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Resonance: Chapter Seventeen

       Last updated: Tuesday, August 30, 2005 07:38 EDT



    The ParaDim deputation stepped inside. Graham watched as they filed in, one to his right, one to his left and one by the doors - the man with the eyes. Graham looked beyond him into the lobby. Wasn’t anyone else getting in? All he needed was one more person, a witness.

    The lobby was empty except for one girl at the coffee machine, her back to the lift. The doors began to close. Graham could feel the shoulders of the two Americans touch his own. Why were they standing so close? He felt paralysed, hemmed in, trapped.

    Ignore them and they’ll go away. More advice from his mother. Applicable to bullies, wasps and men from ParaDim.

    The lift began to descend. The tall, gaunt man was staring again, an amused expression on his face. Graham swallowed hard, fixed his eyes to the control panel, watched the floor numbers light and dim, willing them to move faster, watching for any movement out of the corner of his eye, his hand ready to spring for the emergency button the moment anyone moved.

    Should he press a floor button and get out? Or would that force their hand? The moment his finger hit the button, a hand would fly round his neck and a needle would find its way into his body. They’d carry him out of the lift, security wouldn’t stop them. The man’s had a seizure, they’d say. No need for an ambulance. Our car’s outside, we’ll take him to the hospital. We’re doctors.

    The lift began to brake. The light flashed on ‘one’. Graham waited for it to flip over to ‘ground’. It didn’t. He heard the muffled sound of the lift bell on the first floor lobby. He had a chance. The lift doors slowly opened. He could see one, two, three people, standing back from the doors waiting for people to get out. He delayed until the last second and then surged forward, squeezing sideways past the tall, gaunt man and stumbling into the lobby. A nervous smile, a nod of apology to the girl he’d nearly collided with and he was away, half walking, half running down the rear corridor.

    He looked over his shoulder several times. No one appeared to be following. He heard two girls giggling and the lift door close. And then nothing.



    He stayed on the first floor for ten minutes - mostly in the far lobby, looking out the window onto Westminster Street, straining to catch sight of the three men from ParaDim.

    He didn’t see them.

    They could have kept to the near side of the pavement, they could have walked off in the other direction.

    Or they might not have left the building.

    He tried the windows above the main exit, plucking up courage to return to the scene of his escape from the lift. There were a few people at the coffee machine, which made him feel safer. He stretched up on tip toe and peered down at the pavement. Plenty of people walking by but not one of them from the ParaDim delegation.

    They must have gone by now. Important people wouldn’t hang around, would they?

    He tried the stairs, descending slowly, pressing himself against the wall, peering around corners. The door to the ground floor lobby had a glazed panel, he looked through, twisting his face to the left and right.

    He couldn’t see them anywhere. He opened the door a crack and looked along the wall to the lifts. Nothing. Four people waiting for the lift, all of them people he recognised.



    He left work, convinced they were waiting for him somewhere. Maybe in that big black car from Annalise’s dream.

    He kept away from the kerb, hugging the near side of the pavement, up against the shops and offices - stop starting all the way down Westminster Street as streams of people flowed in and out of doorways. No one was going to bundle him into any slow-moving car.

    He buried himself in the crowds at the tube station, kept away from the platform edge, kept away from any nook or passageway where someone could hide or sneak up on him. He pushed inside the carriages as far as he could, far from the doors where someone could force him off the train against his will. The stations flew by, light and dark, the ebb and flow of people, the noise, the rock and roll of the carriage.

    And gradually, ever so gradually, his fear began to fade. Maybe, just maybe, he was safe. ParaDim had come for him, he’d said ‘no’ and they’d gone away. Twice, if you counted the lift. Twice they’d had him and twice they’d let him go. Did that sound like people who wished him harm?

    Maybe these were the good guys at ParaDim? Maybe the medical tests were for real? Something to do with Kevin Alexander and his friends? He’d ask Annalise tomorrow when they met in the park. Even if Kevin wasn’t behind the tests, he’d be able to find out who was.

    He felt relieved as he walked home from the station. An enormous weight had been plucked from his shoulders. Maybe the tests would convince everyone that he wasn’t the key?  

    He closed the front door behind him, dropped his keys onto the hall table and rushed upstairs to his room. He’d jot down a note to himself -  have AM ask KA about medical - and pin it to his message board while the idea was still fresh in his mind.

    He stopped by his bedroom door.

    His room was different. Very different. His bed was covered in a green bedspread. There was no quilt. The pillows were white. As was his wardrobe - white, laminated and modern. Not the solid oak antique he’d grown up with.

    He opened the wardrobe door and looked inside. He’d never seen so many ties. He touched them, let them cascade over his fingers. So many, so colourful. And the clothes - he hardly recognised any of them.

    He moved quickly around the room, dipping into drawers, running a finger along the spines of his books - at least most of those he recognised.

    He crossed onto the landing. Nothing there had changed. The same carpet, the same wallpaper, the same colour paint on the doors and skirting boards.

    Was it just his bedroom that had changed?

    He lingered outside his parents’ room. A few deep breaths to steel himself, a pause and then he knocked - ever so gently. Tap. His hand moved towards the handle, closed around it and turned. Click. He pushed the door open a crack.

    There was a book on his mother’s bedside table.

    He swallowed and stepped inside the room - slowly - his eyes drawn to the book. He walked over, reached out and picked it up.

    “You’re home early, Graham.”

    He dropped the book and turned towards the window. His mother was sat at the dresser, combing her hair. She was back! Alive! After all these years!

    He ran towards her, tears welling in his eyes. His mother was alive!

    And then he caught sight of the face in the dresser mirror.

    And stopped dead.

    It wasn’t his mother.

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