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UKArchive ID: 4733Never so quietly by thegeeza
Originally published on February 6, 2004 in Picks

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There is a fine line.

May cause offence.
2,391 words.





TheGeeza


I remember coming in from the garden and walking into the lounge. I’d kicked my boots off by the back door but my coat was still on; winter was fast approaching. The curtains were fluttering in the wide open window and the log-effect fire was on full. It didn’t make sense. I could hear only silence. She was putting the children to bed, but never so quietly. The floorboards didn’t creak and the little squeals and hushed voices were not there.



I walked into the hallway and listened. Again, there was nothing. I looked in the kitchen and saw two mugs waiting to hold our tea, for our time – after the kids had gone to sleep. I moved up a couple of stairs and listened again. Something stirred and I heard footsteps above. A large body appeared at the top and started stumbling towards me. It stopped and I saw its mad eyes. I saw the blood on its hands, streaking patterns onto the walls before it froze and caught me in its gaze. My breath stuck in my throat and left me all at once as the dark figure tumbled forward and cuffed me, so that I stumbled backwards to the wall. I saw it stop by the front room and look inside, before it yanked open the front door. The door slammed shut and the knocker bounced a couple of times, as if the gas man had called to read the meter.



I could see the red marks on the wall; the fading light made it look like oil had been smeared there. It was streaking downwards. I had to force myself to breathe before I could stand on my shaky legs. I couldn’t decide whether to move to the telephone or towards the deafening silence. I tore up the stairs and ran into my bedroom.



Nothing can ever prepare a man for that: hell had come to show its wares. My wife lay in the centre of the bed, naked bar a torn t-shirt. Her legs were pulled apart at inhuman angles and her skin had small white patches amongst the red. My baby daughter was by her side; my wife’s hand cradled the baby’s head and covered her eyes. They were two husks with their insides all leaked out. A tornado had ripped around the room and smashed everything to pieces.



I ran into the boy’s room. Both blinked back at me when I pulled back the covers. They would not move, they would not talk.









They came and took us away to the police station. A doctor examined us. They brought Karen’s parents to the station to take the children. Brian didn’t say anything, he put his hand behind Robert’s head and led him away. Margaret put her arms around me, but she felt cold. The detective told me it was procedure, that they had to put me in a room and record our conversation. They said it was best to do it straight away whilst it was still fresh in my mind. “Fresh in your mind” they said. It’s always fresh in my mind, every minute of every day. They asked me if I wanted legal council. They said they were required to offer it. I couldn’t understand what I would want a lawyer for. They said it was just procedure. I was part of a procedure - to be pushed this way and that, according to the rules set down by my fellow man in our civilised society. I told them I had nothing to hide; they said they didn’t think I had, but they had to give me the option.



I told them what happened, it didn’t take more than two minutes. They asked me questions. They asked me why I didn’t try and stop him: I said it happened too fast. They looked at one another. They asked me why I had blood on my neck: I told them that was where the intruder had hit me. They asked me why there was so much blood: I said I didn’t know. They asked me if Karen and I were having problems: “not any more than anyone else,” I told them. They asked me to explain that: I told them I couldn’t, that it was life, just life.



They told me not to leave the country and that they may have more questions. I told them I had no plans to go anywhere. I asked them what had happened to my wife. They said she had been taken to hospital. A policewoman sat with me and tried to say some nice things. I told her I would go to Karen’s parents, to get the children. She said the scenes of crime people would need the house for a while and that when they had finished, some other people would clean the house before I could go back.



I went to the children, but they had been put to bed. Margaret put a duvet on the settee. Brian sat with a steaming mug and wouldn’t look at me. He gave one word answers. He never thought I was man enough for his daughter and now I’d proved it. Over a period of time, Margaret kept asking me whether I had heard anything from the garden; she said I might have thought it was a fox screaming, but had I heard anything? Anything at all? I told her I had heard nothing, over and over; I knew all these questions were from Brian.



They told me about two weeks later that the house was ready. It had been cleaned and I could move back in. The welfare people told me it might be better to let the kids stay with their grandparents until I felt I could cope and had set things straight.



I let myself back in the house and it looked normal. I could smell detergent in the air. I saw the phone that I had picked up with my bloody hand. I turned it over and over, and have done many times since, looking for traces of blood or something to connect it with that night. I stood at the bottom of the stairs and saw the intruder again, the place I had fallen and I felt the same uselessness gripping me. The incessant feelings gnawed: why didn’t I ignore the leaves and come in earlier? Why didn’t I forget the damn garden that day? Why couldn’t I have been indoors when he climbed in? Why my house? If I could just go back in time, just once, I could go back to that day and close that window. That bastard window.



I stopped on the stairs where blood had skidded around the corner. I could see that the wallpaper was lighter in colour, where it had been scrubbed. I can still see it today – like a negative darkness, showing up too bright. I changed the wallpaper, but it’s imprinted in my mind. For a long time after, I would find faded splashes on the base of our bed, and would work them off with a soapy brush. I turned our drawers upside-down to see if I could find any traces of her. I tore the wallpaper from the wall, replaced the skirting boards, smashed the mirror; I changed the bedroom completely. The rest of the house followed. Then I sold it and bought a flat. The children have stopped with their grandparents these last five years, whilst I’m setting things straight.



They thought I had done it. They suggested the semen they found belonged to a lover and that I was a jealous and murderous husband. They told me they had found out about my temper. Everyone has a temper, don’t they?



One day they brought me in and everything had changed. They sat me down in a nice room without a tape recorder and told me they had caught my wife’s killer. He was a drug addict and had admitted everything. The semen confirmed his story.



Within six months, I sat in a court room with the man that took away my life. He sat awkwardly in a suit and fidgeted with his hands. I couldn’t look at him at first, but then I started to stare at him. He wouldn’t look at me. His wife and mother were there to support him; they clenched their fists for him; they spoke for him – he had “come off the gear”, he “was a good boy”, it “wasn’t him – he didn’t know what he was doing”. He looked at me for the first time to beg forgiveness; he cried on the stand and said he couldn’t understand how he had managed to do such things. He dropped to his knees and sobbed. Some medical staff had to help him. They delayed the trial until he was well enough to carry on.



I remember sitting there, as these people stood around with their crazy wigs and argued about whether he should be punished because the drugs had possessed him. The man who had butchered and raped my wife, who had killed my baby daughter, sat a few feet from me and listened to the same voices that I listened to, breathed the same air I breathed and sent words from his mouth to my ears. I wanted to jump from my chair and batter him with my bare hands, I wanted his wife to see the red fluid that would spew from him, the remarkable elixir that keeps us alive, but leaks so easily and in such huge amounts. I felt the nails hammered through my wrists and ankles, binding me to the chair so that I couldn’t move.



The judge gave him ten years for manslaughter. His mother jumped up and pleaded. His wife shouted “what about my kids?” I stood and replied, “what about mine?” They looked at me for a second, then turned back to the judge. People shouted and there was chaos. They took me out, there were people everywhere. I tried to answer questions as the cameras flashed. That was that.









Now I’m here and I’m waiting. They’re releasing him today. He has been cured and his rehabilitation is complete. His sins have been expunged by his five years of incarceration. Less than two thousands days, six thousand meals and two hundred and fifty bed changes later, he is forgiven and ready to rejoin society. I look at my life and I decide this is not justice. They’ve told me to move on – get on with your life – they say. My wife grew up from nothing and went through all the trials thrown her way, she brought new life into the world – and this man took it all away in a flurry of hate. A parent is something you don’t appreciate: they are always there, guiding, consistent – it’s unconditional and unnoticed – they are part of you. It was gone in the time it took to fill a garden bag with leaves.



I parked the car here yesterday. I haven’t slept since. The man at the prison told me they would not set an exact time. John Roberts would leave the prison and be given a new life somewhere away from media attention. It would be a new beginning. I told him I would rip my knife into him and watch him bleed all over the pavement; I told him that it is truly amazing how much blood is inside us and how delicate the shells are that keep it swimming around our bodies. He told me that John Roberts deserved it and he wished me the best.



I’m like a coiled spring, ready to get across the road and take revenge. My heart is pumping the red chemicals around my body, feeding my muscles and boiling in my veins. I want to kill him. I want to cut his skin open like a ripe fruit and watch the insides turn out into the street and run into the gutter. I want to see his face choke on the hope for a new beginning.



The door opens and I see him. I see the man from the courtroom. I see the bag over his shoulder. I see him nodding to the prison people, before they close the door. I see him look up at the grey sky. I see him look around. I see him walk to the pavement and stop to watch the cars move back and forth.



I reach down and pull the handle. It clunks and the door gives, opening slightly.



My hands are shaking; I look down and see how white they are. The blood has flowed to my boots. I feel heavy. My heart bounces around its empty chamber, breaking small pieces from the delicate walls; they scratch and stab. I feel someone sitting on me: their legs and arms on top of mine, their hands hold my wrist steady and I cannot move.



I watch the man kneel down as a small child whizzes through the people walking by. He stands up and lifts the child in the air. I can see the hands squeeze into fists as the child disappears into the depths of the man. A woman walks to them and they are all together; he bends down to a small girl. She looks shy. He ruffles her hair. They slowly start walking.



It takes great effort to bend and pull the kitchen knife from under the seat. I see the dull day reflected back at me and small slices of my face in its polished surface. I run my finger along the blade and draw blood. It glistens and drips from the straight cut I have made. I see the family disappear through the bodies walking to and fro. I pull the door shut and cut off the draft.



In the rear-view mirror I catch a glimpse of the denim jacket that covers the skin that hold the bones and blood of the man that killed my family – half my family. I would like to rip the cover off and turn the man into a pile of wet horror, but I can’t and I won’t. It’s time to move on.



I put the knife back under the seat and turn the key. There are two boys that need their father.




© thegeeza (thegeeza on OLD UKA)
UKArchive ID: 4733
Archived comments for Never so quietly
Bee on 2004-02-06 03:44:17
Re: Never so quietly
Strong stuff, Steve and I guess we are not surprised to find you writing in this vein. I found it grimly fascinating but have two points to raise. Firstly I think you have enough here for a whole novel. It seems a bit rushed for such an eventful story. Secondly, the ending doesn't quite work, again maybe it's too rushed. Somehow the crazed, murderous drug addict doesn't fit with the loved family man - so this needs to be made more convincing. I'm not saying it is improbable but that in the story it doesn't quite add up. Also the man's brooding need for revenge ebbs away too suddenly.

One suggestion, if you don't write a novel, that is, is that you could focus the story on the ending and somehow weave the back story in. If you keep focused on the psychological world of the 'victim', I think this might be a winner!

Author's Reply:

e-griff on 2004-02-06 05:12:33
Re: Never so quietly
I thought this was good, but not brilliant, maybe for the reasons Bee describes.

I also felt the writing was a bit dodgy at the beginning, especially around the phrase which is the title, which IMO just did not fit in the text....

Author's Reply:

SmirkingDervish on 2004-02-06 05:54:46
Re: Never so quietly
There are similarities in this story to my 'Evil Spirits' one just published. Just thought I'd mention that as a bit of self-promotion 🙂

As for the story itself, the imagery is very strong, especially the line "Her legs were pulled apart at inhuman angles". Ouchio.

One thing I'd suggest taking a look at is the disappearance of his sons halfway through the story. They don't get another mention, and I think working on that would perhaps strengthen the readers interpretation of the ending.

Author's Reply:

KDR on 2004-02-06 06:19:57
Re: Never so quietly
Most of this contains a raw edge, but I would have to agree that in the end, the rage and desire for revenge seems to drain rather too quickly.
I don't think for a minute that he would have actually killed Roberts...maybe the intent would have still been there, but when push came to shove, he would simply have broken down and let Roberts and his family walk away.
Again, five years is a relatively long time; would Roberts' wife have waited for him that long, or would she have moved on 'because of the kids'?

I don't really know whether to agree with Bee's opinion that this could be expanded into a novel or not. Certainly, the central theme could have the legs for it, and there would be more scope to examine the relationship the central character actually had with his wife, kids and in-laws - especially given that he had 'a temper'. There would also be more room for more about the aftermath in his personal and professional lives.
On the other hand, though, this works - for me - as it is, simply because it is so black-and-white. There are no complications to bear in mind; it's easier to feel for him here than it might be if you knew that he was a drunk, or womaniser, or that he had a history of violence.

I think it was e-griff that said this was good, but not brilliant - or something to that effect. Again, I'm caught between the two. It's not brilliant, but then again, it's something better than merely good.
It's certainly strong, definitely dark and grim...yet it was also compelling.
Sorry to be so vague, but I hope you see the points I've been trying to make and that they help.

Karl

Author's Reply:

TheGeeza on 2004-02-06 07:14:31
Re: Never so quietly
Thanks, Bee.
I think if it were expanded out too much more, it may just become too grim?
It wasn't rushed in the sense of bang it down and getting it out - but I wanted the scene at the beginning - then I wanted to move quickly to the ending. Perhaps it didn't set the character up enough and does need something in the middle ... I shall ponder - thanks for the comment, as always!
This was motivated from two things. I've gotten spooked a couple of times with unexpectedly open windows - and that stuck in my mind - plus, someone I've met and was fairly charming had attacked someone and almost beat them to death, under the influence of drugs. I wanted to try and recreate that sense of difference between normal and "drugged".
Perhaps I do need to consider the "make a story" element here, in contrast to its motivating factors.
Thanks. Food for thought.


Author's Reply:

TheGeeza on 2004-02-06 07:16:27
Re: Never so quietly
Hmmm. Yes. The title was originally "blood". The text "Never so quietly" was in the original text and it stuck in my mind. Perhaps I may change.
Thanks, John.
Steve.


Author's Reply:

TheGeeza on 2004-02-06 07:18:40
Re: Never so quietly
Thanks, SD. I shall look at your story later today or at the weekend.
The sons disappeared as he'd left them with his in-laws and felt he couldn't reclaim them. I was hoping the end might resolve that.
As Bee says, if I expanded out the middle, this part could be further explored. I probably left too much for the reader to make up themselves!
Thanks,
Steve.


Author's Reply:

TheGeeza on 2004-02-06 08:09:08
Re: Never so quietly
Karl,
Yes, it does drain too quickly. As per my other comment, I perhaps took it at too fast a pace. I didn't want it to become too grim - hence the speed / patchy middle. Much more and folks may have been reaching for the valium or fire water!
Glad it worked for you.
Thanks,
Steve.


Author's Reply:

Penprince on 2004-02-06 10:35:13
Re: Never so quietly
Excellent control..and great development of a story..I am looking forward for revisions..though..

Author's Reply:

ruadh on 2004-02-06 16:03:15
Re: Never so quietly
I read this with a knot in my stomach. I agree it has great potential and look forward to seeing what you do with it.

ailsa

Author's Reply:

emmy on 2004-02-06 17:12:24
Re: Never so quietly
Is heavy stuff and I want to say I enjoyed this piece but that seems to be the wrong word. It made me feel uncomfortable. The description brought alive for me memories and feeling of a brutal incident that I was unfortunate to witness. How your character felt, the fear and the process of letting go were very apt. I feel that any piece that can evoke Emotion in its reader whether good or bad,obviously counts a lot in my book, well done.




Author's Reply:

TheGeeza on 2004-02-06 17:29:58
Re: Never so quietly
Thanks, Penprince.


Author's Reply:

TheGeeza on 2004-02-06 17:30:30
Re: Never so quietly
Thanks, Ailsa.


Author's Reply:

TheGeeza on 2004-02-06 17:32:50
Re: Never so quietly
I'm glad it made you feel uncomfortable - if you see what I mean!
As I said in a previous comment - I was thinking of 2 things from my own experience/knowledge with this.
Thanks for taking the time to comment.


Author's Reply:

shackleton on 2004-02-07 14:12:03
Re: Never so quietly
Hi Geeza. Enthralling, gripping read which I 'enjoyed' very much. I actually agree with previous comments concerning a rushing of the story in places - I think it would work even better if it were at least twice as long - taking on board the previous comments. Good read - a touch of 'difference' about it.

Author's Reply:

islathorne on 2004-02-07 15:01:53
Re: Never so quietly
Hi, I really liked your story a lot, the only thing I would say would be to change the first bit - 'I remember coming in from the garden' I think that because for me when I read it - it is not convincing in that you were only in the garden while this monstrosity occured. Other than that I think it is very good, and a really good read. :0) isla.

Author's Reply:

Gee on 2004-02-07 15:16:21
Re: Never so quietly
I found this to be a very compelling and well written story. The final part did seem to be a little rushed compared to the rest of it and the change of heart a little abrupt. Perhaps if he saw something in the child that reminded him of his children it might not have seemed quite so abrupt?


Author's Reply:

TheGeeza on 2004-02-07 17:46:10
Re: Never so quietly
Thanks, Shackleton. Glad you liked it.


Author's Reply:

TheGeeza on 2004-02-07 17:50:33
Re: Never so quietly
I had him (it wasn't me - thankfully! lol) in the garden because one time, I came in from the garden and the door was open unexpectedly - and it spooked me for no good reason. Plus, if you are in the garden - and you can't hear inside the house ...
Glad you liked it and thanks for your comment!
Steve.



Author's Reply:

TheGeeza on 2004-02-07 17:53:21
Re: Never so quietly
Hi Gee,
I think you might be right there. I tried to suggest it was the children that changed his mind - but perhaps not enough.
Thanks for your comment.


Author's Reply:

Claire on 2004-02-08 12:10:28
Re: Never so quietly
HI there. I agree with a few of the previous comments, especially the ending.

But I must disagree with some of the comments as well.

If any of the previous comments know what drugs can do to a person, than it is possible (and has happened) one day the person is fine but the next the person is insane. This would be the reason why the murderers wife stuck by him. Is love simply not enough? Yes, he had a problem, but she would believe it was the drugs that made him do such a horrible thing. She would see the good in him. Unlike most people. That will be more than enough for her to hang around for five years. I've known couples who have waited longer!

And I can believe that he is only in the garden when it happens. Most deaths are done close to home with someone close by who never hears a thing. Readers will think how did he not hear any screams - maybe she had something in her mouth and the boys were to afraid to scream. A plane passes by which muffles the noise. He was wearing headphones, singing to himself. Any of these is possible.

Sorry this is a bit long.

I think this is great. But could be much better with some of the previous comments advice threw in.

Author's Reply:

TheGeeza on 2004-02-08 14:25:43
Re: Never so quietly
Hi Claire,
Thanks, I agree with all you said.
I met this guy once - a friend of my wife's family - he had beaten some guy (accompanied by others) to within an inch of the guy's life to steal Xmas presents that the guy was taking home to his children (sounds like the plot of a bad story?). I found this out afterwards. He was on drugs at the time. When I met him, he was a nice bloke, played with my son ... unbelievable contrast. He said himself (and no defence) that he couldn't believe what he'd done and he thought he deserved more jail time than he had - which added up to 2 or 3 years (or something).
As for noise/screams. Apparently some victims don't scream - thinking the incident might go away or calm down if they lie still - probably particularly more so if a child is there? Out in my garden, I probably wouldn't hear screaming from the bedrooms at the front of the house - or would think it was someone messing about.
Thanks for taking the time to comment!
Steve.


Author's Reply:

spacegirl on 2004-02-10 15:22:17
Re: Never so quietly
I think at the end he does at least have to confront the guy before he decides it's not worth stabbing him and maybe the angst of him not having his sons with him needs to be explored. I think the idea is good enough for a novel, but then you'd need to develop the characters. I wasn't sure about the title as well

I did like him being in the garden because it leaves room for doubt. It was only after I'd finished that I was convinced it wasn't him.

Author's Reply:

TheGeeza on 2004-02-10 15:33:56
Re: Never so quietly
Thanks, SG.

Agree re: the angst and character development - I was just conscious of not having a long and grim tale for you lot to sit through!

I think part of the reason he doesn't confront the guy is that, when the chips are down, he freezes - as proven when the intruder is in his house. That and the guy's kids in the street. Of course, all subjective!

The title: yeah - the original title was "Blood" - perhaps I should have kept that. I changed the title when I read that phrase in the story itself and thought it captured something simple but important.

I did have a thought about perhaps suggesting he might have done it - but with the court case, I thought it wasn't too feasible to push that.

Thanks for your comments, Rose.
Steve.


Author's Reply:

kenochi on 2004-02-11 05:55:36
Re: Never so quietly
Hi Steve,

just found this. This one didn't work that well for me. I found the writing a bit awkward and deliberate for most of it, you only seemed to ease up into your usual readable style in the last section. Perhaps you were cramming too much information into too few words, but it felt like I was being told stuff rather than being shown it.
I also don't know how many attacks of this nature are carried out by family men. I did criminology at uni (a fair old time ago) and I think you'll find that the vast majority of drug related crime is money motivated and doesn't involve sexual assault and murder. The sort of person that would do that would be psychotic anyway, with the drugs just acting as a trigger, in which case he would be unlikely to be married with kids. From my point of view it would work better if the main character was an art or antique collector or something and the criminal was trying to nick something from the house, the wife and kids got caught up in it and were killed that way (or something like that, with none of the drugs business). At the moment, this doesn't really ring true.

take it easy,

mark

Author's Reply:

Bradene on 2004-02-12 16:43:11
Re: Never so quietly
I found this an impressive piece of writing that had me enthralled from start to finish, one of the best short stories I've read in a long time. Thanks. Regards Val xx

Author's Reply:

TheGeeza on 2004-02-13 07:29:21
Re: Never so quietly
Thanks, Val. Glad you liked it and made it one of your "hot stories".
Steve.

Author's Reply: