Lina: Written By Stephen Fahey – Part 7

Seeing that he was losing his path, Joseph Fay let Eli sleep and fed him well over the next few days, reading to him and playing music for him to listen to. He gave him fresh clothes and cut his hair and let him bath. But after a week of comfort Fay brought McIntosh to his kitchen table and sat him down.

“I have not been fair with you, Eli. I see that now.”

“Joe?”

“You have been here for over a year now and I think that you’re ready.”

“For w-what, Joe.”

“I am going to let you wander the woods, Eli. You are free. Free to walk the woods, as long as you promise to return each night.”

“I… I… ”

“You will return, won’t you, Eli?”

“Of course… I… ”

“You wouldn’t run away, would you, Eli?”

“Of course… ”

“Because if you did, Eli… ”

“I w-wouldn’t. I w-won’t. I like it here, J-Joe.”

“Do you, Eli?”

“Of course… y-you feed me and cloth me and you read to me… ”

“I don’t believe you.”

I do. I don’t want to be anywhere else. But… ”

“But what!?”

“… it would be nice to stretch my leg and… ”

“And what!?”

“…a-and see s-some scenery, Joe.”

“…that’s why I’m letting you. Just remember the rule.”

“Oh I will. Joe, thank you. Joe, thank you, really, thank you, I-I’m… ”

“Just go. I’ll be here waiting. Be back before dark.”

McIntosh sat for a moment and watched Fay, waiting for a punch or to be stabbed but Joseph just looked at him and then waved him off. Unsteady on his one remaining foot, McIntosh rose from the table and hopped from the house, though the front door and tripped, then fell face first into the dirt. He staggered back to his foot without a word and continued to hop towards the trail that joseph had driven up when they first arrived there. It was tiring, hopping and balancing, but he was exhilarated. He felt renewed and hopeful, hopeful at chance that he might survive Joseph Fay. Hopeful that he might return to the city and his family. Hopeful that there might be more to life.

Inside the house Joseph stayed at the table and didn’t look outside to see where McIntosh was. He Waited for half an hour and then went about his day. He had work to do in the garden and an addition to make to McIntosh’s box. And so the day went with one man hopping through the forest and the other sweating in his basement with sawdust in the air.

Before dusk fell McIntosh returned, unable to trek more than a mile. Joseph was waiting for him at the kitchen table and when Donal McIntosh hopped in Fay poured him a drink.

“So you made it back, Eli.”

“I couldn’t hop for more than an hour, Joe.”

“I made a decision today. I’m not going to hurt you anymore.”

“Really? I… ”

“Don’t talk.”

“OK, Joe. Thank you, Jo… ”

“Stop… from now on you will clean the home and tend the garden. You will still sleep in your box and you will never speak unless spoken to. Nod if you understand.”

And there began the longest period of calm at Park Castle. Joseph never touched McIntosh, letting him become comfortable. Every night they read together and listened to the radio. They drank good wine and very good whiskey and they ate well. Joseph even taught McIntosh to cook, when supervised, of course . Ola had taught him and by sharing those skills Joseph felt her presence again. It was not a happy time for either man, but there was no mutilation that winter and come spring McIntosh had come to enjoy Joseph’s gruff company.

Then, one night after McIntosh had been locked in his box, Fay turned on the small fan he had installed the previous winter. The motor was in the kitchen and the tubing fed along the wall, out of sight, ran to one of the corners of McIntosh’s box. Into the tubing Fay fed a concoction of liquid sedatives that vaporised as they mixed. After half an hour he slide open the side McIntosh’s box and dragged him across basement, then placed him on his operating table. First he gowned up and then he slide a drip into McIntosh’s veins. Then Fay examined McIntosh’s stump and hand. Both had healed well and even the scars on the hand had begun to even out. Then, having waited so long, Joseph Fay took his scalpel and cut into McIntosh with a calm rage.

A long time passed before McIntosh was allowed to wake up. It had been necessary to prevent him feeling any pain. But scars had formed and knitted a tidy mesh where Joseph had been working. So, Joseph took the sedative drip from his arm and left the box wall open. McIntosh awoke to a strange and uncomfortable feeling. There wasn’t any pain, or heat, but he knew something was wrong as soon as he opened eyes. He snapped into a seated position and patted himself down. He still had his right leg, and both of what was left of his hands. Then he ran his hands over his head and face. And what he felt drained the blood his heart.

His nose was gone, only a flat, coarse band of stretched across his face. His lips had been shorn, leaving only a narrow gap of a mouth. And his ears were nothing more than holes in the side of his head. Even his chin had been filed down. And so, with his face in his hands, McIntosh rocked from side to side on his mattress. The whole cruel truth of Joseph’s lie came upon McIntosh then and beyond his face being destroyed, and his identity with it, that he had come to trust Fay seemed then to be as brutal as his mutilation. He felt Joseph inside his mind then, like a jagged piece of metal in his brain. Betrayal and mutilation, they both felt the same then.

To be continued…

© Stephen Fahey

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