The Edification of Arthur Watson
by P.S.Gifford
forum: The Edification of Arthur Watson
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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The Edification of Arthur Watson


       Arthur Watson suddenly sprung awake.

       Damn, what a bloody nightmare, he thought as he turned to face his clock on the bedside table—3:06—the clock flashed in its soft blue light.

       Arthur sighed.Shit, I am never going to be able to get back to sleep.

       Arthur was a sixty-six-year-old man; however, his balding grey head and sagging grey eyes made him appear much older. He was a lifelong bachelor, claiming to anyone who might inquire that he simply never had met the right woman. Arthur had always been content living a solitary and modest existence. For thirty years he had worked sorting through letters, packages and postcards for the post office. His single bedroom council flat, a converted Victorian house, which was surely grand in its day, with oversized rooms with nine-foot ceilings and brass lighting fixtures, but that day had long since passed. It was the very same flat which he had occupied for the last twenty-seven years, and all the furniture and decoration was precisely the same as the day he moved in.

       I suppose I should pee, Arthur mused as he clambered out of the warm bed. I have to pee an awful lot these days, he pondered lazily as he tied the thick cord of his silk yellow dressing gown about him. Just then, he felt a dash of fur against his leg, and panicked for a brief moment before realizing that it was only his beloved black cat, Mr. King. Regaining his composure, he continued to his bathroom and switched on the dusty sixty-watt light. It was when he was allowing the steady stream of yellow liquid to vacate his bladder when he noticed it—in his grimy bathtub—a wooden box.

       What the hell? he thought. How on earth did that get there?

       Arthur flushed the toilet and paused for a moment, choosing to simply stare and examine the strange unexpected object, an old wooden box with an oversized clasp on the front and a double brass hinge. It was no more than eighteen inches long and eight inches deep. He poured himself a glass of water from the tap and took a gulp, his now fully awake mind racing in search of a logical explanation. He could not find any... Finally he stepped over to the bathtub and reached down and gingerly picked it up. The box's size belied its weight and he almost allowed it to slip through his fingers. Cautiously he carried it into his bedroom and placed it on his bed. He examined it for a few moments more, as Mr. King watched on and then, seemingly bored with the proceedings, stretched lazily and curled up into a ball to continue his night's sleep.

       I suppose I should open the damned thing, he thought as he rubbed his hands together. Filled with a combination of both apprehension and curiosity, he cautiously sat on the bed next to the box, and leaned over and unclasped the lock. Next, holding his breath, he gradually opened the lid… All at once Arthur gasped out loud as something that looked like a petite ventriloquist doll flew from the box and darted under the bed with remarkable agility and speed. Arthur jumped up, now in a panic.

       "What the hell!" he screamed out loud.

       Hesitantly, he knelt down on his faded carpet and cagily peered under the bed. He set his eyes upon it, but his mind could not quite grasp what he actually saw: a little figure of a man, no more than a foot tall, dressed in a bright red waistcoat, black trousers, white shirt and a black bow tie, sitting there chuckling to himself.

       "Who are you?" Arthur cried, half in fear and half in anger.

       The little man looked up.

       "You'll figure it out soon enough!" he said in a deep voice not befitting his proportions. He winked as he continued, "Tell me where you were on your twenty-first birthday."

       "But that was over forty years ago," Arthur cried.

       "Think!" the little man persisted. "Try to recall; it is important."

       As Arthur began to remember, a large droplet formed in his right eye. This surprised him as he had no recollection of ever crying before, well, not since he was a small helpless child.

       "I went to a party," he finally managed to stammer, unsure as to why he was revealing this to the little man. "And I drank and danced and then I met a girl. Her name was Allison. She was absolutely the most beautiful vision I had ever seen or even dreamed of… She looked like a Hollywood movie star, she did."

       That first tear slipped down his cheek, and as others began to steadily follow, he made no effort to dry them.

       "It was my birthday and even though the party was not for me, there was lots of beer. The more I drank, the more I wanted Allison. But every time I tried to talk to her, she just laughed at me. Eventually the party came to an end and I watched quietly as Allison put on her red colored raincoat. Several fellows offered to walk her home… But she smugly declined.

       "I watched as she said goodbye to her friends. I watched her exit the front door. I watched her walk down the garden path to the street. I watched—and then I followed."

       "Go on," the little man prompted. "Tell me the rest."

       "I followed her. I was getting more and more angry at the flippant way she had shrugged me off. It was my friggin' birthday, and just one dance would have made me so happy, one chance to have my arms about her delicate waist and allow the scent of her angelic hair to fill my nostrils… I watched on as she crossed the street and made her way to an alley that cuts through the block… That must have been a shortcut to her house. It was a rainy, gloomy night. I remember suddenly chasing after her and knocking her to the ground with my fists. I remember stroking her long blonde soft hair in my fingertips. Then I remember my trembling hands tightening around her slender neck as the rage continued to build inside of me and her angelic face as it began to contort and turn various shades of blue. She tried to scream, but the grip I had on her neck surely prevented her. I remember the intense fear in her pale sapphire eyes as I extinguished her life on that wet cold pavement."

       "How did you feel, Arthur?" enquired the little man, his expression not revealing any emotion to the horrendous confession.

       "Why, I did not feel anything," Arthur answered sullenly. "I felt no emotion whatsoever, and I just hurried on home."

       "How many more were there?" the little man asked, now looking straight into Arthur's tearful eyes.

       "Every birthday since, it became my birthday treat for myself," he answered, not quite believing he was telling the peculiar little man this. He had never told anybody, never admitting what he was doing, not even to himself.

       "Each year I would travel to a different city and wait outside bars and nightclubs… Eventually a woman would leave alone and walk home. It never failed… And every year I repeated the routine."

       Arthur sat down on his bed, his gray face wrought with emotion.

       "Who are you?" he screamed at the little man.

       "You'll know," the reply came as he crawled from under the bed. "Yes, Arthur, you'll soon know!" He jumped on Arthur's lap and looked at him deep into his eyes.

       "I am someone you shut away all those years ago," the little man continued.

       Arthur looked at him and he suddenly realized what he was. His heart was suddenly filled with lament for all those innocent women he had left in his life's wake. He could no longer withstand the guilt building in his heart. Remorse—he had never known it before.

       "You are my damned conscience!" he screamed, all at once realizing precisely what he was experiencing…

* * *

       It took almost two weeks before anyone entered the council flat. No one had been bothered about the absence of Arthur, but the neighbors were having one big complaint; a strong smell had been starting to permeate from his property. As the police officers knocked down the door, they almost retched from the putrid stench.

       It did not take them long to find Arthur. He was in the bedroom, his rotting remains hanging from the ceiling brass light fixture by a yellow silk dressing gown rope.

       Next to him sat a very hungry black cat… But it was a most curious thing, the cat had a black bow tie about his neck and appeared to be grinning.

The end



copyright 2006 P.S.Gifford.

P.S.Gifford is a transplanted Englishman now living and writing in Southern California. He is married, has one son, two dogs, a rabbit and an endless dream. His work can be found at such extremes as, and is a featureed author at In addition he has a website aptly named