Prose

Number 78: Wilkinson’s Passport

18 April 2016

What remains of Kenneth Wilkinson’s diary was recovered from the charred remains of his Croydon apartment. It is believed he started the fire himself.

The diary entries themselves have been prized by academics as a clear insight into the delusional mind and the pressures of the modern working environment.

13 March 1956

Fairly uneventful, although the latest bit of paperwork is definitely curious. M. delivered the problem in question this afternoon – a passport. Belonged to some poor beggar they dredged up out of the Thames. Curious thing is, the whole passport’s in some foreign alphabet, which none of us can puzzle out. Goodness knows why I’ve got to deal with it but that’s the Home Office for you. At least it’s a change from the Iron Curtain.

In other news, sleeping pills not working. Trying to decide between an appointment with Dr Atwill or just staring at the ceiling. Both dull, but such is life.

17 March

Developments regarding the passport: M. came round to let me know nobody’s getting anywhere with identifying the previous owner, who’s probably starting to rot by now. The passport itself conforms too closely to protocol to be a fake, although the photo of the carrier is… well, you can’t tell whether it’s been damaged or whether some idiot thought a blur like that would pass for identification. Rather unsettling. The only clue we’ve got is the mystery language that the pages are printed and stamped in, so I’m driving down to Oxford tomorrow to see if any of their resident linguists have an answer.

Saw Dr Atwill this afternoon – he’s prescribed something stronger for the insomnia, so fingers crossed.

18 March

Borrowed M.’s car and went for a lovely drive – Oxford’s a lot nicer than Croydon in the spring. Arrived with my letter from the Department and this doddering old porter took me to meet with a Professor Tolkien. At first, the professor explained he might not be much help – expert in Old English, apparently – but after he started examining the passport he got interested. Found one stamp on a page near the back and declared it to be in the Gothic language – which dates back to the 4th Century. Said a lizard “dipped in ink” might as well have stamped the other pages but he did mention a colleague who might know more. I might need to borrow M.’s car again – this ‘colleague’ is being treated at Rainhill Mental Hospital.

Another sleepless night – so much for Atwill’s “something stronger” Thought I could hear something scratching at the window but when I went to look, there was nothing.

23 March

M. insisted on driving up with me to Rainhill and it was nice having the company, even if he keeps himself to himself. The hospital itself is a bleak place. Admitted to see Professor Van Ewald – Tolkien’s colleague – without incident. Like a crow, he was; dressed in rags and fingers stained with charcoal. He’d written all over the walls in letters like those in the passport. Thought we might have a proper lead but he wouldn’t speak to us – just pursed his lips and scratched at the wallpaper. Then – as we got up to go and M. left the room – he lunged at me and stuffed some notepaper in my hand. Gave me such a fright! I haven’t yet told M.

Night noises not helping me sleep. Can’t place them either. Not people, but still – voices? Crying out?

25 March

Hard to tell if Van Ewald is mad or not. The passport’s open on the desk with that blasted photo staring right through me. I can find the eyes in it now.

Van Ewald writes that they’ve been here before – explains the Gothic. This time they arrived like shadows, from their world, a knife-edge away from ours. Impossibly old, they have their own language, their own currency, their own documents – their own agenda. They have the whole country in their grip.

Can’t believe it, shouldn’t believe it, but as I lie awake in the dark, I can hear them.

Screeching.

28 March

Heard them again last night. They know I’ve got the passport and now they know that I know – they can feel it. Fear. Heard them outside the flat, in the street. Nobody else could.

I’m alone.

30 March

M. is one of them. Van Ewald knew, and now so do I. Heard it in his voice as he stood outside – “let mee iiin”. That’s why I got the passport – now he can get rid of me quietly. Who knows how many of them are up at Whitehall? Covered up the Thames case, they have.

They’ll do the same with me.

4 April

Screeching again. Don’t want to hear. Sometimes, the beating of wings. Why haven’t they come for me yet?

7 April

I don’t want to die.

I’ve got the passport don’t I? Can beat them at their own game.

Follows through worlds. They got here so I can get out.

Have to.

Screech, screech, always SCREECHING.

Blurs outside the windows.

Have to get out.

Have to use the passport.

Never laugh at live dragons.

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien


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