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Ghost Of A Chance


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Ghost of a Chance

The traffic lights on either side of the ancient bridge went through their cycle once more. This time casting a sickly green glow over the pilot's office on the starboard bank of the river. I took another pull on the bottle of Jack, anything to kill the godawful feeling of dislocation and uselessness.  In front of the short dyke that housed the day boats a Ripplecraft river cruiser, trussed up for the night, gently swung at her moorings. On the bow sat a young woman swathed in a blanket and nursing a mug. She glanced at me with what I took for disgust before quickly looking back up to the bridge.

The lights of the pub flicked off. As the last customers weaved their way to the bridge to get back to their boats the traffic lights changed colour again. Away to my right the sound of galloping horses and the rumble of iron-rimmed wheels meant the night's entertainment was about to begin. A ball of fire burst from behind the pilot's office and headed for the bridge, the holidaymakers oblivious to the hell that was careering towards them. I took another swig of Jack and settled down to watch the fun as rotting horses pulling a blazing coach passed right through the holidaymakers traipsing over the bridge.

Dried flesh and sinew framed the gap-toothed grinning maw of the coachman as he whipped the desiccated horses dragging the fire wrapped landau. The dumb-springs of the careering carriage dug into the parapet of the bridge and sent sparks out over the river and onto the Ripplecraft river cruiser moored below illuminating the upturned face of the woman on the bow. Undead footmen, limbs flailing, screamed and cackled into the flaming orange glow of the burning coach as the lead horse hit the wall at the centre of the tiny humped bridge with a sickening crack. The screams of the broken animals were joined by those of the occupants of the carriage, which tipped precariously over the parapet wreathed in flame. The frantic thrashing of the horses rocked the carriage. With an explosion of flame and flailing limbs, the carriage toppled over the edge. Flaming debris thudded into staithe around me as the landau dropped into the river which erupted in a flume of spray and mud.
“You saw that!” demanded the yachtswoman who had leapt ashore and was now shaking me.
This was new. I was not used to people sharing my hallucinations. 
“You've taken a hurt, what made you sit so close you feeble-pated loon?” demanded the woman.
I looked down at my leg from which a twisted piece of metal jutted. This was also new. I'd never been hurt by one of my hallucinations!

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Under the heading 'strange but true' comes the information that, contrary to popular belief, there are just as many young people that suffer a stroke as do old people. This was something I found out when it happened to me. One minute I'm as fit as a lop, the next I'm sitting in casualty being spoken 'at', rather than 'to', by a young medic.
“I think you've had a str...” the medic had started to say before I keeled over and the lights went out.

I could remember a moment of warmth and security as I regained consciousness. Someone was holding me and stroking my brow.
“Yuh alright sunshine, nuh worry mi wi protect yuh from harm.” a female voice with a heavy Jamaican accent whispered.
I tried to sit up, but my limbs were leaden and unresponsive. I tried to speak but my tongue clove to my dry mouth.
“Nuh fuss lie still an nurse Phoebe wi luk afta yuh.” whispered the voice as cool and refreshing as the water I was being given to drink.

Over the coming weeks and months, Nurse Phoebe became my rock. A constant in the wreck of my life. She was beautiful, both inside and out. Certainly old fashioned, her attitude much older than the twenty-two years she claimed to be or looked. Her starched white apron over her blue dress and traditional nurses cap made a stark contrast to the drab grey smocks and scrubs of her colleagues. Above all, it was love that made her stand out. To the doctors and other nurses, at best, I was broken and needed to be patched up and sent on my way. At worst, just another backside to wipe. No, Phoebe was different. Who cared if she looked old fashioned. Who cared if she seemed to appear when I needed her? Who cared if she seemed to walk through walls? The bloody 'Trick Cyclist', that's who cared!

The psychiatrist grasped my chin, shining a light in my eyes.
“Peduncular hallucinosis!”
“Bless you!” I said looking to see if Phoebe had appreciated my quip.
But instead of her usual infectious grin, tears trickled down her cheeks.
“You have damaged the mid-brain resulting in your experiencing hallucinations. It's rare, but it does happen. Patients can see all manner of people, animals, colourful patterns, usually in the evening but they can occur at any time.”
“What? So I can add being psycho to the dodgy speech, arm, hand, leg and dribbling when I eat?” I eventually spluttered.
“Oh, the hallucinations can be short term, although they could last for years. Some people enjoy them you know! I've prescribed a sedative, for now, we'll soon have you out of here and back to work!”
“Wonderful” I mumbled as a nurse in grey scrubs jabbed my arm with a hypodermic.
At the end of my bed, Phoebe seemed to shimmer as she clasped a fist over her heart and then pointed at me. My eyes grew heavy and Phoebe faded from view before everything faded to black.

'Out of here and back to work' the 'Trick Cyclist' had said. I was certainly 'out' but 'back to work'? You see, there is not a lot of call for archaeologists and historians that have difficulty stringing a sentence together let alone operating a damned shovel. Can't dig, can't talk and can't teach.
“We do have the reputation of being 'the friendly college', but there's not a lot we can do with a fellow having trouble with his 'worms' as you just put it!” the Master had said.
It served me right for trying to sneak through the Old Lodge instead of going through the main entrance. He was bound to catch up with me at some point.
“And then there's the drinking. It simply won't do!”
Again, he was right. It simply wouldn't do. There just wasn't enough of it to make me stop feeling.

Ever since the stroke, I felt wrong, on edge. Do you know that feeling when you were a kid and you were really, really in trouble and your brain was working overtime trying to predict your punishment? Or when your Dad was drunk and belligerent and arguing with your Mum and you knew any minute his fists would start landing punches? That sick feeling when you know something is so dreadfully wrong but there's nothing you can do about it? No? So, just me then. But that's what I felt like twenty-four-seven, ever since Phoebe had faded from view. Drinking had helped, proffering a few blessed hours of oblivion but then I'd missed the company of my imaginary friend. You couldn't say it was drink and drugs, because I'd stopped taking the medication in the hopes of catching a glimpse of her.
“You need to sort yourself, John, find a purpose, something to do.”
“Like what?” I mumbled wishing I'd kept my mouth shut.
“I'm glad you asked, Professor Cornelius, says he can make use of you.”
“Never heard of him.”
“Well, he's heard of you and you are expected.”
“Where will I find him?” I asked knowing it was already a done deal.
“There isn't a Norfolk College.”
“The Norfolk Broads, John, The Norfolk Broads!”

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9 hours ago, YnysMon said:

Are you practising with us as guinea pigs whilst developing your new writing career?

Someone suggested I put pen to paper a little while ago. I was re-reading the 'much flogged' book Ghosts of The Broads the other week, there's a copy kept on RT, and thought perhaps it's time for a reboot? 

Recently I've been researching the perfume industry in London between 1700 and 1900, a period in history when they were still defining alchemy from chemistry. So, I started digging into the thought on alchemy prevalent at the time through original and contextual publications. While doing this, I stumbled upon a story I found incredibly interesting, which linked various people through history with places I hold dear and know well, from my Cambridge College, to Thurne Mouth to St Bennet's Abbey. So...

And yes, I am looking for guinea pigs and editors to see if I can turn my hand to writing. I can churn out an essay in minutes but trying to write in a way that holds the attention, keeps the story moving at pace and getting the reader to keep reading really is challenging. How am I doing so far? :default_norty:

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I read the first David Blake book, but have given up on the second. I got a bit fed up at his not knowing, or conveniently forgetting, that the ancient churches of the Broads aren’t Catholic nowadays. All authors twist things a bit, but there are limits. In the first book I got a bit distracted that the first victim, killed under a Wroxham bridge, was supposed to be walking home. 

Also, though I read crime novels quite a bit, the second one was a bit too gruesome and sensational for me.


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