The Man is Alone
The man is alone. He sits there silent with a glazed over expression, sadness creeping across from the corners of those pale eyes. He is in his kitchen, dark and gloomy the walls are stained with the smoke which emanates from the old coal cooker in the corner. For years the cooker has been broken yet he has never encountered to a reason to warrant its repair. So the man waits in his dark gloomy abode, back to the window, although he will sometimes glance out side to watch passing ships and the ever unchanging sea. For what he is waiting is unknown to any uninformed observer who might assume that he awaits a guest of some sort. Rarely do others venture on to the island, there is no reason all, its inhabitants have left, with the exception of the old man, even the gulls now refuse to grace this place with their presence. The island is forgotten, the house is forgotten, and old man is forgotten.
It was not always like this, in his mind the man recalls a time when there was another on the island with him. Washed up upon the shore with drift wood the companion arrived, bright eyed and wagging tailed. His presence however was brief, the man being unaccustomed to others did not recognise the apparent need for sustenance apparent in the companion. Whilst at first he would jump, bark and beg eventually he became silent and at a point refused to move or interact. The man found this frightfully rude of his companion however when after a time the creature uttered the faux pas of the foul stench, this being many weeks after interaction had ceased, he decided that it was high time that his guest was returned to the beach. This coincidently was the last time he saw the gulls, squawking loudly on the beach, watching with devilish intent as the old man dragged his guest to the beach. By morning when he returned to the site the old man found that his companion had left, as had the gulls, moved on perhaps to some new and more forgiving environment.
So it was eventually in light of this constant isolation that the man developed what he would later refer to as his ‘habit’. For a human being on an island such as his needs two things, food and company. So in order to satisfy his cravings, once a month the man would take to the cliffs with his lantern and wait until he saw the lights of a passing ship. He would then move down on to the beach and gently wave his lantern up and down, as if it were moving with the motion of the sea. The night its self was chosen specifically due the cycles of the moon, at which time the island would be completely invisible in the pitch black embrace of the night. Unaware of the land mass in-between it’s self and its destination, the ship would continue on its course on the assumption that the light in front of it was that of another ship, thus suggesting the waters ahead were completely safe. Had they been more cautious they might have been able to make out the faint outline of the island up ahead or perhaps thought to check their maps. None of them did.
Having fulfilled the initial compulsion of his habit the long part of the game would commence. To begin with he would observe the surviving crew members (there did always tend to be survivors since the shallow sea was above a bed of rocks, remnants of an ancient coastline, which caused ships to run aground, whilst shredding the hull of the vessel but not sinking it completely too fast), how he would approach them would be determined by whether or not they chose to stay by the beach and the amount of people and resources. In larger groups it was almost certain that they would move inland, usually due to the will of some self appointed leader, whilst a smaller group would attempt to stay on the beach as moving any salvaged cargo could be difficult and exhausting.
At this time he makes his approach. Ensuring that he is in full view he will make his way towards those who he has stranded, introducing himself in as a welcoming fashion as he deems necessary, depending entirely on the nature of his ‘guests’, and questioning what has bought them to his island. He will then listen patiently to their tales of who they are and under what circumstances they have ended up here. At this point he informs them that he has a house with room enough for them to stay for a short while until the ship from which his personal supplies arrives. Unable to resist the offer of shelter and possibility of rescue the ‘guests’ willingly follow the man to his abode, unaware that the next ship to bring him supplies will be the next one he chooses to sink, by which time all trace of current company will be gone.
The house itself is in a somewhat shabby state off affairs, perched near the cliff edge (although it had originally been build far inland costal erosion had seen to it that it’s time of safety was limited), it’s loose brick work and poorly tiled room appeared to be held up by sheer force of will, like the old man it only continued to exist due to it’s pure refusal to submit to laws of time. Inside was just as bad, walls clearly crumbling away, the whole house reeked of smoke, due to the defective fireplace and coal stove both having their source of external ventilation blocked by long deserted birds nests, which for some unexplainable reason the man had never found the time to clear away. The guests however would accept the offer to stay with full grace. At this point the man would deem it necessary to lie once again to his guests informing them of the presence of a small boat he owned which whilst the mainland was just out of reach could be used for fishing in event that they asked before taking it out. The boat however did not exist but this small detail would come into play later when the man chose to make his move.
Several nights in the man would make his move. Selecting the member whose company had expended its interest the fastest the man would silently make his way to his victim’s room, moving as if he were not human at all but some ghost of the night, perhaps death himself, face stony-set with grim intent. The deed its self was quick and silent, slashes graceful as they were accurate in such a way as a painter perfects his methods through decades of practice. After a brief moment to step back and observe his craft, the man, still grim faced (almost as if dissatisfied, or perhaps annoyed at some small inconvenience), begins the process of removing any evidence of his bloody fancy. His movements are almost mechanical, autonomous, with a precision which would chill any onlooker, for the sheer perfection and refinement in each motion implied what must have been half a lifetime of practice. The consideration for the events that would take place in his home were evident in the design of the room, the floor, despite its initial appearance, was not completely solid and was adequately hinged in order to conceal the sorry remains of the first of man’s most recent guests to be housed without arising suspicion of others. The smell would not be an issue, the under-floor areas were well ventilated thus resulting in the foul smells rudely emitted by the unfortunate guest to be overpowered by the salty smell of the sea.
Come morning when surviving guest stirred from their slumber, the man would shout with a most convincing act of rage, claiming that the now missing member of their crew had departed in the night with his boat, which whilst was unlikely to make it to any land mass, resulted in him being unable to fish thus cutting off one of his few supplies of food until he was able to construct a new vessel. To complete the guilt trip it was essential to lead them down the empty dock as evidence of a sort, for a crime that was never committed. His guests would the be left, in his mind to think over the actions of one of their party, however it is much more likely that they were regretting that they had not stolen the boat before hand, escaping the now tiresome presence of the man whom they were finding to become a test upon their patience. Now disillusioned the unknowing captives would be torn apart, afraid to trust each other, plans would be made, sleep conducted lightly and with eyes partially open.
For a short while the man would relish in the in the new found state of unease, laying subtle hints or leaving faint traces or some god awful plan or deed that would soon be carried out. Former friends became a possible threat, underlying hostilities surfaced, the guests would be easily panicked, jumpy, their own shadow’s offered hidden threats. For the man this was his high point, thriving on their fear and disillusionment, this was the core of his addiction, the bloody executions merely a method of injection, an action to facilitate his need.
As with every high there were side effects, with the persistence of this mood the man himself would become more erratic, his behaviour much more spontaneous and irrational (at least by the standards of his guests). Entering a phase of paranoid delusion himself it would not be long before once entertaining guests were treated with suspicion, no longer were they simple puppets for his entertainment, now they harboured malicious intent behind those fragile eyes. It is at this time man realises that all good things must come to an end, lest they decide to turn on him, to bite the hand that feeds. Armed, knife in had he makes his move, edging towards the strongest of his guests, he is still rational enough to use surprise in order to prevent and sort of retaliation, should the guest turn around they would notice that know more is he that frail old man, kind of heart, he is transformed. His giant looming figure moves forwards that glint of insanity begins to surface behind stony faced intent. The deed is lightning quick, the cries piercing, none of his former care and calculation in this, instead only bitter cruelty and violent rage, as if his were punishing his guest form some unforgivable injustice. This action is not so silent as that which preceded it, attention would surely be drawn.
Although deeply horrified by sound heard, the final remaining guest would always feel the need to investigate, too look upon the done deed. A face contorted with disgust and fear yet still egged on by some instinctual, perverse curiosity; this is what would be counted on. For why would the man wish to have to hunt down the former guest, now considered to be an interloper, when at the first hint of his dark deed they would come scuttling to him, compelled by some anti-survival instinct to place themselves in his hands. They too would end quickly.
The mess cleaned, bodies removed the man now sits in his kitchen, exhausted by a days work. Once again he is alone, reflecting on the times of which he had company; some of them guests, some of them not even people, bright eyed, wagging tailed. Not that the second sort lasted very long. Not that he ever figured out why. There is no moon tonight. Old habits die hard.
4 years ago