Humans is powered by Vocal.
Vocal is a platform that provides storytelling tools and engaged communities for writers, musicians, filmmakers, podcasters, and other creators to get discovered and fund their creativity.
How does Vocal work?
Creators share their stories on Vocal’s communities. In return, creators earn money when they are tipped and when their stories are read.
How do I join Vocal?
Vocal welcomes creators of all shapes and sizes. Join for free and start creating.
To learn more about Vocal, visit our resources.Show less
Shivering to the bone. Itching all over till I bleed. This must be the end. There’s got to be an end to this vomiting. Yawning, I fall back on the bed. Todd sits me up and brushes a cold glass against my mouth.
“Bobby, you’ve got to drink some water!”
Mrs Patrick calmly sips her tea in the corner of the room. “He’s been in and out the toilet a lot hasn’t he?”
Todd turns his head at Mrs Patrick’s direction. “Granny, you haven’t given Bobby anything have you?”
“I made him a cup of tea earlier.”
Todd gasps. There’s a whole tray of assorted teas on the table. “Which one?”
Mrs Patrick takes a box from her handbag. “These ones. They were only a euro: 20 teabags as well. I got one for your auntie Maxine as well.” She stops talking and puts the box bag. “Is there... something wrong?”
“If he carries on like this, we’ll have to take him to the hospital.”
I shake my head. “No. Not there. Anywhere but there.”
“Ring the ambulance, Granny.”
Mrs Patrick shakes her head and leans over towards Todd. “He doesn’t want to go to the hospital.” I snatch the glass from Todd’s hand and drink the water. She’s pointing at me. “He’ll be fine. Just keep giving him water and he’ll be fine.”
“He might spit it out the moment I turn my head.”
“The hospital won’t do anything,” Mrs Patrick said as she stands up as if she’s getting ready to leave. “He’s just had too many hash cakes and alcohol. Give it a few hours and it will pass.”
“Nan, where are you going?”
“I’m going to wait downstairs for your dad.”
By the time I’m over my sickness, it’s already the afternoon. Todd’s dad takes his mum back to the airport and Todd stays. I wish he could just leave, I might be able to succeed without him.
“How are you feeling Bobby?” he asks me with that irritating smile.
I sigh and lean against the window. We’ve been stuck in this room all day, but it’s all my fault. “Alive… ”
He bangs his thumbs against his phone. “That’s good.”
I shake my head, punching the window. The glass bounces my fist back to me. What a freezing pain. “No it’s not.”
Todd shrugs his shoulders, raises his eyebrow at me, then slips the phone back into his pocket. “Why not?”
“You know why! I’m a man who wants to die. Last night I did get a sudden urge to live to help you rescue your grandma, but that was yesterday. Today is different.” Did he really just expect me to stop feeling like this for saving his nan?
Todd sits next to me watching the views of Amsterdam with me. “You’re young.”
I look away from him. “You’re younger than me.”
“You’re still young.” He takes another phone from his pocket. It only occurred to me now that his pockets were fuller then they were last night. It’s my phone that he’s taken out. It’s not as fancy as his golden iPhone, it’s just an old blackberry that I’ve kept for years. I know, I’m not ahead of the times. Todd opens his mouth again, but nothing comes out. He stutters and then gets his words out, “You should listen to your grandfather; you need to go outside.”
My eyes widen as I jump of the ledge. My voice strains. “Have you been going through my phone?”
Todd makes it no secret. “Yes, and I told Kathleen and she’s rang your grandad.”
Oh god. Granddad is the last person I want to talk to right now. “You bastard!” I hiss.
He takes no notice of my anger. “Grandpa will want to have words with you tomorrow.”
I shrug my shoulders and laugh in his face. “I might not be here tomorrow.”
“You will be.” He charges closer towards me and grabs the corner of my shirt. “I’m going to make sure you live.”
I curl up to the corner. My back rubs against the wall and burns through my skin. “Please just leave me alone.”
“NO! I’m doing this for your own good…and for Kathleen.”
“You’re doing it all in vain!”
“Maybe.” Todd’s smiling. Why is he so happy? Does he love making me suffer. “But you’ve got to think about this. I love your sister. She means everything to me. That’s why I’m doing this. And I’ll prove you wrong. She’s still out there—alive and well.”
“It’s not Kathleen you’re talking to.”
“You’re wrong, she’s still alive. I’ve seen her online.”
“It’s very easy to fake things online.”
“Ten years is too long.”
I ran to the bathroom and began to choke. I think I might be sick again. Nothing is coming out.
I lift my head and see myself in the mirror. Where my head should be is a horse’s head. I can’t do this anymore. I blink and now I’m fish. Another blink, I’m an onion. What’s going on? Holding back screams, I grit my teeth and storm out of the hotel. Todd’s following me, but I don’t care anymore, he can do what he wants.
The broad daylight is overbearing. I bump into so many on-going human traffic. I don’t know where I’m going. My body’s just taking me to this bridge.
Todd pulls me back off the road. The engines roar as they zoom by.
“What are you thinking?” Todd screams at me. “You’ve gone batshit crazy.”
“Excuse me, stalker.”
“I’m sorry Bobby, but you’ve got to help me.”
I keep running. “I can’t help you.”
“Yes, you can.” He drags me by the collar and takes me down a flock of steps facing the river. “We’ll talk about it on that boat.”
“I haven’t got any money,” I admit. “I spent it last night.”
“It’s okay, my dad’s given me some money.”
He whispers in my ear, “Two-thousand euros.”
“That’s a lot for one weekend.”
“Hush, don’t want to attract any thieves. He walks up to the person b the boat. “Two adults please.” The guy tells him how much it is and gives Todd some change. He looks at me again. “Stop looking so sullen and serious all the time. Get on that boat.”
I don’t resist. I walked on the boat Todd followed me into the back.
“Not bad,” Todd says to himself. “Good enough for Amsterdam.” He sits in front of me. “So I was thinking, maybe you can rake me to Kathleen. I know you two haven’t spoken to a long time, but…”
“I told you this already,” I snap. “She’s gone…”
“If she’s dead, how can she still be talking to me?”
Who is this person pretending to be my sister? And why is she or he doing it? It seems his family is well off, could the person be after his money? If so, we must have some sort of mutual acquaintances.
“You win,” I say. “I’ll try and help, but I won’t be any good.”
“You’ll do great.”
The boat goes round the city. It’s meant to be Amsterdam Gentlemen’s boat cruise. Todd downs down every drink the hostess offers him, even flirts with them a little. I’m still on my first glass, but that will do for me.
I peer at the flowers by the windmill. “My grandpa would love this boat,” I say it out of the blue. The tulips makes me think of the time where he covered grandma’s grave with tulips.
Todd’s got the hiccups. “S-so where’s Kath-Kathleen?”
“In the cemetery.”
“Don’t play that trick with me.”
“I’m not playing.”
“You know I hate cemeteries.”
“We need to go through all the possibilities.”
He doesn’t understand that she’s dead. I need to do approach this from another angle. “If... it isn’t my sister, then we have to find out who it is.”
“I’m sure it’s her.”
“If it’s not Kathleen, then it has to be something who knows me very well. But this person might know you, maybe.”
Todd sighs. “You really need to think more positive.”
“Given the state that I’m in, can you blame me?”
“I guess you’re right.” He frowns. “I was stupid to say that.”
“Can you name ten facts about my sister?” I demand. I wonder how well this person behind the screen can impersonate Kathleen.
“I can name Eleven.” His voice is dripping in confidence.
I lean back against the chair. “Go on then.”
“1. She’s a vegan.
2. Her birthday’s the 5th June.
3. She used to be a foster parent before she fell ill.
4. She got an A* in all her GCSEs
5. She was a beloved student and aced her exams.
6. She loves animals.
7. She loves fish, but she won’t eat them.
8. She’s allergic to dairy.
9. Her dream job is a zookeeper.
10. She has cancer.
11. She wears heart shaped glasses.”
He’s right. It narrows down the suspects to some close friends. “You’re missing out one important thing,” I tell him. “They’re all right though.”
“But you do believe in me right?”
I roll my eyes. It still doesn’t change what happened ten years ago. “She’s a lesbian.”
“I’ve never known her to date guys.”
“So, I’m the first guy she’s dated?” Todd chuckles. “That’s very cool.”
“I have some suspects.”
“So what are these suspects then? God, you make it sound like a major crime scene has taken place.”
Somebody impersonating the dead. I’m pretty sure that’s a serious crime in itself: FRAUD!
“There’s Ruth, Sarah, Bethany, Georgina, Simon and Peter.”
“I think I remember Ruth, Simon and Peter being mentioned,” Todd admits. “I don’t know who the others are though.”
I go through all the names with him. “There’s some of her friends from school, college and work. Her best friend from school, but I can’t remember her name. Then there’s Sarah, my ex-wife. Bethany runs the boutique Beth’s Beauty, where Kathleen was a regular customer. Georgina was one of Kathleen’s drinking pal but they fell out after Grandpa tried to touch her arse. Simon and Peter were the boys that Ruth and Kathleen fostered together.” Then I remembered Annie. “There’s also my cousin, Annie Cross. She’s catfished people before—where funds her habits.”
“Sounds like we’ve got a lot of work to do. Let me come home with you. When you meet Ruth, I want to be there with you.”
My head never shook so hard. “I don’t think that will be a good idea.” Ruth and Todd’s personalities will only clash like wind and fire. “I should go alone. I think she’d be upset if she saw you.”
“I get it. Looks like we’ll have an early start in the morning. Where do you live?”
“Newark. It’s close to Nottingham.”
All I want from all of this is closure. I won’t be able to rest until I know what’s going on with this online profile. Kathleen’s dead – there’s no way she can come back.
Flashback: Living a Lie
I remember the time when life felt wonderful. My sister and I took our ladies to Castle Cuisine Restaurant. It was one of Kathleen’s favourite places to eat. Sarah pinched all my onion bhajis, so Kathleen gave me one of hers. She’s always been sweet like that.
Sarah and I were expecting our second child. I never thought in my life that I would ever become a father. Becoming a father was one of the proudest moments of my life, even when it meant giving up my dream of becoming a priest.
Kathleen was excited. She couldn’t wait to be an auntie again.
Our first child was an accident. We were drunk and had a one-night-stand. Knowing that my fellow brothers would threaten me with eternal damnation for my sins, I proposed to her. I never thought she would say yes.
Still to this day, my mentor’s words still echo in the back of my mind. “You’ll be back. I know you will.”
Back then, Father North’s words didn’t mean anything to me. I remember walking home with Sarah after our delicious meal thinking that life could only get better. I was wrong—so wrong.
Because the next day, I found another man sleeping in my bed. We always argued about petty little things, but after Harmony was born, things only got worse.
I wonder if it was God’s revenge—punishing me for not joining his army. The woman I married was a serial cheat and the daughters I loved: Peace and Harmony were not mine.