The bike screeched to a halt on a well-worn path that cut through the fringes of a wooded area. A place that contained a large house that had been built by its owner as a kind of retreat.
However, as Jake Dermot looked at the structure, now derelict and looking like it would collapse in on itself in a gust of wind or tumble down if one more thing was removed, like a precarious game of jenga, he knew it was time to explore.
He believed he was the bravest kid in school. At twelve, he had already been smoking for two years, influenced by a father who didn’t care. A father who accidentally brought Jake into this world. The type who will never have what it takes to look after a child. The kind that grows old but never grows up. The type who smokes, swears and argues in front of children because they haven’t matured themselves, who bring children into this world and can’t look after them. So Jake simply copied him and his friends who were the same as his father. Couldn’t take any responsibility, just smoked cannabis and drank and watched the ‘footie’ and boxing, and ‘ain’t no kid’ gonna stop them living that limited lifestyle.
His mother was kind of similar and just shrugged her shoulders at the father because that’s just who he was, and with four brothers and one sister, her attention to him was kind of limited. There wasn’t much by way of affection in his household. Simply convenience. Although money was always an issue, his father always seemed to have some, because Jake knew he wasn’t always obeying the law.
So he was already showing signs of ‘becoming’ like his parent and his friends. Jake’s friends at school had similar fathers, and were usually the disruptive ones in class. The bullies. The ones who threw things around the classroom. Who told the teachers to fuck off, ‘cos’ like, why the fuck do you need to learn algebra?
Why learn stuff you’re never going to use? Why go to music class if you’re never going to be a musician? What was the point of learning history? So Jake would play truant a lot and ride his bike around the town. Sometimes his friends would join him, but sometimes they would stay in school for various reasons and he would ‘bunk-off’ alone.
Today was one of those days. An afternoon of double music followed by double geography. Fuck that. It was bike riding time. His parents didn’t care when he came home during school hours.
He rode along a forest path he had ridden plenty of times before but the thought of breaking and entering the old house had hardly occurred to him much as he usually whizzed past it on his bike, and when the thought did occur to him occasionally he guessed it would be better with his friends, but today, the house loomed about forty metres away as if goading him.
So because he was the bravest kid in class, probably in town, breaking and entering could come easy to him, even though he had never actually broken and entered anywhere illegally.
However, he didn’t need to break in, because the front door was open.
The house basically looked like an ordinary detached house you would find in an upmarket residential area, except for the fact it was more than twice the size with added rooms. Three lounges and two garages, all to feed the ego of one man, business magnate Sir George Durant who made his fortune in fabrics who would boost his vast profits by inserting hidden fees in contracts to wholesalers and was a master of persuasion of misleading offers.
He had this house built as a place to wind down, a getaway, but spent a lot of time close to his work, and would rent posh accommodation close to the factories he oversaw. So this was a kind of holiday retreat, only him living there. No marriage, no children, work work work, the time when workaholics experience some ‘down-time’, when they think of holidays and breaks, and building houses on the outskirts of woods for when work became overwhelming or to take a breather.
Yet, when he wasn’t at the factories, or in meetings, or in his offices, he would always be thinking of work. A workaholic brain seemed to operate at a high percentage. Sometimes it was perhaps at 95%, sometimes 99%, and that extra space at the end was what cried out for leisure time, what tried to give him a break, and sometimes won out, would get him to build retreats, to take holidays in Spain, but the consuming nature of a workaholic would strain to overwhelm, and back to 99% it would go, and stay there a while, maybe years, because he could not just ‘switch-off’, unlike an employee who couldn’t wait to switch off the second the clock struck knocking off time. A businessman’s brain was set in stone, the 1% occasionally making itself known, until it bowed down defeated, rarely used.
Business and profit was his whole existence, until the curious eye of one of his own workers in the accounts department noticed those fees within the contracts to buyers and saw something wasn’t quite right. He was the kind of person you could call a ‘jobsworth’, and he showed his findings to others in the department, and they all took it to solicitors to find they had a case, a case for corruption, and George’s empire came crumbling down. Someone even set fire to a section of one of his factories but it was put out before the whole building was ablaze, but expensive fabrics went up in smoke.
His reputation was shot. It was all very well having plenty of money, but you cannot buy people’s trust. It has to be earned. So he was cast out. A pariah. Just another corrupt businessman.
He retired to this house, and nobody ever saw him again, because nobody cared to come looking.
Was that a butterfly inside Jake’s stomach, flapping around? A slight inkling of fear. Fear of what? Of the whole place collapsing, or was it occupied? By who or what?
Still, a brave kid overrides that, and nobody need know, so he walked his bike to the entrance and went up three creaking wooden steps and entered the musty hallway which had been ripped of seemingly everything. Even the wallpaper had been torn in places. There was no carpet, only a carpet of dust with old footprints. Some of which led across to beside the stairs where there was an open door.
As the place was fairly big, he knew he could start exploring anywhere, but the cellar seemed to be of the most appeal, so he passed other open doorways into large empty rooms. It seemed to be a placed that had been explored plenty of times before, torn of everything that could be moved. A skeleton of a house.
Except that was, when he entered the cellar.
Down there though, it was dark. Seemingly darker than any midnight, but where he stood there was a grubby light-switch in the gloom. A light-switch that worked.
In the cellar, one solitary bulb gave out weak 40watt light as if at any second it would give up.
From his vantage point he could see lots of things glinting, but nothing could be made out, so he slowly walked down the straining cracking wooden steps until he stood on the last one and surveyed the carnage before him.
There were wine-racks, some with full bottles still in them, but most of the rest was smashed on the floor, literally carpeting the place in glass.
Amongst it all, about five metres in front of him, he noticed there lay shiny, seemingly new knife and fork.
As he had on his black synthetic leather school shoes which had durable soles he walked down onto the glass and stood in the middle where he also discovered something he had not seen from the vantage point of the stairs.
There was a corpse.
It looked like it had been there years, as it was basically a skeleton with transparent skin stretched over it.
He wasn’t scared, and his first instinct was not to run, but to simply stare at it, wondering who it was and why they were there. The corpse wore shredded clothes, stained with blood long since dried.
Strange, he thought, as the door to the cellar slammed shut.
Panic fired through him and he dashed to the entrance to find it locked up tight. He banged and shouted and kicked, but all to no avail, until he tired himself out and resigned himself to the fact that he was locked down there.
As he slowly crunched his way across, back to the corpse, he picked up the knife and fork and looked at them in the sickly light.
A strange yearning and compulsion came over him, and although knowing he was locked in, even if the door opened he would stay, because he wanted to, and looked down at the corpse of Sir George Durant, who in a maniacal frenzy smashed the place up and ripped the glass into himself as the realization of his fallen empire hit him, and Jake sensed he was here somewhere in spirit.
He lifted up the knife and fork before him.
George knew he was coming, and was still bitter, still had to take out his frustration even on people. Why must he suffer alone?
Yet it seemed to Jake that he wanted to use the utensils, and smiled at them, because he knew why they were here, and what they were for.
He was going to eat himself.