for Fandango’s Friday Flashback – August 16 where we are invited to re-post a piece which originally appeared on our blog on this date in days of yore!
What follows is a story I posted on August 16 2009 in response to the now discontinued Sunday Scribblings prompt site. It received the princely sum of 11 comments, most of which were from folk who are still blogging today!
For the best part of a lifetime the words of Phaedrus lived inside Mike’s head. The words were written over 2000 years ago, yet they could have been written yesterday. They could have been written especially for him. ‘The old knives that have rusted in my back I now drive in yours’.
For the best part of a lifetime Mike had been the victim of taunts, deceit and scorn. Quite what happened I know not, but suddenly some kind of higher being scooped him up and promised him that his time had come. Time to reap the revenge he so deserved.
He’d lived in the area all of his life. He’d walked in the woods since he was a child yet he’d never before seen the crumbling Gothic bastion he saw before him that day. The rusty iron gate was open, a chain and padlock swinging from the bolt. An irresistible force drew him in, along an overgrown avenue and through the sagging doors of Hades Hall. He found himself descending a flight of stone steps and entering a grey cellar illuminated by a dozen flickering candles. A table was set along the length of the room. It was covered with a white cloth and adorned with gleaming cutlery and sparkling crystal glasses. There were huge vases of white lilies and in the centre sat the skull and twisting horns of a deer.
A voice inside his head told him what he must do. The scene was set. All he needed now were the players. Seven people were to be chosen, and seven people were to each receive an invitation. An invitation they were strangely powerless to refuse.
Childhood for most people is a precious time, but for Mike it was a time when he was bullied and isolated from his peers. One boy in particular made his life a misery, and one of his teachers persuaded him that he was worthless and inferior. They were both invited.
His real father had died when he was quite young and his mother remarried. His stepfather abused him both mentally and physically and when he went to his mother for comfort she accused him of lying and punished him severely. She died believing that everything he’d said was nothing more than attention seeking. He couldn’t blame her. After all her man could be very persuasive. But her man was to be one of the seven guests at the table tonight.
It came as a complete surprise to everyone when Mike married. His young wife was an outsider but she made sure she integrated herself into village life from the day she arrived. His parents had been comfortably off and somehow she just knew that when Mikes mother died he would be heir to a small fortune. She gained a somewhat unsavoury reputation in the village. It seemed that there was hardly a young man in the area had not fallen prey to her not inconsiderable charms. Mike knew of course but was too weak to do anything about it. When his mother eventually died his wife made off with more than half of his inheritance, plus the boy from the blacksmiths. But tonight she would be back. She was powerless to resist..
There were three more places to fill and he chose one person from each of the last three decades, someone who had taken advantage of him, ignored him or made him feel inferior. A place was laid for the bank manager who tried to help himself to the money entrusted to him in the hope it would go unnoticed. There was a place for the so-called friend who had tipped a beer over his head in the pub one night. He did it for no other reason than to get everybody laughing at our sad victim. It was not to be forgotten.
The seventh chair was to be taken by the counsellor who he’d had by his side for most of his life. The counsellor had done nothing to help him. If anything he’d made him feel even more inferior. It was obvious that to him the regular meetings were an unnecessary chore and a waste of time. didn’t go unnoticed and the counsellor was to join the others at the table tonight.
The night arrived and the guests assembled in the cellar. A ghostly looking master of ceremonies rapped three times on the table then asked everyone to take their place at the table. A fleet of waiters carried in platter after platter of delicious food and the wine flowed.
Mike stood up and banged the table with the back of a spoon. All seven people stopped talking and stared in his direction. ‘The old knives that have rusted in my back I drive in yours’ he said. It was greeted with mocking laughter, then the seven got back to their talking.
Nobody noticed him slip away. So intense was the conversation that the locking of the doors and the sliding of the bolts went unheard. So did the sound of his laughter as he walked through the gates, locking them behind him, then into the woods. He stopped and looked over his shoulder. Hades Hall was no longer to be seen.Perhaps it was never there. Maybe this was all a dream. But he still held in his hand a bunch of rusting keys. At least he did until he tossed them into the stream.
A distant clock struck midnight. The day about to start was to be the first day of the rest of his life. A new life. Mike’s life.