Sunday, 24 June 2012

I Can't Be Any Clearer

It wasn’t the sound of the back door opening that woke me up. It was the sound of the door closing. The latch clicks so noisily, I had been thinking about getting it fixed but it’s really useful for situations like this. There are other ways of being alerted to the fact that somebody’s breaking into your home but most of those involve other people being made aware of it too. I don’t want anybody coming to help me. I’ve noticed that a lot of you Americans have guns for home protection. Which is fine, I suppose. I can see the appeal, but they’re not particularly elegant, are they?

Anyway, I lay still for a moment, wondering what could have possessed someone to do something quite so stupid, what possible motivation there could have been. Then I got up. I stopped myself cracking my knuckles, just in case I needed to do so for dramatic effect later.

I went quietly to the top of the stairs and listened for a moment. I could hear hissed conversation, four distinct voices. Judging by the overpowering scent of Lynx deodorant and beer, I guessed that they were teenagers. Just what I needed, I thought. Drunk, stupid teenagers. I sighed and cracked my knuckles, making a lovely sharp noise. I heard a cry of alarm and three voices telling whoever had exclaimed to be quiet, for fuck’s sake.

“You can’t get out,” I said. This was true. I also counted on it scaring the piss out of them, whether they believed it or not.

The four voices stopped bickering. I could hear their breathing, that particular noise that people make when they’re trying to be silent. I thought about the best course of action to take. The one that would require the least amount of fuss. Cleaning up is such a hassle and people would notice that they’d gone. But then, a point had to be made. And I was already up. I might as well do things properly. I turned the light on in the hallway and cleared my throat.

“If you come out, I won’t hurt you.”

There was a pause, and more hushed arguing. I drummed my fingers against the bannister, loud enough for the noise to carry. There was the sound of a brief scuffle, and I distinctly heard the words “Fucking pussy!” being spat. Then a young man shuffled out and stood at the foot of the stairs, looking up at me. He had shoulder length lank hair that had been dyed black, a baggy black t-shirt with what I assumed was a popular band’s insignia printed on it, and black jeans that were much too small for him.

“Please,” he said, pushing his hair out of his face. “I just want to go home.” From the look in his eyes, I could tell that he meant it. But, like I said, a point had to be made.

I smiled and focused on his heart-beat. He started to whimper as I found the rhythm, then screamed as I perforated his heart, lungs, and stomach. Blood began to ooze from his mouth and he turned to face the kitchen. I could imagine the horrified expressions on the faces of his friends as they watched him die. When I felt the moment was right I punctured his brain and he dropped to the floor like a stone. This is a trick that I picked up some years ago. Once you know how it’s really quite easy, especially if the person is panicking.

As the screaming started I made my way down. I saw two figures make a run for the basement door under the stairs, which seemed like an incredibly bad decision on their part. Although it was currently unoccupied there was absolutely no means of escape from there and I hadn’t got around to replacing the light bulb. I let them go. They slammed the door behind them, leaving a boy in the doorway of the kitchen, staring at me.

“You said you wouldn’t hurt him,” he said. He had similar shoulder-length hair to the dead boy, though his was light brown. Large wire-framed glasses threatened to fall off the end of his nose. He was so skinny his t-shirt hung off his shoulders and shook as he shivered. He looked familiar. He also looked surprisingly unsurprised at what he’d just witnessed.

“He broke into my house. There are consequences for that. And why aren’t you screaming, boy?” I asked. When he didn’t answer I drew closer. “What are you doing in my home?”

“I had to show them,” he told me. “They didn’t believe me; they said I was a liar.”

“What didn’t they believe?” I asked. He hadn’t looked away.

“That you were a witch, Eliza” he said. I grinned.

“Well, clearly, they should have. How do you know me?”

The boy looked away for the first time, over at the body lying on the floor. It was bleeding onto the carpet. Sadly there is no spell on earth that can get blood stains out of carpeting once it’s in there.

“You killed my brother,” he said. As I opened my mouth to answer, he continued. “No, not him. He’s just a friend from school. I told him not to come, but he wouldn’t listen. He was trying to impress the others.”

I could hear whispering from behind the cellar door but I decided to ignore that for the moment. Instead, I put a hand on the boy’s shoulder.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Oliver,” he said.

“So, Oliver, I killed your brother. In which case, what on Earth are you doing here? Have you come for revenge? Have you come to join him? Because that can be arranged.”

He shook his head. “I wanted to be sure,” he said. “I wanted to know that I wasn’t crazy, that you were what I thought. That I remembered.”

“Well, if you want more proof,” I said, and clicked my fingers.

The cellar door swung open and I pulled the two cowardly boys into the corridor. They were muscle bound; short blonde hair and lovely blue eyes, probably brothers, wearing those ridiculous letter jackets that only the popular sporty boys are allowed to wear here. I made them hover about a foot off the ground as I plucked those blue eyes from their sockets. When I made a start on their impossibly white teeth Oliver started to shout, screaming at me to stop it. I paused, mainly so I could make myself heard over all the howling.

“What did you think was going to happen, Oliver? What was the plan here? Were you going to burn me at the stake? Is the rest of the town outside with pitchforks?”

He looked up at me, tears streaking down his face. And he started to talk. He told me about how terrible his life had been since I had taken his brother from him. How his parents had started fighting and stopped talking before finally splitting up and how his mother was married to another man in another state and how they had died in a car crash two Christmases ago and how his dad was in a coma after taking an overdose of painkillers that didn’t quite do the job. How he’d been moved to this town and a new foster home, only to realise that I had moved here too. I’m giving you the broad strokes because that’s all I managed to get through his sobbing. Clearly, something had gone wrong in the boy’s head, he needed what the people in this country are so fond of referring to as closure.

“I remember your brother now,” I told him. “I remember you, too. I let you go, about six years ago, wasn’t it? Your brother and his friends broke into my house to see if I had any, what was it they called it? ‘Witch Stuff’ I think they said, wonderfully imaginative. You were standing guard outside, shivering and trembling. He was punished for it. One moment he was standing in my living room, then he blinked, and he was in a crematorium’s furnace. It was relatively quick, I’m sure. Those things burn very hot.”

This didn’t help. Oliver kept on crying. The two boys were still conscious, still screaming away, teeth dangling from the gums by the roots.

“Look, I’m sorry, I can’t focus with this, just bear with me…” I said and opened their ribs. I let them drop with their offal and they landed in a surprisingly neat pile on top of the other bloody corpse.

“I’ll give you a chance,” I said, and he looked up at me, eyes full of something that could have been hope or terror, I wasn’t sure. “I will let you go if you promise to never try and find me again.”

His jaw started wobbling.

“That’s what I thought,” I said. “You know, Oliver, you were a lot cuter when you were little. This crying, all this snot and moaning, this isn’t making me feel remotely bad about anything.”

I was nice. I did it quickly, quicker than the other three. A simple separation of the head from the shoulders. When he stopped twitching I loaded their bodies into my van and dropped them on the front porches of their parents’ houses. They’d all wished very strongly for home as they died so it wasn’t hard for me to find where they lived, the residual longing was like a GPS. Then I went home and got ready to move again.

Now, you might be wondering why I’m telling you this. You’re all looking at me like I’m crazy. You don’t have to believe me if you don’t want to. But I am a witch. And I want to be left alone. If any of your children come to my house, you will never see them again.

Whenever I move to a new town, I tell people exactly what I am. I explain things very simply to them. And I always get the same slack-jawed look that I’m getting now. But this has to sink in. Leave me alone, and I will do you no harm. How hard is that to comprehend? Please, I’m asking you to be the first town that does as I ask. This isn’t a diabolical test; this is just me asking you to respect my privacy.

That aside, I would like to thank you for this lovely welcome to the neighbourhood. I think I’m going to be very happy here. But that’s up to you and yours, really, isn’t it?


Hello there,

I hope you liked this one. There's not really a lot to it but I wrote it for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to do a reverse of the usual perspective of this sort of story. Secondly, I wanted to write the character again, Eliza and Oliver were the subjects of a story from last year called "Eliza is a Witch" I have vague plans to write a series of short stories about Eliza that will turn out to have a plot. She exists in the same universe as my novel (and the sort-of-in-progress sequel), and so I thought it would be a good way to keep putting things on the blog while staying in the same world as the longer things I'm writing. 

So, I hope you like her. She's a horrible, horrible character but she's fun to write. Probably because she's so horrible. 

I'm moving house next week, which is exciting. I was at Sheffield Doc/Fest (coverage at Fohnhouse here) last week so there's not been much fiction happening but this will change.

And here are The Magnetic Fields with Abigail, Belle of Kilronan.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jonny,

    Another great story! Wasn't sure if I'd read the first one, but it's all come flooding back to me! I really like the banality of this story, the whole "And then I pulled his eyes out and beat him to death with them" schtick. I can definitely see why she's so fun to write - and I'd definitely read more of her.

    The idea that they both wound up in the same town again seemed unlikely, but then again that's just karma, right? It made the story more interesting than if it had just been a bunch of random teenage cannon fodder (and a better sequel, if that's the right word).

    Looking forward to next time!