Caretaker. Short Story.

My mums graduation went well, she really enjoyed herself. It was a nice day, so that made things a bit easier, though it did get a little too hot.

After we went out for dinner, was pretty delicious, they had deep-fried brie which is always awesome, but I haven’t found many restaurants that do it, which they obviously should. Had a bit of a close call with the burger though, a small amount of red onion in it, but I just cleared it off, it was only a tiny amount and I wasn’t particularly upset by it. Only human and all that.

Been going through Mad Men lately, it’s pretty enjoyable but my drama detector is a bit off, normally with TV shows I’m able to correctly predict plot twists or work out what’s going on, but I tend to go overboard a little with stuff.

E.g. (Potential spoilers for season 4 if you’re not there yet)
There was a scene with Betty and …that man…in a car in the garage and they started making out etc, the next scene was Don in the house, everything was dark, eerie music was playing and I was all “holy crap, they’re after killing themselves accidentally.” Nope. Just late.

Either way I’m quite enjoying it.

Also, I read The Farm by Tom Rob Smith, which was really, really good, definitely recommend it to everyone. It was also nice to see a gay character in a book that was a main character, but wasn’t dying, beaten/attacked, or just all around completely miserable because of it.

Side note: Whenever I see the word partner, I just assume that the person is gay or a lesbian, I don’t know why. I know that straight couples use it as well, but that’s just where my mind goes. I’m not exactly a fan of it either, it sounds detached and kind of clinical to me, it just makes me think of business partners etc. rather than a loving couple. Strange how words can have completely different meanings to different people.

Anyway, on with the show!

______________________________________________________________

Tom yawned, then stretched. It had been a long day, though he hadn’t really gotten all that much done. He stood from the office chair, the computer in front of him already shutting down. It had been a close one, but he managed to get all his work done, sure it was the bare minimum, but it would do. He glanced at the clock, it was almost eight. Damn. His stomach rumbled sullenly. He’d have to eat something, but would he be able to stomach it? The nausea had gone away about an hour before, but there was no guarantee that it wouldn’t return. He’d gotten used to seeing some pretty sick things when he was eating, but sometimes it did get to be a bit much. The worst was the smells, never happened often, but when it did it meant he couldn’t eat for at least a day. He downed the glass of water sitting on his desk, ignoring the eyeball floating in it. Long strands flowed from it, bright red and twitching faintly, giving the appearance of some deformed octopus. They felt along his lips as he drank, but Tom ignored it, it wasn’t exactly like he could feel it either, not if he concentrated. He set the it down again, from the glass came faint squelching noises. He turned his back to the table and left the office. As he went downstairs he contemplated ringing for a pizza, maybe chinese, but he dismissed the ideas, it’d be a good idea to cook something, he relied on take away too often. It wasn’t good for him, and if he wasn’t careful, one of these days he could just keel over from a heart attack. As he reached the hallway, he decided he’d get back into running, he’d stopped a few months before when he fallen and badly cut his knees. A few days of rest turned into a few weeks. It wasn’t that surprising, running was fun, but sometimes it could get a little…intense. There was the time he was chased by the man in a full, blood splattered, clown costume, screaming and brandishing an axe, or the woman with weirdly flexible joints that ran on all fours and moved in strange, jerky movements. They never caught up with him of course, that would spoil their fun, but it didn’t stop him from getting an adrenaline filled boost.
He opened the fridge to check what food was in, it was filled with chunks of bloody meat, some covered in maggots, a cloud of flies flew from the fridge, buzzing around the room. Tom sighed, then closed the fridge, he turned to find a young girl smiling at him. “It’s been a long day ok, just fuck off for a few minutes.” She scowled, then vanished.
“Thank you. Christ.”
He opened the fridge again, this time there were no chunks of viscera, no splashes and splotches of blood. In fact, it was mostly empty. Damn. He opened the freezer, it was in a similar state. He dug around and stood again, holding a bag of frozen stir fry vegetables, he went back to the fridge and grabbed out a packet of beef pieces, then went to the cupboard to get some noodles.
It didn’t take him long to get everything into the pan and soon he was sitting at the kitchen table, eating his dinner and taking swigs from a bottle of beer. An eye, similar to the one in his office, or possibly the same one, bobbed gently up and down inside the bottle. Tom ate slowly, chewing mouthfuls with his eyes closed, it made things easier, though slightly awkward, particularly when he was dining with friends or at a restaurant. If he didn’t do it everything on the plate could transform into something gross, the noodles into hair or intestines, the pieces of beef into raw meat, the veg into god only knew what. This way he could concentrate, make sure nothing tried to trick him. His friends and previous girlfriends had just taken it as a strange quirk and it was easier just to leave them thinking that. When he was done, he opened his eyes to see the same little girl sitting across from him, arms crossed and a sulky look on her face.
“What? Did I upset you?”
She nodded.

“Yeah well, you upset me.”
She brightened, sitting up a little straighter.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you.”
She shrugged.
“I know you’re trying to change and it’s difficult. I had a long day.”
She nodded, almost sympathetically.
“So, any progress towards talking?”
She opened her mouth, there was a faint puff of dust scented air and a slight wheeze, but that was all.
“Don’t worry, you’ll get there. I know you will.”
She smiled, the eyeball in the beer vanished.
“Have you seen any of the others around?”
She shook her head.
“I thought they might have left you. So much for them being role models, huh? I’ll have to yell at a few of them.”

He drank the last few dregs of beer, then stood and got another, he popped the top off and took a sip, then sighed with satisfaction.

“I was thinking of watching a movie, do you wanna watch one with me?”
She nodded enthusiastically, smiling. Blood pooled in her eyes and started to drip down her face, her teeth began to sharpen and elongate.
“Ah ah ah, control, remember. You control it, it doesn’t control you.”
Her features instantly changed, going back to how she appeared before, she looked slightly ashamed.
“It’s ok, I know you’re only learning. I think we’ll give the horror movies a miss, there’s a movie I want to see, it was kind of marketed towards kids, but I’ve heard some very good things from friends of mine. Would you be ok with that?”
She shrugged, then nodded, the opinion was a clear one of “I don’t have much choice.”
“You’ll like this one, I’m sure of it. You liked Mary Poppins.”
She grinned bashfully, cheeks reddening a little.
Tom as a rule tried to avoid horror movies, they held little charm when his life was one big horror show already, besides that they weren’t all that scary when you’ve lived through similar things yourself.
“I don’t know where the others have got to, but screw em. We’ll watch this then maybe some TV, or do you want to hear some stories?”

She tilted her head to one side.

“See how we go after the movie then?”
She nodded slowly.
“Ok, c’mon, we’ll get it started, I don’t want to be going to bed too late.”

He stood and held out a hand, the little girl appeared beside him and gripped it, her grip was cold and clammy, she shivered in pleasure as she held his hand, luxuriating in the warmth. Together, they walked hand in hand into the sitting room. The room looked as it always had, she was in a less playful mood now with the promise of movies. Tom smiled down at her, she definitely wasn’t the worst he had ever dealt with. She was just lost and scared, she didn’t know any better, besides that she could only go so far with her imagination. Sure it could get a little creepy, but it always seemed just a smidge too over the top. Others had been much worse. They all went through it though, at least all the ones that came to him. He helped guide them out of darkness, see the good in the world, built them up again. Some would move on, others would stay with him. At times it was trying, but in the end, it was mostly rewarding.
They sat onto the couch, Tom pulling a blanket across his side, the girl cuddled up to him. The blanket helped keep him warm. He picked up the remote and together, they settled in to watch a movie.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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