The International Writers Magazine:Dreamscapes Fiction
he is. Just look at him. Hes so, so happy or, at least,
he thinks he is. He thinks hes happy in his casual but subtly
expensive suit, his plush leather shoes and his poncey briefcase
swinging at his side as he strides so happily along. Let him be
happy, while he still can. It wont be long now.
smiling. Hes smiling as he walks along, smiling at people in the
street, people he doesnt even know. Incredible. Theres an
elderly woman coming towards him, he side steps to let her pass with
her shopping trolley and yes, he speaks to her, she replies, he says
something else and now their both laughing at the shared joke, his worthless
little quip. His blonde head is bobbing up and down now and he waves
to the woman as she goes on her way, no doubt he thinks hes brought
a little sunshine to her otherwise miserable existence, thats
what he does you know, thats his mission, his gift.
God, he makes me sick. That grinning freak of nature has been making
me sick since I was five and hes still at it now, still being
so good, so very nice, so fucking happy. He breaths happiness, he sweats
happiness, every little bit of him is happy, even is fucking teeth are
Back in the sixties we were classmates. We went to the same junior school;
we were in the same class. He was the bright one of course, Mrs. Bakers
favourite and Mr. Lloyds too. It didnt matter what the lesson
was, reading, arithmetic, drawing, football, he was always better than
me. Oh yes, James Stinton was always the best.
"Lets have a look at your work boys." Mrs. Hay, the
art teacher would say. She was another fan of Jamess. "Very
good James. Look everyone, look at Jamess picture isnt it
good well put that one up on the wall for everyone to see."
And then shed look at my picture and say
"Em, you could
have put some nicer colours in it Barry, its so dark and well, dull.
Still, perhaps your mo I mean your auntie, might like it."
And so it went on.
We were perhaps nine or ten when; one day there was a change from the
usual lessons and we were ushered into the assembly hall to watch a
film. It was an American public information film about the future. I
dont remember what it was called or even that much about it but
I realise now that, being the 1960s, it was basically Cold War propaganda,
designed to indoctrinate our young minds into believing in the American
Dream. It didnt work for me obviously but it really influenced
James. Of course, as far as he was concerned the future was already
bright and the film simple reinforced what he already knew.
All I remember about the film was that, right from the start, it told
us just how lucky we were to be the children of the 1960s. With its
authoritative and laconic voice-over, the black and white film introduced
us to the wonders awaiting us as future adults. There would be no disease
in our future and we could all expect to live into our hundreds so advanced
would medical science be. And what would we be expected to do during
our longevity? Well, thanks to the enterprise of the freethinking western
world, machines would be developed, which would take over all the difficult
and menial jobs that people had to do at present. This would happen
both in the workplace as well as in the home and would give the happy
people of the future (us) much more time to enjoy our lives free from
drudgery, illness and war (which, presumably, would also have been eradicated
once the filthy commies had been crushed or converted). If there were
any doubts in our tiny minds well we need only look to the wonderful
advances made in space technology (NASA of course), since the end of
the war. In the future, the voice told us, energy would be free because
it would be generated by safe, clean nuclear reactors. The Moon and
possibly Mars would have colonies for those who wished to strike out
for new worlds (go west young man!). There would be no pollution because
science was, even then, perfecting new and exciting ways to power our
vehicles harnessing gravity so that cars in the future would not travel
along roads but would fly through the air free as birds. And, furthermore,
just in case any of us were, even at that innocent age, aware of starvation
and extreme want in the world, well, the future had that covered to.
Oh yes, in the future all our dietary needs would be catered for by
instant processed meals (they got that right at least) made from chemicals.
There would be no more starving little black children not with Uncle
Sam flying into Africa in his gravity powered, fast-food wagon, handing
out Macburger pills, Coca-Cola and one-way tickets to Mars
My mum died when I was three. From that time on no one ever expected
me to be happy. They were right about that but not about the reason.
My mum died and my dad was permanently pissed. They said he took to
the drink when she died but my aunty Joan told me hed been pissed
since 1939 and was so drunk by the sixties that he hardly noticed that
mum was gone. No, even after my mum died I was as happy as any boy might
have been expected to be but that all changed when I was five, pushing
six and I met my nemesis, youve guessed it, James Stinton.
James Stinton took away my happy childhood. I dont say that he
meant to do it but he stole it just the same. It was gradual. At first
I quite liked him, he was fun and made us all laugh but over time the
other kids and then the adults, teachers, even aunty Joan began to stop
noticing me. It was James this and James that and isnt James clever
and isnt James handsome, oh, James hes a wonderful boy hell
go far, and if only Barry was half as clever and good looking as James
but there you are, he isnt but at least hes got James as
It was an hour or so after the film was over when I finally accepted
the truth about James, that I hated him, I loathed and despised him
and that if I were ever to be happy again then I would have to either
get away from him or one day destroy him. Such a realisation is a big
thing for a boy of nine and between that day and when I finally left
school at sixteen with no qualifications to speak of, I had managed
to distance myself from him to the extent that we only ever spoke in
passing. It was, I know; a disappointment to my aunty Joan and remarkably
she and James remained friends even though I had made it plain that
he and I were so dissimilar that we might have been born on different
Our lives went their separate ways. James (predictably) went to college
and on to university my aunty tried to keep me informed of how well
he was doing I suppose she hoped that I might be inspired to further
my ambitions and try to emulate him. In 1981, I got a part-time job
working in a record shop, which then branched out into video rental.
It was a crap job really but I felt safe working there and I got all
my music and films for free. I continued to live with aunty Joan but
in 1994 she fell ill and never really recovered I cooked her meals and
looked after her as best I could until she finally died a couple of
years ago. She left me the house and there was a bit of money and I
was still working at the shop so I got by all right. I dont have
many friends. Well, actually I dont have any friends apart from
some older people I sit with in the George on Wednesday and Friday nights
and in a way, perhaps because I didnt wish for anything more or
better, I was, on the whole, what you might call happy.
Then, a couple of months ago it happened. I was working an evening shift
in the shop and, on hearing the little bell as the door opened, looked
up to greet the customer and, well yes youve guessed it, there
was James, tall, handsome and altogether happy, larger than life and
"Barry! Is it really you? After all this time, it really is you.
How fantastic Im so happy to see you." What could I do? I
had to pretend I was happy to see him too when really I felt as though
the world had dropped out from beneath my feet. My stomach churned,
my heart began to race and I began to sweat uncontrollably. The old
intense loathing, which I thought, through absence, had died away, returned
instantly and I knew that if I did not act to defend myself that he,
James, would take what little contentment I had acquired in my life.
I wasnt wrong. He couldnt just be satisfied with seeing
me briefly and then going on his way. Oh no, not James. For him this
was fate, this was a second chance, an opportunity to resurrect something
that, as far as I was concerned, had died a long time ago and that exhumation
of it would only reveal a putrid, stinking corpse. He couldnt
let it lie. Over the following days and weeks, he forced his way back
into my life or rather; he somehow managed to make me apart of his life.
I was under siege, trapped like the Moon by the power of the Earth.
I became his satellite almost over night and I joined all the other
little Moons that circled about him all of us captured by his force,
unable to break free.
Well, I had other plans. A couple of days ago he phoned me at the shop
and said that his wife, Angie wanted to meet me, as did Zoe, his teenage
daughter, so would I like to come to their house for a meal? I could
have refused but I found myself strangely intrigued and so agreed that
he should pick me up in his car at 7:00 yesterday evening. As we drove
out into the suburbs I asked him if he remembered the film wed
been shown when we were kids. He did and he told me (just as Id
expected) that the film had inspired him to embrace the future and to
help make the world a better place.
"Thats why I got into business and public relations Barry.
For years now Ive been working to spread the message that business
shouldnt just be about making money, it should be about making
people happy as well." Of course, why hadnt I thought of
that. I didnt look at him but I knew he was beaming all over his
face, freak that he is.
The meal was all that I had expected beautifully cooked and presented
by the dutiful and doting Angie. Zoe was pretty and well adjusted with
just enough of an attitude problem to make her a relatively normal teenager.
The best thing about the evening was that by the end of it I knew exactly
how I was going to get James out of my life and how to reclaim my own
meagre store of happiness.
Thats why Im here now watching from the shadows. I knew
that he always takes the train to work and Ive been waiting for
him to come home. Ive got a great view of his front door and hes
just got his keys out but now hes started chatting to his neighbour
and theyre both having a good laugh over some bloody neighbourhood
nonsense. Well, he wont be laughing in a minute, oh shit no; hell
be screaming his fucking head off.
I called round at lunchtime. Angie had inadvertently let me know that
she would be there all day, decorating actually. Well I did some decorating
of my own after shed answered the door. I dont think she
knew who I was at first and when I reminded her she smiled and laughed
and invited me in for coffee but I could tell she didnt want me
there. Thats fair enough, I can understand that, Im not
the most likeable of people Id be the first to admit it. Still,
she might have remembered my name. Stuck up bitch.
I shut the door behind me grabbed her hair and slashed her throat with
the knife Id bought from home. Its a sharp knife and it
sliced through her in one quick move. She didnt make much noise
but fuck, there was a lot of blood, it spurted all up the wall and I
felt pretty sick at the sight of it.
I was just about to leave when I realised there was music playing upstairs
so up I went, following the sound of some band I couldnt place,
which annoyed me because in my job I have to keep up with all the latest
bands. When I reached her bedroom door I had to knock quite loudly before
she stomped across the room and flung it open. No doubt, she expected
to see her mum so you can imagine the confused look on her face when
she saw me standing there with a bloody carving knife in my hand. At
least she remembered my name, which she just managed to utter as a question
before the knife flew up to cut her throat
I felt bad about it.
Especially Zoe. After all it wasnt her fault. No one can choose
their father can they?
I can hear the sirens coming closer. The flashing lights are turning
the branches of the trees blue and there he is, hes come out to
greet them but hes not smiling now. Hes got a look on his
face thats almost indescribable. Its how I imagined my face must
have looked when I saw him come into the shop, a look of utter disbelief
as though whatever it is just cant really be happening.
The police are there now. Im in two minds. Should I sneak away
and let them take him in for questioning because lets face it, the husband
is always the prime suspect. Or should I go over there now and give
myself up while hes still there because then Ill be able
to see his face when it dawns on him that I did it, that I finally got
my revenge and took away his happiness. I want to ask him: how
does it feel? How does it feel James?
I step out from behind the bushes. Im smiling. I just cant
help it. Hes seen me and hes seen the knife
Im happy now.
© Graham Attenborough Feb 2006
history at the University of Portsmouth and is studying for his Masters
in Creative Writing
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Kate Webster: A good hanging
Graham Attenborough throws a party
Fiction in Dreamscapes
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