What Happened to Murphy
That night a man staggered in one of the roads of Tempstow village. He was weak, terribly weak; but not hopeless whatsoever.
Armando’s stomach had been cut and he was sure the thigh bone of his right leg had snapped; but he kept going, inching on as a snail. His mauled body was ablaze with a fire of pain, but he was not prepared to give into it, not just yet: at least not before he reached the Descendant.
Suddenly Armando thought he had heard a voice. He stopped and looked around, the night was dark and the crescent moon that floated amongst the clouds did little to pierce it. No, there couldn’t have been anyone, not in the dead of the night; it had most probably been only his imagination. Armando trudged on; he knew the little energy left in him was rapidly draining, he smiled at the thought, although his blood smeared lips pained: his life would no doubt end in the next couple of hours. All these years he had been striving to attain immortality, the only reason why he had abandoned Lysando, his blood- brother, why he had taken to serve her...
Peculiarly enough, death seemed a funny business now. And anyhow, it didn’t matter much to him; all he wanted was a small amount of time in which to deliver the warning.
Armando’s heart started beating a slight bit faster, he could sense the Descendant was no more than around half- a- kilometre a way. Then his heart feel and his smile left his face, as his agonised stomach made him feel nauseated. This was going to be a long half- a- kilometre. Spitting out a bloody bog of phlegm, and forcing his bruised up reluctant legs to move on, that had themselves come to a halt, Armando ruefully imagined what it would have been if he still had his tattoos on his body; he could have easily gotten himself to the Descendant in no time at all, but tattoo- less, he considered it a sheer miracle in itself that he had managed to slip from the Fortian’s clutches with only a handful of wounds, even though fatal as they were.
‘Armando,’ a female voice whispered, that made his already shivering body to have a rocking shudder.
He recognised more too well whom the voice belonged to; he shook his head, his mind was playing tricks on him. No wonder he was hallucinating, simply too much had happened to him that day. She couldn’t possibly know where he was even besides her infinite powers... Still as a precaution he quickened his pace, although that worsened his suffering.
‘You think you can succeed?’
Armando gasped, fear enveloping him. No. His mind was definitely illumining him. He warily looked around again; no one. Muttering a quick prayer to himself, he continued on the Descendants trail.
A few minutes passed, the stars blinking down at the unmistakeable substitute for a ghost, struggling his way in the Tempstow road, urging himself to carry on.
‘You can’t let go,’ Armando kept telling himself repeatedly, ‘You are going to make it... You will have to make it.’ Though a part of him and a rather large one at that never gave up the idea he might collapse on the road any moment now.
His fears merged into the real the next minute. He couldn’t fathom where it came from, but most suddenly, he felt a sharp unendurable pain on his back accompanied by a loud cracking noise. That triggered his already bleeding stomach to rocket sky high, off balancing him, his thigh only adding to it. Armando trampled face first to the ground and moaned like he had never before, wriggling over and over as a worm, the dust sticking to his face and wounds.
‘So, what do you say now?’ said the female voice, he was now sure was no figment of his imagination.
‘Go away, you filth!’ Armando groaned.
‘Go away?’ said the female voice, ‘You want me to go away? And filth you call me?’ She paused for a second, and then continued slyly, ‘So sad!’ she said aloud, ‘I only came to sing you a lullaby before you sleep! Um... anyway, ahem,’’ she let out an artificial cough, ‘listen...’
She broke into a melodious song. Ah, melody it was! But only as melodious as poison could be; the tongue she sang was one that Armando had heard for years, but couldn’t understand a tad bit. Still, the song caused Armando more and worse pain than his body or soul had ever been exposed to in life...
Long before the female voice stopped, life had already abandoned Armando’s limp body.
Charles awoke early the next day to the freshness of the morning and cheerful chirpings of birds outside the window. For some time, he remained in a dreamy state, staring, unfocussed, at the ceiling, enjoying the moment.
Then he started, jerking to a sitting position, all that had incident yesterday fleeting to his mind’s eye ... Aunt, Mr Doof’s twin, the Stocker.
An icy cold overcame his body. His one thought: Was he going to...
He had always somehow believed he would easily accept death when it came to him; but now, with a supposed death day – today, already fixed, he felt spooked out of the matter.
Were he given the chance to choose his manner, he would have opted for an unexpected sudden death, totally out of the blue.
Something purple flickered in the corner of his eye. Charles turned his head: It was the rampage cat of yesterday, sitting over some of his school books on the table. Charles blinked. The cat wasn’t there! It was like it had vanished into air. Had he been imagining? He wondered, but not a moment ago he had been sure the cat wsa there. So, where had it gone?
Either ways this was quite a sign – maybe he was to die today after all.
Charles swallowed. He had to stop thinking about this.
Breakfast was a grim affair that morning – not the usual cheer of yesterday. There was scarcely any sound; the only available were of spoons and dishes being moved, and of chewing.
The singularly awkward silence was greatly stressing for Charles, who was at discomfort’s peak.
‘Um, Aunt,’ he began; Aunt Isabella looked up at him vacantly. Charles lingered for a while, scanning his memory for a topic, before he finally (and luckily) found a good one.
‘Er, yesterday, you said guests were to come; who?’
‘Oh that?’ said Aunt, seeping her tea, ‘Yes, my friend and her son.’
‘Your friend?’ Charles asked.
‘Yes, her name is Celine. I met her yesterday in the market place by coincidence and invited her here.’
‘You mean Murphy’s mum?’ said Thomas, he appeared eager Aunt was at lat speaking normally.
‘Yes, exactly,’ replied Aunt Isabella.
‘So when are they coming, mum?’
‘Today, ‘Celine said around noon.’
Noon soon arrived and with it the guests as well. Around a quarter past twelve, a a horse drawn open cab came rattling along and stopped at their gate.
Excepting the cabmen, there were a lady and her son in it. Celine was a tall gaunt woman of sharp features, the boy, Murphy, though, was short and obese, preferably of Thomas’ age.
Everyone had gone out to receive them, and Aunt Isabella, especially, was delighted.
‘Celine!’ She called out, in a very girlish sort of voice, as Celine and Murphy got down from the cab.
‘Isabella!’ Celine said and they hugged.
‘I’m so glad you came!’ said Aunt.
‘Hey lady,’ the short old cabman said, ‘I need ta get back to town and fast. Will ye pay me already?’
‘All right,’ said Celine, her tone suddenly rigid, businesslike, ‘What is the fare?’
‘Only 50 Eacks ma’am.’
’50 Eacks!’’ Celine exclaimed, ‘The other cabman took only 35 when I last came here! Here have 40 instead; I’m being kind to you.’
The cabman scowled, but accepted the 40 Eacks without a word.
After the man and his cab had gone, Aunt said,
‘Celine, you are still the same, aren’t you? I can never get this people take 45, and you did with 40!’
‘No,’ said Celine, ‘you just need to be confident, that’s all.’
‘Well, let’s go in now, I’ve got loads to talk with you; Charles, do help with Celine’s luggage.’
‘So sweet of you, my dear,’ Celine said as Charles picked up her suitcases. Then they all went inside.
After lunch, Aunt Isabella and Celine got to cook Goigpaise – the dream dish. Actually, they were to serve it at night only, but since Goigpaise needed a lot of time and tedious procedure to be prepared, they were required to start early.
The boys spent their time playing Trimpato. Thomas was jealous of Murphy, for as it was discovered, he was an extremely good Trimpato player. What more, even when Charles and Thomas teamed and played against him, he won.
However, Murphy had a weak point of being rather goofy. Half the time you would be thinking he didn’t know how to speak Belarian properly. And Thomas put his goofiness to big use, playing hopeless pranks on him; although Murphy barely was annoyed by them: Thomas’ pranks, simple as they were to Charles, were seemingly beyond Murphy’s understanding range. He would simply look at Thomas blankly, most of the time and say a confused, ‘What?’
Around 8, dinner time, Aunt Isabella and Celine proudly announced the completion of the special dish on the menu—Goigpaise.
Everyone was thrilled; Thomas composed a nursery rhyme on Goigpaise, drumming with spoons on the dining table, Charles occasionally adding a line or two to the rhyme, as they waited the dream dish to be served.
And when they finally had their Goigpaise full bowls in front of them, Celine raised her arm and said,
‘On the count of three: 1—2—3! To Goigpaise!’
‘To Goigpaise!’ They cheered after her. The next moment saw everyone spooning Goigpaise into their mouths.
Charles leaned back on his chair and closed his eyes, letting grasp him all over. He saw great things, marvellous ones, and of indescribable beauty, far surpassing any earthly splendour. Who knew, he might have been with the gods themselves!
Charles never knew how long he remained in that blissful state until it withdrew him. He then simply took another spoon of Goigpaise and the marvels returned in seconds. And each time it was over, a spoon was everything needed to revive it. Thus, the glory and splendour on and on, never ending, forever...
That night, Charles went to bed thinking only of Goigpaise. Oh, that lovely dish, that made one tour the Heavens! Neither Stocker nor Death held importance or any of his concerns. Those were trial stuff.
Goigpaise was life, he cared solely for it.
‘Thomas! You know you shouldn’t have done that!’ Said Celine, she had the look of someone utterly shocked.
‘But—But I didn’t do anything!’ Thomas said in response, ‘It was the cat’s fault!’
‘MUMMY!’ Murphy wailed, wiping the dung in his face and making it messier.
After breakfast, Charles had had barely gone to his room, with the thought of doing a bit if leisure reading, when he had had suddenly heard Murphy’s tremendously loud cries and rushed to see what had happened to him—Greenish brown dung over the entire of his face and big tears constantly streaming down from his eyes; Celine, Thomas and Aunt Isabella standing horrified by him.
‘Celine,’ said Aunt, ‘do take him to the bathroom and clean up him first. Definitely, no one would like to be so.’
Murphy’s snobs rose louder.
‘Shut up!’ Celine yelled at him, irritated, ‘You aren’t going to die!’
Once they returned from the bathroom, Murphy clean now, but still having a screwed face, Celine and Aunt Isabella together inquired of Thomas about the matter.
‘It was all him,’ Murphy complained quickly before Thomas.
‘No, no,’ Thomas hastened to assure, ‘It wasn’t me, Murphy. You should have seen the cat, it was the culprit!’
‘Explain what you are speaking, Thomas,’ Aunt said, sternly.
‘It was the cat mum, I saw it; it had a dung ball with itself and threw it at Murphy!’
‘What?’ Celine said, surprised. Aunt Isabella though inclined her head like Thomas was merely telling her about munching crackers.
‘A cat with a dung ball you say?’
‘Yeah mum,’ said Thomas,’ it threw thee dung ball and it hit Murphy!’
‘So how come Murphy did not see the dung ball the cat threw coming?’ Though unsure whether Thomas had any idea of it, Charles sensed high temper swelling inside Aunt, which could explode any given moment.
‘It was strange mum—the dung ball. It- it kind of took a curve in air and hit Murphy on his face rather than the back!’
‘Oh really?’ said Aunt. In an instant, almost as if by magic, something long appeared in Aunt’s hand and in the upcoming seconds Thomas had been caned black and blue at least 7—8 times and it would have continued, had not for Celine, who despite being momentarily bewildered, regained herself and said,
‘Stop it, Isabella! He’s just a boy!’
‘Just a boy,’ said Aunt, ‘but look how he dares tell such an exaggerated lie!’
‘I WASNT LYING,’ Thomas shouted in full force, and weeping, ran out of the house.
It was a good two long hours, before Thomas returned home and sneaked into Charles’ room.
‘Murphy’s in my room,’ he said glumly and sat on the chair beside the door.
‘What really happened to Murphy?’ Charles asked after letting some silent minutes pass.
‘Whatever I told mum,’ Thomas replied.
‘A cat actually threw a dung ball at him?’
‘Yes, it was the same cat that destroyed the plates in the kitchen that day.’
A picture of the purple tom cat flashed in Charles’ mind, he had seen, or thought seeing, the other morning. This was getting more than a coincidence, added by that there were few pet cats in the neighbourhood, and Charles did not think he knew anybody with a purple cat.
‘But how can a cat actually do something like that?’ said Charles.
‘I don’t know, but it’s the strangest cat I’ve seen.’
Charles nodded; though hard to believe, he knew Thomas wasn’t telling his imaginations: he never lied after receiving a good beating. Of course, chances were still there, but would Thomas...? Somehow, deep down in, Charles felt not.
Both Murphy and Thomas followed a no-speaking rule towards each other; and the next day, when the guests packed up and were ready to leave for town, on the account that Celine could not afford being away from business too long, the two boys had to be persuaded by their mothers to shake hands and exchange ‘byes’, which, there is little need to say, they did flatly.
Thomas took on a gayer shade after his rival’s departure, and Charles was very much happy for him; he had started growing tired of Thomas’ lonesome and quiet behaviour of late.
At night, during dinner time, Charles, strangely for himself, refused to have the meal. He oddly wasn’t simply feeling like eating anything.
‘But why?’ Aunt Isabella asked, ‘Why don’t you want to eat? Are you not feeling well?’
‘No, Aunt,’ Charles said meekly, ‘it’s nothing—just don’t want to eat.’
‘Aren’t you hungry?’
‘No, it’s-it’s okay.’
Charles went to his room and lay on the bed. His skin prickled with cold despite being the middle of summer. He touched his forehead with the back of his hand, it was fiery hot. Maybe, I’m going to have fever, he thought. He opened his trunk and took out a blanket from there. He hadn’t fallen ill once till yet while with Aunt Isabella, and dreaded falling either. He did not want to trouble her unnecessarily when she had already helped him so much.
Charles ears twined when he suddenly heard someone rapping on the main door.
‘Mrs Isabella? Mrs Isabella Sadinton?’ said the thick sturdy voice of a man, ‘Could you open the door please?’
The dining room was located towards the back of the house and it wasn’t probable for either Aunt or Thomas to hear the man. Charles’ room was closer to the main door, so he removed the blanket from over him, and went for it, the man continuing to shout.
Charles unbolted and opened the door. A uniformed soldier stood, holding a club in one hand and a paper in another. Beside him were about six other soldiers, lower ranked as their differently fashioned uniform said.
‘Yes?’ Charles wasn’t able to say beyond the word, the higher ranked soldier had him rendered unconscious with a single blow of his club on the head.
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