|Prologue: Harold’s History
This is not a jolly tale. You may find some small humour from it, but only if you are a sick and twisted individual, devoid of emotion, and full of hatred.
Once upon a time there was a small duckling named Harold.
It was a bright summer’s day and Harold was playing in the river. The air was warm, and a light breeze brought with it a slight cooling effect that made the temperature in the welsh countryside bearable.
At seven months of age, Harold had discovered the joy of frolicking in the water, and was now old enough to be allowed to participate without the need for constant observation.
Harold paused momentarily in his enjoyment and thought back over the morning’s events.
Harold’s life held very little, only the love of three other ducks; Amelia, his mother, Darcie, his father and Oxyura, his sweetheart.
They were not a large, powerful or rich family of ducks. They had little but each other and a small area of river on which to live. Their home was a small hollow that Darcie carved into the river bank, and they got by on meagre scraps of food.
What made this little family strong, what made them almost unique in this terrible bleak life of theirs, was that they didn’t just get by; no they thrived and enjoyed their lives, even if their lives were pathetic half-lives compared to the lives of other, better off ducks.
Darcie’s past contained a secret though, a secret so vile he hadn’t even told his beloved Amelia, the duck he had sworn his life to. He refused to even admit it to himself most of the time. When Amelia would look over in the early hours of the morning, awoken by his strangled sobs, he would mumble that it was nothing, and go for a swim, begging her to return to her dreams.
Even as young as he was, Harold noticed many little things that others missed, and he had come to realise something; that which was amiss with his father could be explained in very few ways. It was either a dangerous, dark and possibly horrific secret, which you, the reader, now know to be true, or his father was a paranoid schizophrenic, the sort even Freud wouldn’t touch with a rubber glove.
One fateful day his father awoke earlier than usual, he did not disturb Amelia, but he kissed her gently on the cheek as he left the burrow. Harold had been awake anyway thinking about his lady friend; the beautiful and aptly named Oxyura Jamaicensis who was from lands distant, and her beautifully strange and alluring accent.
As his father reached the exit, he mumbled to himself, in a low voice, devoid of the usual spark of elation, the spark which was the first thing most ducks noticed on meeting him.
“I have to do this. I have to convince them that I am right. I cannot let them come here.”
He glanced momentarily over his shoulder, his gaze passing over his wife and son before looking out into the night once more.
“I’ll be back before they wake up anyway.” And with that he flew away.
For almost two hours Darcie was gone. Harold worried almost none stop for the entirety. When Darcie arrived back he looked scared, and he was limping on his right foot. He ignored the questions of his wife in the morning, sweeping them away with a wave of his mighty wing.
As the days passed, her questioning diminished, and the incident was forgotten by Amelia. Harold found himself being scrutinised by Darcie though, when he was thought to be asleep or his attention should have been elsewhere.
Harold’s large eyes, pale blue with a ring of darker blue just off centre, must have betrayed his memories of that night.
This secret, held so closely to his heart would in later years, even if the events of this story had not taken place, tear the family apart, and cause Amelia to hate and despise Darcie, and by association, Harold. The events did take place though, and as such, things panned out much differently from that which might have been.
Chapter one: Harold’s Misery Begins
Winters cold embrace had been drawing closer for the past three months, and it was now, finally, upon the small family of ducks. The bird song had slowly begun to diminish, and the trees had once more travelled to the realms of darkness in order to find some small comfort in the land of the dead.
For almost two weeks now, Darcie had been an inconsolable wreck. He would jump at the smallest of noises, and panic wildly if Amelia or Harold were out for even a moment longer than they should be. When questioned, he would become moody and withdrawn, snapping at Amelia for the first time in her memory.
On the morning of winter’s true arrival, he had run from the burrow, yelling back that not one of them was to leave for any reason and that he would be back soon.
Amelia spent the hour he was away trying to ease her son’s panic, trying to convince herself that everything would be alright. She had known Darcie for most of her life, with only two or three months going unaccounted for when they were in their late teens. He had never been like this; he was always so unwavering and logical. He could be relied on to be the voice of reason and comfort if anything went wrong. To see him like this was one of the most terrifying things Amelia had ever had to deal with.
How could she help him if he wouldn’t explain what was wrong? What is it that could have gone wrong? It must have been something big, something very bad, for Darcie to be this shaken by it. The warm blanket of love and stability Darcie usually covered her with had been replaced with one of fear; fear for herself, fear for Harold, and most of all fear for Darcie.
Darcie arrived back at eleven, carrying a small package covered in mud. He pushed passed Amelia, into their chambers, and returned moments later with the bottle of champagne they had been saving and a worried grin on his face. His eyes darted worryingly around, before settling on Amelia.
“Let’s crack this open and have a nice meal.” He said quietly, promoting Amelia and Harold’s fear.
“I thought we were saving that for a special occasion?” questioned Amelia, frowning slightly. She took in Darcie’s trembling hands and the wild look in his eyes.
“Trust me,” he whispered, “they don’t get much more special than this”
Darcie giggled slightly, and Amelia went into the store to bring out some food.
The bottle popped, and the meal was eaten in troubled silence.
At five minutes to twelve Darcie stood and told Amelia to go into their chamber, taking Harold to one side.
“I did my best son, but it was not enough. I tried so hard to do right by this family, but the folly of youth can follow you through time, and it has done just that now. There is a hidden chamber under your bed. Go to it now and keep this with you”
He handed over the package, and seeing Harold go to speak he silenced him
“Don’t speak now son. If things go badly you must open the package, but only if things go badly. Do not come out until tomorrow. Make no noise. The package should explain everything. Just know I love you, and that I never meant for this to happen.”
As he said this tears came to his eyes, and he mirrored his son in misery.
“I love you dad” whispered Harold, barely controlling his terror.
“I love you too son,” replied Darcie, “don’t think too badly of me”
A sound outside made them both start.
“Run now. Stay alive Harold. Now only you can end this”
Harold ran to his room and cowered in his secret chamber, the chamber he had discovered on his 4th month of life party. He could not clearly hear the voices in the main room, but he heard the screams that followed. He heard how they abruptly ended, and he heard the sound of the intruders. They were buzzards.
Minutes turned into hours and eventually Harold fell into an uneasy sleep. He knew things had gone badly. He knew when he awoke he would have to open the package. He knew that tomorrow he would begin his new life mission. Tomorrow his life would have no room for the stupid crush on Oxyura Jamaicensis. His life would have no room for a woman ever again. Until he tasted the sweet flavour of revenge his only feelings would be hatred and rage.
Harold was no longer a duckling. He was now a fully-fledged Duck.