The Ballad of Gerry Clifford: Another Day in Purgatory

Submitted for Contest #84 in response to: Start your story with a character struggling to remember the date, because every day is like the last one.... view prompt

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Mar 10, 2021

Speculative Fantasy Friendship

Another Day in Purgatory

Ida’s Vampire

“Help me! Oh, for God’s sake, somebody help me! There’s a vampire in my room!”

It was 4:15 in the morning, and up until that moment, things had been quiet at Candlelight Ridge Care Center. Night nurse Ace Murray, who had dozed while working on his never-ending charting, snapped to attention, banging his knee on the desk as he jerked awake. Security guard Thomas Octavian, who had ducked into the day room for “a wee kip” before starting his last set of rounds, came to with a snort from his uncomfortable position on a loveseat that was far too small to properly support a man with the build of a Sumo wrestler.

Thomas groaned as he wiped drool from the side of his mouth. He grabbed a sip of water, pulled his long, brown hair back in a ponytail, and hurried to see what the fuss was about.

A birdlike woman with wild jet-black hair stood in the hallway, screaming. Ace gently touched her arm.

“Here now, Ida, what’s it all about?” he inquired.

“There’s a bloody vampire in my room, young fellow!” Ida insisted. “Ooh, I’m not sure that even a big, strong policeman like this chap will be able to help us.”

“’Course I can, Mum,” Thomas insisted. “I always keep a wooden stake handy in case of vampires.”

“Well, I don’t think a wooden stake will help you with this vampire. It’s made of Christmas lights!”

“That certainly is unusual,” Ace agreed. “I suppose we’ll have to use magic rather than wooden stakes. You wait in the hall for just a moment, Ida. Tom and I will pop in and survey the situation.”

In the room, Thomas took what appeared to be a red marble from his pocket. Ace intoned arcane words and waved his hand. A group of symbols in the shape of an arch became visible on the ceiling. The marble glowed, revealing the image of a cluster of lights emerging through the gate.

“She wasn’t imagining things,” Ace said. “Let me call Casey down here. He can keep Ida calm whilst we seal off this gate.”

“Mate, yer the one with the calming demeanor,” Thomas countered. “Casey’s a 58-year-old eager beaver. He’ll want to be part of the cleanup work. Let him help me slap a psychic band-aid on the situation while you mellow Ida out and get to work on your incident report.”

“Yeah, when yer right, yer right,” Ace agreed. “C’mon, Ida, what do you say we go have a cuppa?”

Yellow Moon

Ida’s neighbor Gerry Clifford lay on his bed on top of the covers in a semi-fetal position. Clad in a white t-shirt with loose-fitting sweatpants the tiny man shivered as a chill passed through the room. The clouds parted, and the waxing gibbous moon shone through the window onto the calendar near Gerry’s bed.

“Maybe it’s the moon and maybe it’s ghost light,” Gerry mused. “Don’t think it matters much anymore. Them blighters are gonna get Ida and one of these nights they’re gonna get me. I’ve gotta keep it together, not go out without a fight. Today’s a special day but I don’t remember why. Every day is pretty much the same when yer brain goes to shite. Oi, that’s the moon, innit? Blue moon out my window, except it ain’t a blue moon, it’s yellow.”

“Papa Gerry, you all right? You want me to turn on the light?”

A slender young man with dark, wavy hair appeared on the doorway. Gerry wondered for a moment if the man was his son, but he supposed that his son wouldn’t refer to him by his name. He surmised that the fellow might be one of his many grand-nephews or even a great-grandnephew, or some sort of cousin.

“Nah, Sunny, it’s too soon for the bright light like the sunlight. Let’s just have the moonlight.”

“Were you maybe talking to the moon? The moon, she’s a good lady.”

“I was remembering something from a song. It’s a song a mate of mine used to sing about the moon, but I don’t think he wrote it. It’s a song about a bad moon rising, but I don’t think this is a bad moon, I think this is maybe a good moon, ‘cause it shows me the calendar so I can remember the day. Trouble is, I don’t know the day. I know there’s a special day that I’m supposed to remember, but I don’t really remember it.”

“Well, let’s see. Tomorrow is your sister Lotus’ birthday and your brother Paul arranged to have a little party in the day room. Maybe that’s what you were wanting to remember.”

“Yeah, I’d want to remember that, Tony. I apologize if yer name ain’t Tony. You look a bit like yer name might be Tony, and yer Italian, right?”

“I am Italian. My name is Summanus, but you don’t need to remember that. Everyone calls me Sunny.”

“Well, maybe I can remember Sunny. Show me on the calendar which day is today.”

“Today is Monday.”

“So, tomorrow is Thursday, and that’s me sister Lola’s birthday.”

“Tomorrow is Tuesday. It’s your sister Lotus’ birthday. Someone drew a birthday cake in the square to help you remember.”

“Oh. A birthday cake. Well, I ought to be able to remember that. I might remember better if we didn’t have vampires coming in here and taking people’s brains out of their heads.”

Purple Nurple Nincompoops

At six o’ clock in the morning, the night and day shifts converged. Ace, Casey, Sunny, and Thomas, however, found themselves in a middle of another showdown as former character actor Charles Village ran out of his room stark naked but for the sheet that he had draped himself in. With his wispy, shoulder-length white hair and long limbs, the tall, raw-boned fellow resembled a scarecrow run amok. He grabbed an end table from the lounge and smashed it against the wall.

“Hail Caesar!” Charles shrieked. “Hail bloody Caesar! Beware the fuckin’ ides of March, ye cunts!”

At that moment, Gerry Clifford emerged from his room, in search of a cup of coffee and a scone. His expression changed from determination to horror as Charles ran past. A moment later, day nurse Lorenzo Garland appeared, pushing his med cart, which he parked near Gerry’s door.

Lorenzo was a pleasant fellow in his early forties. He was accompanied by one of the day shift orderlies, a tall young black man named Genghis Bell, to whom he was giving a general report. Genghis patted Lorenzo’s shoulder and hurried off to help the others subdue the marauding Charles Village.

“Gerry! The very chap I wanted to see,” Lorenzo greeted.

“Did you see that bloke?” Gerry demanded.

“Yeah. Charles is a wee bit upset this morning.”

“Well, you would be too if the Christmas Vampire was tryin’ to eat yer brain!”

“I…I reckon I would,” Lorenzo agreed. “But the lads will make sure that Charles is safe, and no Christmas vampires can eat his brain.”

“Bollocks! You purple nurple nincompoops refuse to listen to me! I keep trying to tell you about the fuckery that comes in here at night and eats people’s heads, but you bloody well just sod off the crazy bastard who’s brain is becoming a boiled cauliflower!”

“Well, I can come talk to you about it in a bit, Gerry. I promise I’ll listen. But for the mo, could I get you to take these pills?”

“I didn’t come out here for pills, did I? I just want a fuckin’ scone and coffee, but you bastards are tryin’ to get me stoned! You’re part of the fuckin’ conspiracy, and I won’t take your poison! What the bleedin’ hell kind of hotel is this anyway? Who the fuck put me here? It was that witch, Yadira, innit? Her father bloody well owns this place, he owns you, and I won’t take your bloody pills!”

“Hey, Gerry, it’s all right.”

A diminutive young man with glossy black hair, a pale complexion, and striking ice-blue eyes approached carrying a cup of coffee and a plate with a scone. He nudged his elbow against Lorenzo’s arm.

Misaligning Multitaskers

“I’m afraid my co-worker have the wrong room,” the young chap said. “You know what it is in a spa. Too much to do and devoted worker becoming misaligning multitaskers. I’ve a nice snack for you here. You want something more, maybe some eggs?”

“Thank you, Danyil,” Lorenzo said. “Sorry, Gerry, my mistake. The medications are for the room next door.”

“Oh, well that makes sense. The Christmas Vampire came into her room last night too, but it couldn’t get her ‘cause Frank and Eddie cast a spell. No worries, Mate. Oi, listen, young chap, why don’t you step in ‘ere a mo and I’ll find you a tip. I ain’t sure where I put me wallet. Me memory’s for shite these days. Now, what did you say your name was?”

“I’m Danyil, Mr. Clifford. Danyil Zosimus Róbertsson.”

“Oh, splendid! I’ve a son named Daniel. Now, you’re from Sweden, innit?”

“Born in Ukraine, actually, although my father is Norwegian.”

“Oh. I must be thinking of that tall, blond bloke. Don’t see how I could have confused the two of you, seeing as yer short and dark-haired, like me, though I suppose me hair is more gray than brown these days. Now, me son, Danny, this is him here in this picture. Me sister made this board fer me with the pictures and everyone’s names. That’s him here. D-A-N. He has dark blond hair, like me brothers Davy and Paul.”

“Well, I am proud if you think I look like you, Mr. Clifford.”

“Now, there’s no need to call me Mr. Clifford, ya silly sausage, seein’ as yer blood and all. It’s Uncle Gerry. Never a need for formality in this house. I think yer Uncle Paulie is supposed to come by later and we can get out of this place. I know it’s a top-notch spa and all, but I ain’t keen on it. This place is lousy with gates.”

“Not to worry, Uncle. I come by to check you later.”

“Well, I look forward to it, Mate. We can have a cuppa. I’ll see you then.”

Danyil emerged into the hallway to see Lorenzo talking to Genghis.

“Oi, it’s the man of the hour!” Genghis greeted.

“Why?” Danyil asked.

“’Cause you saved Lolo’s bacon from the wrath of Gerry. Little firecracker packs a 25-megaton wallop. C’mon, if we double-team the rest of our lot, we can get rounds done faster.”

“There’s a bad moon on the rise, Lads,” Lorenzo cautioned. “It ain’t even a full moon yet, and the crew’s already doolally. It’s gonna be a rough week.”

“It’s bad juju in this joint,” Genghis agreed. “I’ll have to ask me nan to make a special gris-gris bag. We’ll get these energies wrangled, Lolo, no worries.”

Creases and Curves

Reasoning that Gerry might respond better to a woman offering him his medication, Lorenzo dispatched Genghis’ aunt Erica Bell to give Gerry his pills. Gerry, however, would have none of it.

“No offense to you, Love, and I’m sorry they put this on you,” Gerry said. “You’re very lovely and all, but I ain’t the sort of bloke to be taken in by creases and curves. I made a vow, and I take that shite serious. So, you just go and tell Yadira or Nyarlathotep or whatever high priest or priestess sent you that Gerry Clifford ain’t one of them party fanatics banging out a dish. Do we understand each other, then?”

“Yeah, ‘course,” Erica replied. “I didn’t mean to upset you, Gerry. I’m awfully sorry.”

“No worries, Darlin’, don’t take it personal. I don’t think you’re Lucretia MacEvil or nothin’. Yer just doin’ yer job. It’s simply that Gerry Clifford ain’t one of them chaps to chase the ladies although he’s married. Notchin’ up the bedpost only ends up with puffy-eyed pixies in a smattering of smoke. It don’t do nobody a bit of good from my point of view.”

“You’ll get no argument from me, Mate,” Erica agreed. “Yer a dear chap. Give us a hug, then, and I’ll be off.”

“Yer welcome to stop by anytime fer a cuppa. Everyone at this hotel has been lovely. It’s too bad about the bleedin’ vampires and shite from the dark past creepin’ through gates at all hours. Probably be a fine establishment if it wasn’t for the monsters wantin’ ter eat folks’ heads.”

“If you’d not been a musician, you’d have made bank as a horror writer,” Erica chuckled as Gerry embraced her and gave her a peck on the cheek. “Give that Stephen King chap a run for his money, you would. I’ll pop ‘round later. You just relax and have your coffee.”

Pandemonium and Persuasions

At ten minutes past eight, Ace was well past ready for his too-long shift to be over. He hustled out of Charles Village's room, flipped off Thomas, who was pretending to glare impatiently at his watch, and hurried to the nurse’s station.

"Sorry to be hours late for report," Ace apologized to Lorenzo Garland. "As you know, everything went bollocks at a quarter past four, when Ida Lorenz came out in the hall and turned it up to eleven as she announced in a blood-curdling falsetto screech that there was a brightly glowing vampire made from Christmas lights in her room. Set off a right chain reaction of lunacy."

"Yeah, so I gather," Lorenzo said. "I know you’re itching to blow this pop stand, but I’ve one last favor to ask." 

"Long as it don't involve stakin' light vampires, I'm game. Ain't gonna get outta here before noon the way it’s going. Oi, Tommy, ya might as well get an Uber. I’ll see you at home."

"Hold that thought, Tom," Lorenzo said. "You might be able to help with this, seein' as you're one of this particular troublemaker’s card playing chums."

"Our boy Gerry's misbehavin'?" Thomas asked. 

"Refusing to take his meds," Lorenzo replied. "I tried, and Erica tried, but he'll have nothing to do with it. I know that even in his state of mind he has the right to refuse, but it's important to him to be kind to his helpers. If you could have a crack at getting him to take the trazodone at least, I'd be extremely grateful."

"Sure, we can do it," Ace agreed. "C'mon, Tommy, let's see if we can get a line on what's happening in Gerry's world."

A high-strung Gerry greeted Ace and Thomas as they entered his room.

"Oh, hullo, Mates, I’m pleased to see ya. C'mon, you have to get me outta this feckin' insane asylum. They've got me locked up here, and they're tryin' to make me take drugs, but I don’t wanna do that shit no more."

"Yeah, I understand, Gerry," Ace said gently. "But we aren’t trying to get you high. These pills are medicine meant to help you feel better."

"Well, they make me feel bloody terrible," Gerry expounded. "When I take 'em, all's I wanna do is lie in bed. I ain't expectin' to lift barbells like the strong man, but I don't wanna end up with bed sores neither. That's what you call them worn-down spots on the skin, innit?"

"Yeah, Gerry, it is," Ace said. "Now, I'm on your side with this. Maybe we can make a compromise. I'll take these ten away, but you oughta take this one. Can you do that?"

"Why?" Gerry asked suspiciously.

Alleviating the Ache

"Because, Mate, if you don't take it, you kick everyone's arse," Thomas said bluntly. "The folks that work here like you, but when you get agitated, you make things tough for them."

"I act bad?" Gerry asked.

"Not bad," Ace corrected. "But it's hard to get through to you, 'cause the thoughts goin' through your mind is makin' you feel queer."

"Oi! You sayin' I've been makin' a play fer the lads?"

"No, not that," Thomas countered, turning away to stifle his laughter. "He means you're extremely strong, and when you feel threatened, you get feisty. You don't wanna do that, right?"

"No," Gerry conceded. "Just this one pill, you say?"

"Yeah, Mate, just the one," Ace confirmed.

"Well, all right, for you lads. I trust you. Anyways, I need something fer alleviatin’ the ache in me back. I can't say where I know you from, but I know you're all right. Say, do you think you can come by later and we can get outta here?"

"We'll be by around midnight," Ace promised.

"Do you think you can keep that Yadira witch outta my room?" Gerry asked. "She's been snatchin’ the souls of folks in this place, you know. She means to have mine."

"Gerry, do you think you'd mind havin' guests for breakfast?" Ace inquired.

"Well, I ain't really prepared," Gerry replied, glancing nervously about the room. "Oi, I'm embarrassed to tell you, but I ain't exactly sure where the stove is."

"It's all right, you ain't gotta cook, we'll provide the food," Thomas said. “You just eat.”

"I can do that. I might be a skinny blighter, but I've a big appetite. Who’s comin' to this party?"

"It's just gonna be the three of us," Ace replied. "Tommy, you grab our trays. I'll go get me paperwork, and we're gonna figure out what to do next. Does that sound all right?”

“Sounds like a fine plan to me,” Gerry agreed. “This hotel is utterly bollocks, but I’m glad to have met you fellows.”

Acknowledgments

Written for https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/ using the Start your story with a character struggling to remember the date, because every day is like the last one prompt.

Also utilized prompts from http://puttingmyfeetinthedirt.com

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