Beep..Beep..Beep..Beep..Beep..It was all he heard, all day long and all night and it was only occasionally that he was aloud off the lead to use the bathroom or to get some fresh air that he got some relative peace and quiet from the intrepid machine. He was 86 years old and had spent nearly 10 years stuffed away in an old peoples care home and it was not all it had cracked up to be in the brochure. He had only agreed to move into Autumn acres care home because the brochure that his daughter Wendy had brought home for him to look over had made the place seem so welcoming and warm with its stain glass windows, large deep green grass, rose bushes of every color imaginable flourishing, he could almost smell their scent float from the paper. When they had visited at his reluctance, the sickly cheery woman who had greeted them at the front door had actually not irritated Alfred too much and the rooms had been large with double beds and big windows that let the sun flood in and even the roses in the pretty blue vases had not put him off. Still he had not really wanted to leave his home, the home he had shared with his beloved wife for nearly 53 years, she had died only a few years previous to this trip and had this had begun his spiral down the yellow brick road that lead him to the Autumn acres care home.
She had left him on a sunny day, the bright transcendent rays had flowed in gently through their bedroom window, they had illuminated her pale skin and brought a bright, twinkle back to her glassy blue eyes; a twinkle that had not been there for a long time. Cancer had stolen her from him; it had been slow and thought this had meant that he had been able to spend time with her and that she had been able to do the things she had always wanted and most importantly Alfred had been able to say goodbye it had also meant that it had been painful for her, agonising in the end and he resented the heavens for doing this to them. After she had passed Alfred had fallen into a black depression, he had held it together until he had planned her funeral, Alfred had insisted that it be he who made all of the arrangements that was the way she had wanted it and he had kept it together to attend the funeral but once the wake had ended and all of the people most of whom he had not seen in years and a few he had never even met before, had all gone and the food which was starting to make him feel sick had all been cleared, the pots piled into the sink and his three children bundled out, reluctantly out of the door; only then did Alfred give up.
It wasn’t a gradual thing, a slow float down the river of the blackest waters he simply plunged in to the deep end and he didn’t think twice about it; he had just lost the woman he had spent most of his life devoted to, his heart was in shards and those shards were piercing through his chest wall. He sat in his wife’s arm chair the twin of his favourite chair and smiled warmly when he felt how much more it was cushioned and less threadbare then his own. He cradled his bottle of scotch, pulled a blanket over his knees and set a photograph of his beautiful wife by his side and then he drank himself into oblivion, one where his wife was still alive. For the next year he spent his days drinking, sleeping fitfully his dreams plagued by images of his dead wife begging him to join her, and eating the odd cold lovingly prepared pot roast, lasagne or casserole that his daughters had made for him. Other than the odd grunt through the door he barely spoke to any one even his daughters, especially his daughters; Arthur was desperate to eliminate any trace of his wife and the both of them painfully resembled her.
Toward the end of that year Alfred had made a decision, he had decided that taking his own life and finally joining his wife was the only option he had left; he began his preparations for his journey on a Monday morning. It too was an unusually sunny day and the sun held a luminescence like Alfred had never seen before, he felt as though the sun’s rays were reaching down ready to take his soul into its warm arms and deliver Alfred into Heaven. He started by tidying, the house had fallen into disarray and his wife would not have been happy with him if he left it in such a state of disrepair, next he tidied himself for he too had fallen into disrepair; he showered, something he hadn’t done properly in weeks, he shaved something else he hadn’t done since his wife had left and he dressed in his finest suit and tie, combing his hair the way his wife had liked it as opposed to the way he liked it and then Alfred was ready, nearly. He had just one thing left to do and that was to write letters to the people he loved, the people he had been shutting out for nearly a year. In the letters he explained why he did what he was about to do though he could find no words to convey the heartbreak he was feeling, that he had felt since he had lost his beloved wife.
Once he had finished writing the letters Alfred tucked them away into a side-board draw to keep them safe just until his daughters had dealt with what he had done, had stopped being angry with him and then they would find them whilst cleaning out his house. When he had done this he settled down into his favourite arm chair it was only then did he realise that he had forgotten a few very important ingredients for his plan to go smoothly. He stood again muttering something relating to dementia; it was then, during his rant that he felt the shooting pain charging up his left arm and straight to his heart, instantly he knew what was happening; his body was finally experiencing what his soul had been feeling for the past year, it was literally breaking.
Alfred did not clutch his chest in shock or anger or pain like you would see someone do in movies or on television shows, he did not stagger or try to reach for the phone nor did he call out for help like someone who was suffering a life threatening heart attack might. No, Alfred did not want help and so he simply allowed himself to fall to the floor with a thick thud that resounded in his ears like ripples in a lake. He floated away on the sea of pain that was throbbing in his head as numbness took over his body and here he remained, on the floor, with a happy smile upon his face awaiting the reaper. However the reaper never arrived, unbeknownst to Alfred the postman had been running late, he had been walking down the pathway toward Alfred’s door, trying to avoid the weeds and over grown nettle patch that had become his front garden when he had caught a glimpse of Alfred falling to the floor, he had run to the window whilst dialling 999 and this had been the reason for The grim reapers retreat from Alfred’s house.
It hadn’t been during the first year or even the second year after Alfred had suffered his heart attack that his daughter, Laurie suggested he move into a retirement home it had been during the first few months. Alfred had not been happy, he had yet again been snubbed by the ‘great and powerful’ and that had made his bitter, now his daughters didn’t want him either, he had become a burden. Of course he considered trying to shuffle off the mortal coil again but after his angry outburst in relation to the suggested retirement home his daughter Laurie had apologised and moved in with him to help him recover and he seldom had time to himself; the matter had been dropped after that at least for a while. His daughters had never found the letters he had left for them, the letters detailing his love for them and his anguish for life, Alfred had managed to bundle them from their hiding place and throw them to the raging flames of the kitchen fire, he did not want them to know that he had been so weak, so full of cowardice to take his own life, that he could not face living any longer. However before he had had surrendered the words to the flames Alfred had held onto them, he had pondered for months whether to keep them for a later date, to save himself the need to re-write them and then one night, late in the twilight hours he had read them and the words he had written brought salty tears to his eyes, that stung as they traced paths down over his cheeks. It had been after the burning he had changed his mind in regards to the retirement home, Laurie had cared for him wonderfully however as he read his words to her, telling her how proud he was, how bright her; life would be, he realised that he was stunting that life, keeping her there was selfish of him and so one day he thanked her and informed her she was ‘fired’ from her job of his care giver. A month later he moved into Autumn Acres care home for the elderly and decrepit.
A sparse box of his most treasured belongings was all Alfred took with him when he moved into Autumn Acres Janet the other daughter, the less caring one had moved into his home and the remainder of his life had been packed away and tossed into the dusty forgotten attic however this had not bothered him much, his things were merely that, just things, material they didn’t matter, what mattered had already been taken from him. What really made him angry was that once he had been stuffed away in the care home Alfred had been slowly forgotten and to top it off the care home was not entirely what it promised to be. When he had first been shown around Autumn acres it had appeared to be the perfect place to live out ones final years however those who were not going to dwindle away there could not see the truth behind the mask, they did not see what happened when the lights went out. It was the darkness of night that really revealed what Autumn Acres really was; as the clock struck 10:00 pm all occupants not on the payroll at Autumn acres, were, regardless of age or health levels, or level of protest were sent, taken or forced into bed, their doors were locked and the lights remained on for no longer than 15 minutes to allow for bathroom trips and changing into night clothes, after that they were out and they remained out; anyone with lights on longer were reprimanded. Alfred felt as though he were locked away in a prison cell. The home only grew worse the more the night wore on, the air turned cold even in the height of summer the home somehow turned bitterly cold. The first time this occurred Alfred had moved from the luke warmth of his bed to the radiator only to find out that it was not turned on and was stone cold, he had returned to bed seething with anger and grumbling to himself. He had brought this up with the staff the next day however nothing ever came of his complaints other than an extra blanket which was so thin that it barely made much of a difference. He had then alerted his daughters to this fact and a few of the other ‘rules’ that the home had however once again nothing came from this complaint and Alfred simply gave up trying to get justice and simply sat quietly, played redundant card games and did as he was told. His visits with his daughters diminished from twice a week to twice a month and son on until he felt as though he were in a vegetative state, this was what led him to suffer his second heart attack.
The second time it had not occurred on a bright and sunny day, he had been sat in one of the thread bare armchairs in the day room, all day he had felt as though he had a weight resting in the pit of his stomach and as he watched the poker straight rain obliterate the watery sun, Alfred felt the telltale shooting of sharp pain travel up his right left arm. Quickly the pain filled his heart as it began to beat like a jack hammer in his chest, his breathing hastened and he could feel the beads of cold sweat at his temples. Alfred tried to call out but could not form any comprehensible words and so he tried to get up from the chair and it was only when he fell face first into the pea green carpet that anyone noticed that there was something wrong. The world had spun in to blackness around him as people rushed and shouted for an ambulance but Alfred didn’t care he was happy to drift away in to the darkness toward the ever growing bright white light that called him.
When he woke once more in the hospital bed with his daughters sat by his side Alfred cursed or at least he tried to curse but found that he was unable,
“It’s just a side effect dad, the doctors think you’ll get you’re speech back just fine” Laurie had told him and she had not lied though this had not stopped Alfred from being disappointed; he had once again been lured into the false belief that soon he would be joining his beloved. He also believed that now he would be free of the retirement home however this fact was also a false truth; after his second heart attack Alfred would need constant monitoring, something he didn’t think Autumn acres was equip for however Autumn acres also catered for the morbidly ill this meant that there was a team of nurses and in house Doctors who were qualified to ‘care’ for him. When he heard that he would in fact be returning to autumn acres Alfred did not jump for joy, though he did convince himself that things would be improve, again he was wrong.
On arrival back to the retirement home Alfred was bundled into a new room, one containing a hospital style bed with railings to prevent him from falling, facilities for a drip, if it were needed and a machine to monitor his heart. Alfred would lie awake at night with the chill wrapped around him listening to the ‘beep, beep’ of his heart monitor, it drove him insane. He very rarely left his room or even ventured far from the confines of his bed, not out of choice; it had been so long that his legs felt as though they had begun to atrophy however when his daughters came to visit, which had become a rarity Alfred did not complain for he knew his words of pain and suffering would fall upon deaf ears. Luckily Alfred had to have at least 2 hours of exercise which usually meant being walked around the building by one of the staff or if he was lucky, on a sunny day he was taken into the garden; more than often though he was dumped in the day room, though he didn’t mind this as it meant he could have an actual conversation and watch the television; this had become particularly interesting to him. Lately Alfred had been noticing something different, a man who had been featured more and more on the TV, a man who was offering something, something new, something better; Freedom.
Alfred had not fought in the Second World War, he had not been old enough though he had been at the right age by the time it had come to an end to understand the destruction and agony it had caused and to mourn the millions of strangers who had perished, to mourn his father who had been taken, though if Alfred was honest his father had been as much a stranger to him as the millions of others, for he had never really known him. Alfred had seen and felt the tragedy and mass devastation that one man had spurned; he had as a child stared into the dead, black eyes of Adolf Hitler through the safety of a photograph and he did not notice the same evil in the eyes of the man who now commanded his attention. Alfred had watched the world and the people on it change before him and he did not like what he saw, the man on the TV had seen the same; there was no respect in the world, no tolerance and for the first time since he had been put into the home Alfred felt something; a need to fight.
The day the world exploded into the beginning of something new, Alfred was as usual confined to his bed with the infernal beeping of his heart filling his head, outside the world had already begun to fall to its knees around what some were calling the anti-Christ and what others were hailing as the second coming, a new, better way. When he had heard the cries of terror and fear bounce around the building, Alfred knew what was occurring, it was time to fight and with this new beginning unfolding around him Alfred found a new strength. He listened to the staff and their half arsed attempt to evacuate the building and it was then that he heard something which kick started his heart,
“I’ll just turn the old bastard’s machine off, he won’t last long without it” it was one of the female nurses, one of the sorts who would make a better mortician; Alfred wasn’t a great fan of hers or her of his or in fact of any of the residents and so when she walked into the room she did not find Alfred in his bed. After hearing what the nurse intended on doing to him Alfred harnessed his new found energy and moved with haste from his bed however he had not slipped from the room before the nurse had entered and when she finally did Alfred watched her from his hiding place as she moved over to the bed, confusion criss-crossing her features, only then did he reveal himself. He stepped from his hiding place behind the door, he felt like a cliché horror movie killer as he waited for her to turn and when she did, her eyes meeting his, he brought down the heart monitor that he had been holding above his head.
Alfred could never forget the look on the nurse’s face when she turned and saw him, when she saw her fate with-in Alfred’s eyes; her mouth dropped open though she did not attempt to scream or protest. Her deep chestnut eyes widened and her pupils exploded in horror as a single tear fell down over her paled cheek. Alfred did not stop, the terror in her eyes did not appeal to his conscience as he pulled down the heavy monitor, in-fact he put more force into the motion until it connected with her. At first he was afraid it was not going to break but instead bounce from her thick head only knocking the woman unconscious and pulling him back, shocked, in to the wall behind but his fears were unnecessary as the glass front of the monitor cracked and shattered on impact allowing the surrounding body to come down, encasing her head. In his haste to move from the bed and hide Alfred had, upon picking up the monitor, neglected to unplug it from the electrical socket this caused an electrical current to pulse through the nurses body, she began to convulse, shaking violently. Alfred let go allowing the dead weight of her body to drop to the floor with a thick thud, Alfred looked down upon her, she looked like a macabre marionette doll waiting for a puppeteer to bring life to its limbs. Screaming jolted him back to the real world and he began to consider what his next move was, killing the nurse had made much more mess than he had expected; the shards of jagged glass had torn at the soft flesh of her cheeks and ripped at her neck, blood ran in thick streams down over her pale yellow uniform and gushed in a torrent from the ragged gash at her jugular, it had sprayed over Alfred covering him in droplets of scarlet and crimson. He looked once more at her lifeless body wincing with disgust, his hand instinctively moving to cover his mouth and nose as the stench of faeces filled the air, the nurse had voided her bowels, Alfred had heard of this occurring just after death but he had not expected it.
He retreated from the soiled room colliding with the door frame as he did, he absently rubbed at the throbbing in his shoulder it was then that he collided with something else; something tall, fleshy and solid yet soft. Alfred turned and it was now his turn to be shocked; behind him stood a wall of a man dressed all in black and carrying an army issue rifle among other weapons and a stone cold stare, as stony cold as steel. However Alfred was not afraid of the man, he did not raise his hands in defeat or look away in fear, he owed the man no respect and so Alfred defiantly returned his cold stone stare and he said only one thing,
“Where do I sign up?” with those words the man lowered the rifle he held, his mouth flickered with a smile, a smirk and he held out a hand,
“Names Regan” he said in a thick American accent
“Alfred” he replied shaking the Americans hand.