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 Dying to Live

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Anthony van

PostSubject: Dying to Live   Tue Sep 05, 2017 4:35 pm

Chapter 8


            By the chill of morning nothing had altered. The bushland was filled with birdsong as the early morning sun filtered through the shimmering eucalyptus leaves. Unconscious, barely breathing, the life was ebbing out of Ari. Somewhere, some distance away a grandmother was saying a prayer for her grandson and there was a quiet urgency in what she prayed.

            Dean and Myra Yearling were driving slowly toward the small town ahead to do some early morning shopping. Dean figured if he had to do it he would get it out of the way so it wouldn’t interfere with the rest of the day. Almost inevitably they would go back later in the day because Myra had ‘forgotten’ something; even after he insistently asked, “Have you got everything Myra?” Of course she wanted to socialise, so, often, he would drop her off and pick her up two hours later, after she had perused in all the shops at least once.

            Dean went over the routine one more time, “Did you bring your list? ...What was that?” he said in a surprised voice cutting off any chance Myra had of answering.

He was pointing and pulling over at the same time.

“Will you be careful Dean!” Myra demanded, “What was what?”

“There was something shining off the road just back there.” He got out and shuffled with his awkward gait back to the area he had identified. Myra was totally unmoved. She sat and waited, indifferent to her husband’s unpredictable actions. “Gallivanting around the countryside at this hour of the morning; really Dean!” she complained audibly. Meanwhile the old man had struggled down the slope and had nearly reached the bike when he saw Ari’s prostrate form on the tree trunk.

At double the pace Dean shuffled back to the car. He collapsed clumsily into his seat and drove off with unprecedented haste for him. He frightened the wits out of Myra by approaching the speed limit.

“Dean, what are you doing? And put your seatbelt on. You’ll kill us both!”

“Myra, there was a motorcycle accident. I think there’s a dead body there.”

“You think?”

“He was too far down, I couldn’t check, but it looked like he’d broken his neck.”

“How awful,” was all Myra could reply. There was silence in the car as they drove the remaining several minutes into town.


Dean and Myra didn’t own a new fangled mobile phone so they delivered the message to the police personally. Fairly soon there were police and emergency service cars rushing toward the scene with Dean sitting grandly in the lead car. An ambulance had been ordered from the nearest regional centre and wasn’t expected for fifteen minutes after they arrived. Their rush slowed at the first view of Ari’s misaligned helmet, with a general assumption that they were dealing with a fatality. Once the emergency service officer got to Ari he screamed, “He’s alive!”

“What! How is that possible?” yelled the policeman over his shoulder as he was dragging the bike up the hill.

“His helmet’s come off. He’s breathing, just... very shallow.” The body was as close to the ‘coma position’ as was possible lying on the log so he chose not to touch Ari.


            “Don’t go.” It was his Gran. “You have to stay. Come to church with me.” She held out her hand. He knew he should. What sort of person said no to a loving grandparent? He tried to walk. His feet were heavy. Looking down he saw metal boots welded to the pavement, Maybe he could lift his feet out. He looked up to explain but his Gran had gone.

“Don’t go.” It was Juzzy’s voice. She was sitting at a table by a beautiful river. They had been having coffee? He couldn’t remember. It seemed he was walking out of her life again.

“Don’t go,” she said again. He stopped and looked back at her... so winsome, so tender and beautiful, how could he ignore her? He turned away. There was brightness and nothingness, he wanted to move but his legs were mired. He turned back and saw himself at the coffee table.

“Go where you want. You don’t have to please others, please yourself.” He stared at himself. He hated himself. That’s what he was like. He couldn’t move. He saw Juzzy at the table again but the table was receding into the distance. “Come back Juzzy!” he called but nothing came out of his mouth. “Come back Juzzy!” he tried to scream... still silence. Ari began to cry, “I’m sorry Juzzy, I’m sorry Juzzy, I’m sorry...” he tried to move his legs but it was as if he was bound. He looked down. He was waist deep in hardened concrete. No wonder he couldn’t move.

            Tears dripped down his face. “I’m sorry, I can’t do anything. Help me God.” There were those words again. Did he say them? He must have. He felt a warmth, a friend nearby, but he couldn’t see anyone. He heard a voice, “Everything’s all right... it’s okay. Everything’s all right.” Ari sank into blackness. His head hurt.


            Sunday morning Ari was lying in the hospital when he opened his eyes. His leg was in a cast, a head bandage covered part of his eyes and his neck was in a brace. The bright light made him squint and a surge of pain stabbed his temple.

“Welcome back Ari.” The voice came from next to the bed. He tried to focus, but the effort made him wince from another pulse of pain searing through his head. Vaguely, he became aware of the shadowy form to his left. With an effort Ari tried to speak, but his parched throat barely produced a gasp. Restricted from turning his head by the brace his eyes turned toward the two indistinct figures, watching one rummage on the side table. He felt a straw being placed in his mouth.

“There you are, how’s that?” said a soft musical voice

He nodded his head and sipped the cool refreshing water, spluttering a little because he was lying back.

“Will he be all right?”

The voice was familiar.

“Who, who is it? I can’t see too clearly.” Ari croaked.

“It’s Reece,” Reece responded a little uncertainly, “remember me?”

Ari tried to clear his mind, “Reece?” the bandages added to the difficulty of identification by obscuring his vision. Gradually recognition dawned on him.

“Reece, what are you doing here?” He managed to groan before he paused, and then with a bit more energy, “What am I doing here?”

“I got a phone call from the hospital this morning. Apparently you were carrying my phone number with you.”

“So, what happened to me?”

“You had a bike accident. The story I got was that an elderly couple found you off the side of the Warburton Highway. They thought you were dead. It looked like you’d broken your neck.”

“I’ll leave you two for a bit. Call me if you need me,” the soft voice spoke again. Ari got a hazy view of a nurse walking away.


            Ari cringed as a flash of menacing headlights formed a vivid image in his memory. He began to recall. He was in danger. They were trying to kill him. He stretched and recoiled as a stab of agony shot up his right leg.

“Yup, I wouldn’t try to move too much if I were you. You broke your leg.” Reece was showing relief at the way Ari was regaining coherence. Ari’s voice crackled as he spoke. “Warburton Highway? What hospital is this?”


“What day is it?”

“Sunday... but I’m glad you asked. Now I can say with confidence you don’t know what day it is.”

Another wave of nausea and pain stole the forming smile from his face.

“Listen Reece, don’t tell anyone I’m here. It’s really important that no one knows I’m alive.”

“What! You’re crazy... that bump on your head knock the remaining sense out?” Reece was joking, thinking that Ari was just being Ari with his melodramatic, over the top behaviour.

“Reece, I’m serious! Someone’s trying to kill me. Last night... I mean Thursday night was no accident.”

“You’re serious?” Reece looked at him incredulous.

Ari nodded, “I’ll explain…” he was halted by another stab of pain, “…what it’s all about, but you’ve got to help me.”

            Just then a doctor walked in, “Ah, Mr James... you’re awake?”

Ari knew he was on the mend because his first reaction was to make a sarcastic comment: ‘No, I’m just talking in my sleep.’ But the recovery only went as far as being able to think the retort.

“I’m Dr Sagrev,” he said in an almost Oxford accent, although there may have been a hint of Mumbai. Clearly he wanted privacy since he closed the curtain screens around the bed.

“I’ll go grab a coffee. I’ll be back in a little while,” offered Reece as he disappeared through the curtains.

“Grab me one too,” Ari tried to call in a husky, grating voice.

The doctor examined Ari, checking his eyes, palpitating his chest and stomach and receiving a few grunts for his trouble, and then asking about his neck.

“How does it feel?”

“Sore,” replied Ari.

“We’ve scanned it and nothing critical shows, maybe some soft tissue damage. You’ll need to wear the brace for a few days though.” He hesitated and shook his head. Ari wasn’t sure if it was disbelief or disdain. “You’re very lucky. You landed on your head you know. You have a mild concussion and a cut and bruising to the head.” He seemed finished, and then clearly reminded of more information he went on... “And you have a broken right leg which will limit your movement, and motorcycle riding for a while I should think.”

Ari wanted to add, ‘that’s an inconvenience,’ but held back.

“A nurse will come shortly and sort out all your insurance details.” Dr Sagrev then peeled back the screens, wrote some comments on his chart and left.


            By the time Reece returned, Ari had tried to raise himself up on a bunched pillow. Thankfully he had two cups of coffee with him. Putting the cups on the table and seeing Ari’s discomfort, he intervened.

“Leave this to me. I know how these things work.”

“Just don’t fold me up in the bed,” quipped Ari as Reece set to work turning the handle and raising the head end to a comfortable height before packing the pillows for Ari.

“Thanks nurse... and for the coffee,” he appended as Reece handed the hot drink.

“You’re welcome cutie,” he said, hamming it up by pinching Ari’s cheek as he said it. Instantly he regretted it as he looked up and saw a nurse watching them, just in from the doorway. She was young and pretty and had an amused expression on her face.

“Do you want me to leave?” asked Reece as she started taking Ari’s blood pressure.

“Not at all... I wouldn’t want to separate you two,” she teased, and bit her lower lip to stop from giggling.
            Nurse Evans (it’s what it said on her name tag) was a delightful distraction for the two young men and they both vied for the high ground in the ‘let’s impress the pretty girl with our comical comments routine.’

“How do you feel?” she questioned.

“Much better now,” he lied, “it only hurts when I laugh.” His voice was still throaty and crackling.

“You need to check me out,” said Reece, “he’s not the only sick man in here.”

“I saw that,” she retorted, then looked at Ari with possibly a little more than professional interest.

“I hear you’re a lucky man, Mr James,” and then she took his wrist to check his pulse.

“I didn’t realise how lucky till you came in,” was Ari’s rejoinder, attempting to disguise the effort it took to speak.


“That’s what I was thinking.” The sentence was punctuated with clamping jaws as another wave of ache washed over him.

She grimaced. “Stop talking.” And then with a slight grin, “You’ve made me lose count.”

Sinking back down into the bed Ari offered one more remark, “I’ll bet it’s racing.”

“I think you should take my blood pressure,” suggested Reece, “I’m suddenly feeling a bit weak.”

She bit the side of her lip again and concentrated. “There,” she said and wrote the readings down on the chart.

“You two are impossible,” she broke into a big smile as she exited.

“Thank Evans...” was Reece’s final foray at the departing nurse. A brief interlude was followed by,

“Thank Evans?” Ari looked quizzically at Reece and raised himself, trying to get comfortable.

He shrugged.


            Ari felt like collapsing back in the bed; head thumping, stomach queasy and his body aching. Despite that he rallied his focus and spent the next hour recounting some of the background history and the complicated events that had led to him being in the hospital. At different junctures in the story Reece would reiterate verbatim what Ari had just said with an interrogative inflection:

“You wrote political speeches for Thomas McLeish?”

“You mean they’ve dug up dirt on the Prime Minister so they can use it to put pressure on him?”

“You heard Thomas’ man plotting to kill someone?”

“You rang the police?” he commented, “I wouldn’t have believed it either.”

“You recorded their conversation on your computer?”

 “They nearly caught you in the library?”

“She didn’t turn up?... What happened to her?

“They killed her? Are you sure? How would they arrange that?” Reece was beginning to look doubtful as the tale unfolded. It all sounded too fantastic, too implausible... surely there was a rational explanation.

            Ari’s normal argumentative nature was strangely passive. Instead of complaining about his repetitious responses, he reacted to Reece’s queries with quiet statements.

“You think about it Reece. I overhear a conversation, ‘ ...she’ll be in the obituary columns... make it look like an accident’. Then I hear them name Collette, ‘that Down’s chick...’, who happened to be a photographer. And then I see her dead as the result of, what looked like an accident. What are the chances Reece, what are the chances?”

“When you put it like that I see what you mean. It’s scary... if they can do that... it’s scary.” He was lost for words, blank faced, staring at some unseen fiend.

“And what’s more,” continued Ari, “the driver was dead drunk. He didn’t remember a thing. The paramedic couldn’t believe he had driven in that state...” Ari paused for effect, “I reckon he couldn’t remember because he didn’t drive... someone else did.”

“You know that for a fact?” Reece turned for some new information, but Ari answered softly.

“No, but I believe it’s the truth. He was unconscious in the front seat, someone else drove and smashed into Collette’s car and they dragged him into the driver’s seat, grabbed the camera from Collette’s car and escaped in a second car.”


            Ari made a last effort to regroup and went on with his story, remembering the data key and Reece resumed his parroting.

“Her computer was gone? You found a data key?”

“It should be with my clothes, I’ll have to check. You don’t realise how important that could be,” Ari emphasised. He then continued to tell his story.

Reece shook his head, taken aback, “They were waiting at your Gran’s place?”

Ari nodded and related the chase to the final minutes. And even as he was talking those final few seconds crystallised in his memory and he shivered in reaction to the trauma.


            At the conclusion Reece asked, “So why didn’t they kill you?”

Ari stared at him waiting for him to join the dots. His eyes opened wide in discovery.

“They think you’re dead... you looked like you had broken your neck!” Reece sounded excited by the revelation. It all made sense ... sort of. “So you don’t want anyone to know you’re here.” Amazingly, Reece had ‘joined the dots’ to their initial discussion and now understood Ari’s plea that his presence be kept a secret.

“Listen I have to go...sort of got a date. And, I don’t say anything?”

Ari nodded

He refrained from saying he was going to church with Jen, knowing it had been a sore point with Ari. As he departed Reece turned and said, “I think someone is looking after you.” His eyes glanced up and then he left.  
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