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SAMPLES > Over My Left Shoulder

 

Little Johnny stood still in the hallway, unsure of what to feel about what he’d just done.

The walls in the hallway were of a soft pink; a juxtaposition to the events that had happened in what others would perceive as being a peaceful abode. Images of floral pattern wallpapers and doilies that acted as miniature rugs for ornamental statues dominated the mind of those that entered. One could almost smell the fresh scent of bright coloured flowers sitting on a white window ledge. But the tranquil air of the place had been destroyed by Johnny’s actions. No more would the laughter of innocence be heard nor the warm sensation of loved ones hugging each other be felt.

As he stared through the small window at the other end, happy thoughts began to dance through his mind. The warm glow of a graceful sinking sun that shone through onto his face filled him with a sense of glee and he forced a smile onto his freckled face.

He felt happy…even liberated. All he wanted to do now was read his comic books in peace.

Johnny loved to read comics. He especially loved super villains. He connected with them in such a way that they almost became role models for him. He admired their persistence and their intelligence.

A feeling that someone was stood behind him interrupted his thoughts. His hand was lowered, the leather belt still held tight in his grip. The smile that consumed his face lengthened and little Johnny turned to look over his left shoulder. His new visitor seemed welcome.

Did I do good?” he asked,

You did wonderful.” came the reply.

*****

“Johnny?” it was Mothers voice.

Johnny sat in his bedroom. Comic books scattered the hard wood floor and created a random collage of varying colours. A low-watt bulb hung naked from the ceiling. But despite the weak lighting he had engrossed himself in one of his favourite reads: a particularly gory tale of murder and mayhem. His idea of the world outside his room was somewhat shrouded by violent themes. A lot of other comics told stories that ended with a message about how wrong crime was and how we should all love and play with one another. The very notion that such a concept existed outside his walls was absurd.

Johnny?” he heard her say again. “Are you in here?” as if she didn’t know.

He listened to the rattling of the keys on the other side of the door, muffled vaguely by the thickness of it. He was familiar with this sound. The key began to turn, with a scratchy sound that reminded one of nails scraping on blackboard, until the bolt was freed from its latch prison.

Mother was coming in.

Johnny looked up from his comic and stared in the direction of the door. He suddenly felt his muscles become stiff with frightened expectations. The aching of the hinges was unpleasant as the rusty door was pushed ajar and a face appeared through the gap followed by the bright light of the hallway. The back lit face was silhouetted and created unease for Johnny.

There you are Johnny,” said Mother, “I’ve been looking all over for you.”

Lies.

She emerged herself through the door and stood staring at the young boy who sat before her, his legs crossed in his dirty jeans and one of those disgusting comics spread open between his thighs.

Mother was short and weary looking. And although she was barely half way through her thirties, her face appeared shrivelled and coarse. Her choice of attire consisted mainly of flowery dresses that ran the length of her body; a look that was usually reserved for pretty housewives with kindness in their steps. But Mother wasn’t of the sort. She always seemed to stand slightly bent over as if a heavy, invisible chain had been suspended around her neck. Johnny always thought this pose reminded him of a witch. To Johnny, his Mother was a witch.

She observed her son in a manner of disgust. His very presence almost made her ashamed to be related to him. Johnny felt the same way about her.

My word!” she said. “How many times have I told you to clean up your room?”

Johnny looked around his prison cell. The light was dim and the shadows were dense and many, and apart from his pile of comics that he sat next to, as a young girl may sit close to her dolls as she plays amongst them, the place was immaculate. As instructed by Mother earlier he had made his bed and folded away his clothes. It was the comic books, he thought. She hated him reading those ‘filthy violent magazines’ and she knew that Johnny got a great deal of pleasure out of her distaste for them.

But he knew he was in trouble. Past events had taught him that no amount of reasoning or apologizing could get through to Mother. She was here for a reason. And it wasn’t to give him a stern talking to. Still, he made a vain attempt:

I’m sorry Mother” Johnny replied.

His apologies were forced and so cliché nowadays that he almost said them in a monotonous tone. Almost sighing beforehand when he realized what was to ensue of her spontaneous visits.

Sorry isn’t good enough I’m afraid” her facial expression changed from neutral to angry (Mother never smiled).

Johnny then saw the item she had been hiding behind her back; long and leathery with a menacing glisten to it made possible by the wedge of light from the corridor. It was a belt. The buckle at the end shone white and pierced the young boy's mind with cruel images and fragile limbs . Johnny’s eyes welled with tears. Both of fear and hatred. Mother hastened towards her son who cowered before her with the instrument raised.

“You’ve been very bad!” Mother said, putting emphasis on the word ‘bad’.

No Mother! Don’t!” He pleaded, “I’ll be good!”

She paid no attention and brought the offending item down, buckle first, onto Johnny’s fragile and skinny body. The smacking sound of brass against flesh echoed throughout the room and Johnny let out blubbery wails of pain. His eyes reddened with the force at which he had shut the lids and his mouth widened with each tortured scream; revealing a trail of saliva stretching from the top teeth to the bottom.

“You’re a failure!” Mother shouted at him as she continued to lash at every part of his body that wasn’t being protected by his arms. “You’re not coming out of this room ever!”

Johnny lay in his crushed, foetal position; tears formed lakes his eyes and salty rivers ran down his face to connect with the pool on the carpet that had been created by his saliva. She continued to whip him as he tried to protect himself from more cuts and sores. The echoes continued in rhythmic abuse and somehow Mother always managed to hit him buckle first.

The front doorbell rang. Mother paused momentarily as though contemplating the distant sound for a second. She towered over her battered son. Sporadic red marks and the occasional cut appeared dark and sinister in the weak light. She sighed and relaxed her arm, though her grip on the item remained firm.

Now, you be a good boy and tidy this mess up.” her tone changed from that of a cruel matriarch to someone fussing a family dog.

Mother hesitated no further and headed out the bedroom to see who had disturbed her. Johnny knelt up on his comics still sobbing. He inspected his wounds like many soldiers and warriors he'd seen doing in his comics.

How he loathed her for what she did to him. How he wished Father hadn’t died and left him to fend off that bitch of a Mother. His sobbing changed to shocked gasps as he recovered slightly. Johnny could hear indecipherable mutterings from downstairs. She very rarely had visitors and when she did it was usually salesmen or Jehovah’s Witnesses. No family members, friends or even neighbours ever called. It had been just the two of them for so long that Johnny couldn’t remember if he even had other family members. Certainly Mother never mentioned them to him during his “incarceration” (A word he had picked up from his comic books and had become familiar with).

Kill her!” said a voice.

A soft and reassuring whisper.

The voice appeared to come from somewhere in the room, but nothing was to be seen. Johnny’s face creaked as a slight smile emerged on his otherwise distraught look. He knew who it was.

Hello again” he replied.

He had never questioned the little voice that spoke to him, nor had he cared. His guest had appeared one Christmas after Mother had attacked him with a wire brush and a bar of soap after he said a swear word to her. She had announced that she was cleaning him and removing the revolting curse word from his body. It was after that incident that the voice had said those same two words: kill her.

This was Johnny’s only friend in the world and not even Mother could take that away from him. The voice repeated itself:

Kill her!”

“Oh come now,” Johnny said, “Mother would think that terribly rude of me.”

“Evil woman!” was all the reply said.

“If Mother caught me trying to be free she would punish me again.”

“Look…” the voice said.

Johnny could not see who was talking to him nor see where his friend was gesturing towards, but he seemed to know exactly what the voice was trying to indicate to him.

He looked straight at the bedroom door.

In her haste Mother had left the bedroom door open. The wedge of light that had acted as a warning for her entrance beforehand now felt very inviting.

He also noticed the belt she had dropped in her rush to answer the door. It suddenly seemed less menacing to him now. He had been so used to the item being used as a torturous instrument towards him that seeing it just lying on his carpet was a new and intriguing concept to him; like a stunned snake that had bit him once. Johnny held the belt tight and for a moment he understood the immense power that Mother felt when she held it.

Johnny could not describe the feeling when he moved with caution over the threshold. The instant his head penetrated the light he could feel a cooling breeze rise from downstairs. The sweeping, frolicking air clung to his sweat droplets and his forehead became chilled. He inhaled deep as one does when the smell of freshly baked bread finds its way into your nose. Only there was no smell. But the sensation overwhelmed Johnny all the same and without haste he emerged onto the landing. (his first real step outside his prison bedroom. The carpets were similar in texture but felt different to him somehow) He called out to her...

*****

Little Johnny stood still in the hallway.

She had heeded his call and when she had reached the top of the stairs he had sent her back down with one brilliantly executed shove. Her body zigzagged down each step, arms and legs flailing whilst her shouts of agony came laboured and wheezy as her spine hit each step. When he saw her body lying in an amusing shape at the bottom he wanted so much to strike a heroic pose; to show the comic book villains he admired so much of what he was capable of. But Mother continued to move, weak and battered as she was.

Johnny descended the stairs, thumping on each step as if to warn Mother that he was approaching; that her end was coming.

As he came closer to her, their eyes met. Her sorrow was evident behind the tears and blood that nearly blinded her. Sympathy was not on Johnny’s mind however. He produced the black belt that was behind his back and hoisted it high over his head.

His thoughts were suddenly interrupted when he felt something rub against the leg of his jeans. He saw it was their cat Molly. Mother had bought her not long after Father had passed away. Johnny had never had the opportunity to get acquainted with the cat. He would hear, from inside his room, Mother making sickly baby voices at it, as though she was purposefully taunting Johnny about his lack of love and companionship.

The cat crawled over Mother. It mewed and licked at dry, red stains on her cheek. Johnny glared at Molly.

Bad cat!” He shouted.

He swung his foot out and caught the little feline under the belly. It gave a wild yelp as it flew several feet off her body and smacked into the far end wall. It tottered off upset and defeated. Johnny smiled as though proud and victorious.

You are free.” A voice sounded.

Johnny considered this for a while. He had pictures in his head of himself running outside where walls and dim lights did not exist; the days and nights would be his. He let out a slight titter as happy thoughts began to replace the nightmares that had been a burden on him. He looked over his left shoulder but saw no one. Though he knew his helper, and indeed his friend, was there, watching him.

He smiled more.

 

 

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