Episode Seventy-Five

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One


It hadn’t always been this way for Charles King.

But, alas, this is how it now was.

The reclusive 45 year old had kept to himself for many years. The only companions he had were his three dogs – all greyhounds – Mist, Jade and Indigo.

Charles King’s house was hidden from the outside world, nestled in the Holgate National Park and surrounded on every side by forest.

This is how he had chosen to live. And he couldn’t see how his life could be any different.

That is, of course, until the stranger arrived.

The stranger would change everything for Charles King.

The wet muddy ground is compressed under the weight of Charles King’s hiking boots. The heavy rain drums down fiercely upon his raincoat. The endless rain seems to penetrate the waterproof material.

“You three!” Charles King calls out to his dogs as they continue to race away from him. “Get back here!”

In his hand, Charles holds the dogs’ leads. He usually lets them off to go for a run around freely, but they seem to have a mind of their own today. The storm seemed to be making them have a mind of their own.

Charles King continues to chase after the dogs through the forest. Wet branches scratch his face as he tries to shield it with his hands.

He couldn’t let these three get away. There was no way of knowing where they would end up out here. He also knew the park rangers around here carried rifles and would probably shoot the dogs on the spot if they approached them.

“Mist! Jade! Indigo!” he calls out again, becoming impatient. He is slowed by the thick mud forming on the ground. It is becoming difficult to hear as well because of the ferocious noise of the rain falling on the trees. The sound of drumming water becomes deafening as Charles steps up to the water’s edge. He has reached the river. It is the same river that runs through the small township downstream; it is known as The Helling River.

He sees the dogs upstream. The three of them are pulling at something on the river’s bank.

It is slippery and as Charles King edges closer to where the dogs are located, he sinks in the mud. He worries that he’s going to lose a boot.

“Get over here!” he yells at the dogs again. The dogs ignore him and continue to pull at something, sniffing the area meticulously.

Charles King gets closer, squinting through the rain trying to see what the dogs are so curious about. He wipes the rain off his face, grunting to himself as he does so. The dogs suddenly back off. They know their place in this family, and Charles is boss.

Charles reaches down to the pile of drenched clothing.

“Good find, girls,” he says to his dogs as he lifts the almost lifeless body up onto his shoulders. “Let’s get this one inside before they expire.”

Charles King has just altered his destiny.

Charles King has just rescued the stranger.

Charles King grew up with two loving parents and received the best education available to him. Throughout his schooling, there was a small group of students whom he considered to be his friends. His parents had assisted him with gaining employment on his graduation from high school and he was even enrolled to undertake a university degree in medicine.

Despite all this, Charles King’s life was so different to how everyone, including himself, expected it to be.

He didn’t need anyone else, he had often told himself, for he had his canine companions.

The old wooden house was small, but Charles King made do with what he had. The three dogs slept together on the floor at the end of his bed. His bed was nothing much – just an old mattress that had seen better days, but it didn’t bother him as he did not sleep much. He just hoped the stranger wouldn’t find the sleeping arrangements too uncomfortable. Though, in honesty, anything was better than lying face down on the riverbed with endless rain making your skin soggy. He felt as if he could slide the stranger’s skin off straight off their body.

The dogs didn’t seem to be happy either, as Charles King had given the stranger all the blankets he could manage to find – including theirs. They looked at him suspiciously when he took it from their bed. “Well you found our stranger,” Charles King had said to them when they give him an incredulous look, “it’s your fault I’m taking these blankets.”

The stranger hadn’t awoken yet, but it had only been half an hour since they had returned from outside. Charles King was patient. He would wait as long as it would take.

Besides, it wasn’t every day that he was able to rescue someone from their ultimate death.

The stranger, for now, slept peacefully.

The storm passed that evening and the heavy rain eventually subdued. Only a light spray continued on into the evening and into the next morning.

Charles King busily emptied the five buckets situated around the building to collect the leaking rainwater into the water tank on the side of the house. He left one of the buckets for the dogs to drink out of. “From the heavens,” he says to the stranger as he fills an empty glass jar full of the water. He pushes it to the stranger’s lips. The still sleeping visitor does not respond by drinking and the water spills down the stranger’s face. Impatiently, Charles King pours the remaining water over them. “Wake up!”

The three dogs howl in unison.

Charles King was growing impatient. He no longer wanted to wait. He wanted the stranger to wake up. Wake up now.

When the stranger awoke, Charles King wanted to know about it. He didn’t want to miss out on finding out about his new companion.

The rope he tied around the stranger’s hands and feet and attached to the bed frame ensured the stranger could not escape.

The stranger belonged to him now.

“Wakey, wakey!” Charles King pours more water on the stranger’s face.

The stranger is sure to wake any day now. How much longer is he going to have to wait?

The stranger stirs, trying not to drown in the onslaught of water. Not able to move their hands or feet, their face twitches and contorts as the water invades their eyes, nose and mouth.

Mist, the largest of the dogs, jumps on the bed and licks the water from the stranger’s face.

“Well,” Charles King laughs heartily, looking at all three of his dogs, “at least you’ll have some food if this one never wakes up.”

All three dogs lick their lips in anticipation. Charles King can’t help but lick his lips in unison.

The stranger murmurs.

The stranger tries to pull their hands to their face, but the ropes hinder them.

“Good morning,” Charles King says, placing a bowl of pumpkin soup on the bedside table. “Made with pumpkins grown from my garden.”

The stranger opens their eyes, made harder by the fact they can’t rub them.

“Here,” Charles King says, using a wet cloth to wipe the stranger’s face, “let me help.”

The stranger looks around the room, confused. The three dogs sit uninterested in the corner. Charles King strokes the stranger’s legs. “I’m Charles.” He smiles at the stranger. His rotten teeth force the stranger to grimace, if only for a moment.

“What’s your name?” Charles King asks.

The stranger pulls at an arm, realising their captivity. The stranger is uncertain.

“I will let you free you soon,” Charles King tries to comfort his visitor. “I didn’t want you to hurt yourself.”

The stranger lets out another murmur. Charles King pushes a glass jar of water to the stranger’s mouth and the water is drained instantly. “You must be thirsty,” Charles King says. “Let me get you another.”

Charles King leaves the room.

The stranger can’t help but keep an eye on the dogs.

Where am I? the stranger thinks. Their head is still fuzzy and they’re not sure of anything.

The stranger looks around the room, trying to take everything in. They pull at the ropes holding them captive on the bed.

How did I get here? the stranger thinks.

The stranger tries to talk, but a raspy sound only escapes from a sore throat.

“Hush, now!” Charles King says as he enters the room with more water. “You need to rest. You’ve been here for almost a week now. If it wasn’t for me, who knows what would have happened to you.”

Charles King pushes the glass jar to the stranger’s mouth and the stranger swallows the water greedily, feeling the comfort taking hold over the parchedness of their mouth.

“Thanks,” the stranger utters, knowing they probably have to stay on the good side of their captor.

“You talk?” Charles King laughs. “Do you know who you are?”

The stranger sees flashes of a past life. Nothing clear. Nothing in focus.

The stranger can’t remember.

“You have a fractured memory,” Charles King smiles. “I’m here to help you remember.”

The stranger attempts to pull at the ropes again, unsuccessfully.

“Maybe this will help!” Charles King produces a driver’s licence. “Here’s some photo identification.”

The stranger blinks. The stranger blinks again. The stranger tries to take in the photo.

Charles King holds a small mirror up the to the stranger’s face.

The stranger looks into it.

“Recognise anyone?” Charles King asks.

The stranger can see their own reflection in the mirror. Beside the mirror they can see their photo identification. Their name is printed on it.

“It seems you’re quite famous where you’re from,” Charles King says. “Welcome to my humble abode.”

It’s true, it hadn’t always been this way for Charles King.

But, alas, this is how it now was.

This is how he had chosen to live. And he couldn’t see how his life could be any different.

That is, of course, until the stranger arrived.

The stranger would change everything for Charles King.

Welcome back to Peppercorn Patch! Season Seven has begun!

Next Episode – Monday April 23

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