The air was clean and crystal pleasant, the birds sang with a sweet tuneful melody and the green foliage glistened with gently exploding life. It wasn’t unreasonable to think, that even on such a wonderful day, that who ever or what ever lay behind such a lush healthy vista, be it a god or millennia of natural selective process, had certainly hit upon the perfect formula for happiness. It was also not unreasonable to presume that nothing in this world could possibly smear the smile on Reginald’s beaming visage.
“Hullo you,” a voice like a stab in the dark with a lightening rod, pierced the bubble.
Reginald glanced around the landscape full of nature but could see no other person, just the rampant plant life and gentle blue sky.
“Down here you great ape,” another stab, another rip in the tranquil summer ambiance. “You should bloody well watch where you’re walking!”
Slowly Reginald looked down, not daring to move his feet, which he’d presumed were planted firmly within the welcoming satisfying damp ground amongst the long blades of grass, daisies and dandelions. He didn’t answer, couldn’t speak and a strange tingling sensation made the small hairs on the nape of his neck twitch, as though a cold wind had tickled his senses and drawn the heat, goose bumps, peppered his skin.
As his eyes grew accustomed to the smaller scale of the micro land where his thick exposed ankles, pale despite much sunlight and fresh summer air, and only slightly flecked with course dark hair, met the miniature jungle; he didn’t see anyone, or should that be anything capable of speech. His throat was growing very dry, a baked desert where his tongue flopped listlessly desperate for moisture.
“You can’t see me can you, you big lumbering oversized oaf?” that voice again, reverberating it seemed, and filling the land with more than a touch of anger. “I can’t bloody believe my eyes, I sit here as large as life, well as small as life but with a coat so rainbow bright a blind man in the dark couldn’t miss me!”
“I’m, I’m ever so sorry,” Reginald tried to say, but of course it came out all wrong, his mouth finding articulation hard in it’s current arid state, in fact it sounded more like, ‘Imf, Imfethverfofory’.
“Ok there fella take it easy, try speaking in English,” the voice had lost it’s angry edge and was just on the verge of something far more sinister: a large dollop of sarcasm.
Reginald’s face glowed a subtle shade of red, almost a pink in fact, which was still a contrast to his usual pasty pallor, embarrassed, belittled and shameful, which was surely completely wrong given that he still stood in an almost empty field amidst miles of wilderness and beauty.
The uncomfortable sensation was all too familiar, though the roots of it stretched far back into his long life, it could almost have been yesterday that he’d last felt as open and vulnerable as he did right now.
For a moment he found himself back in the torture room, large and cavernous, the smell of chalk dust clogging his nostrils, the years of sweat, soiled leather and decaying fruit etched in every particle of wood, every breath of fetid air. He felt the tightening of his bladder, the need to go so urgent so keen, and the faces lit up with mockeries of smiles, close cropped hair and shining mocking eyes.
But of course he had dealt with that, he had smashed that memory and boiled away the pain and hurt, burned the fear away to ash and moved on, it couldn’t touch him not now, it couldn’t.
“Er you ok fella,?” it almost sounded genuine, a softness that balanced on the sharpest of blades. Reginald recognised that quality and wasn’t fooled, not one iota. “You just don’t look well now.” It lapsed, tipped over and he could just imagine the smile, all glistening yellow teeth and stretched taut lips.
From somewhere deep inside, buried amongst the debris of a life spent hiding, Reginald grasped for something safe, something to steady himself by and found it. It was the thing he’d found all that time ago; not a physical object, not a thing of molecules and solid substance like a bat or a brick wall, but a part of him that he didn’t really like, yet it was the one part of him that was strong.
“Er fella you look like you could do with a good rest,” the voice seemed to be revelling in the discomfort that Reginald couldn’t hide.
But even as it spoke, the sweat that had moments ago dripped almost in rivulets down the reddening cheeks, lessened. Calmness seemed to envelope the figure and the shivering of body and trembling clenched fists steadied.
But although he felt a little less like a frog looking forlornly through the clear plastic wall of a liquidiser, he hadn’t managed to entirely prise the small hard part of himself completely from its hiding place, a corner of himself where the dark and loathsome seed had festered. Something was holding it back.
“I know your name,” the voice ran like treacle, thick and dark but still tinged with a sweet edge.
Reginald’s heart seemed to miss half a beat and from somewhere, the part of him that built the walls around his heart, and protected him as best it could, hesitated. There was something familiar if not in the voice then in the tone, the hovering intent.
“Who are you?” he asked slowly, placing each word carefully, as though footsteps across wobbling stones on a river.
“Well for a start I’m a poor badly treated creature, minding my own business, relaxing as you do, in this empty field and taking in the glorious sunshine… Reginald,” the voice sang back nonchalantly.
“Do I know you?” Reginald felt the hard thing within him move, pulling the roots away, bringing with it some pain, he felt a long-lost sensation, a niggling, an annoyance.
“I know you, and that, when all is said and done,” the voice was enjoying the power, a touch of joy radiated in the tone. “Is all that matters, isn’t it?”
That other part of Reginald, the calm keeper of secrets, the sensible guardian of rationality and safe keeping smothered the hard dark thing or at least tried to. His mind was a miss match of tumbling feelings and remembering. He hadn’t as yet had the courage to look down but whilst the storm in his head and heart knocked the dust from shelves and bits of broken dreams smashed into mental walls, his head slowly tipped and his eyes beheld the lush green ground.
Panic rose from the pit of his stomach once again, unfathomable as it was, his sturdy walking shoe, a veteran of many a long mile amongst field and landscapes, both similar to the current one and as disparate, rested unevenly.
Dried mud splatter patterns caked the brown shoe but as Reginald looked harder, more sure by the second of what he could, or more plainly, what he couldn’t see, the fear began to rise again along with an almost unavoidable urge to run.
For a small fraction of a moment he’d thought that his shoe was resting on a small hidden stone, or knot of grass, but the shocking realisation hit him like an ice filled snow ball. His senses told him that his foot rested on something not quite solid, but his eyes told him that what lay under the thick sole was clear to the point of invisibility.
“You still can’t see me can you, ‘Rocking Reggie’?” the voice mocked and giggled with unpleasant joyousness, a malicious quality, almost, thought Reginald, like a small boy all those years ago…
The gentle comforting thing within hesitated. The recognition of that name that hateful phrase, from which had once hung the vitriolic mirth, now fed the darker thing which rose easily from its resting place.
Reginald heard music, as clear and tainted as it had been, when he dreaded every morning and every afternoon spent waiting for its mock merriment and vaguely joyous melody. A chorus of chaotic half sung half sniggered words stabbed into his mind:
“Ahhh Rockin’Reggie, Ahhhh he’s Rockin ‘Reggie…”
All the images came cascading back to him no longer tied into bundles and hidden behind locked mental doors and, for a moment, the beauty of the summer day, innocent and full of only good things, dropped like a badly painted back cloth to reveal his private hell.
Now he was there in the doorway to the classroom, a hand still resting on the chilled bronze metal handle, frozen in a moment of barely suppressed terror, every fibre of bone, tissue and soul gently vibrating with a mixture of shame and anger.
Child like creatures sat behind the old scratched wooden regiment of desks, each mocking figure identical in uniformity, and joining in the game.
The hard dark thing took its chance steadily and now moved easily within him, taking advantage as it had done then, in the past, in the secret part of Reginald’s life.
“Wake up ‘durr’ brain!” Reginald’s invisible friend chided. “You day dreaming again you drip?”
Reginald’s eyes sprang open for a moment before the sun’s rays seared them and they resumed their normal narrowed aspect. He didn’t posses any sunglasses and felt they only dimmed the beauty he enjoyed so much within the wildness of the countryside.
He almost forgot the pain. The summer still filled the landscape but the hard thing flexed and tested its senses, its power.
“Who are you?” said Reginald in a cold voice.
“Just a friend,” the voice stated simply.
“A friend wouldn’t hide from me; he’d come up to me face-to-face, and shake my hand…” Reginald began again in the same calm but ice filled manor.
“Maybe I don’t have any hands,” the voice said with an inflection that pretended innocence.
Reginald glared in response, and if a stare could radiate heat from a growing anger, he’d have seared the spot where he knew the creature was.
“You angry about some’at?” the voice asked, still with a surprising level of control. “Er… you do know you’re starting to shake don’t you?”
“I know who you are,” responded Reginald, his teeth now quite tightly clenched, his lips doing a good amount of the shaping of the words and adding a level of sneer to his ruddy face.
“Oh you do, do you?” the voice almost sang back. “Well, ha ha for you Reggie boy, quite the clever little sausage ‘aint you?!”
“Little Stephen Wildamear,” Reginald hissed and the hard corrupt part of him enjoyed the lack of an immediate answer, enjoyed the moment’s silent refuge, fed on the supposed shock the revelation brought. “I dealt with you a long time ago you piece of…” he continued with more than a touch of vim!
“Can’t have done it that well can you, if I am him that is,” the voice interrupted but still sang with a chirpiness usually reserved for lottery winners. “But ask yourself, how could I be him?”
But Reginald was too far through the gate of logic and the thing he’d managed to control, to lock up and keep hidden was once more in control. It wasn’t as though he watched from a far, it wasn’t like being used by some mythical poltergeist or malevolent spirit. No this was now Reginald, a thing of hate and retribution.
“Ah, you don’t want to ask your self that then… ok I can see your point,” the voice lost a little energy. And if the invisible one could have moved back a step it would have, or that was the feeling of the part of Reginald that lived by the intricate laws of logic, that now was trapped, impotent once again in a corner of his mind.
“Er… you do know that your foot is getting a little heavier on my poor little body don’t you?” the voice spoke again now with a slight waver, a touch of potential panic.
“Yes,” grunted Reginald.
“Well it does sorta hurt a little bit,” the voice continued, showing a little strain, as anyone would who was trapped beneath a very heavy object. “You don’t want to kill me, do you?”
“I thought I already had!” exclaimed Reginald, still hissing through the uneven gaps in his dentistry.
Reginald’s whole being was in perfect synchronicity, or almost whole. The small withered portion, the part that learned types wise to the ways of psychological things call a conscience or morality or soul, was sat immobile, watching, waiting and hoping.
Reginald burned with a red-hot fire, where hate and anger no longer smouldered but raged. Yet it was still controlled, a moment on the verge of violence. The hard immoral thing held the flames back but had only one eventual goal, destruction. But the longer the fire could be built the more violent the ultimate act. As he slowly pressed his foot down, with a precision worthy of the best and most highly paid of surgeons, he fed on the other memories he’d thought were so deeply buried.
It wasn’t the mocking or bullying of the boys, theoretically under his charge that one and only term that he remembered. The dream of being a teacher had died on the tongues of children who would never understand, never amount to a fraction of anything. It wasn’t even the shame he’d felt as the headmaster thundered and admonished him, hurling words like bombs: ‘stupid’, ‘infantile’, ‘fool’ and ‘fired’!
No now it was the flames that sent flumes of thick black smoke easing into the clear winter night as the school building, old and filled with a hundred years of history, and one small boy, became no more than black charred debris.
“You’re a bad man Reginald Blackstaff,” the invisible one’s voice picked its way through the image and the remembered sounds of crackling flames.
Reginald didn’t answer.
“But that is only the tip of the cheeseburger,” the voice, still a little strained but none-the-less calm, almost jovial continued. “You have done far more terrible things before then, before that night!”
Other images started to mix with the embers that floated and danced. The hard evil part of Reginald was no stranger to seeking revenge, flashes of other faces, other bodies; people vaguely recognisable, all who at some point had helped to fire the hard dark part of Reginald Blackstaff.
His clenched teeth gave way to reveal an eager almost satanic smile.
“But you do know don’t you?” the voice was now gasping, struggling to get the words out, rising to almost a squeak as the pressure increased a little more. “You do know that… little Steve… survived…?”
For a moment the pressure stopped as Reginald hesitated, not knowing if he should believe this disappointing news. He didn’t speak.
“Ahh… urghh… yes… well at least until he had that… unfortunate accident with the… please just ease that foot a little… with the electric fence… I…sorry he was a touch on the naughty side…,” the voice managed to babble. “But I… he didn’t deserve to die when you wanted him to!”
To the now almost demonic figure, this was too much to bare, one last fatal mistake by the invisible one. The pure un-distilled anger was let loose; quickly Reginald lifted his foot several inches above the vibrant grassy ground, hesitated with malevolent anticipation, his eyes almost bulging as he stared at the spot where he knew the tormentor lay. He then drove the boot downwards with a strength usually reserved for those trapped beneath cars or rescuing very large people from burning buildings.
It was several days later, on a similar day with the sun still starching the sky and the birds and bees humming and dancing in the almost windless air, when an elderly lady let out a scream that was hugely disproportionate to her size. Her discovery was made less macabre by the unusual dry heat and lack of rain over the preceding week.
The body of Reginald Blackstaff lay on its back on the parched brown ground, and though there had been some decay, those who saw the face commented on the look of mild surprise that remained painted on the dry-skinned face.
The bull that usually lived in the field had been retired to a more comfortable stable during the week before the discovery. The unmistakable puncture marks clearly revealed that it was this beast, angered by the noisy interloper, who had used it rugged strength to hoist the man and deposit him several feet across the field. It wasn’t the force of the attack that killed him, or even the piercing by the horns that sent Reginald to his death, but the landing that broke his spine in two.
For his part, Reginald’s last thoughts had started with utter confusion; but as he’d glided through the air, startling a pair of pure white butterflies as he flew by, the anger evaporated. He just had enough time to dwell on the beauty of a summer’s day and it’s now apparent dangers before the world went black.
Copyright John D. Rhodes 2011