The light that she can see is bright white in colour. She can see her angel. Above her.
Joanne blinks her eyes a few times to adjust to the bright light. As her eyes begin to focus she can see that her angel is not of the spiritual kind. It is a medical angel. A nurse. She quickly realises she is in a hospital.
“Joanne, honey. Can you hear me?” She can hear the familiar voice of a friend. It is Cathy Gilmore, a nurse at the hospital, and one of her closest friends.
“What happened?” Joanne struggles to say. Her head is groggy and she cannot remember much.
“You were found lying on the ground outside the front of the hospital Joanne,” Cathy explains. “Do you remember what happened?”
Joanne is confused and she looks down at her hands. They are dirty. She cannot remember what happened. Her face is sore and her body aches.
“Jo, honey, you have been attacked,” Cathy starts to play with Joanne’s hair. Her dirty blonde locks lay in a mess across the hospital pillow. “Any idea who did this to you or how you got here?”
Joanne cannot think straight. She does not remember what happened. Her head is still groggy and she is sore all over. “Where’s Richard?” she struggles to ask Cathy.
“He’s not answering his phone. I’ve tried several times,” Cathy tells Joanne.
“Please try again,” Joanne sighs and closes her eyes. She feels like she could sleep for years.
No one would ever say that Joanne Evans was a lucky person. She had more than her fair share of misfortune. Her mother died when she gave birth to Joanne. Her father died when she was only 12. She was forced to grow up quickly when she went to live with her aunty. Her father’s sister, Aunty Val, was supposed to be her guardian, but her heavy reliance on alcohol saw Joanne cook and care for herself at a young age. She made it through somehow. And most admired her for it. Most of all Thomas admired her.
Thomas admired her.
“Thomas!” Joanne sits up quickly, scaring herself out of her heavy sleep. “Thomas has Richard!”
Richard’s shoulders and back are aching from having his arms twisted behind his body. He can feel his wrists behind him bound together by something hard and made of plastic. He can see nothing as the blindfold over his face has blocked out any light. The only thing he can hear is the short shallow breaths his own body is taking.
“Thomas?” Richard whispers. “Are you still there?”
“I’ve always been here Richard! Here in this world. Here in this town. Here now with you.” Thomas almost sounds like an evil cartoon character to Richard.
“Please let me go. You don’t want to hurt me, Tom.”
“Hurt? I’ll tell you about hurt!” screams Thomas.
Richard begins to sob.
“Tears won’t help you Richard,” laughs Thomas. “Trust me. Tears won’t get you anywhere in life.”
Thomas walks towards Richard and removes the blindfold covering Richard’s face. Richard’s darkness turns to immediate light. Candlelight. Hundreds of candles. Maybe even thousands. Richard sees books. Books lined up in rows, on shelves. A library.
“I asked Joanne to be my girlfriend in here,” Thomas says quietly. Richard realises that they are in the local high school’s library. He catches a glimpse of a tear rolling down Thomas’ face. “Joanne was mine then. And life was perfect.”
Thomas had never seen Joanne look so amazing. The blue dress wrapped perfectly around her body and matched her dazzling blue eyes. Her long blonde hair rested in a neat bun perfectly on her head and the tiara shone in the moonlight.
Thomas had borrowed his father’s car that night. He wanted to drive his darling Joanne and himself to their high school formal. He arrived at her Aunty Val’s house to take her to the event. They both looked amazing. Thomas thought so anyway. Even if the bow tie he was wearing felt like it was choking him.
“Good evening madam,” Thomas greeted Joanne, and opened the front passenger door of the car to allow her to step inside.
“A gentleman,” Joanne laughed as she stepped inside.
Driving along the dark road that night, all Thomas could think about was Joanne. How beautiful she looked and how much he loved her. Her hand reached for his thigh and he rested his own hand on top of hers. His thoughts turned to all the wonderful years growing up they had spent together and the pain that Joanne had been through with the loss of both her parents. He couldn’t wait to make everything right for her. He could picture what his future would look like: his marriage to Joanne, the house they would someday live in together and the children they would raise.
He looked over to Joanne sitting next to him and she met his eyes with a smile. Joanne’s smile quickly turned to horror as she screamed something at Thomas. Thomas looked back to the road to see something blocking his way. A kangaroo had bounded out of nowhere. Before he knew it, Thomas’ life had changed forever.
“Thomas,” Richard tries to reason. “Things have changed. Many years have passed. Joanne loved you once. But things are different now.”
Thomas has turned his back to Richard and things are eerily silent. Thomas is no longer moving.
“Thomas?” Richard blinks to hold back tears.
“You know, I was visited by someone that night,” Thomas says quietly without moving. “Or something.”
Thomas turns to face Richard. Richard sees the flicker of candlelight in Thomas’ eyes.
Without warning, Thomas lets out a blood curdling scream that sends shivers down Richard’s spine. Thomas runs around the room and starts grabbing books off shelves and throwing them to the floor violently. He knocks over candles as he goes, and Richard can see the flames igniting the books scattered over the floor.
Before long the room is filled with smoke and the fire licks up the shelves to the highest books. Richard tries to free himself from the bounds around his wrists, but to no avail. The smoke filling the room makes it hard to see anything.
Richard feels air on the back of his neck. Thomas’ breath. Thomas leans in close from behind. “You know what that something said to me that night, Rich?”
“What night?” Richard struggles to ask.
“The night that I died.” Thomas screams as he kicks the legs of the chair that Richard is sitting on. It crashes, along with Richard, to the floor.
Richard hears Thomas scream once again, and then the sound of him laughing. Through the smoke he can make out Thomas’s face. His eyes flicker with firelight.
“An angel visited me that night, Richard,” Thomas laughs. “And it told me to kill you!”
Next Episode – Monday 2nd February