Best Served Cold
By : Stewart MacDonald
I still remember the day he left me behind. The way the sun shone through the window and through the branches of the willow tree that swayed gently outside my room; it's branches creaking gently in the March wind, and that same breeze whistling sweetly through the streets of Darkhurst. I remember how beautiful that winter had been. For so long had I been empty and alone. For so long had I been alienated and tortured in my isolation. Finding solace only in books and art, and that same solace increasing the gap between me and all those other snarling demons that call themselves humans.
My parents were among them, my presence seeming a burden to them. Like there was something wrong with me because I preferred the wonderful world's that authors could create to school. They shunned me, and I heard them argue while they thought I was asleep.
Harsh words of my incompetence in school, of my disinterest in the academics and my love for the creative. How could they think those things wrong? How could they begrudge me for wanting to escape to a world that encourages the beauty I was capable of viewing in my mind when I absorbed the words of others?
Why would they make me take those pills that seemed to dull those imaginings with every dosage, till I was unable to see them at all? They said I couldn't pay attention. But I could pay full attention to the world outside. To the birds and the trees, the squirrels and the clouds. Why would I want to pay attention to numbers, pencils and nap-times when such a world sat just outside?
Yes, I was alone, and had resigned myself to that fate. Accepted that I was doomed. Until that winter. That beautiful, perfect November day when he had come, bringing no insults, no condescension, no pills. Only a warm smile, so clashing with that frigid season that it could do nothing but warm my soul. He accepted my differences, my complicated, intricate games of adventure that the other children mocked me for while they sat with their heads buried in cell-phones and televisions.
He'd never called me a loser. A faggot. Never pushed me onto the ground and rubbed my face in the mud. He watched over me, smiling not in wickedness but in friendship and love. And through that barren season where the coldness without reflected the ice within, he never left my side.
He waited every morning, to fill the precious few moments I had before the nightmare of school with camaraderie and bliss, discussing the books I had read, the things I would create with clay, and the songs I loved and the things I hoped to accomplish when I finally grew up and became strong, free of the weakness and fear of being this tiny, frail being. And when I walked back from school, face stained with tears from the torment I had endured, and heart filled with misery, mind filled with a haze that those hateful pills undoubtedly caused to block those beautiful worlds from my head, there he would be. That smile widening on his face and his checkerboard scarf blowing in the wind, arms extended for the embrace that would render insignificant my troubles.
Things seemed better. There was hope in the world! There was good! I was sure of it! That such an individual could exist was surely a sign of hope of things to come. And things DID get better. The words of those other children seemed less important, even meaningless. It became less of a nightmare and simply a bearable chore that I would endure, and endure happily for the promise of trudging home through the howling winter wastes and rushing into the arms of the best friend I had ever had.
And they had seemed to note this, and their taunts and insults diminished in tandem with my reactions to them. It didn't matter that I could not imagine what I wanted to anymore, that I became more reserved and locked up inside myself. The time I spent with him was as wonderful as the other worlds, as if they had broken through the barrier of my stifled mind and now fused with this empty, frigid realm, making it something more.
My parents were as opposed to his presence as they were to the things I loved and had once pictured so vividly. They disliked me spending such time outside, warning me that homework was more important than those cherished times spent with my unfaltering companion. That it was unhealthy that I would want to spend so much time with him as opposed to my own parents.
Parents that would not listen to my sobs of protest when I begged them to stop with the pills. When I begged them to give my imagination back. They said they loved me; but their love was an eraser upon my heart and my brain. His was an unfaltering smile. An ever open ear to my woes. Arms that would never shy from an embrace or rip apart my drawings when I indulged in them instead of homework. Hands that would never hope to smother my very self.
And then came March... When all was right. The sun seeming to promise me yet another day where the world was made bearable, I should have known something was up. The hushed whisperings of my parent's, conspiratorial musings that I was too blinded by happiness and expectation to suspect the motivations behind. So my heart filled with joy and my soul braced for the day ahead, I ignored my parents false well-wishing, equipped my backpack and headed out the door.
The spike that drove into my guts was immense. That stab of fear, then sorrow, then white hot betrayal. As mysteriously and wonderfully as he had come, as quietly and callously he had departed. That spot beside the drive where he had stood so patiently so many a day was vacated, replaced by swaying grass. No sign of the unfaltering friend which had brought me such joy and light where before there where only shadows.
Only his checkerboard scarf, tassels ebbing gently in the wind as the traitor willow had. How stupid I was. How naive and trusting. They had grown bored with simply tearing at me, those demons in the masks of humans. Bored of being so blatant with their assault, so they had sent one of their own in the guise of a friend, to fill my heart with joy and hope only to dash it between their clawed fingers by withdrawing him.
Such a simplistic, transparent tactic. That I, lost, lonesome and medicated child, had bought like penny-candy. All the hope faded with the stabbing in my gut. All those days of light and happiness. Every second of acceptance had been a lie. I died then. The me that had endured despite the taunting and the isolation perished, decayed and blew away as dust. He had left behind only his scarf. A final taunt. Or a memento? Could there have been a reason for his departure? Was it beyond his control? Those rationalizations left as quickly as they came. All his departure brought was suffering, and the abandoned scarf only crystallized that agony. If that was all his disappearance served, then that was what he intended.
From that day on I hated. Myself. The world. I would never trust another. Never let another drooling fiend that close to my heart so that they could ravage and brutalize it. My books lay abandoned. I submitted to the robotic dullness of schoolwork, only to get by and have the means to cut myself off from all human contact. But it is impossible. You can never be free of them. You must work to survive. And to work is to enter their presence. To be aware of their whispers behind your back, of their dagger-eyes boring a hole through you and judging every molecule that composes you. I was so close to being like them, accepted by them, even making jokes every once in a while, until he had left me all alone, only my rage and betrayal as company. Now the words I spoke to them were rehearsed. What they wanted to hear as I pumped the stinking petrol into their monstrous carriages, so that they in kind could pump it into the world around them, poisoning the air and sky, as they had poisoned my mind with their pills.
Which never stopped. I had developed twitches and a habit of pacing and tapping my pencil as school progressed, which the doctors and teachers claimed were a result of an insufficient dosage and a worsening of my, inattentive disorder. My imagination had been reduced to bare blips and pieces that would enter my mind on occasion, like a lost memory, but with the increase of those hateful white tablets, it was taken altogether. Myself was buried, that child who had once dreamed of writing poems and sagas, of writing books like those which had so filled my mind and heart. Rage replaced him. Sorrow consumed him. Confusion and paranoia pissed upon his grave. My enemies were so numerous, vengeance upon them was impossible. But there was one who had struck the hardest blow. The assaults of the everyday monsters of parents and co-workers was expected, and despite the pain it caused me, it was all expected.
You could not be betrayed by those you never trusted. The agony they brought me was less malicious as it was predictable; as if they were going through the motions. Accomplishing a task. I could not begrudge them that. But there was one who had crossed that line. Had done everything in his power to inflict the deepest wound. To worm his way into my heart simply to depart and tear most of it away with him like a thief in the night. Surely he was out there, perhaps doing the same to some other child like me. The thought burned in my mind for days. His smiling face that once brought such warmth now fueling an icicle of vengeance and violence in my pill-ravaged mind.
In my 20th year I began to search. I would take my battered car out late at night and prowl for him, unsure of exactly what i would do when I found him, only knowing that he would pay. I debated a gun, but I wanted him to suffer as I had suffered. To make him feel every ounce of the pain his leaving had inflicted upon me for 15 long and relentless years. Only my hands would do. Would I pound his grinning face to a pulp? Would he still be smiling then? I knew not. Only that I would search.
It seemed hopeless. Many times I would swear I would catch sight of him. A round man standing by the curb, a scarf blowing jauntily in the wind and a deceivingly soft and warm smile plastered to his circular, tubby face, belying the cold calculation below. I would bring the car to a crawl, prepared to pounce and strangle the life from him, or boot the cruel guts out of him... But it was never my target. There were always differences. The pattern upon the scarf, the set of his smile, the size of his eyes and the lay of his nose... Never the traitor I found.
For ten long years I continued my ritual, savage anger driving me forward, giving me a strength and determination his pseudo-friendship never did. But eventually it faded. I had given up hope. He was too sly. Perhaps those fellows who resembled him so closely were in league with him, passing on information of my exploits, causing him to remain safely out of sight.
So it became apparent that he had accomplices. Perhaps they were even mimicking his atrocity! Befriending lost children like the one I had once been and then destroying them with their departure! The humanity! The humanity! Either way, they were just as guilty. Their smiles false, their intentions as black as their beady eyes. They too, must be punished. So those fruitless nights alone with the softly playing Classical station and my beaten Honda became crusades of vengeance. Not only would I liberate children of tormentive disappointment, but I may make one of the bastards spill his filthy guts on the location of my nemesis!
I barely saw the need for the useless material objects most other people did, so I had much money squirreled away. I began to spent it, spent it on a righteous cause that those people who so glowered and snickered at me to my turned back would never know. I purchased numerous baseball bats. I knew I could not keep one I had previously used. I also bought many cases of beer and super-glue.
I did not drink the vile fluid, so I dumped most of it down the gutter outside my small home. I then filled a bucket with the countless super-glue bottles and another with the shattered beer bottles. I dipped my newly acquired melee weapons in the former and then the latter, creating implements that would cause those pale, flabby bastards the pain that they inflicted on both me and children everywhere.
I could not contain my exhilaration before the first kill. I pulled up slowly beside one of my nemesi's cohorts. It was a dark and chilly December night, about a fortnight from Christmas. It seemed a casual affair, me, unfamiliar to the area and lost, asking for directions. He, the world-wise local standing beside the curb in apparent bonhomie. But the arrogant bastard wouldn't even grant me a response. Just smiled, as if he knew exactly of my purpose and intended to mock me. As if he knew of my pain and expected me to sway off my conquest in cowardice, as I ran and hid from those children who had made my childhood hell.
He was mistaken.
I pummeled his fat stomach until pieces of it rained upon the earth. Screaming my fury at him and demanding he depart the location of my enemy. Yet he would not. Even as he crumpled, body shattering and crumpling beneath my blows, he remained silent. Not even a cry escaped him, he only went on smiling. Well, until I forced the end of the glass-studded implement into that smarmy, grinning maw and dashed open his cranium like a ripe watermelon. I fled as the lights of the house he stood watch over flared to life, heart racing in both satisfaction and rage at his silence. What determination to his corrupt cause! To not even utter a peep as I smashed the filthy life from him!
No matter. If he would not talk, others would surely not share his fortitude.
I disposed of my weapon in the Thames River, a county over. I burned my clothing and shaved my head. How stupid of me not to do that first. I could have left hairs at the scene, hairs which the conniving police could trace back to me. I then visited a spray-shop in Chatham and had my vehicle recolored.
I set out the next night, for surely lightning would not strike twice. Surely those who would embark upon such a cowardly and evil mission against lonely children could not have the fortitude to remain silent in the face of such force! But again my target remained silent, even as I kicked him over and gave him a Louisville Slugger enema there in the snow.
How? How could they be so resilient? I, with my righteous cause, had broken so easily when my long-departed 'friend' had committed his treachery, and these serpentine men, these wretches would not even break as I violated them with a glass-studded baseball bat!
It was time for more drastic measures. I began to acquire aerosol cans and lighters. Hacksaws and screwdrivers. Nails and screws. I even bought a cage which I modified to fit over their fat heads and some rats to starve and then insert into the customized cell whilst it was afitted to my victims heads. Nothing took the smile from their face. Nothing made them so much as whimper. Not as the flesh of their faces was seared away, not as I punctured, gashed and ruptured their bodies (Ever careful to avoid the extremities until it was certain my efforts were fruitless), and not even as the rats ate off their noses.
I lost count of my victims, growing more dismayed and flabbergasted which each act. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of the children I was undoubtedly bringing salvation to, and the blind and ever-decreasing hope that one day my enemy would be brought to light. For ten more years I stalked and slaughtered, maimed and tortured, all for nothing. On my 40th birthday, I gave up. They never talked. They never even hid, as if they did not fear the justice I delivered them. My exploits had made the paper as well. Police indicating the crimes were committed by 'a deluded and sick individual'.
Hah! So says the men with the perfect lives, who have never known the betrayal and the suffering I had endured! Who only protect the illusions of justice and only serve their own wallets. If they were so right, why had they not caught me? But it was a lost cause now... My hopes of ever righting the wrong inflicted on me dwindled to nothing, and I resumed my empty existence. Smiling and nodding when necessary, driving and leaving my house little. More years passed, more winters came, assailing me not only with the painful recollections but with the sight of those smug cohorts of my enemy, standing by the curbs and grinning their hateful grins.
I would die, I knew, unavenged and unfulfilled, as the ghost of old age began to assume my place. My back began to bend, my sight began to fade, my hair grew back, grayed and began to depart, as that monster had departed on that March day. Every day was the same. Wake up. Pump gas. Get old. Wait for death.
And then... Christmas Day, the year I had turned 68 and began to feel like 73, as I was driving to work... There he stood. I drove right past him at first, thinking him just another of his mocking conspirators to ignore, lest it resurrect unhealable wounds, but then the wind had kicked up. And there, in the corner of my eye, fluttered the scarf that had never left my mind. Smirked the smile that had haunted my nightmares, and by God, the bastard hadn't aged a day. I might have left it that. It was broad daylight, totally wrong for such an operation to take place, and surely he would be there come nightfall.
I had even began to drive away, but then I saw the child. The child laughing and embracing his formidable midriff. He was preparing a repeat performance. Another blow to another innocent mind. No. NO! I would not have it. Not ever again. With a roar I slammed the brakes, barely effected as the car behind me crunched into the shit-heap Toyota that had replaced my Honda. The child withdrew from the beast that posed as his friend, innocent eyes wide with fear at my screeching charge. He ran as I drew near, hollering himself hoarse for his mother. He would thank me later. I had no weapons, but that was well. Was that not my original intent?
Fate smiled on me. After all those years, God would put right this atrocity and punish the guilty. I launched my grizzled and decrepit body forward, in a flying tackle that would put shame to any cocky, arrogant footballer. Time slowed, my opponent did not flinch, did not cease the cursed upward tilt of his deceitful mouth, and it did not matter if he remained as stalwart and silent as his compadres. He would pay, this day. And revenge would be mine. I collided with him, and there was a second of satisfaction as he exploded, as he crumbled and spattered upon the winter terrain, and then, agony.
I was floored. A roaring, ferocious pain which outmatched even the pain of my soul rippled through my frame like a million needles. I tried to sit up, but found I could not move a damn thing below my chin. My back felt more than bent, it felt shattered and dismembered. My shoulder cracked disgustingly as I flailed my head to the the side. To my left, where my opponent had once sat, stood a fire hydrant. He had built himself around a device of cold steel, in foresight of my assault! But he was gone! Hallelujah, revenge was mine!
Tears filled my eyes as I stared into the brilliant sky. Put right was this madness! At long last! Despite my paralysis and destruction! I had won. He lay dead, in ivory pieces with the equally white ground. Concerned voices rang out from my right, and I turned my head to view their owners, peace at long last filling my soul... And I began to scream.
For I now stared into the black and soulless eyes of my enemy, his carrot nose broken and bent, his scarf fluttering in the cruel and merciless December wind, and though his head was severed, his hateful grin of coal never faltering.