Monday, 23 December 2013

Father and Son (Writer's Quibble prose)

This is a prose piece that was published in The Writer's Quibble. The theme for the issue was horror. Special thanks to Tom Ashton for letting me repost this here. 

“Lock the door son!” I screamed to him, over the sound of the passengers panicking; some of them had spotted the other plane drawing closer. I saw the door lock, my eyelids scrunched up, and tears oozed from the slits. There came a deafening crash, my body was helpless against the powerful wind that sucked me out. I saw the burning cabin get smaller. I turned my head and saw the other plane careening out of control. I had no bearing on what was happening. I could see a large white panel spiralling towards me. There was a crunch. I spotted blood fly out of my mouth and chest. I felt lighter. Stabbing pain and nausea were accompanied by a strong draft in my lower torso. My body flopped around in the sky.  I dreaded the landing, but I was feeling lighter now, maybe I could fly. Fly back to my son. Make sure he was ok. I looked at my stomach. Slithers of blood were flapping and spraying in the breeze. Something long and slimy had slipped out of my abdomen and was dancing like an eel.
I drifted and dropped. Lower and lower. Lighter and lighter. A rain of blood accompanying my wet thump against the ground.   
I snapped out of the daze. My son was holding my hand. He wasn’t smiling. I looked back and two women packed into thick winter coats were also holding hands. They were both roughly of similar height but one looked much younger than the other.
I know them, I thought to myself.
“Mind you don’t slip sweetie.” She called out to my son. They were my wife and daughter. It must be those scarves and coats, I reasoned to myself, that’s why I didn’t recognise them.
The pavement was slippery. A thick layer of ice made us stumble on occasion. The grit offered some footing but we all had to tread carefully. The Christmas lights sent twinkling reflections to the puddles on the road until they resembled a colourful night sky. The moonlight struck the buildings making them a dull blue, like my son’s eyes.  
Were we just going for a walk? It’s strange. I thought we were Christmas shopping but we didn’t have any bags of presents. We must have just been out for a walk then. I think we’d come to look at the Christmas lights.
“Do you like the lights?” I said.
My boy looked up at me.
“What?” he queried.
I smiled down at him as we walked.
“I said do you like the Christmas lights” I paused, “son?”
“Yes” he replied. “It’s not Christmas though. But I like the lights. That’s why they’re there.”
Not Christmas? What on Earth does he mean by that? I thought to myself. Perhaps he’s just being oddly pedantic for a child of his age. Yes, his age. I furrowed my brow and tried to remember what that was. God I must be a terrible father. As that thought lolled around my head I failed to notice the little mitten slipping out of my gloved hand.
It was only when I stopped to tread around some dog muck that I noticed he wasn’t there. I looked around and spotted him on the road looking at some lights running between lamp posts. I looked to the girls who were staring back at me. I slipped a little on the ice as I darted forward. I found my footing on the road and not a moment too soon as the slick tarmac started to glitter with the yellow light of car headlights. My son hadn’t budged. The car started screeching to a halt but it would still hit him. I only had one chance. I had to get him out of the way myself. The leering lights drew closer to us; I was just inches away from him.
The moment I felt his jacket against my palm I pushed. My shoulder surged with all available strength, my elbow keeping the trajectory upwards. His body was launched into the air, I worried for a moment if he’d be hurt by the fall but before I could go to him, the car’s headlights were blinding me.
The car rammed into my chest, my face thumped on the bonnet. I woke up as soon as my skull shattered on the road. My head jerked against the soft pillow coated with sweat. I leant up and wiped some perspiration off of my brow and neck. A woman with tight brown curls in her hair lay next to me, a perfect smile on her lips. She was picturesque and contented. Her right arm covered her breasts and her left hand was buried in her thick curls.
I peeled the sheets off of my clammy body and made my way to an en suite. We must be in a hotel. I filled a plastic cup with water and greedily swilled it down. For a while I stood in the doorway looking at her. I looked at the tiny freckles on her nose, her smooth skin; gorgeous. The hotel room looked pretty nice, wood panelled walls, rustic furnishings. I guess they were going for a log cabin look.
Then there came loud fast knocks at the door. I almost dropped my water. I put some jeans on and scampered to the door, the knocking didn’t stop.
“Alright, alright! Jeez, will you hold on a second?”
I opened the door and saw two young kids before me. One a round faced girl, slightly pudgy. The other was a boy. My boy. Short cropped hair and dull blue eyes.
“Hey you!” I said. “You better be quiet, you’ll wake up… erm…”
The girl next to him chimed in.
“Is mummy sleeping?”
“Err. Yes. She is. Mummy is sleeping.”
From behind, I heard her calling to me.
“Is that the kids?”
“Yeah.” I said “Hey, kids. Why don’t you go to your room and wait for mummy and daddy to get changed? We’ll come get you when we’re dressed and then we can all get some breakfast.”
The corridors were rather nicely furnished too. Red wallpaper, in keeping with the warm tone, I liked this place. The kids walked by our sides and I held my wife’s hand. Daughter and mother held hands and swung them back and forth. I reached out for my son’s hand but he didn’t respond; he looked on down the corridor. The end of the corridor filled with four men dressed in grey camouflage, flak jackets and black balaclavas. They looked directly at us. One of them slowly aimed a pistol down at us. No one moved. Not until he opened fire. The beautiful curled hair on my wife’s head scattered around the corridor with bits of scalp. Her head leaked a red slop speckled with bits of grey. The girl screamed and ran away, shrinking down the hallway until another shot chased her down. I grabbed my son, held his small body tightly against my chest and ran. No shots were fired, the boy struggled in my arms, and I heard booted footsteps behind me.
I reached the elevators, one was slightly open. I put my son down and pushed the doors apart. I looked down the deep pit. I could make out a network of scaffolding we might be able to climb down. I could hear the steady advance of boots, the rattle of flak jacket zips.
“Come on, I’ll give you a piggy back.” I said to him, trying to make it sound like a game.
He obediently clambered on my back and wrapped his arms and legs around me. I got inside the elevator shaft, with my feet slanted on a thin ledge I tried to pull the doors back into place. I gave up when I sensed I was losing my footing. I edged along the ledge until we were completely behind one of the doors. I peeked out of the gap and saw the four men congregated and exchanging glances. They didn’t say anything. All four of them looked at the door we were hiding behind then back to each other. They turned and left quietly.
When I felt like they were gone for long enough I pushed at one of the doors. My son leaned forward and shoved at the door. My feet fumbled. I prepared my hands to catch myself on the ledge. I just managed but not before my chin struck it causing my head to lurch back. I didn’t hit the kid though. Thank god. The opening was just wide enough for him to get though.
“Climb up.” I said “Climb up daddy’s back and through the doors.”
He gripped my shirt tightly, his fingers pinched my skin. His foot pushed down on my shoulder and then the other one. I gave a satisfied sigh when I saw him clamber onto the ledge. The gap I’d made in the doors was perfect for him. He then turned around. In between the doors with the light shining behind, he looked like he was in a picture frame. He looked down at me. His dull blue eyes were all I could focus on. They were almost grey. He smiled. I realised then that I’d never seen him smile. I hadn’t seen him smile since, since when? I don’t think I know his name.
 He bit in his lower lip, raised his little leg up, and brought his foot down on my left hand, digging his ankle into my finger joints. Before I could scream he’d lifted his foot again and planted it on my nose.
I fell. Of course I fell. I plummeted into the deep rectangular cave. All that went through my mind was: why did he do that? The dry air was cutting into my eyes, I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t see the bottom. I couldn’t see the scaffolding. I couldn’t see what my body whooshed past but my head stuck to.      
Why won’t he love me? I gave that little shit life didn’t I? Didn’t I? Even if I didn’t then he must know that I care for him, I keep saving him. Why does my child hate me? I wish I could hate him, and then there might be respite from this.


Andrew Krska, 'Father and Son': 

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