Be Careful What You Wish For

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
I've never believed in the paranormal. Now, with Gavin's death, I'm not so sure.

Submitted: May 04, 2017

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Submitted: May 04, 2017



Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it.  It sounds melodramatic, and you may scoff, but I'm beginning to think there are unrealised forces in existence. Forces that are best left undisturbed.  Until recently I'd never have believed in the supernatural.  To me it's always seemed like nonsense.  But now, recent events have left me wondering.  Maybe I've inadvertently tapped into an unknown power.

Where to begin?  Perhaps a few facts would be in order.  I'm currently a student at one of the UK's less prestigious universities.  Now don't get me wrong, it's a fine enough place.  It's just that it lacks that air of dreaming intellectualism that makes places such as Oxford so distinctive.  There's no age-mellowed stone, no musty libraries, no cobbled streets, and few bicycles.  Its buildings were rammed up in a brutal, sub-Modernist style that now have all the charm of a rusting battleship.  It is concrete, concrete, and more concrete, connected by grey concrete footpaths.  And if one looks up, should one be so unwise, the sky is mostly battleship grey.

Yes, as I said, I'm a student.  I'm what's called a "mature student."  Somebody who has left it rather late to go to university.  An adult in a sea of callow youth.  Only, in my case, I'm more a returnee.  I've already attended one university and been duly awarded a degree.  But that wasn't good enough for me.  I spent near on twenty years dreaming of university life, wishing I was back.  And now I am.

I won't bore you with the details.  All you need to know is that I'm on an M. A. course in Fine Art.  I've worked my way up from community education courses to this lofty pinnacle all because I wanted one specific thing.  To be back at university.  

Now let me make myself clear on one point.  I've never dreamed of being an artist.  In fact I've always doubted, and still do, that I've a talent for art.  But I wanted another crack at university life, and through a chance event chose to study art.  I was at an antique's fair, trying to make a living, when I overheard one of the other stall holders say he was a sculptor.  That got me thinking about my school days, and how I'd messed around with art.  And that, with a few twists and turns on the way, led me to where I am now.  

Being an art student isn't all painting and pints.  Sometimes you have to do some talking as well.  I'm naturally shy so "crits," as they're called, can be torture.  Everyone gathers round while you stand up and try to explain your work.  Then it's time for people to express their opinions on your meagre efforts.  This criticism is supposed to be positive in nature, and for the most part is.  But, as in all walks of life, one bastard can ruin it.  If some sod decides to get personal, crits can become excruciating.

Why am I telling you this?  Because one such shit has been the bane of my life until recently.  He poked fun at my Black Country accent, mocked my work, and at crits I could guarantee he would be the one giving me the hardest time.  Perhaps it was due to his insufferable public school accent, or his long, lazy, drawling way of speaking, or the ineffable air of superiority he projected.  Whatever it was, Gavin made me feel as insignificant as an insect.

Miraculously, that's all in the past now.  Three days ago he went and got himself killed.  Not that I knew it at the time, of course.  A crit had been arranged for the morning, and as usual I  was dreading it.  Trying to ignore the stabbing pains in my guts had cast me into a deep pit of despair.  Only Gavin didn't arrive.  Oh joy!  For the first time I didn't stammer and stutter my way through a presentation.  Everything went OK, in fact better than OK.  For the first time in a long time I felt really happy.

It wasn't until the afternoon that we learned what had happened to Gavin.  We were working away in our studio space, white walls covered with photos and scraps of paper, when we were gathered together by our course leader.  Gavin, he told us solemnly, had been killed by a hit and run driver that very morning.  The shock was palpable.  We stared at each other in amazement, not knowing what to say.

I’ll be honest.  My heart soared on hearing the news.  At last I was rid of my tormentor.  But alas, this happy state didn’t last long.  The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if I might have had an hand in Gavin's death.  Now, to be clear, I didn't run him over.  I don't own a car.  But I did have reason enough for wishing him dead.  And as I'll explain shortly, that might have been sufficient to get him killed.

Right, so what am I saying?  Well there was the time, many years ago, when I was in a college class facing the prospect of giving a talk.  A talk I really didn’t want to give.  Each week two or three students would be called upon to speak.  I used to hunch down in my seat, praying that I would be overlooked.  And to my great relief I was.  I alone of all the class never gave a talk.

Later, at my first university, I faced a similar situation.  Students were paired off and given a particular topic to speak on, one student opposing the other.  Only, in my case, I found myself in a group of three and never had to say a word.

OK, I know what you’ll probably say.  Everything was down to luck; mere coincidence.  But that’s not the end of it.  There was the time I nearly choked on a sweet.  It sounds silly, but I could have died if it hadn’t fortuitously slipped down my throat.  And then there was the occasion where I was about to cross a dual carriage way in the middle of town.  In the UK you look to your right to see if there’s oncoming traffic, something I duly did.  Well, there was nothing to be seen, the road was empty, so I decided I was safe to cross to the central reservation.  But just before I stepped into the road I had this powerful feeling that I should look to the left.  Lucky me!  A coach came zooming round a corner and passed right in front of me.  If I’d stepped out as planned I’d have been killed instantly. The road had been turned into a one way system, with all traffic coming from the left, only nobody had bothered to put up a warning sign.  I went back a few weeks later and found big “Look left” signs written on the road.  Perhaps it had taken the death of some poor bastard to make the council see sense.

Again, perhaps one shouldn’t put too much stock in a couple of lucky escapes.  But I have one further tale to tell, one that has always left me wondering.  One fine Sunday afternoon I’d gone walking to where they were building new houses.  Some were already occupied, while others had yet to be completed.  Walking past the houses, I saw three little boys in the distance.  Now I don’t know why, but something told me that they were up to no good.  But they quickly disappeared so I carried on walking.  When I approached the last house, just before walking past its garden wall, I again had a feeling that something was amiss.  The feeling was so intense that it stopped me in my tracks.  There was nobody about, no sound, nothing to alert me to danger.  And then, without warning, a large clod of earth came sailing over the garden wall.  It landed on the pavement exactly where I would have been had I kept on moving.

There was a moment or two’s silence, then I heard boys' voices.  They'd thrown the earth over the wall and were no doubt wondering why I hadn't cried out.  The truth was, I was filled with a murderous rage that left me speechless.  I ran round to the front of the house and saw them in the garden.  They were trapped.  I could have caught them, but I didn’t dare.  I was afraid I'd kill them.  So I walked away while they shouted insults, possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Christ, they don’t know how lucky they were that day, the stupid little fools.

Well, that’s about it.  I’ve come to the end of my story.  Not much, I agree, to make anyone believe in the paranormal.  But with Gavin’s death still fresh in my mind, I’m beginning to waver a little in my scepticism.  Could I have a guardian angel?  Or am I tapping into a primordial force?  One that acts on my behalf when danger threatens, and listens when I’m racked by searing emotions.

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