Mr. Crimson

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
A parrot repeats ominous phrases to a young boy and his unstable father.

Submitted: April 26, 2017

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Submitted: April 26, 2017

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Mr. Crimson

 

I really only bought the thing to shut the kid up.

Squawk!’

How can anyone like birds as pets? I’ve had it two days and I’m already sick of it. Do you know what a parrot does? It –

Squawk!’

It squawks. I thought we might get some entertainment out of the fact it repeats, and this particular one is very chatty, but that gets old quickly. It’s like when you get a cool new gadget as a kid – fun at first, boring after twenty minutes.

‘Daddy, make it say something,’ said Andrew.

I took the parrot out of its cage. It didn’t offer much of a reaction. I looked in its face. It cocked its head and turned away.

‘Doobeedoo!’ I yelled.

Doobedoo!’ the parrot shrieked. ‘Doobedoo! Doobedoo!’

Andrew laughed and clapped.

‘Doobedoo!’ said Andrew, his laugh a cackle.

Doobedoo!’ the parrot cried.

‘Doobedoo!’

Doobedoo!’

I rubbed my temples. Did I mention that I bought the parrot to shut the kid up? He begged for a pet, and I, doing no research, assumed a bird would be easier to ignore than a cat or a dog.

‘Daddy, how long do parrots live?’

‘Couple of years maybe.’

‘Oh.’ Andrew didn’t look sad. At six years old, two years was a lifetime away. ‘Jessie said they live to fifty.’

I snorted. ‘Well Jessie’s only eight. She’s only a kid, she’s still dumb.’

‘Am I dumb, daddy?’

‘Very.’

‘Oh.’ He didn’t ponder on it too long. ‘Doobedoo!’

The parrot cocked its head.

‘Doobedoo!’ Andrew said again.

The parrot looked around the room, unblinking.

‘He went boring,’ said Andrew.

I put him back in the cage. Andrew stared inside, intoxicated by the parrot’s luminous colours. He was painted in vivid crimson, with electric blue and green wings. The walls and furniture were drab in comparison – the parrot didn’t belong.

‘I came up with a name,’ said Andrew.

‘His name’s Polly,’ I said.

‘It’s too common, daddy.’

‘You mean its cliché?’

‘I don’t know what that means,’ said Andrew.

‘Never mind.’

‘He’s called Mr. Crimson.’

Andrew had been in love with the word crimson ever since I described the parrot’s colour to him. It was the biggest, most adult word he could remember.

‘But he’s not entirely crimson,’ I said, gesturing to its wings.

Andrew blinked.

‘Ok, he’s Mr. Crimson,’ I said.

Mr. Crimson!’ the parrot yelled. ‘Mr. Crimson!’

Andrew clapped. ‘See! He knows his name! Ha ha!’

I turned on the television. There was a documentary on Michael Jackson. Fine.

‘Daddy – ’

‘Daddy’s watching TV.’

‘But daddy, shall we watch him fly? He looks sad in his cage.’

I turned the volume up. Andrew padded back over to the parrot. He wasn’t allowed to open the cage without my say so, so he just stared inwards.

There was a lot of ‘Mr. Crimson!’ing for the rest of the day, from both boy and parrot and when I went to visit my weed dealer in the evening I made sure to score some Byenthedorne tablets off him to help me sleep through the shrieking. I figured the bird would calm down in time, but I nonetheless resolved to double check how long a parrot’s lifespan was.

*

When I walked into the lounge the next day, Mr. Crimson was agitated. He was hopping from one leg to the other, and he raised and lowered his head like a seesaw.

‘What’s your beef?’ I asked.

Hate!’ the parrot screeched. ‘Hate, hate, hate, I hate!!’ It looked me dead in the eye. ‘Hate! Hate! Hate!’

Where did you learn how to say that?’ I said.

‘I hate you!’ said Mr. Crimson.

I opened the cage and reached inside to pluck it out. It squawked and went fluttering about the cage. After my failed attempts at capture, it sat back on its perch. ‘Hate!’

Andrew toddled in. ‘Hi, Mr. Crimson!’

‘I hate you!

Andrew looked hurt. ‘You hate me? Daddy why does he hate me?’

‘Did you teach him how to say that?’ I already knew it was Andrew. The TV hadn’t been playing anything like that – he was the only other source for it. My voice was cold and he looked worried.

‘No.’

‘Parrots repeat what people say. You must have said it to him.’

‘I didn’t!’ said Andrew. ‘Mr. Crimson hates me?’ He threw himself on the ground. His pyjamas were too small and too old and they exposed his wrists and ankles. He looked absurd.

‘I hate him!’ Mr. Crimson cawed.

‘Where did you learn that phrase, Andrew?’

Andrew sniffed. His face was already a wet mess. An image erupted in my mind of that messy face leaning close to the cage and saying, ‘I hate you’ to the parrot over and over. Then I looked at the parrot, which was still agitated. It hopped and waved its wings and gnawed on the bars of its cage. It gave validity to the image in my mind. I looked into my son’s watery eyes and I knew the tears were an act, as they so often are with children. They were the same azure colour his mother had, and looking into them was like looking directly at the sun. I shook him. ‘Where?’

He wailed. ‘It’s not me! I don’t know!’

‘Tell me or I’ll take Mr. Crimson away! I’ll take him back!’

‘No!’ said Andrew. ‘I learned it from TV!’

‘Where? What channel?’

More sobs. ‘I don’t know.’

‘Right,’ I said. I walked over to the TV and unplugged it. Then I realized that I would still probably want to watch it myself and marched back to Andrew. ‘No more TV for you!’

‘But daddy it’s not even swearing!’

‘No, but it’s weird, boy. What you did was a really weird thing! You understand?’

‘Sorry daddy.’

‘Go back upstairs. No breakfast.’

Andrew ran upstairs. Mr. Crimson was still shrieking. I rattled his cage to shut him up, and of course it had the opposite effect so I left the room.

Andrew was quiet all day, and that suited me just fine, but Mr. Crimson was left squawking and screeching. I had actually resolved to take the thing back to the shop as I knew I couldn’t take this, even if parrots only lived for a couple of years, but then I thought this would be a good lesson for the boy, even if it came at the expense of having to buy tranquilizers to sleep through it. I took the cage and his food upstairs, doing my best not to scream at the parrot myself and entered Andrew’s room, where he was playing with a lego set his mother Kacey had bought for him. He tensed up as soon as I walked in and, without a word, I placed the cage on the floor. The parrot continued its screeching.

‘You made it like this, you deal with it,’ I told him.

Andrew looked confused and didn’t respond. I closed the door, leaving the parrot to rave.

In time, the parrot calmed down, and I reflected on the intelligence of my move. The boy had to learn that there were consequences for crazy actions, and that he would be the one to suffer them, not others. I pondered over this high level of thinking and what a good father I was for a long time – almost throughout the whole of my Thorn Hill Chronicles marathon. My wife Kacey had always loved the show, and although I didn’t much care for it, the association with her gave me a sense of painful contentment. I took out my phone, hovered my thumb over the ‘Photos’ app for nearly a full minute and pressed the power button instead. I swallowed my pills, tortured myself with thoughts of Kacey and succumbed to sleep.

*

Andrew had kindergarten over the next few days, so at least he was gone most of the day, but when I went to feed the parrot in the mornings and evenings he kept screaming about how much he hated me. It was the only phrase he would say now – and in my anger I scolded Andrew when he got home and told him that he would be the one to feed the parrot from now on, as well as clean its cage. These chores had been bugging me for a while now, so I was glad to pawn them off on him. He kept insisting that he wasn’t teaching the parrot this phrase, and I didn’t believe a word of it. The parrot utterly refused to say anything else and now he wasn’t even hopping, he was shivering. Andrew must have been saying it to him consistently.

‘Well, that’s just fine,’ I told him. ‘Keep annoying and freaking him out. It’s you who has to deal with it, not me. Look how much he’s shaking!’

‘He doesn’t normally do it,’ said Andrew.

‘He does it all the time!’ I said, ‘He’s never acted normal! Look at him, all he does is shiver and scream. You’re breaking your parrot, Andrew.’

‘No!’ Andrew cried. ‘I’m trying my best!’

‘Well, whatever happens happens,’ I said unhelpfully. If the parrot died, maybe the heartbreak of it would sort the boy out, make him less of a baby. If it didn’t, then it would teach him discipline. The parrot had been relegated to life-lesson duty.

I hate you,’ the parrot said to me, enunciating each syllable. It was almost cold, but still tonally hilarious. I chortled and before closing the door said, ‘clean up that parrot’s shit.’

*

Andrew was turning into a wild child. I slammed the cupboard door. ‘Andrew!’ I yelled.

He flew down the stairs, and joined me in the kitchen. His expression was fearful; it would have been funny were I not so angry.

‘You ate all the pop tarts?’ I said.

‘No daddy.’ He looked like an overgrown, timorous mouse in those ill-fitting pyjamas. ‘We had them for dinner yesterday, remember?’

‘Those were strawberry,’ I said. ‘I bought chocolate pop tarts as well. They’re gone. Where are they?’

‘I didn’t even know we had them.’

‘Stop lying! You’re always lying!’

‘I didn’t! Daddy, I didn’t!’

‘Admit it, or no dinner tonight.’

Andrew said nothing.

‘Right, no dinner tonight,’ I said. ‘That’s one less job for me.’

‘It’s not my fault, daddy!’

‘Yeah, well it’s your fault mummy’s dead isn’t it?’

Andrew’s face dimmed like an old light bulb.

‘Just get out, Andrew. Don’t come back downstairs tonight.’

*

I’m going to hurt you,’ said Mr. Crimson.

I had avoided Andrew’s room for a few days because I couldn’t be bothered to deal with him or the parrot. Curiosity got the better of me, however, and I wanted to see whether the parrot was dead, as I hadn’t heard it squawk or scream in a few days and assumed Andrew gotten it killed. I moved towards it and as I got closer it seemed to get smaller. It shrank in on itself, as if it understood that I meant to hurt it.

‘You threaten me then pussy out?’ I said.

Mr. Crimson shivered.

I rattled his cage; Mr. Crimson offered no objection. Before I left though, the parrot went into a series of low rambles and raves, ‘hurt, hurt, hurt, I want to hurt you, kill, I need to kill. Kill, kill, hurt, kill.’

Things were obviously getting worse. I went into the lounge and looked at Andrew playing in the lounge. He had his back to me so he didn’t notice me enter. I watched him. He had a mess of papers in front of him and a fistful of coloured pencils; I hadn’t ever bought him any colouring pencils, so concluded that he must have stolen them from school – another strike against his character. Thieving and threatening at six years old – the boy wasn’t right. He looked normal enough as he coloured, so I went closer to see exactly what he was drawing.

‘What the hell is that?’ I asked.

Andrew jumped. ‘It’s a drawing.’

‘It’s sick,’ I said, noting the drawing’s twisted claws and cruel mouth. It was a good drawing admittedly – a talent he had stolen from his mother, but the horror was somewhat mediated because it was drawn in pink. ‘Why would you draw something like that?’

‘Daddy, there’s a monster in my room.’ His eyes were watering and it was clear he had been wanting to say this for a long time. ‘I’m sorry, daddy, I know you don’t believe me, but there’s a monster. Every night.’

‘And that drawing’s supposed to be the monster?’

‘Yeah. I drew it to show you. Please don’t let me sleep there again. Please.’

‘I see. And this monster… does he say anything?’

‘He says he’s going to hurt me, he wants to kill me. He says it every night, daddy. He won’t go away.’

A clever lie for a six year old – I think. I don’t know much about kids, maybe it’s dumb for a six year old. Smart or dumb, the boy was trying to get out of trouble by pawning the blame off on something else. Only a six year old would think to frame a monster; there was nobody else to blame, so he decided to make something up. ‘This is psychopathic behaviour, son. Know what that means?’

‘No.’

‘I didn’t think you would. ‘Psychopaths are pathological liars. They do it so they people don’t suspect them and to avoid trouble. You’re doing it so you can get out of trouble, aren’t you?’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘God dammit! I’m always having to explain myself to you! There is no monster, is there?’

‘I’m telling the truth! I hate my room. I don’t want to stay there.

‘That’s where you sleep. There’s nowhere else.’

‘No, let me sleep with you tonight!’

I struck him. He expected it and held the tears back. That was good. He was learning.

‘I told you before I’m not going to have you stinking up my bed with your ugly baby smell! You’re six years old now, you should be acting more grown up.’

‘Daddy, please don’t send me back to the monster.’

The resolve to which he stuck to his story concerned me. Maybe he actually did believe there was a monster. The boy was hallucinating - was six years old too old to have an imaginary friend? It was time to get rid of the bird. I snatched up Andrew’s creepy picture and tore it up. I let the pieces fall to the floor and exited the room. I made my way up the stairs but before reaching the top had a thought - I had never heard the boy actually terrorise the parrot – he always waited until night time before teaching the parrot these freakish phrases; The situation should be assessed more scientifically. The boy should be studied, to find out what’s wrong with him. I wanted to get a look at what the boy was actually doing, then act accordingly. If nothing else, I could get hard evidence and expose him for exactly what he was. He needed to acknowledge that he was bad kid. I grabbed a camera, set it to night mode, placed it atop the wardrobe in his room and hit record. I had it hooked up digitally to the computer downstairs, and now it would act exactly like CCTV. I double checked the computer monitor downstairs and, once satisfied I had everything in view (the door, the wardrobe, Mr. Crimson’s cage and Andrew’s bed), I shut the monitor off and looked forward to seeing the night’s footage – no part of me expected a monster, but I still experienced a sense of dread in seeing what was on the tape - to witness the magnitude of Andrew’s disturbed mind.

He went to bed early because I noticed that another packet of pop tarts had gone missing, in addition to my favourite crisps. I was beginning to think that maybe the boy thought the punishment was worth the crime and promised myself that I would punish him more severely tomorrow; tonight I wanted to complete the Thorn Hill Chronicles series three box set without having to share a room with Andrew. I began to lose interest by the second episode and I found myself taking out my phone and staring at ‘Photos’ again. My heart thrashed. I stood up, took a bottle of Jack Daniels out of the cupboard, sat down, took a swig and pressed ‘Photos’. I pawed through them, back to where Kacey was still in the pictures. The photos would be about two years old by now, and it didn’t take long to reach them; there had been few photos since her death. I took another shot of whiskey an enlarged her last photo. She was truly out of my league. She was beautiful. We shared the same dark humour. Shot. I continued thumbing back through the photos. There were some with Andrew in them, but I hardly noticed his gloating expressions; I just looked at her – hair like swirls of luminous chocolate, and her eyes, although that same scintillating chocolate colour her hair was, were sprinkled with tiny emerald stars if you looked closely enough. Shot. She had a sweet rack, too. The longer I looked, the more it hurt and the angrier I felt for flicking through the photos in the first place. I hated remembering good times. After scanning every inch of my wife in every photo several times over I started noticing Andrew’s presence in them. He had eyes like a beetle and an imp-like grin; you could almost imagine he had tripped her up on purpose, like some hellish cackling gremlin. Shot. I switched the DVD off, picked up the Jack Daniels and went to the computer. I had a morbid interest in studying the creature that killed my wife. I wanted it to be doing something naughty, something I could punish it for. Shot. I booted up the computer, looked on the feed and saw Andrew out of bed and sitting by the cage. The parrot was inside, and his fingers were in between the bars, stroking the parrot’s beak. Mr. Crimson nibbled at his fingers. I saw Andrew’s lips moving and turned up the volume. He was cooing gently, telling Mr. Crimson what a handsome bird he was and how he was the best bird ever. His tone was so soft and gentle I wondered if it might be an act; maybe he knew there was a hidden camera. Knowing that he was a dumb kid I made no special effort to hide it, but dumb as he was, he was still sneaky. Shot. I watched for a while and thought about how he had been stealing food – all those pop tarts and crisps. A burning sensation bubbled in my stomach that only had a little to do with alcohol. Andrew arrogantly took my food out of my cupboards so that he could greedily scoff them not just to deprive me of them, but to mock me – I killed mum and now you’re keeping me alive, spat a demonic caricature of Andrew. Oh, no wait, it was the monster that killed mum. Ha, ha, ha! It was the laugh that made me stand up – the laugh wasn’t that of the cartoonish fiend I had made up in my head, it was Andrew’s genuine laugh, like a twisted, uglier version of Kacey’s and it pierced through my ears like an icicle every time I heard it. Shot. I shut off the monitor and stumbled upstairs.

I threw Andrew’s bedroom door open. The whiskey on my breath flared out like dragon fire.

‘You! What are you doing out of bed?’ I yelled. I grabbed him by the waist. ‘You, you never listen you… you disgusting…’ I picked him up like a wrestler and dropped him on the bed. His body bounced up as as if he had hit a trampoline and he wailed. ‘You’re gonna stay there! And don’t you tell me about any monsters!’

Andrew continued bawling, and then Mr. Crimson started screaming, unable to contain himself: ‘Monsters! Monsters! Monsters!’ 

It was these combined noises that drove me out of the room. It all bore through my head like a drill and I was far too drunk to deal with it. I exited and slammed the door. Then I reached into my pocket, withdrew my keys, forced my clouded brain to figure out which one was needed and, on finding the right one, locked Andrew in. I didn’t want him running to me in the night, crying about monsters. On hearing the lock turn, Andrew threw himself at the door and began beating at it.

‘No, daddy, no! The monster! Don’t lock me in with it daddy, please, please!’

Fresh anger erupted like wildfire and had I been able to find the key again, I would have gone back in there. The task was too taxing for my stupefied brain though, so I put the keys away, went into the bathroom, knocked back four Byenthodornes and crashed.

*

It was 1PM when I awoke, and my head was raging. Mountains of pain had formed in my head, and their shadows loomed far. Thirst forced me out of bed and I walked to the kitchen as if pulled by rope. I drank two full glasses of water and held my head. Coffee, my brain rasped. I had to obey, so I flicked the kettle on too. After downing it I shuffled towards my room, but before I went in, something caught my eye – Andrew’s bedroom door. It was open, and the frame was damaged. I walked in. Andrew’s contorted, battered body lay on the floor. The parrot cage was upside down. Mr. Crimson was a very broken and very dead tangle of feathers. The bed sheets were streaked with blood. My body went into paralysis and I immediately sobered up.

The monster.

I backed out the room and, shaking, pulled my phone out of my pocket. I didn’t dare investigate further. Something inside told me this wasn’t the work of a man, but an actual monster, like Andrew had been saying. I paused before dialling 999 - the monster might still be here. I dashed downstairs – I had to see, I had to know what happened before calling the police. I needed to see if I could be charged for negligence. I threw myself into the study, locked the door, booted up the computer and clicked on the webcam icon. There was a wooziness so incredible I thought I was going to faint. Sickness crept over my skin like an all-consuming worm. My heart beat like a terrible drum of war. I clicked on the footage from the beginning, pressed fast forward and witnessed Andrew cooing over the parrot, myself storm into the room and throw him on the bed and Andrew beat on the door. Many emotions swooped and dived through me as each event flashed by, all together forming a hard crystallized guilt. I stared intently at the wardrobe. It had been ridiculous of me not to check it out when he told me about the monster. It would have been so easy. I took my finger off the fast forward button once Andrew had fallen asleep and watched the feed at regular speed.

After almost an hour, the bedroom door handle creaked. I gripped the handles of my chair. Andrew sat up. He looked straight at the door then scrambled under the bed. Mr. Crimson began stamping his feet. His wings, previously closed up, were now spread and he began cawing. The door rattled. Then there was a pounding. Mr. Crimson went wild. He flapped around in his cage and he shed feathers like malted fur. His head bopped back and forth and he squealed wretchedly. The strikes that hit the door increased in ferocity and then the door smashed open, its frame busted. A version of me I had never seen before stomped into the room. My movements were creeping, my posture like that of a hunched troll and I had a half-eaten pop tart clutched in my hand. I said in a black voice, ‘I hate you! I’m gonna kill you!’

Hate you!’ said Mr. Crimson. ‘Kill! Kill!

My other self looked at Mr. Crimson, and the parrot quieted down like a wounded hound.

‘Andrew!’ my other self screeched. ‘Andrew!’

Andrew couldn’t help but whimper.

Having located the source of the whimper, my other self reached under the bed and dragged Andrew out. A flit of confused recognition registered on Andrew’s face before he screamed. He was looking at a demonic mirror of his own father.

My other self threw him against the cage. Mr. Crimson yelled and screamed. I watched as my other self throttled and beat Andrew, and by this point I passed out right in front of the monitor.

*

When I awoke, the camera was still recording, and all was still. The parrot cage was upside down and both Andrew and Mr. Crimson were dead. I didn’t want to fill in any more gaps and switched the camera off. I didn’t remember doing any of that, and I had never done it before… had I? I stood up and paced back and forth, running everything through my mind, trying to make sense of it all. I had murdered my son – this was going to bring very serious charges. I had to have been the monster Andrew was talking about – a monster that had been stalking him the past week or so. But why had I suddenly snapped and turned into a murderer? I brooded. The parrot had been here about a week – about the same amount of time as the ‘monster’. Why had that set me off though? A parrot? I tried to think of something else. My heart sunk. Byenthedorne. I rushed upstairs, looked at the bottle and traced my finger over its possible side effects. DO NOT CONTINUE USE IF YOU EXPERIENCE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING… ACHING, ITCHING… I went down the list and I felt my heart stop: SLEEPWALKING. That shady Sergio and his sketchy pills killed my son. I winced when I thought of how many I had taken last night. Four - with half a bottle of whiskey.

I sat on the toilet and put my head in my hands. I sat there for a long time. It was late in the evening before I stood up. I got a mop and a black bin liner. I destroyed the camera. I grabbed a shovel and got to work. In the morning I took a deep breath and called the police.

‘Hello, I would like to report my son’s disappearance.’

 

END


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