Books written by Ray Sullivan

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Parallel Lives Chapter 3

After the questions asked by the local CID, a lack lustre attempt at tidying up the periphery, the less than comforting conversation with the Operations Director – ‘your job’s probably safe’- Jack eventually found himself standing in the front car park in the falling light, watching the drizzle form halos around the street-lights while listening to the MD attempt to revive the Dunkirk spirit with a workforce numbed by the events of the day and the realisation that there may not be a job to come to in the near future. Along with the other departmental heads he had watched the remainder of the day-shift leave the premises, had helped brief the night-shift counterparts on the recovery plans, detailing which parts they were to leave alone until given the all clear by the authorities, ignoring their voyeuristic questions.
Walking towards his car, Jack fumbled for his car keys, pulling out John’s house key in the process. Initially he stared at the stranger, turning it over several times. Jack had pushed the conversation with John firmly away from his mind during the afternoon and would dearly have loved to forget the whole affair completely, but he had promised. The man might have been ranting a bit but, as the medic had said, he might have been suffering from some sort of shock if he felt responsible. Feeding the cat would only take a few minutes, the house was virtually on Jack’s route home, and it would take his mind off the day’s events.
Finding the house took longer than Jack expected, so much so he ended up phoning home to let Karen know he would be delayed further. He could tell from the strain in her voice that she was only just holding herself together. She started to say something but stopped herself, Jack could tell that much. Then she changed subject suddenly, mentioned that a meal was ready to go and to give her ten minutes notice. Jack agreed and terminated the call reluctantly. It was going to be a longer day yet.
Walking up the three stone steps to the unlit front door, Jack became aware of the net curtain in the bay window to his left moving, the dim light from the watcher’s room silhouetting a circular disk against the pane; almost certainly, Jack thought, a neighbourhood-watch sticker. The key John had given him turned the latch easily and Jack found himself tripping over an eager and probably hungry cat within moments of entering. Cursing, he fumbled for the light switch, which was unconventionally located behind the front door. Flicking the switch revealed a sparse but clean hallway, untidied only by a pile of magazines halfway down. A dark, mottled cat of indeterminate origin and gender vied for his attention, clearly forgiving his failure to see in the dark previously. Jack, closing the front door behind him, opened the nearest door off the hallway. This led him into the front room, complete with television, music centre and several bookcases, all generally tidy save for a few books strewn on the couch. He headed for another door, located at right angles to the one he had entered through, and found himself in the kitchen, which was lit by the light of a half, November moon. Finding the strip light switch was easier than the one at the front door and the cat made locating the repository for the cat food positively a breeze, however the search for the can opener was less fruitful and eventually Jack resorted to using the device on his illegally sourced American pocket combination tool.
Once the food had been decanted into the bowl on the floor – Jack was unsure whether he should use a new bowl or clean the existing one but just re-used it in the end without cleaning it – he looked around the room. Less organised than the hall or front room there were several plates and cups sitting in a washing-up bowl.
Having sated the cat’s appetite and, more importantly, his own desire to fulfil an obligation, Jack retraced his steps, leaving the kitchen light on. As he passed through the front room his eye caught a dog-eared exercise book propped limply at one end of a bookshelf. The thought that this could be the notebook John had mentioned flashed suddenly into Jack’s mind, over-riding his immediate desire to get home. Grabbing the book he flicked through the hand-written pages from the back to the front, noting the differing pens and styles used throughout. He sat on the edge of the couch arm to read through the first entry dated almost exactly two years earlier.
It’s happened again. I have to write it down this time while everything is fresh in my mind. For all I know, I might write it down every time and not realise it. If I do this now, and it happens again at least someone may find this notebook and realise what has happened, as if they would believe it!!!
I don’t know how to describe what happened, except that I was involved in a serious accident at the works today. I was working with Adam Wilkins on the boiler maintenance, and had been away at my locker trying to find the right wrench for one of the larger pipes. When I got back Adam had told me that he had isolated the system in my absence, to speed things up a bit. Anyway, I was just telling him that I had already closed off the correct valve when I saw the pressure gauge on the boiler shoot through the red bar. I knew then what had happened. He had closed off the relief outlet, which should have been okay as there is a relief valve in addition to it, but that would have stopped the pressure rising as it did. I guessed that the relief valve had failed and made to open the valve Adam had closed. Then there was an almighty explosion, with bits of red hot metal ripping through my body. I remember the pain, seeing the blood and Adam falling to the ground as a large piece struck him to the head. Then I was standing next to the boiler house, tools in hand, watching Adam lumbering up to me. Except Adam was fatter than he used to be, and had shaved off his moustache.
This has happened to me before, once when I was a kid and many times as an adult. Each time things are slightly different, but more or less the same. It’s like having two sets of nearly identical memories competing with each other and I can’t really tell the difference between each one, except I find I look for people that don’t exist anymore, or find myself walking past people who I’m supposed to know. I’ve just read all of this and I know it doesn’t seem to make much sense. I’m going to stop now, but I will write down as much as I can remember about the other times and the other lives over the next few days.
Jack flicked through the rest of book, from front to back this time, but didn’t read any further. He agreed with the last but one sentence, and readily closed the book, placing it more or less back where he found it. Leaving the room he was vaguely aware of the sound the book made as it slipped off the shelf onto the carpet, but he was unconcerned. He had fed the cat and now it was time to get home.


Copyright Ray Sullivan 2011

The characters, places and events described in this novel are fictitious and any resemblance to persons, places or events, past or present, is coincidence.  All rights reserved

Parallel Lives is published in paperback and as an eBook

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