I take a different route to Lyme House. Across the main coastal road and down a tree-lined lane with a spring breeze and the smell of sun. Another crossing. Past an arty bookstore and a café-restaurant with umbrella-type covering. Bungalows and cottages and a village-like church with a water well. Broken twigs and pebbles and stones. Fields going further inland. This part of the town isn't bad at all, if you can forget the rest of the area.
I reach the private driveway leading down to Lyme House. It's a five or ten minute walk with tall hedges and trees on both sides. Stillness, the type you get in ancient woods. Trees everywhere. The scent of bark and acorns. The temperature dips. I can no longer see the sun. The long driveway shows no sign of ending. Finally, I come to the old car park.
Lyme House, an empty graveyard. I approach the old House.
Two fires a decade apart.
You can see the damage from the second fire. Before, a muddy brown building stood here, rectangular, two storeys high. Now, the House lies in ruins, sealed off by wiring and metal railings. The landscaped gardens have gone, replaced by weeds and wild grass and a discarded tyre, along with a burnt-out engine by one of the water fountains.
Stop when I hear a branch snap.
A flicker of movement in the driveway.
Sounds, like those caused by a group of pigeons flying away. The flapping of wings. But no birds close by. Something like a dustbin overturning, although there are no dustbins here anymore.
A set of hands gripping me around the waist.
I can't see anymore. A knee lodges in my back, forcing my body into an awkward position. Now the person's bringing me down, and I'm falling.
Falling and falling and falling backwards, all in quick motion.
The ground, but I don't feel any pain.
Not until the person kicks me in the kidneys, and I roar in agony.
'I warned you, didn't I?' a bloke hisses in my ears. 'You're going to be sorry for this,' he goes on, pressing his foot against my spine. 'You could have walked away and gone back to London. Too late now for you.'
I brace myself for another kick in the kidneys, but the bloke places a cloth over my face.
And then, the smell from the cloth.
No way. Get if off my face, you nutter.
Sweet chemical smell, though unpleasant.
Worse than a kick in the kidneys.
Coughing. Lungs on fire. Feels like I'm puking up flames. Literally
I black out.
When I next open my eyes, I'm surrounded by thick fog and shadows and I can hear sounds like dripping water echoing through a vast space.