The Father's tale
By G. Forma
Odd and old, was an English stone tavern that lay deep in a valley of moorland. On one cold stormy night, a moustached blonde-haired man entered through its front wooden door, foolishly seeking security within.
The tavern was spacious inside, with numerous wooden tables and chairs scattered around. Its only window had been boarded up with taped down cardboard; in its place a handful of flames from an open coal fire in the far corner, dimly lit the room. Apart from one Bartender cleaning glasses behind the counter; the only other person inside was a cloaked hooded man, seated on a wooden stool beside the bar.
Since it would appear out of place to sit elsewhere, the moustached man also sat down beside the bar, a short distance away from the other man. He ordered a pint of old ale, which the Barman served promptly from one of his recently cleaned glasses. He sat sipping it, waiting for something to pass.
The hooded man was shrouded within a long dirtied coat; his stench was unbearable and becoming increasingly worse by the stuffiness of the room. Just as the bartender was about to politely ask him to leave, the tavern door thudded open and a drenched angry man entered.
"Fred I need my money NOW!" He ferociously shouted as he headed towards the moustached man, who then moved off his seat in panic.
The angry man moved down the bar; he knocked over a chair, disturbing the hooded man, who also then stood up from his stool. As he did so, he dropped his coat and revealed a wretched body underneath.
His skin looked to have the colour and texture of green tree bark peeling away. Only his left eyeball remained, his right nostril merged with a tear in his upper lip. His shirt was torn apart, exposing his decomposed flesh and visible broken ribcage.
The Bartender, horrified, turned and ran through a back exit. The angry man, sickened to the core, ran straight back out into the storm.
Fred simply stared onwards at his monstrous saviour, "are you a zombie?"
"I am he, who was once a father. Since you're the only one who chose not to flee from my disgraced visage, I will reward you Frederick with the story behind my satanic fall."
They both sat back down on stools beside the bar, but closer together. Fred turned his head away from the Father's revolting form, ready to listen with strange intrigue and determination to discover the truth behind the gruesome sight.
The rotten man looked at Fred's turned face, gave a quick sigh and then began his account.
"It began on a humid summer's night. A young lady, bored of her job, life and parents, journeyed deep into the heart of the city. A dreadful man encountered her and pushed her over into an enclosed alleyway. His filthy arrow struck her, and she screamed for her life.
I was thirty-two at the time and was living in my uncle's house, who had recently passed away. I was thinly built with a tanned clear skin and had short brown hair. I worked as an overseer at a nearby Toy Factory. One night after work, I decided to walk home alone, out of self-pity.
I heard the woman's screams and followed them to the alleyway. Her attacker saw me coming and I saw his figure before he dashed away into the shadows.
I discovered the woman there, she was half dead and covered in blood and scratches. Gathering her body in my arms, I then carried her out of the alleyway and through the dark city streets, into my home.
Nine months later, she gave birth to a boy. We named him Abe, coming from Abel, because he breathed new life into our home.
Gepetto, alone no more.
I loved Abe.
The worst day of his life, and the final day of my own, occurred when he was only seven.
We were both stood beside my car, which was parked on a street in the city centre. It was midday and there was no one else around. I had just added a newly bought basketball and net to the boot of my car, when a thin man slithered down from a nearby street corner. I recognised his weasel-like face and form instantly; he was the shadow from the alleyway on that night, seven years ago. He drew a revolver and aimed it towards the car. A grim grin entered his countenance and I knew then that I would not be granted the virtue of his mercy.
I spun around to face Abe. "RUN!" Was my final word before my chest exploded with gore over the boy.
Through Abe I had regained my childhood: Football, rugby, rounders.
And Abe loved me.
A single bullet took all this away."
The Father paused as Fred rose from his seat to lock the Tavern door. The storm was beginning to cease and he already knew the man had been dead, yet he had listened this far already. Once he was done, he sat back down and the Father continued.
"Ensuring the decoration of my outline in blood and later chalk, my body slapped against the curb.
Abe clung to my bloodied body, both of our insides simultaneously emptying and permanently breaking. I bled to death in front of him.
Once again I found myself a bystander of life. I tried to drift away, but I was denied the tranquillity of death, filled with enough rhythm to dance through the limbo and onto the macabre. Over an impossible living account of time, I learned that my new habitat was structured together through long eradicated plagues.
A few months after my death, I watched Abe in a day-care centre, playing near him was a little ponytailed girl. Like me, he too found difficulty in connecting with others. I listened to the little girl's thoughts, she found him strange, and didn't like him. I leaked inside her body for a brief moment, to call the words, 'Abe I play still beside you.' These words followed with a flow of her own vomit, poor girl.
A month later my infectious world, had manifested into my own ambition. One day when Abe's mother was napping and he was alone, I whispered for him to count to ten, then come seek me.
After he finished counting, he discovered my uncle's old shovel in the shed behind the house and that night he ventured out to the cemetery, it was desolate. He climbed over the gates and shifted through the rows until he approached my grave.
Without a moment's thought, he began ferociously shovelling through the dirt around the front of the stone. Inevitably, the shovel's rusted head snapped off, barehanded, he clawed his way through the rest of the dirt. Covered in soil and drenched in tears, he eventually stood upon the deteriorating wooden casket. Taking what remained of the shovel, he pried the lid open.
Since I weighed far less than before, he found he was able drag me out of the hole, the insects scattered, and my hair stayed in the hole..."
"Stop yourself," demanded Fred interrupting. "What devil are you? Why come here only to haunt and disgust random people?"
"I spent most of my life awaiting death, so he made me an exception. At first I considered myself lucky and then that I made my own luck. But my fortune comes at the price of being doomed to walk this coil, until my legs crumble away. Do you wish to deny me, the privilege of venturing throughout the world, to spread my story before all that is wild and creeps commence their delayed feast of finishing up the rest of me?"
The Father reached out and snatched a random glass with his skeletal hand, he then stretched over the bar and began pulling himself a pint. "May I continue?"
The storm was over and the fire had now gone out; the only light remaining came in snippets of ominous moonlight from the boarded window.
"Go right ahead," replied Fred.
"Abe hung my carcass through a hook inside the wardrobe in his room. So that on samey stormy nights, whenever he would be scared, he always knew that I would be there. His mother was no longer of use; many nights passed of him opening his wardrobe and simply clutching me in the darkness.
The nights then turned into years and as he grew into an adolescent he slowly but surely forgot all about me.
At fifteen, he was more of a shadow than a person, always wearing a wool hat which covered most of his head. Another accessory he wore, was a long serpent-like belt, this had less to do with fashion and more to hold his pants up due to how thin he had become.
He became involved with the once-ponytailed girl. Now a teenager, her former naughty thoughts were now devilish. Together they ventured into the city, and from a certain alleyway they bought and used large amounts of heroin.
Unknown to them, their supplier was my killer. I whispered in Abe's ear and he acquired more and more from him.
Abe's addiction quickly increased; the girl, sickened by his behaviour, left him, leaving him alone, since Abe's mother was also now long gone. So he retreated back to his room, entering the belly of the whale.
Sitting on his bed one sunny afternoon, he heard thudding on the house door. He sat up and looked out of his window; it was the drug-man kicking the hardest he could against the door, he had come for his money which Abe didn't have.
Removing his long serpent-like belt and dangling it in one hand, Abe stood at the foot of his faithful wardrobe. With full intentions to hang until dead, he opened the door and retreated into its darkness."
It was now the dead of night, the corpse had taken a break to finish his drink. Fred could only just barely make out the silhouette, which was gruesomely lapping up the dregs of his pint with his tongue.
"Is this the final act of your story?" Fred heard the pint glass slam down.
"It's never ending."
"In the darkness Abe tied his belt to the wardrobe's steel clothes rail. He made a short noose, removing then dropping his hat- he placed the belt's noose over his head and then around his neck. He then climbed upon an old shoebox, and then, finally, he leapt for the reaches of Narnia.
He was in this state for a while, before he began to wonder why he wasn't dead or even hanging.
'I am holding your feet,' I explained.
His eyes wondered upwards, 'I forgot all about you Dad'. He studied my grotesque face and ghastly body which looked down upon his meek figure. 'Why do you still hold me? Just let me die.'
'I'm truly sorry for everything Abe, I will release you now.' I let him drop like a puppet on strings, and snorted the remainder of his breath through my shrivelled nostrils. Insufflating my entire being, I delicately pushed his lifeless body out from the darkness of the wardrobe and on to the pearly white sheets of the bed.
The drug dealer had managed to break in, entering the bedroom, right on cue. He looked over Abe on the bed, presuming him to be in a drug induced slumber. 'You owe me money Abey,' he spoke to the deceased.
Like a dragon from a cave I emerged from the wardrobe, breathed in cleaner air and blew out a large dust cloud onto my nemesis.
He hastily backed away the moment he recognised the round wound he once inflicted. I will say he had a good eye and memory for detail, both of which are now splattered on the walls of that room. I caught him on the stairs and carried him back into the bedroom; I tore the remainder of his days to pieces, which slipped away through my fingers as if they were soggy paper-mache. I left the now-swamped bedroom and never looked back."
Fred looked at the horrid father, "Not a devil then, just a terrible man, the worst of all of us. I know a great fire exists, one where you're going, entirely because you postponed fate, irony, much, yeah?"
"You ultimately assume a negative final outcome for me, but by the time Tartarus decides to collect, I will have finished all rotting, and any kind of existence over oblivion would be of interest. You mention I postponed fate, are you not happy I did the same for you?"
"Well, I can thank you, but also say I will surely use my second chance, better than you have done." Fred then stood up from the stool for the last time, and without turning back, left the Tavern.
He began strolling up through the valley of heather, early morning dew soaked his feet, and he gazed upward into the first of the sunlight.
Yet his mind still wondered, when the drug dealer shot the man, he was trying to kill Abe, his biological son. When he saw that that same man climb out of the wardrobe he must then have known his client was his son. All that time he supplied him drugs, did he know?
By the time Fred had reached the top of the valley, the dew had dried heather seeds to his socks and shoes. Cloud now covered over the earlier sunlight, which would remain until the day reached early evening.
"High monuments like the Sphinxes of old will cover the Earth. I shall walk across the sands- hunched, limping and ever rotten. Holding a dead child in each hand- one boy, one girl, the last children of man. My legs finally disintegrate and I let them go. So that I can crawl, to warmth and sanctuary."