Gideon's Mother:


I don't like my son. I believe he is bad. And I believe I am to blame. I created a monster. Grew him inside of me, fed him, poisoned him. And cursed him. 

And you know a mother's curse is the most potent there is.

What if I had foreseen the havoc and destruction he would cause, to himself naturally; but what about to others? Other people, in all innocence, nourished and cared for by their mothers, so therefore contrived to live a life of happiness, or at the very least, contentment. Would I have afflicted him in this way?

Does a mother's hate count for nothing?

I used to wish I could love him. Love. I shall tell you about love. Love is its own blight. Love is a hungry baby, a wilting plant that not long after it is fed and watered will scream out for more. Love is a black hole that can never be filled.

So what was it that I cursed my son with, if not just a lack of love?

Expectations? Untenable dreams? Lies?

I wish.

What I know for sure is that I cursed him with tragedy.

Not the tragedy of unexpected loss and unfulfilled potential; life cut short at its prime; life that will never be. No. Not real tragedy.

Merely the tragedy of failure.

Is there nothing that can save him?

Is he beyond redemption?

I don't think it's for me to say.

You see I had too much time and too little to do.

As a baby he lay there not sleeping, not crying, not curious and I wondered how it was for other mothers.

Sometimes when we went out I would peer into other mother's prams, as they would look into mine, we wanted to compare. We wanted to see whose baby was the best looking, had more hair, was more alert. I would see the smug looks on all their faces and they may have seen the despair, the guilt and the shame on mine. It was never my son. And I knew it wouldn't be. Eventually I stopped looking.

And in that time, in those endless hours of nothingness when I should have been playing with, or at least caring for, a son who didn't seem to want the one or need the other, my heart was full of hate and loathing, although I convinced myself that it was love, after all it was no different than what I felt for his father, and I knew I was passing this on to him. We were close enough for him to breathe in what I breathed out and that was how I poisoned him.

I cursed his life from the moment I knew of it, even though he demanded as little from my body inside of it as after he was born. My curse, if a curse can be seen as a kind of prayer, was answered, was bidden. I should have felt strong with power but instead I was weak with rectitude. Otherwise, maybe, I could have changed things and borne and raised a loveable son.

There was a day when I saw it all, a day I saw into the future. I saw what I had done. I watched my little boy, my strange little boy, and I saw, plain as anything, how, with ease, he tortured his first victim in a manner that has since become habitual.

I had worried about him at kindergarten, but I learned what mother doesn't worry about leaving her child in a strange place peopled with strangers? It had only been a week and I had not been as bad as some, demanding minute by minute progress reports on their beloved babies. Mostly I let him get on with it. I knew he had been isolated, refusing to join in, always sitting outside the circle, standing on his own in the playground. This didn't worry me. This was normal. And I told the teacher he would be like this and she promised to keep an eye on him which was not the reason I told her, but I let it pass.

But he made a friend. He tortured his first victim.

I watched them in the playground; he couldn't see me, I was peering through the closed iron gates during their morning break. I had been to the shops and walked home past the school. I could hear the noise of children playing, laughter, shrieks, a high pitched percussive sound like a cymbal reverberating in a tunnel. I stopped to look, not to spy or because of any concern, but just a mild curiosity about how he behaved when not in my presence, and caught sight of my son standing with his hands in his pockets (his father wouldn't approve of that) about six feet away from a boy who was concentrating hard on trying to hit a small rubber ball attached to a wooden bat by a thin elastic. Unable to manage it even once he looked up at Gideon and offered the bat to him.

Gideon took it and to my surprise held the bat flat out in front of him and bounced the ball several times in succession. The other child looked on in amazement as deep as my own but then grabbed the bat back again to have another go.

I saw a red mist appear around my son. He seemed to be snorting it out of his nose like a bull in a strip cartoon. And like the bull he got ready to charge. His opponent saw it too for he turned on his heels and fled. My son, however didn't move.

What he did do was smile at the boy's retreating back. When the boy stopped running and turned around to see whether Gideon had caught up with him, Gideon had got rid of the smile and replaced it with a grey-green pallor. I watched the boy falter, unsure what to do, looking around him, but no one else saw, no one would have helped him. Gideon swayed then stretched out his arm in a pleading gesture of helplessness reaching for the boy who let himself be reeled in back to Gideon like a fish on a line. This seemed to take all Gideon's strength for by the time the boy was in front of him Gideon was grey-greener than ever. I could see from this distance that he was sweating. Gideon seemed on the verge of collapse before the boy, confusion and concern on his little face, handed him back the bat after which his normal colour returned and Gideon stood upright and healthy, even managing a couple more bounces of the ball off the bat.

The bell rang for end of play and the two boys, my son and his new friend walked close together towards the school entrance where they were to line up before returning to their classroom.

Returning to collect him a couple of hours later, I was accosted by a woman  better dressed than myself (I could see her gloves were as good as brand new) who introduced herself and her son to me and added how pleased she was that "our boys had become friends". I looked at my son who smiled benevolently at his new mate then glared at me reflecting back all the hate I had ever shown on my own face.

Gideon was offered tea and cake at their home and I agreed to let him go.

"Don't worry," she called back to me as the three of them moved away. "We'll look after him."

Like I said - his first victim.

And it was time to wonder how on earth I had made this happen.

I understood enough about myself to know that I lived in fear. But it was a fear I married into. I would like to believe about myself that I had a happy childhood, healthy loving parents who lived their peaceful lives uncomplicated by difficulties. Even the war, in my memory, brought no fear. We moved to Harrogate with the school where my father taught and there was chasing rabbits and blackberry picking and soup in front of log fires and lots of children to play with. When many of the evacuees went home in the belief that London was safe, my mother and I stayed on. I never questioned why. Father visited on school holidays. Any tragedy was kept from me. War was not about death and fear, for me it was about freedom and happiness.

When we returned to London I finished my schooling and naturally went to Teacher Training College to follow in my father's footsteps. And it was there I was introduced to my future husband who was the brother of a fellow student. Not someone I particularly liked. I found her distant and unfriendly, often uncommunicative. He too was someone of few words but the words he kept for me were flattering and seductive. In a very short space of time he drew me in to his world, and the possibilities of a fulfilling life in obedience to social norms tipped the scales away from any ideals I once held of changing lives through teaching. No. This is what I was born to do, to follow my mother in raising a family and running a home.

If my father was disappointed he hid it well. But not quite well enough for me to be forever after aware of a certain coolness between him and my husband. On more than one occasion I caught my father visibly shuddering at a comment my husband made, perfectly innocent comments about current affairs with which I was dutifully obliged to agree.

The frequency of our visits to my parents decreased as did theirs to us and although I was saddened this was where my life was now. His sister, Jean, my college mate, married not long after us and she and her husband Tom moved quite close. So it was with them that we socialised. That may be the wrong word as I have said, they were not gregarious people and the four of us sitting silently in our front room listening to the wireless as an evening's entertainment was generally how we spent our time.

It was a quiet life, a comforting life. Jean and I became very close and it seemed she was after several years of acquaintance at last able to show warmth. When she became pregnant I shared her joy and couldn't have been more pleased if it had been me. I started to understand that there were things that drew women close to each other to the inevitable exclusion of men. It was Tom who remarked she had no more use for her husband as the conversation was dominated by the curious physical changes she was experiencing.

So Jean and I were left on our own most evenings whilst Tom and Frank spent more and more time in the pub.

I liked Tom. He was a quietly good looking man, the sort of good looks that creep up on you without you noticing. Then you see the wildness in his eyes, but only if you look close enough. And one night it occurred to my husband that I had looked. Not only had I looked, I'd liked what I'd seen.

There is a line that divides my life before and after that night. Before everything was warm, safe and happy. Afterwards nothing was. Least of all the prospect of bearing his child.

Could there ever be any hope for a child conceived in violence and terror?'

 

Gideon's wife:

 

I sometimes watched him as he slept, sweating as if in a frenzied fit of fever. His legs pulled up against him like his guts were gripped in a tourniquet. He'd lie in a swamp of sheets, his drenched clothing wrapped around him, clinging like pond weed.

Feeble moans escaped his lips as though he were attempting to articulate the depths of the world's suffering all the time cursing his own capacity to bear it.

But Gideon doesn't bear it well.

 You see, his whole life he has absorbed the anguish and pain of his fellow souls. His affliction is that human torment is an unspeakable hell, and his paradox, that he believes he is a genuine and caring human being. How could it be otherwise? Who else around him is concerned enough to suffer so? He is not alone; not the first man to feel this. His comfort is the greatness of those in whose footsteps he treads. He is not humble, he is equal; he stands not on the shoulders of giants but amongst them.

This is what I know about my husband. His demons are the spirits of vengeance who constrain him like a straitjacket, infecting him with restlessness, resentment and the fear of retribution. The effort of battling them maintains his malady as he attempts to be rid of his tragic past, his interminable present, his inevitable future.

 Gideon would never acknowledge that I understand about his drinking. But I do.

 He needs to keep it secret, keep it safe, keep it special. But it isn't. He's just a drunk and like them all the first drink is merely to get the taste. All the second does is increase the desire for the third. It is usually half way through the next drink that the metamorphosis begins. A softening of the edges, lines blurring. But Gideon wouldn't accept that it's as facile as that; for him it must be different from how it is for others. What he begins to feel is the step by step, drop by drop, cell by cell dissolution of his conscious self; the hated self, the broken self, the unmanageable self.

The physical sensation of that loss is for him the best bit. He believes death could not be as sweet, nor as welcome. No woman could ever feel so good. The Gideon that emerges from the constraints of his consciousness knows no fear, feels no pain. He is in complete control of his senses, his thoughts, his actions. Even his memory. His past transforms from a rat infested black hole into a golden haired child tripping through a field of buttercups, infused with sunshine, happiness and laughter.

Distanced from reality, the world becomes a joyful place. His life is perfect. At home he has everything; a beautiful, successful, intelligent wife, whom he loves beyond measure, a dutiful, talented son who, on the brink of manhood, understood that the finest guide he could choose for his journey was his own dear father and left the treacherous bitch to come to him, open, ready, and a mother he dotes on. And he gloats with pride at his great fortune. He is magnificent, beneficent, unconquerable.  This is a Gideon that he himself can adore and is adored by others. They gather around him, sit at his feet with open mouths, like baby birds waiting to be fed by his wisdom and experience.

This is a Gideon proud of himself; the man he is, the man he could have been if only he hadn't been cursed with awareness, sensitivity and understanding, for these are his enemies, his nemeses, capable of dragging him down to the depths of his pitiful existence and confining him in their chains. Yet, thank god for him, he has found the weapon with which to conquer them and with which he can break free.

 Everyone he knew saw him drunk often enough and no one ever said anything. Not a word. Maybe they all liked him better like that.

I don't blame him. I don't expect him to have been aware enough to know when it was time to stop. No. That's not true. I do. He should have known. But he didn't. When the difference between his two states of consciousness, drunk and sober, were so diverse of course he would choose one over the other; the one that made him feel alive over the one in which he felt dead.

 

Gideon:

 

The door opens into the dark. The peach glow from the street lamp behind him lights his way deep into the house. His home. The stillness and quiet unnerve him. But then so does noise. There is a peculiar smell that slightly disgusts him. But then most smells do. He would be quite happy never to smell anything ever again. Standing still to identify the strange odour he comes to the conclusion that it is the lack of familiar smells that troubles him. Clearly no cakes have been baked for a while. Is this a sign that she has missed him?

He doesn't call out. He never has done and certainly isn't going to start now.  He has always left it to Hope, his wife, to come to him to greet him on his return. Besides it is quite obvious that no one is at home.

He doesn't turn any lights on but goes straight to the kettle to fill it, letting the water run cold before he does so. A cringe shocks through him in memory of the little bitch and her comments about the environment and his waste of water. As if he would listen to her.

The sound of the kettle bringing the water to boil is the only thing he can hear. He turns the light of the extractor hood on which creates a small tent of brightness, enough to make tea by. He leaves the tea bag in the mug to brew, never squashing it, and adds the tiniest dash of milk. Leaning against the fridge, he lights a cigarette, inhaling deep and exhaling slowly.

The acknowledgement of disappointment is slow to materialise. But he will never reach the comfort of evidence that would reveal that Hope didn't know he was coming home. Neither will he allow the truth that equally Hope didn't know he was leaving. He will never find any way to see what he did as anything other than acceptable.

Water rushes through the pipes filling the room with the sign of a presence upstairs, using the bathroom, flushing the toilet.

Gideon goes on alert. He assumes an intruder. How right he was to keep that iron bar under the bed; you never know when some wasted scum will try to destroy what is yours in anger against his own inability to acquire it. He extinguishes his cigarette in the sink then takes off his shoes. All the while his own anger building: if Hope were home then the house in its darkness wouldn't look vulnerable to a thug. Where was she anyway? He begins his stalk to catch the thief.

Half way up the stairs the phone rings. Not the house phone. Not his mobile. He recognises it as Hope's, her having set it to the tone that sounded most like an old fashioned telephone ring. Then he hears Hope's voice answer it. "Yes," she says. Then "No. I'm in bed." And nothing else. So she is home and what? Shut in their bedroom unable to hear anything. What is she doing? Who does she have with her? His worst fears are being presented to him as facts, taunting him, dancing with glee around and around him. This is what he knew would happen. This is what he knew she would do as soon as his back was turned. Too busy fucking his replacement to hear her husband arrive home?

He stands outside the closed bedroom door and puts his ear to it. Nothing. Can't be that good then. He never had any trouble making her scream; he used to have to put his hand over her mouth or cover her face with a pillow as she came. He had never known any woman as loud as Hope. But then she had never been fucked as well as she had by him.

There is no light visible from under he door but then all the doors are a tight fit so it's not always possible tell. The house was in darkness from the outside whatever was going on was going on in the dark.

Gideon puts his hand to the door knob and turns it. The door pushes against the carpet. The room is as dark as he has ever known it, as dark as he has always liked it.

Her voice: "Who's there? Tilly, is that you?"

Gideon has to hold his breath to keep the sound of hurt and disloyalty from escaping. Still, still now she does it: she thinks of the bitch daughter before she thinks of her husband. Nothing has changed in his absence. She has learned nothing.

Standing by the open door he turns the dimmer switch up. Slowly the room and Hope come into form. She is in bed leaning towards him, resting on her elbow, an eye mask carelessly pushed up to her forehead. She looks beautiful. She has a distant, detached look about her. He recognises it as drug induced; she's been taking his pills. He can see the straps from a vest top, she is not only alone she's not even naked.

"Tilly, eh?" he says and she lays back on the bed and covers her head with the duvet.

He walks round to her side of the bed and tries to pull the duvet away but she is gripping it tightly. So he pulls it off her from the other end exposing her, making her look stupid as her face is still hidden but her body lies in full view. It doesn't take her long to realise this and she twists herself grabbing great armfuls of duvet to protect herself.

Gideon pulls. He wins. She is only a weak woman. No match for his power and strength. The duvet lies like whipped egg whites on the floor. Hope hopelessly hugs a pillow.

"Nice homecoming," he says.

"So you want to be welcomed, do you?" she answers.

He moves towards her and his hand, flat, open, slaps her insolent face. A slap. Definitely not a punch.

"Nice greeting," she says. "Now you can leave again."

Next thing he sees is Hope bent over, her head on her knees, arms grabbing her stomach as if she's trying to keep it place. A long silent minute passes while he waits for her to react correctly, the way any man can expect his wife to respond after a period apart. But the noises that come out of her mouth don't sound like words, don't sound like speech, more like breaths of differing intensity. Eventually he starts to make sense of what she is trying to tell him.

"Wy…hhhhaaadn't….yoo….kno..wn…thissss…faaarce…of….a….marr…iage….issss…..o…ver?"

She's on the floor now. He thinks he heard a thud when he dropped her. Looks like she fell on her arm the way she's clutching it.

"GET OUT!" She seems to have got her voice back.

"Get out of MY house? I don't think so." And his foot moves in a swift balletic movement towards the small of her back making contact with her spine forcing her to arch against it. He wishes he hadn't taken his shoes off. He wishes he was wearing his steel capped boots.

"I know what's been going on," he says. "Soon as my back's turned. Who is it? WHO IS IT?"

Gideon can scarcely believe it but Hope seems to be laughing. But not for long. Not after he's kicked her in the face.

She's still on the floor. Lying on her back, legs bent to one side, hands over her face. There may be blood seeping down her hands, down her arms. From the look of it it's probably only a nose bleed. Anything else there'd be much more blood. He assumes.

He stands astride her, looking down on her then bends his knees. He can see her squirming. Good. She's had it too easy. She's never really known what it's like to be afraid. He's kneeling now, one leg either side of her. She's so totally at his mercy it's pathetic so he gives her another slap. And another. Somehow they turn into punches and it's not just her face anymore, it's her chest, her ribs, her stomach. Now he's standing and kicking her and marvelling at how much punishment the body can take.

But he doesn't like the sight of blood and the sight of blood filtering down her face and her neck along the trenches of her skin normally reserved for sweat, fanning out over her shoulders and clavicle like hair makes Gideon a little ashamed.

"I always loved you," he says. "And I always will."

She spits blood at him. But she is so feeble, so weak it only lands on her chin. She raises a finger as much as she is able and beckons him to come to her. He leans towards her his heart swelling with triumph.

"I don't love you," she whispers.

And he kicks her one last time.