The Silent Child
by Paul Ivall
Curse this weather, rain always rain, now he had aquaplaned in a deep puddle and his car was in a ditch. It was badly damaged, a write off for sure. There was acrid smoke coming from inside and the steering wheel was bent as if by some heavy impact. But the air bags had deployed and he was unscathed, remarkably so in fact considering the impact and all that mangled, scorched metal.
He could remember the impact, just about and something else vaguely, he may have hit something, an animal quite large but he didn’t stop. Then everything went dark and now he found himself, though he couldn’t remember how he got there, standing by the car. Actually Marion’s car, she would go nuts, it was her pride and joy and the insurance premium that would go through the roof once those vultures got their little calculators working.
He didn’t know quite where he was as the satnav had stopped working about an hour ago along with his cell phone, must be all the trees and hills. Come to think of it he hadn’t seen another vehicle for ages in any direction. Now it must be past midnight, he checked his watch but it was broken the glass cracked and scorched and the hands fixed at 9.31. Jeez, yeah he had been lucky to walk away from this one.
He thought it might be best to start walking, maybe try to find a house or garage, but he was indecisive and just hovered a few feet from his stricken car, unable to make a decision. Then in the distance he could make out lights, headlights, yes definitely and above the teeming rain he could hear the growl of a high powered engine. As the vehicle drew nearer he was dazzled by the headlights fixed on full beam. There was a squeal of brakes and the vehicle skidded to a halt just inches from where he was standing. The driver gunned the engine and he heard an electric window slide smoothly open. Due to the lights he could not tell the make of the vehicle but it was sleek dark and powerful.
Inside, the driver was slightly illuminated by a dull red glow from the dashboard, though the whole interior of the vehicle seemed to be lit uniformly by the light. The front passenger door sprang open making him jump with the suddenness. He moved to the driver’s window and put his head just inside. He could not fully make him out, but could see he was dressed in dark clothing and wearing a hooded top. He continued to stare straight ahead through the windshield and offered no acknowledgement.
‘Can you help me please, bit of an accident, that’s my car in the ditch there.’
The driver did not look to where he pointed but continued staring straight ahead then inclined his head forward in a nod.
‘Thanks I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t come along. Just drop me anywhere a garage or an all night burger bar.’
‘No that won’t be necessary I’m fine, really, just need somewhere with a phone.’
The driver slowly moved his head towards the back seat where lying very silent and still was a small child, his head contorted at a strange angle.
‘Oh I see is he ill? Does he need to go to the hospital?
‘No he has no need of a hospital, he has been released from pain and now he sleeps the long sleep of the innocent child. You need to go there, for the formalities to be completed.’
Now somehow he was inside the car next to the driver; ‘oh I see the police maybe and a bit of a medical check. The boy is he your son? He sleeps so soundly.’
The boy’s eyes snapped suddenly open and stared at him in a fixed yet vacant way.
‘Oh sorry I think I’ve woken him.’
‘Yes he is awake.’
The driver put his foot on the accelerator and the car took off at high speed. The rain was torrential but somehow, despite the deluge, the wipers did not operate though the screen remained clear. Loud music filled the car, Riders on the storm, The Doors. He normally loved this track but when Jim Morrison sung the lyrics “There’s a killer on the road his brain is squirming like a toad,” he has had enough. The child continued to stare with fixed vacant eyes at the back of his head and he is aware, without needing to look, that they are boring into his skull, malevolent and angry.
‘Actually you can just drop me here I think I’ll just walk, just anywhere will do.’
‘Hospital, formalities, they are waiting for you there’
‘Who is? Who is waiting for me there? The police, medics who? Please tell me I don’t want to go there.’
‘You won’t be there long and then we will all be leaving and you will recall everything clearly, over and over and over.’
He turns to look at the silent child his eyes still fixed unblinking malevolent and he begins to remember.
He became aware of blue and red lights flickering at the corner of his vision and sounds rising and falling, wailing and twittering. There were voices; recharge quick, we’re losing him, get that line in.’
‘He won’t want to live anyway not in that state.’
‘keep trying anyway, you want to get sued by the grieving widow?’
‘Nothing I like more than a grieving widow to comfort, especially if she’s hot.’
‘Keep it in your pants, charged, ready.
A jolt ran through his body and now he could see two men in white scrubs looming over him, attaching something to his chest, he felt pain, searing terrible pain.’
‘Hang on in there my friend we’ve reached the hospital now.
‘No, no I don’t want to be here, not here.’
‘It’s the best place for you I can assure you. Once we arrive you’ll go straight up to ITU and they’ll get you stabilised, you’ve been in an accident, we don’t think anyone else was involved, no one at the scene anyway.’
He looked beyond the two paramedics and could see the driver of the car and the child with the awful fixed eyes staring at him. The driver spoke, the paramedics made no response, it appeared that only he could see and hear them.
‘We are waiting for you, all of us, waiting to take you on to the place where you will remember everything. Just the formalities are required, everything by the book and we’re used to waiting and all the time in the world to kill.’
Alarm clock? It sounds different, must get up.
Dark what time is it, what day? Can’t move, open my eyes.
Who’s that who’s there? Marion, Marion, who are you talking to, who’s there, where am I?
‘Sorry Mrs Wright, we had hoped for a better outcome but the damage, well it’s, just too severe I’m afraid.’
‘Will he die, no surely there must be something, save him please I love him so much, the children, oh God, David please wake up, darling please come back to us.’
‘Sorry but he can’t hear you I’m afraid. The coma is too deep, he’s brain dead and it’s just the ventilator keeping his organs functioning. Sorry but you need to know, there really isn’t anything more we can do now. Just keep him comfortable until—‘
‘You aren’t going to let him die, never I won’t let you.’
Marion what’s happening I can’t move or open my eyes can’t speak. What’s happened to me?
‘Mrs Wright, you will have to make a decision, not right now, but soon. You’ll need to be strong, but you will have to make that decision. He won’t have died in vain. His death could give others life. His org—‘
‘His organs, not his poor body, not cutting him open, hurting him more, no not that, not that.’
‘There are a few other tests we must do-- the police are insisting, nurse some help here please Mrs Wright needs to sit down. Can you get her a cup of sweet tea and take her to the patients lounge and we can have a talk later.’
My God what’s happened, what’s happened, something I can- something, driving, sound, pain darkness, a child with terrible eyes, now here.
Silence, alone. Marion has gone, where is she, Marion don’t let them touch me I’m here I’m still here. No not alone I can sense someone moving in the room.
‘Oh my, my so here we all are, you have been in the wars, seen worse but still pretty bad. Open your mind and look at me.’
‘I can see you. Who – what are you, the driver?’
‘You’re coming with me, with me and them.’
‘Them?‘ what are they, those things, ugly deformed, vile, what the hell are they? The child, the silent child is there staring at me.’
‘Hell, astute observation. I wouldn’t upset them by calling them ugly by the way. You’ll be spending a whole lot of time with them, an eternity in fact. Besides, when it comes to ugly, well you’re no oil painting, not now anyway, face all torn off, body all black and burned. You’ll fit right in. We’ll be going soon. I think that doctor may want your liver I think your corneas are useless now, but hey they tend not to waste anything. Anyway none of it is any use to you now, and your wife, give it a couple of hours and she’ll sign the necessary paperwork, admin all in place formalities all complete and then off we go. You me, the child, David by the way, same as yours, little bit of symmetry, that was his name in case you were wondering. Definitely not a fox or a badger, no definitely not an animal and of course we will also be joined by them.’
‘No I won’t go. This is a nightmare surely I must wake up soon?’
‘No afraid not. You heard the doctor no more waking up for you, not in this realm anyhow. But where we’re all going next I can assure you, you will be very wide awake.’
‘No please, let me stay here, please don’t take me.’
‘Now look it’s the wife, Marion, pretty and oh look, that paramedic who brought you in, arm round her shoulder offering comfort. You’re going to miss her, she looks upset a few tears, none of them crocodile. Aww what a touching little kiss. Look she’s signing the forms. They always do in the end, not usually as quick as that, but as I said you’re no oil painting right now.’
‘Thank you for signing the consent forms Mrs Wright. I can assure you that David is at peace and aware of nothing and he will now just gently fall asleep.’
‘Time to go David, they’re getting restless, restless and angry and you really don’t want them getting angry.’
‘No please I’m sorry for everything I’ve done that’s bad, the child, drinking, not stopping I’m sorry, sorry, don’t take me Please.’
‘Sorry, they all say that, sorry, too late for all that now. Oh and by the way, when they find David you’ll soon be known as child killer, even by that pretty wife of yours. Time to come along with us, we are all so looking forward to spending time with you, really getting to know you and you getting to know us, getting to know us so, so well.’
I David MacDowell find myself in this place, my place now. I sit in a small dank room with undefined edges, though I sense rough walls of stone, there is a door I am not alone. Opposite me lying on a stone bench is the silent child whose head rests at a strange angle. His dead fixed eyes stare at me. I now know his name to be David Avery. He is nine years old, he is dead, but something remains alive inside him I can sense it, feel it to my very core. He is unmoving but sentient, he hates me with a dark fury, a fury that should not be felt or known by one so young.
This place is lit, though I can see no source for this gloomy light, everything is illuminated. Everything in stark, harsh monochrome, this night and all that went before. What of my future? That is dark and endless and unknown, but I sense fear and regret and only bad things far from love and comfort. Things that are unspeakable are waiting impatiently for me just outside that door. The handle of the door now turns, slowly yet purposefully and then stops and all is still. I hear a rasping breath from beyond and scratching as if from claws, tearing slowly but with determination against that flimsy barrier, all that separates me from whatever is out there. I look to the stone bench, the boys eyes remain fixed upon me.
A seemingly short time ago, though it may have been hours or days, perhaps years I have lost track of time I could hear my wife. I don’t know where she was, not behind that door but further away, another corporeal realm far from here.
She was crying and calling out my name over and over, ‘David, David come back to me please I love you, please come back. I heard my two children, Matty and Claire, crying ‘Daddy, Daddy wake up please come home. It breaks my heart.
Then there were the screams of other voices, ones I did not recognise. ‘David My baby, oh my God no. David what has he done to you?’ I know all too well what I have done. I remember the drinking, the drive, that stupid reckless damn drive and hitting the child, panicking not stopping, driving on and crashing the car. I remember everything I’ve ever done that hurt others. The list is long.
I look to the child but he is gone now and I am alone. I hear hoarse laboured breathing behind the door, this time more excited, perverted and unwholesome. Once more the door handle turns, but this time it does not stop. The door creaks on rusty hinges as it swings open and something dark enters the room. It has come for me.
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