Six.Seven.Eight. How long had it been now? How many months had he been trapped here? He didn’t know and he didn’t care, all that he knew was that his purple sweater was the only thing that could comfort him in his time of need; it was his security, the only thing that stopped him from slipping into complete insanity. That and the thought of Charlotte, how he longed to be with her again, to hold her, to be in her grasp, to talk, to laugh, to make love. Andrew Bartholomew Kellar lay there and wept. The salt of his tears burned the scars on his face and his throat closed up in agony. How long would it take before they found him? Had they already given up? Too many questions to think of.
(The pain, why won’t the pain go away?)
He was on the brink of suicide now, he had had his chances and his moments, but Charlotte’s face was always in his mind, telling him not to give up, not to destroy what they have together. Together. He smiled through his tears. This word alone had the power to turn a confident man about to commit suicide into a quivering wreck, crying for hours upon hours before getting back into the daily cycle of what was left of his life.
(You need your pills don’t you? Face it, you need them for your pain.)
(But I can’t. They hold me back when I can get out.)
(But the pain, it’s too much.)
(Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!!!)
Andrew screamed. He screamed until screaming would no longer help, he screamed so that somebody would hear him, not nearby though, there was nobody nearby he found out when he last escaped, he screamed to himself to get in control, to stay alert, he tried to hear his words, but all he heard was a long and silent scream…
“Clocking in late again I see Andy?”
“Do me a favour Mike, don’t tell anyone, this story has to be in in five minutes, if anyone found out like last time I wouldn’t have a job!”
“Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me bud”
This was Andy. A fine storywriter and a wizard of words, he was what his boss liked to call a ‘fucking lucky bastard’. Born on a rough estate in London he had written a short story about his life as a boy, he sent it off to a local paper and had it printed because there was a spare column to fill. An editor of a large book company had seen it and liked his style; he was immediately given a job. Since then, and he freely admitted it, he had lived one of the luckiest lives that he knew of. Of course he didn’t survive on luck, oh no he worked for what he got, but there were still elements, traces of luck only a few people are lucky enough to have. Some people call it talent, but in this world, you have to be very lucky to have your talent shown to the nation.
Not many people knew his real name, his book name was A.B. Kellar so that was people knew him as, a bit like the great author T.S. Elliot, everybody had heard of him but if you asked people what the T.S. stood for eighty five percent of people would not know. But that’s the way of things now, you become a talent and people remember you for that talent, not for who you really are. Andy had accepted that, although it had taken him several years to understand it.
So here he was, Andrew Bartholomew Kellar, in a suede jacket, black shirt and smooth cream coloured shoes. He was not a conformist, he did not believe in wearing a smart jacket to every occasion, that made you look like a clone of industry, he wanted most of all to be himself. So that’s who Andy always was. Andy.
Andrew Kellar may have been lucky but he always overslept and this morning was no exception. He had just finished possibly the best book that he had ever written, it had taken him months and months tapping away at his typewriter but it had been worth it, it had been worth the blisters, the sleepless nights and even the occasional rows with his wife Charlotte, bless her, because what he had was something special, something that had never been tried before and he knew it in his heart. Such was his excitement at handing in his story he could not manage to get to sleep until four in the morning.
(Like a child on Christmas Eve – Is Santa coming tonight?)
When Andy’s alarm went off, he didn’t hear it, nor did he hear Charlotte calling to him, in fact if it hadn’t been for the bird that hit his window he may not have woken up, but there you go, he was a lucky man.
He walked past Mike and carried on down the long, highly decorated, corridor to the lifts. He liked Mike, he knew a lot more than he let on and if he tried he could be a lot more successful, but he claimed to enjoy working as a security guard. Sure the pay wasn’t that good and the terrible green uniform that he had to wear sucked but he loved his job, he knew what he wanted. Andy wished that he could live like Mike sometimes, carefree, able to make quick decisions, not having to do anything to make others hate him. That was the good life. As it was, Andy really knew very little about Mike’s home life, he had three kids; two that had left home and a wife that was a drug addict. He had tried to help her but she was past help and he couldn’t leave her because damn it he was in love with her. The main thing to Mike was to hide this, show people that you’re happy, don’t bring your problems in to their lives. That’s all there was to Mike. Simple enough.
Andy exited the lift, still thinking about how much more easy life would be if he were Mike. He was nervous and it showed because his mind was wondering, something that never usually happened to him, Andy was about to step into the unknown, this book would imprint his name in history. The familiar smell that greeted him as he walked into Mr Rosenwell’s office was a great comfort, he had been here many times before and the woodchip smell combined with coffee relaxed him somehow, strange though it was. He had always wondered what it was with people and coffee, he had tried it a couple of times to keep himself awake, but he just didn’t like it, it made him gag. However he still liked the smell of coffee so he accepted it.
The walls of the office were full of press clippings; book reviews all of them fantastic. Bruce Rosenwell was a man of great taste, according to Joe Public. He had hand picked two hundred and eleven authors, most of which had been a complete success, but this Andrew was special, he had a gift, he was lucky, a fucking lucky bastard. All of his stories were best sellers, and he had had fourteen of them. That was a very impressive figure and Rosenwell knew this. Hearing that his main moneymaker had come up with what he thought was his best, was an exciting prospect for him. This could be the book that made him the top of the food chain, never again would he have to have that pratt Jake Edwards looking down on him like he was a god, oh no this time he had him, it was time for a new king.
“Andy sit down, how are you doing? I hope that you’ve brought in the book, is that it? Good, good. How’s Charlotte, I’ve heard that she’s expecting. No? I do apologise I have so much to deal with at the moment and so many people!”
Andy smiled to himself, same old Bruce. Mixed up, crazy, still asking questions that he probably didn’t know he was asking, same old Bruce. Still, he admired him for what it was worth, this man had pulled himself off the hard streets of Liverpool and had built himself an empire. Now he had a multi-million pound business, a beautiful wife and two adorable children. He had it made, but he did it all himself.
“Hi Bruce I’m fine thanks. Apart from being a little tired”
“Ha! Join the club!!”
“You didn’t get much sleep either then?”
“Too worked up about this book”
A glance passed from the two, they had been in this situation many a time before, each trusted the other like brothers.
“So give me the line Andy, what’s this book about? Give me an insight into that crazed mind of yours.” Bruce had whipped himself into a frenzy now and he was possibly more excited than Andy.
(Time for Christmas boys and girls! Now you get to unwrap your presents!)
“Well as I said over the phone, I think it’s something new, it’s something very bold and could be very controversial”
“Yes you said all of that but what is the story about? Come on just give me the jest of it”
“Sorry Bruce that would be telling wouldn’t it!”
Andy shut the door with a smile on his face. Behind it he heard roars of laughter coming from Mr Rosenwell. Now all he had to do was wait, it should only take 3-4 months, which was a pretty short time in his book.
Andy laughed inside himself, oh no 3-4 months wasn’t a long time, in fact when the time had past it had felt like only a couple of weeks. How times had changed. Now the months felt like years, time building up, he could swear that he was losing this battle and sometimes he thought that that would probably be easier, but Charlotte was always in his mind, saying no, together we can fight this Andy, together we will win. And so Andy fought on almost against his will, struggling to find a light, an opening that he could escape through. He would win this, he thought; he would win this battle if it killed him.
(But how can you win? You’re in too much pain!)
(I don’t care, I don’t need my pills and I don’t need you!)
(Oh I think you do need me Andrew, I think you need me far more than you realise…)
Andy shivered. It had been seven weeks since he had heard that chilling voice around him but only three weeks since he realised that the voice was actually inside his head. This scared him a little, Lord knows how many books he had published about people going mad, losing their wits, but he didn’t think that he should have to be one of them, why should he be, he was to important in this world. Or maybe that had been his downfall, what he was saying now didn’t sound like him at all.
Did he really believe that he was so important he should cheat death? He had already done that once so maybe his luck had finally run out, he was only thirty four and he had already had more luck than most people in their entire lives, perhaps this was God’s way of equalling it out, smoothing out the creases. Anyway, this voice was different from his stories, it was more sinister, it troubled him. It had led him to a couple of good decisions while he had been trapped but for each good decision two more bad ones followed. He didn’t know if this had a meaning but he had learned to distrust this voice in his head, he thought maybe he was slowly becoming a schizophrenic. Andy didn’t know and he was too tired to try to figure it out. He sank into a troubled sleep.
(So Andy, are you looking forward to Christmas?)
(Yes Mummy, will Santa bring me lots of presents?)
(Well Santa has got a lot of people to see too, so don’t expect too much)
(Oh, ok mummy, night night)
(Night night Andy, sweet dreams)
Mary Kellar walked from her son’s small room into the room that they liked to call a lounge. It wasn’t really a proper lounge, the green carpet was old and stained, the wallpaper was grey and peeling and in the centre of the room stood a bare table and a single chair. Sitting at this chair had been Andy’s father, a burly man, but not well fed, the bones of his cheeks showing through in the cold winter. He turned to Mary as she stood there, God she was beautiful, but he noticed something strange about her, it was something in her eyes. She was swelling up with tears, something that she had not done in front of him since their wedding day, but that time they had been tears of
joy. This time they were tears of sadness. He walked over to her and held her in his arms, where she wept for a time that seemed endless. Once she had finished, Thomas held her head up, their eyes connected with a bond that hadn’t been broken for nearly twenty-five years.
“Oh Thomas” Mary looked up at him with red eyes, “How are we going to do it? How are we going to tell our little Andy that there are no presents this Christmas? It’ll break his heart, he has little as it is”
“Shh Mary, it’s ok, it’s ok. We’ll get by, we always do don’t we? It’ll just be a little harder this year that’s all.” He tried to show a look of comfort but it just came out as a frown, “Andy’s a strong lad in his heart, stronger than I was as a kid anyway, it is harder since we had him, we knew it would be, but we agreed to give him everything remember? That boy will grow up to become something big. Even if we don’t live to see it”
Mary’s weeping continued to wet Tom’s shirt, but they were together, and that was all that mattered. Mary didn’t know how they would manage to get by, but she did know that they would be there for Andy no matter what, no matter what stood in their path they would be there.
In the next room, a young Andrew Kellar lay crying in bed. It was not because there were going to be no presents this Christmas, nor was it because he thought that he was a burden on his family, he was crying because it wasn’t fair. Why should he have all the luck, he had parents that would probably die for him, a roof over his head and food to eat. What did his parents have? Nothing. Nada. Zip. All they had was a son who they thought was going to grow up to be something. He made a promise with himself to do that, if not for his parents then for himself, one day everybody would know about the Kellar’s. He would make sure of it. He would triumph.
The first time was the most successful. Andy had managed to stop the urge to have his pills and had somehow, although he didn’t remember exactly how, managed to climb out of the small window at the top of his personal prison. He had flesh wounds yes, some of them deeper than some people would like to think about, but his need to escape overcame the pain that he had felt. He ran and ran, until he thought that he could run no further, until his legs could no longer move, he collapsed in a pile on the dusty road.
Wait, a road, he had reached a road, in his blind escape he had not even seen the road that he had fallen onto. Lucky, another lucky break for him. Faintly at first, but then more clearly a sound began to emanate from the ground, it was a rumble, a strange vibration in the earth beneath him. Andy’s first instinct had been to get out of there, there was something too easy about this, like it had all been a test. But the voice in his head told him to stay where he was, to wait for the truck to pull up.
(But what if it’s a trap? What if they did this on purpose?)
(It’s a truck, in the middle of nowhere, look how far you’ve come, they wont think you’ve got this far!)
(But there’s always a chance…)
(And there’s always a chance that this could be a normal trucker, heading towards town…)
That had decided it. Andy waited for the truck to come and he tried thumbing for a lift. He felt great relief when the truck pulled up and the door swung open.
“Where you headed stranger?” The driver was wearing a patched jacket and looked like he had been trucking all his life. “Gee you look bad, do you want anything to eat?”
“I’m headed anywhere away from here, thank you a little food would be most appreciated” Andy smiled kindly at the driver, who returned the favour.
“So what are you doing out in a place like this by your lonesome?” He started the engine, “Seems pretty much in the middle of nowhere if you ask me”
Thinking on his feet; “Yeah my car broke down somewhere up the road, there’s nothing here, been here for four hours. Thanks for the lift by the way”
“No problem, anything to have an extra person to talk to.”
Andy felt happy for the first time in a long time, happy and very tired, in fact he felt un-naturally tired, and his leg was beginning to hurt. He looked down, there was a small dart sticking out of his thigh, he raised his head to look at the driver, and realised, the man with the scar, how could he not remember the man with the scar? Shit.
“Didn’t think we were gonna give up that easy did you Andy? Oh no, we’ve only just begun” The truck driver grinned and laughed then turned on the stereo. On came the familiar tune. This is the road to hell.
Very apt, thought Andy.
The man with the scar laughed again, “Night night Andy, sweet dreams…”
He awoke from his sleep and after a few blinks realised that he was staring at a canvas, it seemed familiar but he couldn’t put his finger on it. It was an old canvas from the looks of it, and it was also a portrait of a family. The wife was beautiful and the children looked every bit as great as she did, and the husband, the husband looked the most familiar of them all, it was something about him. Andy’s eyes widened ten fold. He looked around, there was the glass bowl, the fruit still there, and to his left lay a large dining table with chinaware laid out, and there right in front of him was a portrait of his family. He was home. He was home and he could hear footsteps, they grew closer and closer until from around the corner,
“Charlotte! Oh my God Charlotte I’ve missed you! I’ve missed you so much” Andy ran at her and threw his arms around her. Nothing. He felt nothing. His arm had passed straight through her body, and she had not even realised. He tried again, same result.
Charlotte went to the table followed by Jack, Sue and Amy (the youngest of the children) and served up a pasta dish, she sat there in silence before Amy asked the question that made Andy freeze where he was stood.
“Mummy when is daddy coming back?” Jack and Sue exchanged looks.
“I’ve already explained that honey, daddy is on a very long business trip with his editors. He may be gone some time.”
“But why doesn’t he call us?”
“It would cost him a lot of money to call us from where he is” Jack quickly intervened, “And anyway you know he loves us don’t you?”
“Amy please eat your food, it’s getting late now.” And that was it.
Andy was home all right but he could not be seen, he knew what this was, he was dead. He had been killed in that truck and now his spirit had returned to his old house with his family. He wanted to cry out, to scream so that somebody could hear him and might see him, but something was stopping him, his chest hurt and he felt as though he couldn’t breath, in fact he knew he couldn’t.