Grey Matter

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Terry Cobb is a student after a story, the kind of story that could make his career as a reporter. He follows his nose, and at any cost finds a story that could be his last.

Grey Matter



‘The Love Drugs’ Heartthrob ‘T-Jay’ visits family in Chester Springs.

The headline in this week’s Derny High Herald. The six page weekly newsletter circulating Derny High School, edited (under an iron fist) by Cheryl Shorter. She decides what the students need to know, what’s hot and what’s not, and she does so with all the proficiency of a fascist dictator. The newsletter staff of five consists mainly of her friends, ditsy teenage girls with make-up and boys on their mind. There is one boy in the team, Cheryl’s boyfriend Terry Cobb. He takes the photos when needed (which isn’t often) and hopes that this experience will help him achieve his dream of becoming a photographer, ideally photographing supermodels, though he would never let Cheryl know this.

Mark Reilly is Terry’s friend, and unlike the airheads presently running the publication, Mark has real aspirations of becoming a great newspaper reporter some day. Thankfully, Terry is his way in to the publishing world, as meagre as it may be it was the only school extracurricular activity he could take an interest in. It wasn’t easy. Not being the most popular and far from Cheryl’s clique, Terry had to work his magic just to get his friends foot in the door. Proceeding then to warn Mark that his place wasn’t final, and that he better not let him down, for fear of his girlfriends retribution. Usually a month without sex. His words were that of a desperate man.

Mark assured Terry, not because he cared about his love life, but because he knew that he could do good things with this newsletter, he would write great stories, interesting, factual, life-affirming stories. Not this months must have lip gloss, or Paris Hiltons latest squeeze plastering the front page. He realised it was just a school paper, but he believed that it could be more than just a trashy tabloid. He had one week till the next issue, less than a week to find his story, but he was confident. Terry, not so much.

One day down and already he had something. He’d heard about a local legend, ever since he was a kid growing up in Chester Springs it had been around, and most likely a long time before. It was about an old house, and an old man that supposedly resided in it. Nobody knew for sure if it was an old man, or if anyone lives there at all anymore, but as the legend goes it was an old man, around seventy years old now, and he has never seen daylight. The house’s glass is completely blacked out and the building is fortified with bars on the windows and an imposing cast iron front door.

He had seen the house, everyone in town had but nobody really questioned whose house it was, people didn’t really care. Mark believed that there was something in there, whether it was a crazy agoraphobic pensioner, or the undisturbed corpse of someone locked away and forgotten about for all these years. It would be a story either way, and even if it wasn’t much of one, a little exaggeration never hurt anyone.

He did his research, asking locals about the house and the supposed old man. No two stories were the same; one would describe him as a Nazi war criminal in hiding, another that the house was empty, but kept standing as a monument to the birthplace of a Hollywood celebrity. One account was that Elvis lived there, hiding away from the glitz and glamour after faking his own death. This account was told by an obvious Elvis enthusiast, a middle-aged man with huge sideburns, sunglasses and a tattoo on his forearm reading Long Live the King!. It was clear that the only way to find out anything was to do some investigating of his own, firstly, checking out the house.

Equipped with a note pad, pen and Dictaphone, Mark made his way to the house. It wasn’t too far from his own home, just a few streets down. Ambrose Road was the place and the mysterious building resided at the far end, away from any neighbours. Mark had combed his hair and worn a button down shirt, buttoned all the way to his chin and tucked into his jeans. He even wore his glasses, though he didn’t really need to, he felt that it might make him seem more adult, give the impression that he was well-read and wise beyond his sixteen years.

He stood in front of the house and all of a sudden felt his confidence leave him, the house wasn’t particularly eerie, but he hadn’t anticipated this feeling. He was worried that he might find no story here, the possibility that he could knock on that door and a sweet old lady would answer, oblivious to the local hearsay. Knocking him back to square one, without any other ideas and then having to deal with Terry’s unquenched libido, and the probable wrath to follow. Terry was a jock, a sporty type, six-pack and all. He could easily knock Mark’s nine stone frame around, and be cheered on by a pack of wild students as he did it.

The front door was heavy, this was obvious without touching it. Made of iron and riveted along the edges, the kind of door you would imagine on an underground bunker. To the right of the door was a speaker with a button just below it. Mark pressed the button and it made a loud rustic buzzing sound, taking him by surprise it caused him to step backwards and off the doorstep. He crept forwards again, ear first awaiting a reply. Eventually it came;

‘Murdock?’ Said the speaker, it didn’t sound real, it sounded like an old movie sound bite.

‘Murdock, is that you?’

Mark cleared his throat and leant into the speaker.

‘I’m sorry sir, this isn’t Murdock I’m afraid, my name is Mark and I am…’ His most eloquent effort was cut short.

‘You’re not Murdock!’ The speaker snapped.

‘That’s right, I’m not. I was just wondering if I could maybe ask you a few questions? maybe if you could let me in?’

‘I don’t know who you are!? Leave me alone, go away and tell Murdock that I’m waiting for him, and he better not keep me waiting any longer!’ The speaker cut off immediately after its last word.

‘Sir? Are you there? Sir?’ Mark asked desperately.

The humming of the speaker system had ceased, and Mark found himself talking to a powerless contraption. Feeling a little embarrassed, he waited for a few seconds, hoping for another word. It didn’t come. Finally he dragged himself away from the house, defeated.

Mark was at a loose end. He had determination by the barrel load, but ideas, for the moment were scarce. Ever the optimist he begun to brainstorm. Starting at the bottom, he decided to visit the town hall. Houses have to have owners, and if he could find a name, it could open up other avenues.

It was surprisingly easy to get the information he needed, along with blueprints and a list of everyone that had lived in the house, going back one hundred and fifty years. According to this newfound information the house has had only one resident for the last fifty-seven years; a Mr Donald Schwartz. The house was left to him by his parents Margaret and Percival Schwartz. According to records they both disappeared, leaving Donald the property when he was sixteen years old. Mark couldn’t imagine living alone, not at sixteen, he begun to pity Don, and his situation. Abandoned by his parents at such a young age.

It must have been Don on the other end of the speaker system, and if his parents left him that long ago it’s possible that he may not have left his house since then? Maybe it was the trauma of it all? Mark’s head was full of questions, and being the eager reporter he needed these questions answered. One such question was; how can a man feed himself if he never leaves home, he must get food from somewhere. It occurred to Mark that Don must get his food delivered, short of having a farm and livestock he couldn’t see any other way.

Chester Springs is a close knit community, and everyone buys their food and sundries at Warren’s Megamart. Once upon a time it was Warren’s Store, and then Warren’s Supermarket, and eventually as the population grew it became the Megamart that it now claims to be. The store has been there for over sixty years, and they do deliver, so it is highly likely that Don could have some kind of arrangement, possibly way back when the infamous Otis Warren was still working the shop floor.

After trying to approach several Megamart employees he was unsuccessful, he could get nothing from them. He had hoped that they were playing dumb, and hiding a massive conspiracy but in actual fact a few of them were just, dumb. Mark had even tried arranging a meeting with the great Otis Warren, now a man in his eighties he just overlooked his empire from his office, refusing to meet with anyone.

A stakeout seemed to be Marks only option, skipping a few of his classes in doing so. He had decided to wait across the street from Don’s house and hope to catch a delivery person. He didn’t have a car, and discovered just how difficult acting nonchalant without the camouflage of an everyday, parked vehicle is. Instead he hid behind a bush, and hoped that the neighbours walking by didn’t notice him, and if they did he would stand up and walk in the opposite direction, without a second glance, only to return when the coast was clear again. Feeling idiotic as he did so, he accepted that this was the price he had to pay to get his story.

Day one of the stakeout and so far nothing. He had waited in that bush for six hours, begrudgingly, and as the sun sunk below the rooftops he’d decided to give up. The stores delivery hours were from midday to six, it was now seven o’clock and the cramp in Marks leg overrode his determination. As he straightened up, and stretched the kinks out of his limbs he heard a sound, the rumble of a vehicle heading his way. He ducked into cover once more and watched as a moped pulled up to the house. There was a container on the back of it with Warren’s Megamart written on it, and inside the box was some plain white paper bags. The delivery boy took out these bags and head to the front door. At this distance Mark couldn’t hear their conversation but he did see the cast iron door open and the boy enter, the door slamming behind him.

Mark took this opportunity to move in closer, taking cover behind a picket fence, this time just a few yards from the delivery bike. It wasn’t long before the door opened again and a slightly bemused delivery boy came out. He had a black garbage bag in hand, and when he reached the street he dumped it with some other black bags piled up by the roadside, waiting for collection in the morning no doubt. As the delivery boy spluttered off, Mark broke cover, creeping out from behind the fence like a mouse, watching the delivery boy and the front door simultaneously, flicking his head between them both. As the taillight disappeared Mark investigated the bag. He ripped it open, all the while checking that the coast was clear, and the house was still. The bag was light, and as he opened it he noticed polystyrene. The whole bag was full of white polystyrene containers, all completely empty. He smelt one, and could smell food of some kind. Not having the best sense of smell (due to his secret smoking habit) he couldn’t place what kind of food it was, but it was obvious that the Megamart was providing him with regular meals, an arrangement that has probably been going on for years. Mark didn’t feel any closer to a story after his six hour stint behind number forty-ones bush, so far all he could be sure about was that there was a man living in the house, and that he ate food delivered by the Megamart.

As he made his journey home he had an epiphany, the food arrangement could have been made over fifty years ago, it could have been made with Otis Warren himself. He was pretty certain that he couldn’t meet with Warren, he was secretive, hiding away with all his senility and money to keep him company. Other, older residents of the town could know something about the reclusive Donny Schwartz. Mark had someone in mind, and first thing tomorrow (after school) he would approach him.

Terry approached Mark at lunch. Though friends, conversations often seemed forced between the two of them, and today in the lunch hall it was no different.

‘So how’s the story going?’ Asked Terry, insincere as ever.

‘I think I have something, but it’s taking some work.’

‘You gonna let me in? What’s it about?’

‘I’m not sure yet, it could be nothing.’

Terry’s face dropped.

‘Nothing!? Look, Mark, I did you a favour, and you know what this is costing me. You tell me it could be nothing!’

‘It could be something, don’t worry.’ Mark bit into a sandwich. ‘Costing you!? A month without sex, pfft!… I don’t like this pressure!’ His words were muffled by bread and ham.

‘I don’t like celibacy! I’m not like you Mark, I need to have sex, high sex drive, too much testosterone or something.’

‘That’s bullshit and you know it.’

‘No its true, my doctor said so.’ Terry was always stretching the truth.

‘Doctor Campbell?’ Mark turned to face Terry.

‘No, some other guy, a new doc taking over from Campbell, his pre… Pred…’

‘Predecessor!’ Mark put him out of his misery. ‘You mean successor!’

‘Yeah, that. Not that it matters. All I wanna know is… You aren’t gonna let me down are you Mark?’ Terry spoke, hardly masking his threat.

‘I’ll have something… I don’t like this pressure Terry!’ Marks eyes widened.

Terry threw Mark an equally wide eyed look as he moved away from the table and returned to his more popular friends. Mark finished his lunch and left the school grounds, skipping his afternoon classes.


He had taken an interest in what Terry had said about Dr. Campbell because he was in fact Marks next, hopeful lead. Campbell has lived in Chester Springs forever, and for the most part he has been the towns doctor. Surely, being the only doctor in a town like this for so long, he must have had some connection to Donny. The town has since grown, and other surgery’s have opened to handle the demand, but Campbell’s surgery was the first, and he was everyone’s doctor back when Don was abandoned by his parents. Failing this, Mark truly had nowhere else to look.

It wasn’t hard to find the doctors home, he had just asked around and a few of the older residents pointed the way, without question. Mark rung the doorbell, and Campbell opened the door to him. He recognised Mark, as he would probably recognise most residents in town.

‘Mark… Reilly?’

‘Yes Doc, I’m surprised you remember me.’

‘I’m good with faces, how can I help you Mark? If you need an appointment you need to stop by the surgery…’

‘No, its nothing like that, I was hoping to ask you a few questions, for the Derny High Herald, my school newspaper?’

‘Ask me questions? This is intriguing, what possible gems could I have for the kids of today? Do come in Mark, excuse the mess, I’m not as mobile as I used to be.’ Campbell gestured with his arm to direct Mark into his living room.

Mark entered, scanning the interior as he sat on a dusty sofa, he did this instinctually being a reporter. The house smelled damp and the décor was old fashioned, it certainly looked like Campbell had been living here for a very long time.

‘Would you like something to drink?’ Asked Campbell.

‘No Thanks.’ Mark shook his head, he doubted any of his glasses were clean.

‘So, what are you after?’ Campbell breathed the words as he slumped in his armchair.

‘Do you mind if I record this?’ Mark pulled out his trusty Dictaphone.

‘Ooo very professional, no I don’t mind at all young man.’ Campbell smirked.

‘I wanted to ask you about Donald Schwartz.’ Campbell’s smirk dropped.

‘How do you know about Donny?’

‘I’ve done some research.’

‘I don’t see where the story is?’

‘He’s a local legend, or the house is at least, everyone knows about it, kids make up rumours about it. I’d like to put those rumours to bed.’

‘I’m not sure if it’s my place to tell you anything about Donny!’

‘So you do know him?’

‘You don’t live here, as long as I have and not know about the Schwartz’s.’

‘I would be very grateful for any information you could give me, I tried speaking to him directly but he would have none of it.’

‘Well, he wouldn’t.’ Campbell took a sip of bourbon from a glass by his side. ‘Donny is a recluse, and to be honest I’ve never met him. His parents were my patients and they would relay between Donny and myself. They left because they couldn’t deal with him… his situation.’

‘What situation?’ Mark leant forward, intrigued.

‘Well Donny was a messed up kid, it wasn’t the Schwartz’s fault might I add, these were problems Donny was born with. He has… Phobias.’

‘Phobias? Like what? Agoraphobia?’

‘I don’t doubt that over the years he has acquired a touch of that, but that wasn’t it at the beginning… Xanthophobia, Erythrophobia and Cyanophobia!’ Campbell took a little pleasure in confusing the boy.

‘What!?’ Mark was lost.

‘Xanthophobia, the fear of the colour yellow. Erythrophobia, the fear of the colour red, and finally Cyanophobia, fear of the colour blue. Put that unlucky mix together and you have the entire spectrum!’

‘He’s afraid of… Colour?’

‘Smart kid… Yes, colour, every colour.’

‘How can that be possible? Short of being blind you cant avoid colour, can you?’ Mark teetered on the edge of his seat.

‘You would think, but his parents protected him somehow, and he is still going, so whatever it was… It must be working.’ Campbell finished his drink. ‘I don’t have anything else to tell you Mark… I probably shouldn’t have told you this much. But I will say, he has been alone for a long, long time. People are social creatures, take society away from them and they will create a reality all for themselves. I don’t know for sure but he could be dangerous, insane even, I think it would be in your best interest to leave this story of yours here. Leave the poor soul to his phobias.’ His concern was almost disconcerting.

‘I appreciate your help Doc, and I will take your advice onboard.’ Mark stood up, turning off his Dictaphone and sliding it into his pocket. ‘Thanks for your hospitality.’ He head to the front door and Campbell followed him.

‘Leave it alone Mark.’ Campbell held open the front door as Mark walked down his garden path. The reporter waved, purposely ignoring the Doc’s last comment and made his way home, his pace eager and his head full of ideas.


A day had passed, and Mark had thought long and hard, he had taken Campbell’s words of warning and totally disregarded them, as both himself and the Doc knew he would. He had a plan, and today he was going to get results.

He approached the house once again, this time prepared; dressed in a black woollen turtle neck, grey trousers and shined black leather shoes. He wore gloves, also black to cover the peach of his skin, shades to hide his eyes and the strangest part of his ensemble, a painted face. Painted white, lips, ears, nostrils, all white and impeccably so. He had spent the best part of an hour ensuring that none of his skin was showing. Luckily his hair was already black, but to finish the look he had combed it back, in a greasy, rebellious, film noir fashion.

Grateful to be at Donny’s door, and away from prying eyes he took a second to collect himself. Scanning himself for colour before hesitantly pressing the intercom. It buzzed, and all was silent for what seemed to be minutes.

‘What!?’ Asked the intercom.


‘Who is this?’

‘This is… Murdock!’ Mark had taken on the accent of a cartoon gangster.

‘Murdock!’ The voice seemed staggered, and then silent for a few seconds. ‘Its been a long time Murdock… You better come in!’

The cast iron slab snapped and clunked, and as it swung open Marks heart skipped a beat. He stepped in and as soon as he was clear the door swung close, locking behind him, sealing Mark, aka Murdock inside. He suddenly felt like he was in a submarine decompression chamber. Ahead of him was another door, and at the top of the frame was a camera. It hummed as the lens spun to focus on him.

‘You’ve changed Murdock.’ Donny’s voice was now his own, muffled only by the door in front of him and no longer distorted through the speaker system.

‘It’s been a long time!’ Murdock improvised.

‘Hmm… Yes… I suppose you’re right.’

The door opened slowly, and as it inched Murdock met Donny, face to face. Before him stood a caricature of a man, straight from the film noir movies of the forties or fifties. He wore a large grey pinstriped suit, probably fitted when he was younger man, but now it looked ridiculous hanging from his frail old body. It had a neatly folded white handkerchief in the breast pocket, and underneath he wore a white shirt with a broad black neck tie. His shoes were immaculately polished and he wore white velvet gloves. His face was like petrified wood, painted white and cracked with age. He also wore shades, but rectangular in frame, and atop his head was a stylish, pinstriped trilby hat, tilted to one side.

Murdock caught his breath, and stood at the doorway gawping. Donny studied Murdock, looking him up and down before heading, carelessly into the next room, as decrepit a man as he seemed to be, his mannerisms were intimidating to Murdock nonetheless. He followed in.

What he saw was stranger than the time-slipped mobster he had met at the door, he was now standing in a living room that would on an old television screen appear to be normal, almost pleasant. But now, in reality he found himself disorientated. The room was black, white and every shade of grey. A room totally absent of colour. The lighting was poor, and the bulb was white, not the usual amber glow. It cast bold shadows as it hit the angular art deco furniture, all immaculate, after all these years. On the grey walls were black picture frames with black and white photos in them, old images of what Murdock assumed were Donny’s family. The parents that had abandoned him. Further along the wall was a window frame, with white drapes either side of it and in the place of the glass was a professionally painted landscape, all in greyscale. It was probably the view that should have been there if the window was real, and before the town had become so established. In the corner of the room was a small television, black with a round porthole screen, and on it was an old movie.

Every detail of the room was carefully placed, and meticulously arranged, all completely lacking in colour. His eyes begun to ache as he screwed them up, finding it hard to adjust to the lifelessness of it all, he felt discombobulated and it begun to fell like a very lucid dream. His queasiness forced him to sit down on a white leather armchair.

‘Making yourself at home I see, nothing changes. I suppose you want a drink!’ Donny shuffled in, heading straight for a grey drinks cabinet.

‘No… Not for me.’ Murdock choked out the words.

‘No!? It’s not like you to turn down a free drink Murdock!’ Donny’s expression was one of suspicion, he poured a glass for himself. It was a transparent liquid.

‘Not anymore, I quit’ He slipped back into character.

‘What the hell for?’ Donny turned to face him, menacingly. ‘I don’t trust a man who doesn’t drink!’

‘Ok pour me one!’ Murdock panicked.

Donny handed over the drink and stood, waiting for him to take a sip. Murdock obliged and discovered it was gin, he hated gin. As Murdock grimaced his host sat down on an identical chair, parallel to him.

‘Thanks.’ said Murdock.

‘It’s been a long time Murdock, a long time since you sat in that chair, and drank all my booze!’

‘Yes… Yes, I suppose it has.’

‘No suppose about it. A long, long time.’

‘I’m sorry, I should have visited sooner.’ Said Murdock.

‘Why? Why would you want to come here?’ Donny’s gaze was piercing, bellicose almost and Murdock found it terrifying. He didn’t know how to respond, and so he improvised, as he had done so far.

‘To see you, my old friend!’

‘Old friend? You are no friend of mine Murdock.’

‘What?’ Murdock’s heart skipped a beat.

‘No friend of mine, you were a friend to my wife. A good friend… You remember that?’

‘I don’t know w-what you’re talking about Donny?’

‘My wife, you remember her, the floozy, the whore, the woman you stole from me!’

‘You are mistaken!’ Murdock shook his head frantically.

‘You know, we both know it… Now I ask myself, why did you come back?’

Murdock was now silent, quivering. He sat forward and tried to keep Donny’s gaze, to appear truthful, but found himself looking away, fearful.

‘Look at me!’ Donny raised his raspy voice. As he said the words, an echo could be heard from somewhere.

Murdock obeyed.

‘Yeah, you look at me! You look at the man you have wronged, the man you ruined, the man…’ As Donny spoke, Murdock heard the words echo again, he turned and discovered the reason why. On the television was a man, dressed in a pinstripe suit, sitting on an armchair, sipping a drink and speaking to another man. Donny mirrored his actions and his words were impeccably synchronised. He watched the television and listened to Donny.

‘Now look at my hand!’ Murdock noticed the man on television pull out a pistol from his belt, immediately he turned to Donny, and in Donny’s hand was a gun, identical to the actors.

‘Donny?’ Murdock was now petrified. ‘Donny!’ Donny ignored Murdock, and continued his monologue.

‘Yeah now you know, you know because you’re scared! You’re scared because you know I’m right. You could steal a hundred gals and get away with it, but you stole the wrong woman, you stole my woman… And I have this here pop gun see!’ Donny stood, pistol aimed at Murdock’s heart.

‘Donny! DONNY! My name is Mark…’ Marks accent had returned. ‘My name is Mark I’m a student reporter, I’m not Murdock, look at my face, I’m not him!’

Donny continued his act, he pulled the hammer on his pistol.

‘Say hello to her for me!’

Mark stood up and waved his arms. ‘Donny, look at my face, listen to my voice!’

It was too late, Donny squeezed the trigger and Mark heard a loud pop. His eyes were closed and his hands were outstretched in front of his face, shielding what little he could from the blast. It took a second for him to realise that he was not shot. The bang had come from the television and as he opened his eyes he focused on an old man shaking an obviously useless gun (a gun as old as Donny, and probably never fired) all the while cursing the object for defying him.

‘Donny?’ Mark gasped, feeling his heartbeat in the back of his throat. ‘Put the gun down, you have me mistaken. I’m not Murdock, I’m Mark… I lied to you.’

Donny threw the weapon down and walked through a doorway, into what appeared to be a bright white enamelled kitchen. He paid no attention to Mark, and seemed lost, like an actor that had forgotten his lines.

Mark followed him into the room, the white hurt his eyes. He saw his potential murderer slouched over a sink, and as Mark approached him, hoping to comfort the disturbed man, he examined the room. Even now fearing for his life he instinctually took a mental note of the interior, the food and drink in the glass panelled cupboards; Milk, rice, instant mashed potato, sugar. All in labelled containers, and alongside them were small white plastic bottles. A whole range of vitamins and minerals, everything his colourless diet couldn’t provide.

He crept up behind Donny and attempted to place his hand on his square shoulder, he shrugged it away.

‘Why did you come here?’ Donny’s voice was sorrowful.

‘I came to interview you, I’m writing a story for my school newsletter… I’m a student reporter.’


‘Yes, a reporter… You wouldn’t let me in until I played along, until you believed I was this Murdock character.’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about!’

‘I’m going to leave now, but I’ll get help.’

‘I don’t need help, not from you… You stole my wife, I want nothing from you!’

‘Did you not listen to me? I’m not Murdock! I just told you…’ Donny swung his arm, knocking Mark back a step.

‘You’re a dead man Murdock! You died the day you put your rat fingers on her!’ He spun and pointed a black handled carving knife at Mark.

Mark backed off, again holding his hands out in front of him. Donny swiped, frantically so. Slashing from left to right and then back again, all the while curling his lip.

‘YOU’RE A DEAD MAN!’ As he shouted he caught Mark’s gloved hand, splitting the leather and breaking his skin underneath. Mark immediately yelped and pulled his hand into his chest. Donny smiled and raised his hand ready to strike. Mark felt his blood pour, the warmth on his chest through his clothing and as Donny’s blow approached he held out his hand. The crimson on his hand was striking, Donny fell backwards dropping the knife. The bright red shocked even Mark, the vividness of the colour in such a bleak setting was a sight to behold, and as his hand dripped onto the white tilled floor his attacker retreated to the corner of his kitchen, knocking a pile of china of the tabletop, which shattered all around his frail body as he fell, whimpering. Mark swiped his hand, streaking the blood along the floor, creating a line, a line that Donny couldn’t cross.

He stood and watched Donny writhe. He pitied the old man, he didn’t want any of this but could see no other way out.

‘Mummy!? Daddy!? Help me!’ Donny cried.

Mark could have spared the man this suffering, but felt it safer to leave him there. The lunatic had tried to kill him, twice, and he couldn’t help but feel some bile towards him. He backed off. Leaving the room painfully ignoring Donny’s pleads for his mother and father.


Mark sat back down, covering his ears with his hands and then cradling his head between his legs. He could still hear the old mans wails, Donny crying like a baby. He found this very disturbing. He desperately wanted to help the poor man, but his cowardice wouldn’t allow it. So he sat and played the days events over and over in his head. He raised his head and looked around the two-tone room, still finding it a little bit hard to fathom but similarly admirable of the set up, the achievement of Donny’s parents. They had set Donny up in his on little world for life. They couldn’t stand the bleakness of it all but their son had known no different, living in this fantasy for over half a century.

A thought had occurred to Mark, a way to help Donny in the best way he could. He had decided to phone for help. An ambulance or the police, he wasn’t sure. The funny farm might have been the best option, but it wasn’t like the cartoons, where a white van would pull up and two burly men would catch the loon with nets, chuck him in the back of the van and speed of in a cloud of animated smoke.

Mark had to prepare for whoever’s arrival. He noticed an old black phone, the same phone Donny must have used to contact Otis Warren at the Megamart. He used it to call for an ambulance, deciding that they would be the most harmless solution. He hung up after the assurance of their imminent arrival and walked to the kitchen, choosing the stand out of Donny’s view. He still writhed and sobbed in the corner, as if trapped by some kind of invisible force field.

‘I’m sorry Donny.’ Said Mark ‘I’m sorry that I came here and lied to you, and I’m sorry for everything that has happened to you.’

‘Daddy?’ Cried Donny.

Mark hesitated, working out the ramifications of his next response.

‘Yes son, its Daddy…’ Marks face became mournful, unsure as to whether he was doing the right thing, but continuing to improvise. ‘Everything is going to be ok son.’

‘I’m scared Dad, I don’t know what to do?’

‘It’s ok, it will all be over soon.’ Mark rested his head on the kitchen door frame.

‘Where’s Mommy? Why did you leave me? I’ve been so alone!’ Donny’s pleas of terror seemed to become more harrowing to Mark. His tears seem to be for that of his own abandoning.

‘We… We had to go away son, it was for your own good. We did it for you.’ Mark felt his eyes moisten.

‘I cant move Daddy, I’m scared!’

‘I’m sorry son, we have to go again, but everything will be fine… I promise you.’ Mark begun to walk away.

‘Don’t go, please! Help me!’ Donny raised his shrill voice.

‘Sorry.’ Mark head towards the hall, listening to Donny as he went.

‘Don’t you both love me anymore?’

Mark halted in his tracks and looked at the grey carpet at his feet.

‘Your parents love you very much!’ Mark blurted the words and head to the hall, ignoring anymore of Donny’s words. He opened a white fuse box below the stairs, noticing that even the wires within it were grey of colour, the most minute of details foreseen and safe proofed for their son. He opened the front door and then pulled out the fuses, plunging the house into complete darkness. Donny’s terror seemed to cease as the lights went out, and peace seem to wash over the house as Mark slammed the front door behind him.


Mark waited outside for the ambulance, and explained the situation to them as best he could. They didn’t believe him at first, thinking it was a prank and all the while wondering why the boys face was painted white. Eventually he had managed to convince them, using the silver tongue he had seemed to acquire throughout the days traumatic events. He left, wiping his face clean longing for his bedroom, and the security of his home and family. He appreciated the colours of his neighbourhood along the way, having forgotten them in such a short time.

As he walked he convinced himself that he did the right thing. Convinced that someone would do for Donny what his parents had done for him before, but now with all the medical and technological advances of a new millennia. He had forgotten about his story, and decided that he didn’t care. Terry would suffer and in turn Mark would suffer also, but it didn’t matter. It all seemed insignificant now. He would accept his expelling from the newspaper and the clique that offered him status at school, safe in the knowledge that the two years left at school were nothing in the grand scale of things. All he needed was a little perspective. Perspective is everything.

Submitted: August 01, 2012

© Copyright 2021 Daniel Mullaney. All rights reserved.

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