Up In Flames | Amy Short

Richard faces some cold facts about what did (and didn’t) happen the night previous.


 Up In Flames

Amy Short

To The Nines Award: Part 3


Richard could hear the slow, steady beats of his heart through the monitor next to his bed, a wire attached to his finger and several more stuck to his chest. His eyes were heavy and he felt like a teenager experiencing his first hangover.

The next sounds he heard were the whispers of his family over his head, squabbling, as per, about who should pay the parking ticket and whether or not it was entirely necessary for every member to write a get well soon card and bunch of grapes.

Richard grabbed the sheets underneath him, catching the hand of his mother.

The room was silent for a moment whilst the crowd around him turned to face their awakening relative. He opened his eyes, the fake, fluorescent rays blinding him until stepped in front of them in the hope of a closer look.

The injuries to his face looked like something out of a medical drama, deep lacerations to his forehead and a bruised eye to match the rest of his battered body. He couldn’t quite remember how he got there or why he was even in the situation to begin with.

It didn’t take him long to gather the story, all members of his family willing to add their side and their own opinions, not that he should have expected different. They were a family renowned for gossiping and making a bigger deal out of everything that faced them. Richard was told that he nearly died and had been fluttering in and out of a coma for the last few days; and that was by the doctor so it was most definitely true.

Richard discovered that he had fallen in the street and hit his head on a car wing mirror. Apparently, he was found by a stranger in the middle of the night and had been rushed to hospital. He was bordering on pneumonia and was lucky to even be alive.

“I need to speak to Gran,” Richard said. The room fell silent before the conversations resumed. Richard’s mother grasped his hand and ran a soft hand down his face.

“Darling, Gran died.”

“I know that but I spoke to her after I left Jess’, she asked me to look after Cam.”

“Oh, Richard, I’m sorry but you didn’t speak to her, you’ve hit your head and aren’t thinking properly. You haven’t been to Jess’.”

“Yes I have, I read The Wild Swans.”

“No, you were found near your garage after you came home from work.”

Richard fell silent and closed his eyes. He could remember everything so vividly, so accurately as if it was reality. The smell of Jess’ kitchen and the street lamps outside her house. He could remember his Gran’s voice, her request and the pleading tones in which she spoke. There was no way that it wasn’t real.

“Okay, everyone, I need to run a couple of tests on Richard and do a few examinations so if I can ask you all to leave for a bit, go a grab a coffee and I’ll let you know when you can come back,” the doctor said, ushering the family out and into the corridor, gesturing towards the coffee machine.

Outside, no drink was purchased. Instead, the eldest members gathered together, whispering in hushed voices and secretive looks. They explained their concerns to each other, whether Richard had suffered injuries to his brain or was it was the medication talking.

“He shouldn’t be saying stuff like that,” Martha, his mother, began. “Gran died a while ago now, he’s been fine in every other aspect, this isn’t right.”

“I’d talk to the doctor, Marth, if there is something wrong then you need to deal with it.”

“I overheard the doctors saying they were going to do tests for this, hopefully it won’t come to that.”

The group dispersed, mingling with the others whilst the doctor took bloods and monitored his sats. Martha’s phone rang, the noise sending the corridor to silence. She excused herself and moved to the end window and pressed her phone to her ear.

The others watched her, their hearts in their mouths as a lone tear fell down her cheek. Her hand covered her mouth as she gasped, her shoulders beginning to shake.

Martha walked back, sliding her phone into her back pocket and the group gathered around her.

“There’s been an accident, Gran’s house is on fire. I’m going to see what’s happening but fill me in on Richard when the doctor’s done.”

“But why? No one lives there anymore, it’s empty.”

“I know, that’s what I’m going to find out.”