Time after Time - Flash Fiction
'Why do I have to go? I don't look old enough to have a mom or dad in a care home for the aged'. Tom leaned against the door frame and frowned at his boss. He didn't mind investigating these sort of assignments, but in this instance he felt out of his depth. What would he know about an old peoples home? He was only 26 years old.
John his boss sighed and said, 'I am sending you because you do look young and naive, that way they won't suspect we are reporters, okay?'
Tom nodded his head in agreement, grabbed his coat and yelled 'Okay its on your head if I mess up though'! Laughing he ran for the door as John threw a paper ball after him.
'Cheeky young......'! John smiled then scratched his head. It was a pretty strange case, he thought. A care home for the elderly, it seemed Kosher but there was just that something.....!
'Never mind' He thought, 'Tom will figure it out'.
Walking up the driveway towards the large house he reflected on what he had learned about this case. Locals had been whispering about it for years but nothing ever seemed untoward so they carried on sending their elderly relatives there as they grew older and infirm. There was never a question about care, they were looked after really well, in fact some even started to look younger after a while! He smiled, yes he had heard that one before!
Reaching the door he rang the bell and stepped back. Soon he heard footsteps and the door swung open revealing a smiling face of a woman in her middle years.
'Come in ! Come in!' she said 'I have been waiting for you since two o clock, I expect you would love a cup of tea or coffee!'
Turning away she walked quickly towards the kitchen area.
'What a lovely day! Do you take milk or sugar? '
Tom grabbed a chair and sat down, 'Yes tea please, two sugars'.
'So, what's this about? Did you say your grandmother needed help now?' She leaned over and poured the tea, pushing it towards Tom. 'Help yourself to sugar' she said.
After explaining about his grandmother and how she was now infirm but still very bright and alert, the woman, she told him her name was Betty, asked him if he wanted to be shown around.
'Here on the first floor we have all the facilities for our guests, we like to call them guests it makes them feel special' She smiled.
'And through there is the dining room. Come on, follow me upstairs and I will show you your room'.
Tom took a step back. 'My room?' He raised his eyebrows in disbelief.
'Well yes, of course, how are you going to travel back tonight? Its miles from nowhere and I noticed you didn't come by car?'
Tom said nothing, but thought 'Darn it, I knew I should have borrowed Johns Volkswagen, now I am stuck!;
He smiled at her though and said 'Thank you, that's really thoughtful of you'
'Oh never mind that' She said, 'We do it all the time, we learned that a long time ago when we got visited by someone who got himself stuck out in the field at 3 am and.........
Tom listened with a courteous look on his face and followed her up the stairs as she chatted on.
Soon she left him to get used to his room and as darkness fell Tom felt quite comfortable and began to think the whole thing was a joke.
As it was late he decided to get some rest. He fell asleep really quickly, and woke up feeling fine.
Or so he thought.
Something was wrong. He knew it. He felt it. Something........
'Good morning Tom may I call you Tom?' Betty was at the door with a steaming mug of coffee.
'Ah Mrs.....?' 'Betty to you love, now come on downstairs when you are ready and take a look at the gardens, its lovely at this time of year'. And off she bustled.
Tom walked towards the window. Pulling back the curtain he was surprised to see people sunbathing.
'That's odd, its a bit chilly for laying outside in shorts?' He thought. 'Ah well, better go down'. And he made his way to the stairs. He felt a bit stiff and sore, but put that down to the walking yesterday.
After breakfast of bacon and eggs with coffee, he decided to take a look round. He smiled at the guests, shook hands with the helpers and smiled at the cleaners. They all seemed happy to see him and couldn't wait to tell him about the latest hobby or TV program they had watched.
After an hour he suddenly felt tired so instead of heading to the station to report back to work he decided to have a quick lay down.
'Must be the country air' He thought, yawning. Slipping off his shoes he lay back down on the bed.......!
When he woke it was dark. 'Oh no!' He thought. 'What the hell...?' Climbing off the bed he made his way to the window. How did that happen? 'I must have been more tired than I thought'.
'Better stay here for the night, hope Betty doesn't mind!' With that he dragged his feet back to bed and fell asleep.
At last he began to wake up and realized that he was shivering. 'Brr, why is it so cold'? Opening his eyes he looked towards the window.
'What the.....?' Tom got out of the bed and walked slowly towards the light shining against the window frame. He could see powdery snow settling on the window ledge, and looking out saw a few of the guests laughing and throwing snowballs at each other.
'Weird Spring!' He thought, and washing quickly, he got dressed. Opening the door he headed down the stairs.
After wandering around checking the rooms, talking to the residents and generally chit chatting he realized that he needed a rest, and a bathroom break.
'Ouch! why do my legs hurt so much?' shuffling to the bathroom he looked round for a mirror. 'Strange, why aren't there any mirrors?'
Actually, thinking about it, he realized that he hadn't looked in a mirror since he arrived. When was that? For a few seconds he couldn't remember. Beginning to feel uneasy, Tom headed back up the stairs and in a second decided it was time to leave.
Grabbing his bag he started to put extra clothing back in. He noticed that his clothes looked a bit worn. 'I only bought that shirt a week ago, what the hell?' Leaning down, Tom picked it up and sniffed it. 'Yuck'! He threw it across the room. It smelled of mildew!
What was going on?
Grabbing his bag he headed for the stairs. On entering the day room he realized, with a start the the walls were a different color. And looking around he saw that there were a new influx of pensioners there.
He decided to look for Betty, and spotting a young woman walking towards him, he called out to her.
'Hi, can you tell me where Betty is please? I am going, and wanted to say thanks.
The girl gave him an odd look, then gestured towards a table with two chairs.
'Join me'. She said.
'Now, who is Betty?' She asked. 'Sorry, my name is Anne, just started today'.
Tom shook hands with her, and went on to describe Betty.
'Sorry, I don't know her at all' Anne remarked. 'Hold on, I will go and check. How old is she?'
'Around 50 ish?' Tom answered.
Anne walked out the door, and Tom turned round to look at the residents. Suddenly he spotted an old lady with white hair over in the corner.
'Oo-oh over here!' She shouted.
Curious, Tom got up and walked over to her. 'Hello? do I know you?' He frowned down at her face, knowing that there was something familiar.
'Oh Tom' she giggled, 'Of course you know me, I just want to say thank you for all your help over the last few years. Do you know, you saved many people from dying early in here. Most of us are at least 100 years old. Sally over in the corner..' She pointed with her left hand '...She is 110! you are amazing, what great blood you have.....!'
Tom leaned over to take a closer look at her. Suddenly his neck hair stood on end, and a cold shiver went down his spine. He was struck dumb with horror!
The old ancient woman sitting in front of him was....Betty!
Looking up he saw a mirror above her chair. In the reflection was an old white haired man standing before him. The look of shock on the old mans face said it all. It was him!
' Ooh just think Tom, you are now old enough to live the rest of your life here with us, now won't that be lovely?'
Betty slowly got up from her chair and pointed out the window. 'See that young man there?' As Tom turned round in shock, he saw her pointing to a guy around 20 years old, who was about to do the gardening.
'He is your replacement, just think, by tonight you will start getting your first blood transfusion.......
Tom felt himself start to fall, no! He thought, 'I have to let that young man know the danger'! But his vision went black, and the last words he heard were Betty,
'Ah shame, his heart couldn't take it, too much blood loss, next time we will be more careful.......!''
A newspaper fluttered down the pathway, its sides tattered and torn from the wind and rain. As it came to stop by a tree, a soft gust of wind unfolded the front page, and inside on page 2 there was the story of a man who had disappeared 50 years to the date on the front page.
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