Lina – Part 8.2

22.

The cold on that spring night was not as bad as McIntosh had thought it would be. On the peak, wrapped in fur, the rock behind him half sheltering him from the wind, all was relatively calm. The stars above were unobstructed by the clouds that lingered in the valleys below and their light was to McIntosh a splendid temperate gift from God. He could see the tops of the clouds and patches of earth in the gaps between them. It was as if the sky were an ocean. There were no boats though of course, only the waves of silver and white and grey and he alone was privy to such beauty. He alone could enjoy the eerie pleasure of such a sight. Then to his side, footsteps. Crunching footsteps. Calm again but heavier.

 

McIntosh called out to Fay but no reply came. Then he shouted out, but again nothing, just the footsteps. Then the smell struck him. That disgusting stench of sweat and dung and rotting meat. McIntosh held his breath but it was too late. His visitor had found him. The roar was exceptional, louder than anything that McIntosh had heard in all his life. It screamed at him and all that he could do was look at it. Its huge jaws seemed wide enough to swallow him whole. Its front teeth a long as a man’s fingers. Its eyes were small though, but still, they gleamed with a curious murder. It stood then on its hind legs and reached up the boulder on which McIntosh was propped. But it could not reach him. He was set too high up by at least five feet.

 

The bear tried again and again but all its efforts were futile. Its claws took chunks of the rock away and sparked once, momentarily illuminating the bears face in the dim starlight. McIntosh trembled, but with no arms or legs even to kick or punch there was nothing for him to do but look at it while it looked at him. He saw its hunger and thought it possible to thrust his head down far enough to sway out over the lip of his perch and give himself to the beast. But in that same moment little Lina came to him and whisper to him to stay.

 

So frail and helpless, McIntosh knew he wouldn’t be able to endure much more. Even if he kept alive another five or ten years then he would die of infirmity or age. His body had become so sad a shell that he couldn’t serve any other propose than to be throttled or burned. Even too much punishment could easily kill him and his mind had already been broken so many times that the only thing he was sure of was that he owed Fay his life. He had wronged the world itself by taking the life of a child. He had to pay with his own life and should that mean he would be tortured every moment of those remaining years then so be it. He had to relinquish himself to Fay’s will.

 

When the bear tired of its struggle it wandered off, but the image of it stayed with McIntosh. He knew then that he could have ended his own life. But the truth remained and overruled even death – he was not his own man, but his host’s.

 

A part of McIntosh did die that night. The last shred of hope for some life of his own beyond Park Castle and Joseph Fay. He took that resignation into himself. That same duty that had faded in its importance to him when he lived alone for that one year. He chose his suffering. He consumed it as it consumed him. He was no longer human. He was an object on which the most heinous suffering should be inflicted.

 

„Good morning, Eli. How was your nig… oh, I see you had a visitor. Must have been a big boy judging by these claw marks. He didn’t scare you did he? I put you up there where I knew nothing could reach you.”

 

„Thank you, Joe.”

 

„Why so glum?”

 

„Ok, Joe.”

 

„You know, they never come this high up. If it weren’t for the trail of your old bandages I left leading up here you’d never have seen that bear.”

 

„Thank you, Joe.”

 

„What the fuck is going on with you? You’re not happy or sad or angry… „

 

„Yes, Joe.”

 

„Look at me… now I know that we have a special relationship and it isn’t easy… „

 

„Yes, Joe.”

 

„This is exactly what I’m talking about. Don’t drone out a „Yes, Joe” and think that constitutes participation. We have work to do.”

 

„Sorry, Joe. Do you want to strangle me for a while.”

 

„That’s the spirit, Eli. But no. I have something else planed for you.”

 

With that, Fay lifted McIntosh down from his perch and carried him back to the house. The warmer air lower down the mountain drew the chill from McIntosh’s meek frame and gave him a sense of comfort that he immediately dismissed. It wasn’t for him to feel any comfort. He knew that he should be in constant distress. It was the only way. He was just a thing to be hurt and traumatised and whatever Fay had planned would not be bad enough.

 

Once back at Park Castle Fay propped McIntosh up on a chair in the lounge and lit a fire. Sitting in his fur wrap, McIntosh felt guilty for enjoying the warmth. He didn’t consciously stress himself or his body, but in his stale state of being he thought only of his necessary suffering. He wondered how long Fay would wait before he beat him again. The long periods of sedation aged McIntosh more and more as he grew older. And each time Fay sedated him there was always the risk that he might not wake back up. However, McIntosh stayed true, it was what Ola would want and what Lina deserved.

 

„You’ll fall apart altogether one of these day, so rest. I’m going to make something to eat. You know, I never told you how Ola and I met, did I?”

 

„No, Joe. You didn’t. Wouldn’t you rather burn me a little instead of cooking? Or cut me?”

 

„I want you to stay there and rest. I need you fit and healthy first. So, Ola and I had both been in bad relationships before we met each other. We both held no stock in people and we were certain that life would end in a lonely bitterness. Kind of like yours has. Anyway, one day we were both in the library and I see this woman crying while she’s reading. It was the strangest feeling. I stood up and walked to her and knelt at her feet, then put my hand on her knee. She startled because she hadn’t seen me but when she looked into my eyes she just stared. We stayed like that for about a minute before she spoke. And when she did, Eli. Oh God, I was hers. She had this silken voice that was intonated with a assertiveness that was kind, despite being powerful.”

 

„Sounds wonderful, Joe.”

 

„She was, Eli. She was pure and righteous like nobody you’ve ever met. Honour actually meant something to her and she bettered every single person that ever came into contact with her. People used to literally benefit just from knowing that someone like her existed. And she was mine, Eli. Mine! She cared about me more than she cared about anyone in the world. I was the centre of her universe. Can you image how that felt? Having an astonishing and singular woman love you?”

 

„No.”

 

„Oh come on, surely you… whatever, as I was saying, Ola and I built our life and even this house to be together and live in as we had always wanted to. It was sublime, only better. Our life was the way people can only wish they could live and what’s more, we knew it. Each and every day that we had we knew just how lucky we were. Do you have any idea how that feels? To be blessed and to know it?”

 

„I don’t, joe. No.”

 

„What’s more, after the upbringing she had had she had more right than anyone to hate everyone and everything, but she didn’t. The suffering she grew up in gave her wisdom, not bitterness. She’d used to laugh at the small and unimportant things and made every day a joy… now here, eat up.”

 

Spoon feeding McIntosh, Fay glowed with reminisce. Ola had been gone for so long, but he remember every detail about the life they had had. Even then, while he sat next to McIntosh forty years after he last touched her skin, he could feel her and that comforted his soul. All the brutality he had enacted, all the horrors he had performed, none of them had sullied him. He was still Ola’s man. Still a good husband and father. He was still Joseph Fay.

Copyright: Stephen Fahey

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