Watson suddenly sprung awake.
what a bloody nightmare, he thought as he turned to face his
clock on the bedside table3:06the clock flashed in its
soft blue light.
sighed.Shit, I am never going to be able to get back to sleep.
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.
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 itin his grimy bathtuba
the hell? he thought. How on earth did that get there?
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.
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.
the hell!" he screamed out loud.
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.
are you?" Arthur cried, half in fear and half in anger.
little man looked up.
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."
that was over forty years ago," Arthur cried.
the little man persisted. "Try to recall; it is important."
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.
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
She looked like a Hollywood movie star, she did."
first tear slipped down his cheek, and as others began to steadily
follow, he made no effort to dry them.
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.
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 watchedand then I followed."
on," the little man prompted. "Tell me the rest."
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
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."
did you feel, Arthur?" enquired the little man, his expression
not revealing any emotion to the horrendous confession.
I did not feel anything," Arthur answered sullenly. "I
felt no emotion whatsoever, and I just hurried on home."
many more were there?" the little man asked, now looking straight
into Arthur's tearful eyes.
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.
year I would travel to a different city and wait outside bars and
Eventually a woman would leave alone and walk home.
It never failed
And every year I repeated the routine."
sat down on his bed, his gray face wrought with emotion.
are you?" he screamed at the little man.
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.
am someone you shut away all those years ago," the little man
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. Remorsehe had never known it before.
are my damned conscience!" he screamed, all at once realizing
precisely what he was experiencing
* * *
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.
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.
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