A dangerous place

Imagine being afraid of the dark, so afraid that you’re reduced to a weeping mess if the lights go out. This is the terrible fear that a character in ‘night vision‘ has. Rafi Zamora is described in a review of his Manchester restaurant as ‘a larger than life character’ – a cliché but true. However he has a terrible weakness, he suffers from acute nyctophobia, a morbid and acute fear of the dark.

In the episode I am sharing below, Rafi has gone with his friend Beulah in search of Marcus, her father-in-law, a frail and elderly man who has dementia and has escaped from his care home in the middle of a dreadful storm. The old man has gone back to where his own grandparents lived seventy years before, a deserted and tumbledown water-mill high up on the moors. Marcus has managed to get up into the grain store, and Rafi and Beulah must follow to rescue him from the dangerous old building.

The only place was up, up to the grain store; there was a rickety wooden ladder which had been dangerous the dozen years ago when Beulah had last been. She remembered the loft dimly full of hanging rusty chains and trapdoors and pulleys, a dangerous place, but she grasped the splintery rails and put her foot on the bottom rung.
“I have to come with you,” Rafi said in a low voice.
“I’ll never forget this.”
“You think I will?”
“I mean I’ll never forget you doing this for me,” and she began to climb cautiously.
Some of the steps were missing and Rafi swore as his foot went through the rotten wood. Beulah crawled out onto the floor, on all fours, Rafi squeezing through the trap behind her.
There were tiles missing above and rain showering down but in the corner sitting serenely eating an apple in his sodden pyjamas was Marcus. He looked better than she’d seen him for a long time, almost strong.
“Mum?” he said.
“Come on Dad, let’s get you home.” Beulah crawled over to him, uncertain how safe the floor was.
“Amen to that,” Rafi added fervently.
“Please leave, I’m perfectly alright,” the old man said firmly. He didn’t know her.
“Come on Dad, you’re wet and cold, we have to get you home,” Beulah cajoled,trying to take his hand.
“Please leave me, I wish to stay here,” he took another bite of apple.
“Come on, old man, we’ve got to go,” Rafi spoke roughly.
Beulah put her arm beneath the old man’s and he shoved her violently; she tumbled backwards and there was a crash and the sudden rushing sound of chains shrieking rustily against each other as they ran and the floor went from beneath her shoulders.
Beulah screamed but strong hands held her, Rafi had pounced as she fell backwards, her head dropping into empty space. He hauled her up and wrapped his arms round her, holding her so safe, so secure, his heart racing as fast as hers. The torch had gone and there was noise all around them, the storm taking on a new furore, unseen things falling and crashing.
“Let’s go,” Rafi said, “let’s get out of this hell.”
It was completely dark now, the white of the old man’s pyjamas showed faintly where he was.
“You sit by the trapdoor and I’ll get him, then I’ll go down the ladder first and you can push him after me,” Rafi was suddenly authoritative.
“You’re never going to forgive me for this, are you?” Beulah said meekly.
“Nothing to forgive, mi vida. Now be careful you don’t fall down that hole again.”
“It’s where the grain used to go down into the hopper,” Beulah’s voice trembled as she shuffled across the wooden floor, feeling her way to the trap.
Rafi patiently coaxed the old man, Marcus resisting and Rafi yelped as if he’d been hit.
“Alright, Dad, alright!” Marcus shouted and lunged at Beulah, surprisingly strongly. Desperate not to fall, nor let him fall, she clung onto his soaked pyjamas, his bony old body vigorous beneath the cloth.
“Let it go!” Marcus shouted and grabbed the top of the ladder.
They wrestled him away from the trap and then there was a screeching splintering noise and the ladder disappeared. Marcus scuttled back to his corner and Rafi and Beulah were left on hands and knees staring into the darkness below.
She suggested jumping down but he pulled her away from the gaping hole and held her tightly.
“No you will not!” Rafi exclaimed. “Oh, fuck it, we’re stuck here now. Oh, fuck fuck fuck!”
She apologised dispiritedly. “How do we get in these situations? I’ll ring Austin, he’ll come and rescue us.”
She fumbled in her pockets but her phone had gone, tumbled out in the tussle with Marcus.  Rafi patted his way through his coat till he found his, but had no signal.
Beulah tried to be calm and in control but she was shaking though cold or fear or sheer terror.
“The old fellow is going to die of hypothermia, I’ll put my coat round him,” said Rafi.
No wonder I love you, Beulah thought. Marcus is a mad old stranger to you, he’s nearly killed us both and yet…
Marcus was quiet now and very cold, the manic strength gone. Beulah pulled her damp jacket, and jumper onto him; he was limp and compliant and thanked her in a weak voice. She tried to tell him who she was but he didn’t know her.
Rafi pressed a soft woollen scarf into her hands for him and took off his socks for the old man. “After all we’ve been through I want him to survive.”
He found some old sacks or cloth of some sort which they wrapped round Marcus and laid him against the wall then, wrapped in Rafi’s coat, they lay beside him.

© Lois Elsden 2017

Here is a link to the book so you can find out what led up to this incident, and how it is resolved!

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