself, it was broken in at least two places, with severe muscle and tissue damage.
"Iíll radio the hospital, get them to send someone" Josh straightened up and reached for his radio.
"You think he might lose his leg?"
"Thatís for a doctor to decide" he frowned and pressed the button on his radio, "Holby A&E from three-zero-two-nine receiving." He waited a second but all he received was static. Penny looked up at him questioningly.
"Holby A&E this is three-zero-two-nine are you receiving me?" More static.
"Must be a poor signal in here" Penny guessed.
"Yeah, Iíll go back to the street, try it from there. Will you all right here?" Josh remembered how disturbed Penny had seemed earlier.
"Course!" Penny replied, touched by his concern, however unnecessary it was. Josh turned and left, making his way down the stairs and through the pitch-black corridors. As he walked he wondered how anyone could ever have lived in such an inhospitable house. Many of the bigger rooms had obviously been sub divided at some point in the last eighty years, making them too small and too dark and somehow rather foreboding. Josh started to realise why Rochester House had got its reputation for being haunted, he felt uneasy wandering around it alone.
He searched for the room with the open window, feeling more and more the need to escape the house and cursing himself that he didnít mark the relevant door on their way in. Eventually he reached an area that he recognised and pushed at the door. It didnít seem to want to open, to let him through. It felt like there was some force battling him as he tried the handle again. Josh swallowed hard and wiped the cold sweat from his brow, desperation growing in him as his exit was delayed. He squared his shoulder up to the door and rammed it as hard as he could; the door flew open and sent Josh crashing to the ground. Dust from the floor rose into his nostrils, filling his lungs. He tried to cough himself free of the cloud and crawled to the window for some fresh air, where he drank in the mild October air deeply.
A familiar scent wafted by him, someone close by was having a bonfire; the rich smell of burning leaves and smoke hung heavy in the air. As he tried to compose himself he let his eyes close as he remembered the bonfire parties he used to take his children to at this time of year. Dressed up in their hats, scarves and gloves, Sarah in particular always seemed enchanted by the fire and the ensuing fireworks. Josh always used to enjoy the family trip to the common for the fireworks display, but for the last several years he hadnít been able to look at a bonfire in quite the same way.
A breeze whipped up outside changing the air pressure in the room and causing the door to slam shut behind him, shocking him out of him thoughts.
Right, radio for help he told him self.
Another drunken reveller painted up like Dracula burst through the doors into reception, fake blood mingling with his own as it seeped through his costume's sleeve.
"Help!" he screamed, "I'm bleeding!" his white face was streaked by tears.
"Here we go again" muttered Patrick as he moved towards the not so scary Prince of Darkness. So far that evening he treated he'd already treated two vampires, Frankenstein's monster, and a ghost who'd fallen out of a tree whilst trying to scare his mates and now more closely resembled a Mummy. Hallowe'en didn't overly impress Patrick, it was just a chance for a bunch of idiots to dress up in stupid clothes and get drunk. And people getting drunk always seemed to end in more work for him.
"What have we got here then?" he asked Dracula, rolling up his sleeve carefully. He looked down at the wound; it was a nasty break with a splinter of bone piercing the skin, letting the bright red blood ooze out over his arm. Patrick viewed the mess with an air of disgust.
"I fell" the patient said lamely. He looked down at his own arm for the first time since the accident and Patrick watched as his face went a paler shade of white. Dracula swayed uneasily on his feet and Patrick only just caught him as he fainted.
"Spencer! Trolley over here now" he called out. Spencer rushed one over and they manoeuvred his body onto it, ready push it into resus.
"Wouldn't make a very good vampire, would he Dr Spiller? Being afraid of his own blood!" Spencer commented.
"No such things as vampires, Spencer. No vampires, no monsters and no ghosts" Patrick shook his head as the vampire was wheeled off, he was about to follow when he heard Charlie call his name.
"Patrick, weíve just had a request through from the paramedics, they need a consult on a possible amputation. Can you deal with that?" Patrick didnít have to think about it; it certainly sounded a lot more interesting than anything going on in the hospital did.
"Thereís a fast response car outside, take a nurse, I think Chloeís freeÖ"
"Chloe? Donít you think I should take someone more experienced?" Patrick didnít relish the thought of being stuck in car with only Chloe for company. Charlie could tell that but didnít see why Patrick should get his way.
"Sheís a good nurse and thereís only one way sheíll get experience, isnít there? Better get a move on" Charlie didnít wait for a response and Patrick had to concede defeat.
Penny sat next to her casualty waiting for Joshís return. Sheíd dressed Jonís other, minor injuries and was trying to keep him comfortable with analgesics. The knowledge that she couldnít do anything else frustrated her. At first she thought the house was silent but as she listened in the near darkness she began to realise that it wasnít. She heard Jonís ragged breathing, and her own breath was shallow and abnormally fast. Every now and then another piece of plaster would come loose and drop too the floor in front of her and from behind the skirting boards there was a definite scurrying of mice. She could just about make out the sound of the wind from out side and there was something else, a regular thudding sound from within the house. She strained to hear it more clearly, it sounded like footsteps, but too light to be Josh in his heavy work boots. The noise stopped and she wondered if she had been imagining it.
The sooner weíre away from this place the better.
The noise started up again, closer this time, it was definitely footsteps, but who else was in the house? Penny picked up her torch and headed for the door, Jon was still unconscious and she knew that she shouldnít leave him but she had to know who was out there. She shone the torch down the corridor and saw a figure moving in the shadows; then it disappeared into one of the rooms.
"Hello? Whoís there? Josh, are you messing around, Ďcause itís not funnyÖ" She was pretty certain that the figure hadnít been Josh, but it was so dark that she couldnít make out any distinguishing features. She moved down the corridor to the door the figure had gone through. She touched the doorknob; it was freezing cold. Penny grasped the torch more tightly; the circle of light it made on the wall shook as her hand trembled. She grabbed the handle, twisted it and pushed the door open.
Josh reached the casualtyís room to find that Penny wasnít there. He checked over Jonís condition, he was stable but certainly not improving.
"Penny, whereíve you gone now?" he joked but his voice shook just enough to show his nerves. He stood up and shone his torch into each corner of the room in turn but she wasnít there. He looked up at the door and then back down to his patient trying to decide if he should leave him and look for Penny.
"Penny!" he called again but heard no reply. He glanced back at the door and thought he saw someone flit across the doorway. He ran over to it and peered down the corridor, just in time to see a small figure run into one of the rooms, in the opposite direction to the one Penny took.
"Hey, whoís there?" he shouted as he followed the figureís path, he didnít get a response. He reached the door and grabbed the handle, it felt like ice, slowly he turned it and stepped inside.
The door slammed behind her and Penny found herself trapped in the room, she tried to open the door, but the handle had become so cold that it was impossible to hold onto. The empty room was partially lit by moonlight streaming in through the dusty window. Penny could only just see the figure standing in the shadows.
"Who are you?" She tried to keep her voice level. The figure made no movement.
"I said Ďwho are you?í" Fear was starting to give way to annoyance at being ignored.
"I should never have gone away, my darling child" the figure said. His voice was deep and masculine but had an unearthly quality to it.
"What? What do you mean?" She took a step forward and the figure sunk further into the shadows.
"I was wrong and Iím sorry" he continued.
"Wrong about what? Who are you?" but she was starting to think she knew.
"I was a coward to leave and never say goodbye, can you forgive me my dearest? Will you forgive me?" the voice pleaded her, reaching into her soul for forgiveness. She felt the mirror she had in her jacket press against her skin, and was overcome with emotion.
"You left me, alone, I was just a little child" the tears stung her eyes and blurred her vision.
"Will you forgive me?" the voice begged again.
"I donít know if I canÖ" Penny started.
"I love you child, and Iím sorry you were left alone, please, please forgive me" Penny hesitated, remembering all the old feelings of abandonment, the nights she curled up under her blankets and cried herself to sleep, wishing her dad would come and rescue her. Could she ever forgive him for putting her through that?
The door slammed behind Josh, but he barely noticed it. He was transfixed on the tiny figure in front of him, a young girl, with long hair, wearing a dress. She stood back from him, hiding in the darkness away from the moonlight that came through the open window. He couldnít make out her features but something told him that she was terribly sad. He took a step closer, and she took a step away.
"Hello, Iím Josh, Iím a paramedic, is that your friend through there?" he indicated the rough direction of the casualty with his thumb. The child didnít move.
"Whatís your name my love?" he asked, squinting into the darkness that even his torch seemed unable to illuminate.
"Iím scared Daddy" she said in small, delicate tone. A gust of wind blew into the room, bringing the scent of the fire. Josh shivered.
"Why donít you come into the light so I can see you, then maybe it wonít be so scary" The girl remained still.
"I scared Daddy, I miss you. Youíve forgotten me. You donít love me anymore!" he heard the child sob quietly. The scent of the fire burned at his eyes, and choked him. The little girl reminded him so much of Sarah, but it couldnít be?
"Do you still love me Daddy, do you?" she implored. Josh didnít know what to say. Heíd never had the chance to say goodbye to any of his family. He couldnít even remember the last thing he had said to them. The memories of his life with them flooded back. Surely she knew that he loved her. Of course he did, she was his child.
"I will always love you. Always" he answered.
"I forgive you" Penny answered. For a moment there was a shock of ice cold air. Pennyís eyes closed as her teeth chattered, when she opened them again the figure was gone. She rushed towards where he had been standing but there was no one there. Not even a footprint in the dust. Penny wiped the tears from her eyes with her sleeve, unsure what had just happened to her. She backed to the door, but when she reached it the handle was no longer cold. She pulled it open and ran back into the corridor, toward the patient. As she reached the doorway she collided with Josh. They took a moment to look at each other, to convince them selves that the other was real and that they were safe. Then they wrapped their arms around each other and held on tightly, neither daring to say what theyíd experienced, yet knowing the other understood.
"Aye aye, whatís this then?" Josh and Penny looked up to see Patrick and Chloe advancing along the corridor. The paramedics broke away from each other, embarrassed.
"Are you two going to stand there like idiots, or can I see the patient?" Patrick barged past them, and strode towards Jon. Chloe followed him in.
"Are you all right? You look like youíve seen a ghost!" She asked, they both nodded that they were OK and moved into the room to help Patrick.
"Oh, for goodness sakes Chloe, will you shut up about the ghost. Thereís no such thing, right?" Again they nodded, but glanced over at each other for reassurance.
"So, what do you think?" Josh asked Patrick, indicating the patient.
"I think this has been a wasted journey on my part. All this talk of ghosts has obviously clouded your judgement" he fumbled about under the damaged limb and pulled it free from the floor.
"It was barely stuck in the floor! You could have had this patient out of here ages ago. And I could have stayed in the warm."
A few minutes later Jon was being lifted carefully into the ambulance. The spear of wood was still stuck into him but Patrick seemed confident that heíd make a recovery. Josh got into the driving seat and Penny and Chloe sat in the back with the patient.
"So did you see the ghosts of Thomas Rochester and Elizabeth then?" she asked enthusiastically. Neither paramedic answered.
"Of course they didnít!" Patrick said, climbing into the ambulance himself. He stretched out of the back to pull the doors closed and took one last look up at the house. He thought he saw movement in one of the windows and paused a second to try to get a closer look. There seemed to be a man holding a young girl on his waist. The wind blew a tiny piece of grit into his eye and he blinked to get it out. When he opened his eyeís again the house was empty once more.
"Of course they didnít," he said again this time a little more unsure, "thereís no such things as ghosts."
Back to long stories