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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

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Untitled 2505
by Dan Gilbert

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How I treasure my earliest memory, wondering joyful through the back yard, everything so fresh and new and an adventure at every turn. The smells, the colours, the sounds still feel so vivid in contrast to my now dark and deathly surroundings.

The yard was a great playground, full of bustling excitement. In truth it was nothing more than a mechanic's lot full of donor vehicles, abandoned parts and rusted relics that may have once been of great use but now served as nothing more than a climbing frame to the scores of ivy and bramble bushes.

For someone so young and full of life it provided endless excitement, new adventures were conjured on a daily basis and the yard itself seemed to morph and provided a new storyline at will. The new addition of an automobile, the many visitors and their influences and even the changing of the seasons created new opportunity and excitement.

The owner of the yard was my father, or that was at least how I had come to know him for the origins of my birth were a mystery to me, they would never be spoken of and I would surely never question them. He was a great man in many respects. I most admired his huge physical stature, a giant in comparison to myself who for all of my days would seemingly have to look up to him in more ways than one.

He was very well respected in the area that we lived. Many men and women would travel great distance for the services of the humble yet hugely gifted mechanic. No matter what the problem he could find a solution. I never noticed myself, maybe out of ignorance bore out of youth, but he was a genius, a fact backed by the loving testament of his many visitors.

The house itself was a living monument to his problem solving. Filled with the ingenious solutions to the most mundane problems, for make no mistake, my father's abilities were exceptional but the financial credit he deserved was never forthcoming.

In a lot of ways this was his own doing. He was never led astray by the temptations of gambling, nor did he drink away a fortune. His biggest problem was his honesty and an inability to put a value on his time. In love and respect, my father was a millionaire, but this provided little shelter or warmth in the blisteringly cold winters.

However, money was of no concern to me in my youth and this would scarcely change as I matured. I appreciated the simple things in life, a shady patch in the summer, the playful butterflies through the nettles, the gentle tapping of the rain on a window, but only when you're on the warm side.

We led a simple existence, we had each other for company and apart from the regular customers and the occasional visit of a neighbour we lived hassle-free. My father had a simple view of the best way to raise me and that was that I should stay with him in the yard and never venture out as many dangers laid beyond the walls.

This was a lesson that I learnt very young. One day, during a rather ordinary search of the perimeter of the yard, I stumbled across something that made my heart rush as it may if a young soldier had found evidence of an intruder. A small hole had been formed in the wire fencing where seemingly one of the vehicles had been removed either to be scrapped or simply to make space for yet more hoarding.

I slowly approached the hole as though it were a monster that could bite down at any given moment. After an apprehensive look over my shoulder, I slowly arched my back and crawled through into the land beyond the yard.

I wandered in amazement through the small blocks of terraced housing that simply bustled with life. Children played in the street, motor cars roared up and down like great animals. The smells and the sights filled my head until I felt dizzy, but this dizziness was soon stabbed with a simple, shrieking blow.

"Come 'ere boy"

I stood frozen, too terrified to look up, I could tell by the long shadows cast down the pathway that this was a great beast which I should certainly avoid.

"Get here lad," said another voice, "We ain't gonna hurt you."

I hesitated and slowly tried to creep away as if the conflict was directed at another unsuspecting soul and I had accidentally crossed their paths.

"Grab him," they shouted and the thunderous foot steps started landing heavy on the pavement behind me.

I started to sprint and felt like I was running through water, my legs were heavy with fear and time seemed to slow almost to a halt. The voices merged into an unrecognisable growling. One thing stood out, I had recognised laughter coming from my pursuers, almost as if this was just a game to them and they were taking pleasure from my terror.

I sprinted down the street and across the roads blissfully unaware of the beasts that stalked the tarmac crashing on their breaks and blowing their horns but still I could not escape my harassers. As I turned the corner near the end of the row I was lifted way up into the air, my legs still pounding and my eyes firm shut as surely the beast had now got me in its jaws.

Its grip tightened and a calming yet booming voice bellowed, "You kids know better than this, leave my lad alone." It was my father, a relief washed over me as I was surely safe in his presence. He loosened his grip and lowered me to the floor.

Still with a harsh tone, he said, "Told you boy, don't leave the yard." I daren't look up as I knew I had failed to follow one of his few resolute instructions. I tensed as I waited for him to strike me for this disobedience but I was disarmed with a now softening voice, "Come on then, lets get you inside, you've had quite a scare I bet."

Maybe it was the scare at such a young age or maybe it was too much pleasure taken in my own company and the fantasy worlds I created but rarely did I long to venture too far away from the yard. The safety of my own surroundings was occasionally shattered by a scratched leg on a jagged piece of metal or a thunderous crash and the scarce but terrifying cursing as frustration overwhelmed my father, but I knew that these things would pass.

As the years passed, there were good times and there were bad but I had not seen nor ever imagined that I would be engulfed by my present surroundings. As I sat there in the dark it reminded me of previous punishments of my adolescence, a broken pot, muddied footprints on a new rug, all were met by the same consequence. I always remember as the door to the cellar slammed shut, trying to grasp at the last remaining shaft of light before being plunged into darkness for what was never more than an hour or so but what felt like an eternity in my pitch black tomb.

Sitting in my darkened solitary confinement, my thoughts were always the same, first of resentment and how I longed for nothing more than to run away and escape the yard and its evil owner for good. Then of fear and of the terrifying things that lay in the dark, surely they would strike out at me at any moment but they never did. Then of remorse for my actions and how I knew never to do the bad things again and how this time I would be good and never lapse again. And finally, of sorrow and longing for a warm hug and to feel loved and with my whimpering by this point, the door would always re-open for I had surely fulfilled my punishment.

This time was different, the punishment seemed different and try as I might I could not recall what had spurred the need for such drastic action. The hard years and the long winters had taken their toll and my body felt weak, the sprightliness of my youth had been replaced with a more docile and accepting nature. I did not resist as I was plunged into darkness and almost as an acceptance of fate, I did not make a sound, but for what fate?

It felt like I had just come to as the car jolted to a stop, maybe I had passed out or maybe I had been away in a dream world recalling the good times. Still encased in darkness, I felt lifted and heard the car door close. There was no sound apart from the car engine and the faint flowing of a river.

With a hoarse voice brimming with sorrow, the only voice I heard was that of my father, "I'm truly sorry lad, but I can't take care of an old dog no longer." He let the sack and its precious contents crash to the water.

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