To read the first eight chapters, please click here. For the first three sections of chapter nine, please see my related blog posts #9a, #9b and #9c.
Monday 4th November 1985: 18.05 – 18.30
Hettie Foster tutted as she drew her curtains against the night outside.
The darkness wasn’t the reason for her irritation; though the night hours were the devil’s playtime, of course, and Heaven knew (because she told it on a regular basis) the sinners that formed the rest of Diamond Crescent’s population made it easy for Satan to have a jolly good romp around the area during them.
No – her exasperation was directed at the car that had just drawn up outside her bungalow. A nasty, noisy, and probably smelly machine. And no doubt containing young persons intent on fornication into the small hours.
When she was much younger herself, Hettie had made it her mission to eradicate fornication entirely. To the extent that when her own sister had married, Hettie had stopped the newlyweds from indulging by making sure her brother-in-law was kept busy at her house every night. His pretence to his wife that he was permanently working a late shift had been necessary to save his soul, and had therefore been perfectly justifiable.
She turned away from the window and went back to the huge, leather-bound Bible that dominated the other end of the room. A family heirloom, it was so large it had taken a separate furniture van to transport it when she’d moved to this ungodly crescent. (Even the shape of the road demonstrated heathen leanings, and she still campaigned tirelessly at the council offices to have it transformed into a cross, which would be far holier and only involve the forced relocation of half the people living there. Which didn’t matter, as none of them attended church, apart from one old man who was a Baptist and therefore not a Christian at all.)
One of her favourite quotes was uppermost on the open page. ‘John, chapter one, verse five,’ she said. ‘“And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”’
She loved the way the words rolled off her tongue. That hussy of a vicar’s wife had once tried to tell her it was all right to use other versions of the Holy Book than the original, authentic one. Well – she’d soon made short shrift of that. ‘If it was good enough for St Paul to read, it’s good enough for the likes of you,’ she’d snapped back. That had settled the discussion. Mrs Rawlings had turned tail, her shoulders jiggling up and down as she’d walked away. Obviously the woman had been in a deep state of sorrow about her ignorance and blasphemy.
Footsteps sounded on her path outside, intruding on her thoughts. Hmph – this would no doubt be those dreadful young persons from that mechanised Hell-chariot, about to pester her for something. Penny for the Guy, or whatever satanic nonsense they came out with at this time of year.
Well – she wouldn’t be having any of that, thank you very much!
She was halfway towards the living-room door when a bomb went off in her hallway.
At least – that was what it sounded like. She stopped, rigid with shock. What on earth…?
But Hettie Foster had been hewn from the same Rock the church had been built on (not to say built of, in the case of St Marmaduke’s, which had been put up in the days when they built edifices to last) and recovered her equilibrium almost before she’d lost it. Seething at the further attack on her tranquillity, she resumed her advance on her living-room door.
Which burst open, narrowly avoiding taking her head off.
‘How dare you…!’ she began.
And then agony seared through her right eye, and she screamed.
And then the agony came again, and she reeled backwards. Her feet snagged in the carpet and she fell, her head smacking onto the floor.
And with the pain of that, and another burst of agony through her eye, her world, like her neighbours’ immortal souls, went black.