– Science fiction
He lay there looking old and frail. The veins on his withered hands stood out, resembling skeins of blue thread, like the knitting wool his dear wife, my grandmother had so often used. Both of them had been so deeply loved and respected.
Now, the unbelievable horror of what I’d just been told seeped its way into my body. His pale, gaunt face, with those piercing cornflower blue eyes, looked at me so urgently. It didn’t seem as if these were the ramblings of a dying man. This felt real!
How could he! A man I loved and thought I knew so well, how could he have done the unspeakable things of which he spoke – and is it really possible that I, his granddaughter, could also carry this burden?
The deathbed confession of the crime he had committed all those years ago would he said affect all humanity. He kept rambling about the ‘spell’ he’d performed. Tears filled his eyes as he asked for my forgiveness. He appeared genuinely remorseful when he admitted his work had been at the expense of others.
A long gnarled finger beckoned me and I rested my head alongside him on his pillow. With his last tortured breath he rasped the words ‘A dark man will come out of the shadows’. This couldn’t be happening! Fear gripped me. He was surely rambling. This is the 21st century, I don’t believe in spells!
I cried as I pulled the sheet up over his cold, yellow face and I remembered the vibrant, fun-loving man he was when I was little.
I pushed his words from my mind, believing them to be the insanity of an old man.
The window of my office framed a cold, miserable, January evening. I cleared my desk ready to go home. As usual I was the last to leave the building and as I walked down the long corridor I began my routine of turning off lights to save energy.
I turned the corner. The corridor was unusually dark today. Someone must have already turned off the lights thinking the place was empty. Knowing the building so well I walked on unperturbed but a feeling of unease began to knot my stomach.
Around the next corner it was also dark – but this time shadows seemed to lurk – dark, gruesome, moving shadows, punctuated by tiny golden lights that danced in front of my eyes. The lights came nearer, moving rhythmically, getting closer and closer together, until finally joining to create a thin, golden, flickering thread. The thread came towards me and began to surround me. I could hardly breathe! I couldn’t move at all. It began to find its way up my body, as the lights continued to dance and bind me.
I could now hear voices, voices in the lights, warning me, telling me I must pay for the sins of my grandfather. I was trapped, totally held down by hundreds of tiny, twinkling lights, holding me firmly against my will, pressing me up against the wall. The voices were the high pitched cries of children. They were taunting me, telling me I must now suffer as they had suffered – telling me my children must endure the same fate they had endured. Their voices got inside my head, warning me I would never be free, that I’d always live in terror of their return. They told me I would fear as their parents had feared! The golden thread wrapped itself around my neck, gripping me like a vice. A golden daisy-chain necklace was strangling me, choking me, as I writhed helplessly in terror.
Into my vision came a face, a dark face that hovered above me. No body, just a smiling, laughing, handsome face. It reminded me of someone.
Then, just as suddenly as they’d begun, the dancing lights released their grip and disappeared, and the corridor lights came on.
Still breathless, half crawling, half dragging myself, I started stumbling down the stairs. My children! I must get home to my children!
It was raining heavily as I ran from the building in my frenzy to get to my car. I splashed through the puddles which ran in torrents down the gutters.
When I arrived home I sprinted up the drive, fearful of what I was about to find. I opened the door and there at the table – sat my two children, my two beautiful and extremely clever children, both totally immersed in doing their homework.
Just an ordinary day? What had happened earlier? Had I just imagined it?
‘’Have you scratched your neck Mom?’’
I looked in the mirror and around my neck was what looked like a tiny, threadlike, red burn mark.
I didn’t- couldn’t – forget that incident. Indeed the memory of that day gripped me for some time to come, but somehow I managed to talk myself into disbelieving it. I’d been working too hard – just a blip! The death of my grandfather and too much work had caused a momentary breakdown that was all.
It was now February and the half term holidays were due. I needed a break and I decided to take the kids away for a short holiday. I’d been promising to visit Auntie Freda for a while. She was my father’s cousin who lived on the Isle of Wight. She lived with her elderly mother, my grandfather’s sister, and they ran a guest house. As they’d had Christmas bookings they hadn’t been unable to attend Grandfather’s funeral. It wasn’t the best time of year for a holiday but at least the guest house would be empty.
Grandfather’s 90 year old sister was lovely. She was a small, large bosomed, cuddly lady, who was never happier than when she was reminiscing about the ‘olden days,’ My children loved listening to her and each night she was delighted to tell her stories to this captive audience.
One evening after a day of walks and getting soaked to the skin, we settled down in front of the log burning fire. She had by her side a biscuit tin, full to the brim of old black and white photographs, which the children were enjoying sorting through. I idly picked up a photo and as I did so my blood ran cold as two young men stared out at me.
‘’Who are these two?’’ I managed to blurt out.
‘’That’s nothing, just your grandfather and a friend of his when they were young men,’’ she said rather too quickly, as she took the photo from me and surreptitiously slid it up the sleeve of her cardigan.
As I looked across at her I saw the terror in her eyes. I knew without doubt that one of the men in the picture was the dark face I’d seen laughing above me in the corridor.
After the children had retired to their room, I tried to delve more deeply into the old ladies early life and into that photograph in particular – but she looked at me, with the same piercing cornflower blue eyes of her brother and whispered, ‘’Don’t ask my dear. There are some things best left unsaid.’’
When I arrived home after the holiday I knew I had to sort out Grandfathers effects, which I’d been putting off for too long. As his next of kin he’d left his home to me in his will and I knew I needed to lay this ghost to rest once and for all.
I arrived at the rambling three story building after work one evening. As I entered I was once again gripped by a feeling of foreboding. Laughing off my anxiety I decided to begin sorting at the top of the house and to gradually work my way down.
After about half an hour I was aware the light had started to fade. Gradually shadows appeared which grew into tall grotesque shapes as they began to whirl about me. Suddenly the whole house lit up, as hundreds of humming lights danced around the outside of the windows, trying to get in. The humming noise increased and childish voices filled my head, like a mob of angry swarming bees!
‘’Lock the doors and windows. Keep them out. They want to destroy you.’’
‘’Who was that?’’
The light was now so bright it hurt my eyes and I ran from room to room to lock them out – to try to escape the lights and the noise!
Now the laughter began, the deep, throaty, menacing laughter, as the dark face of my grandfather’s young friend in the photograph, hovered once again above me, taunting me!
“You were one of the lucky ones my dear. You successfully underwent the ‘spell’. The treatment you were given when you were small meant all the information you retained in your brain by the time your children were born, was passed onto them. Your children are not just bright they are ‘Super Bright!’ They started their life with all your knowledge already processed inside their brain. Whatever they learn now will be added to that and it will, in turn, be passed on automatically to their children, eventually becoming a ‘Super Brain’ – followed by a ‘Super Generation’ – a ‘Super STORE of Memory’. Can you visualise it, a brain greater than the biggest computer in the world. Think how it could be used to benefit our country! Think how it could be used to benefit mankind?’’
‘’But the lights. What are the lights?’’
‘’Those are the children that were unfortunately incompatible during our early days of experiment. They are angry. They want to bring down the successful few. You must fight them. Your survival and that of your children and your grandchildren is at stake!’’
‘’A race of freaks! How could you? How could you leave us like this – never belonging – never free! Who are you?’’
‘’I was your grandfather’s senior neurological registrar. He was my junior. He did as he was told, however he was always ready for a challenge. Whenever we had the chance and a child needed brain surgery it was easy just to slip in a miniscule, undetectable, little computer. The early ones didn’t survive the trauma but their super intelligence did, and now their brains want to destroy you – hence the lights.
When I needed another subject your grandfather quickly obliged! Your Mother was our first success! When she had you it didn’t take much persuading for your grandfather to bring you into the hospital on the pretext of showing you off. You were perfect, my dear! What a shame your mother died so soon after you were born, before we were able to complete our work.’’
We were now shouting at each other above the noise of the angry children. I looked towards the window and I could see the lights had changed. Instead of lights, hundreds of brains flashed and pulsated gold and green fluorescence, as they darted feverishly about, hurling themselves against the glass in a frenzy of madness. Their voices had changed and unbelievable, unimaginable cries of pain filled the air.
How many had suffered in order to feed the ego of two greedy, glory-seeking, men! It had to stop! Somehow it had to stop in order to release these children from their indescribable pain! Somehow ‘I’ had to stop it!
I walked over to the window. The noise was increasing all the time as they tried to attack me. They were spitting out sticky green syrupy liquid and as I watched it trickling down the glass, I made my decision. There was only one way to stop this. I had to offer myself up as their revenge for the despicable torture they had endured.
I slowly lifted my arm to reach the window latch, knowing that once it was open I would become their prey.
My last memory is of a disembodied voice screaming, ‘’NO’’. It certainly wasn’t laughing any more.
I woke up in hospital, my body covered in bandages. My children’s faces peering anxiously down at me.
‘’What happened, Mum?’’
I tried to remember as I looked at my bandages, puzzled.
‘’I can’t remember.’’
‘’You were covered in burns, hundreds of them.’’
‘’I really can’t remember.’’
This all happened two years ago. The memories are slowly coming back and I hope the children are now at peace. I’m not sure. My memory is now very poor and the Hospital says it’s because of the shock that I suffered getting burnt. Maybe.
My own children continue to be of above average intelligence. I say nothing. At least their children, and the rest of mankind, will now be spared.