February 8, 2013
Dreams Of The Orange Grove

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            The sun beat down on Arun’s back, he could feel beads of perspiration trickle down his body. He put down the crate he was carrying and sat down under the shade of one of the orange trees. He reached over to the crate and his big hand grasped one of the oranges that he’d picked earlier. With the deft touch of a professional he peeled the skin off with ease. He picked out a small segment, its juices bursting on the back of his throat as he bit into it. He leaned back and basked in the gentle breeze that the orange tree provided. He closed his eyes as he bit into a second segment.

            “Wake the fuck up you lazy bastard!”

            Arun felt a kick in his side, he let out a groan as his eyes slowly opened.

            Grey drab curtains with a faded pattern hung over a single window with a broken pane. Arun lay on a mattress, a rough brown blanket covered his body. Around him were about twenty other mattresses, each with the same rough brown blanket strewn over them.

            Arun rolled over and looked up into the face of the man that had kicked him. Kahlid was Albanian, a face like a skull, sunken cheeks, his skin stretched to breaking point over his bones. A patchy stubbled beard tried unsuccessfully to hide old scars.

            “Always you Arun. Why you so lazy?”

            Arun kept silent, he’d seen what happened to people who answered back. He rolled off his mattress, turned his back on Kahlid as he put on his trainers.

            “We haven’t got all day.”

            Kahlid grabbed Arun by the scruff and dragged him outside before he’d had chance to put his trainers on properly.

            Arun didn’t complain.

            Outside, a beat up old transit van was waiting. Kahlid opened the door and pushed Arun inside, slamming the door behind him. A rancid stench filled Arun’s nostrils, a mixture of stale sweat, blood and urine. There were eight other men in the back of the van, Arun squeezed himself into a spot. Not one of them spoke. Not one of them even made eye contact.

            Arun wondered if any of them had an orange grove back home?

            His daydream wasn’t allowed to last long, the van trundled into motion, the men swaying with every bump. Some of them chatted quietly amongst themselves in languages that Arun didn’t understand. Their clothes were dishevelled, each had beanie hats pulled tight over their heads and thick stubble on their faces. All of them had hollow haunted eyes, as if their dreams had long since been betrayed.

            Arun stared at his feet, at his untied trainers, tried to imagine them trudging through the dried dust of the orange grove, tried to imagine the sun on his back, the same sun that had scorched the orange grove killing the crop forcing him to make the treacherous journey to this grey, cold, wet, hard country.

            The van stopped.

            All chatter stopped.

            The door creaked as it was violently pulled open, Kahlid’s cold face sneered at them. He pulled two of the men out by their shoulders. They stood solemnly as he barked orders at them. The van doors were slammed shut.

            Arun could see his mother waving goodbye, good luck charms, some cigarettes, even a little money had been shoved into his hand. It was over forty kilometres to the nearest town and the meeting place that had been arranged for him. His uncle had done the deal, he knew people. His mother had always called her brother the black sheep.

            Sometimes black sheep can have their uses.

            The van was nearly empty, just Arun and two smaller men were left.

            The van stopped again.

            Kahlid stood at the open door, Arun was sure he was smiling at him as his shoulder was grabbed, but with Kahlid it was always difficult to tell.

            It started to rain again, it always seemed to rain in this country.

            Kahlid pushed Arun in the back, moving him round a corner. They stood at the edge of a shopping arcade, Kahlid pointed towards some large wheelie bins. Arun looked at Kahlid.

            “You make me money, or I slit your mother’s throat.”

            He made a theatrical gesture across his throat.

            Arun walked towards the wheelie bins, pulled out a piece of cardboard and placed it on the ground before he sat on it, his back pressed against the wheelie bin.

            Kahlid threw a small rucksack at him.

            “Make me money.”

            Arun watched Kahlid walk away. He wished he had the bravery to slit his throat. But he knew that somebody else would just take his place.

            Arun opened the rucksack, in it was a tatty woollen hat and a cup. He turned the cup around, it had no logos, no design, just a plain cup. He placed it on the ground in front of him. The hat at one stage of its life used to be blue, possibly a snowflake design, but now it was a non-descript grey, a small hole developing next to the snowflake. Arun could feel it start to rain harder, he pulled the hat on and pulled his jacket around him.

            The rain smelt differently in this country, back home it was sweet and light, a sign of a good harvest. Here it was grey and cold, got into your bones and dragged you down. Arun pushed his back further against the wheelie bin, its slight slope sheltering him. He could feel the rain trickle down his neck soaking into his shirt, he fidgeted but it didn’t make any difference.

            People scampered by, dancing to avoid their expensive shoes getting wet in the puddles. Arun might as well have been invisible to them, heaven forbid they let the real world enter their lives. Arun liked to make up stories about them, about what their lives were like, big houses, expensive cars, beautiful wives. Could be him one day.

            Arun laughed, threw his head back and laughed. The rain splashed on his face, his laugh echoed off the wheelie bin. His cup clattered.

            Arun stopped laughing.

            A young girl walked away, Arun hadn’t seen her approach, he glanced at the cup, two gold coins, the young girl kept walking, she didn’t turn round.

            Arun whispered thank you.

            He took the two coins out of the cup and stashed them in his pocket.

            The rain didn’t last long, it never did, but it was enough to make him feel uncomfortable all day. He watched as a mother reprimanded her child for splashing in one of the puddles. It made him think of his mother, the way she spent hours teaching him the correct way to harvest the oranges, then would lecture him for almost as long if he bruised the fruit.

            He missed those days.

            He missed his home.

            He missed the sun.

            He missed the oranges.

            He missed everything.

            He looked at the scraps in his cup, a few silver coins but mostly coppers. It rattled as he shook it. A couple of men in suits walked past, they did their best to deny his existence. Arun shook his cup louder, forced them to look, pure horror  crossed their faces.

            Arun tried his most sympathetic look, a single note fluttered into his lap, missing the cup altogether. Arun had long ago given up being proud.

            The suits carried on their very important lives.

            Arun stuffed the note into the cup, underneath the coins.

            The sun came out, there was no heat in it at all, what was the point in this country?

            The day contained nothing but slim pickings, not many more coins, and only one more note. He knew that Kahlid would not be happy, but then Kahlid was never happy.

            Harvest season on the orange grove was the best, when the crates were full and your back ached with the effort, when songs were sung and life was good. Arun’s back felt bad, the metal of the wheelie bin was cold and unforgiving, he just couldn’t get comfortable. He tried stretching, pulled his big arms up high, but it made no difference, just made him feel damp from the rain in different places.

            He rattled his cup at more passers by, looks of disdain and revulsion showered down on him. He wondered if he’d do the same in their shoes? Beggars were something he hadn’t seen back home until recently, everybody worked on various farms, but then the harvests failed. Not once, but three times. That was when he started to see beggars.

            Arun could remember that he vowed he would never be one, he’d use his uncle’s contacts to find him work abroad. Several thousands later and here he was, doing exactly what he despised, his life savings gone. All he had now were his memories and his dreams.

            Arun could recognise the engine of the van from miles away. He looked up and could see Kahlid striding towards him. Without a word Kahlid snatched the cup, he stared scornfully at its contents.

            Arun didn’t see the blow coming, the side of his head, and his ear, burned. His hat was knocked clean off.

            “What is this?”

            The words hissed out of Kahlid’s mouth. Arun rubbed his ear and said nothing.

            “Lazy piece of shit!”

            Arun saw the second blow coming and managed to shift his weight so that it was only a glancing blow. This only succeeded in enraging Kahlid, he pulled Arun to his feet and dragged him back to the van, not caring who was watching. Arun struggled to stay on his feet, he stumbled and staggered, but he didn’t say a word, he didn’t struggle.

            One hand holding the scruff of Arun’s jacket, his free hand wrenched open the van door.

            “Get in.”

            Kahlid’s skull-like face seemed to look right through Arun.

            As the van door was slammed shut in him Arun could remember his uncle introducing him to Tariq, the man that would ensure his passage to this, this glorious country. Arun could remember thinking that he looked very, very ordinary. Tariq was more eager to take his savings, sold him the sun with his words.

            Insults rained down on Arun as much as blows, when finally they stopped he could see, through a half closed eye, Kahlid putting his jacket back on. He looked back at him with a sneer as he left the room.

            Arun lay on the floor, he could hear the others in the backroom, their vibrations travelling through the floorboards. He listened to them through his fingertips, he could feel blood swimming in his ears, in fact he could feel blood almost everywhere on his face, could taste it in his mouth.

            He couldn’t move. His body cried out when he tried. So he just lay there, listening to vibrations.

            The sun weakened as they travelled. Arun reckoned they were heading north. Six of them huddled on the back of a pickup truck, three other men, a woman and her child. They travelled through night and day, stopping only for gas. Arun noticed that the other men could not maintain eye contact, he wondered if they were criminals. The woman was constantly whispering something into her child’s ear, words of comfort, of love, of warning. The child stared at Arun throughout the entire journey, watched everything he did. He found it unnerving.

            Arun groaned as he felt his ribs being nudged, he rocked slightly on the floor.

            “He’s still alive.” He heard someone say, it wasn’t Kahlid.

            He felt his body being lifted, someone had hold of his legs, another held him under his arms. He rocked back and forth as they carried him, one of them didn’t have a very good grip of him and kept readjusting.

            He was glad when they clumsily laid him down on a mattress. He could hear other voices now, he was obviously back in the back room. Arun decided to keep his eyes closed for now. Judging by the voices he could hear they were nervous, seeing Arun’s battered body had scared them, he didn’t need to understand their language to know this.

            The journey on the pickup lasted for what felt like days. Eventually they were all ushered off, as Arun looked around him he realised it was nothing more than a lay by at the side of the road. Tariq ordered them all to stay put as he marched off to talk to a tall fat bald man, dressed in brown trousers and a vest. Their conversation didn’t last long, they both walked back to the group. Tariq explained that Mohammed would be taking them the rest of the way. Tariq then wandered back to his pickup truck and drove off.

            Mohammed spoke gruffly as he pushed them towards his lorry, one of them made to climb up to the cab. Mohammed grabbed them and pulled them to the ground, yelling in their face, screaming abuse. He then marched them round to the back of the lorry and swung open the heavy doors. The back of the lorry was stacked high with boxes of fruit, Arun could even see some with oranges, he tried not to think of home. Mohammed pointed up to the top of the stack of boxes.

After a precarious climb they discovered a hidden space, not big enough to stand up in, but if they squeezed they could all fit.

The door of the lorry groaned shut and closed with a thunderous boom. They were plunged into near darkness, the only light coming from a small slats in the side of the lorry.

Arun would never forget the noise of the door closing for as long as he lived.

“You must eat.”

Arun forced open one eye slowly at the sound of the voice.

“Eat to get strong. He’ll kill you if you’re not strong.”

Arun felt a spoon of hot soup pushed against his lips, its aroma rising up his nostrils, filling his head, the smell reminding him of home.

It hurt as he swallowed,

Another spoonful quickly followed.

The liquid ran down his throat, he could feel it all the way, coating his insides.

The rain battered the side of the truck, a final break to the intense heat, the storm had been brewing for days. Arun could, at first, feel the moisture on the walls of the truck, then he put his lips to the wall and tried to drink deeply, he didn’t care what it looked like, didn’t care for dignity, he only cared for survival. The others saw what he was doing and quickly followed his lead. The child was particularly voracious. Anybody outside hearing the loud slurping noises would’ve been completely bemused.

Arun was convinced that for the first time he could see the others smile.

The backroom was staring to feel like a prison, Arun looked round at the other mattresses, the blankets twitching, the others trying to block out the outside world. Arun gingerly hauled himself into a sitting position, his head span, his ribs ached, he knew not to cry out, the one thing he’d learned. Gingerly he lifted up his shirt, his chest was various different shades of blue and green, it looked like a map of a strange world. He flinched slightly as he prodded at the bruises, no worse than being kicked by a horse he reasoned.

He could hear Kahlid’s voice out in the corridor, he never seemed to be very far away, controlling, manipulating everything. One day, Arun thought, one day he would be free of him. All debts paid off, then he could resume his life.

The darkness was all encompassing, Arun couldn’t even see his hand in front of his face, never mind the others. He presumed the truck had entered a tunnel, there was a constant roaring noise accompanied by a sort of electrical hum. It seemed to go on for hours. Then finally there was respite, thin shards of light shone through the walls of the truck. The child’s face stared back at him, she looked scared. Arun put out his hand for comfort, but she recoiled. He wondered what the mother had been constantly whispering.

There were suddenly voices, lots of voices.

Arun tensed, held his breath

Please don’t let there be dogs, he thought, please don’t let there be dogs.

The voices seemed to swarm round the truck.

Everybody pushed themselves into the furthest corners of their hiding place, breathing stopped, every muscle tensed.

Banging came on all sides, Arun’s body started to ache with tension, even the child stopped moving, cowered into her mother.

Arun squeezed right up against the wall of the truck, he could see through one of the small gaps, he tried not to move, but he could see around six guards circling the truck.

They knew!

They knew they were here!

Someone had given them up!

Arun tried to see if he could see Mohammed, the driver, but he was nowhere.

It must be him.

He must have given them up.

Could he make a run for it? Would he be able to get out of the truck before the guards spotted him? If he ran though, he’d give the others away. He couldn’t do that. He couldn’t have that on his conscience.

Kahlid held up Arun’s hands and let them drop. He pushed his head to one side with a single finger and glanced at the bruises.

“You work now.”

Not once did he look Arun in the eye.

Arun knew he didn’t exist anymore, the more he stayed here the more he disappeared.

He had to get away.

Much to their surprise the truck started to pull away, startled eyes looked all around, loud gasps, hugs.

The truck trundled on.

Arun was woken with a shake from his sleep, a large calloused hand on his shoulder. He almost lashed out, but he realised it was one of the other men.

The truck had stopped, they were all getting off.

Arun clambered out of the tight space, his legs felt wobbly and weak when he finally got to stand up straight. It was dark, they seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, in the distance were the lights of a small town. Arun could smell the sea.

Mohammed gathered them round, he explained that there would be a man waiting for them in the town. The others started to chatter loudly, Mohammed told them to be quiet.

Arun tried to work out where the sea was.

Mohammed explained further that he had had to bribe the guards and they now owed him for the bribe.

The chatter stopped.

They had no money, their life savings had paid for this trip.

Mohammed explained that they would have to work for the man in town, until the debt was paid.

Startled eyes looked all around.

Arun cursed his uncle.

It was raining again.

The town, the place, the country, the rain. All seemed to seep into Arun’s bones. He sat on the same spot, huddled in against the wheelie bin, staring out at the dancing puddles. People walked by, to him they didn’t have faces, he didn’t look up. In any case they didn’t see him, he was like a ghost, he could probably do anything he wanted and they wouldn’t even notice, probably wouldn’t even care. The rain dripped down his neck, sticking his clothes to his back.

Why so much rain?

Not just rain, cold rain.

Arun shivered and pulled his tatty jacket tighter, he looked at the holes in his trainers, the one that was letting in water. He leant forward to pick at it. In front of him was a pair of highly polished ladies shoes, he looked up. Looking down at him was a smiling face, kind eyes. She seemed familiar, but Arun couldn’t place her, but he was sure he’d seen her before.

She held out a hand, Arun glanced at it, he couldn’t see any money in it. She gestured again with her hand, Arun was confused, he looked round to see if he could see Kahlid. She reached down and took his hand, pulled him to his feet.

Arun followed her, he felt no fear.

She held his hand and he followed her.

The sun was shining, the blanket didn’t scratch. Arun rolled over and yawned. There were voices, there was laughter, the blanket slipped from his shoulder, he could feel the warmth of the sun on his skin. For the first time in ages he felt safe. His hand clenched tightly, starting to ache, he opened his hand wide and looked at the two gold coins.

June 25, 2012

This is a trailer for a short film that I have written. The film is viewable only on your mobile phone, there are full instructions as to how to download the film at the end of the trailer

April 15, 2012
The Vicar And The Redhead

          The table was immaculately laid, the best bone china used, everything precisely in place.  Rae surveyed her preparations with satisfaction; she’d managed to impress even herself.  It had taken her a few good weeks to get everything to his exacting specifications.  She was determined to impress.

          Having the Vicar round for tea was after all, no small event.  It meant acceptance, entrance into the community was then a mere formality.  She would have arrived.

          It was all a far cry from the small town that she’d come from, with its small town views, small town goals and small town boys.  But all that was behind her, that was the old Rae, now she was on the verge of completing the final stages of transforming into the bright new shiny Rae.  And she liked it, she was excited.

          The smell of what was cooking in the kitchen heightened her excitement even further.  She could feel her mouth staring to water, her lips smacking in anticipation.  Her hand shook slightly as she wiped at the corner of her mouth with her middle finger and thumb.

          Her eyes opened wide with horror, a slight chip in the otherwise perfect crimson nail.  Her heart started to race, her skin started to pink up, she had to stay calm, this could easily be fixed.  Her head felt dizzy, she tried to control her breathing, as a minor panic attack rose within.

          In through the nose, out through the mouth.

          In through the nose, out through the mouth.

          Her breathing gradually calmed, eyes scanned the room until she spied her makeup bag.  After a brief rummage she found what she needed.  Breathing under control and with a deft hand she reapplied perfection, each finger now gleaming as if finished off by a flawless ruby.

          Rae allowed a slight smile to cross her face, a small reward to herself, but she couldn’t allow herself to get carried away, the Vicar would spot the slightest error, the tinniest of flaws.

          The table settings appeared up to standard, she momentarily glanced towards the cupboard, its door firmly closed, but she knew without even checking that what lay behind that door was second to none, and would impress even the dullest of minds.

          The clock on the wall informed her that there was just over two hours until his arrival.  It would be tight, but there should be just enough time for her to get ready.

          The red dress already lay out on her bed.  She’d agonised long and hard over it.  The dress itself, she had to admit, was divine, but it was the colour that had caused all the problems.  Was red the right colour?  Did it send out the right signals?  But then she’d tried it on and all doubt was dispelled, she knew instantly it was the one.

          A tingle went down her spine as she put the dress on, its shape hugging her shape like a second skin, making her feel powerful, making her feel that anything was possible.  She smiled to herself as she gazed upon her statuesque reflection in the bedroom mirror, her hands smoothing out miniscule creases that only she could see.

          The Vicar wouldn’t know what had hit him.

          Rae’s smile broadened.

          Her hair and makeup were already meticulously prepared; it was part of her very own religion, something that she would never face the world without.  Her hair was in the style of a Mary Quant bob, but dark red, matching her eyeshadow, which she’d layered in carefully lightening shades, almost giving the effect of a flickering flame.  Her naturally palish skin was darkened by an old rouge, which had been handed down by her mother like an old family secret.  In fact it was possibly the greatest gift she’d ever received from anybody.

          The thought of her mother made her smile falter, but she quickly banished the dark thoughts, nothing would be allowed to spoil this day of all days.

          The smells from the kitchen clamoured for her attention, forcing her to reluctantly pull herself away from the mirror.

          In the kitchen steam poured out of various pots and pans, some things gurgled, others bubbled.  She took the pinnie down from the hook behind the kitchen door.  Slipping it carefully over her head and tying it tightly round her waist.  The last thing she wanted to do was let anything spill onto her fabulous dress.

          Rae looked quite the domestic goddess with the white frilled pinnie on, scuttling from pot to pan, tasting, stirring, mixing, until eventually her plan came together and the meal took shape.  There were a few little extras she’d have to prepare at the time, but she was happy that she was more or less ready for him.

          The clock ticked ever closer to the moment as she scurried about the place putting the finishing touches to things, moving the odd ornament by the tinniest of fractions.

          The doorbell chimed.

          Her heart froze.

          Was he early?

          Was she late?

          She could feel a panic start to rise, her hands shook, her head felt dizzy.  Her reflection looked reassuringly back at her.

          Now or never.

          She took a deep breath and headed to the door.

          His outline could be seen through the coloured glass at the top of the door.  Somehow it managed to cast a spell over her, the nerves seemed to vanish almost instantly, her hand stopped shaking as she reached for the door.

          “Ah Rae.”  His voice was like chocolate, all calm and soothing.  He was shorter than her, a thin wiry frame; his hair slicked back forming a dramatic widow’s peak.  His skin was pale and his large brown eyes almost bulged out of his head.  There was a very thin pencil moustache, which perched above his top lip, giving him an almost sinister air.

          “Welcome Vicar.”  Rae stepped aside allowing him to enter.

          “What a delightful little place you have here.”  His eyes scanned his surroundings.

          “Why thank you.”  She fought the urge to bow or curtsey “Please go through.”

          “I hope you’ve not gone to any trouble, just for little me.”

          “Just make yourself at home.”  She knew those eyes were assessing, calculating and taking every little detail in.

          He walked with his hands cupped behind his back, a slow confident saunter.  Rae followed just behind, her heart in her mouth, eyes flickering towards the cupboard door as she pondered when it would be a good idea to reveal what lay behind; her timing would have to be perfect.

          “Are you nervous?”  His soft voice cut like a knife through her thoughts.

          “Just a little.”  A slight nervous laugh escaped.

          “Don’t be, I won’t bite.”  A wicked glint flashed in his eyes.

          Somehow his reassurances had the opposite effect, she could feel her heart race, and knew without even looking that her skin was pinking up, if she wasn’t careful she could find herself matching her dress.

          His eyes scanned the room, taking everything in, and then settled on her.  Almost imperceptibly his head moved up and down, scanning her far more thoroughly.

          Rae wondered if the dress was working its magic?

          Had she chosen wisely?

          By the look on his face she could tell that the answer to both questions was yes.

          Did his eyes bulge a little further out of his head?

          She allowed herself a little smile.

          “Something amuses you?”

          “No, I was…”  Her blush grew.

          “I’m only kidding, like I said, I won’t bite.”  His smile flashed his teeth, thin long narrow ones; it looked as if his mouth was crammed with them.

          Another thing to make her nervous.

          “I better check on the food.”  She excused herself and made for the sanctuary of the kitchen.  She leaned on the kitchen units, her heart racing, breath rapid; she hung her head and tried to control herself.

          “It’s just the Vicar.”  She told herself, but it didn’t seem to do any good, there was so much riding on this.

          Rae tried to loose herself in the plating up of the food, but it didn’t work, all she could do was think of him going through her things.  She tried to block it out, but the images came through even stronger.  She tried desperately to remember if she’d left out anything embarrassing.  But her preparations had been meticulous.

          Then it flashed into her head.

          Had she locked the cupboard?

          She couldn’t remember.

          It could all go wrong if he discovered what lay behind the cupboard door at the wrong time, it had to be perfectly timed.

          Rae could hold back no more, she had to look.

          His hand hovered just above the handle on the cupboard door.

          “Things won’t be long.”  Rae blurted.

          He span round, an almost guilty look on his face, a slight pinking to his skin, moustache twitching.

          “Just a little delay on the starter.”  She lied “Hope you don’t mind.”

          “I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait.”  His voice was smooth, almost disarming.  Rae could see why people could be ensnared by him, why he had such power, why it wouldn’t take much and she too would be under his spell.

          A little girly laugh escaped, which she cursed herself for.  She was sure that if he could’ve he would’ve twiddled his moustache.

          As he turned his back she managed to surreptitiously check the cupboard door, much to her relief it was locked.

          “Put on some music, things will just be a mo.”  She smiled her best smile and headed back to the kitchen.

          Things in the kitchen were so much calmer, her heart stopped beating ten to the dozen, her skin no longer had its pinkie hue.  He was no longer a distraction.  The plating of the starter was simplicity in itself, a straightforward goat’s cheese salad; it took her a matter of moments to prepare.

          She smoothed out some imaginary creases on her beautiful red dress and with a deep breath took the starters through.

          The music that was playing was an unusual choice, some electro synthetic beat that she hadn’t heard in a long time, a very long time.  The artists name escaped her, but it seemed to be triggering some long forgotten memories.  She could see a smile, pale blue eyes and a flash of red.  Rae wondered where the half formed images in her head were coming from.

          “That looks delicious.”  His soft voice broke through the images.

          Another girly laugh escaped, again she cursed herself.  How did he do that?  A few simple words and she was completely disarmed.

          He remained standing for fractionally longer as they both took their places at the immaculately laid table.  Rae stared down at her plate, unsure what to say next.

          “How did you know about my weakness for cheese?”

          “I did a bit of research.”

          He raised an inquisitive eyebrow.

          “Oh, I only found out good things.”

          It was his turn to let a nervous laugh escape.

          Rea suddenly found herself filled with power; her entire body seemed to buzz with it, as if for the first time ever she was alive.  She liked the feeling.

          He distracted himself by diving into the salad, plunging a massive forkful into his mouth.  She watched him as she took a dainty portion.

          “Oh my!”  His eyes opened wide.

          “You like?”

          “What is that?”

          “It’s a little speciality of mine, something I picked up on my travels.”

          His eyes widened as he tried another mouthful.

          “Chocolate balsamic, adds a little sweetness to the mix don’t you think?”

          He was unable to reply, his mouth full, she had him.

          A perfectly painted fingernail dabbed at the corners of her mouth, her hand hid her smile.  It wouldn’t be long before she had him in just the right place.

          His large brown eyes seemed to jump and dance inside his head, as his senses were bombarded by conflicting information.

          “That was a revelation.”  He finally managed to express the sensations.

          “That was just for starters.”  She smiled coyly, using everything in her power to get under his skin.

          Almost imperceptibly he swallowed, his fingers gently stroking the edge of his dog collar, his eyes for once not locked on her, his power momentarily flickering.

          “You intrigue me.”  He tried to regain control.

          “In what way?”

          “Your contradictions.”

          Rae raised an eyebrow, her knuckles whitened as she clenched her fork, her jaw tightening.

          “I’m having difficulties working you out.  Most people, I have them sussed inside a minute, but you, you’re far more intriguing than average.”

          “Well at least I’m not average.”

          “Far from it.”

          An awkward silence settled.

          “So about these contradictions?”

          “I shouldn’t have said anything.”

          “No, you’ve got me intrigued now.”

          “I’ve upset you.”  He sat back; control was slipping back towards him.

          “You haven’t, but you will if you don’t tell me.”  She threatened him behind her winning smile.

          “That’s one of them.”

          “Sorry?”

          “You appear the perfect little lady, demure, well presented, but then the words you use.  They’re all calculated for effect.  Nothing you’ve done has been effortless; it’s all been meticulously and methodically planned.  It’s all about control.”

          Rae tried to feel upset, tried to muster the energy to rebuke him, but she knew that he was right.  Was she really that easy?  Was this just a test?

          “Anything else?”  She managed to gather herself.

          “I think I’ve said enough.”  He knew he’d scored a hit.

          Rae examined him, stared hard, but his large brown eyes were blank.  She couldn’t tell what he was thinking, what he would do next.  He gave absolutely nothing away, nothing she could use.

          “You said I had others?”

          “I should save them for later.”

          Rae’s jaw clenched as she rose and gathered up the plates.  She knew his eyes were following her, she knew he was laughing inside, she knew she’d let herself down by letting him get the upper hand.

          It was with relief that she turned into the kitchen, she was glad she’d played it safe with the main, as her hands shook with anger as she plated up the garlic chicken and tried to make the presentation of the vegetables look attractive.  Her breathing was erratic, her face flushed, she was supposed to be in control.

          She cursed herself as one of the baby radishes refused to go where it was placed.  Frustration got the better of her and she hurled the poor radish across the kitchen, it landed somewhere near the old 1950’s fridge, probably to lay in wait and build an army of bacteria that would attack her sometime soon.

          She slowed her breathing as she lifted one final pot off the cooker and poured its contents onto the corner of each plate, a light almost golden cheese sauce.

           What sneer would he have?

          What look?

          An upturned nose or a twitch of his moustache?

          Her jaw clenched again as she lifted both plates and carried them back through.

          His face was impassive, he might as well have been I a trance, as the plate was put in front of him, eyes staring straight ahead, completely blank, giving nothing away.

          She coughed lightly as she sat.

          No response.

          Eyes fixed straight ahead.

          She waved a hand in front of those eyes.

          Nothing.

          His chest still rose and fell slightly, so he was still breathing.  Rae stood and moved next to him.

          Eyes kept staring.

          Rae looked hard, tried to work out if this was another test.  Then without even thinking she swung hard, slapping him full across the face.

          Eyes suddenly sparkled,

          Her hand stung.

          His winning smile was aimed only for her.

          “Let’s forget dinner.”  His voice was disarming, his smile charming.

          “But I…”

          “Forget it.”  He rose, jacket masterfully shrugged from his shoulders.

          “There’s still dessert.”  She couldn’t take her eyes off him, off his dog collar “its cheesecake.”

          He laughed a boyishly wicked laugh.

          Was this all part of the test?  Her mind raced, control was lost, everything she’d planned crumbled before her.

          He moved towards her.

          She couldn’t move.

          His eyes burned brightly.

          She could feel his breath on her cheek.

          “Show me what’s in the cupboard.”  His voice was a breathless whisper.

          She thought she’d hidden it so well, kept the reveal until the perfect moment.  But he’d been watching, taking everything in, formulating his own plan.

          “See I’ve done my research too.”  He was only inches from her, his breath washing over her; she could smell the goat’s cheese.

          How did he know?

          How could he know?

          Who had she told?

          Was he still bluffing?

          “Let me see, show me.”  His voice almost pleaded.

          Control had switched again; she could turn this to her advantage.

          Rae stood ramrod straight, her confidence and power renewed.  He was only inches away, but he could come no closer, her force kept him at bay.  Their fixed stare was broken by him, as he glanced towards the cupboard.

          “That cupboard?”  Rae’s voice was calm and nonchalant when she finally spoke.

          He glanced back at her; his eyes had lost their strength.

          She had absolute power.

          Inside she was laughing, but she had to keep it from him.  After all the stories, she’d thought he would have put up more of a fight, been more of a challenge.  Wherever the rumours had come from they had done her a favour, building up his anticipation while weakening his resolve.

          The Vicar’s eyes seemed to almost plead with her, unable to stop flicking back to the cupboard.

          Rea gently played with the silver chain that hung round her neck, her fingers wrapped round the links revealing a small key from her cleavage.

          The Vicar’s eyes grew wide, almost exploding from his head.

          Rae allowed herself a smile.

          His breath was rapid, his face no longer pale as Rae moved towards the cupboard door.  She lifted the chain over her neck, it caught slightly in her hair pulling the red locks up and creating a tingle down her spine as they fell back into place.  Her hand trembled ever so slightly as she put the key into the lock, it turned with a click.

          The cupboard was dark as she pulled open the door, she could feel the Vicar straining at her shoulder to see what was contained within.

          There was a short gasp from behind her as his eyes became accustomed to the gloom, and he saw what lay before him.

          It was a small box room, with no distinguishing features decorating the jet black walls, but dominating the space was a large crucifix with bright silver chains adorning the sides.

          The Vicar pushed passed Rae and stared in awe, eyes bulging, breath stopped.  He turned back to look at Rae, his face filled with unbridled ecstasy.

          Rae smiled.

          She strode forward and took his hand, led him to the cross and fastened one of his wrists into the leather cuff.

          A small whimper escaped him, but it wasn’t a whimper of protest.

          There was no resistance from him as she took his other wrist and bound it in the same fashion.  His face looked blissful as he hung, his dog collar shining bright in the gloom.

          Rae looked down at herself and smoothed away some imaginary wrinkles on her dress.  Her breath was slow and calm, but the Vicar’s was in short rapid blasts.  His face was flushed, his eyes bulging and the thin pencil moustache quivered slightly.  Another ecstatic whimper escaped his lips.

          Rae thought about leaving him, shutting the door and locking him away.  But where would be the fun in that?

          Her hand reached forward, fingers grasping for the dog collar.

          “Leave it on.”  His voice came out as a breathy hiss.

          She slapped him card across the face, leaving an outline of her fingers behind.

          He smiled back at her.

          It wasn’t anger that welled up inside her, not even frustration; it was something far more complex, far more passionate.  She swung hard across his face again, globules of blood spitting out of his mouth, the smile even broader.

          Was this acceptance?

          Was this what she craved?

          A dribble of blood soaked into the shining white dog collar.

 

 

 

The End ?

August 29, 2011
The Middle Class Zombie

     I wish I could remember.

     In fact I wish I could do lots of things, but it’s the memories I miss the most. I mean, I think I had a family, before everything happened. I have vague recollections of something, but I’m not sure anymore if they’re my memories, or something I’ve made up.

     I can’t even tell you my name, or where I live, or whether I’m alive.

     You see, I’m what most people would call a zombie. Technically I’m undead.

     I’m not rotting, I’m not dying, but I’m not really living.

     See I’m new to all this.

     Maybe I’ve got all that to look forward to, or not as the case maybe.

     I wish I could tell you about myself, but like a said before it’s the memory. Nothing past about twenty minutes ago, just the occasional flash, like a broken video, but I don’t even know if they are real.

     I’ll tell you very quickly about what happened, before I forget.

     There was a virus, a bug. Spread like wildfire. Almost all of us got it. And that, to be honest, is all I know. There are many of us, most in a worse state than me, but all of us need one thing to survive. Human flesh.

     Horrible I know, you wouldn’t last long in this game if you were a vegetarian, and to be honest vegetarians don’t taste very nice, too stringy, a lack of iron or something.

     I’ll tell you, you wouldn’t invite a group of zombies round for a dinner party, far too messy.

     I try and keep myself to myself; the older zombies aren’t much into conversation, just the odd grunt and occasional moan. But everything changes when it gets dark, that’s when the hunt begins, when the flesh lust rises.

     When I first became ill I tried to resist the urge for flesh, but there’s only so many times that the neighbour’s cat will suffice.

     I can remember my first kill, something that doesn’t leave me, no matter how hard I try. It was a hoodie. Young lad started stealing things, made me so mad. That’s when I lost it, started chasing him. Didn’t even know what I was going to do with him when I caught him. But eventually I got him cornered, some dead end alleyway behind the warehouses on the industrial estate.

     So there I was facing down this thug, staring eye to eye. Then he came at me, arms flailing. Before I knew what had happened, I’d blocked the blow, grabbed his arm and twisted it. There was a crunch. He screamed like a girl. Hit me with his free arm, but pain doesn’t register anymore. Then I knocked him to the floor.

     Next thing next thing I know I’m biting into his thigh and tearing lumps of flesh out! Nobody was more surprised than me! I don’t even like steak, chicken I can cope with, but… anyway those choices seem to have been in another world, another lifetime.

     I don’t even know who I am anymore.

     Others seem to hunt in packs, but that’s not for me. Like I said, their conversation is not up to much, and as for their personal hygiene, it’s like being around a bunch of hormonal teenagers.

     I saw this one the other day peel off a layer of skin from his own arm, and then eat it.

     Where’s the manners in that?

     I sound like such a snob.

     I can’t be around normal people anymore, something to do with the fact that I scare them. I didn’t ask to be a zombie, it’s not like I’m doing it on purpose. I’ll never get to see the inside of the golf course clubhouse again. Is that not punishment enough?

     I’ve got a good mind to go down there and ransack the place, see their faces then.

     According to the news we’re a plague on society, a drain on resources, or as some extreme politicians keep delighting in saying, that we should be exterminated. I kid you now. They actually used the word exterminate. Some of the greatest minds ever known are now zombies, that’s why only the dross are left, the ones who used to be tin pot councillors, but are now high flying politicians. I’d love to get my hands on them. Mind you, they probably wouldn’t taste very nice either, worse than a vegetarian.

     I’ve heard on the rumour mill, that there are plans afoot to round us up. Heard us like cattle, probably for purposes of extermination. They’d have to catch us first. We won’t take it lightly, there’s too many of us now. I’m sure normal people are now in the minority. But we don’t have any rights. Talk about second class citizens, we could get gunned down in the street and nothing would happen, it’s not even considered a crime.

     We were human once.

     People seem to forget that. I, personally, blame all the movie propaganda. Always portraying zombies as the bad guys. Well there is the eating human flesh thing, which I agree is rather anti social.  But why not give us your criminals, the social outcasts? You wouldn’t have to worry about prisons, or prison overcrowding. We’d take care of that for you. It’d be a win win. Society would get rid of its ne’er do wells, and zombies would be fed, and you never know, maybe even pacified. But who’d listen to me? I am, after all, only a zombie, and I’m not supposed to have a voice, people don’t know that I exist. Except until I come round your house and start chewing your face off!

     I jest.

     I wouldn’t do that.

     Unless I was really hungry.

     That wasn’t a joke. I would eat you.

     That’s the thing about us zombies. Survival. We all want to live forever. Although I realise that live is a very loose term, seeing as how we are all technically dead. And the prospects for us zombies are not very good. Not job wise, I mean, who’s going to employ a zombie? Unless it’s for target practice. It’s the quality of life, I’m in the very early stages of the condition, I can still articulate. It’s the progression that I’ve got to look forward to, the steady slide towards full zombification. And it is, as far as I’ve seen, just like the films. The lumbering walk, the inability to communicate much further than a moan, and the insatiable need for human flesh, and yet, it’s the very thing that keeps us going also seems to be the thing that accelerates our decline.

     I mean, I’m no scientist. In fact I have a vague recollection of something to do with shoes, but you’d think we’d change from human flesh to say, beef. Go back to burgers and the like. Would cause people a whole of a lot less hassle. But what do I know?

     I would try and cut down myself, but the craving can just get so great that it’s impossible to hold yourself back, it’s like a drug. The worst drug imaginable.

     And that’s what I’ve got to look forward to. For the lust for flesh to become so powerful that I am no longer human.

     I’m barely human now to be honest. I have to hide myself away during the day, there’s certain telltale signs of my condition that attract the wrong sort of crowd.

     Would you believe there are such things as zombie groupies?

     Unbelievable.

     But since the virus is so widespread there’s obviously been some celebrities that have succumb. Loads of former soap opera stars, pop singers, even the odd footballer. They all soon found that their fortunes couldn’t protect them. Television crews still seek them out, so they still have a modicum of fame, although the ones that are now too far gone have no idea of their former existence. There are some that are still in the early stages of the condition, like me, who have tried to cling on to their fame, but once they’ve been “outed” there’s no chance for them.

     The groupies go after the ones that are too far gone, the further gone they are the better, the more hardcore they appear. It’s like they have a points system, the more famous you were the points, the more of a zombie they are the more points. Put the two together and bingo, you’ve hit the jackpot.

     There are some rumoured cases of people having pet zombies, the uber rich using them as like attack dogs! An intruder on the premises, set your zombie on them and watch the carnage unfold.

     Me, I’m just an ordinary run of the mill zombie. I doubt I was that important as a human, I’m even less so as a zombie. But that’s the way I like it. If I keep my head down then nobody’s going to bother me. I live by the same principles as a human and they seem to work for me.

     I know it’s going to be dark soon.

     I know I’ll have to hunt soon.

     If I’m lucky there will be a road accident and I won’t have to do any of the killing.

     I’m not proud, I don’t mind a spot of scavenging, in fact I kind of prefer it that way, I can justify it to myself if I was not the one that took the life. Soon though I won’t have much choice, the flesh lust will become so great that I won’t be able to fight it. I won’t even know what a principle is; I probably won’t even know what I am.

     Maybe blissful ignorance will be good?

     Maybe I’ll discover I make a very good zombie? Rise up through the ranks and become King Zombie!

     Do zombies have ranks?

     I’m asking that as if you’d know, it is me that’s supposed to be the zombie after all.

     I told you, I’m new to this!

     I wonder if my family are zombies? That is if I had a family. I’d like to think I did, and that they’re safe. Soaking up the sun, picnicking on an immaculately cut lawn.

     That would be good.

     The sun looks as if it’s setting, the sky is turning red. There used to be a rhyme about that I’m sure.

     It won’t be long before you’ll start to hear them, the proper zombies. They’re not exactly known for their subtlety. Dustbin throwing seems to be a speciality.

     Why people still go out at night I’ll never know. It’s not as if they don’t know that we’ll be out there, we’ve been about for years, and yet people are still willing to take the risk.

     Stupid people.

     Maybe zombies are natures new way of killing them off? Disease doesn’t seem to have worked. Maybe this is just a different angle, maybe we’re the next stage of evolution?

     But then if we kill off all the humans, what will we have to feed on? Rabbits?

     I don’t suppose I’ll be around to worry about that, not unless I do improve my game. How else am I going to become the king of the zombies?

     Did you hear that?

     Dustbins.

     The hunt has begun.

     Early prowlers, or maybe early victims?

     The flesh lust creeps up on you, it’s not like hunger pangs, it’s like an addiction, a burning, an insatiable need that must at all costs be sated.

     I presume it’s like being a drug addict, although I don’t think I was ever one of those. And anyway, drug addicts taste bad, worse than vegetarians. They have a bitterness to them, an acrid smell when they’re opened up, as if all the badness is escaping them.

     It’s far easier to spot, and avoid, a drug addict than it is a vegetarian.

     I can feel the flesh lust rising, getting twitchy. And now the night’s adventures must begin. Despite everything, I’m actually rather looking forward to it.

July 24, 2011
Brian’s Brother’s Bike

 

     Brian sat at his bedroom window watching the world go by.  He could see for miles from his high sentry point. He lived with his mother on the fourteenth floor of the tower block, it was actually the thirteenth floor, but the council was superstitious and decided to make all the tower blocks go from the twelfth floor to the fourteenth.

     He watched the other children playing down below, so many times he’d wanted to run down and join in their innocent looking games, but his mother would never allow him.  He can hear her now talking to the neighbours, “Brian’s a delicate child, he doesn’t seem to mix well with others.”

     That’s because he never got the bloody chance, his mother had wrapped him in cotton wool after Garry’s death.  She never allowed him to play or to leave their small flat, and when they did he would always have to be accompanied by his mother or by one of his many auntie’s.

     Brian’s Mum came from a large family; she was one of six sisters and three brothers.  Being the youngest in her family she had always been slightly spoiled, each of her sisters acted like a mother towards her.  They were all delighted when she married, but were even more delighted when she had her two boys Garry and Brian.  It wasn’t long after Brian’s birth that her husband left her.  All the sisters came round, claiming that they all knew he was a bad egg, and the brothers threatened to kick the shit out of him if they ever saw him again.

     Garry was the apple of his mother’s eye.  Brian, however, seemed to be neglected slightly because of a misplaced belief that he was the cause of the marriage breaking up.  Garry was four years older than Brian and was the more outgoing and popular of the brothers.

     They went almost everywhere together, outwardly they seemed to get along together.  Brian idolised Garry, he wanted to be Garry, to do the things that he did, to say the things that he said.  But Garry thought Brian was a bit of a nuisance, every time he wanted to go out, his Mum made him take Brian with him.  So Brian was like a stone round Garry’s neck, he cramped his style, especially when he wanted to be with his mates.  But there was one good thing, Brian seemed to help Garry pull the girls, he didn’t know what it was, but every time he took Brian with him the girls seemed to come flocking.

     Brian used to watch in awe the way that Garry would show off around the girls.  Brian was ten years old and Garry was fourteen, but Brian was picking up all sorts of habits and mannerisms from Garry.  Brian though, never had his brother’s success with girls, maybe it was because all the girls he knew were older than him, maybe it was because none of the girls wanted this pale imitation of Garry, when they could so easily have the real thing.

     His lack of success made him disappear slightly into his shell, but Garry had realised Brian’s uses, and used him as an excuse to visit his many girlfriends.  At the age of sixteen Garry had five regular girlfriends, none of whom knew the existence of the other, and Garry used to tell his mother that he was taking his brother out for a walk.  His mother would quite readily let them go, knowing that with Brian in tow, Garry couldn’t possibly get into any trouble.  Little did she know that as soon as they were out of the flat Garry would give Brian fifty pence and tell him to meet him in a couple of hours at the swings.

     It hadn’t always been like that though.  Garry used to actually take Brian on the dates with him, but one time he caught Brian spying on him while he was necking in the park.  He made a fuss of getting rid of Brian, but Brian just retreated to a safer vantagepoint, where he could watch them without getting spotted.  Brian continued to do this as Garry’s dates got more and more adventurous.

     Brian followed Garry one evening, after Garry had tried to bribe Brian with another fifty pence piece.  He watched Garry meet up with a girl, a different one, Brian hadn’t seen her before, he followed them to the back of the estate.  There was a large wire fence and then some waste ground and a small wood at the back of the estate.  Garry and the girl crawled through a gap in the fence and walked across the waste ground towards the wood.  Brian dutifully followed.

     He nearly lost them in the wood, but soon caught sight of the girl’s lurid coloured jacket.  They approached and old caravan, the girl produced a small bunch of keys from her jacket pocket and opened the caravan door.  They both climbed inside and Garry shut the door behind him.

     Brian made sat down next to a tree and tried to make himself comfortable, he watched the caravan intently, but nothing was happening.  He was just about to get up and leave when he noticed that the caravan was gently rocking from side to side.  He wondered why this would be happening.  As the caravan swayed it squeaked slightly, above the squeaking Brian could hear a moaning sound which seemed to be getting steadily more frantic.  He was desperate to know what was going on inside.

     He picked himself up and crept quietly towards the caravan, he tried to see in the window but he wasn’t tall enough to see anything.  He looked around him and saw a couple of old crates, he piled them on top of each other and clambered on top of them.  He peered inside the window, he couldn’t see much; the window was steaming up.  All he could make out was a white blob that seemed to be quivering quickly.  He strained to see more, but he stumbled and the crates fell from under him.  The moaning quickly stopped, Brian scrambled to the safety of the bushes, from there he looked back and could see his brothers red face looking out of the window.  Satisfied that no one was about his face disappeared from view.  The moaning started again soon after.

     Brian was more desperate than ever to find out what all the noise was about.  This time he crept towards the caravan and slowly pulled open the door, crawling on his front he peered inside.  He could see Garry on top of the girl, his trousers round his ankles, and the girl’s short dress pulled up over her stomach.  He watched in amazement as his brother moved quickly up and down, the girl was arching her back, she turned her head to the side and caught sight of Brian.  At first there was confusion in her eyes then she screamed.  Garry turned to see what she was looking at.  Brian got up quickly and ran as fast as he could.

     Brian sped into the woods, Garry shot out of the caravan after him.  Brian ran through the woods for what seemed to him like miles.  He hid behind a large tree thinking that Garry couldn’t see him.  He glanced out from behind the tree, only to find himself staring into Garry’s eyes.  Tears suddenly streamed down Brian’s face.  Garry looked at him seriously, Brian was expecting a beating, but Garry smiled and told him not to worry, so long as Mum never found out about this then they’d both be alright.  Brian nodded his head in agreement; Garry smiled and wiped the tears from Brian’s face.  They both walked home best of friends, but Brian was still curious and couldn’t stop thinking about what he had seen back in the caravan.

     Neither of them ever said anything about that night to each other ever again, it was as if they had both made a solemn oath that night and neither of them was going to break it.

 

* * * * *

 

     “You make sure you don’t fall out that window.”

     Brian was brought back to reality with a start; he jumped slightly and leaned his hand against the window for support.

     “You’ll fall out that bloody window one day.”

     “Yes mum.”

     Brian moved away from the window and sat down on his bed, he picked up a comic that was lying on the bed and made as if reading it.

     “You never do anything Brian Duncan.” Brian nodded his head idly as he could hear his mother’s voice drown on as she walked into the kitchen, “Always dreaming, you’ll never amount to anything.”

     She always complained that he never did anything or went anywhere, yet every time he tried to go anywhere she would go on about how it wasn’t safe for her to be left alone in the house anymore, you never knew what might happen.  So he gave up trying, he just shut himself off when she started.

 

* * * * *

 

     He could remember the couple of days that changed all their lives as if it had happened yesterday.  It happened about two years ago, just after his fourteenth birthday, it was only a few days before Garry’s eighteenth.  That had always been a bit of a sore point in the family, the fact that their birthdays were only about three weeks apart.  Their mother always complained that she couldn’t afford a present for both of them, so more often than not they got a joint present.  But this year Brian didn’t get a present, Mum complained that she couldn’t afford anything, but when it came to Garry’s she made a great fuss over presenting him with a new bike.  Garry wasn’t impressed, he’d been pestering her for a motorbike, but she had point blank refused, the bike was a sort of compromise.

     Brian was as jealous as hell.  Yet again he was past over for his mother’s favourite.  The brothers had been close, but the bike now caused a split between them, they started to slowly drift apart.

     Brian would watch Garry showing off on the bike.  Their mother would still make sure that they would go out together, Brian would just sit on the swings, gently rocking back and forth, while Garry showed off on the bike, pulling wheelies, doing skids and just generally showing off to the girls.  Nobody would notice Brian; Garry was the centre of everyone’s attention.

     It was then that Brian started to formulate plans of revenge, he planned to somehow get his own back.  He never actually intended to go through with any of the plans, but it made him feel better just to think of them.

     One day Brian was sitting on the swing, Garry had ridden off with a group of his mates.  Brian was minding his own business when a young girl sat in the swing next to him.  He glanced across and recognised her as one of Garry’s girlfriends.

     “Hi.”

     Brian sniffed and continued to swing gently.

     “Aren’t you Garry Duncan’s brother.”

     Brian nodded his head, staring at his feet, he was convinced that she already knew who she was, but he was in no mood to get involved.

     “Brian isn’t it?  Yeah it’s Brian.”

     Brian turned to face her, he had to squint as the sun shone into his eyes, but he could still tell she was a very attractive girl, but he couldn’t work out why she was talking to him.

     “You look a lot like him.” She stared intently at him, “But there’s something different about you.”

     All Brian’s experience with girls had been a complete disaster, he always found himself saying the wrong thing, so this time he didn’t say anything, he just turned back and continued staring at his feet.

     “You’re a quiet one aren’t you.”

     She was persistent; he’d give her that.

     “Here, come with me.”

     She stood up and took Brian’s hand, they walked together.  Brian couldn’t work out why he was following her, he could so easily have shaken his hand out of her grip, but he never did.  They didn’t talk as they walked, she led he followed.

     She took him back towards the tower blocks, not the block that he lived in, but the one next to it.  They walked into the lift; she pressed the button for the seventeenth floor.  The lift doors closed and it started to move up.  They stood in silence for a while.

     “Do you like your brother then?”

     “He’s alright.” Brian mumbled.

     They stood in silence again, until the lift lurched to a halt and a grinding noise sounded as the lift doors opened.  She walked out and Brian followed.  They walked along the gangway, the wind hitting them strongly from the side; Brian stopped and looked out over the wall.  God they were high up.

     “Come on.”

     She stood next to a red door, Brian was still looking out over the wall, and he turned and looked at her.  He wondered what on earth he was doing here, but then she smiled and Brian forgot everything and followed her inside.

     The inside of the flat was small and dingy, it was sparsely furnished, an old telly in the corner of the room, a battered old sofa against the wall.  Brian noticed a large damp patch growing on the wall behind the sofa.  There were two doors; behind one Brian could see an old cooker and a sink stacked full of dirty dishes.  The other door led to the bedroom.

     The girl walked into the bedroom, Brian followed, but his mind was still thinking about the damp patch on the wall.

     Brian stood in the middle of the room, feeling gormless and lost.  The girl smiled and took hold of Brian’s shoulders and moved him to the bed.  She pushed him backwards slightly, he didn’t fall back he just slowly leaned back and ended up sitting on the edge of the bed.  She stood back, Brian was still slightly confused, but now he was becoming more stunned, fear seemed to be creeping up on him, he felt paralysed.

     She lifted up her top, and took it off over her head.  Her breasts transfixed Brian; he followed them as she leaned down and pulled down her skirt, she kicked it away into the corner of the room.

     Brian felt his mouth fall open, she came towards him and started to loosen the belt on his trousers, he didn’t know what to do, he just sort of let things happen.  She pulled his trousers and then his pants down and pushed him back on the bed.  She clambered on top of him.  In spite of himself he could feel himself go hard.  She moved mechanically up and down on top of him.  Brian wasn’t sure what was happening, but he was sure of one thing, he was enjoying this.

     She moved expertly on top of him, Brian could tell she’d done this many times before.  He could feel the pressure building up inside him, and then suddenly he felt great relief as he came.

     As quickly as it had started, it was over.  She climbed off him and collapsed onto the bed.

     She sighed deeply, “You can go now.”

     “Eh?”

     “You can go, we’re finished.”

     Brian dutifully stood up and pulled up his trousers, he fastened the belt.

     “Will I see you again?”

     She didn’t say anything; she just waved her hand dismissevly.  Brian now thoroughly confused walked out of the flat.  He closed the door behind him as he left and stood looking out over the wall.  He wasn’t sure, but he thought he might be in love.  If he met the girl again he would have to ask her her name.

     Several weeks passed and Brian didn’t see the girl.  He waited at the swings every day expecting to see her, but she never appeared.

     Then one day he could see Garry and a girl in the distance.  Garry was pushing his bike and talking animatedly to the girl.  As they came closer he recognised the girl, he could tell it was her.  He at first wondered what she was doing with Garry, but then Brian’s world shattered as she leaned over and kissed Garry on the cheek.

     That was it, that was the last straw, now he would put his imagined plans of revenge into action.

     He sat in his bedroom dreaming up all sorts of plans for revenge.  His thoughts were interrupted by the noise of Garry coming in the front door.  Shortly after that his mother shouted that it was time for tea.  He came out of his bedroom and on his way to the kitchen he passed the bike, propped up against the wall, it was then that he knew what he was going to do.  He just had to wait for his opportunity.

     He didn’t have to wait long.  Garry went out one evening with his mates, surprisingly he didn’t take his bike.  Brian sat waiting in his bedroom, waiting for his mother to finish her pottering about in the kitchen.  Finally Brian could hear his mother go to her bed.  He crept out into the hallway and pulled a pair of scissors out of his trouser pocket.  He cut the break cable in half, then made a second cut slightly lower down, removing the small piece of cable he pulled out the strands of wire inside the small rubber tube and then produced a small tube of glue and put some on each end, he then put the piece back in place.

     He held it until he reckoned it was stuck.  He stood back and admired his handiwork, he smiled to himself, the cable looked as good as new.   He put the scissors and glue back into his pockets and sneaked back into his room.

     The next day Brian was again sitting on the swings, he knew that Garry would be out with his bike soon.  Garry came out of the flats pushing his bike along, Brian watched from the swings as Garry waited for his friends to arrive.  A couple of other boys turned up on their bikes, they stopped and started chatting to Garry.

     The three then rode round in circles, shouting and cheering at each other.  Brian had seen this routine many times before; they seemed to make all the noise to draw attention to themselves.  Brian knew that soon they would start their races, and it would be then that Garry would get a nasty surprise.

     The boys stopped their circling and stood round each other.  Brian knew that they would now start to race each other.

     Right enough they lined up along the road and started to sprint as fast as they could, they passed their imaginary finish line and they all skidded to a halt.  Garry looked as if he was going to lose control, but he quickly controlled the bike and was ready to start the next race.

     This time they raced in the other direction, heading towards the main road.  The boys were racing along when a small car turned off the main road and drove up towards them.  This was what they liked best; they loved to play chicken against cars.  The bikes seemed to go faster, the car travelled at a steady pace.  Suddenly the driver of the car could see the cyclists coming towards him, he visibly tensed behind the wheel, he had seen this several times before.  The boys put their heads down and peddled faster.  The gap reduced, the bikes seemed to go faster, the car still travelled steadily on.  One of the boys chickened out and skidded his bike to a halt.

     He watched as the others got closer, the other boy also skidded to the side.  Garry peddled on, then he could be seen trying to work the brakes, his eyes filled with horror as nothing happened, he lifted himself up as he tried to slow the bike.  The car was now very close; Garry was starting to panic.

     Brian looked on with a slight smile on his face, which slowly disappeared as the car came closer.  He jumped off the swing and shouted a warning.  He was up and running as he saw Garry try to swerve, but the back of the bike caught the car and he was thrown through the air.

     Brian arrived too late.  Garry lay crumpled and broken on the side of the road, the driver of the car got out and rushed towards them.  Other people who had seen what had happened ran forward.  Brian was oblivious to the crowd as he held Garry’s head in his hands.  Garry’s eyes were open, but he looked as if he was just staring into space.  Brian was convinced Garry smiled at him just before his eyes closed.

     Garry spent several days in hospital, he never regained consciousness.  Brian and his Mum were their as the doctor switched off the life support machine.

     Brian didn’t know what emotions he was feeling, he felt great loss at Garry’s death, but another part off him was glad that he had finally stood up to his brother.

     His mother didn’t stop crying for the next three weeks, she never acknowledged Brian’s presence, she went downhill quickly, the house was a mess, and she got ill herself.

     The funeral was not a happy event.  Brian felt uncomfortable in the new suit one of his aunts had bought him.  He didn’t like the attention, everybody kept patting him on the head, ruffling his hair and saying what a lovely boy he was.  The one thing he couldn’t stand was when people said how much he looked like Garry.  Brian’s Mum cried throughout the funeral.

     Her sisters then rallied round and started to tidy the flat up; they cooked meals and even paid attention to Brian.

     Brian knew this wouldn’t last forever, but he was glad when his Mum seemed to come out of her depression, but all she ever talked about was Garry.  Brian could feel himself getting depressed.

     He missed Garry.

 

* * * * *

 

     He got up off the bed and walked over to the window and stared out.  He couldn’t work out his thoughts, he wasn’t sure if he felt guilty of not, but he did know that he missed Garry.

     “Tea’s ready.” His mother shouted from the kitchen.

     Brian ignored the call; he sat on the windowsill and stared at what was happening below.  He could see small children playing on the swings, girls skipping, and the faint sound of laughter drifted up.  He then saw some boys riding about on bicycles, chasing each other across the green.

     Brian watched them intently.  A tear ran down his cheek as he pushed the window wider open.

     “Brian, tea’s ready!”

     Brian swung his legs out of the window and sat there for a small while.

     “Brian, will you get your arse in here now!”

     He wiped the tear away from his face, and pushed himself away.  As he fell he felt free, unburdened of what he now recognised as guilt, he smiled as he realised that Garry was the only person that could forgive him, and it wouldn’t be long before they would be together again.

 

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