A Comforting Headline

Posted: December 3, 2010 in #fridayflash, Short stories

He stopped, frozen amongst the flow of people in the tunnel. Couldn’t they feel the rumbling? Hear the low growls?

He looked around at them, each one bustling past him like pellets from a toy gun, whooshing past his ears and the image of their figures lingering behind them where he hadn’t quite focused his eyes. Each one of them had somewhere to go and an office, which called out to them. Like battery chickens they would sit there for hours, slaving away for the taxman to take his cut and in turn hand it out to the benefit parasites.

He was neither. He didn’t have a job, or compute on the radar of the benefit distributors.  He lurked in the depths of the underground, with not even his shadow for company.

The growls and rumblings penetrated around his head, though his ears and vibrating across his eyes. He didn’t understand it, he’d fed the monster yesterday, surely it wasn’t hungry again?

He crouched by a ticket machine, the warmth of its running motor encased in its hard plastic shell was like a moth to a flame.

The hustle and bustle had slowly simmered, allowing the underground to become more tranquil, more comfortable. The rush hours and early morning commuters disrupted him and made his already heightened feelings of anxiety accelerate to new levels.

He collected the daily newspapers, left behind from this morning’s careless crowd and looked in the tops of bins for new delights that had been left there for his monster to dine on.

Newspapers were warm and retained heat, not to mention kept enemies at bay, with most people assuming that whatever lay beneath the discarded pile was vermin or rubbish. He liked ones, which were fresh, ones that had been brought that day. The ink on the pages was still pure and protected him from evil, acting like a cloak. Once the ink had smudged or faded, so did the rays, which they gave off, according to his monster.

“If the front page is hot topic on everyone’s lips, then seeing another copy of it won’t spark an interest. Only when it becomes old news, do people stop and think of ‘what happened next’ scenarios. Fresh papers repent the world around you, but yet keep you in it, cover yourself in news and it will protect you!” The monster spoke nothing but the truth, and his forceful manner and growl was convincing enough to anyone feeling vulnerable.

The boy’s disorganised speech and frantic behaviour was bypassed in the underground, people either too busy to notice or too self-obsorbed to care. His clothes tatty and his hair matted, people walked past as if he didn’t exist, with some solitary individuals ackonwledging his existance, but avoiding him at all costs. His attire sparked more attention than anything, often wearing t-shirts in the Winter and large jumpers and gloves in the Summer. Some would say excentric, others would say mad, but sadly, its was just his psychological and motorological disturbances brimming to the surface like a saucepan of boiling vegetables.

He could vaguely remember a time he lived without his monster, sitting at home with his family, that time felt so unreal now, he remembered it as if it was a movie, a memory, but one that wasn’t his own.

It was as if the monster had appeared from nowhere, whispering secrets to him. They’d become best friends and soon he needed no one else. He just wished his monster wouldn’t groan so. The groans hurt and he believed they only occurred when his monster was at his angriest.

He’d tried to talk to people about it, but they just wanted to give him pills and medication to put the monster at bay. It soon became impossible to talk, communicate with other humans was like trying to make a call from a mobile phone with only one bar of signal, the conversation was muffled, crackly and people guessed at what was being said. They clearly had no idea what having a fiend living inside of you was like. He only needed him; he spoke the truth and looked after him. He just scared him sometimes.

* * *

He starred at the newspapers covering his bedroom wall, as he rocked gently, whispering to his monster. He’d covered the room top to toe in newspaper guts, much to his mother’s disapproval. Even over the window and ceiling, but they were old news and his safety was in jeopardy.

“Its ok. I won’t take the pills, I won’t,” the boy whispered, “You’re safe with me”. He patted his belly and then rubbed it gently, rocking like a mother cradling her newborn baby in a nursery rocking chair.

“This schizophrenia they talk of, is nothing more than a medical label,” the monster belowed from the depths of the boy’s belly, like an empty hollow cave the monster echoed, “They want to take you away from me. Distroy me. You must leave boy. Run boy, run!” T

he boy bounded from the house like a greyhound on a racetrack, unable to be restrained or caught by anyone. The boy ran for miles and the further he ran the more of his memory and soul he left behind him.

The dark damp corners of an underground station became soothing, with posters and prints covering the walls and discarded newspapers scattered around like fallen leaves in a forrest, were a further comfort. The train’s noises and rhythums of steel on steel, became like a heartbeat to his own destroyed soul.

His monster would like it here…

  1. I like the structure of this, how you slowly describe how the boy co-exists with his monster, and then give us the back story to how they came to live in the underground at the end

  2. Tiffany says:

    You describe his surroundings and him well. I got a very good picture of his life. I hope he gets the help he needs. As a mom, this kind of broke my heart.

  3. adampb says:

    The descriptions you have used create a very stark image of the boy and his issues. Well told, although you might want to limit the number of similes used. The impact of them is strong, but you can find another way to get across the image with the word ‘like’ jumping out.
    My favourite simile is the first – pellets from a toy gun.

  4. Tony Noland says:

    The emotion of this kid comes across very well. The reader is left wondering about the nature of the growling. Simply an empty stomach, or something else?

    I notice that were several misspellings: “he starred at the newspapers”, “he belowed”, “distroy me”. Intentional?

  5. Very moving, well-described story. There’s a sadness to it that is very touching. You captured the essence of this disturbed boy. Good job!

  6. Interesting way to portray schizophrenia.

    ““Its ok. I won’t take the pills, I won’t,” the boy whispered, “You’re safe with me”. He patted his belly and then rubbed it gently, rocking like a mother cradling her newborn baby in a nursery rocking chair.”

    – Here I would take out “in a nursery rocking chair.” We get the picture without it.

    I wonder what he feeds the monster?

  7. Jax says:

    Someone metioned the typos, so I’ll stick with telling you I thought the description of his mindset was intriguing and well done. There is a logic to it, when you look strictly from his pov.

  8. Jason Warden says:

    I liked this, it was well told. I have to agree about the use of simile though. All of them were good but maybe a few too many for a short piece. Overall well done.

  9. John Wiswell says:

    What makes the monster angriest, is what I’d like to know. Cut that out and you stop the growling. Best buds for life.

    Typographical error: there is a floating “T” at the end of the 4th-from-last paragraph. Presuming there’s a missing sentence? Or a mostly cut one?

  10. PJ Kaiser says:

    This is a haunting portrait of a disturbed boy. I agree with Tiffany – as a mom, it’s difficult to read. Apart from some editing issues, I wonder if more of your story could be put in the present rather than with explanation and backstory. This story has great potential

  11. ramseylyons says:

    Very gritty story about mental illness. Well done.

  12. Steve Green says:

    I found this quite intriguing, will there be follow-on story when the boy gets older? and will his illness cause him to become a monster in the true sense of the word?

  13. Fascinating portrait of a psyche so little understood. I liked the way you showed his mind’s workings in describing the newspapers he chose to use.

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