Monday, May 29, 2006

Sticks and Stones

It began with the stones.

He'd been startled, thinking it was hailstones peppering the windows. Rising to look at the sudden change in the weather, he'd had to duck as a brick, its slow arc belying its velocity, sailed through the pane, showering him with a spray of glass; his face a scarlet mask from the cuts criss-crossing his now shock-white features.

Herded under the table, Donald and his cats, shielded from the downpour of stones, of rotting sticks of wood, of hatred. Mewling, all of them. Gouges, scratches and ruts marked the table-top, bore witness to Donald's horror, told the story from above, from a different perspective. Sods of wet earth clattered through the gaping holes in the windows and then, silence. Shortly after come shouts, laughter - a malevolent cackle, like static electricity, giving him a further shock; someone had purposely done this.

Someone was out to get him.

During the ensuing interview at the police station - where they barely listened to him - the Desk Sergeant nodded, scratched his head, ummed and ah-ed in the right places, but his disinterest was obvious. He scraped his pen across the paper, like a toddler doodling with a crayon, the words indistinguishable from each other. Donald Preston, that was the only word that he could make out clearly; it was a name the Desk Sergeant knew, for he'd written it down only weeks before, except then, he'd taken the time to write down his words carefully on the charge sheet.

Two hours later, Donald was back in his home, the windows covered with a hardboard skin - to protect from the elements, the glazing company had said. It had taken less than ten minutes after the glazing company's red van had turned the corner for the local youths to spray their tags, to add their feelings to those shared by his neighbours. They couldn't spell it properly, but to anyone with an ounce of phonetic skills it was clear:


Paint brushes in hand, pots settled like dogs around his feet, Donald was outside staring hard at the word sprayed with what looked to be a delicate hand. Swift back and forth movements saw it covered with the whitewash. He knew that, come morning, the first shafts of sunlight would illuminate another version of the accusation, but still he ploughed on. Several times he thought about vandalising his own windows, painting his own venomous message in broad strokes, but instead got on with the job of wiping out the misspelled missive. This was the only way he could clear his name. Donald couldn't even raise a chuckle at the irony of his situation. He could barely raise the enthusiasm to continue, let alone any joy that may have been secreted in the depths of his body. Donald was broken.

Someone was out to get him.

It had begun with those stones, the shouts and cries; where would it end?

Stepping through over the tiled threshold, Donald was unprepared for the sight that greeted him. Pots thumped against the floor, a dull ring as they found contact with the antique tiles; brushes nipped at his feet, spilling tears of white over the hem of his left trouser leg, his shoes. What greeted Donald was a further shock to his fragile system.

They'd been the only things holding him together, they were his seams, his buttons and braces. There'd been no need, surely? What had his cats ever done? What kind of person would take a defenceless animal and commit such atrocities? Donald knew it was his neighbours, his neighbourhood. He pushed past the corpses of his cats, hanging by their tails, throats slit, notes pinned to each still-warm body threatening him, goading him.

Someone was out to get him.

By morning, the lifeless cats had attracted flies, maggots spilling onto the floor, squirming amongst the sticky mix of paint and blood. Footprints tainted the smooth surface of the liquids; a paintbrush, hardening slowly in the strip of sunlight that sneaked around the door frame, lay discarded, forgotten. An attempt had been made to break open the front door, but suddenly abandoned. The window panes created from the glazier's store of hardboard were blackened with soot, charred by small fires set at the corner of each frame that had failed to take once the initial fuel had been burned off. Further graffiti stained the brickwork. The area was silent, the birds' chirruping occasionally disturbing the air, punctuating the air every so often. There was no movement in the house and no one came investigating.

The stories had been told so often that no one could recall where it had started, how it had snowballed, got out of control; no one could remember who had cast that first stone. Mothers publicly scolded those that had been part of the witch hunt; privately spattering the memory of their neighbour with bitter remarks, unsubstantiated rumours and claims. It was always someone else's child, someone else's sick and twisted mind. It was safer that way. A mechanism, employed to cast shadows over the incidents. A way of pushing it back to the dark corners, those areas of the human mind that are sheltered by layers of cobwebs. Only one thing proved a common theme to each tale told, the single statement that could almost have been used as an epitaph:

Someone was out to get him.


purplesimon said...

This idea has been circling around my head for a few days now and I've just found some time to write it up.

Yeah, it's heavy subject matter, but I know you know I never shy away from this kind of thought.

I think there is more to done with this, but I like it as a starting point.

I leave it to you and look forward to comments, etc.

purplesimon out...

lryicsgrl said...

You do take us to dark places, dear Simon. Writers, good ones, are brave. You are brave.

Thank you for sharing with us, the darkest corners of your mind :)

Did that sound weird???