Nine minutes

Intro: Bryan’s life is normal and happy. He’s married, has one child and another on the way. OK so he has the mother-in-law from hell but he can live with that. Then, in the middle of an argument with his wife, he walks out. 


Nine Minutes

Oh, hya. Didn’t think anybody else would come up here. No, no don’t mind not being alone. Just came up to get a better view.
Well, at least it’s stopped raining. We should be grateful for that. Not many clouds now and when the moon comes out, it’s bright enough to see shadows.
It’s amazing looking down at it from up here. Yeah. it’s a good turnout, if you judge it like that. All those people, and hardly a copper in sight. Maybe they see us as just harmless nutters. That’s how most people see us, isn’t it? Come to think of it, that’s how we see ourselves sometimes. Harmless nutters who BELIEVE. Yeah, right.
It looks odd from up here, like …. do you remember those disaster films, mostly they had Charlton Heston in them? You’d see a wasteland of some sort and bits of fires dotted around, with folk huddled round them. The end of civilisation as we know it. That’s what this is like.

I grew up not far from here. This bridge where we’re stood, my uncle Dave painted this. And down there in what used to be the train yard, he had a big work shop. He sprayed my bike down in that work shop. Flame red it was, and he put yellow flames on it. My dad was furious. It was green originally and he bought it brand new from Halfords. The things you think.

What, oh yes, first one I’ve been to. I’ve not been back long. Yes, yes, personal, and no, I don’t remember anything.

Just now, before I come up here, I was talking to a couple from Leicester; he’s called Ted and her name’s Marianne. Really nice couple, early sixties, middle class, he’s a retired manager of an engineering firm, she’s a house wife. They’ve come about their grand daughter, Kelly. She went missing two years ago when she was sixteen. Kids do that though don’t they these days. Least little thing upsets ’em and they’re off. Why is that? I mean are they stupid or what? Why can’t they just tough it out like I did? I’m sure it wasn’t any different for me, but I don’t know, there seemed to be something inside me that said, this is temporary, being a teenager, having all these mixed up feelings, this isn’t going to last forever. Maybe it just seems like that with hindsight. Wonderful thing that.

Thinking about it though, I mean really thinking about it, it was different. When I was Kelly’s age, sixteen, seventeen, there was me football which was Middlesbrough, me mates which was our Colin, my cousin uncle Jacks eldest lad who lost his mam when he were fourteen and she died having their Terry so he spent most of his time round at ours, Kevin Pratley who I’d been in junior school with, Dougie Ellis whose mam and dad owned the chippy on Rosamunde Street, Dave Burton who had a sister who married a coloured bloke and went to America and ooh what was that lad’s name, had really bad acne? Michael, Mike, Mickey Doyle, that’s it. Had a brother, Pete, worked on the busses. There was the pictures, we all used to go regular to the Palace and there were lassies and that was it. That was our lives. When you think of it, not as much as kids have today, with computers and clubs and all of that. Yeah. well I do go back to a different age.

Anyway, that’s not what’s happened with Kelly, not according to her grandma and grandpa. Her dad, Jonathan I think they called him, he’s their son, well, he reckons she’s in London. He doesn’t believe in …. no, he reckons she’s trying to be a pop star or some such or she’s after one of these boy bands. I mean how stupid is that. Though I do remember my cousin Sylvia run off after the curate from Saint Peter’s when he got moved up to Scotland.

Life’s a bugger, isn’t it. You think you’ve got all taped down, you’ve got it all worked out the way you want it and then something totally unexpected happens and the whole thing’s off down the lav an’ all you’ve got is shit on your face.

Yeah, I’m married. Well, before …. not quite sure what I am now. Oh yes, two kids, boy and a lass. It’s funny, no I think I mean odd, I do mean odd, I really thought I had finally got what I wanted out of life. It wasn’t a lot; no flashy cars or big farm houses on the moors. I had a good job, I loved my wife.
Karen. Oh, I knew her from school, we went out for a while, kids’ stuff, pictures, long walks on the moors. She was a stunner. The kind of lass, today she’d be a model or something … any way her family moved to Bristol. Didn’t see her again until I started work at Jack Venables, yeah the engineering company. I was in the drawing office and she was already working in the accounts office, we started going out again and then, it sounds daft, but we just fell in love. Oh yes, it does happen.
You know, I can remember taking her home to meet my mam and dad. I knew she loved me, I knew that, but our Colin was home on leave from the army. He always used to come round ours when he was on leave. He was a really good-looking bloke was our Colin and really fit. It’s funny, he was always a right fat lad when he was young. Yeah, yeah you change. I was really worried that Karen would meet him, and they’d really hit it off. Bloody daft. Colin had a girlfriend, beautiful girl, mixed race they call it today. All I know was she was bloody gorgeous looking.
I shouldn’t have worried. They got on all right, but Karen loved me and that was it. That was a really good day, when I look back at it.

What does she think of this? Bloody hell! I don’t think she believes. No, no she doesn’t believe. Not many folk do, do they? It’s not something she’s ever been forced to think about. She’s like most folk I suppose, it’s all just fiction, just science fiction. I suppose her mother’s low opinion of me doesn’t help. Oh aye, mother-in-law from hell that one. I’ve never been good enough in her eyes.

Meeting Karen’s parents was one of the worst days of my life. Her dad was all right. Shook my hand offered me a drink but her mam oh no. Karen introduced us, and I stuck out my hand to shake hands, like you do. She touched my hand… no, no she didn’t, she touched my fingers, then she moved her hand away and I half expected her to wipe it. She said; “Oh, yes, you live on the Marymead housing estate, don’t you.”
That was the way of things from then on. Her mother hated me. Then, when Karen fell pregnant before we even got engaged that put the tin hat on things. My parents weren’t that pleased but Karen’s mam. You know, she even suggested that Karen have an abortion. Can you believe that?

We got wed. Not a big wedding, my parents and Karen’s dad clubbed together and bought us a little house. Just a two-bed end terrace but it was ours. It was a bit close to her parents but give her her due, Karen seemed not to want to be with her mam all that much. I suppose it was the abortion thing.

Joshua was born in December and he was the best thing that ever happened to us. Right from the day he was born, he was just so beautiful. A lot of babies, well they look like my granddad’s feet after he got his circulation problems, all purple and puffy but Josh wasn’t like that. He was beautiful and just so good. He had his moments in his twos and threes, but he was so good.

When he was about two and a half we had another baby, a little girl, Alicia we called her. She was born at twenty-eight weeks, only lived three days. They let us hold her. I thought I’d never stop weeping. But you know what, I think Alicia brought us closer together.

We decided we wanted to move. Well. Karen come up with the idea, but we talked about it and I came round to it. I was doing all right and I just got the feeling that Karen wanted to get away from her mam.

Yeah, we found this little house on the edge of a village just a couple of minutes’ drive from the moor. Bye, it was run down, in a right mess and we had to do a lot to it, but we worked at it, put the time in on it, together and when we’d done it, it was ours.
Oh no. Oh no. Her mother did not like that. It was too far away, too isolated. ’cause it wasn’t. It was on the edge of a village. Karen learned to drive, and we bought a little car for her so …

Then Karen fell pregnant again. We were delighted, anxious, whole mixed up bunch of emotions. It was just great. Our lives were really coming together.
That’s when her dad had a heart attack and then everything changed.

I wasn’t going to stop her going to see her mam, why the hell would I? The evil cow hated me. and I was none too fond of her, but there was no way I was going to try and stop Karen going to help out where she was needed. I went to see her with Karen, took them both up to the hospital whenever they needed me to. I cared what happened to him and her.

Then Karen said that she would sooner go on her own. It didn’t surprise me, but it did upset me. I knew what her mother was up to, how she was trying to get Karen to turn against me, I wasn’t daft and I wasn’t paranoid neither.

It was a Sunday when all the stuff that led to this happened, led to my being here. I’d taken Karen to her mam’s because Karen wasn’t feeling well. I even said I wouldn’t go in if she didn’t want me to, but she said I was being daft and any way she wanted to go with her mam to the hospital. So, in I go, and you could cut the atmosphere with a knife.
I took them to the hospital, I brought them back and then for some reason the old cow started in on me about my drinking. I honestly did not know what she was on about. She kept saying that I left Karen on her own when I went out to the pub with me mates. I was gob smacked. I go to the pub once a week. I tried to laugh it off, but she kept going on and then she said that it was because of my leaving Karen with the boy, she never called him Joshua, she didn’t like him because he looked like my side of the family, that Alicia had been born premature and died.

Well, you can imagine. That was it. I wasn’t taking that. She’d said it in front of Joshua and the little chap was well able to understand what she was on about. I just got Karen and Josh and left. There was no way I was putting up with that.
Karen was really quiet on the way home but by heaven she made up for it as soon as we got in and I opened my mouth to ask if she’d complained to her mam about me going out.She really laid it on. There was no way I was going to win any argument with her that night, she was too hurt, to upset and I thought if I even try to argue with her she’s just going to get more upset and then I didn’t know what would happen.
Aye, I suppose I did think that, that somehow it might affect the baby. Well you do, don’t you.

I did what I thought was for the best. I got me coat, I left the house, got in to the car and drove up to the moor and then I’m sat there, and I thought, what the bloody hell are you doing? You can’t just walk out on your wife like that, on your wife and kids. That wasn’t the way I was brought up to do things.
I started to turn back and then … then it all gets rather woolly after that.

I remember nowt clearly, until I was walking back through the kitchen door. For some reason I’d got my eyes cast down, maybe I didn’t feel ready to look at Karen. When I did look up. By Godfrey, I’ve never felt anything like that. Everything was different. I thought, Oh my life. I’ve come in to wrong house. I felt so bloody stupid.
There was this woman, doin’ her cookin’, bonnie woman in black trousers and flowered top and I remember thinkin’ please don’t let her turn around and see me. Let me just get out before….
But then she turned around and… it were Karen. It were Karen, only…a different Karen, an older Karen. She had a fryin’ pan in her hand. She dropped it and then she started screaming. I don’t mean shouting, I mean openin’ her mouth and screaming. Great bouts of sound, like nothing I’ve heard before. I was terrified. I didn’t know what the hell was going on.

Then this bloke comes in, big, tall, really strong looking bloke about twenty-five, twenty-six. Some thin’ in me head said, by Christ he looks like our Colin and then there was this lass, nineteen, twenty, so beautiful, so very beautiful.

I don’t remember owt after that. I woke up, came to I suppose, in the clinic. That’s when I met Moira. She’s down there with some of the others in our group. She’s a doctor. Right nice woman. She explained things to me, tried to anyway. Ofcourse I don’t … didn’t believe in that sort of thing. What she told me was pure fantasy, the sort of thing that happens to barmy American women and people in films, not to blokes like me.
Apparently, I’d walked in to the kitchen, my kitchen, bollock naked and looking no older than when I walked out. No, no that’s the honest truth. Problem with that is, apart from the nakedness, it was twenty years later.
Aye, stunner isn’t it. Twenty years. Poof! Gone. For them. Nine minutes for me.
The bloke I thought looked like Colin was my son, Joshua and the lass, that was my daughter Louisa, the baby we’d been expectin’.

I just couldn’t take any of it in, especially not when Moira started talking about aliens and abduction and that sort of thing. I thought she was potty and I told her so. I told ’em all. That doesn’t happen in real life, not round here it don’t.

Karen has her own theory. I’m not Bryan at all. I’m Colin’s younger brother, Terence, the one his mam died havin’, the one what took off when he were fourteen and n’body ever saw him again. I suppose it’s a way of rationalising it. What she thinks he’s done with me, I don’t know or why she thought he’d do it in the first place. Can’t say. You’d have to ask her.
I know I’m not Terence. I’m me. I’m Bryan Metcalf. I’m 48 years old, an’ I look twenty-eight but I don’t care. I know who I am.

So, I had to start believin’, didn’t I. No choice in the matter. I look in the mirror and I’m not forty-eight. I started going to the group sessions that Moira organises. Her husband was abducted, twice. I’ve listened to other people, ordinary people, not loopy sods like you’d think. People like me. There’s a bloke called Michael. He’s been abducted three times. First two times he didn’t know owt about it, couldn’t remember a bloody thing and then the last time, he did remember. It were terrifying what he told us, what was done to him. But him telling it made other people remember stuff that had been done to them.

There’s one other chap like me in our group. Moira calls us her absolute proof. ’cause we’ve not aged. It’s not usual to be brought back in real time, that is to say other folks’ real time, not yours. Moira calls it a chronoclasm. Normally they, our little grey friends, bring people back and just minutes have passed. But Moira says they use time differently to us.

Oh heavens, yes. We’ve all had tests. My whole family. We’ve had us DNA tested, psychological tests. Probes and pokin’s. I’ve have been in front of more medical committees than I thought could exist. I’ve spent more time in London than I have back here but it doesn’t change anything, does it? I mean basically it doesn’t change a bloody thing really.

So, here we all are. Waiting. You’ve probably heard it said, once you’ve been abducted or you’ve had someone abducted, you get this sense when they’re coming back. It’s a common thing apparently. That’s why there’s so many of us here, so many families of abductees. They’re not all just from our group. Ted and Marian, like I said, they’re from Leicester. Bob he’s from Belfast. He was abducted along with his sister. He was brought back but she wasn’t. He thinks she might be brought back tonight. Leslie, she’s lookin’ for her little boy and Tara she’s lost her mam and her dad. They were on holiday in Morecambe when they just disappeared, had the life boat and the coast guard and helicopters and everything out looking for them.
They’ve all come here because they think tonight might be the time when their loved ones are brought back. Sam, the bloke in our group who’s like me, was brought back in his own future as it were, he’s not here tonight. He’s fairly happy with a second shot at life. He’s younger than me.

Me? Why am I here? I’m here because… well… I’m not sure. Sod it to buggery I am sure. I’m bloody well here to get them to take me back. I want them to take me back twenty years so that I can walk back in to that house, my house, and hug my wife and say I’m sorry that I insulted her mother. I want to watch my daughter born, to hold her and let her know I’m her dad. I want my lad to grow up with a dad he can do things with. I don’t want to look at my wife and kids and see strangers. I don’t want our Colin to bring up my kids because he thinks he owes me for sharin’ my mam and dad with him or because he always fancied the knickers off Karen. I want to do it. I’ve had six months of bein’ part of Moira’s bloody freak show, summat to be dragged out when she wants to screw money out of this or that Government Department. It’s not fair. It’s not bloody fair. I want them little grey bastards to take me back, to put right what they did wrong. I’m owed. Twenty years, five months, three weeks, six days, twenty-three hours and fifty-one minutes, They can keep their nine minutes. That’s tradition.

 

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4 Comments on "Nine minutes"

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Potleek
Member

Chrissy enjoyed the read, you told it like it could happen.
Me thinks Leslie is male…Lesley is female…Tony

Stevef
Member

Well,. that’s an unusual take on a subject (alien abduction) that usually runs into lurid comic-book depictions of spindly, green, bug-eyed extra-terrestrials carrying out grisly invasive experimentation on helpless earthlings. Not this one! There were no indications as to where the story was going (a big plus point for not showing your cards too early) and it consequently held my interest right the way through..
The narration flowed well and your protagonist’s ‘voice’ was as natural as if heard..
A good read. 🙂
Steve

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