01 Feb My Grandmother’s Experience with a Man from an Alternate Universe
When I graduated as a nurse, my nan Dolly said it was the proudest day of her life. She was a nurse throughout the 70s and 80s and, as my idol, I followed in her caring footsteps. During my night shift periods, my nan would make me a ton of prep meals so I never went hungry. And, as she usually got up at six, she would pick me up and treat me to breakfast/dinner. It was during our breakfast/dinners we would swap nurse stories. The worse things we saw ‘accidentally’ up someone’s bum, times we outsmarted the smarmy A&E doctors, funniest thing a kid stuffed up their nose – the usual activities of a nurse.
I’m not sure what prompted her to tell me this particular story, but it was during a lovely summer morning and we had decided to go to the local cafe we frequented for Full English breakfasts.
“I can’t believe I never told you before,” Nan shook her head and sipped a latte. “I know I’m losing it but you can’t be – sure I’ve never mentioned it?”
“I’m sure!” I laughed. “So what happened?”
“One of my patients was from a different planet.” She said, so matter-of-factually I thought I heard her wrong at first.
“One of my patients,” She spoke slowly. “Was from a different planet. Or world. Or something.”
“Was he small? and called Martin?” I joked. “Did he have a little ray-gun?”
My nan was laughing, but she shook her head.
“No no. He was human. Just from a different world.”
I took the bait. I had to know what she was on about. I will write this out from her perspective for ease.
I was on night shift myself, working at Fazakerley Hospital in Aintree at the time. It was 5th February 1983, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget that because it was insanely cold. We had just had a bad snow storm so there was a number of weather related incidents coming in. Car skidding on ice, tongues stuck to poles, frost bite. It was quiet so I was just doing my rounds in the A&E when we got a call on the red phone rung. An ambulance was 5 minutes away. The patient has 3rd degree burns that were of ‘unrecognisable origin’. The nurse who picked up this phone had a look on her face when she announced it. As did I once I heard it – I had never heard ‘unrecognisable origin’ before, and didn’t know what it meant. The nurses asked around if anyone knew, but not one of us had heard it before – even the senior nurses were clueless.
The ambulance arrived and the stretcher was rushed through the A&E so fast I barely got a glimpse of it. I followed along and they took him straight into emergency surgery and that is when we all get a look of him.
He right side was, and this is using the best word I can think of, fried. The skin was crisp, blackened, and falling off with the smallest touch. A nurse leaned over him to cut the rest of his partly-burnt trousers off and a chunk of flesh came off with them. It fell onto the floor with a thump. I expected a wet squish, but it was burnt so badly it was like a piece of concrete.
My job was to get an endotracheal tube into him. Being so up close to his face was horrible. He was wide awake. His right eye was partially sealed shut due to the eyelid skin burning and fusing back to his cheek, while his left eye shot around in a panic. He couldn’t see anything though, because his cornea had been burnt out. I tried to soothe him but it was useless. He had basically returned to a primeval state of “I wanna live!” and was just yelping and weeping. Once the tube was in I stayed and pet his forehead – on the left side that wasn’t too bad – and cooed to him. My hand was ripped away from him and I was dragged away by our senior nurse who was trying to get every nurse out of the room.
“Get out now and go into the chemical shower room. Now.” She wouldn’t answer any of our questions so we all just hurried to the showers. But then we were told to take iodine tablets. This set us into a panic. Iodine tablets are used to help quell the effects of radiation poisoning.
At the time, the Cold War was at it’s height and the fear of a Nuclear War was VERY real. Having something like this meant one thing, it wasn’t imminent it was happening.
Once we were all clean and had taken our tablets we were sent to the staff room for an announcement from the senior nurse. She told us we are not in a nuclear war, and the police will be arriving the next day to question the man over how he became irradiated as he had been sedated for pain. As I was on night shift, my rounds would include checking in on him. I had strict rules to not touch him without the gloves I would be provided with.
He was awake when I went in. The burnt skin was mostly removed and bandaged. His blind eye just moved about hoping to see something. I walked in with my tray and his eye looked over to my direction.
“Hello,” I said quietly. “I’m Dolly. I’m on my rounds, here to give you some more painkillers. Maybe a sedative if you like to sleep more.”
“…Where am I?” He mumbled. His lips weren’t as bad as the rest of his face, but they were blackened and split.
“Fazakerley Hospital. In Aintree.”
He shifted and let out a cry in pain.
“…What?” He asked with a gasp for breath.
“Liverpool my love. North West of England.” I didn’t know what to say.
This went on for a while. He had no clue where Liverpool was and how he got here. He seemed genuine too.
“What happened to you?” I finally asked after the back and forth.
“… I was at HMNB Clydesmouth… We were… Were brought there… For… For extra training.” He wheezed out.
“Y’know… Near Brookingham.”
I thought, He’s delusional from pain, these places don’t even exist, but he continued.
“While we were in the gymnasium… These sirens… They went off and everyone panicked,” He swallowed deep with a wince. “Even the sergeants ran off.”
“When? When did this happen?”
“Yesterday. How… How aren’t you hurt?”
“Because… Because I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“The fucking yankies!” He spat out, anger and pain mixed into one. “Those bastards… They weren’t bluffing.” He writhed in agony so I began to administer some pain relief. He wept softly as the needle pierced his dying flesh.
“The American’s attacked us? I haven’t heard anything about it.” I know it sounds silly but what else am I meant to say!
“They nuked us.” He growled through gritted teeth. “How can… You not know!”
“I’m sorry… I think you’re confused.”
His blind eye turned straight at me and burrowed what was left of his brow, and even now I hope it was simply a coincidence because he definitely could not see me.
“We thought they were bluffing. Even King Henry released… A message to the country… Telling us not… Not to believe their lies.”
King Henry!? I thought, now so much more confused, and a lot more frightened. Each word he spoke seemed like he was telling the truth. Why wouldn’t he? With that being said, he was dying from Acute Radiation Syndrome. He had the same symptoms as victims from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. There was no possible way he could get it otherwise. But the places he said, ‘Brookingham’ and ‘HMNB Clydesmouth’ – they don’t exist. At least not in Britain.
This crippled, weak, dying man was no threat to me but I felt like something was wrong with him being here. Like he wasn’t meant to be in this reality I suppose. I do remember shaking as I left the room once I sedated him. Not because he needed it, but I just couldn’t handle listening to him any more. I had to change my clothes, having another shower, and give all the stuff I wore to the porters to get rid of safely. I told a fellow nurse to continue my rounds, and went home. Straight to bed. When I woke up, I asked your granddad whether the hospital rang and he said now. By the time my next shift started, the burnt man was gone.
The room had been stripped and sterilized and boarded up for ‘police investigation’. According to the senior nurse he died about 3 hours after I left, the police came and took his remains, and we were all given NDA. All the staff in the room when he was brought in were tested for radiation a few times for about a year after but there wasn’t a trace more than normal.
The only time we spoke about ‘the burnt man’ was in secret with one another. No one knew except about 10 of us. Over time it faded away. It was only brought up once when that Chernobyl thing happened, but it all went quiet again pretty fast.
I sat, mouth open, without the ability to speak when my nan stopped talking.
“I told your granddad. He said it might have been someone from a different reality, sent here from the Nuclear blast that he experienced.”
I didn’t know what was more weird, the entire story, or the fact my nan and granddad seemed to be totally fine with all of it.