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Resonance: Chapter Nineteen

       Last updated: Wednesday, September 28, 2005 19:08 EDT



    Graham was stunned. Not that medical?

    “And don’t forget - we’re not supposed to eat anything after ten.”

    She turned and left him, one foot on the stairs and one hanging, like his life, in mid-air.

    How had this happened? They’d agreed to wait! Had that thread been pulled? Had it been replaced by one where they’d convinced him to accept?

    Or had she accepted on his behalf? Was that her purpose in this reality? Graham Smith wouldn’t agree so send for his mother. Any mother.

    There had to be a letter, a card, something. Something to tell them where to go and when. A letter with a signature, a name that he could give to Gary or Kevin to check.

    He tried the hallway first, searching the hall table, flicking through postcards and circulars, looking for anything remotely official or medical. Wouldn’t ParaDim have pre-printed stationery with a logo?

    He found a card. A business card. Black and gold.

    Adam Sylvestrus, Chief Executive Officer, ParaDim.

    Was that the man with the eyes?

    He turned the card over. It was blank. No mention of a medical tomorrow or a car picking them up at seven.

    And why them?

    She’d said the car was picking them up, that we’re not supposed to eat anything. Was she undergoing tests too?

    He flicked through the pile of envelopes again. Still no letter. Maybe the lounge? He checked the sideboard, the mantelpiece…

    There was a letter propped up against the clock.

    It was signed by Wayne Freeman, vice-president of Census-Medical. It confirmed the dates of the medical - Wednesday and Thursday, eight ‘til four - to be conducted at the Cavendish Clinic, Knightsbridge. For two people - Graham Smith and Eileen Susan Smith. Her name was Eileen? His mother’s name was Rebecca.

    He read further. A car would pick them up at seven both mornings and take them home. Meals would be provided. And money too. Two thousand pounds - a thousand each - to be presented on completion of the tests.


    He barely tasted his dinner, all he could think of was tomorrow and what he should do. He helped with the washing up. He sat in front of the television. He panicked. Internally. His mind on fire behind a straight-faced facade of unruffled calm.

    Every plan he devised, a little voice shot down.

    Should I run away? Where to? Annalise would know. I’ll call her now, there’s a phone in the kitchen. The phone’ll be tapped. I’ll call from a phone-box. They’ll see you leave the house. I’ll climb over the back wall and get out through the garden at the back. The woman’ll notice. She’ll tell them. I’ll go at night, when she’s asleep. They’ll see you come down the stairs on the hall camera, they’ll hear the back door open. They’ll send someone round to check.

    On and on it raged until he could stand it no longer. There had to be a way. There had to!

    He left his new mother to her TV and walked through the kitchen to the patio at the back. It was still light outside, a tinge of red in the western sky. He could be over that back fence and away before anyone could react. He stood poised, rocking ever so gently back and forth, unsure whether he had the courage to suddenly spring across the lawn. He stayed there, rocking, heel and toe for five minutes.

    He couldn’t do it.

    That little voice again. Not now, try again later. Delay, put off, postpone. Why risk everything when it might just go away?

    But what if it didn’t? The more he ignored ParaDim the stronger they became. A week ago they’d been a small start-up company he’d never heard of. Now they had the ear of ministers and bought people for a thousand pounds.

    Back came the voice. What if the tests prove you’re harmless? This could be your way out - your way back to a normal life.

    He had to contact Annalise. If he could be certain the tests were on the level…

    And if he could only find a way of leaving the house without being seen by the hall camera.

    He looked up at his bedroom window. Could he climb down from there?

    The ladder! He kept one in the gap between the shrubs and the side fence.

    He ran over to look, praying it hadn’t unravelled along with his mother.

    It hadn’t. It was still there, nestling at the foot of the fence behind the shrub bed. He slid it out and propped it up against his bedroom window, then went inside, pulled down the kitchen blind and locked the back door.

    He’d wait until everyone was asleep then…

    A click from the hallway made him turn. She was there. By the lounge door, stifling a yawn. Had she been there long?

    “’Night, Graham,” she said sleepily. “I’ve set my alarm for six.”

    She turned towards the stairs.

    “And don’t put any of those silly yellow stickers on the doors. I do know what day it is.”



    Graham lay on his bed, fully clothed, anxious, waiting for the last light to be extinguished in the house at the back. He checked every five minutes, peering out the open window - a single light in the kitchen, then a light in the hallway, a light in the bedroom. And then nothing. The house in darkness.

    He raised one knee onto the window sill and slowly shifted his weight forward, ducking his head under the open window. Onto all fours, tiny adjustments of hand and knee as he turned and swivelled, his right leg searching for a rung, his hands grasping onto the inside of the sill. He found a rung, then another, both legs on the ladder, then hands. One rung at a time, he descended, slow and silent, hardly daring to breathe.

    Everything was still, not a breath of wind, a night when you could hear for miles. A thin blanket of cloud lay across the sky, the hint of a moon low in the eastern sky. He crept across the lawn, keeping low and listening. Music, television, sporadic shouts and traffic - distant noises from the two rows of houses and beyond. But nothing from the house beyond the fence.

    He placed his hands on the top of the wooden lap fence and pushed off, locking his elbows, leaning forward, one leg over, two. He dropped down, followed the light-grey stepping stones across the black expanse of lawn. The house loomed, grey and silent. There was a motor bike in the drive. He squeezed past, scraping up against the rough brick of the house.

    A toilet flushed. He froze. Water cascaded down a drainpipe a few feet away, gurgling into the ground. He looked up. A pale light at a frosted first floor window, more water, a trickle, then silence. The light flicked off.

      Graham breathed again, ten steps to the front gate, another heart-stopping few seconds as he struggled with the latch and he was through - onto the street and striding towards the corner.

    He found a phone box a couple of blocks away. A drowsy voice answered.


    “I need to see you now, it’s me, Graham.”

    The voice at the other end woke up instantly. “What’s happened?”

    “Did you find anything out about the medical?”

    “Not yet. I’m meeting Gary at eight tomorrow morning. Why? Has something happened?”

    “They’re coming for me at seven. I need you to ring Gary now.”

    “Wait! Slow down. Who’s coming for you at seven? No! Don’t tell me. Don’t say another word. Do you know the Belle Vue? It’s a B&B on Headstone Avenue. I’ll be waiting outside.”



    A girl stood on the corner, her breath rising on the cold air. It had to be Annalise.

    Graham hurried along the pavement. The girl turned, peered for a few seconds then waved. It was Annalise, wrapped in an enormous coat.

    “Sorry to wake you,” he said in a voice just above a whisper. 

    “No problem, I’m still on Minnesota time. Who’s coming for you at seven? ParaDim?”

    Graham nodded. “They arranged it through the woman pretending to be my mother. A car’s coming round at seven to take us both for tests.”

    “Whoa,” she said, holding up a hand. “The woman pretending to be your mother set you up?”

    “Not only that but she’s going for tests as well.”

    “They want to test both of you?”

    “That’s what this letter says.”

    He passed the letter to Annalise. She struggled with it for a few seconds before taking it over to the street light on the main road to read.

    “Wait, let me get this straight,” she said. “This woman’s name is Smith and she says she’s your mother?”

    “Not in so many words. But I’ve seen the pictures. All our family snaps have been changed. My real mother’s been erased and she’s there instead.”

    “They’ve doctored all your pictures?”

    “Every one. There’s even pictures I’ve never seen before. From holidays I don’t remember going on.”

    “So, in this world you’ve got a different mother?”

    He shook his head. “She’s not my mother. I don’t look a bit like…”

    He stopped dead and looked down at his feet, too embarrassed to continue. He didn’t look a bit like anyone.

    “What’s the matter?”

    He sighed. He might as well tell her.

    “I don’t look like anyone,” he said slowly. “Not my father, not my real mother, not  … not her. I must have been adopted.”

    “And no one ever told you?”


    “Do you think that’s why everyone’s interested in your date of birth? They’re trying to trace your real parents?”

    Graham looked up. His real parents. Why hadn’t he thought of that? Was that why he hadn’t unravelled along with his mother? Because he wasn’t hers? Had he been tied to a different thread all these years?

    “But if that’s so,” she continued, “and ParaDim’s testing families … why would they want to carry out tests on the woman who adopted you?”

    A question that Graham’s little voice could answer. Because there are no tests. It’s a ruse. Once they get you inside that clinic you’re never coming out.

    “I’ll call Gary,” said Annalise, “Can you hold this while I dial?”

    She handed the letter back to Graham. Two cars came by in quick succession, racing along the main road towards the High Street. Annalise put the phone to one ear and a hand to the other. Graham watched, anxiously tapping his toes on the pavement.   

    “Sorry to wake you but this an emergency. Kevin’s waiting for an immediate answer. Do you know anything about GS being invited to two days of medical tests?”

    Graham listened for a reply but heard only a muffled buzz. Annalise looked at him and shook her head.

    “They start tomorrow. He’s being picked up at seven. Should he be worried? Kevin, that is.”

    Graham tried to read her face. A feat made more difficult as she had her back to the street light. Her hair and hands shone in the spectral glow.

    “So you don’t know anything about it? It’s not something you’d organise?”

    Another shake of the head and then another question.

    “Is GS in any danger from these tests? Kevin wants to know if he should pull him out or not. What would you do?”

    A long silence. Graham inched closer. Annalise shrugged and then held her hand out for Graham’s letter.

    “The invitation comes from a … Wayne Freeman, a VP at C-M.”

    Annalise pressed a button on her mobile and whispered, “he knows him,” to Graham before pressing the button again.

    “Uh-huh,” she continued. “So you think it’s safe?”

    Another long wait.

    “Unless what? Sorry, could you repeat that?”

    She turned away. Graham followed her around as she spun to face the road.

    “Right,” she said. “But there were no medicals prior to any of those incidents were there?” She paused. “Good, that’s what Kevin thought.”

    A car accelerated from the High Street, Annalise handed the letter back to Graham and put her hand to her ear again.

    “Uh-huh, and Kevin will know what that means, will he?”

    The car raced by, leaving a smell of exhaust. 

    “Right. I’ll tell him. Oh, and he also wanted to know if there’d been any moves to close the RP here?”

    “RP?” Graham mouthed.

    “Resonance Project,” Annalise mouthed back.

    “Good, I’ll tell him. Thanks for your help.”

    She closed the mobile and tilted her head to one side.

    “Well?” asked Graham.

    “Good news and bad news. He thinks it’s safe to take the tests. He was going to suggest something similar himself. Something about testing for anomalies.”

    “And the bad news?”

    “He said all the attacks came the day after the RPs were closed down.”


    “Do you want to sit down, Graham? There’s a wall over there.”

    “No.” He shook his head impatiently. “What attacks?”

    Annalise took a deep breath.

    “Reading between the lines, it looks like the day after a resonance project is closed, they find you unconscious in the street.”

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