The Fear: Part Thirteen

This is the thirteenth part of a fiction serial, in 700 words.

Considering his personal appearance, and the run-down exterior of the farm buildings, Ted’s house was remarkably clean and tidy inside. Upstairs there was a small living room, a double bedroom, and a bathroom and toilet combined. The fixtures were dated, but all serviceable, and the small flat screen television in the living room was a modern one.

As he watched me moving my stuff from the van, he called out various things as I went up and down the stairs. “Dinner is at six. Nothing fancy, you understand, but I’m a fair cook”. “The phone signal is not too good here if you have one of those mobiles. There’s a phone in the house, but make sure you leave the money for the call in the box next to it”. “Oh, and I don’t know if you have a computer or such, but we don’t have that Internet here”. “Breakfast at seven sharp, I can wake you if you want”.

While making my bed, I tried to imagine how anyone could run a business, even a farm, without Internet access. By the time I had unpacked, I could smell the dinner wafting up the stairs. And it made my mouth water.

The portion was huge, and I ate heartily. Sausages and onions, served in a fluffy Yorkshire pudding, accompanied by mashed potatoes and peas. There was bread and butter on the table too, and the promise of a dessert. “There’s steamed sponge and treacle after, boy. You will eat well here, I promise you”. As we ate, he chatted as if we were old friends. I was amazed how trusting he was, as he hadn’t so much as even asked my name.

“The main job here is keeping the birds and vermin away from the fruit. As soon as those blackcurrants start to appear, they are all over them. Then there’s watering, I have a cart for that, and some weeding. But I mainly use chemicals and such around the bushes, to save the back-breaking stuff. Once the season warms up, we will have to get the netting on the bushes. That’s one hell of a job, I tell you boy. I see you have some decent tools, so I was wondering if you could fix the doors on the main barn? Otherwise it wil be hard to store anything in there, come harvest”.

He talked like this throughout the meal, never waiting for me to reply or comment. He also told me that he lived downstairs, with a small living room and bedroom combined at the back, and a toilet too. “I don’t need any bath, shower, or such. I just have a good wash in the sink”. After we had finished all the food, he offered me beer, which I declined. Then he suggested Port Wine or Brandy, but I said no. When I offered to help clear away and wash up, he surprised me by telling me he had a dishwasher in a utility room at the back. “Also got a nice washing machine and tumble drier there boy. Next to the freezer”.

I had imagined that he would have no such conveniences.

Ted remained sitting at the rough wooden dining table for some time, drinking his beer. He told me about how he, his father, and his older brother had run the farm together after his mother had died of cancer. His blackcurrants were all sold in advance, used for fruit drinks made by the brand leader in those products. But the price depended on the abundance of the crop at harvest, and could fluctuate wildly every year. “What we want is a good crop, in a bad year. Do you get my meaning, boy? Then we have the edge, something to sell that they need”.

I slept well that night, with Ted telling me he would wake me in time to bathe before breakfast. I couldn’t recall eating such a big dinner in a long time, and I had quite warmed to my new employer.

It almost seemed a shame that I would have to discover his weakness, before he died of it.

Lodore: Ollie’s first boat trip

Another reblog from 2016, for the benefit of new followers. More photos of a holiday to The Lake district, in Cumbria,

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All photos are large files, and can be clicked on for detail.

Up early for day two, and I was discovering how to pack my rucksack for the day ahead. Flat things against my back, two one-litre water containers, Ollie’s bowl and food for the day, then my own lunch. A spare top in case it got cold, camera, spare battery, plus a secure bag for keys, money, and any valuables we didn’t want to leave in the holiday flat. By the time I had laced my boots and sorted the backpack it was so hot inside I was pleased to get out into the morning air, heading down to catch the 10 am ferry to nearby Lodore. Ollie had never been on a boat before, but he trotted happily enough along the jetty, and stood next to us as we took our seats in the open section. I got…

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Ullswater: A lake in the mist

From almost four years ago, I am reblogging some photo posts for the benefit of new followers since 2016. They were taken on a holiday in Norh-west England, in Cumbria.

beetleypete

All photos are large files and can be clicked on for detail

Monday was planned to be a ‘big’ day. We would drive to The village of Glenridding, and take the ferry across Ullswater. Once off the boat, we would have a five-hour walk back around the shore of the lake to where we had parked the car. On the way there, Antony suggested a stop where we might get some uninterrupted photos of the lake from near the edge of the road. As soon as we approached the water, we could see that it was shrouded in mist. It was slightly eerie, but a real delight for me, never having seen it before.
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I decided to try metering for light off of the brighter sky. I hoped that this would cast the scene into shadow, and appear to be the evening. This is the result.
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We got back in…

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The Fear: Part Twelve

This is the twelfth part of a fiction serial, in 785 words.

The house at the end of the long track was well hidden from the road. It was more a collection of buildings, one of which appeared to be inhabited, judging by the curtains in some windows, and a pair of boots outside the main door. In the distance were two large barns, at the end of the continuation of the track. Old machinery was scattered around, mostly rusted and bent. I stopped the car fifty feet from the house, and looked to my right as I got out.

There were some large fields bordering the property, each planted with neat rows of small bushes. In contrast to the buildings, the fields were neat, and the bushes stood in their rows like soldiers on parade. I knocked on the door with my fist, and stood back.

With a scraping sound the door opened slowly, and a man’s voice called out. “What you want? I’m resting”. I couldn’t see anyone, and felt awkward speaking into the gap. I told him I was there to see about the job, and mentioned the sign on the road. With that, the door opened all the way, revealing an elderly man in filthy blue overalls. He looked me up and down, with no effort to introduce himself, or excuse his rudeness.

“Well you look young and strong. I need help with the blackcurrant bushes. Weeding, watering, and such. Then harvesting when they’re ready. And some help around the farm fixing up buildings and such. You get lodging and food, but no pay until the crop is sold. How would that suit you?” He was certainly blunt, and had offered me the job with no formal interview, and not even a single question about my situation. When I didn’t reply, he carried on. “You would have to bring your own bedding and such, but there’s the first floor, you can have that for yourself. No hours as such, and we work until the work’s done. Yes or no?”

Smiling inside at how many times he could say the word ‘such’, and how an old-fashioned shabby looking man like him still managed to run a fruit business in the modern world, I had already decided. The remoteness of the location appealed to me, and I told him I would take the job, returning in two days after I had gathered my things, and made arrangements. I extended a hand to shake on the agreement, but he was already closing the door as he spoke.

“Take down the sign on your way out”.

The next day, I packed some clothes, towels, and bedding before telephoning Mr Dean to inform him I would be away for some time. He assured me that he would see to my house and property while I was gone, and I made him take a note that nobody was to try to enter any of the workshops. The grounds would be maintained, the windows cleaned, and utility bills paid. He sounded happy to hear from me again, no doubt pleased that he would be able to send me a substantial bill for his services at some stage. I also asked him to engage an accountant on my behalf, to show me as being self-employed, for the purposes of tax, and other matters. He could supply most of the information required, and I would provide some evidence of what I was doing, in due course.

From the workshops, I took some good tools that I suspected I would need at the farm, and packed them into a smart toolbox. All my notebooks and video recordings were sealed in a locked box, and placed under the false floor of one of the workshops, next to the large drum containing what was left of Michelle O’Connor. Then I took the sign that I had removed from the road near the farm, and burned it in an incinerator in the garden.

When I got back to the farm the following afternoon, the door opened without me having to knock. Still wearing the same overalls, the man appeared outside, his mood greatly changed. This time he extended a hand and smiled warmly, showing many missing teeth. “I forgot to tell you my name. Edward Cobden, of Cobden’s Fruits. You call me Ted. I used to run this place with my brother before he died, and can’t manage it now, being on my own and such. Come in, and I will show you your rooms”.

My best guess was that he was at least seventy years old, maybe more. As I followed him upstairs, he held his hand against the wall for support, and appeared frail.

I was wondering what he might be afraid of.

Ollie’s Skin: The Saga Continues

So many times I have written on this blog about the skin conditions afflicting my poor dog, Ollie. After the last bout cleared up, the fur grew back slowly. But by the end of March, he was looking pretty good. Good enough for other dog-walkers to remark on how well he was looking, and how shiny his coat was.

Then the weather warmed up in May, and he started to moult. Nothing excessive, and to be expected. Just a lot more of his shed fur collected in the vacuum claner. Two weeks ago, he started to smell rather ‘doggy’, and I thought about booking him in for a bath at the groomer’s by the end of June. But while the tiling was being done, I wanted to stay around the house.

Then last week, we got the real mini-heatwave I have mentioned. Ollie started to scratch a lot, and I noticed the fur that had grown back had fallen out again, leaving bald patches of inflamed skin. So today, he had to go back to the Vet yet again.

They have a new procedure for Covid-19 safety, whereby no customers are allowed inside the large building. You telephone on arrival, and let them know you are there. Then a Vet comes to inspect the dog in your car, or outside it, before deciding whether or not he has to take your dog (or cat, or whatever) back inside for treatment. In Ollie’s case, the regular Vet knows him well, and carried out a car-park examination while Ollie stayed on his bed at the back of the car.

Allergies and skin infection was diagnosed, as it has been so many times before. He returned with steroid tablets, antibiotic tablets, and the suggestion that we give Ollie a cheap antihistamine tablet every day of the summer months. I had to come home and pay over the telephone, as he wasn’t letting anyone use the card machine, for fear of infection.

Ollie now has two weeks of tablets, twice a day. We already know they make him extra thirsty, and increase his appetite too. So I will give him slightly bigger dinners while he is on them, and make sure to keep his fresh water filled up.

I phoned as requested, to make a card payment over the phone. £160. Pretty hefty, for ten minutes in a car park.

But he is worth it of course.

The Fear: Part Eleven

This is the eleventh part of a fiction serial, in 769 words.

It wasn’t long before everyone at work was talking about Shell not turning up that Monday. She hadn’t phoned in sick, so I was told, and she wasn’t replying to messages left on her phone. As she had been so secretive about our date, I had no worry that anyone would associate me with her, so just got on with my job. Adam stepped up to replace her as Team Leader until she came back.

By Wednesday, another Team Leader had called at her house, reporting back that there was no answer to repeated knocking. That afternoon, the depot manager phoned the police with his concerns, and they took a missing person report over the phone, advising him that they would investigate. It took over a eeek for the rest of the news to filter down to me, through Adam gossiping. Shell’s phone had been traced to inside her house, and her car was found parked in the next side street. Concerned police officers had forced entry using a locksmith, but found nothing to give them much concern. There was no trace of a handbag or purse, the house was clean and tidy with no evidence of a struggle, or break-in. They concluded that she must have gone to visit a friend or relative, and not bothered to tell her employer. It was even suggested that she might have run off with a lover.

The fact that this was abnormal behaviour for her didn’t seem to impress them.

Of course, I had to look surprised and concerned, every time a snippet of what was going on was told to me. I think I did very well, considering that I knew her handbag was under the metal drum full of acid containing her dissolved body, and that was stored in the false floor of my second workshop.

Some ten days later, there was a short appeal on the local news for anyone with information about her disappearance. She had not visited her mother in the care home, and she had also not used her bank card or credit card. There was no CCTV evidence of her moving around the town on the night of her disappearance, or since, and she had not boarded a bus or train. They were finally treating the case as suspicious, with no leads to follow. The next morning, two officers arrived at the depot to take statements.

They got to me after the first break, and I was allowed the time away from picking to talk to them. From the start, I could tell they were not that interested in me, and they asked me a lot of questions about Eddie, one of the delivery drivers who had apparently once been Shell’s boyfriend. That was easy, as I didn’t know him, and had never met him. The female detective smiled at me quite sweetly as she told me I could go.

If I was to continue my experiments, I couldn’t stay working there of course. Another person going missing would be too much of a coincidence. But I had to bide my time, as my sudden resignation while they were still looking for Shell might have been noticed. For four months, I turned up for work every day as usual, and one day I was told to report to the office of the manager. Momentarily, it crossed my mind that the police were going to be waiting there, ready to arrest me and haul me off in handcuffs. But I knew better, so was unconcerned as I entered after knocking.

Far from any prospect of arrest, I was actually offered Shell’s job as Team Leader, to my obvious surprise. I thanked him politely, suggested I wasn’t ready for the responsibility, then mentioned that I was thinking of leaving anyway. That caused him to change his manner completely. He said that I might as well give notice officially, and leave at the end of the day. He didn’t want anyone working there who was thinking of quitting.

Perhaps I should have told him that most of the staff were doing exactly that. But I left him in ignorance.

That weekend, I took a rare trip to the coast, just to walk along the beach and have a change of scene. Something my father had never allowed when I was young. Driving back through a country district almost sixty miles from home, I spotted a large hand-written sign at the entrance to a track.
HELP WANTED. LIVE-IN.

I stopped the car, reversed back a short distance, and turned left up the rutted path next to the sign.

A Change In The Weather

Can it be only last week that I was writing about hot summer days and uncomfortable sultry nights, sleeping with a fan whirring in the room?

The wind changed on Saturday, and the weather with it. In the course of one day, it went from 32 C to 18 C in Beetley, and the sunshine was replaced by looming clouds and blustery winds. By two in the afternoon, it was dark enough in the house to have to use lights in some rooms, and by eight at night cold enough to require wearing something warm on top.

That has continued since, with rare breaks in the clouds giving some idea of the summer they are concealing from us. Of course, June temperatures of 18-20 C are normal here. It’s just that after the three-day heatwave, they seem rather cold now, and the skies are looking bleak.

It taught me once again just how soon we can become used to something, and just as rapidly miss it when it has gone.

The Fear: Part Ten

This is the tenth part of a fiction serial, in 840 words.

Experiment One: Part three.
Subject: Michelle O’Connor.
Age: 44.
Gender: Female.

Shell screamed as the long needle went into the side of her right buttock. I was using one of the circular holes running along the side of the container, which gave me access without having to open the lid. The sight of the syringe and needle had made her very scared, but not as much as I had thought it might. So I decided to insert the needle itself, and watch her reaction. Despite her yelling, and begging me to take it out, she did not pass out from fright, and she certainly did not die of it either.

Leaving the first needle in place, I chose a smaller, conventional combination, holding it over her face so she could see it. That only brought on more head-shaking, and further pleas for me to desist.

By the time there were six more needles placed into various parts of her body, she was no longer shouting or screaming. I hurriedly made some notes, interested that continued exposure to her greatest fear seemed to have removed that fear by familiarity. I gave Shell more water, and offered a sandwich up to her mouth, so she could eat. But she clamped her jaws shut, and shook her head, refusing the food. Turning off the cameras, I left that area, and went into my newly-constructed office along the corridor, to review the film footage on a computer screen.

One thing was abundantly clear. The fear was not going to make her die. She was not about to expire from panic or shock, and appeared to have learned to tolerate the injections, as well as the needles being left in situ. After spending three hours watching and re-watching every detail of the filmed evidence, I wrote my detailed notes into the book reserved for this first experiment, then decided to return to the house for some lunch.

Feeling surprisingly hungry, I ate four fried eggs with some toast. All the while I was considering my next step. The experiment had failed in its intention, but had been no less interesting for that. Now I had the problem of what to do with Shell, as it was obvious that I couldn’t just let her go. I had a plan in place, and decided I would implement that the following day. For the time being, I would leave Shell where she was, and spend the rest of the day in the house.

Waking up late on Sunday, I didn’t bother to shower, and dressed hurriedly. Shell had been on her own in the container since the previous day, and would surely be thirsty and hungry. I prepared a bottle of water for her, and took some chocolate bars too. As I understood it, most women had a weakness for chocolate.

She was undoubtedly distressed when I arrived, though my appearance in the workshop seemed to calm her down. Perhaps she thought I was just going to leave her there with the various needles in place, until she died of hunger or thirst? Anyway, she actually smiled when she saw me. That smile soon faded when she realised I had not come to release her. As I removed the needles and syringes, she tried to talk to me, but her lips were swollen and cracked, and her voice croaky from screaming. I presumed she must have spent a great deal of time screaming while I was up in the house. No doubt she had some idea that someone would hear her.

Pouring the water into her mouth, I showed her the chocolate bars, and she nodded as she swallowed the cool water. When her thirst was satisfied, I broke off pieces of the creamy chocolate and fed them to her one at a time. When one bar was finished, I checked my watch. No time for more chocolate, as the drug in the water would act in less than ten minutes. I walked to the back of the workshop, and began my preparations.

Father had stored a variety of industrial acids during his years as an inventor, and I had kept them safely hidden away since his death. I had also held on to his protective clothing and mask needed when using such dangerous and caustic chemicals. I knew from my own research that untreated sulphuric acid can dissolve a human body completely, in twenty-four hours. But you had to remember any dental work, fillings, and metal implants. Also prosthetics, like artificial joints. They would not be dissolved, and had to either be removed before immersing the body, or strained out after. Even after there was no trace of the body, microscopic remains would still offer forensic evidence to any investigators.

With the container filled, I wheeled the hoist back to Shell. Deeply unconscious, she had no idea what was happening as I removed her restraints and attached the straps of the hoist around her. I lowered her into the acid head first, and very slowly.

I had to be careful of splashes.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Litter.

I woke up today thinking about Litter. Not just any average, everyday litter, but the mountains of rubbish (garbage) left behind recently in some beauty spots and city centres. Adding to the blatant disregard of public safety by not social distancing, the thoughtless morons who participated in the sun-seeking events or football celebrations also thought themselves to be above clearing up their own litter.

After almost 500,000 ignorant visitors descended on Bournemouth beach, they left behind them some 70 metric tonnes of rubbish. This included a great deal of plastic which might have been washed into the sea, as well as numerous cans and glass bottles posing a hazard to people and wildlife.

Someone also took this short video of the spoiled beach, early the next morning.

Liverpool Football Club celebrated winning the Premier League championship for the first time in thirty years. Against the advice of the city authorities, and the club itself, tens of thousands of hysterical fans took to the streets of the city to celebrate. Not only did they show complete disregard for social distancing, they managed to start a fire in the iconic Liver Building by firing rockets at it. Then when they finally went home, this is what the ignorant horde left in their wake.

An impromptu Gay Pride event was staged on Clapham Common, in London. Attended by over 500 people, it was said to be peaceful and good-natured.
Until they went home, and it was discovered what they had left behind on this popular recreational green space.

I am just beyond anger at this disgraceful behaviour. I don’t want to even be of the same nationality as the inconsiderate pigs doing things like this.

SHAME ON YOU! SHAME ON ALL OF YOU!

The Fear: Part Nine

This is the ninth part of a fiction serial, in 795 words.

Experiment One: Part two.
Subject: Michelle O’Connor.
Age: 44
Gender: Female.

Healthy eating and exercise meant I was sufficiently strong to be able to carry Shell downstairs easily. I took her handbag, coat and shoes, leaving her mobile phone connected to its charger in the kitchen. My small van had a folded duvet placed in the back ready, and I reversed it up the short driveway, close to her house. Wrapping her in the duvet, I placed her still unconscious onto the floor of the vehicle, then locked her front door after turning out the lights. The route back to my house had been chosen carefully, avoiding main roads with traffic cameras and speed traps. I drove carefully, giving no passing police cars any reason to stop me.

The container I placed her in was not unlike an incubator, except that it was adult size of course. A circular hole at the bottom would enable any human waste to be collected easily, and strong manacles would secure wrists and ankles. The lid could be locked in place if necessary, and two video cameras would record every reaction. Shell had to be naked of course, but the workshop was heated and air-conditioned, so clothing was not necessary. The reinforced perspex could not be easily damaged by anyone inside it, even if they were able to get free.

As I fastened the metal restraints, her naked female body obviously got my attention, as it was the first I had ever seen. But it did not arouse me in the least, and my only interest in it was clinical. When she was secure, I went to the back of the workshop to find the box I had prepared earlier.

Father has collected syringes of all shapes and sizes over decades of experimentation and invention. He used them for injecting lubricant into tiny gaps, or inserted them through spaces to be able to apply fine oils to complex parts. My intention was to use clean new ones, which I had found in abundance when clearing out his workshops. But I had kept the old ones too, in anticipation of just this situation arising. While Shell was still deeply unconscious, I scattered some around her, and on her body too.

It would be interesting to see the effect of them when she woke up. She would be unlikely to rouse for some hours, so I unfolded a camp-bed next to one of the benches, and got some sleep.

Her screaming seemed to be in my dream, and it took some time to realise it was actually happening. I wasn’t concerned of course, as the extra insulation I had built in not only kept the workshop much warmer, it served to deaden any sound too. Rolling off the camp-bed, I went and set the cameras to record, ignoring Shell’s hysterical babbling. Then I opened a notebook and began to jot down my observations.

She soon seemed to work out that struggling against the restraints was pointless. Instead, she tried to appeal to my better nature, asking to be freed, why I was doing this to her, and vowing to never tell anyone what had happened if I would only let her go. My refusal to engage with her in any way apparently made her angry too, and it was some time before the tirade of swearing and personal abuse subsided. Shell then resorted to offering me sexual favours in return for her release. All manner of strangely perverted sex acts were discussed in detail, with her assurance that I would find her both willing and enthusiastic.

I was careful to note those down, so I could look them up later.

When she finally stopped talking, I brought a bottle of water, and poured some into her mouth. She gulped it down greedily, dried out by the drug I had given her, and more than thirty minutes of screaming and chattering. There was a very interesting expression on her face as she watched me writing calmly. That caused me to change the lens setting on the camera above her head, zooming in to record the upper half of her face, including her eyes. I wanted a record of what I was seeing, so I could study it at leisure.

Thinking what to write down about my impression of this, I settled on the correct two words.

Abject terror.

Once the notes on her awakening were complete, I opened the box of new syringes and needles, choosing a suitably impressive 60 mm syringe, and attaching a large hypodermic needle, similar to the ones used for lumbar punctures.

As she saw me approach with it, Shell didn’t even scream. She just shook her head from side to side, the tears streaming down her face.