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Interpreting A Man's Intentions



by: Jonathan Antony Strickland




It was a hot and sunny day as the golden-rays of light washed across the landscape, causing a myriad of colours to dance upon the rivers surface that provided the necessary energies for the many fields of corn and wheat to grow along it's snaking path. Even though it was early morning, hordes of people from the small town of Tremwell had left their homes to sit by the riverbank to enjoy the day with the rest of their families while munching on sweet succulent pleasures of fresh cream scones, strawberry tarts and other such delicacies, easily purchased from the nearby local supermarket.



Observing the sheer joy and happiness that surrounded him, as young couples kissed, canoodled and cuddled as their children played, ran and laughed, and as animals barked, mooed or bayed, was a certain Winston Henry Pickle. He walked with a slow swagger and wore a constant smile that never broke or faded in the slightest bit. And no matter how many people he passed, he bid good-day to all, walking along the river's bank cheerfully.



Days like this made all the struggle and heartbreak, all the pain and suffering, all of the... well, all of everything that the mundane dredge of life could hurl at a man (and hurl with such a mighty force and aggression as to knock the poor sap down) seem distant. But more importantly it simmered those "said" days when life seemed so pointless. Those awful days when life would do such blunt acts without a single thought or a care as to the consequences!



Not today though, today seemed the kind of day when nothing went wrong. And if by some chance of fate something did turn sour then the cheery joy that filled the air meant that somebody would be there to help. Today was the kind of day when robbers, rapists and murderers changed their ways, or at least that was what it felt like to the everyday normal individuals. Winston however was not normal. Deep down he knew that in reality even on a day like today bad stuff still happened.



But surely day's such as this had some kind of effect, surely there was more chance of neighbour helping neighbour, enemies becoming friends, differences being put aside and grudges being forgotten. After all, only this morning did the exceedingly nice gentleman that Winston had saved from the quicksand, give him his nice brand new red suit and tie off his own back when Winston had commented after the rescue how snappy and sharp dressed he looked. Winston had felt a touch embarrassed to take the man's clothes, even if the guy (who was an estate agent called Trevor) had at the time insisted.



"If you can't give a man who's just saved your skin from agonising death the shirt off your back then what's the world coming too!" The words the man had spoke brought a smile to Winston's face, generosity these days was a rare thing to come by. Still, none of this had made the situation any easier once Winston had realised that poor Trevor would have to make his way home in nothing but his white string vest and pale yellow cotton (and somewhat slightly worn) underpants.



But small as these little sacrifices may seem, these tiny pieces of priceless kindness that cost nothing to give away where the reason why Winston couldn't help but feel happy, knowing that the majority of people where mainly good at heart, so with a skip in his walk and a clear note to his whistle, he continued on his merry way.



Winston had been walking along the bank for half an hour, taking in deep breaths of the days good fresh free air when he'd first heard the cry of a voice that was so pure and so sweet, it could have passed straight through the cherry red lips of an angel.



"BILLY___ BILLY___. LISTEN YOU LITTLE SHIT, IF'IN YA DIV'IN GET YAR LITTLE FUCKING ARSE DOWN FROM THAT TREE THIS INSTANT, I SWEAR I'LL SLAP IT SO SORE THAT YA WON'T BE ABLE TO SIT DOWN FOR A FRIGGIN WEEK!"



Winston looked up to see a woman so beautiful, so divine and breathtaking, that for the tiniest second he actually believed the magnificent creature in front of him was indeed a winged messenger sent from the heavens. Of course, no matter how celestial and perfect the woman in front of him looked, he knew she could not possibly be an angel. Not that he doubted the existence of angels, mind you. Just that he knew a good deal about the inhabitants and the streets of this North Eastern town of England. And Tremwell hardly seemed a likely place were one might accidentally bump into an angel!



The woman seemed to be shouting her pleading woeful plea at a young boy who looked no more than eight years of age. The little rascal had climbed twenty feet up into the branches of an old oak tree which half hung it's shadowy crown over part of the slow moving river. Even though the delectable young creature begged the child up the tree with cries of distress, fearing for his well being, the sweet pleading was obviously falling on deaf ears.




As Winston quickened his walk he realised that the woman with the long flowing auburn hair, to show so much concern for the boy in the tree, must be the boy's mother. Indeed, the boy was now responding to her cries with his own mischievous quips, telling her such things as: "Why don't you go and fuck off mum! Kiss my big shiny arse! Not in a million years you old cow!"



If this was indeed the case then the sweet young thing that set his aching loins alight, must have already found herself a soul mate to whom she'd had her child, and although this last thought brought a sigh and the first downcast feeling into Winston's very soul from all the days pleasant events, his feet never slowed as he hurried to give the delectable maiden the help she needed in dealing with her young scallywag of an offspring, who (for the time) was enjoying his mother's agitated state.



In the blink of an eye Winston's walk burst into a run as the cry of the woman became a shrill piercing scream, caused by the young lad falling some twenty feet and landing with a great splash into the deep dark waters of the river. As he ran, he quickly whipped off his new red jacket in one clean, swift movement, discarding it without a care as he dived headfirst into the icy cold and dark water. The freezing water was so great that it nearly made him draw in a hearty mouthful of the salted liquid as he gasped desperately from the chest tightening shock. Fighting away the freezing pain in his body, he swam with the grace and speed of a streamlined jumbo-jet towards the spot he had seen the boy fall.



After what seemed an eternity, he'd managed to swim some thirty metres out and now guessed he'd reached the place where the boy had plunged downwards. He knew it had taken him well over a minute of swimming time to get this far out and the fact that the boy had not yet re-emerged was not a good sign. Still he had to hope, and as the distant screams of a panicking young mother, begging him to save her child rang in his ears, he dived downwards into the sheer chilling blackness.



After fifteen feet he had expected to hit the rivers bottom, but now it seemed like he had reached twice that depth as he continued to dive straight down. As his lungs began to reach bursting point and he thought he was about to pass out, his hands struck the soft slimy mud of the riverbed. A new incentive and a new hope was instantly injected into him and the lungs that only moments before had felt like two air pressured balloons, overly inflated and on the brink of bursting, and the mind that had threatened to blank itself and start a whole new journey through time, space and even dimensions not thought of as being possible, were suddenly given the kick up the rear that they so desperately needed.



Winston now no longer felt dangerously close to drowning in the cold blackness of the rivers depths. Indeed, he felt fresh and alive as he searched frantically, his hands sweeping out all around him for the boy.



It's not that easy to search in a jet black alien environment that restricts the limbs to a slow sweeping movement, with the mental thought of a clock ticking down in one's mind, that not only counts downwards on your own life but also on another who entirely depends on you finding him! However, For Winston it was not the first time that he'd found himself in such a desperate situation and the thought of panic never once entered into his head. It was this serene calmness that made his two strong hands fight through mud, stones, dank slimy weed and small dead things that had died and sunk to the rivers bottom, strike a small cotton jumper filled by the dangerously cold body of a young silly lad.



Of course in the back of Winston's mind he knew that the chances of the boy surviving this long without oxygen was a bit like rolling a dice and having it land on the same number twice in a row. So yeah, I suppose that though it doesn't make the story any more gripping, in truth there was still quite a reasonable chance the youngster was still alive!



Taking a firm grip of the boys jumper he kicked his legs hard, swimming upwards as fast as humanly possible. Nearing the top he felt his own head begin to spin and feared he might blackout at any moment. So you can imagine that it came as the mother of all relief's when his head shot from out the water, instantly taking in deep breadth's of air, thus stopping the soul in his body from going on a one time only, permanent vacation!



As the surroundings around him lost their blurriness, his vision again becoming clear and sharp, that of a man with perfect twenty-twenty vision, he was pleased to note that the young boy was awake, his scared eyes moving confusingly about while he coughed and spluttered to clear his lungs from the freezing salty water.



"A miracle", thought Winston as he began to swim back with the boy. Looking up he saw a picture of beauty, waving her arms excitedly while standing on the rivers bank. Tears were in her eyes as he heard her screaming out "Thank you... Oh Thank you!", again and again, over and over. As he swam towards her he never once pealed his eyes away from her delectable form, and it was this that gave him the warning that all was not quite right within the river.



Her face froze with terror as her eyes stared madly at a point in the depths behind him. Whatever it was the boy saw it too as panic took hold of the juvenile mind and he struggled and screamed to get away from the mysterious terror.



"Calm down, calm down" said Winston with a firm commanding tone whilst trying to turn but finding it too difficult a task with the struggling boy still tightly clenched in one arm. The boy looked at Winston with the same dread that his mothers face had shown, while Winston struggled to look over his shoulder to see what all the trouble was about. His efforts proved futile and he only managed in cricking his neck. With a watery sigh, he decided to swim slowly around, whilst at the same time questioning the boy for information on what it was that had spooked him.



"What is it boy? What is it? Tell me!" The boy's arm raised out of the water and pointed to the spot that troubled him so much, while simultaneously saying in a slow shaky voice that eventually became a scream, the word: " Sh... Sh..... SH....... SHA......... SHAR........... SHARK... SHARK... SHARK!!!"



"Damn", thought Winston. "That's all I need!" Winston had had a fair few old battles in past adventures with sharks before, and because of this he knew what dangerous buggers they could be if given half a chance. The situation was a tricky one to say the least, but could be made a lot less tricky if he could only find some way of engaging the shark without having to worry for the boys safety at the same time. He now had managed to turn himself fully around in the water and for the first time he saw the mighty blue fin and the evil looking black shadow in the water beneath it.



Knowing that he was only about twenty odd feet from dry land, with the voluptuous screaming young woman standing at the water's edge, he decided to take a chance. Mustering up as much strength as his tired body could manage, he hurled the boy into the air, throwing him easily the twenty or so feet through thin air. The boy went spinning towards the grassy riverbank before crashing down with a worrying loud "thump" into a heap, close to his mothers feet.



With both arms free, Winston found he could now manoeuvre more easily in the water and turned quickly to see the youngster he'd saved get slowly to his feet to be met by his mother who hugged him tightly in her soft tender arms. Winston was glad, he'd been worried that the boy might have been injured after he'd tossed him to safety, but amazingly he seemed okay, at worst a little dazed and shocked by the previous events, but okay all the same.



"Ha", thought Winston knowing that a young mind forgets such horrors a lot more easily than the scarred beat up brains of adults who've struggled through bad times, fighting every inch of the way. "No doubt tomorrow the young scamp will be up to no good again. Ha Ha... to be young again, free from life's........ OOOOWWWWWW!!!"



The shark had bit down hard on his left leg and proceeded to gnaw on it, causing more unpleasant pain. Grimacing as he looked down, he beheld the monster clearly for the first time. A large twelve foot blue monstrosity, a beast of a fish alright, and one that Winston knew at the best of times was as tough as old boots. Still it could have been a lot worse and he thanked his lucky stars that hadn't been a great white like the last time!!! Now that really would have been the icing on today's cake. When them huge buggers bit you, there was a reasonable chance they could draw blood!



The shark chewed and ground it's razor sharp rows of teeth into his leg causing a crunching agony, but in spite of all this he forced himself to grit his teeth and not scream out in pain. To do so would let the shark know it was getting the better of him and that would be the last thing he'd want. A shark attack is bad enough but a shark who knows his winning will get mightily big headed. Nope, the very last thing he wanted right now was a shark with attitude, so he fought back fast. Swiftly he made a fist and as the shark munched on his leg he resorted to an attack he knew from past experience to be effective against all types of sharks, simply involving peppering it's nose with a flurry of short sharp punches. And that's how the two of them went at it, one crunching, the other punching, each determined not to give the other the tiniest of advantages. On and on it went, and for quite some time after that as well... but in the back of each other's minds they knew that sooner or later one of them would eventually break. The question of course was who was it going to be?



"YYYOOOOUUUUUCCCCCCHHHHHHH!!!" cried out a fishy sounding voice.



A sharks nose is very sensitive, containing lots of nerves for detecting vibration and smelling out potential prey in the water. In this case however, the nerves in the sharks nose provided a weakness that Winston could exploit and the pain his fist produced as he pummelled the sensitive spot made that big blue S.O.B scream out loud and release its grip from his leg. Winston hooked his fingers into the sharks gills, pulling it up to his face so that the pair were nose to nose. Then with a snarl he said one soul crushing word to the large blue fish: "Wuss!"



Knowing it was beat, the shark swam off fast, though not before Winston's left boot connected with it's rear tail fin, producing a small whimper from the dejected fish.



"You overgrown goldfish", cried Winston after the dejected shark. "Why next time ya sneak up on me like that I'll... I'll?. Oh dear!" Winston shut up quick and his eyes scanned the water around him. One thing he knew about sharks, they would never attack an individual unless they had some form of backup plan and surely enough he was soon to spot two sets of reptilian eyes heading quickly towards him through the water.



"Damn, gotta find me some safety. Gotta find... over there, that'll do." Even though he'd just beat up their boss, he judged himself to be in no position to fight off the two crocodiles, having become mightily exhausted from the fight with the shark. This meant he needed a way out, and he spotted it straight away. However, the million dollar question was could he reach the large floating boulder that bounced and bobbed near the deadly rapids before the two evil looking crocodiles could reach him.



The answer was…Yes! Quite easily in fact.



Clinging on for bare life as the rock bounced up and down, then was tossed and thrown from first left to right (and vice-versa), Winston now questioned his fleeing from the two water loving reptiles. And although it was fair to say that the pair were nothing short of being ten foot long armour plated flesh eating nightmares, the predicament that he now found himself in made him consider all other alternatives (past and present). For starters the strange floating boulder that he struggled to remain on top of was partially below the water (about three inches)and he feared that at any minute the laws of the universe would get their act back together and sink the huge stone, leaving him helpless to the angry rivers wrath.



But now, no matter how much thinking, no matter how much wondering as to what might have happened if he'd done so-and-so, no amounts of what if's or what buts', could not change the fact of his present position and he had no choice but to accept whatever fate now provided. The problem of course for Winston was that him and fate had always had a rather befuddled alliance.



As he sped through those rapids at breathtaking speeds, fate (to put it bluntly) kicked him where it hurts, then provided further kicks to other relevant nasty places just for the hell of it. Fate (as it turned out) was in a bad mood, and had provided Winston with a four-hundred and sixty foot drop! A water fall! One that to him looked more like a great gaping mouth, hungry for whatever piece of matter that would have the misfortune to ride it's long twisting tongue, a gateway into hell, plunging forever downwards (or at least four hundred and sixty feet downwards) into an eternal limbo. Or to put it another way, it didn't look good!



As he watched himself get closer and closer to that fearful edge, the mists from the spray unveiled a small bridge that extended across the edge of the water fall. Unfortunately the bridge was way too high and there was no way he'd be able to jump up high enough to catch onto its rickety old wooden bottom to pull himself to safety. He gave a deep sigh and gritting his teeth and closing his eyes he prepared himself for the inevitable... And then he heard the cry.



"Hey you. Yea you. The one on the floating rock. No No... Not you. No not you dickhead…YOU, the one floating in the river on the rock. Over here, no not over there you fool. Up here. Try and grab my hand." The voice seemed tiny when compared to the roaring of the falling water, but for lungs to expel a shout at such a commanding pitch for Winston to be able to hear it at all, the individual hanging so dangerously from the edge of the bridge must be shouting out with all the power possible contained in her two tiny lungs.



He nearly missed her hand as he'd jumped up. And though you might think that to grab onto a hand, some ten feet above you while simultaneously travelling on a unstable and mysterious floating rock, whilst about to crash unscrupulously to ones death from a crunching fall that would be to unbelievably nasty and gruesome to go into graphic detail here (though it would probably explode every internal organ in the body while simultaneously bursting, ripping and popping out any unfortunate sticky out bits, such as ears, noses, fingers, toes and testicles), all would be a good enough reason to nearly miss a small quivering hand that provided ones only means of survival. However you're not Winston Henry Pickle now are you! To him, all of the above seemed fairly easy!



What nearly made him miss was the sight of the woman above him, the young mother whose child he'd saved only moments before and whom he'd instantly fallen in love with. As she dangled over the edge of the bridge, the spray that the water threw up had caused her hair to become wet and sticky. It had also affected her thin white dress which had become tainted by the water, now clinging to her every curve and taking on a slight see-through appearance. It was this stunningly erotic sight that nearly made him miss her small hand as he stood, gazing up in awe at her sheer beauty. A completely fascinating and hypnotising sight, and he took in as much detail of her perfect form as he could. The tiny transparent droplets that ran down any exposed flesh, the way she swayed gently from side to side as her hand tightly grasped the bridge's slippery side, the bouncing of her... Anyway, enough of that for now as Winston strained his eyes in a new found ecstasy of unadulterated sexual eagerness just in case it was possible he'd be able to work out whether she was wearing a bra or not? (the dirty bugger!)



But yes, he did make it. Though for several seconds he felt it had done him no good as he hung in mid air, fearing that such a slim spelk of a girl, this small lithe slender young darling with eyes as bright as Bambi, skin as pale as snow white, and a voice so sweet that even Mary Popping's would sit up and take note, could lift his considerably heavier frame to safety.



However, she must have been a bit stronger than Winston had given her credit for, as with one hand she slowly (but surely) began to swing him up until he eventually crashed down with a thud and a bump onto the safety of the bridge.



"Gee, thanks lady...I...I...I don't know what to say, I... Erm... I... Um", but he needn't have said anything as his eyes met hers and for the briefest of moments they gazed at each other before respectively closing their eyes, replacing sight with touch, as two pairs of lips met and enclosed on each other in unadulterated passion. The kiss seemed to last but a matter of moments and although he was sure he'd actually snogged her for a good few minutes, he had not felt the air around the pair of them grow a great deal cooler. As his eyes opened, nothing could prepare him (and certainly not her) as they let the kiss depart to look on completely new surroundings.



"How did we... but we were... AAARRRRRRRRR HELP!!!" she screamed as the pair clung onto each other tightly while standing on the edge of a two foot wide ledge, seventeen story large block of flats. Winston (though startled) quickly readjusted himself to his new surroundings, grabbing the new found love of his life and pulling her tightly into him as she approached the edge of panic. As she struggled in his grip, he spoke gently and tenderly into her ear some comforting words, words that reassured, words of kindness and understanding, and with them she calmed down and her shaking ceased abruptly. In fact it ceased far too abruptly!



Winston looked down at her face and found her features frozen. With a worried look on his face he gently squeezed her tender body against his only to find that the soft flesh he craved to kiss and caress was harder than stone. Instantly he knew what was up and looking about him, he saw that it was not just the women who had been frozen! Everything had been!



He gave a deep sigh as he surveyed a pigeon that had been frozen in mid flight ten foot out from the wall he clung too, as he walked gingerly around the ledge waving his hand in front of his head in case he cracked it in the same manner he had done before when time had been stopped. You see this was not the first time that Winston had experienced teleportation and the freezing of time. He remembered back to the first time, how he'd ran that day in escape of the "Dark One" and in the process had cut a large gash into his forehead. On investigation he'd found that the object responsible for causing the wound to be nothing more than a small frozen blue-bottle fly, made rock hard and immovable as the time around him ceased it's movement.



He of course was unaffected by the rolling of times power, having realised long ago that the freezing of time was a favourite spell of the "Dark One." He'd known (all those years ago) when he'd quested into seventh dimension of the Golga-people that the silver coin he'd attained from that dangerous death defying quest deep into those unknown lands of terror, which he now kept forever on his person, entombed in his left trouser pocket, was an amulet of time protection. And this was why "Gwarningwiss", known also as the "Master of Eternal Times", "Emperor of Sin and Swine", "The King of Spite and Mutterers alike", "Ruler of Sods", “friend of Milthy Swinebuckle, who ruled the Bare Bottomed Bogeymen of Wumpa-Donk... etc.etc, to name but a few of the many names he'd collected upon the decayed misery filled track he'd left as he had carved his way through lands of tranquillity, wrecking terrible havoc wherever he cared to venture. Though in most places he was more commonly known throughout his miserable existence as "The Dark One", was the villain and culprit who now pursued poor Winston.



Gwarningwiss known commonly as "The Dark One", knew that the one thing in the entire universe his special power could not affect was indeed this small and puny mortal whom he now teleported onto a large building, but Gwarningwiss was determined not to let this stay the case and so for the last ten years had tried his hardest to exterminate the man with the amulet of time protection.



"So", thought Winston, "my arch enemy returns, though prefers to remain unseen, at least for the time being anyway. Hmmm, gotta act fast before he gets up to more monkey business." But before Winston could speak a huge bulbous hand, it's knuckles some three feet across appeared out of the thin air in front of him.



As the deformed monstrosity placed finger to thumb in an evil attempt to flick Winston from the buildings ledge, Winston jumped at it. In the process he avoided the gigantic flicking finger which (if it had hit him) would have jetted him some forty feet out from the ledge of the building before gravity took effect and he'd plummet down the seventeen stories to his death! Winston came down with a crunch on top of the back of the huge hand. Quickly he grabbed the thumb, wrapping his two forearms around it and bending it back as far as his straining muscles could manage. The thumb was no mug though and fought back ferociously, and as man fought with thumb, it tried slamming Winston's body into the side of the building in an attempt to smash his skull against the cold grey brick.



But in the end it was man who triumphed over thumb, as with one straining effort, placing both feet onto the thin ledge, he tore the thumb backwards until he heard the thick tendons below the diseased flesh give up the fight, and a loud sickening "SNAP" as bone splintered and cracked from a huge force exerted against it.



Instantly the hand beneath him vanished and a scream of blood curdling horror (that would have made the hackle's of a lesser man stand bolt upright on the back of his neck) trumpeted throughout the air in front of Winston. Then a figure far too horrible, far to hideous and malignant, appeared before him.



"YA FUCKING BASTARD", screamed the "Dark One" with tears streaming down a face that was so deformed, so hideous and magnificently evil that to look at it was to puke! "YA DIRTY FUCKING BASTARD", he said as he shook a miniature version of the monstrous hand that Winston had just defeated. "YA'VE JUST GONE AN BROKE ME FRIGGIN THUMB, YA ROTTEN TWAT!"



"And I'll brake thy other thumb as well, oh spawn of the pit", cried Winston in his hardest voice, while purposely keeping a touch of dignity to its tone, which he knew Gwarningwiss would always find disrespectful and annoying.



"HOW DARE YOU TALK TO ME LIKE THAT. IF ONE OF MY SLAVES EVER SPOKE TO ME LIKE THAT, WHY I'D MELT HIS INSIDES!"



"Ha", said Winston, taking up a firm stance while placing both his fists onto his hips. "I'm not one of those pathetic creatures you keep in your castle of flesh. Unlike them, I have a backbone. And unlike you, will lose his if not gone from this dimension this very minute, ripped from his body with my very bare hands."



"OH I SEE. LIKE THAT IS IT... WELL DON'T WORRY BUSTER. I'M GONE MATE. TOO-DA-FUCKING-LOO…" said "The Dark One" with the evilest of grins beginning to spread across his bowel bothering face.



"BUT NOT BEFORE I RETURN TIME BACK TO NORMAL AND RID MYSELF OF AN UNWANTED FART THAT A'VE HAD BREWING FOR... HMMM... LET ME SEE! (pause) WELL...WELL....WELL OVER A MILLENNIUM!" and with that Gwarningwiss vanished into thin air.



For several seconds everything around him remained the same, then the pigeon once frozen in mid air, tore once more through the sky and he knew time had been returned back to normal. Winston turned around on the ledge. His fight with the hand had taken him several metres away from the women who once more began to scream, clinging to the wall, no doubt in confusion as she now found herself all alone.



Even though the women for the time being was safe, Winston still worried! He knew Gwarningwiss well, and he knew that "The Dark One" would not scarper from a fight so easily without having something up his sleeve (though to all Winston's knowledge of what he knew of "The Dark One", he wore no jumper) that would leave his wicked stain as a reminder too all. And as he approached the beautiful young woman his fears were justified as a mighty bone shaking roar sounded all around and a terrible blast of air so powerful, so deadly, threatened to lift him straight from the ledge he tentatively stood on, exploded across the buildings side.



Instantly his hands went to grip the side of the building, but as he did he got a strong whiff of that ghastly wind. He found himself fighting an inward battle to put his hand across his face to avert the terrible stench, but knowing that to do so would mean loss of grip and be swept away to certain death. But Winston was a strong minded man, and he fought against his will, overcoming the desire to block out the cringing smell, a smell so wicked that in years to come it would still linger about the streets of Tremwell and be written about in legend (though who'd want to write such drivel is anyone's guess!)



Unfortunately the gorgeous and fragile young women was not the man that Winston was! Shecould not stop her hands drifting to her face, letting go of the safety of the buildings side and being lifted up and flung into an open empty space. Such was the power of the unholy lingering stench!



Winston watched helplessly as the image of perfection’s eyes bulged with fear, a face once so delicate and loving, now contorting into a mask of terror as death escorted her down and down to a hard senseless end. And as the unholy wind finally eased and the wretched smell moved its sickly way down to the ground, tears of pity and senseless loss fell unashamedly from a face that but minutes before had been the picture of happiness.


..........


Elma Cronkshaft let out a long tired yawn as she waited impatiently for the kettle to boil. She'd always unconsciously found it boring, waiting for run of the mill machinery that frequented several positions in her kitchen to finish their electrically charged little tasks. In the end she began to amuse herself by making up and humming a titleless tune in her sleepy head. "Oy Elma", came a loud bellowing voice that instantly snapped her consciousness back into reality, "That cuppa tea not ready yet?" The voice came from her husband Sidney, who'd be leaving in just over an hour for work.



"In a minute Sid, I can't make it boil any faster you know", she shouted back irritably as her tune was lost forever at the thought of her husband thinking she could do something magical to make the kettle's electricity increase in power.



Little did Elma know as she poured out the boiling water from the kettle into the teapot that she was following a nineteen year tradition that had been running since her and Sidney had become married. Very rarely did their mornings start any differently, only ever changing when bank holiday's, Christmas or one of Elma's unwanted birthdays would come around. On these days it was Sid who made the tea! Starting from today however, mornings in the Cronkshaft's would never be quite the same again!



As Elma picked up the tray with the two cups and the pot of tea, she heard a gentle tapping at the kitchen window. At first she thought it must be a bird. "No doubt one of those horrible pigeons that insist on shitting on everywhere on everything!", she at first thought. But as she listened more closely she realised that the tapping wasn't so much of a tap, but was more of a rat-tat-tat-tat knock.



"What in God's name!", she thought as she put down the tray to investigate the mysterious sound. She knew no small beak could produce such a loud noise, but as for other explanations she could not at this present time fathom what else it indeed could be. After all, only the dirty shit bombing pigeons where mad enough to frequent the ledge outside the Cronkshaft's flat in which they'd lived in for nineteen years, though always sought to move out into a nice new house, based on nice wind free solid ground. Or at least somewhere where you didn't have to climb seventeen bloody flights of stairs whenever the lift decided to break down.



As Elma pulled the curtain aside, the last thing on the planet she'd have guessed at seeing was a shivering, thirty something man, dressed in a smart red suit, which by the look of it was ringing wet. After a few moments of wondering what to do as she looked upon the pitiful soul that looked ready to catch pneumonia, she opened the kitchen window and let him in.



The man in the red suit sipped at the tea Mrs.Cronkshaft had kindly offered him. He now sat in front of a gas fire in the chair that Mr.Cronkshaft had given up while looking confusedly at the stranger, who shook from uncontrollable spasms of cold. Once the man was seated, and before her husband could say anything, Elma dragged Sid into the kitchen, out of the way of the stranger and told him what had happened.



"And he was just sitting there? I mean at the window", said Sid trying to get his brain into gear after only minutes of being awake from last night's sleep.



"Yes", replied Elma. "Just sitting... I mean I had to let him in. What else could I do? He'd have caught his death if he'd remained out there any longer... What should we do Sid? Should we call the police"?



"Hmmm...you said you heard sirens when you opened the window. Perhaps the coppers are out looking for him. Hmmm... could well be a wrong-un!" After a moment's thought, Sid came to a decision. "We should really call the police you know Elma, but seeing as our phones in our living room with him in it, it'll make him suspicious. Fuck me that's a bad idea. Hmmm... If ee's on the run and he thinks we suspect he's a bad egg, he might get nast...". Sid shut up sharp as he caught a glimpse of the worried look on his beloved wife's face. "Don't fret me dear, ee's probably just bin, erm...well you know!" Her worried look was replaced with one of confusement as Sid abstained from going into further detail and was inwardly satisfied and pleased that for the moment he'd banished Elma's fears. "Still though", he continued saying as he speculated on the stranger, "best not take any chances eh! And just in case the guy is dangerous, well last thing we want to do is to make him suspicious. Yeah, Elma. Just had me a thought. I do know what we'll do... He seems quiet and friendly enough. Let's talk to him, see what explanation he comes out with for him being outside our flat. But remember me dear, always remain calm. Don't want to freak him out now do we now. Just ganna talk, nothing else."



And that was exactly what Elma and Sid Cronkshaft did. Sid sitting down with him while Elma brought in a large chocolate cake, cutting a slice off and offering it to the strange man in the red suit. He excepted the cake in a very polite and curtios manner, immediately quelling any thoughts that the Cronkshaft's had about the stranger being violent or dangerous. The man next introduced himself as Winston, and as he ate the cake he remarked after each mouthful (in his charming manner) on the kind hospitality the pair had showed him.



Once the cake was all gone, the three sat for a few moments in an uncomfortable silence and in the end it was Winston who spoke first: "This flats very homely. Very homely indeed. Tell me, did you decorate it yourselves or did you..."



"So how'ja get to be outside our flat then?" blurted out Sid, as his curiosity got the better of him while also interrupting Winston during mid sentence.



Winston smiled, then said: "Well Sid, let me tell you about today."



Elma and Sid Cronkshaft looked at Winston with blank faces. For the last twenty minutes they'd listened to a crazy story involving rescues from quicksand, waterfalls, wild animals and the like. Creatures that were not of this planet, time and dimension being played with and a love story involving a women so beautiful that no film star, no supermodel (or even page three girl) could stand beside her without being put into the shade by the women's outrageous desirability. A story that ended in such a tragic, bizarre and comical manner that each at times had to stifle the odd giggle.



Again a silence fell over the three, made different from the first only by the fact that there was a little embarrassment thrown into it as well. Sid, who wondered if Elma might be getting a little worried by the fact that a nutter was sitting in the living room drinking tea with them, responded by making light of the situation. "Boy, that's one fucking crazy and far out story ya just telt! Fuck me mate!"



As those words flowed from Sid's mouth a sudden change came over the man in the red suit. Instantly the charm, the peacefulness and the soft friendly tones in both face and voice were replaced by a tigerish stare, aimed straight at Sid. For several long seconds the man bore his eyes into Sid, making Sid's mouth go dry as he witnessed for the first time the true personality that lay behind the mask. Then in a voice, filled with hatred and loathsome, from the man called Winston said: "What did you just say?"



"I...I er...", but before Sid could finish his reply, the doorbell rang and Sid breathed a heavy sigh of relief, inwardly thanking his lucky stars for the interruption.



"Is that? Yes that's the door. Would you get it me dear", Sid asked Elma with a fake smile that failed in hiding the nervousness inside him as a few tiny droplets of sweat began to materialise on his forehead.


..........



Winston wiped his wet hand against the right outside leg of his red trousers, in the process removing most of the warm, sticky red fluid, that covered his hand like a skin tight velvet glove. As he listened to Mrs. Cronkshaft chat with the people at her front door he walked over to the pine-framed mirror that hung over the gas fire. A thought then occurred to Winston as he looked at his reflection in the mirror.



"If the eye's are truly the doorway into the soul, then let's see what there is to see!" Winston crunched up his eyelids as hard as he could in a hope of discovering what lay within him. Then, after ten seconds of blindness he reopened his eyes and stared straight back at his reflection in the mirror, but the only thing he saw as he gawked back at himself was the two small black pits of each iris. At that point he truly realised how empty he was.



Elma stood transfixed as the two men who stood at her front door (one a policeman, the other a man in a white coat) told her about the escaped lunatic. The policeman had started by telling her to stay in her home as the loony had been spotted entering this very building, though his whereabouts in the building where still yet unknown. Already the psychopath had killed three people. A door to door salesman who'd been striped to his underwear and buried alive in a children's sand pit. And a young mother and her eight year old boy. The lunatic having drowned the boy in the river not far from here, then had recently been seen dragging the mother into this very block of flats, where only half an hour ago the women had fallen to her death, no doubt pushed off by the madman from a fair height, somewhere on the outside of the building's exterior. The man in the white coat then went on to explain that the lunatic was usually kept under lock and key in the Tremwell psychiatric ward but had escaped earlier that day when himself and a couple of his fellow psychiatric colleagues had decided that it was too nice a day to stay inside within mental facility. He reasoned that if they went out and did a bit of window shopping with the mental patients, it would be alright as long as they were careful and ept a good eye on the nutcases, at which point the man had frowned, raised his eyebrows and said…"Whoops!"



Elma stood mute with a look of terror slowly growing on her face as the two men addressed her and told her the story of the escaped lunatic. At first she did not know what to do, fearing the man in the red suite could be stood just behind her and listening to every word. But the nerves eventually got the better of her as she suddenly burst out with "Oh my god it's him!" as the policeman had shown her a picture of the man in question.



"You've seen the man, Mam?", asked the police officer.



"He's... He's inside. With... With my... My husband", spitting out her words as best she could in reply.



"Ah", said the man in the white coat. "Not to worry my dear. Your husband will be perfectly fine as long as... The loony you see, well he only kills people he hears swearing. Something to do with his strict upbringing don't you know. I guarantee you that the people he's killed this morning had sworn at some point. Believe me, if your polite to him, his a perfect gentleman. Safe as houses. Nothing to worry yourself about."



The man in the white coat then turned to the policeman and said: "Funny that really, a lot of these loonies have funny little habits like that you know. Why I remember one man who hated people scratching themselves. He'd be perfectly fine but as soon as he saw a person with an itch, then he'd fly completely off the handle and... "



"Don't you think you should go in and arrest him", said Elma to the two men.



The policeman, who was enjoying the story being told to him by the man in the white coat said: Alright, alright... Jesus, do this do that. That's all I hear all day. You people!" He then shook his head as he marched past Elma into her flat with a touch of annoyance in his gate. The man in the white coat followed closely behind the police officer, giving Elma a glare and a slight shake of his head. As they were about to enter into the living room, both halted suddenly as they looked into the room were the man in the red suit and Elma's husband Sidney where.



"Mmmm", said the policeman. You'd better stay there pet!" he said, addressing Elma, who still stood by her front door nervously. Elma instantly knew something was up and before the copper or the white coated man could stop her, she darted forward, pushing her way past the pair to look into her living room. What she saw made her rosy red cheeks drain instantly of all colour.



Inside the room the man in the red suit, who had called himself Winston, stood by the mirror that hung over the fire. He still smiled his warm smile, looking as friendly as ever and as calm and pleasant as always. Her husband was still sat in the same chair he'd been in when Elma had left the room, the one difference being that now he was dead! The cause being from the knife she'd used to cut the chocolate cake that by the look of it, had been thrust several times into his chest and left there, the blade no doubt piercing the place where only moments before a fairly strong and healthy heart had beat out its final notes.



As more men in white coats and more policemen arrived on the scene, the man in the red coat was handcuffed and told it was time to go. Before he did he turned to Elma saying: "I'm sorry to have to leave you so abruptly. The people who look after me tell me that I'm a little mixed up in the head, and the things I see can simply be described as being completely and totally... UNREAL! Anyway my dear, don't fret too much over your poor husband's death, that'd be the last thing he'd have wanted you to do. Oh and besides that, there's something else you should know. Now, I know you might find this a little hard to believe but the thing over there that I just killed was not really your husband. It was actually an impostor, a flesh eating alien zombie from the war torn planet of Sceptica. Earlier this day it had eaten your husband's brain. Once the alien zombie had fully digested your husband's brain, it would have then gone on to have eaten yours, if I had not fortunately intervened and stopped the creature in its tracks. There's no need though to thank me though. It's all in a day's work for someone like me... Anyway, ta-ta for now!" He then gave her a wink and a nod before promptly being escorted away.



The man in the white coat sat with her and tried to give Elma some comfort, but upon realising that there was not much he could say to help, decided to put it to her as simply and as quickly as possible, summing up the situation with one simple and common line "Still, worse things happen at sea!" and then leaving as fast as possible.



As Elma sat alone in her flat, mourning her husband's death, a worrying thought suddenly struck her. She had lived a good nineteen years in Tremwell, and in all that time she'd never heard anyone mention anything about there being a mental hospital. What with Tremwell being but a small town, this was (to say) nothing short of a might bit unusual! However, if Elma found this worrying then it's just as well she didn't know that not only did the mental hospital actually exist, and had been with Tremwell since the day of its creation, but also that it possessed more than its fair old share of lunatics and nutters alike. And every cell within those dark sullen walls, were almost always filled by some occupant or another, and all throughout Tremwell's history!



Now this being a mental hospital you would probably think this quite normal, and in truth you'd be right. The worrying part came when you considered that all the really nasty ones that they had locked up, all the sicko's and the perverts, the psycho's and the madmen, and of course not forgetting the ones who were simply nothing more than down to earth, good old fashioned evil fuckers, having no mental or emotional problems whatsoever, just doing the odd spot of mindless violence for the fun of it, all of these... all, seemed to originate from Tremwell herself.



And that my friends, "THAT", is the worrying part!!!



THE END


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