Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Age before

His father had always told him never to show any fear; to stand your ground and not be pushed around. None of this advice helped 12 year old Frankie at all. If anything it was a contributing factor to the beating he was getting now. Course, his dad was the PE teacher and had probably never been beaten up in his life.
As a teacher he had handed out canings a plenty and that was probably one of the reasons why Frankie was getting beaten now; in retribution.
Bad enough he was Mr Franks’ son and his name was Frankie, but it was well known that, if anything, Mr Franks actually agreed with the bullies. Someone needed to make a man out of Frankie and for a school that wouldn’t tolerate bullying no one lifted a finger to help him.
Then came Edgar.
You will all leave him alone.” Came a voice from behind the fracas. This time the boys were trying to get Frankie to eat mud as they all had to do double bog-trot in the rain for some unruly behaviour. Of course, that was Frankie’s fault so he should suffer for it; the unwritten law of school.
Edgar wasn’t on the bog-trot; it wasn’t known whether he could run at all, he always had library time instead of PE, with him being so..odd. The pack of boys all turned to look at Edgar and backed off. Edgar had that kind of effect on people.
What do you want, prune?” John Stave sneered.
You to leave him alone. I don’t think he’s enjoying his last meal.” Edgar replied, balancing on his cane. It was still raining and the water could be seen collecting and pooling in the deep wrinkles on his skin. His voice was arthritic and crackly, his breathing semi-laboured, but his presence was all consuming. Everyone was ill at ease with him, even John Stave.
It’s his fault that we’re doing this bog-trot.” He shouted back, still with his foot on the back of Frankie, who was lying like a stranded mud-skipper.
I heard it was because one of you were making rude gestures as Mrs Flowers… Most probably you, Michael Stone.” Michael went bright red and then crimson, embarrassment flanked by anger.
You bastard!” He replied as all eyes turned on him.
It was you?” John Stave confronted him. “Because you never owned up to it we ALL had to do double bog-trot! You better start running, boy!”
What?” Michael stammered.
You’re out of our gang; we don’t take to liars or cheats. Run, else we beat you where you stand!”
You bastard, Edgar! I’ll get you for this!” Michael shouted as he ran away from them all. Edgar nodded, his eye sparkling with something unknowable as the other kids scattered after him. None of them looked at either Edgar or Frankie.

Frankie started to sob as he pushed himself out of the mini-quagmire. His clothes were sodden, lathered in mud.
Edgar shuffled over to him and tried to console him. “The years of youth are harsh and bitter. I would say that they get better, Mr Frankie Franks, but it would be a lie.” He put a hand on Frankie’s shoulder but Frankie pushed it weakly away.
Gerroff… Don’t want any prune touch me. Leave me alone.”
Not even a thank you?” Edgar replied, keeping the sneer from his voice. “We’re alike and we need to stick together. We’re the downtrodden and…”
Not like you!” Frankie interrupted. “I’m not, so buggeroff!” He ran away, back in the direction of the school leaving Edgar alone with a smile carved into his face like rock.
You’ll change your tune, when you have no one else to run to.”

Simone had a thing for bad luck cases. She was almost a prefect and saw it as her duty to look after those that couldn’t look after themselves very well, or that were bullied.
She was bright and beautiful but wore braces on her teeth which made her feel very self-conscious and she wasn’t as outgoing or vivacious as she perhaps might have been.
But she did what she could, despite not being a prefect, and tried to help others.
Edgar fascinated her; she felt sorry for him. He had something like Projeria or Porgera… but no one had ever heard of such a condition, not even her parents. Whatever it was, it meant that Edgar was ageing faster than everyone else and even though he was really the same age as everyone else he looked nearly 85 years old. (actually, he was almost three years younger than her, which was tragic!) She felt sorry for him because he was probably going to die in a few years, which was awful.
She tried to help him the best she could but whenever she offered he would turn around and… well, tell her to piss off, which was rude; but her mum just said that was because he was scared and it was a defence mechanism. So she decided to try harder.
This particular afternoon school had just finished and she found him shuffling back from the playing fields, soaked right through to the skin.
You poor dear!” She fawned, running to him in alarm. “You must be freezing!”
Drowned, but not forgotten.” Edgar wheezed, and a wry smile escaped his countenance and captured her heart. Finally he had recognised her and invited her into his life. Inside she performed cartwheels but outside she simply took him by the arm. At first he stiffened and she thought that he was going to push her away, but he didn’t.
I wonder…” He muttered, obviously embarrassed by his predicament.
Yes, Edgar?” She answered, trying to keep the hope from her voice.
Would you be so kind and help me to… my place, please?”
Of course, I would. I would be only too happy to!” She smiled, delighted with her perseverance.
Inside Edgar something cold writhed, “Of course you would, wouldn’t you?” He thought to himself and smiled. So wrapped up was she in her service to Edgar that Simone had no idea where she was being led to; she was just over the moon to be helping him! She’d now be able to tell all her friends what she’d accomplished. Except soon she’d be in no state to tell anyone anything.

They were in the local industrial estate; nothing more than an abundance of gutted shells, long since abandoned. It was Edgar’s favourite haunt. He could remember it being built and knew the best places to hide, and the best places to make lots of noise and still be undisturbed.
He led Simone inside the factory where his father had worked all those years ago.
It had been a manufacturer of the Thalidomide drug and had gone to the wall when the dreadful birth defect had become public. His father had blamed Edgars defect as a sign from God for his evil doing and took his own life than suffer the same.
Where are we, Edgar?” Simone asked, starting to get scared now. She realised that she barely knew him and could be in a whole world of trouble. Too little, too late.
My den… don’t you want to see it?” He replied, turning to face her. His eyes pierced her flesh and she gasped, tried to run away but couldn’t. “Of course you want to see my special place.”
Edgar took her by the hand, his crinkly skin, vellum thin, sending waves of revulsion through her.
There was a room, possibly once a store cupboard, and lining the shelves were so many jars. Different shapes and sizes and inside each of the jars was a sickly green, pulsating globule, writhing in perpetual pain.
I’m so glad that you’re here, Simone. You know I almost let you go; you are so annoying! So much wanting to please I was actually physically repulsed by your cloying neediness. Then I realised that your need was so strong that it would lead you into the very gates of hell without too much persuading… and here you are.” He smiled, shark black eyes betraying his true nature. “I always thank my victims because this is the only time I can be my true self. I can shuck off my feeble fragility and expose my true years.
You see, I did have Progeria –it’s true… but ‘I got better’. I understood what kept me alive and it halted the ageing process… Want to know what it is? Life; other peoples life essence, to be precise. I was taught how to do it, taught the truth behind vampirism. My first victim was my father who killed himself at my bidding, I was able to harness his life force, transmute it into something more malleable and keep it in the jars you see around you.
Some are fading, so even souls have a sell-by-date, it seems… so I need top-ups every now and then.
So I move from town to town, country to country and change my appearance and name; such are the limited powers I have now, and feed when I have to. So consider this an honour, Simone.. and I thank you for allowing me this chance to feed; to feast on you. You always wanted to be a martyr and now you have your chance.”

Michael Stone was going to kill that freak, Edgar. It was because of that prune-faced bastard that Michael had been kicked out of the gang; they didn’t take kindly to mistakes or betrayals and that was how they saw Michaels fuck up with the bog-trot. They were just lucky that Frankie hadn’t reported them for bullying, Frankie may be a poof but he wasn’t a grass.
He’d let Frankie go, for now, but he wanted Edgar all to his self. Edgar was a creepy kid at the best of times and kept himself to himself. If he didn’t look so repulsive he had all the hallmarks of being one of the cool kids, which was what Michael had been.
Besides, there was talk of Simone going missing and maybe Edgar being involved somehow. Michael was going to find out, he was going to follow him and bury that shrivelled shit if it was the last thing he ever did.

Sorry to have to ask this, Edgar; but you understand, Simone hasn’t been seen for a couple of days now and there are people saying that you were the last person to see her.” The policeman tried his best to be sympathetic with Edgar even though inside his stomach was churning. He’d been told about Edgar’s condition but he couldn’t bear to look at him. There was also a pathetic look in his eyes that made him want to slap Edgar. He pushed the thought to the back of his mind.
I understand, Officer.” Edgar replied, his voice a hushed whimper. “But I haven’t seen Simone since that day. Yes, she very kindly walked me home; it was pouring wet and I’d gone out without a coat. Simone saw me and felt sorry for me; she has such a caring nature.” Had a caring nature, he thinks to himself and suppresses a smile. “She was always caring about someone.” Tears started to flow down his cheeks, moving like rivulets down his wrinkles. Now she’s a part of me he thinks again.
The policeman baulked at the sight of the tears; he’d only been on the beat a short while and felt really uncomfortable being around this kid. He smelt of death. He patted Edgar lightly on the shoulder, repulsed by the contact and thanked him for his help. He couldn’t get out of his company quick enough.
When the policeman had gone Edgar smiled. His performance had been masterly. He’d been a fool to swallow such rubbish. Mind you, no one ever expects a child like him to commit such an act; not that anyone dared believe she was dead yet! Not Simone! And by the time they realised it he’d be long gone!

He’d been doing this long enough now to know when to move on. He’d travelled all the way around the world now and under many guises, setting up false identity after false identity. There were so many benefits being an adult trapped in a child’s body, even one as decrepit as this. His story was honed to perfection with countless variations and with the necessary supporting documentation, it was child’s play!
One more day would be enough, one more soul to take and then he’d be gone to pastures new. To Devon, he thought, it had been over 30 years since he’d last been in Devon. He needed one more soul to tide him over and he knew exactly who that was to be.

Frankie was constantly looking over his shoulder, it had been days since the gang had last picked on him. That meant that a beating was due any time soon. The only thing that stopped the last one had been the timely arrival of Edgar. They were afraid of him, and so was he, with good reason! Edgar was funny looking, weird. But no one picked on him, so if Frankie allied himself with Edgar that would mean that no one would pick on him either. It was certainly worth a try. Edgar had helped him, after all, so that must mean that he liked Frankie, so why not give it a go? What had he to lose?

It turned out that Edgar didn’t have to spend a long time searching for Frankie; the klutz almost fell into him in the school corridor after the final bell had rung for home.
Bizarrely enough Edgar didn’t have to do any talking; he had a harder time shutting Frankie up, who was blathering about becoming friends and sticking together against the bullies. This was easier than tempting flies with shit! Edgar suggested that they use his secret place as a hideout which delighted Frankie.
Frankie wanted to go there straight away but Edgar warned him about secrecy. It would be best if they met by the abandoned play area in twenty minutes. Edgar had to almost push him to walk in a different direction before shuffling himself away. This was going to be too easy.

Michael Stone stood at the other end of the corridor watching this bizarre exchange. What the hell was going on? Why was Frankie even chatting to this wrinkled ball of shit? Michael was determined to follow Edgar and see where this was leading.

It was Winter and the nights were closing in, even at 5pm. Michael followed prune face into the old industrial estate and saw him go into a particular factory. He didn’t fancy following him in there, not yet –so he stood by the entrance hoping to catch a sound or a clue as to what was happening.
He never heard a thing until a sickening thud brought pain to his head, knocking him down onto the dirt and gravel. It could only have been Edgar sneaking up behind him; but how, though? He walked like a 90 year old fart!
If he stayed still then Edgar might think that he was unconscious and leave him alone; Michael has seen those movies. Or was that the pain talking? Maybe it was a better idea to just lie down and take a nap.

Edgar cursed his luck initially. He was being followed; you didn’t get to live this long without learning a thing or two.
It made perfect sense that it was Michael behind him and then he smiled – desert! It had been easy to give him the slip but the hardest thing had been to pick up the rock and strike him from behind. His strength was fading fast, but luckily his aim had been good and he only had to do it once. Michael would be ok where he was for the time being so all that Edgar had to do was get the main course.

Frankie was so naive and trusting that Edgar felt he was doing him a service. It was a mercy killing. The world would merely chew him up and spit him out; at least this way his life would actually be used properly. One moment of pain and it would be over.
He led Frankie to the factory, surreptitiously checking that Michael was still lying there. Good – he’d get him later when he had more strength.
He took Frankie to his den and shut the door.

It was the scream that shook Michael awake. For a second he thought that he was at home in bed and shouted at his mum to turn the tv down. Then he realised he was lying down in the dirt, mud and gravel. He got up and nearly cried out because of the seething pain from his head. He almost threw up but the flash of light stopped him.
A livid green, fluorescent dysentery in colour and he remembered that he’d been following that bastard Edgar. He must’ve crept up and hit him from behind with something.
That was the last straw.
It was dark now and he had to feel around for the entrance to the factory; his eyes weren’t accustomed to the dark yet; and then came the glow, this time sustained by a whimpering, a pleading that could only be coming from Frankie.
Normally Michael would have taken delight in a job well done from such a sound, but now it horrified him. It came from the room at the opposite end of the factory.
He looked around for a weapon of some kind and saw a big rusted metal bar. He ran to the other room, his footsteps clumbering in the darkness. When he kicked the door in he was momentarily blinded by the glow and what he saw turned his hair white with shock.
Edgar was floating two feet off the ground, insane energy crackling all around him like a perverted forcefield. The energy danced from him to a supine and prostrate Frankie who was convulsing. What was going on?
I didn’t order take-a-way!” Edgar spoke, his black eyes gleaming. “But I’m always open to some dessert!” He pointed a finger at Michael who instinctively ducked back out of the door, as a bolt of energy arced from Edgar, striking the floor sending off sparks.
Damn!” Edgar snapped. “Wait there a minute, Frankie… I won’t be long – looks like you’re going to have company for dinner.” Edgar floated out of the room, lighting up the factory as he did so.
Michael had hidden behind one of the many mechanical fossils that still littered the place. He kept deathly quiet for there was no way that Edgar knew where he was, but he had to get to Frankie. Together they stood at least a chance, on their own not even a fraction.
Edgar started cooing into the factory, floating ominously to the middle. “Come out, come out wherever you are! Age before beauty after all…” Where he was, and with every foot that he floated Michael stood more chance dashing into the little room than running for help.
At the count of ten he’d make a break for it and hope for the best.
I’ve got all night and a lifetime of patience… you’ll have to move sometime and when you do, you’re mine!”
Michael ran, literally sliding into the doorway just as he’d seen some of the American baseball players do.
Ooh – there you are.” He heard Edgar remark in delight. Michael stooped to Frankie, still holding on to his only weapon.
Frankie, get up! We need to get out of here!” But Frankie couldn’t move. “Get up, you piece of shit or we’re both dead!”
Jars.” He heard Frankie whimper. “Break the jars… it’s the only way.. he told me..”
What jars? What fucking jars?
And then he saw them. All the shelves. All the jars, all with something throbbing sickeningly; some fading, but one bright, beautifully bright and he knew what that was… and nearly wept.
You’ll shine as bright as that when I’m done, Michael. Won’t that be nice?” Edgar whispered as he glowed into the room.
That’s what you think, you sick Fuck!” Michael shouted as he swung the bar at the shelves behind him. Edgar screamed as the jars exploded, sending a storm of glass over Frankie.
Michael jumped away from the lunging Edgar and smashed more of the jars.
With every jar broken the energy swarmed around Edgar, pulsating, seething around him, taking him apart. All Michael could hear were his tortured screams.
Then all of the remaining jars exploded, releasing their trapped souls and all of them attacking Edgar. The light and the screams became unbearable and Michael released himself to sleeps cool embrace once more.
Time passed and dust-moted sunlight filtered in through the factory windows. Michael could barely open his eyes, fearful for what he might see. He couldn’t explain what had happened, just hoped that Edgar was dead. There was no sign of him, just his clothes and his cane. All the souls had been released.

He was covered with glass from the jars and he carefully brushed it from himself. He saw Frankie still in a foetal position and gently kicked him. Frankie groaned, still alive. Damn….