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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Darkling Light

Category: Issue 6, Short Story Winners

“Is anybody there?”

I’d woken up feeling groggy and it took a while for my mind to fully transfer from the world of sleep to that of waking.  As a looked around, objects seemed to have no substance and they morphed and transmogrified until finally - after a few seconds - they settled and solidified.  To my dismay, I found myself chained to a radiator in a deserted old shower room— broken tiles lay scattered about the floor and some obscene graffiti was written on the walls.  It smelled as if someone had urinated right where I was sat and to dampen my spirits further, there were no windows and only one door, which was closed and probably locked. It was the worse result yet and let me tell you, there have been more than a few bad ones already.  A solitary candle illuminated the room and my shadow flickered and moved with malevolent purpose; creeping eerily up the walls. 

What’s he done this time?

“Hello?” I pulled on the chain that was padlocked to my ankle but it was strong and wouldn’t budge.

“Damn it.”

I was just starting to feel sorry for myself when, right on cue, my cell phone rang— I found it in the upper-right breast pocket of my shirt. 

“Hello?”

“Who is it?”  came the reply.  It was my wife, Sarah.

“It’s me - David.  I’m in trouble.  How long have I been gone?”

“What happened on our honeymoon?”

That might seem like a strange reply to you, but I knew why she was asking.  It was her way of checking if it was really me.

“We fell off the bed while we were making love and you broke your wrist.”  We’d never told anyone, and especially not him.  We’d spent three hours in Accident and Emergency and then went to a pub to get drunk.  We told everyone that she’d taken a fall while horse riding.

“Oh David – thank God! I’ve been so worried…”

Sharing your wife with another man is almost unthinkable for most loving husbands – but for me, it’s a necessity. 

“How long have I been gone?”

“About a week.  He was okay for the first couple of days.  It was… great actually but then he went out one night and…”

“Yeah, yeah— fill me in on the details later.  Just come and get me okay.  I’m in some sort old shower room so maybe…”

“I know where you are – I put you there.”

I wasn’t expecting that.  “What?  Why?”

“Jake’s out of control – he’s completely lost it David.  We had to hide you before you got into any more trouble.  Barney helped me.  We’ll come and get you and explain things from there.  Just hang on, okay monkey?”

“I’ll do my best…” She hung up.  I looked around at my depressing cell and shifted my weight on the cold, hard concrete floor.  “It’s not like I’m going anywhere now, is it?”

*

My name is David White and I have an alter; that is, I have another personality.  His name is Jake.

When I was young, around nine years old I guess, I started to have bouts of amnesia.  It turned out those were the times when Jake had made an appearance (but I only discovered that years later).  The Doctor said it was because of the trauma I’d suffered— I’d seen my mother beaten, raped and murdered when I was five you see and the Doc said it was my mind’s way of dealing with it.  I can’t remember anything about it but the police report said I was present at the scene – hiding under the bed with my teddy bear – and the gang who’d broken into the house was never found.  At first, the change only happened for short periods of time; but now, it can last for days or even weeks.  It’s something I’ve simply had to get used to.

I never had a dad – God knows what happened to him - so I moved around from one foster home to another after that because nobody knew how to handle me.  One minute I was a nice, quiet little boy and the next I was a monster causing trouble; or at least that is what they told me.  It was a very confusing way to grow up but I somehow came through it fairly unscathed.

When I became an adult I kept my social circles small and although by that time I had an inkling about Jake, I learned increasingly more about him over the years through my closest friends.  When I met Sarah, she’d already been intimate with him and she accepted that we were a package deal right from the very beginning.  She is special.

You might also be wondering how someone with such an affliction as mine can hold down a steady job.  Well, it was a problem for a while.  Eventually, we found our niche in freelance journalism – yes that’s right, I said “we”.  Our writing was the only real connection that Jake and I had and I often read his politically contentious articles.  I on the other hand tended to stick to safer topics like local events and biographical obituaries.  Each to their own I suppose.

Nowadays, not many people know about Jake because – well, it’s just better that way.  You see, he’s always getting me in trouble.  I really don’t know what my Sarah sees in him – I guess it’s the bad boy image.  It’s ridiculous to be jealous when it’s kind of yourself but, of course, I still do.  Unfortunately, Sarah feels it’s necessary to tell me everything; she thinks it’s important for us to be completely honest and hold nothing back.  I guess it does help out in the long run - it certainly helps to put the pieces together but it can also hurt at times too.

I was thinking about all this – how I’d ended up where I was in my current situation - when Sarah and Barney turned up and helped me out of the chains.

“Dave.  You all right?” asked Barney, breathing heavily.  He’d been chubby and cumbersome ever since we’d first met at school; but nobody messed with him.  He used to play in the local rugby team and he still plays a bit – just for fun. But my God, is he clumsy!  It took an aeon of fumbling for him to get that padlock off. 

“You got into a right mess this time mate.  You got the cops and the robbers after you.  Jake’s been a busy boy all right,” he said dourly.

Barney’s my best friend and he’s been dealing with Jake’s antics for years.  I often wonder if it is harder on them than it is on me.  I mean, for me, well… at times it’s just like my watch is running fast or I’ve got drunk and woken up in a strange place.  But for them – I think Jake must put them through hell at times because, quite simply; if he gets hurt, I get hurt.

“Great.  What happened?”

“We’ll tell you in the car.  We have to go now…” said Sarah with some urgency, ushering me along.  She didn’t usually hurry anything so I knew something serious was happening – perhaps even more serious than I’d first though.

“Right.  Let’s go then,” I said.

*

Sarah was driving along at an alarming pace so I buckled my belt.  I’ve never seen her drive so recklessly.  My head was throbbing.

“Why does my head hurt?” I asked.

“Barney had to hit Jake,” said Sarah as she drove, keeping her eyes fixed on the road ahead.

“Sorry,” said Barney from the shadows of the back seat.  He had a fist like a slab of ham and I didn’t expect my headache to go away anytime soon.  Still, he only did what he thought best so I couldn’t be angry with him.

“No worries.”  We continued to drive in a thick, claustrophobic silence— so I broke it.  My patience was wearing thin.  “Well… is someone going to tell me what’s going on or what?”

Sarah cleared her throat to speak. “A gang came in the house yesterday and turned it upside down looking for something.”  She paused and glanced at me for a reaction.  It hit a raw nerve as you might expect but I said nothing and let her go on. “There were three of them – one white, tall with a pock-marked face; and two black, both bald, dressed like gangster rappers or something with rings and jewelry. They kept asking where Jake was – they shouted and scared me; and then they left.  Next thing, the police come around and start asking questions too.  Mainly, they wanted to know where they could find Jake.  When Jake finally turned up, he had a big sports bag and acted really weird and nervous.  Said we had to go away – make a fresh start; started packing bags with allsorts.  That’s when I called Barney but Jake got really pissed off with that.  He actually hit me – slapped me right across the face.  Barney walked in just when it happened so they had a fight.  When Barney finally knocked Jake unconscious we decided to lock him up until you were back.  We didn’t know what else to do.  God. it’s a right mess David.”

“Oh…” I said, feeling a bit flabbergasted.  “So, what was in the bag that he brought back?”

Barney leaned forward and unzipped a black sports bag.  “This,” he said.  Inside the bag were bundles and bundles of hard cash with the biggest of denominations.

“Oh.  Shit.  We’re in big trouble.”

“The gang said they’d done a job with Jake and that he’d split on them and stolen their share.  I thought they were going to hurt me.  The white guy started to get really worked-up; but then he calmed a little and gave me a number to call if Jake turned up.  He said things were going to get really unpleasant if Jake didn’t turn up soon.  What was I supposed to do?”

“Thanks for not turning me in to the police,” I said.  “I hope Jake wore a mask.”

“Dave, can you remember anything?  Sometimes you say you get a glimmer,” asked Barney.

“I only get feelings – not memories.  My gut says there is more to it.  Jake is wild but he’s not stupid.”

There was a brief silence while we all thought.  Sarah slowed down a little.  I realised that she wasn’t going in any particular direction, but simply going - anywhere.  She’s tough, I know that, but I could see she was rattled more than at any other time I’ve known her.

“So now what lover?” she asked, her mood lightening.  I thought about it for a few seconds but the answer seemed self-evident.

“Now… we take the money back to this gang and give it to them before they find us.”

*

Barney called them on his cell from the back seat of the car and set up a meeting place at the docks.  When we arrived, I waited around the corner with Sarah because they’d think I was Jake and probably beat the crap out of me.  Barney went alone and took the money.  Sarah and I got close enough so we could hear and hid under the cover of darkness.  The three guys that had come to the house and threatened Sarah were already there when we turned up.  Two of them were sat on the car smoking and the tall Caucasian stood out front with a gun tucked into his pants.  I couldn’t help but feel that I’d seen them before. 

Barney casually strolled up to them and looked remarkably self-assured.  “Relax guys,” he said. “I have what you’re looking for, I don’t want any trouble.  I’m Barney – a friend of Jake.”

“Is that right?  Well I’m Fred.  And these are my pals – Bill and Ben,” said the Caucasian with a hint of sarcasm.  I doubt that was their names but stranger things have happened I suppose.  “Now where is it?”

“It’s right here in this bag,” said Barney and tossed it on the floor.

‘Bill’ and ‘Ben’ inspected the bag and one of them shook their head and held up a bundle of cash.

“This belongs to Jake,” said the one calling himself Fred.  “That’s not what we’re looking for.  Now where IS IT?”

“Hey look, I have no fucking clue what you’re talking about.”  Fred took his gun out and pointed it at Barney.

“You tell me where it is now or I shoot you – how about that Barney?”  Bill and Ben grabbed Barney and pulled him to his knees while Fred went behind him – execution style.  Sarah stood to intervene but I put my hand over her mouth and held her back.

“Hey – I swear, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

“Then you call Jake now and ask him,” said Fred.

I whispered to Sarah to stay where she was and then I walked out into the open.  There was no other choice.

“Hi guys.  What seems to be the problem?”

“Mother fucker!” said Fred and shot me in the leg without hesitation.  The pain was sharp and warm.  “Where’s the diamonds?  Tell me or a shoot the other one – and then your arms…”  Bill and Ben dragged me over next to Barney and frisked us.

“Not your smartest move there brother,” whispered Barney.  “You okay?” 

“Shut up!” said the gun-wielding leader, almost spitting on Barney.  My leg stung a bit but it seemed like it had just gone through a few layers of flesh rather than bone.  I gave a little nod to Barney; I was still in a little shock.  He flashed a jowly smile and I started to get myself together.

“What did you do with it Jake?” asked Fred.

“Well - we have a problem here guys because… I don’t know where it is.  I’m not Jake.  He’s my… twin.”

“Bullshit!  Where is it Jake?”

“I’m not Jake I swear.”

Fred lifted the back of his gun to hit me but he suddenly stopped in mid-swing— That’s when we heard the police sirens; coming closer and closer.  It sounded like they were heading for the docks.

“Quick – get them in the back.  Go!” said Fred.  We were bundled in the back of their car and off we went, tires screeching and all that.  It sounded like the police were too far behind but I was sure Sarah would follow us.  She’d never let me down before.

*

They took us to a rundown apartment building; it was badly vandalised and the elevator was broken so we took the stairs.  We walked up four flights and Fred began wheezing from the exertion.  Barney was not in the best of shape either.  At the fifth floor we stopped and went in an equally dilapidated room.  Inside, the wallpaper was peeling off the walls - revealing a different pattern underneath; and the floorboards were loose and bare.  They sat us both down on some wooden chairs and started their interrogation again from scratch.  I had no idea what to tell them except for the truth; but I had a feeling that was not going to do us much good.  I have to confess – I was beginning to freak out.

“Right.  Let’s get to it boys – we want to know where those diamonds are.  That’s what we agreed.  You get the cash and we get the diamonds.  Damn it. You stole from us Jakey and we want it back.  Now, we’re prepared to go as far as necessary with this so don’t mess us about, all right?” said Fred.  “We will shoot you if you don’t cooperate – starting with your fat friend ere’.”

“I’m not fat… I have unusually large bones.”

“Shut up!” said Fred and hit Barney right in the nose.  It wasn’t the first time he’d broke it either.

I tried to explain as eloquently as I could about my condition but they wouldn’t have it.  I don’t blame them really.  I wouldn’t have believed it either.  So that is about when they started beating the both of us and I blacked out—

*

When came I around, Barney was stood in a corner holding his head - swearing.  I’ve never seen him lose it like that.  The three guys who had previously been interrogating us lay lifeless on the floor in oodles of blood.  I had no idea what had just happened, but I could hazard a chilling guess. 

“Jake did this?”

Barney was having a mind freeze.

“Barney!  Did Jake do this?”

“Yes he fucking did this.  He said they killed your mother.  We have to get out of here before…”

“What?” 

That’s when Sarah came in.  She seemed calmer than any of us and assessed the situation in a second.  It’s funny, she worries a lot about the small things but when it comes to something major, she has Zen-like focus.  I wish I did.  I always want to hide or run away.  When it comes to fight or flight – I seem predisposed toward the latter.

“Come on,” was all she said; so we got the hell out of there and for some reason, I took the bag of money with us.

*

It turned out that Jake wore a mask after all.  The police, amazingly, could find nothing to tie us to the robbery or the murders and so, after extensive questioning – they let us go.  I guess their usual profiling techniques had some massive gaps that confused them or something.  They’d even hooked me up to a lie detector but of course, I don’t remember anything and they seemed pretty happy with my responses.  I’m not quite sure how we did it, but somehow, we got away with it.

It turned out that Jake had chosen to steal from a multinational diamond company called “Huntington’s” who paid their third-world workers meagerly and sold them to the rich and famous.  Jake had a double-edged plan to get personal revenge while also attacking something he hated – a company that epitomised unfair trade.  The only part not in his plan was the gang finding out where we lived.  That had really scared Sarah and it was a foolish oversight that I found hard to forgive. 

Jake also left some incriminating documents in the moneybag that was enough to bring the company down.  I finished the work for him by making sure they reached the right people.  The press had a field day with it.

Barney hid the money until it had all died down and then we donated it to charity.  It seemed only fair.  Anyway, all that was years ago now.  Jake disappeared after that like he really had run away.  I suppose he decided that I no longer needed him.  He only appeared once more, a few years later, when he briefly said goodbye to Sarah and whispered in her ear—

Under the bedroom floorboards. 

Then he kissed her and said goodbye.  He’s never been back since.  She says she doesn’t miss him much because I remind her of him these days.  I’m not sure why - I guess I stopped running. 

At the end of the day, we’re all grateful now for what Jake did. Maybe he wasn’t so bad after all – I don’t know.  But what I do know is this - those diamonds, well; they were worth millions. 

 

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Old Comments

  • I can see this as a movie.  It reminds me of “Bonnie and Clyde.”  At the outset, I wanted more detail, and as time wore on, I suppose… maybe some more Steven Kingish character development at the outset, and then the movie-scene kinda stuff, to go on. 

    The writing charms me, there’s a real personality (there are some potential REAL personalities) behind it.  If it were a movie there’d be a voice-over.

    Who’s doing the sound track?

    Posted by julianyway  on  03/22  at  02:20 AM
  • Thanks Julianyway.  I have been dabbling in short film scripts lately so… I might convert this piece after your comments.  And I think you might be right - I will consider developing my characters more next time although I wanted to keep the word count down on this particular piece.  Anyway - cheers for your comments!  Much appreciated.

    Posted by Jay76  on  03/22  at  06:15 AM
  • Good. It makes you sit up.

    Posted by Dr George Karimalil  on  04/01  at  11:57 AM
  • Thanks Doc.  Much appreciated.

    Posted by Jay76  on  04/02  at  09:19 AM
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