Karen was crouched in a ball on the floor with her hands clamped over her eyes. She had resisted all attempts to make her interact with the others. She moved her left hand away from her eyes and down toward her pocket. Her other hand remained firmly in place over her right eye. Her left eye flicked open and she took in the room. She was alone. She could hear the sounds of others behind her. Her left hand snaked back up from her pocket, but now it held a precious cargo. She brought it level with her face, but rested it on the floor. She could feel the prickly carpet on her palm. Her left hand joined the right and she began to crawl slowly forward. So slowly, that a casual observer might not have realised she was moving at all.
It took her several minutes to cross the room. When she stopped, her forehead was almost touching the skirting board. She had arrived.
Armed with her cargo, she sprang to her feet. Her hand darted around the wall in a complex pattern of lines. Between Karen and wall, a piece of chalk betrayed the path her hand had taken across the pale green paintwork.
‘Oh God, she’s at it again.’ one nurse said before calling out to another ‘Jim!’
As a pair, they rushed over to Karen and grabbed an arm each. Jim wrestled the chalk from Karen’s hand, while the other nurse pushed her face first onto the floor.
‘I’ve got her.’ said Jim, as he knelt on her legs and held down her arms.
The other nurse stepped back from the restrained patient and stared over Jim’s head at the wall. A complicated series of lines and intricate interwoven shapes now adorned the wall of the day room.
‘What does it all mean?’ asked the nurse.
Karen smiled. She felt the prickly carpet on her cheek.
‘Go! Go! Go!’ shouted the captain without taking her eyes of the clock. Someone opened the back doors of the van and the platoon scrambled out. Seconds later the doors slammed shut. The driver opened his door and leapt out. He reached under his seat for a firearm and assumed his position to stand guard over the vehicle. In the darkness, he could see the others clustering around the rear of the van. Someone knocked on the doors. This was not the plan. The driver knew something had gone wrong. He looked to the captain. She was still sat in the passenger seat, but with her head in her hands.
‘Shall I go and see what the trouble is, captain?’
She nodded feebly. He raised his gun and walked almost sideways around the van with his back clinging to it. Upon his arrival at the rear of the van, he saw the other five members of the group stood about awkwardly.
‘It’s locked.’ said the Sergeant.
‘Don’t look at me.’ the driver replied. ‘Why do you need to get in anyway? What have you forgot-’
The driver didn’t finish his sentence. For the first time, he realised that the platoon was surrounded. Not just surrounded, but outnumbered as well. There were civilians everywhere. He estimated there were maybe a hundred of them in the street. The strange thing was that none of them were even looking at the armed soldiers in the midst. They were all staring up.
Joseph watched as the van’s back doors opened and some indistinct shapes clambered out. He watched as they tried and failed to clamber back in again. The passenger door opened and indistinct shape climbed out. Joseph stared, but he couldn’t distinguish where the figure was. Unexpectedly, he caught a glimpse of the shape as it passed in front of Mrs Hardacre stood on her lawn in a nightdress. Joseph only saw it briefly, but the silhouette appeared female.
Harry arrived at the bottom of the ladder in darkness and felt for the narrow door. He stepped through uncertain of his footing. He could see Ivy and the light from her torch about twenty feet away, but nothing of his immediate surroundings. He walked towards the light and it became apparent that they were in a long corridor lined with doors. Ivy’s torch lit up one of the doors like a spotlight. She was staring at it, almost mesmerised.
Harry stopped, it was that corridor.
‘Are you OK?’ he asked. It startled Ivy.
‘I’ll be fine.’ she lied.
Harry looked at the door, but he wasn’t surprised to see ‘Ivy’ written across it. They stood in silence. Harry put his arm around his sister’s shoulders, but she shrugged him off.
‘It’s locked.’ she said.
‘Did you want to go in?’ asked Harry.
‘I don’t know.’
Harry turned looked at his door on the opposite wall. Even in the half-light he could still read his name on the outside. He pushed on the door and it swung away from him, but it was too dark inside to recognise anything within. Ivy turned and suddenly the torch lit up the room and it sprang into life. The blue walls sang as toys and books vied for his attention. Harry stepped in and cast a dark silhouette against the far wall. He picked a toy car up off the floor and looked at it closely.
‘It’s time to put away childish things.’ Said Ivy, and with that she left the doorway taking the torch and the light with her.
Harry’s room was instantly plunged back into murky blackness. He threw the car onto the bed and took faltering steps back toward the door.
Gloria moved to top up Emma’s glass only to discover that the wine bottle was empty. She stood up purposefully, but stopped and looked out into the garden instead
‘Didn’t it get dark quickly?’ she said.
Emma nodded and said ‘We’ve only been here five minutes.’
Annabelle knew they had been there much longer.
‘Oh, shall we have a look at that comet?’ said Gloria as she returned with another bottle.
‘Or is it a meteorite?’
‘Is that today?’ said Emma getting out of her seat.
Gloria picked a corkscrew up off the kitchen counter and twisted it into the new bottle’s cork. Annabelle could see from the tension on her face that drinking wine was hard work.
‘What is the difference between a meteor and a meteorite?’
‘I don’t know, ask me another.’
She handed the wine bottle to Annabelle and turned her attention to the patio door’s lock. The plastic handle and key proved problematic. Annabelle studied the bottle with the corkscrew sticking out of it like a cross.
‘Stalagmites go up and stalactites come down.’ Gloria imparted, in a voice that she hoped sounded informative.
‘What are you talking about?’ asked Emma.
‘So, maybe it’s only a meteorite when it comes down.’
Thank you again for reading.