Warren Rome

Warren Rome

Author of the Macabre

The Field "Chapter One"

Well, here it is...  The first chapter of my new book, the first part of a trilogy I have lovingly titled 'The Hell's Overspill Trilogy'.  I will be uploading the second chapter in five days time but keep checking back as I have more movie reviews including my Halloween movie run.  This Halloween promises to be as busy and ghastly as ever...  Wonderful!  I would have it no other way.  I will be blogging all the way up to Halloween daily, and look out for my special blog that will keep you up to date on the exciting paranormal event my team and I will be investigating just before Halloween night.  With my book to be released on Halloween it really promises to be a good one!  Anyway, enough of my waffle, welcome to 'The Field'...

Stay Scared

Wx

@warrenrome

https://www.facebook.com/WarrenRome

www.warrenrome-authorofthemacabre.com

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

  “It’s for you”

The battered old phone had been crying out for attention until Monica had emerged, cursing and panting from her bedroom.  It was not that she disliked Chloe; it was the inconvenience of having to live with her.  Handing the greasy receiver to her housemate, Monica shook her head with disdain.  Chloe was older than Monica by three months, the girls had met at University – well, to be more precise, they had met in the old hall of the university.  The old hall was the advertising hubbub of the entire complex.  Its walls were adorned with colourful flyers enticing all into drunken debauchery in the run-down nightclubs and cuttings of advertisements, seeking new talent to join local bands, places to visit, and rooms to rent. 

 

Monica enjoyed the social aspects of university life and quickly fell behind in her studies.  The anticipation of the latest party with yet another ‘date’ consumed her immeasurably.  The problem was that she was jealous of Chloe who had excelled in her work.  Studying paranormal psychology was Chloe’s forte and she would lock herself in her tiny room for hours, immersed in her books, whilst Monica engaged on all fours as her latest conquest pumped his way to ecstasy.

“I don’t believe it!  Are you sure?  I mean it seems...all...a bit – sudden?  No, no, I’d love to – I’ll be there.”

Chloe placed the receiver back onto the phone and contemplated the last time either of them had actually used it, never mind received a call.  She smiled, delighted at the outcome of the unexpected message.  It could be easily identified that she was the antithesis of Monica, not only in looks but in attitude, personality and self-respect.  She was small, only reaching over five foot when on the tips of her toes.  She was thin featured with spectacles that perched on her crooked nose.  Her hair was long, dark and well presented but her appearance was always that of a penniless student which was further documented by the dull, poorly co-ordinated clothing she would wear.  Today it was her pea-green knitted jumper and baggy beige corduroys, finished with the shabby looking Doc. Martens.  Making her way to the room across the hall, she pushed open the door to find, to her horror, Monica pleasuring her latest squeeze, Steve:

“Oh...shit!  I’m sorry!  I didn’t realise you had company.  I...I’ll come back later.  Anyone for green tea?”

Closing the door quickly, Chloe rushed down the stairs to the sanctuary of the kitchen.  The house they had rented for over four years was not large, but it offered more than ample space for the two girls.  Chloe had spent practically all of her time in the haven of her hazy bedroom.  Her room was full of books and polluted with the aroma of Indian candles; there was paperwork pinned along her walls save for the two pictures that hung crookedly, one of her family before the horrific accident had extinguished them in an instant, and the other was of the philosopher, Aristotle.  The house itself was shabby and nondescript, but the rent was reasonable which, considering Monica had not coughed up her rent payments for nearing four months was more than a relief.

“You ever heard of knocking Chloe?  Jesus!  I know it’s not like you ever bring guys home, but a girl needs some privacy y’know?  What was all the fuss about anyway?”

Chloe did not answer and instead sipped tea from the China cup she regularly used.  The kitchen was long, narrow and dark.  It was cluttered with pots, pans, cookery books and various implements which if the truth was told, were of ornamental value only.  They came with the house and were of no use to the bookworm or the good time girl.  The grey walls painted long ago were in desperate need of attention, as was the old stove that Chloe was leaning over to taste the tinned tomato soup which she was preparing for lunch:

“I need to get ready and have dinner and...  Oh my God!  It’s really happening.  I just don’t know why now, and why I’m so damn nervous?”

Observing her friend flapping and panicking was what Monica would perceive as “something and nothing”, and could be construed as one of her least enjoyable hobbies, as it was a regular occurrence and becoming increasingly irritating.  Monica was quite agitated already, having been interrupted in the middle of unbridled passion with Steve, and quickly lost her temper with Chloe:

“Are you going to tell me what the hell is going on, you freak!  What are you getting all like, flustered and everything about?  You finally got a date or something?  No way!  You haven’t?”

Pouring the soup into a bowl, Chloe chose to ignore the rapid fire of questions.  Normally she may have been slightly troubled or even hurt by her friend’s shock and disbelief at the possibility that she, Chloe Attwald, could have a man in her life.  She would never claim to be popular with the opposite sex, but hell, if it meant the sluttish existence that her friend enjoyed, she would rather stick to her books.  The extrication which Chloe demonstrated at her friend’s insistence on informing her of the cause of her troubled demeanour did not alleviate the temper of Monica:

“What is wrong with you?  This time you really have lost it!  Wait a minute; has this something to do with that phone call I took for you earlier?  It has, hasn’t it?”

To say that Monica was dim, slow, or mentally challenged would be cruel and unfair, however the copious amount of marijuana, booze and pills she often indulged in, along with her lazy lifestyle, contradicted the bright future and above average grades she had achieved in school, which had allowed her the opportunity to attend the university and better herself if she had ever actually bothered to put any effort in.  Finally sensing the angry disposition of her housemate, Chloe responded:

“Well, you know I have been saying for over a year how I have been awaiting a test case as the final part of my studies?  Well, that call earlier was from Doctor Shlobert, my tutor and mentor who has been waiting to assign me to a case that would be suitable for my studies.  It seems that the person whom I am to meet and attempt to establish contact with, you know...  Hopefully build up a trust and working relationship with, has been identified.  I have been summoned to the Edison County Mental Institute this afternoon where I will meet the Doctor to be briefed on the case and hopefully meet my first patient!  Isn’t it exciting?”

Monica stared wide-eyed whilst the information filtered through.  After a few seconds she had forgotten most of the details anyway so shook her head in an attempt to mock her friend’s excitement:

“Shit!  If that’s what gets you going Chloe!  Good luck with that then!  I mean, you are going to that big ol’ creepy institute where all the wacko’s live?  Shit!  There is not enough money in Texas to get me setting one foot in that place!”

 

Leaving Chloe to her soup, Monica returned to her room.  It was a fair analysis made by Monica. The institute for the insane that stood, tall and foreboding on the edge of Edison County, twenty miles south of Fergville, Alabama, had occupied most of the landscape for nearing eighty years now.  Local children would enter the grounds to the annoyance of the security guard, Morris Cole, who mocked them as they scurried away after foolishly goading one another to venture beyond the leafy grounds and into those dark shadows that inhabited the perimeter around the building.  Even on the hottest summer day the entire complex would appear shrouded in shadows.  Morris enjoyed the tranquillity of the job.   There were rarely visitors for the patients; over eighty percent of its occupants were criminally insane and spent their days heavily sedated.  Cole could spend his days reading and watching television in his wooden cabin only a few yards from the only entrance to the place.

 

Placing the bowl of soup into the sink, Chloe sighed.  “Get a grip of yourself girl, this is what you have been waiting for.”  Her studies had taught her much but they were little use when attempting to build one’s confidence on their first encounter with the unknown.  She turned on the tap to swill away the remnants of soup.  She had managed only a few meagre mouthfuls before casting it aside. Her stomach was knotting with nerves and even a bowl of soup at this moment was too much to consume.  Merging with her lunch, the water became a thick orange gloop that struggled to escape through the plughole.  Chloe began to plunge her spoon into it mercilessly in an attempt to aid its cause.  The wind outside had begun to build and there had been weather warnings all week throughout the State of Texas encouraging its citizens to “stay indoors if possible” as there had been a number of uprooted trees and debris, resulting in plenty of casualties.  The window rattled quite violently causing Chloe to react in shock:  “Shit!”  Viewing the small garden at the rear of the property, she exhaled loudly at the cause of the disturbance.  The thought of driving in such weather made her nervous but, being the necessity it was, she attempted to discount her fears and turned off the tap, having finally rid her soup bowl of its sticky contents.  The sensation of a firm hand on her shoulder made Chloe scream in terror; her nerves were shredded at this point, as she span around to discover the source of the invading hand:

“Shit!   Shit!  It’s you!  Oh shit!  I’m sorry.  I guess I’m just a little jumpy with the weather n’all...”

It was Steve and he was smiling sagely at the small, muddled creature attempting in vain to swathe her nervous disposition.  The two had never been formally introduced and so Steve, being the confident jock, attempted to engage in a “man shake”.  A man shake was a similar to a handshake but instead, encompassed the entire thumbs crossing of both individuals and was the usual welcoming greeting amongst his friends and peers.  Chloe was not privy to such actions and went for the usual handshake greeting; in doing so, plunged her spiky thumbnail into his thick fleshy hand.

“Arrghh.  Shit!  You are nervous.  Ok, let’s not try that again shall we?  It’s bleeding too, I hope you aint got nothin’.  I’m Steve, a friend err, well I, erm, I’m doing Monica right now.  Shit, well I guess you knew that already.”

Chloe nodded, half embarrassed by her awkward introductory interaction yet again with another human being, and also in discomfort at Steve’s poor attempts at explaining his relationship with Monica.   Furthermore, if Monica caught the two talking in the kitchen, she knew that once Steve departed she would be in for a scolding or even worse, the silent treatment.  Interrupting the strange girl’s contemplations, Steve continued:

“Look, I’m sorry I startled you.  I guess everyone is a little jumpy, what with the weather.  I just came down to say that I think it’s really cool what you are doing.  I mean I used to go up there as a kid and that place is one pants polluter if you catch my drift!  Ha-ha...”

Ignoring the boyish humour, Chloe managed to find her voice to respond. It seemed Monica had listened to her for once.

“Well it is a spooky place I guess.  I gotta get my things together; I’m due up there in an hour or so.”

Chloe observed the chiselled face of Steve.  He was no longer smiling, but conveyed a look of concern a father would maybe give his daughter on hearing the news of a first date with an unknown boy that obviously excited her.  Steve was certainly handsome with the warm glow in his cheeks and smiling blue eyes that indicated a sense of childlike mischievousness.

“Well you see that is why I came down here.  I’m off to Fergville meeting somebody in a couple of hours, so would be happy to give you a ride in the truck?  I mean I go right past that old place on my way.”

Chloe smiled and shrugged.  What the hell was going on?  Monica’s conquests almost never even looked at her, never mind chatted and offered lifts with a friendly smile.  Chloe considered for a moment just what Steve must have seen in her housemate, when Monica entered the kitchen.  She was wearing a tight shirt and little else.  Her skimpy thong had disappeared between her full, tanned buttocks, and as she seductively walked through the kitchen she enticingly winked at Steve before scowling at Chloe.  Steve cleared his throat nervously before informing Monica of his intention to leave imminently.  If that was not bad enough, the news that he was to give Chloe a ride to her pending engagement, sent Monica into her usual temper:

“What the hell? You mean to tell me you are dumping me...   For her?”

Steve responded with a spluttering desperation, having no idea that they were “together” in the first place. He pointed out that Monica could therefore not consider herself to be dumped.  Chloe knew better than to try and reason with the furious female stomping around the kitchen area, and left the scene to collect her things and make any final preparation for the meeting that drew ever closer.  The nerves were beginning to bite now and she noticed her hands tremble as she pushed open her bedroom door.  The two were still arguing in the kitchen below and Chloe shook her head as she closed the door behind her.

Her Indian candle burned brightly and filled the small room with sweet sickly incense.  Chloe was well acquainted with such strong aroma’s and blew out the candle before plucking a slender brochure from the overly worked shelves that housed thousands of pages of literature.  The far wall in her room was taken up by eight of these buckling shelves that appeared to smile as they warped and succumbed to numerous volumes of paranormal experiments, journals and encyclopaedias.

 

The brochure she had retrieved from the shelf was that of the institution she was about to visit.  Her excellent memory had recorded all of the pages word for word, but Chloe being Chloe just wanted to take a final glance.  She would never leave anything to chance if she could possibly help it, and she had yearned for this opportunity for months.  The brochure itself was fairly mundane.  It was more of an accompaniment to the pack the employees would generally receive along with their terms of employment.  It did however give a brief history of the complex; Chloe had of course already researched much more in depth analysis of the place via the internet, but the brochure was a helpful indication of the size of the place and the facilities it boasted.  The grounds measured over one hundred and fifty acres and in the heart of the huge woodlands and spare land that was home to all varieties of creatures, stood one of the most imposing buildings in Texas.  It was not a grand sight to behold architecturally; having little colour, other than grey, certainly made it aesthetically challenging, but the cold, stone, intimidating walls served their purpose well.  Nobody ever wanted to venture inside the place and if unfortunate enough to find oneself an inhabitant of the demoralizing dwelling, then a route of escape in desperation would most certainly ensue.

 

Within twenty minutes Chloe had seated herself beside Steve in the truck and was already repeating herself, in a despairing attempt to silence Steve’s continual apologies:

“It’s ok, really it is; it’s not like I don’t know what she’s like.  Anyway it is really good of you to give me the ride, I mean, it probably should be me apologising to you as  you are gonna be in a heck of a lot of trouble when you catch up with Mon next!”

Steve smiled and hit the accelerator, leaving a plume of smoke to rise above the second floor window.  Monica looked out and shaking her head dropped onto her bed with a petulant swing of her legs.  Steve glanced at the twig like creature next to him.  The small glasses perched on the pronounced nose; her lips were so thin he thought they might puncture and pop at the merest suggestion of a pout.  There was no doubt about it, his librarian passenger was nothing like Monica; she was nothing like any of the girls he had been with.  He considered if she had dated anyone ever, not that he was interested of course, but strangely, something made him want to comfort her and it troubled him slightly.  In an effort to disband his thoughts that by now, were really beginning to unsettle him somewhat; he attempted conversation with the passenger that was still and almost lifeless; gazing through the window as the car sped through the quiet back streets of Edison County:

“We should be there in around half an hour or so if we keep away from the main street.  I often take this route when I need to head to Fergville.  I guess you must be pretty psyched, huh?”

Chloe smiled at the driver’s clumsy attempt to interact with her.  Steve was sweet, if a little challenged when it came to conversing in subjects other than football, girls and partying.  At least he was trying however, which was more than can be said for all of the other jock’s that had attempted to chat or even worse, flirt.  Most of the time they did it to mock her; they found her as unattractive as she found them.  It had always been that way and Chloe enjoyed her own company even at the expense of the glory of conversation, leading instead to the usual awkward attempts at interaction with the opposite sex:

“Well, I guess so.  I have been waiting for nearly two years for this opportunity to arrive.  The study of paranormal psychology can only be completed to a level of graduation with honours after a practical examination.  For this to occur the three, six-hour examinations must be completed and passed with a grade above a B-.  Most students end their education at that point and can enjoy success and progress, eventually to a Doctor if they have the will and enthusiasm for the challenge.  The limited few, who, like I, wish to continue, then have to wait until a suitable candidate is available for...”

Steve, who had been listening intently whilst navigating the road, interrupted his passenger inquisitively:

“Interrogation?  No, wait...  I know this!  Like, err... Experimentally like – you mean?”

Shaking her head, Chloe could not help but smile.  Her front teeth were slightly crooked and having failed to notice this further imperfection of Chloe’s appearance, Steve gave a look of awkward discomfort.  Chloe need not have studied for all of these years to interpret the look of disgust on the face of her escort to the hospital:

“What?  What is it?  Is there something in my hair?”

Steve shook his head, unable to understand his initial slight attraction to the alien female sat in the truck alongside him.  What the hell had come over him and why had he invited her to take the journey with him?

“No... I mean err... Sorry dude, I just was shocked.  I mean shocked by the amount of work you have had to put in so far and well...  Sorry, you were saying?”

Before re-entering into conversation with the beleaguered driver, Chloe’s attention was alerted to the presence of two large, heavy-set gates and the foreboding sign that read “Edison County Institute for the Insane”.  Within ten minutes she would be in the entrance and the beginning of her final exam would have begun.  Realising she had failed to respond to Steve, and not wanting to appear rude after his kind gesture of driving her to her appointment in such poor weather conditions, Chloe regained her composure, burying her nerves for the time being before responding with a smile.  Steve kept his eyes firmly on the road as he sensed the return of the uneven teeth:

“The word I would use is...  Assessment.  The candidate they have chosen for me has lived here for almost three years now.  If there is some way I can help him then that surely will enable me to receive the grade I want, but more importantly, it will mean that I have really helped somebody turn their life around, and that has to be the most rewarding prospect you could ever wish for.”

 

The vehicle screeched to a halt.  With the light already fading, the harsh weather conditions unrelenting, the poor old Sun was engaging in a hard fought battle with an inexorable sky.  Steve motioned to the road ahead; an ancient oak tree had succumbed to the pressure of the gales and lay unceremoniously, like a downed soldier, damp and in its own watery grave.

“These trees have stood here for generations.  You sure you want me to drop you off here...  In these conditions?”

Chloe responded by nodding slowly, her gaze unmoved from the tree and the treacherous road ahead.  As the truck ventured forwards, Steve endeavoured to engage Chloe in conversation once more but failed miserably.  The grounds were familiar to him also, as he explained:

“You ever come up here to muck around when you was a kid?”

Chloe, having spent her life in adulthood so far, as she had as a child, shook her head.  She had always immersed herself in literature; her greatest friends in youth, if the truth was told, consisted of fabricated characters:  Oliver Twist, Robinson Crusoe and Sherlock Holmes were all considered companions of her tender years.  Oblivious to his passenger’s differing lifestyle – at least, for the moment, as he was intent on regaling his tale, Steve continued:

“Shit, I must have spent days – possibly weeks if you added up the hours spent hanging out around this place.   The whole area was as creepy then as it is now.  You know, we used to dare each other to just make it up those stairs to the entrance!  Not one of us ever did either!  Ha-ha.  Kids stuff I guess, but there is just sommat about this old place that gives me, well – gave us all the willies!  I remember being told this story, and it’s true apparently, about some kid who, well, he was braver than any of us anyhow. Well he actually made it into the building.  Yeah, was sometime in the fifties, you know when this place last had like a major refurbishment and shit?  Well, what that kid saw scared him so damn much...  He ended up a patient in there – you know?  When it re-opened for patients.  You never hear about that?”

Chloe had spent an inordinate amount of time reading the supposed accounts of ghosts, spirits, possessions and demons over the last few years.  Her studies were not the only reason for her disbelieving of such wild rhetoric.  She had never believed in such matters and this was an excellent foundation, according to her tutors, for the potential of an illustrious career in psychology.

“Steve, I don’t mean to be impolite but I kind of, well, I don’t believe in that stuff and I have read numerous books and attended more seminars than I can remember on such matters.  That story like all the rest is most likely, an urban legend.  Every town and every county has them.  They are created to keep children like you and your friends at the time, to keep them away from places like this.  It’s just an old building, used to house patients, many of which in the fifties, I might add, probably should never have been detained in the first place.”

 

As the gravel crumpled under the stocky tyres of Steve’s truck, having eventually arrived at the end of the pathway, Steve grabbed lightly at the small, slender arm of Chloe:

“Look, obviously we both believe in different shit n’all but there is something about this place.  I can feel it!”

Smiling and again shaking her head, Chloe removed her arm from the friendly grasp of her driver:

“Go on then, scare me half to death if you can!  You know...  Before I go into the most important interview of my life”

Her unintended mockery fell on deaf ears to her relief, as Steve gladly accepted the invitation to conclude his morbid yarn:

“I heard that this kid could have been no older than thirteen, OK?  So, he enters the building that as I mentioned, was looking pretty much derelict at the time.  It’s all dark and shit, like no-one had visited there for like ten years.  He made his way through the entrance and down the lobby, through to what used to be the main hall.  He had to be careful because there were floor boards missing, loose tiles y’know around the place and tons of shit lying around.  I mean, they had only just moved in on the place to do it up or whatever.  Anyway, as the story goes, he ventured further until he reached the point that even the shadows dare not tread, right into the heart of the loonie bin!  A breeze unlike any other, they say, blew through the whole building as if to warn him not to go any further but he didn’t listen.  The breeze grew stronger and colder, so much so that he could see the breath in front of his very eyes.  That’s when he heard it...”

Chloe always chose to ignore the campfire tales.  This was no different but the narrator continued without prejudice:

“This maniacal evil laughter which cackled and reverberated around the entire place!  The thing is, it did not emanate from a particular point, no, it was if it came from around the entire building.  This laughter, I mean it was the most evil...”

Pulling at the lever on the passenger door to remove her from the clichéd tale that Steve was regaling, prompted him to terminate his yarn.  He blushed ever so slightly you could have blinked and missed it.

“Steve, I must thank you for the lift and say goodbye.  I don’t understand what you are trying to do by telling me this, but it really is not helping!  I’ll see you around...”

Taking a final glance at him, before opening the door fully to leave the truck, Chloe was surprised that the usual sniggering or “gotcha” was not forthcoming, and so she remained stationery, mirroring the vehicle and it’s driver, watching as he shook his head slowly:

“Legend has it that when the boy span around in horror in all of that evil cackling noise, he saw it.  This shape, some kinda black void that appeared from where he came from.  The light from the moon could be seen through the thing and the story goes that it was looking straight at him.  I mean if it was me I would have shit my pants on the spot!  Whatever it was scared the kid so damn much, he was changed from that very day.  Within a year, he was an inhabitant of the place.  You know what, I don’t care if you think I am fucking with you, I know it happened and you know why?”

Chloe shook her head, bewildered that a guy that had obviously worked so hard in the gym, and on his tough street credibility, would react to an old myth that surfaced in probably every town in the State and beyond.

“The reason why I know is because like I said, as kids we used to hang out around there, to see if we could see what he saw.  Only thing was, none of us were brave or stupid enough to ever try and enter that building, day or night.  There may have been doctors and patients all over that place, but hell, that isn’t what stopped us, no, we all felt there was something wrong with the place and one night in Spring break, we heard its screech! I tell you, it wasn’t human!  What we heard that night was the devil, he’s in there all right and he saw us and he mocked us.  I swear to God it happened.  We never went back around there again.”

 

Entertained by the story, Chloe did her best to appear in earnest.  She explained calmly that she understood his fears but that this was many years ago and if it was as he described, then a derelict building on a cold windy night could easily create strange ungodly noises, appearing all the more threatening to a thirteen year old boy.  The tale would have gathered momentum amongst the local kids and before long, facts would be mixed with fiction.  Although he too may have heard a strange noise, the natural causes would have had to have been exhausted before any true investigator would ever give credence to the disruption being of another world.  Steve acknowledged her explanation without comment and not wanting to appear entirely dismissive of his childlike warning, Chloe attempted to engage him in conversation about her housemate, always steering clear of the possibility of the conversation leading to the embarrassing sexual action she had witnessed earlier that morning.  It was 1:45pm; her interview was not for another half hour, so she was in good time as always.

“So you and Monica huh?  How is that working out for you?  If you don’t mind me asking?  Sorry, am I prying?”

The smile returned to Steve’s face; this of course was a relief to Chloe, his strained look had worried her.  His story had troubled him deeply, this was obvious and her decision to change the conversation was a good one, she surmised.

“It’s ok.  I mean we are not an item or anything.  We just you know, kinda like the same thing...”

As Steve had earlier, Chloe blushed, only hers lasted much longer and burned bright making her cheeks appear like two ripe tomatoes.  Her complexion was always a challenge to control when confronted with the dreaded “S” word.  Steve had not even said it; simply alluding to sex had the unfortunate effect and Chloe needed a lifeline:

“Err, so do you like Johnny Depp?  I mean, Monica does; you did notice the huge poster on her bedroom wall I take it?”

They both laughed which seemed to dissipate the tomatoes and return her skin tone to a more acceptable pale white appearance.

“Well, I guess he’s ok.  I have never really thought about it.  I liked that film he did with Pacino.  I take it you are not into him though, I mean I’m not being funny or anything, but you are into some wacked out shit!  I have seen your room when Monica was looking for a pen to take down my number a week or so ago.  I hope you don’t mind...  You got your own library in there.  Do you and Monica get along?  I mean, you are like chalk and cheese!”

Chloe smiled acknowledging the clichéd metaphor:

“Well, we do, but that’s probably because we hardly see each other.  You are correct in your judgement though.  I wonder what gave it away.  Ha-ha.  Maybe the fact she has Johnny Depp adorning her wall where as I have Aristotle.  I guess that says it all.”

Nodding, the jock smiled meekly, hiding his discomfort, having never heard of Aristotle.  It was not a case of belittling Monica, but it was a clear indication of the polar opposites of the two inhabitants of number Fourteen, Ducee Avenue, of Edison County.

“It is funny though.  I mean, from time to time Monica will attempt to show an interest in my studies.  It is usually when she needs to lend a few bucks or whatever, but when she does show willing or try and do something nice around the house, she always messes up anyway.  Sweet really, I guess, I mean if she was to hang a portrait of a philosopher on her wall, she would most likely choose the wrong one anyway; it certainly would not be Aristotle.  Ha-ha-ha, she would probably end up with Epicurus beaming down on her!  Ha-ha-ha-ha.”

The intellectual humour was all too much for Steve, and his uncomfortable laughter following Chloe’s amusement, made it abundantly clear that he had no clue of who or what Chloe was talking about.  Picking up on the awkward mirth of her companion, Chloe attempted to explain:

“Epicurus has shall we say, a slightly tarnished reputation.  Don’t get me wrong, he was indeed a philosopher, but he has gained some notoriety of a teacher of self-indulgence over the centuries.  He sought delight in excess as was to quote: ‘Don’t fear God; don’t worry about death; what is good is easy to get; what is terrible is easy to endure.’ Or something along those lines.”

Although he did not fully comprehend what Chloe was referring to, Steve did understand the reference of Monica seeking delight in excess, yes, that was Monica alright!

“Ok, well what about your guy?  Aristackle or whatever his name is?”

Chloe checked the time.  With less than ten minutes until her interview, she would have to make the history lesson short, something that she would often struggle with.  She loved to discuss philosophy with her peers and tutors, Steve was unlikely to be interested, but he was seemingly polite and showing willing so she continued:

“Aristotle was pretty much the guy who came up with the original theories to which most other infamous philosophers, no matter whether they agree or not, would refer to.  For example, he was the first to have written systems by which to understand, criticise everything from politics, pure logic to ethics and literature...  Even science.  His theories that there were just four qualities of anything in existence:  The material, which is basically what everything is made up of, the formal cause, which is the arrangement of the subject material; the effective cause, which is of course, the creator of the thing and finally, the final cause – which is the purpose for which the subject exists.”

Steve was dumbfounded.  He shook his head and sighed:

“Pheweeee, you lost me after you said wrote loadsa shit.  Did they even have pens then?  Shit!  How do you know all of this stuff?  That’s crazy!”

His remarks brought further merriment to the setting and in judging the situation poorly, Steve rather presumptuously, queried the other picture adorning the wall in the dark study of Attwald:

“OK, so I get that philosophers are your thing; that other picture, the one of your family?”

The smile disappeared in an instant from her wispy features.  Like a corpse evicted from a sepulchre, the facade remained, yet the entity was suddenly hollow and without meaning.  The automated reaction a tried and trusted defence mechanism, well oiled and in motion as per a Broadway actor in the final show of a tiresome tour, going through the motions and the want of an escape plainly visible.

“My family, they died...”

The slender creature looked at the ground longing for it to swallow her up; if Herman Melville’s great whale had so been inclined, then why not something just as miraculous open its huge jowls to deliver her away from such impertinence?  Owing only to fairy tales, Chloe chose to continue her gaze at the ground.  Her interview was imminent and her composure would return in a moment, then all would be well.

 

Steve apologised profusely, her sorrow was evident and as dim-witted as he may have been, he was not completely ignorant to human suffering:

“I didn’t realise.  Did it happen a long time ago?  Shit, there I go again.  It’s OK; you don’t have to answer that.”

Steve fell silent, observing her as she continued staring at the floor.  She appeared mouse-like; timid and eyes twitching nervously behind those thin, rimmed spectacles.  Her hair was pulled tightly back and wrestled to submission with a solitary black clip.  There was not a single item of jewellery on her person, just as he had discovered earlier – she was the complete opposite of Monica.   For a reason Steve could not explain, he leaned over and attempted to kiss the pale cheek of the meek female, perched so uncomfortably in his cab.

“What?  What the hell are you doing!  You jocks are all the same!  I cannot believe I fell for it – accepting a lift off the likes of you!  I must have been out of my mind!”

Panicking and lashing out, Chloe managed to find her way to the door release handle.  She pulled it and tumbled from the vehicle awkwardly onto the moist ground.  She quickly picked herself up and dusted down her soiled clothing whilst walking hurriedly away and without looking back.  Steve punched his steering column in anger; if any of the guys heard about this he would be a laughing stock.  He pulled the passenger door until it locked into place and sped away.

 

 Chloe continued forward towards the hospital.  Her earlier request to be engulfed by the infamous white whale as a route to escape was pure folly, but as she walked up those harsh concrete stairs and entered the great mouth of the building, the echelon of evil surrounding the case she was to embark on, would surely swallow her up unceremoniously with sinister satisfaction.  The groan of the trees as the wind bristled through the branches caused her to look back at the murky grey grounds and shudder; the light now almost completely extinguished yet somehow appeared more welcoming than the cold, stone building and her appointment.

 

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