A Captain Scarlet story for Halloween
The receptionist smiled at the visitor and directed him to the common room area. He nodded in greeting and took the familiar route. Once there, he stood at the entrance to the room and looked around.
The lounge was furnished with an arrangement of comfortable sofas and single chairs. There were several coffee tables piled with magazines and newspapers, over in one corner was a coffee and tea maker, and beside that was a soft drink dispenser. Against the opposite wall was a large screen TV with the volume turned up and the subtitles on, for the benefit of any hard of hearing residents. Tucked behind the door was a dusty old upright piano, seldom played. A second doorway into a small room revealed several computers, and beyond that was a games room.
Sitting in one of the comfy single chairs was the person he had come to see. He waved and was rewarded by a smile and look of recognition.
“Hello,” said the visitor. “How are you today?”
“I’m fine, thank you. It’s nice to see you again, er…..”
“Never mind,” the visitor replied easily. “You’re looking well. What have you been doing today?”
“All sort of things,” the patient answered then fell silent.
“Such as?” His younger companion prompted him to continue.
“I can’t tell you,” he answered, looking worried for a minute. “It’s not allowed. It’s a secret – security.” His face cleared, “But I have been very busy, very busy indeed.” He carefully folded up one of the newspapers then looked expectantly at the visitor. “Is it dinner time yet?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I’ll ask if you like.”
The visitor turned around as a shadow fell across the coffee table. It was a nurse he had seen on previous occasions. He nodded an acknowledgement to her.
The nurse smiled. “It is good of you to call on him. He hasn’t had many visitors lately.” She turned towards the patient. “Do you know who this is?” she asked.
“N-no,” he replied puzzled. “Is he a doctor?” he asked.
She glanced sideways at the visitor. He gave her a wry smile and shrugged.
“It’s Mr Griffiths who’s come to see you,” she said clearly.
“Mr….Mr….Green!” his friend replied triumphantly.
“No,” said the nurse impatiently. “This is Mr Griffiths.”
“Seymour, please,” he corrected.
“I’m Nurse Carpenter - not that he’d remember,” she said.
Seymour Griffiths nodded gravely. “He asked if it was dinner time,” he added.
“Don’t you remember?” Rachael Carpenter reminded the patient. “You had lunch only an hour ago.”
“I did not,” he replied, looking around as if he expected a meal to arrive any minute. “I’m hungry,” he added crossly.
I’ll bring you something to eat soon, OK?” she answered.
“All right,” he replied. “Soon.”
“Life here tends to revolve around meals,” she explained ruefully.
Seymour nodded in understanding. Another awkward silence.
Nurse Carpenter tidied up the pile of magazines on the coffee table. After a quick glance at Griffiths, she asked the patient a question. “Do you know what day it is?”
“No,” he replied gruffly. “Do you?”
She tried again. “What have you been reading today?”
“Things,” he replied pointing vaguely in the direction of the newspapers and periodicals.
“Yes, but what things?” she pressed.
“I don’t know,” the patient answered sharply.
“Look, it doesn’t matter,” Seymour interjected.
“We try to keep their minds active,” she answered gently.
“I can’t tell you anyway,” said the patient crossly, guessing the comment concerned him. “It’s a secret. It’s all to do with work… when I was at work. You aren’t allowed to know. Security.” He fell silent again.
The nurse stared meaningfully at Griffiths. “May I speak with you privately?”
“Of course,” he replied. They walked over to near the drink dispenser. Seymour glanced back at the patient but he was watching the television screen. He had already forgotten about them.
“His condition is deteriorating,” Rachel Carpenter said bluntly. “He doesn’t remember who he is, let alone anyone else. He talks about going home all the time, but then he says his home is ‘in the clouds’ which doesn’t make sense. Last week he somehow managed to leave the centre and it was hours before he was found, because he had evidently lost the tracking device he is supposed to wear. We had to call the police. Apparently he needed to go home – or so he told them. We think it is time to move him into a more secure area. Of course a higher level of care will cost more.”
Seymour nodded. “I’ll speak to the fund managers. It shouldn’t be a problem.”
Nurse Carpenter’s face cleared. “That is excellent. I don’t mind admitting I have been very worried that he will get out again. This part of the facility is not set up for patients at his stage of the illness. We can’t watch him all the time. It is also possible that eventually he may need an increased level of assisted care. You understand?”
“Yes, I understand,” he replied sadly.
“In other respects he is a good patient,” she confided. “Most of the time he is very polite, a true gentleman. He likes to be among the other residents though they don’t talk to each other much, but that’s a sign of the disease, I’m afraid. It’s odd though. When he does talk, he will refer to angels for some reason….and colours. Green, like he called you, and blue and grey…and he doesn’t like black. And there are other colours he mentions sometimes – m-magentra and….”
“Magenta,” he corrected absently, reflecting that most of the people to whom those colours belonged wouldn’t be coming to visit him. The war had taken its toll. Black though...his fate was unknown.
Nurse Carpenter glanced at Seymour curiously, wondering why he looked even more sombre. “It’s probably nothing to worry about. As I said, most of the time he is fine. He has rather a commanding presence on occasions. Even some of the other patients seem to realise it. They call him ‘Sir’ and pretend he’s in charge. He doesn’t mind – in fact I think he likes it. Today isn’t one of this good days though.” she said pensively. “It is odd really; I thought he had worked for the World Government in some kind of administrative position?”
“So I believe,” Griffiths replied hastily, hoping she wouldn’t ask questions that he was not allowed to answer. Security, he thought ironically. “It doesn’t really matter now though, does it?”
“I suppose not,” she agreed. “Unfortunately he does get agitated sometimes, especially if we don’t understand what he is talking about. The things he says… Who is Captain Scarlet?”
Griffiths’ eyes widened. “Who?” he asked.
“Scarlet, Captain Scarlet,” she replied. “He’s mentioned the name a few times. I suppose it must be something to do with colours again.” She rolled her eyes.
Seymour Griffiths waited for her to say more, but she didn’t. It’s probably all old news to her… or she may be too young to remember, he realised. “Who do you suppose him to be?” he asked.
“Well,” she confessed, “he has talked to me about his childhood in England a couple of times. I think it’s a character in a book he read when he was young. Perhaps it was his favourite book. People in his condition often revert to their childhood. I mean, what he says doesn’t always make sense, and the stories he tells about this Scarlet – they couldn’t possibly be real.”
“I imagine not,” he agreed, suppressing a smile.
“It is such a pity,” she continued glancing back at her patient. “A true gentleman,” she repeated. “Whatever his life was before, he didn’t deserve to end up like this.”
Silently he agreed. What had gone wrong, he wondered. He should have been enjoying the results of a bloody but successful campaign to rid the world of the Mysterons once and for all. Seymour gestured for the nurse to follow him back to the patient. The conversation over, it was time to say goodbye.
Presenile dementia, the doctors diagnosed. They made that assumption based on carefully constructed and entirely false personal details provided about the patient… and his presumed age. But he was much older than he looked. Alzheimers was the true diagnosis. Not for the first time had Seymour Griffiths wondered what had happened to one of Spectrum’s finest officers, as he stared grimly at the outwardly contented but blank expression on Captain Scarlet’s face.
Alzheimers is an insidious illness. It destroys the mind by degrees. Hopefully by the timeframe the Captain Scarlet series is set in, a cure will have been found, though something to prevent it happening at all would be much better. Every day a new ‘scientific discovery’ is announced - a new cause of the disease, a new treatment, a potentially groundbreaking preventative….but alas we’re not there yet.
This story is in memory of my clever, funny and altogether wonderful father, who unfortunately did not escape its clutches. For my Dad - much loved and very much missed.
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