Generally, if things go wrong, my first reaction is to panic – okay, you might not see me running round flapping my arms like the proverbial headless chicken, but believe me, that’s what’s going on inside and that’s what was happening last night when I had to call 999.
I couldn’t find my phone, I couldn’t find my phone – my hands were shaking as I searched my bag but – no, I really couldn’t find my phone. I scrabbled frantically through dozens of old receipts and shopping lists, checked all the pockets, one after another but no sign of it. I prayed that I’d not forgotten it again and tried to calm myself but the panic was rising. I tried once more: I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, held it and concentrated on counting to ten as I slowly let it out. I opened my eyes and started looking again and there it was – in the first bloody place I’d looked. I focused all my attention on hitting the number nine three times and finally, with relief, I heard a calm voice on the other end asking me what service I required.
‘Um, um, ambulance, no police – um, ambulance and police,’ I managed to blurt, ‘there’s a man, he’s unconscious… he might be dead… oh god, there’s blood everywhere.’
The operator asked me where I was and I gave her the town and tried to explain my location – I wasn’t exactly sure of an address but I told her it was off the footpath leading from Garrison Road. ‘About half-way along there’s a gap in the hedge and he’s through there, down in the field.’ I was sobbing by this time and she spoke soothingly and said somebody would be with me shortly.
Although the path is well-known to locals, it isn’t very well lit and runs through an area bounded by fields on one side and waste ground on the other so normally, I wouldn’t use it after dark. As usual though, I was running late so the few minutes I knew it would save, swayed me.
I remembered seeing a man coming towards me and as he neared he’d asked for a light and I shook my head and said I didn’t smoke. The next thing I knew I was sprawling on the ground down the bank and the man was coming after me. It all got very hazy after that but I recalled a struggle and felt several blows then I had hold of a rock and was swinging it with all the strength I could muster. I can still hear the crunch as the rock made contact with something hard but then it all faded away. The next thing I knew the man was lying still on the ground and I must have gotten to my feet because I was standing up and looking down at him and I knew I needed to get help.
I could still hear the operator speaking but it appeared that she was no longer able to hear me and then the phone went dead in my hand. By that point though I could hear sirens approaching so I tried to make my way back up to the path. A few minutes later I heard the sound of vehicles screeching to a halt and car doors slamming. I saw several figures running towards me holding torches but I was a little bewildered when they totally ignored me and hurried into the field.
I followed them to the gap in the hedge and watched as one of the policemen knelt down and checked the bloke’s vital signs. ‘It’s too late for this one,’ he said, ‘we’ll need to secure the area and get the forensics boys out here.’ He stood up and shone his torch around the field stopping at a low heap further off. ‘What’s that?’ he asked and one of the other policemen walked over to where the torch beam was directed.
‘Sir, it’s a woman and she’s in a bad way,’ he said, bending down to look at her, then more urgently, ‘she’s still alive Guv but only just – we need to get the paramedics here pronto.’
A chill ran through me and I slipped back into the shadows beneath the bushes. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, there’d only been me and that bloke – where had this other woman come from?
Two guys rushed through the gap and I saw them load the woman onto a stretcher with swift, practised movements. I tried to press back into the hedge to avoid being seen but as they passed me the woman’s hand slipped from under the blanket and brushed against my leg. A glint on her wrist resolved itself into a watch that looked very familiar.
A thought, dismissed before it was fully formed, flitted across my mind as I lifted my hand to look at the watch I was wearing.
It was…no, it had to be a coincidence, she was just wearing a watch like mine; but there was the scratch on the glass where I’d caught it on a wall while rushing to get washing in from the rain and there was the tiny splodge of white paint on the strap I’d never gotten round to cleaning off. It wasn’t just like mine; it was mine.
In disbelief, I fumbled to look at my own wrist again and, as I did, the truth finally slammed into me. I felt a huge jolt as I was pulled back into my body and then, for a brief moment, I was aware of being carried on the stretcher before everything went black.
I woke up the next day in hospital. The police were waiting to speak to me and I learned that I’d been attacked but evidence showed that I’d fought back desperately. My attacker had suffered a head injury during the tussle and had died and the doctor said that I’d probably be dead too if it hadn’t been for the mystery woman who’d used my mobile to summon help. They said that she’d disappeared before the police arrived but they obviously needed to interview her and thought an appeal in the local paper might urge her to come forward. I knew that was very unlikely but thought I should probably keep that to myself.
I can’t explain what happened last night but I do know that I’ll be sticking to roads with street lights in future.
Yesterday I phoned 999 for the first time. I want it to be the last.
About the Author
Vicky is a retired legal secretary with two grown-up children. She has always had a desire to write but only really got started when she joined Canvey Writers earlier this year. This story was a response to a writing prompt from the group.