Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 366 - Richard Godwin

AGENT’S DREAM - RICHARD GODWIN

‘WE KNOW OUR PROPERTIES THROUGH AND THROUGH.’

The ad grabbed me from the word go, and I found myself reaching for the phone and dialing Happy Homes.

The voice on the other end was upbeat in a sing-song maniacal way.

‘Hu-l-lo, Happey Homes, Sin-clair speaking, how may I help you?’

‘I’m calling about one of your houses.’

He ran through his repertoire and I answered his questions, making up most of the information.

When he got to the bit about a job, I paused for a few seconds before saying:

‘Freelance detective.’

‘Oh, rilly? That’s most in-teresting , Jack, I don’t think I’ve ever dealt with a detective before will you be requiring a mortgage?’

His voice reminded me of some musical or catchy little jingle, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

I looked out of the window to watch a dog being kicked by its owner while he rabbited on and made my appointment for later that afternoon.

The hotel was cramping my style and I thought that owning a place would give me just the break I needed now that I was able to do what I wanted with my life again.

It started to rain, and I watched it come down, washing the streets clean and sending everyone in doors, especially those who’d been caught out without an umbrella, although that never bothered me, I liked the unexpected element about rain. Then, later, just before I left, the sun came out.

It was a beautiful colour at that time of day, a melting reddy-orange that streaked the clouds just a little.

I thought about that song ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ and tried to remember the words all the way there on the bus, but couldn’t.

It was a long time ago that I’d last heard it, somewhere in my childhood.

I got to Acacia Avenue a few minutes before Sinclair was due to arrive and took a walk around.

I was wearing the new suit, which I thought made me look professional. It was a little tight and I’d even bought a tie, a coloured one with patterns of boats on it.

The neighbourhood was a good one, a far cry from the council estate I had known growing up. That was before my mother od’d and they took me to the home which burnt down. But that was all a long time ago and I just decided to stop thinking about it, because I could feel something rising in me like a snake.

I passed a mother with a baby in a pram and she smiled at me, so I just smiled right back, figuring that was what you did around here.

Her face looked hollowed out and the baby was screaming.

I walked round the block.

No syringes, no used condoms, no graffiti.

I felt respectable all of a sudden.

Sinclair was standing by his car and I spotted him a mile away.

He had agent written all over him, from his mobile phone to the property details he was clutching.

‘Mr. Steele’, he said, extending a hand.

Limp shake.

‘Shall we go in?’

He passed me a sheet.

I glanced at it and dropped it on the floor as he fumbled with the keys.

The house was real nice, all new floors and wallpaper.

I wasn’t sure I liked the design since I hadn’t known much wallpaper in my time, certainly hadn’t seen any for years, just peeling white paint and pipes where I’d been living if that’s what you could call it.

Thinking about it made me want to light up but I thought I’d better wait until I’d seen the house.

Sinclair was rabbiting on about something or other and I just tuned him out of my head like a bad radio station and looked about.

It was clean and easily big enough, and I knew I wanted it.

‘Will you be needing a mortgage, Sir?’

‘No, this is a cash purchase.’

‘Oh, rilly that’s eksellent, you’re an agent’s dream.’

‘Do you understand dreams?’

He looked at me, not knowing what to say and I could see him reach for his script.

‘Do you like the house?’

‘Yeah, I like it just fine.’

It was all happy families, kids in the nursery and cooking, real home cooking in the kitchen, not pies with weird shit in them, and I started to feel that snake whipping its tail again. So I asked to see the bathroom.

That was when it hit me.

I knew it would, it always does, somewhere in a house. I should have known it would either be the bathroom or the bedroom, since that was all that was left, and since these looked like decent folk, from what I could see from the pictures they had everywhere, smiling wife and seriously hardworking hubby, I figured it had to be the bathroom.

A click later and I was standing in it.

Bathtub, loo, some small sink thing on the floor probably for babies to wash or something and a mirror.

Sinclair had followed me in and was standing behind me as I looked at the mirror and saw his face change.

His suit started to catch fire and I saw the mark on him. Yes he was one of them all right the mark was right there all across his face and I heard it loud and clear.

Kill the fucker, cut his head off.

And his skin started to peel away like burnt paper.

I turned round quickly nearly knocking him over and made some excuse about having forgotten an appointment and could I come back again?

‘Yes, no problem, but how do you like the property?’

I left him standing in the hallway looking puzzled and ran for the bus like a greyhound who’s just seen the hare.

A couple of days later I called him. I hadn’t changed since the appointment and I smelt real bad. In fact I hadn’t been out and it was a while since I’d eaten, so I had a quick shower and went to the local caf which I liked because there was never anyone in there and it was cheap.

After a hearty fry up I fixed up a second appointment.

Then I cleaned up my room, thinking this was the chance for a new start, for the kind of life they’d told us all we could live.

I looked at the tie again and the boats sailing around on it and wondered where they were going, and then I put it on, making sure I got the knot right.

I was crossing that bridge and I could see normality beckoning on the other side, I could even taste it.

Then I looked around my room scratching my head.

There wasn’t much in it, just a chair and bed, and the small TV I’d bought, and the little picture of ducks on the wall.

But I had a funny thought all that day which I remember now clearly, that I’d forgotten something really important, you know, like the one when people say they left the gas on, or didn’t pay a bill, none of which I’ve ever known, but I just kept walking about my little room trying to remember what it was and eventually got sick of the walls moving in and out like they were breathing and so I went back to Acacia Avenue.

I hadn’t realised just how beautiful it was the first time I went there, I was probably focusing too much on all the money involved in buying a new place, but I kept telling myself that I’d just won the lottery, so it didn’t matter. I was going to throw some parties when I met some people, maybe join the freemasons, yes.

The road was immaculate and the people were so friendly, one woman passed me and said:

‘Vellcome to da neighbourhood’, and I answered her back:

‘Thank you, ma’am, I will be holding a house-warming party later this year and you are cordially invited.’

She beamed me a smile, and I adjusted my tie.

The place smelt of roses and something rotting at the middle but I just ignored the second bit and concentrated on the first.

Then I saw Sinclair again and thought what a nice fellow he was, and gave him a warm handshake.

‘Shall we have a look around, Mr. Steele?’ he said, and I just nodded and smiled at him, not feeling too bad that was not my real name.

It was a pity I couldn’t find that lottery ticket, but I knew it would turn up one day, probably still will, and anyway, it didn’t matter.

Then I was inside again.

We walked around the house and I told him how much I liked their ad in the paper.

‘Well, we do help people have happy homes,’ he said.

‘Yes. A happy home is a good place to start, but I liked reading how you know your places through and through, it’s that wording that drew me to you.’

I’d watched those programmes on the TV where they help people buy a place and I knew the script pretty good, so he never suspected.

When he got off the phone he saw me looking at a picture of the family and said:

‘Are you married, Mr. Steele?’

‘Yes.’

‘Any children?’

‘One on the way.’

‘Oh that’s lovely.’

Then we went upstairs.

That was when it started.

I knew it would.

I can always tell when a place has them.

They don’t rattle chains or wear white sheets, that’s all cartoon stuff for kiddies.

No, they always come out of the mirrors.

That’s how you can tell if a place has got them.

And I can tell you for sure, most places do. And if they don’t they will, because why would squatters stay in the street when there are empty houses?

So we kept on chatting and talking shop and I asked him how quick the people could move because I really wanted to throw that party, and he said:

‘I’ll have to check with them.’

And that was when it happened.

There was a mirror in the hallway just between the two bedrooms.

I hadn’t seen it properly the first time I went there but now it loomed out at me from the hall, almost grabbing me.

It had an ornate frame and on the edges there were clear bloodstains, deep ones like when the blood has pumped furiously out of a major artery. The blood had sprayed all over it.

Then we went into the bathroom again.

He went in first and I followed him.

And as I did I remembered what it was I had forgotten.

I could see the pills in their blister pack lying at the back of the drawer in the cheap bedside table at the hotel.

Dr. Brown’s face loomed at me out of the darkness as he fumbled with the cord.

‘If you take these, you will be OK. No voices.’

His smile always made me feel sick.

He clicked the light on and we went in.

I had my hand in my pocket and just as he turned and became visible in the mirror, I knew.

He had no face.

Nothing.

Just bloody holes and a head full of snakes.

They were writhing around in there hissing and spitting venom.

Some of it landed like semen on the glass and trickled down heavily.

Then he began to laugh.

I could see his body was full of insects, maggots and beetles and disgusting stuff that would make you throw up if I told you.

He just stood there laughing and saying things like:

‘I work for them. They pay me very well.’

The light was hissing and fizzing and the bulb exploded shattering us both with shards of glass and as that happened, I pulled out the knife and just hacked his head right off.

His eyes were popping out like a pair of ping-pong balls and his mouth was moving in slow motion, a thread of saliva between his teeth as he tried to speak in their secret language. But I just kept sawing away at his neck, slicing through his Adam’s apple, and watched the saliva turn red and bubble.

His head came away easily like a slice of rotten meat and hung there from a thread while his neck just showered us both with a curtain of blood and I just stood there hacking away at this last thread which was some piece of wire to their headquarters until his head fell off and thumped to the floor.

It was a good knife, and I dismembered him with it. I cut him through and through, and placed his organs in a neat row by his head.

Then I just left and went home and had a shower.

They must have been following me because later that day the blue people came and got me.

I heard their radios crackling from the street below and knew they had trapped me again and would send me back to the factory, but decided the next time I would be cleverer.

You probably read in the papers the headlines they wrote. All lies. Don’t believe a word of them. Things like:

‘Estate agent killed by escaped madman. Married man with promising future decapitated. Lunatic strikes. Horrified family come home to dismembered corpse in the bathroom.’

That’s what they print to stop you knowing the truth.

But they’re out there and they’re taking over.

They have your wife, your children, your jobs and your futures, and they must be stopped. Some people can see them, but they’re only visible in mirrors.

I can hear them in the corridor. I know the shuffle of their shoes.

They’re coming to give me my pill.

I gave up trying to fight them since I’ve been back here, since they just sit on you and get the fat guys in white to hold you down, then they pull your pants down and stick it up your arse, laughing at you.

So I’m taking them.

But I’ll stop.

And I’ll get them. I’ll get them all.

They’ve killed two of my allies since I got out.

They say they’ve gone, but I know they did away with them and they’re serving them up in the pies. That’s why I’ve gone vegan.

It’s my human rights, you know. I read that out there.

I won’t keep taking their pills for ever.

People don’t know about the plan to take over the planet.

You’re being used. They’re all agents, they all work together.

Outside, through my window I can see one of them.

They’re coming, I can hear the door opening and I can see their shadows in the mirror.

BIO: Richard Godwin lives and writes in London, where his dark satire ‘The Cure-All’, about a group of confidence tricksters, has been produced on the stage. He has just finished writing a crime novel. His writing appears regularly at Disenthralled and Gloom Cupboard, among many other magazines. He has a Twitter account and can be found there under the User Name Stanzazone. He is in the process of setting up a blog. For right now, you can check out his portfolio here.

15 comments:

ThomG said...

gritty and chilling, all the way to the end. Had me captivated.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Twilight Zone with an incredibly dark and creepy twist. Good stuff.

Gita said...

So good, so convincing that I started to wonder if Godwin might not be seriously unhinged, himself. I am going to follow this writer from now on.

Jared said...

awesome. a completely sympathetic murderer which isn't easy to pull off. i too must read more of this Godwin man.

Miss Alister said...

You slid us all sly into some barking mad shit here, Mr. Godwin. And I dug the slide down, through and through.

Laurence said...

Superb. Gripping, edge of your seat psychotic killer.

Paul D. Brazill said...

David Lynch was what came to my mind. Creepy stuff. Will stand up to more than a couple of reads, I think.

Jackson said...

Nervy and gripping from beginning to end.

Harry said...

I really enjoyed this. Imagine him catching up with you in the middle of the night.

shesa said...

It keeps you guessing right until the end.

Lucy said...

This is both funny and scary, a hard act to pull off.

Jodi MacArthur said...

Great build up of suspense. Strong voice. The image of a head full of holes and snakes really struck me. I'm glad it's daytime.

M. C. Funk said...

Marvelous. This is a fascinating record of a psychotic voice.

shesa said...

Excellent story.

CJT said...

Very chilling, and I hate mirrors, they make vain people... :)

Loved the piece Richard, very well written and you kept me sitting on the edge of my seat the whole time...