CHAPTER 1 : FEARS, FRIENDS AND CAKES
11th September, 1998.
The clock gave another bang, its burgundy hands pointing at three.
Nine – fifteen, the time says so.
Mrs. Calhoun brushed off her chocolate hairs to give a sinister gape at the clock, as well as towards her son’s empty bed. She sneezed. Her lips grew tight like always, and it wasn’t that typical motherly face you see everywhere, when you are sipping coffee and staring at short skirts around the Plaza – it was a horribly disappointing look Mrs. Calhoun gifted towards the world; her oval face becoming square like. Her eyes were crystal blue and hollow like all the other family members, and of which I guess are not yet acquainted with my fellow reader. She wasn’t much of a tall lady but stout and inclined towards corpulence, but it’s a rather ironical obvious fact if one feels the need to touch her body fat, for they were chubby, not exactly attractive but perplexing to look at. Her hair was brown and long, slimy and she still likes to complain about the bad water of Renee – this dry place has earned the name of Renee. Not exactly a city or a town. Even more backdated that just that.
Now, youngsters like you residing in cities won’t much understand the clashes in villages as outdated as these, still not even at the verge towards conversion, for they are both unconventional and orthodox about some particular principles which might appear really useless in your home place. And they don’t even wanna understand it.
That’s much of a wrong way to start a novel, I know; but now Mrs. Calhoun’s eyes are fixed at the clock with terrible vehemence for the present time being, her anger bobbing and it was almost near to have busted, when the bell rang. She coughed.
She gave a yowl of distress, settling her lips in her ever sweet manner, chins protruding and as the door slid open; her face became rigid and inflexible. “Mistress of Calhoun, if ya’ll explain this mess –“
“Noel breaking glasses –“
“Come and give a look at my door, hunchback –“
“If ya care ‘bout my vases and all, didn’t give a hell about that matter-“
“Thanks for this, my daughter’s still in fits,”
With a thud, Mrs. Calhoun closed the door and came into their view. A mob filled with nasty faces were slyly beaming or screaming at the top of their voices around the empty roads, their nerves really high. Now, she was in front of them, her eyes sparkling the same way during her date with the clock, though it had lost some of its angry charms, and while the sunlight penetrated into her dim eyes, Mrs. Calhoun puts a hand up.
“Here, you are misses.” Exclaimed a zealous young man, “If you can’t control your son, we won’t control ourselves, we tell you.”
“That’s noet the fierst time.” Shouted another lady, “Come and see what yer son has done ‘em to my Winnie. She won’t eat or talk, just yell.”
“And meh vases –“
“HERE.” Mrs. Calhoun stamps a foot, “Stop it there. I’ve said you we are trying our best – and if the boy possibly doesn’t behaves he’s going to the city.”
“City?” Said a young Mr. Ravens, “I’ve heard the city’s no nice place. The teens there smoke and drink and party all night.”
“Also he prods my son to go to the woods.” Said someone very stridently.
“To my sister’s.” Mrs. Calhoun said sharply, “And she has already managed three sons, and mine won’t be much of a pickle. Also, I’ve bought a girder just for that case if he whims. And then he’ll go to St. Penns. And, yeah I’m very sorry for your vase and daughter but if you just keep them outofhisway –“
“Outofhisway?” Yowled Winnie’s mum, “It’s your filthy seen who comes and pokes her, mind me, tell him to behave –“
“Behave.” Mrs. Calhoun stamped another foot awkwardly. Say, Ehave.
“Yeay, Ehave.” Said Jack the Carpenter who loved to mispronounce things just like Winnie’s mother, “And what about my gourds? Fed them to the Chicks! AndI am all one. ”
“Pay.” Mrs. Calhoun repeated once again, her voice going blurry this time.
It cannot be rightly said in what gesture the imitation was done, so as the mob was again to yell about something wrong, Mrs. Calhoun went over to her house, and closed it to their faces.
She bit her lips once more, arranging the crockery with a disturbed face. She had caught theflu once again, added to her petrified mental health. The table was bare and the glass of water flickered with a stream of light, carving out a rainbow. She jerked for something was occurring outside the house. It sounded like some birds and in the other moment it didn’t and to avoid acting snooping to her grisly neighbors, she wheeled and moved her eyes away, resting on the motion of absolutely nothing. Her heart bit itself all over, and now she was meditating on an old childhood memory. The one which was no wonder the funniest ever.
It was near the dusk, and the sun was very close to set off to it’s another home, when she and her sister were busy prowling on each other with their curly bits of hairs. Mother had been at the lawn and she had discovered a page with ‘I LOVE YOU BECKY’.
It had been more than twenty five years ago.
The page held no signature, no dears or ‘Love, blah’ anything which could explain this terrible matter to Suzanne. Love making, that too in Renee! And Becky wasn’t even thirteen years old! How hilarious!
She had at once busted into a fright of angry dimples, and went lurching at her younger daughter to inquire what the shit was going on with her life.
“This is what you are doing, Becky! Did we raise you up to do such things!? Oh, Dear, if you only cared about us-“
“Ma, it’s not me –“
More pleadings, more excuses. Becky had to give 1, 2,3,4,5 and 6 thousand excuses to prove why it has never been her, and she is even today grateful to Wendy for acknowledging this fact in her mother’s frantic brain that Becky would never do such a discredit in the name of their family, and never bring out severe justice as this. Becky really knew nothing about it but she thought it extremely funny and expressed her trivial wishes to go seeping all over the grass to Mary’s, and tell her all about it. They had only seen such things in the movies, and little Becky had had a strong belief that only big ladies with big bosoms got love letters. And she had got one too though it was quite small and written in horrible capital letters, but still it implies she’s much of a BIG woman too! But her geeky anticipation rolled in the dust when mum yelled about searching on it.
And then at the next morning, with Becky in her arms, she started to pay Good morrow visit to all the houses and started asking them about the love letters. “Shizzy? Was it your son George? Look here, can you identify his handwriting?” Or, “Mr. Dick? Could it be yours?” Poor Becky! Her cheeks reddening every time the people laughed drearily all over her face, like as if getting a love letter which popped from nowhere is the most shameful act in this earth. She still remembers today the nasty grin Mrs. Klopp produced, dancing in tiptoes and hollering that it could never be John. John’s always been a good boy, first in everything and it’s only the sonofabitchs football which he really crapped in. So, could be it be Bean? Why Bean’s as innocent as a kidney bean!
Later, Mr. Shepherd came home all wet from the rain and sneezed and giggled at the same time and warned his wife not to do such a terrible thing again.
Over twenty five years have passed; and nothing was heard of the silent lover.
“Hey, blistering prowler!”
A group of older boys were booing and jeering through the long grass at a little boy. The boy was too small for his age, a little too scaly and was known for his large crystal eyes. His prominent nose told he was a fickle – minded and officious fellow with a dislike for clean habits. However, his gaze was fixed at Tommy – the cow.
He made a desperate attempt to walk, and knocked out his brown hat.
“Oh blistering wally! Someone come and rescue this guy – he’s hysterical!”
The boy picked up his hat and shot a look of vengeance at them and dashed out to the opposite direction. His house was this way, away from the sugarcane fields and north to the market place. The group was still standing in front of his house and the small boy could sense the importance of hiding and so he zipped toward some colorless bush and taking a long sigh, stared out at his mother through the window. She was indeed in tears.
Noel ducked lower. He eyed Jack carefully, wishing he could launch a super – slam punch straight in his wheezing mouth. He spat to his anger, and thought harder.
“He’s a malign effect to the whole village.” Sniffed Mrs. Hastings like as if Noel was cancer, “I wouldn’t have cared if he hadn’t kicked Rabbi in his tummy, but am warning, either throw him at a hostage or leave this place with that giddy boy.”
“And my costly, costly, expensive, expensive, VASE –”
“GET THE HELL OUT FROM MY HOUSE! I’VE DONE WITH YOU ALL! OR I’LL HAVE TO USE MY GIRDER!”
‘Mum’s done ‘em!’ Noel nearly shouted out, looking at the questioning faces of the crowd. Anyways, that won’t solve the state of Noel Calhoun or his business ventures. Didn’t mum say she has purchased a girder? And she already has a cane. A long one. Only last day, he had promised he’ll never again hang around the woods, deride at Winnie and her friends, steal glances from them or really rob their clothes, or ever paint ‘LOSERS’ at people’s doors, also never ever kick Miss Hunch’s cows in the ribs. And in only three hours of the morn, he has done all of these. He created a good frown as the crowd went away with blabbers about his marvelous crime, killing the hullabaloo with their thick treads on the mud. He got out of his hiding place and breathed properly. So, the circumstance stands, he can’t return to his home. Even Big Brother Sean might be lurking near his villa to catch him single – handed. All he needed now was to embellish his 11th of September by spending it at the woods. No school today too because they say that one of the teachers died.
And he’ll be all alone with himself. Maybe he’ll also be able to steal some oat cakes from the Collins. He could bring Jackie too.
His grin widened.
Mr. Calhoun gave a concentrated peer into his letter, carefully making out the smudges made by his brilliant ink. That was the way Mr. Calhoun had, he always made smudges, marks, spots, blotches etc, with his ink every time he gets a chance to finish his long letters and though he often protests that it is not intentional, Mrs. Calhoun finds this situations very useful in the hours of a certain tedious day. With his pen in his mouth, thinking over a new sentence, he gave an astounded look at Big Brother Sean, carving out an ear – to – ear grin. Big Brother Sean, only fifteen is a little taller than Noel, same aquiline noses and red spots in cheeks. Their crystal blue eyes might remind you of ice, and don’t ask me why. Sean had a harmful habit of acquiring pimples, and he says they are very benign to him throughout the day, never getting itchy or too dry. I mean to say he loves his pimples.
Mrs. Calhoun was even now busy with her crockery and kept on glaring at her husband every time he managed to spray some ink over the paper, making it very distasteful as a reading material, showering his letter with his artful tactics and special skills of spraying. Sean bended low to check who his daddy was penning to and sat down and the first question he had was about Noel.
“Noel?” He inquired, shoving a dish with his muscular elbow.
“Noel’s gone.” His father said, feeling very insecure as he penetrated through his ink.
“Gone? Why, won’t he come for breakfast?”
“I guess not.”
That was too much for Mrs. Calhoun to bear and she broke out, making a thud with her cup, “Yea, yea you don’t give a bit of notice to that slug, and would you at least care to know what he’s messing with?”
Mr. Calhoun dropped his pen and looked up and smiled with a I-m-not-flirting look, “What?”
“WHAT?” Mrs. Calhoun’s lips stretched madly to her own horror, “All day you go coughing over the tractor and half the year you are absent and all my days are spent prying on that slug!”
“That’s your problem, if you just don’t meddle and don’t get inquisitive-”
“Oh?” I reckon other ladies would have broken into tears to the tone of Mr. Calhoun by now but Mrs. Calhoun is the most emotionally strong girl in this late 20th century, “It’s he who goes meddling with the other girls! He keeps on bunking his class and prods other people’s sons to go to the woods with him! Kicks cows! Paints in people’s doors! What would you have to say to all these? Why shan’t I remain inquisitive?” She added the word ‘inquisitive’ rather dramatically.
“He needs to grow up and I won’t go –“Mrs. Calhoun gave him a real tough eye, “over the details about encouraging him for he’s already much heartened and he’s too brazened. Just an over smart boy of twelve.And –“
“Wow! Do you know what he’s doing by and by? He killed Toby’s cat! He broke Johnson’s ancient Pot last day and charred all his textbooks! Kicked Mimi so hard that I doubt it whether she got a cancer or not!” Shouted Mrs. Calhoun, not correcting her husband that Noel wasn’t twelve, he was thirteen.
“People don’t get cancers when kicked…”
Mrs. Calhoun suddenly bowed down and picked up something, reflecting at the page torn from a math notebook. She wasn’t now miles apart from breaking apart.
‘WILL BE BACK BY EVENING.
“Hell of your heartening!” Mrs. Calhoun threw the paper at her husband, once again busting up, her nerves thwarting, “What would you say to this? Are we kindling him to such incense steps? Enough of it! Either you decide who to keep in this house or am going to my mamma’s –“
“So, what should I do?” Mr. Calhoun still beamed in that same manner.
“Write a maddening letter to my sister and tell her to come and fetch this rat out of my house –“
“You can’t really be so selfish about your own son –“Sean tried to say.
“I’m not listening a thing, you hear me?” Mrs. Calhoun snapped, “Plus, it’s me and only daddy who are gonna talk. Not you, Sean. Grow up! Don’t follow your brother and watch your steps!”
Sean frowned. “I’m going to call my sister and she’ll take him, loosen my burdens and teach him to be gentle. I may take all my seven lives in deleting his bad ways but her one devilish look will erase him out of all his diseases. I’ll telephone her today.”
“Hey, if you send him to city I’ll get bored. Also, I could go for extra – protection!” Sean tried to pip up smartly.
“What the hell of the matter?” Mrs. Calhoun tried hard not to really show the ‘hell’, “Now you too want to go and mix with bad boys!”
“Then why should you sent Noel between the ‘Bad Boys’?” Big Brother demanded, shrugging.How great of you, mother.
“Why don’t you say instead that you hate the wheat fields?”
“Well, that’s apparent.” Mr. Calhoun once again drowsed back to his letter, “If our sons want to do something, they’ll have to get out from these cows and fields. I’ve been to the city, and I think it’s a sweet place.” Mrs. Calhoun gave him another green eye, “I know I loathe keeping myself here.”
Big Brother’s eyes glowed at ‘sweet’ with thrill.
“Great!” Mrs. Calhoun exclaimed with a beaten spirit, “In fact, I can always sleep as much as I want. These boys are totally wrecking my life, so, when are you leaving?”
“Soon.” Sean whispered.
“Mmmhh.” Mr. Calhoun mumbled, “Me thinking to have some tea.”
“But now he’s at the woods.” Sean mumbled, incinerating the fire.
“Oh, God! Wretched I am!” Mrs. Calhoun stamped her foot remembering the present, “He’s already a bad boy and I reckon my sister will show him how to BEHAVE. And Tom, you are going to get that boy back from the woods and teach him a lesson. Aren’t you?”
“No.” Mr. Calhoun smiled weakly, making another big blotch with his ink, “I’ll try to finish my letter and the other letter in queue. And let me hear that we are sending our boys to get well – educated and learn the manners of the City, rather not for the reason you prescribed.”
The light was entering through the slits of the chocolate trees, with Jackie the crow loafing around, Noel resting on the grasses with a sly grin. The woods were shining with a blast of sea green, carved in slings of a callow and unripe color, burning with delight and valor. The air, you could say was warm, pretty warm for a late September day, and days as these were special to Noel, still stored in his frenzy memory and often reminded him of the delights they used to take while roaming around the woods, snow filled or sunny, lovely as the touch of March. On his front was a big and large stone, the Cavalier – they used to call it. When Sean was eight or nine, he used to bring all his mates including Noel for a picnic near the stone. The stone was a strange favorite to the boys, it used to be large, not round but like a pillar, a dark grey color smoothing its skin. It was a part of their daily game.
But no more now.
Well, few years ago, the Village Chieftain’s daughter, Ella was abducted and tortured to death near this very, grey stone. Even to this day, the passerby still bow down their heads if they ever get near to the woods or the stone, during their time at the church (The church was just behind the stone) and murmered silent prayers with their throttling eyes. People say there are spirits in air, though Noel says there’s nothing in there, and the people say they’ve heard Ella’s racked sobbing around, and Noel says that he has smelled the sweet breeze to an exceeding level.
Noel had seen her picture, one of his school friends had showed him. She was amazingly pretty, carried her head high, sloping shoulders and a sweet apple mouth, a proud smile, large brown eyes, sparkling with beauty and glamour. It’s a pity she died so young – at fifteen. Her abductors were never discovered, they say the rapists have escaped the village, but her soul hasn’t – and it’ll still remain here and weep for the girls, for they are nothing but girls; till someone comes to liberate Ella’s drunken soul. And the Cavalier? The Cavalier which has to this date, witnessed a several such pitiful incidents as these, and in this peaceful village; Renee, there might not be whores and drama, no politics and war, conflicts and blood, but there is a sleeping terror. A terror waiting to be renowned. Time answers all the sums.
Noel’s folders returned to the lonely past now, a day when he had broken the window with his ball and there had been a storm. A dreadful storm. The winds howling piercingly, the terror sweeping past the hours, the seconds flying with the speed of the wind and on that night Noel, who was roughly beaten and was only four, had ran away to the woods.
He had never such succumbing fear in all his life, and motions were never with him till he was near the Cavalier. The bolt had rushed past his clothes, entered his hearts and left the Cavalier busted. The small boy had woke up in the dawn, mumbling, “Matadila! Matadila!” it had come to him like a girly name, embedded in his heart with human skin and the newly born terror: motions. His body had shaken up with the bolts and was destroyed a longing for the wrong, a yearning to be amid the dark, mysterious fire. But Noel had come to know that there were even more people who knew those strange words, and of motions.
But the Cavalier was all right, despite the unearthly action of the lightning bolt.
“You’re such a lout, Jackie! Don’t we feed you enough?”
Noel roared as soon as he saw his crow pecking at some ants. His annoyance melted as it appeared and he rested his eyes towards the church. Feeling heavy in heart, he walked towards the Cavalier. He could consistently imagine Big Brother there, falling from the stone, hurting his elbow. And then, father and he sitting side by side, quite near the Cavalier, and now talking. Father keeps his hands on Noel’s, arm resting gently on an invisible space, his nose balancing the delicate air. There, he goes.
Someone emerged from the grey of a bark. For a moment, it felt all red and then just imagination.
No. Someone has just popped his head from the dark. “Hey.”
It was a heart shaped face with small almond eyes with a fiery spark. The boy was of the same height as Noel, maybe younger and had the similar type of slimy legs. He was all black. Quite opposite on the terms of skin color and eyes.
“Hi. Didn’t see you there come along.” Noel said softly, “I never knew someone could be here.”
“Why?” The boy asked dully and Noel felt it a wonder that he didn’t burst out laughing at the boy’s crazy, cartoonish face.
“Haven’t you heard the rumors? They say there are ghosts here.”
“Actually, I’m new.” The boy chewed his nails of left hand, “Your name?”
“I’m Noel.” Noel paused for a reply, omitting his surname.
“Malcolm!” The boy said aloud, “Malcolm Hyena.”
“A strange name.” Mumbled Noel cheesed off a bit.
“My Granny died last year of Typhus.” The boy wheezed, “I was –“
“I’m so sorry.” Noel broke in abruptly. And then he spat.
There was an uneasy silence. It seemed like someone was there, watching them from behind. Noel turned suddenly for he heard soft treads, steps you can hear when someone walks through patchy fields, dripping mud all over.
“What?” The boy asked.
“Nothing. I was literally obsessed with something unrealistic.” Noel tried to sound BIG, “What is your father?”
No answer. The winds whipped around them gravely.
“What’s your father?” Noel inquired with caution.
“He studies occult science.” Malcolm said with severe hesitation, “An exorcist!”
“It’s related with ghosts and magic. He has many pictures and artifacts which can be an amazing eye pleaser. You want to come? I want you to have some tasty, tasty, tasty cakes too!”
That wasn’t required for Noel had already decided.
The Hyena house was just opposite the way to the Church and was a big bungalow (on inquiring Noel came to know that there were only two of them residing in that big tall house), red and pink, brightening strangely as they approached the site. Noel felt a bump growing inside his mouth as Malcolm went through the door. He stood for a moment, in hopes of seeing someone for it was getting pretty unnatural and ghastly for Noel, but no one came and the building still stood there with a creaking air. The motions were small and unguided; Noel’s motions, and now they were dancing on their feets. A weird, discomforting feeling lunged into his throat, revolving his motions like the sun. But the only difference they had was that the sun was slower and sluggish than his motions who were not only under fits of jest, but also weirdly cold.
The drawing room was adequately big; two couches a flat screen TV and well – books. There hung shelves all around the room, only books do they hold, each in brilliant covers of green and black. The stranger part was that all the books were by the same authors – Milan, Joplin and Copernicus. And Byron Hyena.
“Sit, and let me get some cakes and dad –“
A thin sound was heard from the stairs. With the sight of his father, Malcolm departed with a submerged head.
Noel’s motions stirred.
The man standing there had all his hairs white and pale, paler than the shining full moon night. His eyes weren’t large but sophisticated, experienced and well – trained and Noel could tell that the bearer was not much of a benign spirit. His long hairs came sloping to his shoulder as he clambered down the stairs. His dress was black, midnight black with no glazing spots and there were brown beads hanging from his arms and neck, his nauseating smell filled the whole room in no time. His mouth opened in horror at the sight of Noel sitting at his couch, beamed slowly while Noel thought he ought to stood up and introduce himself, but halted at another nauseating grin of Byron Hyena. Mr. Hyena’s tall figure crouched over the small Noel, and for the first time ever Noel noticed his eyes weren’t black or green or blue, but Red. Fiery red. He didn’t throw up still.
For a bit the smell of whiskey made him think that the man was drunk and the moment Mr. Hyena glided his hands forward it was a strong feeling and now Hyena’s eyes were dancing over Noel’s motions.
What a terrible sight! Wriggling his toes to his own agitation, Noel tried hard not to get that spiteful look in his own eyes, controlling his cough, oh how badly he needed to spit out.
“Call me Byron. Follow me.”
Noel’s eyes dropped. The man had such a type of voice you wouldn’t really hate to hear in sunlit corn fields, but definitely loathe to remember in chilly freezing nights, though it’ll apparently come for you, whether you have known it or not it hardly cares, and it’s only task is to remind you of its existence.
Should he call for Malcolm? But he just said he was off to get some cakes. For the sake of the price of cakes! Noel’s eyes dropped ever lower, this time penetrating at the silver floor. Those red eyes seemed to claw onto him, feast on his motions and leave a skeleton behind.
This time he twitched, his head banging ahead. Byron was near the stairs.
With a strange apprehension, a delight in him telling to follow, Noel stood up. As he walked clumsily, managing a fall, Byron gave another limpid smile to his friend.
Noel followed the man’s steps blindly, and knew his heart had finally stopped to ache; stopped to burn and he was transported somewhere different, diffidently. Having solemnly resolved, Noel’s mind raced, felt vacant and perfectly void and a strange sensation in him charring his details down, and it was so fine a sensation that no orgasm could ever make you feel, and such pleasure he had climbing with his empty sockets popping out, his eyeballs lost in its way through the black woods.
But Noel’s motions were happy.
If you ever get to meet Noel Calhoun today, in your dreams or anywhere, never ask him what he saw in there despite your aching curiosity, I know right. For his explanation will drain his spirit and pour some of his vigor in yours, reader, and leave you contaminated forever.
Noel’s vision and imagination had leapt to its highest order it could ever reach, burning with aglow, and now he was standing in an empty room, a black space. Byron Hyena was dancing around the mystical fire, red and orange light around. Noel’s knees sank in front of the fire, and the skull shimmered with purple light. His motions begged him to put his hands in the fire and he did, bowing his tall head to the motions.
The man in black still danced, his dress was intangibly visible, his feets matching the peculiar song. The song came from far away, but Noel will tell you that was his song. The fire still withered in delight. The chanting appeared nearer now.
“Matadila! Matadila! Fakuna Futurey!”
“Where have you been, Lord?”
Byron had come for him. Now his heads lowered, Byron was crying,
“Here, lord, ay lord! Your soul…pulverizes me…”
It seemed like the mortal sound had broken off the meditation of Noel Calhoun, his motions shriveling away. The voice wasn’t uttered from Byron’s mouth; they were coming from a far, dark land. Byron’s hands reached for Noel’s feets, his body resting, “Lord! You’ve come at last! Alas! But it’s the wrong time…Lord…I don’t care…Take me oh Lord!”
Noel jumped off the floor, his head spinning and all his delight vanished with this. “No, Get off me, you scarecrow, get off!”
Noel’s back stood upright. He could watch Mr. Hyena wail with tears and with joint palms, sweating while he himself was going madder each minute. “Take me, Lord!”
But Byron wasn’t listening. He still clang onto Noel’s head, screaming and yelling and wailing, “Take me with you! Lord, take me! Take my sufferings! Take me! TAKE ME, CAPTAIN CROOKER!”