“Hey Bobby. Over here” A voice whispered, cutting through the darkness of the upstairs office startling young Bobby Henson out of his hiding place under the desk.
“Who said that?” He asked aloud, suddenly cursing himself – as good as any eight year old can curse himself – that he hadn’t put the light on when he picked his hiding place. There weren’t any windows other than the ones that looked outside, and his litter sister Elaine would never even look twice at the rectangle of light that surrounded the top of the door like a halo.
She was only five after all. Normally he would never have played with her, at least not out of choice, but today it was raining and they had been dumped at their grandparent’s house for the weekend while their parents went away for a second honeymoon. Whatever that was he didn’t know. Except that the hotel where they were staying didn’t accept children – or pets, which was why Scabs their golden retriever had come with them. It was the first time he had ever gone to their grandparents, and he had spent most of the day crapping on the floor. Which had thus relegated Bobby to playing with his sister, and when it got dark he was sure to jump out from somewhere and scare her, maybe make her cry, but until then playing with her would have to do.
He looked at his watch, not that he could tell the time very well, but he knew that he had been hiding forever, at least three minutes and now he was bored.
“Don’t worry Bobby. I’ve got something for us to do.” The voice spoke to him again.
Bobby wanted to scream, but he was a big kid now, and he wasn’t going to cry because someone was speaking to him. It was probably the maid cleaning the room next door, the guest bedroom, the one that him and Elaine weren’t using that was.
“Who said that?” Bobby spoke quietly, his voice mousy and high pitched, he could feel his skin begin to prickle and his hands became sweaty. He crawled out from under the desk and stood up. Facing the door, waiting for someone to open it. Anybody, it didn’t matter who as long as it wasn’t what he saw in his mind.
“Behind you” The voice whispered, it was weak and rasping. Bobby began to turn, there was no way that anybody else was in the study with him, he had closed the door when he came in.
Facing the desk he found that he had his eyes closed, and as he slowly began to spread his fingers apart. Cracks of dim gloomy vision were made available to his eyes, he felt for the first time his testicles begin to tingle, the way his hand would if he waved it in front of the TV as soon as it was turned off.
“Boo” The voice sounded, suddenly; springing over the desk towards him like a lion finally charging the gazelle it has been so patiently watching. Waiting for the most vulnerable moment to strike.
It was then that it came into view; Bobby finally saw it, the skull that was sitting on his grandfather’s desk, the stupid toy skull that his grandfather used as a paperweight. He had seen it many times before, he had held it and used it on more than one occasion to scare Elaine, but now it seemed different.
Bobby took a step backwards, he didn’t know why, but he hated the skull. It was too large, its empty eye sockets, deep holes of nothing, there was nothing behind them, nothing inside beneath the bone – or plastic as he was sure it was.
“Are you ready to come and play with me?” The severed appendage talked to him, the voice whispering through the shadows. It was dark now in the office, the light had gone from the world. The clouds had thickened; a storm was coming from somewhere. Bobby could feel it.
“Bobby. Come play with me?” The thing hissed from the desk, before it suddenly sprang into the air, a long shot of dust flew from its aged mouth like a cloud of dust blowing from some old find buried and lost in the attic.
Bobby tried to scream, but found his mouth wouldn’t open, he watched as the skull hovered above the desk, and a deep blue glow began to burn in the centre of the eye sockets.
“Come join me Bobby, we can do anything we want. All those things you want to do, we could do it. I can help you.” A voice spoke, a new voice, this one soothing. It held the Bobby’s attention firm and his penis at full attention. The eyes began to pulse, slowly and gently at first, so small in fact that Bobby didn’t notice, not until his attention was held in such a firm grip that he couldn’t have walked away. Not that he wanted to. The Skull was showing him lots of things. Things he would have never considered before.
He saw his schoolteacher Miss Fletcher, she wasn’t old like the other teachers at his school, who were all over thirty, she was only twenty-two she had told him once when he asked her after class. He secretly thought he was in love with her, but he wouldn’t tell any of his friends, because girls were ‘yucky’ and they would only laugh at him. But now the skull was showing him what he could do, what could happen between him and Miss Fletcher, the things they could do, and between his legs he felt his penis begin to twitch, his legs got shaky and his stomach hot. He could see Miss Fletcher well, the top of her head at least, she was moving it about backwards and forwards, in small jerky movements, but before too long the image faded, the image disappeared and was replaced by another one. Not as nice. It was Charles Seeton, he was two years above Bobby and was the big bully of the school. Most days he would wait outside the gates to steal people’s lunch, the good stuff anyway.
Bobby never had a good lunch, and so he always got a foot and a fist to start his day. What he saw now was like nothing else, but he could still feel Miss Fletcher, could still see her head moving, and when the fist came into his stomach, he doubled over, but it wasn’t in pain. It felt like someone was tickling him, tickling him the way it felt on the soles of his feet.
“Let me show you Bobby. Let me help you.” It was Miss Fletchers voice, Jennie, only it wasn’t her speaking, he knew that, but he let it in, he let the voice take over again. He stood up straight, facing the desk in his grandfathers study, but instead of seeing the near empty desk and old worn leather chair the other side though the murky seawater atmosphere gifted to him that wintry day, he saw the bully, he felt the girl, his teacher, in school, in life and in his dreams.
Bobby stood up straight, he felt stronger, more powerful, he felt bigger, it was as though he had aged in years instead of seconds – a measurement of aged seldom used, and for good reason, unless it was related to a birthday and the presents it would bring – he saw the next punch coming, and he ducked. He actually ducked out of the way. The feeling in his stomach began to grow, like butterflies before a test, he stepped to the side, his heart beating like a herd of stampeding horses, the blood rushing around his body so fast he could hear it the way he could sometimes hear the stream at the bottom of his garden flowing when there had been a lot of rain. Charlie pulled his fist back to throw another punch, and as he moved forwards, Bobby felt everything slow down, apart from him, and he threw his own arm forward, in more of a slap than anything else, the way a girl would swat at a wasp in the summertime, but he saw his hand was holding something, something that glinted in the air and made a whooshing sound both as it cut through the air and then through the skin of Charles Seeton’s throat, slicing with the smallest of force behind it clean across his throat, slicing his what would have been prominent Adam’s apple in two before coming out the other side. Thick red blood, which looked like ketchup, as Bobby had never seen a lot of real blood before began to dribble from the wound in a thick flowing blob, rolling down his chest like lava down a hillside. Nothing could stop it, and as Charles raised his hands to try and stop the bleeding Bobby felt his stomach begin to cramp and his leg twitch. His mind was awash with thoughts and happiness.
His first orgasm was to the thought of cutting off the bullies face while getting head from his teacher.
“Yes, Yes” A voice began to repeat, saying the word over and over again in a rasping dark tone that made Bobby shudder, the spell was broken and his attention returned to the study. He was standing leaning against the desk now, staring directly into the eyes of the skull, which fell back to the desk with a clatter. Rolling on his base for a while the way a basketball will ring the hoop. It couldn’t decide if it wanted to topple over and possibly roll onto the floor, or remain perched where it was.
“Bobby, are you in here?” He heard a familiar voice call, but it was heard through a haze, as if the darkness was somehow dampening the sound quality of the room. “Bobby” The voice called again, it was his grandfather.
Bobby shook his head, he felt as if he was waking up from a long and deep sleep. The first thing he noticed was that it was pitch black around him, and that it had stopped raining. He could no longer hear the drops falling fat and heavy against the glass windows that looked out onto a long garden with several flowerbeds and fruit trees. Only now they were covered in darkness, tucked away for the night under the blanket that is night.
The door to the study burst open, as if kicked from the other side, the latch which had somehow been locked shut splintered through the wood of the frame with a grand crash and the door handle embedded itself in the wall behind. Bobby grandfather came sweeping into the room, defying his age and swept Bobby up into his arms, throwing him over his shoulder in a fireman’s lift and almost ran with him out of the room, not stopping until they were at the other end of the long corridor outside the master bathroom.
“Are you ok?” The grandfather asked, his voice filled with genuine concern and a look of absolute terror on his wrinkled face. Two things that Bobby had never seen before, but he was too preoccupied to notice what was going on around him.
“I’ve found him, you can call off the search,” The grandfather yelled, his voice back to its grumpy and argumentative self. Yet when he spoke to Bobby again, it was tender, his hands felling his face as if he was an antique being checked for damage before purchase. “What were you doing in there Bobby? Tell me, what were you doing?” He asked him hurried, his eyes glancing around nervously as they both heard the footsteps begin to rush up the stairs.
A few seconds later, before Bobby was able to answer his grandfathers question his Gran appeared, all 100 kilos of her blubbering body, which at only 5 foot 3 was an impressive sight to see.
She waddled up along to him, her jowls flapping as she moved like misplaced Baywatch assets. “What happened, where were you?” She asked sternly, the incident obviously not affecting her in the same way it had her husband.
“He’s fine for goodness sake,” Bobby’s grandfather answered before he had a chance to even think about what he was going to say. He knew she wouldn’t believe him about the skull, and part of him didn’t want to share the secret, he still felt like he was flying inside, and he didn’t want to have to share it with anyone. Especially not his Gran, who if he was honest scared him more than the dark study ever had. “He just fell asleep in my study that’s all. I found him snoring his head off under the desk.” The lie continued and thickened before Bobby’s very eyes.
“Really, what were you doing in there?” She asked Bobby accusingly, he wasn’t allowed in many rooms of the house, because children made things untidy, and his grandmother preferred to have a house that looked pristine and cold than cosy and lived in any day of the week.
Bobby looked up at her, suddenly feeling very short, he looked up and all he really saw was her bulbous stomach quivering from the short dash she had made, which would no doubt mean she would have to lie down on the sofa with a gin and tonic, well at least the gin part.
“I don’t want to know. But you’re alright and that’s the main thing. I’m going to go, the adverts are damned long but not this epic. Run along and play now dear. But stay inside, its still wet out there and I don’t want to get the good towels dirty.” She turned to leave, and even almost as momentous as an oil tanker trying a three-point turn in the middle of the ocean. She started of back towards the stairs before adding over her shoulder “And stay out of the rooms, we don’t want any more mishaps. Do we” Making it sound like he had wet the bed or his trousers rather than just. . . .What was it . . .fallen asleep in the study.
He turned around and his grandfather had disappeared. He was standing along in the hallway, the lights blaring around him, reflecting off the dark coloured walls and the shiny frames encasing the various paintings and sketches that adorned the walls. Bobby often thought of his grandparent’s house as a hotel. It was big enough to be one, and it looked just like the ones he had seen on TV.
From downstairs he could hear his grandmothers soap opera begin again, he had watched it often enough with her to know what it was from the theme music. Doctor investigations. A man who was a private investigator but also worked at the local hospital as one of the top surgeons. It was horrible and unbelievable even to an eight year old. He also heard the faint clashing sounds coming from the kitchen, which meant the dinner was being prepared. They always ate late, and often he was too tired to eat what he was given. Which was fine by him, because what he was normally given tasted like feet to his slightly less sophisticated palette.
The other thing he could hear, faintly again was the sound of Elaine, she was no doubt in her bed room, it was pretty much the only room that they were allowed in unsupervised, and she had brought an entire suitcase with her filled with dolls and stubby legged ponies that didn’t really do anything, but they kept her entertained for hours.
“Bobby. Come back Bobby. I have something to show you.” The rasping voice, the voice that made Bobby think of the voice death would have if it was a person, broke free of whatever had silenced it and boomed inside his skull once again.
Bobby turned; his bare feet – he didn’t remember taking his shoes off at all – rubbed on the plush carpet leaving darker coloured swirls in the thick shag. His feet took him back towards the study, and although his mind wanted to, there was something else, something he didn’t understand yet that was telling him it would be a mistake. Yet still his feet kept moving, the feel of the carpet tickling his bare skin, firing his brain as if the material was a conductor of thoughts, a clarifier of murky waters of the mind the same way the small yellow bottle of drops cleared the water in his fish tank back home once every week.
Bobby could hear his grandfathers voice coming from the study, but it was deaf to his ears, the suddenly rage that filled him, consumed his entire emotion blocked out even the sound of his rapid beating heart. His body tensed, muscles that he had yet to start training filled with blood and swelled beneath this skin, stretching it to the point where it began to hurt. He felt powerful again, only this time he felt unstoppable. It was unlike anything he had ever experienced. His grandfather knew, he was in there now speaking to the skull. His skull, his secret, he didn’t want to share; he shouldn’t have to share it. He crept closer and closer to the floor. Crouching down and walking on his haunches, the way the Indian trackers did in the Sunday afternoon westerns he like to watch.
“How dare you. You leave him alone you hear!” His grandfather’s voice boomed now, Bobby’s auditory block suddenly clearing. He stopped dead in his tracks. – There’s a heard of buffalo just over the ridge. Don’t move or we could spook them!
He listened, he knew whom his grandfather was talking to or what he was talking to, and he really wanted to know what it had to say back. But he heard nothing.
“You leave him alone, do you understand me. I don’t care what you do with me, just leave my grandson alone, He doesn’t deserve it. He’s eight fucking years old for Christ sake. He’s a kid. Just a sweet natured kid who could really go places.” Bobby’s grandfather continued his one sided argument. “No, I wont let you.” Bobby began to creep closer to the door. He was only a few inches away now; his back had been pressed against the wall ever since he his hearing had returned. Now he was creeping like a spy, sliding along the building hidden from view but able to see it all.
Bobby leaned over and peering through a crack in the shattered doorframe. His grandfather was standing facing the desk, his arms were waving around his body, and his face looked to be a deep shade of purple. He began to pace up and down. “Fuck you” He screamed stopped suddenly.
“You want it, hey, I know what will fucking stop you. You pig whoring cunt!” And with those words, which Bobby had never heard but feared almost automatically, his grandfather whipped his belt away from his trousers and let them fall to his ankles. His legs were scrawny and looked half purpled from the masses of raised intertwining veins, each one seemed to be protruding and pulsing. “I’ll show you. I’ll teach you. Again. Then maybe this time you will listen.” The words had lost their viciousness but their sharp edge was still there. Next his grandfather pulled down his underwear and stepped closer to the desk. He paused and seemed to bounce up and down a bit, shaking his hips slightly, his head bent forward as if he had something stuck between his toes and he was trying to make out what it was.
No, It’s mine. Bobby thought, he had no idea what was going on, but he didn’t like the idea of his grandfather touching his friend. Then as Bobby watched, his eye straining to see through the small crack, he watched as his grandfather began to move his hips back and forth as though he was trying bump the desk from its place on the floor and push it closer to the wall. He kept doing this for several seconds, but to Bobby it felt like forever. Tears welled in his eyes as he heard the skull crying in pain, he could feel it. In the office, his grandfather began to growl, a guttural sound that Bobby thought sounded like a wolf. The movements stopped, and instead all Bobby heard was his grandfather’s heavy breathing and the voice in his head, which seemed to be gargling, the way he did when he finished brushing his teeth. It sounded like it was drowning. Bobby let the tears flow, he liked the way they seemed to burn against his skin, as if acid were running from his eyes.
The voice in his head gurgled quietly for a while, and then suddenly it just died, his world went silent, and Bobby realised that it wasn’t his after all; it had never belonged to him. It had been his grandfathers all along.
He heard his grandfather buckling his trousers again, and so he turned and ran for his room. Ran as if he had just been caught doing something he wasn’t supposed to do. He felt ashamed and he buried himself under his bed covers, pulling them over his head and he clamped his eyes shut to stop the tears.
A while later, his grandfather walked into the room and sat down on the side of the bed, he felt the mattress move and his small frame slide closer to the man who had taken his special thing away from him, and Bobby felt his stomach turn, not because of what he had seen, but because of what he had lost.
“It’s ok Bobby. You don’t have to worry any more. I promise.” The voice speaking now was a kind one, one filled with love and tenderness, and quite possibly a tear or two.
After a while, Bobby had no idea how long, his entire world under the covers was darkness, his grandfather left and he heard his footsteps moving away down the hall, away from Bobby and away from the study.
One potato, Two potatoes, Three potatoes Four Bobby began to count in his head and when he reached twenty five he slowly pulled the covers away. His stomach rumbled from the hunger, but he wanted to go back to the study before he went down for dinner. He could already hear Elaine’s voice calling to him from the dinning room. Followed shortly after by his grandmothers telling her not to shout at the dinner table.
Creeping slowly once more over the thick corridor floor, Bobby walked into the study and stood staring at the desk. The skull was still there, but he heard nothing, it said noting to him. Its black eyes were just that, black and empty, and the mouth seemed to be grinning, shining slick and wet in the darkness.
Bobby didn’t each much for dinner, but then again that was nothing new. He couldn’t understand how anyone could eat liver, especially dry, the only thing he did like was the vegetable, but they were cold by the time they arrived at his mouth. The conversation was quiet, nobody mentioned his disappearing act, and Elaine was busy singing to herself, their grandfather was sitting there with a look on his face that wouldn’t look out of place behind a genius level crossword puzzle, while his wife was too busy shovelling food past her grease dribbling lips to notice. Bobby watched his Gran and thought that the way her lips glistened with food reminded him of the skull upstairs, sitting there on the desktop. Dead weight now, that was all it was, and he wanted it back more than anything. He was already beginning to forget what it had given him, the images were all a blur, and that hurt his most of all. He wanted to remember, but the harder he tried the less he saw. Like the book of magic eye puzzles he had gotten for Christmas the previous year.
“Good night.” His grandmother said as they climbed down from the dinner table and headed back up to their bedrooms. Elaine stopped and dutifully gave bother her grandparent’s a kiss on the cheek. While Bobby kept walking, mulling over his thoughts.
The main thing is to stay awake He told himself.
Several hours later, he heard his grandparents making their way up the stairs, they slept at the other end of the corridor, which actually went the same length from Bobby’s room to the study again the other side before making a 90 degree left turn where it carried on for another fifteen meters or so. This was the moment Bobby was waiting for. It was his chance now. He had kept his clothes on especially; he knew that if he kept his clothes on he wouldn’t fall asleep, because they were his daytime clothes and not his pyjamas. He looked at the clock on the wall, he knew that it was midnight, and that meant they would be asleep soon. He would wait another fifteen minutes before leaving.
He walked back to his bed and reached under the pillow. He felt what he was looking for almost straight away, he had taken it just before he went up to bed, while the maid was taking clearing the table. It had been easy. He knew it would work though. He knew that the maid wouldn’t see him. It was being taken care of. Bobby may only have been eight, but he believed now that there was something other than death, if a skull could talk to him and make him so happy, then why couldn’t it help him one last time. He knew what had to be done.
Creeping along the hallway for the third time that day was the scariest moment of Bobby’s young life. The entire house looked different in the dark, even the steady deep ticking of the large grandfather clock downstairs in the hall seemed louder and more menacing, each tick a warning call to the others, and each tock was a step closer to him being found.
Only he wasn’t, he made his way slowly but surely to his grandparents bedroom, moved just as much by the fear of the dark than by his plan. His rescue. He knew now that the skull hadn’t died, it had just moved, and now with each step he took closer he could hear it again, talking to him. He could feel his balls begin to tingle and his mind swam with images of Miss Fletcher.
As he pushed the door to the master bedroom open a smile spread across his lips, and as the arc of the door widened so did his smile. By the time he had reached his grandfathers bed he looked like Alice’s Cheshire cat.
“Hey Bobby. Good to see you again. I thought I had lost you.” The voice spoke. It sounded soft again now. Hypnotic would have been the word Bobby would have used if it had been a word he knew.
“No, I knew where you were” He answered truthfully, realising as he said it that he had always known. Always.
In his sleep, Bobby’s grandfather snorted and rolled onto his back, his lids welded shut and eyes turned into the back of his head. On the other side of the room Bobby’s grandmother snored in her bed sounding like an old Ford trying to start.
Bobby turned back to the job at hand. In a few minutes nothing would matter more, he would be safe, and so he raised the long chef’s knife above his head – the one he had swiped from the kitchen before bed – and brought it crashing down with the force of an adult. The blade slid through the paper-thin flesh of his grandfather, almost slicing his shrivelled, aged heart in two. He died almost instantly; the only sound he made was a short sharp intake of breath, which was swallowed up by an almighty lumberjack snore of his grandmother.
Bobby pulled on the knife, but it was stuck buried almost up to the handle in his grandfather’s chest. His heart pounded, and the sweat, which had suddenly broken out over his young body, made his hands greasy. As greasy as its mouth Bobby thought. The idea seemed to give him strength, and with one last effort the knife came free.
With the worst part over, Bobby began to slice his way though the body, and twenty minutes later he emerged holding in his hand his grandfathers severed head. A portion of the spinal cord and nerve endings dangled loosely from the base where a torso should have been, and the skin had been sliced away amateurishly, along with the hair.
Bobby walked quickly back to his room where he closed the door and sat on his bed. He turned on the nightlight, which was still there from when he was a baby and placed the head in his lap. The expressionless face staring up at him, the eyelids still closed, the nostrils slightly flared and the mouth ajar. The lips were already starting to go blue and the tongue was now nothing more than a swollen purple mass choking the throat. Yet despite these flaws Bobby smiled his big cheesy holiday photo grin. In time it would change, the wrong bits would fall away, but until then he knew at leas that this skull would be his own. He didn’t have to share it with anyone.
Bobby rose from the bed and placed the severed head of his grandfather on the small table that was against the opposite wall. Blood still leaking from the neck joint, and there was a wet smack as the exposed flesh and nerve endings stuck to the smooth wooden surface. Bobby crawled back to bed, suddenly incredibly tired, and he fell asleep with a feeling of satisfaction and sanctuary washing over him.
* * * * * * *
Downstairs, Edith Stuteley the long serving and suffering maid of the house was deep asleep in her small bedroom hidden away from the main area of the house, when she suddenly awake with a jolt. She sat bolt upright, and strong rasping voice in her head.
“Hi Edith. Come here, I have something to show you.” It spoke, and Edith without thinking swung her feet over the edge of the bed and left her bedroom. Passing through the kitchen on her way.