Lina: Written By Stephen Fahey – Part 20

And so, McIntosh wandered into the woods, alone. His new clothes kept him warm, but he still shivered at the thought of Fay dying. He cared about him. Aside from wanting him to happy because of the debt he owed him, he knew that he was a just been a normal man until Lina died and there he was, drinking himself to death in isolation. It was understandable. Any father and husband would do the same. There was no shame in it and he wasn’t hurting anyone who didn’t deserve it. But the drink was going to finish him before he could finish off his guest. It wasn’t fair. His wife and child and now him. It was just so sad. His friend. His only friend. He couldn’t lose him. Not until he had finished what began.

After an hour or so McIntosh returned to see Fay sat in the doorway at the front of the house. the colour had returned to his face and he was eating a bowl of stew.

“Well hello, Eli.”

“Hi, Joe.”

“Looking good.”

“Thank you, Joe. You too. Feeling any better?”

“I am. Thanks, Eli. I hope I didn’t give you a fright.”

“Well, yeah, a little. You need to finish this thing we got. I wouldn’t want you denied you right.”

“I’m not going anywhere. Besides, I made you something. It’s downstairs. Go have a look.”

Surprised but brimming with curiosity, McIntosh made his way into Park Castle and down into the basement. His eyes didn’t adjust at first but when their did it looked the same as ever, until he slid open the side of his box. The mattress was sitting on a row of planks raised from the ground by four stout legs. He had forgotten that beds existed. At first he wasn’t sure what it was. But his mind made the connection a few seconds later and he put his metal leg out in front of him so that he could kneel on his remaining knee and rub his left forearm against the wood to feel it. Then he realised that the bed must be some kind of trick. Like the clothes and the food.

“What do you think?”

“Oh, Joe. I didn’t hear you… it’s incredible. I don’t know what to say. Why did you… thank you, Joe! Thank you so much!”

“It’s nothing.”

“Joe?”

“Yes, Eli.”

“Why are you being nice to me?”

“Can’t you just enjoy it, Eli?”

“I just… I’m not… sure I know… how, Joe.”

“You’ll figure it out. I’m going upstairs to make dinner. Take a nap, Eli.”

And with that Joseph Fay turned and walked away, leaving his guest to rest himself on his new bed. McIntosh turned his back to his bed and stretched his metal leg out in front of himself, then sat and used his left elbow to manoeuvre himself up the bed until his whole body was resting on it. He thought how comfortable it was and then fell asleep before being able to think any further. The trancelike slumber into which McIntosh plummeted was a torrent of calm that swirled time through his mind and delivered him to the fields of his youth. His mother was there, walking in the distance with a child. He felt it was him whom she was walking with, but as he walked to her he noticed that the child holding her hand was wearing a dress.

A few more steps brought him closer, but as he walk they walked away from him. They didn’t seem to notice him so he started to jog, then run, but though they only walked, no matter how fast he ran he couldn’t catch them. Then his mother stopped and lifted the child who then faced toward McIntosh over his mother’s shoulder. Again his walked away, but when the child looked up at McIntosh he saw that it was Ola. He called to her and his mother turned around, where the face of a loving parent should have been Lina’s face stared back at him. She stood motionless and leered at him, but didn’t threaten him. She just stared into him. He froze too. She could feel her in his heart, clawing to get out. He felt his chest bulge and churn and then burn inside him. He could hear her too, like he had at in the nightmare in the cellblock. Hundreds of little Linas whispering over each other. Then, as the sound of them soared and the pain in his chest began to crush the life from him, McIntosh awoke in his new bed.

To be continued…

© Stephen Fahey

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