The day of walking from the house to the tree over and over stood to McIntosh as they hiked the woods that morning. It was slow going but the pair made their way to the edge of a gorge where Fay halted their awkward march. It was spring again and the fields beyond were lush and full of life. The view was not expansive, little more than a few hundred yards down the valley in front of them, but it was like a masterpiece of nature to McIntosh. He stood and watched the trees billow in the wind and the water rush beneath them in the gorge. He smelled the scent of pine and savoured the wonder of creation.
Moved by the sight of such power and grace, McIntosh wept. His emotions had tangled into such tight knots through all the years of torture that the simple concept of the outside world had been lost to him. He sobbed to himself, lurching from sorrow to joy and back again in great swathes of thought and feeling. He couldn’t articulate his emotions, even to himself, he simply watched the gorge and embraced the sight of it.
“Are you fucking crying?”
“I… yes, Joe.”
“You fucking sap! Pull yourself together.”
“Yes, Joe. Sorry, Joe. I… thank you, Joe.”
“I didn’t walk all the way up here to listen to you warble. Cut it out! Now!”
It was a pleasant day, with a cool breeze rising up over the lip of the gorge it felt almost familiar, but McIntosh could only think of the pleasure of it. For once he wasn’t thinking about Fay’s pleasure. Somehow he only wanted to stay there and watch the sun set over a land he had never seen before. He felt compelled. Drawn in wholly be the beauty of it. But Fay wanted to continue and continue they would, as well McIntosh knew. They upped left the lip of the gorge and hobbled and strode along. So sweet was the air there that though pained by each step, McIntosh felt alive again, as he had when he was still innocent, only he couldn’t remember that time.
It was as if contentment was a knew emotion to McIntosh. It swelled inside of him and washed out his weak flesh with a pleasant comfort that he could not understand. It was as if another person had climbed inside of his body, a happy person, and he could somehow feel their happiness. It wasn’t for him to feel such wonder. He was a guilty man who deserved the fate that had befallen him. Such kindnesses as taking joy in something, anything, should be withheld from men like him. He wanted so much to stay at that gorge and live out his days in isolation, away from all the people of the world but he accepted his guilt. He lived with it day by day. And it did not permit such a thing.
That night both men were in the lounge and the box in the basement respectively. The sudden shift from absolute and mindless obedience to self-analysis at the gorge had jilted McIntosh. He still wanted to please Joseph Fay and to suffer his due punishment to any end, but he felt new. He felt a softness creep into him and spread itself out. He searched his mind and his heart and in the very smallest hours of the night he realised, he cared again weather he lived or died. He didn’t want to cheat Fay of his revenge, nor did he want to escape the natural justice that lays beyond the laws of man. However, he also saw that what Fay was doing was wrong. He knew then that though he was a willing slave, Fay should never have done what he did. He should have not turned to the darkness of the men who McIntosh had shared the cellblock with. Then he saw that he had made Fay that way. He had sinned against nature itself and on top of that he have made Fay what he was.
Upstairs, Joseph Fay drank glass after glass of neat whiskey. Consumed by the guilt of his efforts to regain some of McIntosh’s conscious mind, he mourned Lina. They had both walked that trail only weeks before she died. She loved to chase butterflies and chew grass stems, pretending to be a cow. And he loved to watch he play. She was always so full of the silliness only a happy child can possess, the same joyful madness that adults miss when they lose it. That day was the last and most powerful memory of Lina that Joseph had, and to him, that he had brought McIntosh there, regardless the reason, was a defilement of that memory and as such a betrayal of his daughter. And so he drank. And drank. And wept and hated himself. And drank more and hated himself more. And begged her to forgive him. And begged Ola. And drank more. And more. And then passed out in a raging weakness.
To be continued…
© Stephen Fahey