Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Short fiction - Nightwalker

I once knew this fella, regular as clockwork once a week he'd go round to his grandparents for tea. He would buy some cream cakes on his way there, a packet of four. After they'd eaten they'd argue over whose turn it was for the spare and always they ended up splitting it three ways no matter that the knives were all blunt, and no matter that meant destruction, sad little curls of cream lining the plate.

After the washing up they would sit around in front of the television, or perhaps with a board game or two, though that was rare with the rise of energy saving lightbulbs that produced a light too weak for older eyes.

Always at nine the guy would walk home. His grandmother telling him to catch the bus or better yet, why not a taxi? Who has money for taxis? he'd say, and the grandfather would nod and take his wife by the arm and tell her it was only a half hour walk. The guy would close the gate and wave, and always the two old folk would wait till he was out of sight, no matter the cold.

They would go inside and she'd talk over the journey; the dark streets out of their estate, the bridge over the river, that big junction where the boy was killed and don't you try and tell me being plugged into his music player had nothing to do with it. The old man never saying what he'd heard later, how the boy had been on the pavement waiting for the green man. How they still hadn't replaced the safety barriers.

It was a half hour of worry each week, ended only by the call that said he was home safe.

Then one week, the call never came.

He'd just stopped to look at the high tide, see the lights of the city mirrored in the water. Or stopped for a pint of milk.

But by ten, still no call, so with shaking hands she dialled his number and waited ten rings, and then fifteen, giving up on twenty.

So now what? What could they do? Ring someone up and be called worrying old fools?

Then the relief as the phone starts to ring, and it's him, the joy tempered only by a gentle scolding - you know how I worry. You should take care, there's crazy people come out at night.

And the guy, stood in his bath room, with his hand on the mirror looking at the blood that's splashed up on his face tells her not to worry, he's not scared of the crazies of the night. When he hangs up and says goodnight he's wondering - should he really have slung the fencepost, or perhaps instead brought it home and burnt it on the fire.

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