This story is by Tom Housden and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
7.00 on a foreboding evening, and Brian was on a mission to deliver some life-saving antibiotics to a hospital by midnight, but there was a problem – the hospital was in the middle of nowhere, in an isolated little village. It would have been a bit easier on him if there was a doctor’s surgery nearby, or at least another medical outlet that could deliver the supplies, but, alas, there were none. Yes, he relished a challenge but this was his most challenging one, and crucially, people’s lives depended on him getting there. A thought crossed his mind about what would happen if he didn’t get there – but that was too much for him to bear so he, maybe rather foolishly, dismissed it.
Five hours to the deadline, and Brian was panicking. There were lots of things that could go wrong, but he didn’t want to contemplate these. He was anxious and a bit stressed out; he didn’t need more added to that!
Even though the bag containing the antibiotics was quite heavy, it was shut down tight and wouldn’t fall out. Brian was grateful for that just in case his Cerebral Palsy overcame him for a moment and he fell over.
Even though he loved his work delivering them to hospitals, surgeries and wherever else, he would much rather be at home with his two dogs, snuggling next to a blazing fire.
The train was in the platform. Brian hopped on, happy to be sheltered from the rain that had just started, and the wind that was picking up. These were the days before mobile phones and there weren’t many phone boxes around. The train was powered by steam and lit by lamps, and wasn’t very comfortable but it served its purpose adequately enough.
Brian was the only one in the carriage, so if anything untoward happened, he had no one to talk to or turn to, no one to rescue him if he had a fall – he told himself he would be fine, but if he was honest, he was quite apprehensive and nervous about the journey. What’s more, even after the two hour-long train ride, he still had to locate the remote village from the directions he had.
The train rattled along, at a snail’s pace. The wind gradually started to pick up and the rain was heavier. Brian quietly thanked his boss, for sending him out on a night like this. However, if the rain stopped soon, and the wind dropped, then at least it would be drier. He comforted himself with that thought on his lonely, dimly-lit journey.
His wish of less rain wasn’t granted, as it was soon joined by thunder and lightning. Could the weather get any worse? Surely it will let up in a few minutes? However, the thunder and lightning didn’t last long; it went as fast as it came. He looked out the window and his thoughts turned to what was going to happen later if this storm persisted. Unfortunately for Brian, it did persist, by 8.30, the winds had become extremely strong, and by 8.45 it seemed like a hurricane, accompanied by rain like he’d never seen before. His worst fears for the evening were coming true, and he couldn’t do anything about it. This is why Mother Nature is known as our worst enemy, he thought.
All of a sudden, the train shuddered to a halt. The weight of the bag was killing his back; he was alone in the carriage. He made his way to the front of the train.
“What’s happened?” Brian asked the driver.
“There’s a tree on the track. We gotta wait to get it cleared. Might be ‘ere till mornin,” the taciturn driver said
Brian had only one option. It was time to walk. He had a deadline.
He kept telling himself to keep calm but that was easier said than done! He only really had one option, and that was to get out of the train and do the best he can to get to the hospital before the midnight deadline.
He had to find a way to get off the train without injuring himself. His back hurt like hell, but he had to work through the pain. He knew the bag was on his back but for a moment, he forgot about it. Finally, he managed to step off the train and onto what he could make out was a grass verge, but it was getting dark and he was losing light. It was still raining rather heavily, and the rain had made the grass very wet. He fell over into what he surmised was a puddle, then, as his eyes adjusted to the fading light, he glimpsed some barbed wire, over which there was a field, at the end of which he could make out what looked like a house. Like he was in a film showing in slow motion, he clambered, one leg at a time, over the wire. Miraculously, he didn’t wobble over but he did fall into another puddle.
After a while, he found his bearings. The rain was still lashing down, he struggled to stay upright in the wind, but he was determined to help the people in the hospital. Dusk was approaching ever faster, and it was getting harder to see. He plodded on though, and somehow, only through sheer determination, did he manage to walk to the end of the field. It wasn’t his imagination, that picture of something he saw earlier, it was a house. He knocked on the door, waited a minute before knocking again, and after another minute, came to the conclusion that there was no-one in. It seemed like a ghost house, a house in the middle of nowhere, all isolated and lonely. The rain and wind kept on coming, but that didn’t deter him. He had to find some way of getting to that hospital. He looked up at the sky, he didn’t know why, but he saw some moonlight which guided him a bit. This place spooked him out, where was everybody?
Even though it gave him the creeps, he had to carry on. He walked through some big puddles, but this time he felt the bag falling as well, and it took him with it! After composing himself again, he walked on, and stumbled across a barn. Through the sense of feeling, he managed to find a door, which was, to his amazement, unlocked. Surely he could use something in here to get him to the hospital faster? Initially, he couldn’t see anything, but at the far end of the barn, there were a couple of things that could help him get there – a bike and a tractor. Elation turned to despair when he saw the bike. He remembered as a child how hard he had tried but balancing on two wheels had always escaped him. Other children teasing him on his tricycle at eight years old. They cried out to him ‘Every normal person rides a bike!’ He was teased a lot at school – he didn’t really know why, but he suspected it was to do with his disability. However, that only made him stronger and more determined to do jobs like this.
Driving had never been an option with his cerebral palsy. For the first time that evening, he really panicked. He was going to have to walk, in the dark, using the little light the moon offered. He could just see his watch, it was 11.00. The hospital was quite a way away. He had no time to lose – he started walking, he didn’t want to, but he had to, he had run out of options. His instinct to save these people took over now, and he walked through the howling wind and rain for what seemed like ages.
At a few minutes to midnight, he reached the hospital. He thought ‘I hope I’m on time!’ He walked in the door and looked at a clock hanging on the wall, it was later than he thought. He just hoped the patients were still alive.
He went up in the lift, went to the ward that he was asked to go to…
He was faced with a hospital ward full of corpses.