Secret - 'Everybody's Got To Die Sometime'

October 1962

The World hangs on the precipice of annihilation. Russian weapons on discovered on Cuban soil. The world holds it's breath as the United States squares up to Russia. It seems we are only seconds away from destruction.

Meanwhile in North Yorkshire, Tom and his Dad are facing life without Toms mother. Meanwhile the new early warning buildings are rising up from the moors above their home. Do they provide security or threat ? Threats seem to be both near and far and dark days roll across Tom's world. His world has been turned inside out leaving him a short step from disaster.

As Tom's Dad says "Everyones got to die sometime".

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5. Four Minutes

October 15th 

Sun streamed in through the gaps between the curtains, searching me out like a spotlight. At first I didn't react, still soundly asleep but as the warmth penetrated the bedsheets and my face I stirred pulling the sheet above my head to grasp a few more minutes in dreamland. However soon the suns rays pierced the cotton and I felt the air heating up underneath, making it unbearable. 

Flinging the sheet back I squinted as the warm bright rays hit my face. Cursing aloud I sat up taking in the surrounding of my room. It was looking a bit shabby now, paint peeling from the walls. Dad was always too busy at work to anything to it. Maybe I'd get some paint and do it myself. 

I quickly dressed ready for school picking up the book from where it had dropped on the floor last night. My dad was already gone for work up at Fylingdales early. Since mum died he'd buried himself in his work. Up every morning before I stirred, he'd left before I was even thinking about the day. At night it was always nearly nine o'clock before he turned up. He'd have some tea, ask me how school was going and then fall asleep, often as not in front of the TV.  

Gone were the days when my dad and I would spend the evenings playing games or trekking over the moors in search of some iron age barrow he thought he'd found. Now at weekends he'd spend his days up at the base. It was almost that the night my mum was killed, I'd lost my dad at the same time. I did a lot of growing up this last year. The person who had taken mums life had robbed me of my dad as well. No more visits to Whitby or Middlesbrough to look at the shops, no walks in Saltwick Bay finding fossils. At times I felt like an orphan. I did the shopping, cooking. Dad left money on the side for that days food or Mrs Olthwaite at the shop would put it on 'tic' and Dad would pay at the end of the week. Joyce and her family helped us at times. The amount of meals I owed them must run into triple figures.  

I absently made some toast on the cooker grill and a cup of tea and sat at the table. The clock on the wall ticked away. Four minutes until 7 o'clock. I needed to leave before quarter past.  

Four minutes … 

Seemed a short time. I remembered what Joyce had said yesterday about that was the warning we'd be given in event of a nuclear warhead screaming towards us.  

Four minutes … 

You could run a mile in that time, if you were an athlete, boil an egg or have sex. The sex was what everyone nudged each other and smiled at. Although I had no experience in that field, I wondered if it was possible to take four minutes or even if when you were scared about living if you could have sex. Life coming from death? Who knows. 

Four minutes … 

That's what it had taken to take mums life.  

Four minutes … 

That seemed so fast at the time but now seemed like an eternity. Every day in the three hundred and fifty eight days that had passed since she took her last breath I'd thought through those four minutes, time slowing in my head as I saw it pass through my mind like a horror flick. 

It had been a perfect evening until that point hadn't it? Dad came home early as usual and we'd had tea. Mum had cooked her famous toad in the hole with mashed potatoes and onion gravy. Follow that with treacle sponge and custard and you have a meal made in heaven. Somehow that seemed very apt now. We'd taken the car up to Ravenscar to go for a walk. The bright sunny day was ending and the coolness of the early evening cutting through. Not quite shirt sleeves weather but not too cool. We parked the car on one of the empty roads.  

Ravenscar was a weird place. In Victorian times some budding entrepreneur had thought it'd make a great place to build a seaside resort. The streets had been laid out and plots of land put up for sale but apart from a grand hotel on the end, nothing much was built. Maybe being so far above a beach was a problem but the streets still were still there, a reminder of one mans dream. The views were gorgeous though. From Robin Hoods Bay in the north to Scarborough Castle in the south through moorlands full of purple heather it was a special place. To the east was the sea, a huge expanse of blue. That day it was so calm. 

"Who'd want to go anywhere when you have a view like that?"  

Mum would always say, then rail my dad to take her to Spain for a holiday. She was full of inconsistences. It was however a nice view. I'd seen it in all weathers from snow draped over the heather like a shroud to the fret which blew in regularly during the summer alternatively obscuring bits of the view and then giving you a window you could see.  

We walked towards the bay view and watched a train slowly make its way up the track towards us. It slowed as the gradient got steeper and then disappeared, with a whistle, into the tunnel below us. We turned our backs and walked towards where the town should have been. Hard to think that it had been planned in such detail and then never built. As we passed the station we saw the train leave to make its way to Scarborough. A few souls making the last journey of the day, I wondered how they could keep running it.  

We carried on and turned up to walk through the fields, feeding the horses at Cartwrights farm with some sugar lumps Dad had 'borrowed' from work. They stood with their heads over the fence letting us stroke their manes as we fed them the sugary treat. Joyce loved horses and riding. My experience was falling off the back of one of them on the moors, painful. We wandered on the path as it followed the dry stone wall, muddy in places from the rain of last week. 

"Lets go to Scarborough next weekend" Mum said, "might be the last good day before the winter". 

"You could do with some new shoes Tom," she added, "and Reg you could do with a new jacket" 

Dad and I did the eye turning up thing to each other, neither of us liked the idea of shopping. Still Scarborough was a bigger town than Whitby and it also meant an ice cream sundae at the Harbour Bar.  I might be able to have a nose through the book shop.  

We got to the road at the top and stopped taking in the view. A car was parked next to us down at the bottom. Only afterwards did I think it was odd.  

Four minutes … 

"Reckon you could do the four minute mile then Tom," Dad asked as usual. 

I smiled. 

"I can beat you to the car" I said. In reality it was only about five hundred years downhill but it felt like a mile at times, especially going the other way. 

"In your dreams son," he said taking off down the slope. 

"You're cheatin'," I shouted setting off in pursuit of his back. 

As we set off I noticed the car next to ours start up and come up the hill. It was black, some sort of Ford. There were two men in the front, both wearing hats. As it came nearer it started to accelerate.  

It passed us and my dad slowed. 

'Got him', I thought but then I heard a squeal of wheels. Passing dad I looked back and saw the car veering towards Mum, who was walking down the side of the road. 

To this day I can't remember if I heard a sickening crunch as the large car or imagined it. What I did see was it scooping my mother up from her feet and over the side of the car. People talk about seeing accident victims as ragdolls, the way they seem to move in weird directions. Mum didn't look like that. She was a human being, made of skin, bones and blood not some doll made of cloth and straw. Her body wasn't designed to be thrown recklessly.  

In my mind I saw her take ages to catapult over the side and land on the grass at the side of the road. The car never stopped and carried on over the hill.  

"Nooooo" Dad yelled as he ran back up towards her.  

I followed with all my might, but this was a race I wanted Dad to win. It took us less than a minute to cover those yards. 

Mum was laid on the ground, her legs at impossible angles. Her tights were torn and I thought I could see white bone under the seeping blood. Looking back makes me feel sick at the sight, but at the time I felt detached not noticing. Her face was pale, against the green grass, blood ran down from her nose. Her eyes were closed yet fluttered openly slightly.  

"It'll be OK pet," dad said stroking her hair, "it'll be OK". 

"Mum", I said crouched by the side of her. Her body winced as I touched her hand wanting to reassure her. I pulled back afraid to hurt her more but wanting to make some contact. 

"Oh it's so cold" mum said her eyes fluttering open and closed again. 

"It'll be OK pet", dad said again, "get help Tom". 

I stood up and looked around. It wasn't the busiest place. A couple of cows in the field opposite were looking uninterested through the gate. 

"HELP" I yelled at the top of my voice. 

"HELP, HELP, HELP" I yelled in desperation. 

A horse turned its head at Cartwright's farm, it's ears pricked up. Nothing else.  

"HELP, HELP, HELP" I emptied my breath into those screams, feeling the first tears of desperation run down my cheeks. It was a terrible feeling of not being able to do anything. 

"It's OK son," dad says. 

"It's getting dark early" mum muttered. 

I knelt down again.  

I could hear her laboured breathing now.  

A ruttling in the throat. 

Then it stopped. 

The silence was killing.  

Literally...  

I knew instantly that she'd stopped breathing.  

"Flo..." Dad started shaking her limp body lightly.  

There was no reaction, no wincing on mums face. The wounds on her legs had stopped bleeding as well.  

There's no way to describe how it feels to see the life flow out of someone. Alive and responsive one minute, then in a split second there's nothing there. The body just an empty vessel, no life there. Its an unbelievable feeling. It was mum laid there as if she was asleep but she wasn't there any longer. 

Four minutes … 

That was all it had taken since the car had hit her. 

Four minutes … 

A nightmare happening in front of me. 

In my dreams at this point I see it as if from a helicopter hovering overhead slowly pulling away. I never see the aftermath, when Cartwright came over. The ambulance. The police.  

All a blur.  

I just wake up screaming, crying. 

Four minutes is all it took. 

Four minutes that changed my world more than any nuclear bomb ever could. 

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