An Unwelcome Visitor

An Unwelcome Visitor

Paddy Mendham

The wind freshened and turned to come from the North, bringing Arctic conditions and dark lowering skies. He could imagine flakes of snow drifting across his front and then the imagination became real and he began to shiver. He knew that he should be somewhere and it was important that he did something but for the life of him he could not remember what that was. He sat there and shook his head. No, it would not come. He sat up and looked about him. Peering down at his arms he saw that he was wearing a long-sleeved woollen cardigan and he was sure that he didn’t recognize it. The colours just weren’t him, that blue was the wrong colour and it didn’t go with the purple trousers and the gloves. Gloves, purple trousers, what was this get-up that he was in? He made a conscious effort and began to look at his surroundings. The wooden fence was tall and it made a statement. It said that it was there to keep him in. The trees were tall and they were stately and well groomed. Someone was clearly looking after them. The lawn too was trim and sloped down from where he was sitting. Looking down he could see that the snow was starting to settle and he thought he ought to get up and go indoors. Which direction to turn posed a problem because nowhere and nothing was familiar. The easy answer was to turn away from the wind and its burden of snow and just over the brow of a low hill was a large building, a mansion really. He increased his pace and quickly came to an unfamiliar front door. A wide front door, with dimpled glass windows and a discrete sign stating that it was an establishment in the National Health Service and specialised in the treatment of psychological and mental disorders. It was all strange to him and he began to feel uneasy. Why was he here and what was happening to him? He carried on walking and came to a desk, a reception desk, with someone in a dark blue uniform sitting at it. This person looked up, smiled and spoke. “Ah, number twenty-three, you’ve come in out of the snow, that’s great, it must be really biting out there.” He was startled by this greeting, from someone whom he couldn’t remember at all, so he turned round and looked about the spacious hall to see who else was there. Clearly there was no-one else, so he realised that he must be number twenty-three. He staggered a bit and sat down at a nearby table. When he looked up he realised that this uniformed lady was waiting for him to say something. All he could think of was: “Hello, do you know me and did you call me number twenty-three?” It was her turn to look startled and she picked up her phone and spoke to the person who’d just rung her. He didn’t hear what she said but it had been a quiet, yet animated discussion. She put her phone down and said, would you like a coffee? I’ll get a nurse to bring us a couple of cups and some biscuits. The doctor is on his way. By now he was really flummoxed, so he simply said yes and sat back in his chair. It seemed only moments, although he had plenty of time to look round the room and try to collect his thoughts. It was obvious that, although all this was new to him the receptionist did know him and was well-disposed towards him. That still didn’t help make any sense at all, so he sat quietly and simply waited. The lady who came in was tall and had a quiet air of confidence about her. She wasn’t in a uniform but was dressed in a suit. She spoke and said, ah, number twenty-three, it’s really lovely to see life behind your eyes. We trusted that this day would come but it’s been over six months and we were beginning to doubt our prognosis.

Gradually his recent life was explained to him and his mind began to accept a new reality. He’d been in a train that had had an awful accident and he’d been flung out of his seat and right out of the window. As a result of the crash the carriage and everything and everyone in it had been incinerated. The rescuers had been able to work out where he’d been sitting and his seat number had been twenty-three, hence his name at this special hospital. They’d almost given up hope that his past history would come out from their search, via the national press and television publicity but there had been nothing. No-one had come forward. Now his full recovery could begin and the unwelcome visitor in his brain could finally be banished.