Howton county hospital July 22nd.
When Dr Paston told me that the tumours had gone into remission I felt myself filled with a sense of relief I had never experienced before. The tight ring of tension and apprehension that had been wrapped around me since I had awoke to find myself in hospital evaporated, and although the news was good the unprofessional frown hung on his features told me something was puzzling him.
He sat at the edge of my bed and told me that the tumours that had riddled my body when I was brought in had completely vanished. "I'll be honest with you Paul I don't know if it's good news or bad, things like this don't happen …never happen." He gave a flick of his right hand to show his disbelief. "Growth's do shrink in size when they go into remission, but they don't just up and leave. Every test we can think of has been carried out to find an explanation, but for all their knowledge and blustering the analysis boys are stumped for an answer." He raised his eyebrows to indicate his contempt for his aloof colleges.
I liked Dr Paston he's the type who spent his up and coming years in collage and university learning his trade and not forgetting who he was or where he came from or that his patients were human beings.
Too many doctors and surgeons I had seen over the past few weeks (and believe me I have seen enough to make me imagine I was in an episode of E.R.) played me through their hands with an impersonality that made Hitler look like a loving, caring, teddy bear of a man. Take it from me there's no worse a thing than laying on an examination couch convinced your going to die and then being confronted by a man with all the compassionate capacity of a stone wall. To most doctors I was a slab of meat, a medical conundrum, to be poked and prodded, looked at through examining devices, something to be grunted at but never to be acknowledge as a fellow sentient being.
Dr Paston stuck out of this crowd like a violet elephant because of the fact that he treated you as though you were really there in the same room as him. He communicated with you, not at you. Whether it was his physical disability that made him view things different from the other doctors or that his broad Yorkshire accent made him more aware of his alienation from his southern associates I don't know, all I can say is that his manner had the effect of almost instantly putting you at ease.
He struck an unusual figure amongst his proud stiff backed and in most cases arrogant comrades. His disability dragged his body to the left, his shoulders were round as if bearing a burden of weight and his left hand was clawed with malformed digits. Unfortunately he had no physical feature of grace which he could use to counterbalance his deformity and perhaps that's what made his personality so noticeable
He stood up with a lurch and a smile came across his face. "If I was religious I'd start shouting about miracles." He bent down and patted my blanketed leg. "You’re so lucky it's like you've been touched by the hand of god." I smiled back at him, even though the irony of his last phrase bit deep into me. I'd been touched no doubt, but it wasn't by anything as holy as the hand of god.
My name is Paul Meerston and I'm writing this because....well thinking about it now I don't really know why I'm putting my experience down into written word. I'm certain that anyone reading this would not believe a word because that's exactly how I would have reacted two weeks ago.
It may be that the very operation of writing is in some way psychoanalytical and helps me keep my head together, soothing the mental cuts and grazes afflicted upon me. There is also the fact that if I don't put down what happened on that night I'm afraid the memory might disinherit its own existence and disappear. Already after only two weeks even I am beginning to doubt some of the more fantastic portions of the episode.
The exact point at which the story starts is hazy, perhaps events were set in motion the day I came into this world screaming and kicking, but I think I'll start at a time in my life which explains my present position.
When, two years ago, a distant relative of mine passed away I received news that I had inherited an amount of money which, because I hadn't seen the old bird for twenty years and hardly considered myself as any kind of favourite of hers, came as a pleasant surprise. Not wanting to seem ungrateful I went to the funeral.
It was a sombre affair (as if it could be anything else) you could have hardly called it well attended, four people were there, myself included. The other three present told me they were close friends of the deceased. An unusual trio, virtually physically alike, everything about them screamed spinster and their hair was scraped into ponytails so tightly it seemed if they decided to let their hair fall loose their faces would collapse.
We got talking and they told me they were members of my aunt's bridge circle and her only contact with the outside world. She had grown agoraphobic in her old age and had increasingly refused to go outside, preferring to stay in her own little fortress which could hold back reality to a safe distance.
They painted a picture of how close they were and of how they helped and loved her in her advanced years, but I noticed few tears flowed at her service.
We met again a few days later when the will was read and to my astonishment I was left the entire estate. The open contempt and surprise displayed on their faces indicated that they had befriended my aunt for one reason only; she must have guessed this and left the lot to me. Talk about the last laugh.
One of the first things I did when I was financially independent was to quit my job. All the fantasy of slamming my fist on the boss’s desk and telling him to shove his job where the sun doesn't shine didn't turn into reality. I just worked my week's notice and quit with a sigh of relief.
At the time I didn't realize just how much spare time I would have on my hands and soon after the novelty wore off. I started to go through a period of depression, my drinking went through the roof, to say I was a boarder-line alcoholic would not be a million miles from the truth.
I woke up one night after a daytime binge with the granddaddy of all hangovers and I knew I had to stop, my throat was burning and my temples felt as thought they were being used as a blacksmith's anvil. With my mouth filled with the taste of sour, used alcohol I decided to go out for a breath of fresh air, so I let myself out and stood in the jungle of shadows I called my back garden.
It was a chilly evening and there was no covering cloud. The stars glinting against the dark backdrop of the sky pulled my vision heavenward and I began to think back to my childhood, back to the days of the period of my all consuming passion for astronomy. The period actually lasted for no more than six weeks when I was around twelve years old. I remembered how the stars and planets held my attention while I discovered them for myself and how I marked them down on my stargazers chart cherishing each new find. As I progressed through my sky searching I began to lose interest as many twelve year olds do - mainly because there is so much to discover at that age - and finally my curiosity was sated about the subject and I forgot it all together.
It suddenly flashed through my aching head that it might be a good idea to take up astronomy again, if nothing else it would help me past the time.
I remembered my old telescope, it was, my father informed me, my grandfather's. I was often told the tale of how grandfather used to carry the telescope with him when he was in the navy to spy for foreign ships. I think this was a white lie on my father's part to capture the attention of his small boy but I never did find out whether it was true or not.
Made from brass tubing with a leather hand hold at one end of the tube, I would say it was no more powerful than thirty times magnification but it opened a whole new world to me.
I found that my hand wasn't steady enough to support the telescope for long periods and as my wrist fatigued my hand trembled, turning the stars into an indistinct blur. I scrounged around for materials and devised a tripod made from old bamboo canes from my father's greenhouse and laced it together with twine, it was a slipshod affair but it sufficed.
Standing in my back garden looking at the stars filled me with a nostalgia that I felt compelled to recapture, whether it was the thought of having a hobby to fill my nights or a chance to rerun my childhood feelings, the decision was made to buy myself a telescope the next day. I returned to the house and slept away my hangover.
I awoke the next morning completely forgetting the previous night's promise to myself and it wasn't until the afternoon when I was fixing dinner that I remembered. I rooted out some catalogues I had hanging around the house and flicked through the shiny pages looking for the camera and optical section. They didn't have a wide selection of telescopes, but what they did have looked cheap, plastic and uninviting, by uninviting I mean they did not remind me of my grandfather's telescope.
If I were to start my hobby again I wanted everything involved with it to conjure up the evocative emotion of when I first looked up at the stars when I was a child, that happy, rich feeling of being totally engrossed in something and I knew I couldn't do that with a piece of apparatus that looked like a drainpipe.
My grandfather's telescope went to my nephew after my father died and from what I can remember of him I'd be surprised if it's still intact. He seemed to be a child whose main occupation in life was to take as many objects apart as he could get his hands on. My sister used to say he was showing his intelligent side when he was dismantling things, but I noticed he was never intelligent enough to put them back together again. For a few years after my sister got married she lived with my father and as I used to visit them on the odd occasion always noticed something or other lying at the side of the bin dissected to death, a material body that had been given an autopsy under the clinical eye of my nephew.
Having only been in touch with my sister for a couple of times since dad's death I felt it was inappropriate to resume contact over a thing such as a telescope, so I was stuck. Mulling the problem over had the effect of dragging an idea from me, second hand and pawn shops maybe the answer, they sell all sorts of junk. Perhaps I may be lucky and find one there.
To the western side of the centre of my town there is an area that is two or at the most three streets wide which seems to be wholly devoted to shops which sell other people's leftovers, antique shops, old book shops, second hand shops (which always seem to be called nearly new, although most of their stock would make Methuselah look like a spring chicken) and clearance shops.
It was towards this district I headed one afternoon, I had browsed through several shops before I came to one that seemed even shabbier than the rest. The proprietor hadn't even bothered to put up a sign to name his store. It was just his window in its paint peeled frame that advertised his wares, and it looked ready to topple to the floor any minute. When the wind blew the frame shook and the window with it, the green flaked paint had faded to produce a mottled effect as if some one had decided that the store would look great in camouflage green.
The items that sat behind the window were all well worn and arranged haphazardly giving the effect that they had been thrown not placed there. Some of them I could imagine people wanting to buy; a lamp stand with a shade that pronounced it as pre-seventies, portable televisions relived of one or two of it's buttons, a child's toy car who's bumper had been used as a teething ring by it's previous owner leaving it's surface pitted and spiky, but a lot of the items could be described as junk, undesirable, unwanted junk.
To one corner was a bundle of wire leads interwoven and knotted giving the impression of plastic snakes slugging it out. Next to an old car tyre too bare to be road worthy was I suppose the rest of the "car maintenance section, a selection of spanners, ratchets, sockets and other assorted equipment all coated with a liberal amount of rust. All of them jammed into a box on top of which was a copy of "learning how to drive" the cover adorned with a ford that was in service in the nineteen fifties.
Apprehensively I tried the door; it wriggled in its frame but didn't give. A sensation of relief past through me, glad to be excluded from a shop that looked as though the very act of browsing through it's cluttered aisles was more akin to hacking your way out of the dense undergrowth of a jungle.
I was half turned away when a movement at the back of the shop caught my eye. Sat among the oddments was a seated figure, too much in the shade to make out its finer details. Its arm was raised beckoning me inside. I shrugged my shoulders and pointed to the door to indicate I couldn't enter. The beckoning hand closed into a fist and moved in rough semi-circles then jerked away from the figure in an energetic arc, I smiled to the figure to show I'd got the message.
I grasped the worn handle and lent my weight against the door. I nearly fell into the shop having put to much pressure on the door as it gave way and swung inwards. A throaty, deep, raucous laugh greeted my farcical entrance.
"The bloody thing always gets stuck when it's been raining, love," the voice which accompanied the shadow had a bronchial ring to it, come on in and have a look around."
The figure that got up and walked forward was immense in sheer bulk. Waddled is a term I often hear compared to the gait of oversized people but it's the only word I can think of to describe the movement of the silhouette before me. The figure shuffled forward into the light to reveal itself, she must have been the most obese person I have ever seen. As she was illuminated she smiled at me and the folds of flesh underneath her chin flowed with the movement, The clothes she wore which would have been baggy on anyone else were stretched and taut against her massive frame, a pair of slacks tensed and shuddered on her legs as she moved towards me and a green polo-necked jumper was half buried beneath her triple chins. Surprised as I was by her appearance I couldn't help but be calmed by the friendliness of her manner. "Can I help you at all; are you looking for anything in particular?”
"No I'm just browsing," I replied with a fixed grin on my face.
I looked around the shop and realised it was more cluttered and packed with junk than it looked on the outside, it struck me that if I were to find anything of value I was going to need a helping hand. "Well actually I was looking for something," I said to her, "a telescope."
"Blimey, I don't think we've got anything like that." She put her hand to her chins and rubbed in a thoughtful manner and I tried not to be mesmerized by the undulating flow of her overburdened skin. "But I'm not the one to ask really, hold on." She gave me her smile again, turned and lumbered to the back of the shop, all the time breathing through her mouth in short, and almost asthmatic wheezes. She put her head around an archway and bellowed a single word. "Dad." The volume of her voice seemed to make the whole shop shake.
Her head reappeared from the archway like a zeppelin clearing the clouds. "He'll be down in a bit; he'll know if we've got anything like that, getting on a bit he is so I help him out now and again."
Giving her a knowing smile I half turned to examine the shelf at the side of me which was full of blown glass animals when I felt a hand run seductively down my buttock I spun around to face her, she was standing close enough for me to smell her breath which was redolent with stale coffee. "But if you see anything you want," she gave me a slow, erotic wink "anything at all I'll only be happy to oblige."
She moved closer to me and I hastily tried to back away only to find my way barred by the glass animal filled shelf, they jingled and rocked as I struck the shelf with my leg. She pressed herself closer towards me and I had visions of being buried under a mountain of flesh. The moment of mortification was brought to a halt by the coughing of an old man. Moving incredibly fast for a large woman she took two steps backward, spun on her heel and sat down as though nothing had happened, this took place quick enough for her father to see nothing untoward as he cleared the archway.
He contrasted physically with his daughter. Where she was fat, he was thin, painfully so, I could see the bones showing through his skin which was stretched tight over them, you got the feeling that if the skin were any tauter it would become transparent. The only place on his body that the skin had any give in it was his face; it was as though all the loose skin that had been saved from being elasticised over his thin frame was compressed into the area above his neckline. When he smiled at me his face seemed to collapse totally and lose any resemblance of a human expression, you've seen the Japanese dogs with the extra folds of flesh on their bodies, flesh so baggy it covers the eyes; well this man's visage reminded me directly of them. He looked as though he had the face of a twenty stone man who had slimed down to his ideal weight but his skin had not shrunk.
He was a large man, or should I say used to be a large man before old age got a grip of him, I'll bet he was at least six foot but now his stoop had pulled him down to five foot five, he was so frail that if he fell it looked as though he would float to the floor not crash to it.
"This gentleman's looking for a telescope, dad."
"H'mm." He put one hand into his cardigan pocket and looked at me with his lived in; red lined eyes, opened his mouth as if to speak to me and then closed it with a snap."H'mm." He mused again.
His half closed eyes sprang open to their widest aperture and he lifted a finger in my direction, I could almost see the bell ring inside his head. He turned and shuffled to a row of shelves at the back of the shop and I noticed his gait was the same as his daughters. She was sat there planted on a chair which was half her size, she caught my eye and ran a pale tongue over her blubbery lips. I looked away quickly.
The old man drew a stool from underneath the shelves, positioned it with fragile accuracy and gingerly stood on it, treating it with the caution of a rogue bull. Even though he was elevated by the stool he still had to stretch for a box on the top shelf and as he did so his ragged cardigan overrode his trousers to reveal a glimpse of bare, emaciated back which was covered with small tattoos of skulls, there must have been at least a dozen of them and the skin they were printed on looked more like parchment than anything living.
He stepped down and brought the box with him, made of cardboard it was water-stained and dusty, he ran his hand across the top of the box in a shaky sweep. The edge of his hand collected the dust motes and piled them up into a mound which fell off the edge of the box and wafted to the floor where they lay in an almost lighter than air heap.
The box was secured by two lengths of brown twine. The old man humming some tuneless ditty dug his hand into his cardigan pocket and produced a Swiss-army knife and snapped the blade out. The edge of the blade was well worn, repeated honing had reduced it's width to almost half its size. His hand shook as he put the blade under the twine and with the sound of a bass he sliced through in one stroke.
He took the top off to reveal a box full of fluff. Putting the knife to one side he plunged his hand into the cotton padding and brought out a case of dark, rich, ruddy-brown mahogany inlaid with brass, the shine dulled by the coating of time. He laid it on the table and gestured for me to open it.
Although the surface of the wood shone it was sticky to the touch. I undid the two brass catches with my thumbs and lifted the lid to reveal a dark green, velvet interior on which lay an object which gave me a shock that propelled me back to my childhood. I was twelve again as I reached out to touch the item before me, my outstretched hands were the hands of a child as I touched the brass and leather tube before me.
The telescope that lay in the box was so much a match for my grandfather's I had momentarily thought it to be so. The leather hand-hold was identical as was the shape and size of the tube but I saw that this one had interchangeable eyepieces. I stifled a laugh for a moment I had almost expected to see my bamboo tripod laying beside it.
I looked up to see that his daughter had moved beside him and was gazing slacked mouth at the telescope, she was probably as astonished as I was to find a thing of beauty in a place as unattractive as this.
"How much do you want." I asked the old man.
He looked at his daughter with his sharp eyes and she closed her mouth drawing in a saliva filled breath, an enlightenment shone in her eyes, she had her fish hooked and she knew it. "Two hundred." She let a smirk crawl from her mouth and I was about to answer her when the old man lifted his hand and gently laid it onto hers, the predatory smile slid from her face as the old man smiled benignly at her. "Sorry err.. One fifty," and with that the old man removed his hand.
I know nothing of the value of antiques but I was willing to pay the set price and more. Although I had seen the telescope no more than two minutes ago, I felt an emotional bond to it which I put down to the similarity to my old, cherished telescope. If I had known the trouble it was going to bring me I would have walked out there and then.
I opened my wallet and counted the bills into the old man's hand. The cardigan he wore was a little too small for him and it exposed a length of wrist as he took my money. Another small skull was half revealed from his cuff and I wondered if he were covered with them as a leopard is with its spots. I made my farewells as quickly as I could and left briskly, fighting with the obstinate door on my way out. It wasn't until I was well on my way to my car that I realised the old man hadn't uttered a single word.
I was well on my way home when the surrealism of the situation I had just left hit me, an old man covered in skull tattoos, an overweight woman with a bizarre appetite for titillation, it was like shopping with the Addam's family.
I got the giggles and started sniggering in the car, the sniggers started to turn into full blown laughter and I was just about to start a round of hysterics when I noticed the couple in the car overtaking me in the outside lane giving me a very peculiar look indeed.
My embarrassment sobered me up and I returned to normality. They were just a father and daughter trying to make a living selling what they could get their hands on for as much profit as possible, what was wrong in that. It was the premise on which ninety nine percent of businesses were run, but why then did he knock her down from two hundred to one fifty without me saying that was a fair price or not? This question played on my mind until my headlights hit my front gate and the unconventional feel of my encounter disappeared.
I entered my living room with the box under my arm and set it on the table. My room’s decor is based around the modern look of leather, glass and chrome. In the centre of the room is a table with a smoked glass top, sitting on the table the box gave off a sense of anachronism so strongly that I had to stand and stare at it for a minute or two to get the impression out of my head.
I needed a drink, no let me correct that I craved a drink, something strong to take away the palpable feeling of non-reality that filled the room. It made me feel that the object on my table clashed with my room in a way I could not mentally evaluate, like watching a film about seventeenth century pirates and seeing one of them wearing a digital wrist-watch. It was the out of time factor that hits you straight away, the factor between my room and the box was more evasive than that I could almost feel myself understanding the mismatch only to feel it slip away from me.
I poured myself a large whisky and sat down, running the sprit around the glass I mused that the box didn't look out of place. It was the room with its cold chrome and uninviting glass that seemed incongruous, clinical even when compared to the box which radiated a glow of beguiling warmth. I decided at that moment to change my furnishings and make the room a bit more homely and personalised It didn't strike me as odd at the time that I had just determined to change my decor to suit a small box I had just bought but that shows just how enthralled with it I was.
I put down my drink and approached the table. The surface of the box was unmarked as though freshly made, it was only the green tinge to the inlaid brass that gave away its age. I undid the catches with a dull snap, raised the lid and reached in to bring out the telescope.
It was surprisingly weighty for its size, the leather hand-hold was worn enough in places to show the backing through. I held each end and extended it to its fullest elongation; it unfurled with a smooth motion and spanned the length of my arm. I turned to the window and held it up to my eye, the quality of its clarity took me aback I had expected a few scratches on the lens but none showed through. What surprised me the most was the focal distortion or the lack of it, it was crystal clear.
Most telescopes have a viewing characterisation of a small haziness and slight colour change when looked through, this one offered a vision of actually being close to the object you were spying.
Smug in the knowledge of having bought a instrument of superior worth, I set about adapting the tripod I had purchased from a camera shop earlier that day, a task that proved more difficult than it at first seemed. Two hours and a lot more swear words later my telescope and tripod stood in unionism.
Most of the constellations and star positions had been learnt by heart when I was a child and I was running them through my mind as I waited for it to get dark. This action brought on a wave of nostalgia ebbing towards me, not only of my brief love for astronomy but for everything connected to me when I was growing up, the music, my friends, my school, all came trooping back from the portion of my mind where I had hidden them.
That's one of the problems associated with being an adult you often look so far ahead to what tasks and tribulations are approaching that you tend to forget were you came from, it's like the little person you once were gets swallowed up, absorbed and forgotten about until quiet moments of reflection brings him out again. It's not as though you forget what happened when you were a child, you tend to forget what it's like being a child, the sense of everything out there just waiting to be discovered and turned to your advantage. The sense that fantasy is real and could be there around every corner, the sense of being untouchable, invincible even, these beliefs are declared null and void once you step over that line into adulthood.
A tear of self indulgent longing for my childhood ran down my face. I wiped it away with the back of my hand and realised it had grown dark while I had sat there reminiscing.
I placed the telescope at my bedroom window pointing over the local housing estate towards the heavens. The night did not offer the best viewing conditions but they were passable, a thin haze hung in the air, not obscuring the stars but unfortunately blurring them causing me to spend fifteen or so minutes fiddling with eyepieces and the focus ring trying to get a sharp view, but to no avail. I had also noticed one of the eyepieces was either scratched or chipped which turned my view into a distorted through the bottom-of-a-jam-jar scene where everything waived and shimmered as though looked at through a great heat. I placed it back in the bound selected another one, this eyepiece was the lowest magnification the set had and it showed me just how bad the meteorological conditions had got over the past quarter of a hour.
The thin haze was now rapidly turning into a mist which came creeping from the western side of town flowing over the houses, obliterating what chance I had of carrying out my nocturnal gazing.
Realising I had no more choice but to call it a night, I started to put the telescope away, I loosened the lock on the tripod when a loud flash of light filled the lens. I looked from the lens to the window; the light came from a house two streets away and downhill from me. After looking at dimmed hazy stars for a while the light from the window had seemed exceptionally intense while magnified through the eyepiece, now looking at it with my bare eyes it was a minute bright dot on the background of the night.
I trained the telescope on the house and saw it was the bedroom window that the light was emanating from, the curtains were closed and a shadow moved beyond it. The silhouette turned to face another figure entering the room and the two moved closer together, I pulled my eye away with reluctance; the telescope was bought for viewing stars not for spying on my neighbourhood. I felt a little ashamed for what I had allowed myself to do but I put it down to the voyeuristic nature of man that had drawn me to do it in the first place and vowed to myself not to be sucked in again.
The self made vow stayed in force for two days, willpower and self control had always been one of my weak points and I was surprised I lasted as long as I did. The urge to survey the people around me, to insert myself into their lives without them having the slightest knowledge of my presence was too great, too compelling a force for me to ignore.
I can now, looking back in hindsight, give that force a name, loneliness. As I have said before I had an abundance of time on my hands and no one to share it with, no family that I was close to and most of my social life emanated from my previous job which was now a door closed to me. I suppose this makes me out to be a sad character but it's amazing what a little interaction into other people’s lives can do for a man starved of companionship.
It's easy to see why people can get addicted to soap operas, the constant change in plots and scenes gives the watcher a perception of involvement unavailable in their everyday life. A sense of being wrapped up in a cocoon of escapism, of being able to watch but not be observed in a world of events that always seems more interesting than the life you lead.
Perhaps I'm trying to justify the unjustifiable. My actions cannot be excused in any shape or form, only as a need for involvement, an escape from my normal dreary life to one that’s more colourful, more lively and less mundane, but then again perhaps I'm still trying to justify myself in words where as it's feelings that should do the telling and I'll tell you how I felt, I felt powerful, I felt like god looking down on his creations. The power of being able to insert myself into other people’s existence and to observe all they did thrilled me, it made me feel omnipresent and my interest in astronomy came to a dead halt as my new hobby as a peeper took hold.
Looking back I find it incredible that my common sense or even my underdeveloped sense of decency did not inform me I was doing wrong, but my recollection of that period of my life is somewhat hazy to say the least. I even went as far as making records of my spied upon neighbours life-styles, of their eating habits, of when they went to bed , of when they got up, of when they went to work etc, even down to the facts of who visited them.
I was obsessed with the everyday happenings of other folk, it took over my life until it was my life. The only time I would sleep was late morning until early evening when there was a lull in my neighbours activity, my neighbourhood was lower middle-class and everyone seemed to work during the day which was a blessing in disguise because I would have killed myself with lack of sleep if there was something worth observing all day.
The smallest of facts of my surrounding residents became fascination to me. Mrs Bedmore of no 23 took her rubbish out only when it was dark looking left and right to make sure no one spied her as if she was carrying out a shameful act, her son Johnny would lock his bicycle up after school and check it three times everyday like a ritual. Mr Delford stroked his car like a cat when he started it up in the morning , his wife had a lover who would turn up on Tuesday and Saturday nights when Mr Delford had gone bowling. Every little detail was written and recorded until I had a catalogue of every event I could see in my vicinity.
In the inactivity of my rest periods I would be eaten up by self-loathing, I felt lowly and perverted but these feelings of negativity were never strong enough to halt my progress as a peeper. I was driven by a desire to know everything about my neighbours I possibly could, I would even say I started to take a small comfort out of my "hobby", it seemed as my intrusions would have no end, but I know now that I was compelled by an outside force, searching for the right time and place to begin the events that it needed. That time came two days later and the place was the Bedmore's house.
I began drinking again. My effort to rid myself of this habit by substituting it with another more harmless one had backfired and I was stuck with two equally destructive pastimes, although pastimes is not the proper term, drinking and peeping filled my existence leaving room for nothing else.
I had drunk too much during the previous night and was nursing a particularly bad hangover. Johnny Bedmore was ill off school and taken it into his head that hitting the family cat around the room with a cushion for hours on end would be a good way of passing the time. That was until he hit a lamp, which in turn slammed into the T.V. screen chipping a huge sliver out of the top corner. This was too interesting for me not to see so I missed my "rest period" and had stayed awake for duration of twenty two hours, I decided I had to get up and move before I seized up.
I stood to stretch my back which had developed a low nagging pain at it's base and raised my arms hoping that a exercise of toe touching would alleviate the condition. My arms were at shoulder height when a blast of electric pain ran down my spine, I quickly put my hand out to steady myself and grasped the shaft of the telescope. The whole 'scope tilted away from my grip and my fist slid down the shaft popping the eyepiece off the end which spun across the room to a far wall. I stood there in the dark clutching my back in a protective embrace and listened to the eyepiece whirl and rattle on the floor like a child's top. Slowly the eyepiece stopped rotating and I was left alone in silence with my glass spine not daring to move least the pain returned and paralyse me again.
My hands kneaded life back into my stiffened muscles and gradually I became more supple and able to move. I started to look for the absconded eyepiece but found that bending to any great degree caused my back to turn into stone again.
I crossed the room, making the decision to switch on the light to aid me in my search, sweeping one foot before me so I would not inadvertently tread on and crush the lens, I slid my palm down the wall and made contact with the light switch flooding the room with an almost blinding illumination. Having been sat in the gloom for so long it took me awhile for my eyes to adjust.
My vision cleared once it got used to the light and I saw the eyepiece straight away, propped up against the foot of the wardrobe. It glinted, reflecting light from the overhead bulb like a small beacon. Having to get down on my hands and knees to pick the eyepiece up I crawled across the floor at a gingerly held pace and scooped it into my fist.
I stayed in that position for a minute or two, with the pain playing slowly to and fro along my spine, working up the courage for setting about standing aloft. The feat was managed with a couple of stops along the way and I crept back to my chair into which I delicately lowered myself.
The eyepiece was ruined, a hair-line crack ran down the middle separating into two tracks along its length, reassembling the C.N.D. sign from which the bottom triangle of glass was missing.
Selecting a new eyepiece I realised I had a problem. The lens which had cracked was my lowest magnification and the next eyepiece up from that was the one which was chipped, the following lens in the series of eyepieces would be too powerful for me to focus in on anything as close as the surrounding houses.
I picked up the second lens and rolled it thoughtfully around in my palm, I should be able to see with it even though the chipped lens would offer a view that would be a little distorted. It was getting towards the time when Johnny's parents would be returning home and I didn't want to miss the predictable argument that would follow when they discovered the state the house was in.
While pressing the eyepiece firmly on the end of the telescope I noticed the Bedmore's car roll to a halt on to their drive. I lent my eye to the lens, my finger resting lightly on the focus dial ready to get the clearest picture.
Mr Bedmore's torso hovered into view with no focal distortion what so ever. Puzzled I tilted my head back and looked at the end of the telescope. I could see the chip on the lens like frozen ripples on a pond, it should obliterate at least half of what I could see through the lens. I spied through it again and saw the car door being swung to by Mrs Bedmore, the scene was unaffected by any visual disfigurement. The enigma was put to one side as the confrontation between the Bedmore senior and junior got under way.
Mr Bedmore was a usually quite man of calm temperament, but judging by his arm movements and his stance the nonchalant cloak he normally wore had been flung to the floor with gusto.
Young Johnny had started his defence with grit in his bearing, but he was now flagging under the onslaught of his fathers bellows. Both were equally red of face, one in anger and one in abashment and when Johnny finally succumbed to inevitable tears his mother gently laid a hand on her husband's arm, who whipped it from her grasp and dealt Johnny a slap to the side of the face making his last shreds of courage disappear and he turned and ran towards the stairs. Mr Bedmore made to follow but was restrained by his wife holding the back of his overcoat and spinning him around to chastise him for his rough treatment of the boy.
As this scenario was played out downstairs Johnny's bedroom light flicked on and I caught a glimpse of the boy throw himself on to his bed and move out of sight.
I trained the telescope back down to the living room window to catch the end of the fight between the parents which finished with Mrs Bedmore shouting at her husband and then storming out of the room leaving Mr Bedmore standing in the middle of the room looking sheepish and somewhat regretting his actions.
One of the troubles with peeping is that you can't hear a single word of what is being said and you have to depend on peoples actions to convey meaning, the spectacle just played out in front of me presented no difficulty what so ever in that department. The gist of the scene was so clear I could have read the words straight from their mouths.
Mr Bedmore looking deflated, slumped into an armchair, balanced his chin on his palm and sat there sulking. Mrs Bedmore must have been at the far side of the house for she was no where in sight, it looked all quite on the Bedmore front and I decided to call it day.
I'd had a long stretch at my post, my concentration was flagging and the beginning of a major headache was starting to throb behind my eyes. Half standing up, ascending slowly to pamper my still sore back, I noticed a small figure in the space of Johnny's bedroom window. Not able to make any detail out with my naked eye I put my eye against the telescope to see Johnny’s face staring directly at me with a questioning expression upon it.
My mind strained to work out a plausible explanation as to how he could see me, then the reality of the situation hit me. Here I was doing something that was in all counts unmoral and definitely illegal, something I should have took great pains to keep under cover and I had been peeping for the last two or three minutes with the light on, I had forgot to switch it off when I had changed the lenses over.
I looked through the 'scope again in the desperate hope that I may have misread the look on Johnny’s face. My hope evaporated when I saw that things were still the same and as he opened his mouth to call me to one of his parent’s attention my heart galloped with the speed of fear.
As my anxiety rose to an almighty high with the risk of discovery, my vision blurred. In a split second it was clear again, revealing the distortion of the chipped lens on the scene in front of me. It happened as though someone had flipped a switch from good lens to bad lens in the blink of an eye. The distortion covered half of my view, leaving me with the sight of Johnny standing in a partially clear room with one side softened by a smear of unfocused blur.
Johnny's hair ruffled as if moved by a breeze, and his mouth, half open in a never shouted call, lost its muscle rigidity and slowly fell in a gape of amazement. I wasn't the only one who could see the distortion, Johnny could see it too, more than that he was stood next to it.
The distortion pulsed like a living thing, it was shot through with dark muddy colours in vein like strands and rippled in the air like a heat warped mirage.
Johnny's lax mouth started to regain control of itself with a vengeance and began to draw air deep into the lungs for a shout which would undeniably wake the whole street. The distortion’s colours brightened, its watery surface heaved in a wave of antagonism and parted in a shaft of undefined shape which shot across the room and clamped itself over Johnny's open lips.
I felt as thought all my energy had been leeched from me. I was totally drained of all reaction, all I could do was stand and stare nailed to my observation spot unable to voice my horror as if my lips were clamped shut just like Johnny's.
Two more tendrils of god knows what had strapped themselves to Johnny's forearms and he was tugging furiously against them. The cover on his mouth had crept around his chin and was now edging its way down Johnny's neck. Veins in the amorphous mass started to take on a red tinge as blood ran from the contact point between Johnny's neck and the thing's clamp-hold.
His eyes focused in front of him bulged wildly and started to glass over with shock, but he still struggled against its hold like a mad dog. The links connected to his forearms swelled, thickened and drew him ever closer to the distortion. He yanked even harder opposite to the force pulling him in, giving him a little leeway to move back. The effort of this action had split the skin on his forearms, blood surged up, flowed from the rips on his skinny limbs, over the links and dripped onto the floor. He pulled with even more force and began to retreat away, his trainers leaving smeared footprints as he retreated through the spilt blood.
Johnny's face had the look of a rabbit caught in a snare realising it's going to have to chew its own foot off to escape and I honestly believe he would have ripped all the skin off his forearms just to get away from the terror before him but he never got the chance. As Johnny was getting the better of the skirmish, the links quivered, became transparent and changed into twin shafts of brilliant blue light illuminating the whole bedroom in an unearthly glow, casting huge shadows. Johnny jumped and jerked like a half strung puppet caught in an epileptic fit. A small wasp of smoke rose from Johnny's hair and his face erupted in blisters.
I watched in paralysed disbelief as his struggling became less virulent, a small blister that had formed on his earlobe popped weakly spewing out a mixture of semi-cooked flesh and blood that sprayed to the floor sending a small wave of steam wafting to the ceiling. His stance became weaker and his knees started to buckle, slowly crumpling towards the floor. Johnny was yanked off his feet by the links which had grown fatter and coarser in texture resembling the bark of a tree.
He was dragged into the maw of the distortion, which was now pouting like a pair of lips eager to ingest the young boy. As he was sucked in, the distortion shuddered and waved causing the room to undergo a transformation.
The walls cracked, splits running vertically upwards spat plaster in every direction, showering the whole room in dust, large chunks fell to reveal the brick backing which seemed to melt and run into each other then drip towards the ceiling, which was in the throws of producing large squat stalactites puncturing their way through the thin laths and adding to the plaster dust-storm that engulfed the room and seriously hindered my view.
I was still immobilised by whatever force holding me prisoner, mentally I was screaming to be let free but physically I could not even blink my eye let alone move it from the lens and go for help.
I so desperately wanted to vindicate myself, to produce some kind of assistance that would remedy the situation, that would take all the past few minutes events and erase them from history and return them to normality, but I couldn't shed one tear of the frustration, horror and misery I felt at causing such unpredictable circumstances. The inability of movement was my punishment for being the catalyst in this reaction.
His body was now squeezed tightly against the surface of the distortion and it was sinking slowly into its mass. Although it resembled rippling water its consistency was more substantial, a hard, gelish type of a substance which suspended Johnny's body like a fly trapped in amber.
An extension of the distortion protruded from its surface and engulfed Johnny's torso from the waist upwards. The waist and legs hung limply projecting from a shimmering wall of glutinous ooze, his feet suspended half a meter above the ground. I could see his body float aloft in the distortion which once again changed colour to a thunderous grey-black while retaining its transparency. Its mass started to shiver from low frequency to high in the space of a few seconds.
The encased upper body was joined by more objects, I had trouble seeing what they were, trying to look into the distortion was like peering through a steamed window just coloured outlines and shapes were visible. The objects looked like more of the links that had pulled Johnny in, they were not hampered by the substance of the distortion but moved freely and speedily latched on to him.
He started to fade from view, whether the grey-black colour had deepened in its hue or that Johnny was being pulled further in I didn't know. If he was being sucked further in where was he going? The distortion was only a meter thick in its widest place. I then noticed his leg, stuck out from the thigh downwards, it was twitching. The toes curled and unclenched inside his mud splattered trainers as his leg was slowly drawn inwards, he was still alive!
End of part one
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