Passengers (Bring Out Your Dead series - Part 35)
Continued from Episode 34 - 'Sailing'
The story so far (you can read from the start at 'Board Stiff!'): Josiah and Archibald, our two Undertakers, are on a mission to Spain to collect the mortal remains of Sir Lewisham Carnock. On the face of it, all is fine. Josiah, Archibald and Chantelle are on the ferry and heading back to Blighty, as are Amber and Lawrence Hamble. Everyone was on course for their ultimate destination, even the coffin at the centre of the whole affair, which may, or may not, contain the late Sir Lewisham:
He was in that state where you’re not really sure if you’re: (a) asleep and dreaming you’re awake, or (b) awake and thinking you’re asleep. Either way, he figured that opening his eyes might not be a good move. He remembered a saying from right back in his childhood that his old ma used to come out with. She used to say “If you wake up and push your elbows out and don’t touch wood, then it’s a good day”
He pushed his elbows out.
He touched wood.
Ah! Not such a good day, then?
The darkness descended once more.
* * * *
Chantelle woke from her nap and was initially puzzled by the sight of the top bunk, above her. Then the events of the last few hours slid slowly into place, which made sense of the bunk beds. Although she hadn’t intended to nod off, she might have reasonably hoped to feel refreshed and revived, instead she felt worse, if anything.
Swivelling herself from the bottom bunk, she viewed her luggage piled on the cabin floor and sighed. She really ought to get a few things out, possibly change, shower, do her hair? She sighed again, decided against it and elected to freshen up her make-up and go and get something to eat. It seemed a long time since that Autovia service station, and she hadn’t eaten there either. With the best will in the world, watching Archie demolish a ham and cheese toastie did not satisfy the inner woman. It was one thing to watch your figure but, at this rate, there wouldn’t be a figure worth watching!
* * * *
He woke up. Possibly again, he couldn’t be sure. He did know that he had the mother and father of all headaches. It felt just as if someone was hitting him, repeatedly, long and hard, on the back of his head. It was the sort of pain that made you feel sick to your stomach.
Keeping his eyes closed, he gingerly reached out to feel what was in front of him. It was wood. Bugger! It was the wardrobe again, wasn’t it? Had to be! He couldn’t have done it again, surely? Not in the wardrobe? Once was bad enough but twice!
He pushed forward and the ‘door’, lighter than he had expected, tumbled out of his hands and fell, with a clatter. ‘Bloody hell, the door’s come off now!’ he thought, ‘She’ll do her fruit over this!’ He went to step forward and found he couldn’t. He risked opening his eyes. It was dark, but somewhere there must have been some low-level lighting, because he could make out vague shapes that looked like piping and racking. ‘Why’s the wardrobe on its back?’ He wondered, hauling himself out with some difficulty, ‘It can’t fall backwards, there’s a wall behind it’.
He tentatively tried straightening up. He appeared to be standing on some sort of mesh. He took a step forward, his foot slipped and he dropped into the darkness.
“Shit!” His cry of pain echoed all around him.
He had landed, feet first, on the ground, but with a sickening thud that had driven the wind out of his body. He crouched down and tried to get his breath back. If this was his bedroom, there was something very different about it. He eased himself upright, with some difficulty, and tried to get his bearings, but nothing was familiar, even allowing for the semi-darkness.
“Hey, mister!” He turned and saw a small chap, dressed in dark overalls, trotting over and shouting at him. His first thought was to run, but where to? “Mister, you not here!” The little man looked very serious and shook his head.
He patted himself up and down to check and came to the firm conclusion that he definitely was ‘here’, wherever that was.
“I am you know, mate” He growled.
“You not here!” The man insisted, “Not allowed!” The little man wagged his finger, “You come me” The little man strode off, beckoning for him to follow.
They set off down the dark corridor until they came to a set of metal stairs. The little man bounded up and then stopped and beckoned furiously. Together, they marched quickly up a number of flights of stairs, their steps ringing out. In the distance there was a rhythmic thrumming of something big and powerful, which vibrated through the stairs, and everything else for that matter.
“Pass-eng-er Deck” The little man said, emphasising each syllable, unbolting a hefty door and shoving him through. Suddenly he was into bright light and carpeted floors. He turned around quickly to head back but the door was slammed, firmly, in his face.
* * * *
Chantelle, now somewhat spruced up and feeling a bit better about herself, marched away from her cabin with the aim of finding somewhere to eat. Heading back to the concourse, where she had left Josiah and Archibald earlier, she perused the various signs and determined where the nearest restaurant could be found.
She sauntered away, flashing her beaming smile at each man the she passed and enjoying the furious glares of their partners.
* * * *
He stood as still as he could but the floor seemed to be moving, this way and that, as if he’d had a bit of a session, only, if he had, he couldn’t remember it. Mind you, it would explain the wardrobe!
He leaned against the nearest wall and clung on with his hands pressed firmly against it. He didn’t like this at all. People were walking past and staring at him, as if he was some Creature from The Black Lagoon. He scowled and tried to look threatening but that didn’t seem to do any good. The older ones tutted, or just averted their eyes and hurried away, the younger ones giggled or stifled a laugh.
He edged his way along the corridor, clinging to the wall all the time. He hadn’t gone for many yards when he felt his knees give way underneath him and he sank to the floor. He leant forward and covered his face with his hands, hoping that if he blocked out the light, he might find himself back in his own bed again and that this was all just some awful dream.
“Oh damn! I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you there” Some woman had nearly tripped over him but he wasn’t inclined to find out who or why. “Are you alright? You don’t look well”
He emerged from his hands and looked up at a face, surrounded by a bright light. A familiar face.
“Lacey?” He whispered, hoarsely.
“Oh my God!” Chantelle looked down at the dishevelled wreck in horror, “FRANKIE?”
Now read Part 36